Saturday, April 02, 2016

Anglicanism is an engine swap

Some ramblings about the denomination of my birth, which didn't see itself as a denomination. As I think Msgr. Burnham recently mentioned, in England it really thought of itself, Catholic-like, as "the church" (as I intentionally, habitually call the Catholic Church), the country's other major Christian groups being "Romans" or "nonconformists/dissenters." Catholics were considered "Catholic too" but in grave error; other Protestants seen much as we see them ("No bishop, no ministry!").

Michael Davies for example has taught me that Luther and the original Anglicans really weren't big on continuity with the medieval church; any resemblance was either accidental or a cover to promote the new faith, which of course they saw as a long-belated recovery of the original from Christ. Luther kept externals and Melanchthon tried most of his adult life to reconcile Lutheranism to the church so Lutherans ended up our close cousins.

Anglicanism is Reformed, a label that doesn't necessarily mean Calvinist. A few generations after the King forced England's separation from the church, the high churchmen claimed the new religion was the old religion minus "accretions," complete with real bishops so the church fathers were writing about the high churchmen's faith, neither "Roman" nor nonconformist. (The high churchmen according to Jonathan Mitchican: the true church, thanks to being both Catholic and Reformed, "Catholic" meaning creeds, bishops, and the idea of a liturgy, not a "branch" of the church and certainly not wannabe Catholics.)

An analogy to classic cars comes to mind: they're claiming they've customized and streamlined the car (no more drag from those "Roman accretions") but it's still a real '58 Chevy Impala (to use a favorite example: the bigger, cooler, double twin-headlight cars, not the cliché Tri-5 Chevys, which look like taxis to me), for example, original "guts," engine, drivetrain, and all. It's more like an engine swap and more, exactly the opposite, plus the cosmetic changes, which in this case reflect the new faith. If the body shell's a '58 Chevy but a modern hemi and transmission are powering the car, is she really still a '58 Chevy? Not enough to be registered in Pennsylvania as an antique.

In any event, while there was enough remaining orthodoxy to give people a good start in Christian formation (happy historical accident: why Catholicism in English speaks to me in its idiom and why I'm not Novus Ordo), it was Erastian, solely to give the King what he wanted, so no wonder the English elite (and their cousins, America's founding fathers), having pillaged the church locally thanks to the change in religion, lost their belief when the "Enlightenment" hit.

5 comments:

  1. May I make a couple of quibbling comments?:

    "in England it really thought of itself, Catholic-like, as "the church" (as I intentionally, habitually call the Catholic Church)"

    As did, historically, the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, especially the Swedish (which claims, albeit far more implausibly than the Church of England, to have preserved the "apostolic succession" of its bishops at the Reformation) and the Danish (which deliberately rejected that succession at the Reformation).

    "Melanchthon tried most of his adult life to reconcile Lutheranism to the church"

    This needs qualification, John. He was big on trying to reconcile Lutheranism and the Catholic Church down to the early 1540s, but he had given up on this by the time of Luther's death in 1546 (and the beginning of the deliberations of the Council of Trent in that same year), and he spent the rest of his life trying to reconcile those Lutherans who followed him (many did not) with the Reformed by means of seeking an understanding with Calvin and those among the Reformed who were followers of Calvin.

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    1. 1. Makes sense; as our LCMS friends agree, traditional Lutheranism has at least an implicit true-church claim. They're not in the Catholic Church, because they believe we are in grave error.

      2. Right; you told me Melanchthon tried to reconcile Lutheranism and Calvinism at the end of his life, which is why I wrote "most of his adult life."

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  2. i count the Catholic Recusants of England as my spiritual heroes. St Thomas More s words " i am the Kings good servant....but God s first" are a reminder to me when faced with political jingoism

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  3. Personally, I always preferred older English Anglicans who referred to the Roman Catholic Church as the "Italian Mission."

    Although there might be some truth to the concept of the Branch Theory, and for most Anglicans religion and its expression was fundamentally national. Each national group had its own national expression and hence was permitted a national church. The problem is that it was not simply a ethos or liturgical expression, but each nation was also allowed its own theology as well; hence the issue of three churchmanships. Juxtaposed to this concept are the Oriental Orthodox, who very much have the concept of national expressions, but it always of the same Faith. Differences of liturgy, united in one faith.

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    1. Personally, I always preferred older English Anglicans who referred to the Roman Catholic Church as the "Italian Mission."

      Ha ha. Slightly snottier version of "the Roman Church" or "the Romans," which can be taken to mean "hey, we're Catholic too," which is not so bad. I understand that since Communism collapsed, since Ireland has become more secular, and as the Irish-English and Irish-Scottish have assimilated in Britain, the Italian Mission to the Irish has become the Italian Mission to the Poles.

      The church has many schools of spirituality and even theological opinion, reflected in different rites, but not a diversity of doctrine (which classic Anglicans didn't believe in either: creed, bishop, sacrament, liturgy, but Reformed); "a house divided," etc.

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