An earlier post on Necessary Doctrine made some general statements about Henrican theology. I’d like to recap two points. First, the early date of clerical subscription was as early as 1536, followed by the Catechism in 1538. The intent of catechism, bible, and articles teaching together was a continuous feature of Settlement, beginning with Henry. Second, Henry’s theology, even in the mid-1530’s, was ‘reformed’ (Augustinian). The Henrican view of God’s grace began to theologically impact Worship, first, with respect to saints and, by Edward’s reign, vulgarities in the Mass. Henrican Catechisms and Articles were not merely ‘negative statements’ but were tied to matters of ceremony, each connected to the same doctrine of salvation. In this respect, Henrican theology offers a system of thinking, centered on the idea of ‘justification’. A high treatment of grace does not downplay sacrament but extols dependence on the very means instituted by Him.
Insufficiency of Man’s Will:
Anglicanism was careful not to depart from antique teaching. Henry, no less than Elizabethan Articles, refuted Calvin’s ‘irresistible grace’. Anglicanism indeed taught man might resist grace (article 16). That being said, it is also true by Anglican theology that man is not saved by ‘freewill alone’ (sola arbitrium). Man has an inability to turn to God unless working with grace. A preventing grace is thus required to free man’s will from original corruption, so man might then desire God’s generous help and benefit. The thirty-nine articles plainly say regarding this ”preventing’ grace:
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will. (Article 10)
Necessary Doctrine is of the same accord. While Henry defines freewill as “a certain power of will joined with reason whereby a reasonable creature, without constraint in things of reason, discerneth and willeth good and evil”. Freewill, here, is being being spoken in terms of its facticity. It remains a positive reality even if its power is diminished– like the existence of the sun on a cloudy day– and despite the Fall it remains active. Yet sin taints the working of Reason and Will, infecting both in such a way that these powers are in a decayed or injured state. Though not depraved by absolute degree (mankind may still render righteous civil works), the post-lapsarian situation of man has run upon the rock of Scylla, unable to approach the shore of the highest good, namely the true worship and joy of God (Rom. 1:20-23). Therefore, man’s guilt continues, his wickedness not forced from outside by an ‘evil divinty’ but springing from within his own heart which both commits sin and is the cause of sin. The 1543 Catechism says throughout:
“the high power of man’s reason and freedom of will were wounded and corrupted, and all men thereby brought into such blindness and infirmity, that they cannot eschew sin, except they be illumned and made free to espeical grace, that is to say, by a supernatural help and working of the Holy Ghost” (p. 360)
“…while a certain freedom of will in those things which do pertain to the desires and works of this present life, yet to perform spiritual and heavenly things, freewill of itself is insufficient” (p. 360)
“We conclude that freewill is in man after his fall; which thing whoso denieth is not a catholic man: but in spiritual desires and works to please God, it is so weak and feeble, that it cannot either begin or perform them, unless by the grace and help of God it prevented and helpen” (p. 361)
“…it followeth, that freewill, before it may will or think any godly thing, must be holpen by the grace of Christ, and by his Spirit be prevented and inspired, that it may be able thereto: and being so made able, may from thenceforth work together with grace” (p. 361)
Thus, a preventing grace not fully dependent upon man is necessary. It is that first justification/grace which inclines man to choose life contrary to sin whereupon both Reason and Will are renewed for the purposes of cooperation, not enemity, with God, “It is surely the grace of God only that first we be inspired and moved to any good thing: but to resist temptations, and to persist in goodness and go forward, it is both of the grace of God and of our freewill to endeavor” (p. 362).
The Henrican catechism suggests this first justification establishes a ‘Higher’ Reason, making a greater liberty possible. This explains the priority both Hooker and 18th century divines (like William Law) gives Reason. Upon preventing grace Reason finds new/higher power, giving deliberation greater clarity and light so men know solace and truth in what God offers, being inclined choice yet not overpowered. The increased power of Reason and Will is what is meant by this ‘assistance’. But, while preventing Grace is the first cause of justification, it remains man’s liberty to finally choose what has been better given/revealed. The 1543 Article of Justification says,
“albeit God is the principal cause and chief worker of this justification in us, without whose grace no man can do no good thing, but following his freewill in the state of a sinner, increaseth his own injustice, and mulitplieth his sin; yet so it pleaseth the high wisdom of God, that man, prevented by his grace, (which being offered, man may if he will refuse or receive,) shall be also a worker by his free consent and obedience to the same, in the attaining of his own justification, and by God’s grace and help shall walk” (p.365)
The inability of man to work out his salvation alone, though he might refuse it, mandates the sacramental life. Henry VIII reminds backsliding Christians when they fail by their own infirmities (as they often do), to seek Christ where His pledge is found, “And when they do feel nothwithstanding their diligence, yet through their own infirmity they be not able to do that they desire, then they ought earnestly, and with a fervant devotion and steadfast faith, to ask of him, which gave the beginning, that he would vouchsafe to perform it: which thing God will undoubtedly grant, according to his promise, to such as persevere in calling upon him” (p. 362).
The ‘beginning’ is not the secret will of God. We have no sure comfort there. It is the sacraments whereby we first come into God’s House. In the Article on Justification Henry advises the manner men ought to recover ‘their estate of justification’ if they continue to sin, “to arise by penance, wherein proceeding in sorrow and much lameentation for our sins, with fasting, alms, prayer, adn doing all such things, at the least in true purpose and will, as God requireth of us, we must have a sure trust and confidence in the mercy of God” (p. 366).
The mercy of God is not evidently found in predestination, but penance whereby we return to the nourishment of Christ. Christ knows our frailties (even the incompleteness of Reason) and so provides visible and audible signs of Himself for our peace. We find these in the sacraments and ministry of the Church where the promise of forgiveness explicitly offered.
While freewill corrects the ‘enormities’ of “irresistible grace”, the other extreme– man’s will alone (“sola arbitrium”)– is equally resisted. If man was capable of desiring Christ without assistance, glory would be given to fallen nature not heaven. And where does fallen man find the heavenly Lord except through the church? It is the church which Christ speaks and acts through by which He shows His death and life. Without preventing grace man might rely upon natural strength, aka. ”spiritualism”, rather than religion or ecclesiology. Augustine, therefore, offers a rather indispensable view of the ‘church’, basing it on justification, explaining why men turn, need, and depend upon God’s graces within sacraments rather than lonely cells. Augustine was the theologian of the cathedral while Cassian gave logic to the ordeal of the cenobium. The insufficiency of the Will requires men to seek assistance in the sacraments which is where the Promise is made visible. Grace and sacrament is therefore bound together, and not torn apart unless men seek confidence in something other than the ‘signs’ instituted by Christ. The Henrican catechism finishes the Article on Freewill warning clergy,
“All men be admonished and chiefly preachers, that this high matter they be looking on both sides, so attemper and moderate themselves, that neither they so preach the grace of God, that they take away thereby free will, nor on the other side so extol freewill, that injury be done to the grace of God” (p. 363)
There was once a time Anglicanism was certain of itself. Today it is too rare to hear doctrines of grace proclaimed like Hooker who said of England’s theology, the CofE possessed the surest, safest, and most perfect means for salvation. Henrican catechisms do not shy from the same exceptionalism, “this book containeth a perfect and sufficient doctrine…a declaration of true knowledge… a true exposition of the scriptures and true doctrine…a true understanding of that which is necessary for every Christian man to know, for the ordering of himself and his life” (pp. 216, 218), etc.
What do Anglo-Catholics today consider most ‘distinctive’ contra Rome? Is it, for example, language or jurisdiction– sic., “english-speaking lands”? Anglicana‘s wonder was not style but the content of instruction and preaching. Anglicanism once boasted the surest catholic system of theology, learnedness, and ministry since apostolic times. It was greater than both Rome and Constantinople. Original sin, Freewill, and God’s grace joyously rung from the halls of England, pouring forth upon colonies and ‘english speaking’ lands. Her doctrine is not reduced to style but indeed offered the purest and most certain way of salvation.
Anyway, with regard to Elizabethan theology, as it is found in the 1562 Articles, it is not a distant faith but reiteration of the basic tenets of Henry. Henry is not ‘counter-reformation’ or a ‘retraction’ with respect to Anglicana‘s own (Vincentian) development of doctrine. There is a rejection of supererogation, merit, and congruity before justification. A rather high grace view. Yet predestination is avoided and grace treated synergestically. Augustinian and Aquianus notions of first cause are kept. We might wonder if the Settlement’s formative period was indeed Henry’s life, dating back to the 1530’s, rather than Edward’s reign or the return of the exiles after Mary’s betrothal?
As always, really interesting.
What you say here is particularly welcome, as I’m a great admirer of John Wesley, and his understanding of free will seems to me to chime very harmoniously with your account of “Necessary Doctrine”.
It also shows, for me, that the spirit of the Restoration Divines and the great 18th century writers reaches back far into the Henrician reforms, and that what you describe is the consistent teaching of the Anglican tradition. Many thanks for this post.
thanks Nicholas. As always there are some changes to be made. I usually go back and edit a bit after the first post. The emphasis in Henry seems to be an enlightened Reason brought by the Holy Spirit, inclining men to deliberate with more astute liberty. This sounds very much like Hooker. Preventing grace is the first cause, yet men have the capacity to reject it. The question remains, ‘what reasonable man would, illumned by the light, etc., would reject it once given.’? There are different opinions on this efficacy. Arminians and Calvinists would contest for separate opinions regarding the efficacy of grace, providence, God’s sovereignty, divine love, etc.. What is interesting about henry’s view of ‘justification’ is it does not depend upon predestination. It, in fact, sidesteps it, pointing instead to the sacraments and preached word. Nonetheless, Henry is definite, saying freewill is exercised even under preventing grace. The imprecision of grace’s efficacy remained into our own articles, allowing opinions either way regarding ‘foreseeing’ vs. ‘foreordaining’. To me the problem isn’t justification, as many anglocatholic might suspect, but going too far with the ‘eternal decree and its nature’. Articles are synergistic, giving priority to grace (thus on the ‘high’ side). However, even high synergy would not satisfy 17th century controversialists.
Here is a quote from Burnet (who was favorable to calvinistic sublapsarianism) regarding the light. He takes a strong view of preventing grace which I believe is tolerable within the Articles. But I might say the articles’ synergistic interpretation are against all ‘overpowering’ of freewill.
Burnet on the ‘light of Reason’:
As you say, the Articles handle it all very carefully, maintaining the operation of an unconstrained freewill alongside an indispensable divine grace, without elaborating any further. It’s a pretty intractable subject!
Your extract from Burnet is extremely interesting. Does he think that all people receive the same illuminating grace, or is this given only to the Elect?
I think Wesley would say that free will in man is restricted to choosing “life” or “death” (Deut 30:19-20; Ezek 18:21). Having made that Yes/No choice, it is still not possible for him to achieve what he chooses without grace. Grace must come first, to offer the choice between good and evil to all men regardless of any election (important for Wesley), a choice which we would otherwise not comprehend; and it must come after, to heal the will so that we can persevere in the good for which we have made our choice.
My understanding of it, is that Wesley’s concern was simply the contradictions he saw in a Predestination that renders all preaching and appeal for reform redundant. He doesn’t seem, in his Sermons at any rate, to have been particularly concerned about any details beyond that.
Do you think this accords well with the Articles?
“Intractable” is correct (I believe they are intentionally such)! Just as Article 16 challenges assumptions by strict Calvinists, article 17 poses hard questions for Arminians. Burnet describes himself, in his introduction to the exposition, as ‘Greek’ in soteriological matters. However, he refrains from pushing his own views, desiring instead to present the controversy as argued in the CofE since the Reformation. I was suprised to learn Burnet agreed with the Cassian viewpoint, and my guess is Burnet was Arminian (best approximation to the East). However, Burnet grants much of the (sublapsarian) Calvinist position as generally representative of the articles. In the end, he distinguishes between pratical vs. theoretical/systematic differences, and I think this gets closer to heart of the matter, i.e., the intent behind Anglican standards.
Unfortunately I know little regarding Wesley. Is it true Wesley’s theology was never compactly summed? Perhaps this is why I’ve missed so much. While we might contrast Whitfield’s connexion to Wesley’s Methodism–Jewel’s calvinism vs. Laud’s arminianism, etc.– I’d rather avoid these circles of controversy.
What I believe is most ‘Anglican’ about Wesley, is, as you note, his disinterest in predestination. What good is a ‘secret council’ when your primary concerns isn’t obscure, theoretical points but feeding sheep? There very much is a practical side to Anglican thought that has pastoral care as its first priority. Cranmer’s prayer book is a foremost example. I might say this sort of ‘balance’ or media between theological opinion and pastoral care is what is most characteristically Anglican. Throughout divine writings I find exhortations not to overemphasize one side of belief against another. There is a call for wisdom, etc..
What I find most curious is that Henrican standards consciously avoid speculation on predestination. This is akin to Wesley. Henry calls such speculations ‘enormities’, and, while an eternal election is true, Henry asks we do not trust in it. Instead, Henry advises men who fall to mortal sin, rather than seek out ‘fate’, they ought to look toward penance. The Henrican standards are therefore consistently sacramental in their treatment of grace. Not to look to the immutable Will of the heavenly Father, but instead to the ministry of Christ.
What I believe has proven most damaging to the notion of a visible church is later Anglicans who confused justification with ‘eternal decree’, fusing the two together by an iron logic. When justification becomes associated with a ‘one time event’– i.e., the ‘eternal will’ as experienced in the first instance of ‘conversion’– it tends to render ecclesiology and sacraments, as you say, redundant.
Thankfully, Calvinists were never totally consistent, placing an dual emphasis in moral life as a sign of election. Yet the idea does weaken the sacramental basis of ministerial care. I wonder how successful Wesley, the high churchman, might be considered when his own connexions ultimately broke from the CofE? It seems anti-sacramentalism is somewhat inherent in enthusiasm? Even Wesley was at first ambivalent.
Henry has no concept of ‘one time conversion’. Rather, Henry is deeply practical. When a man once justified falls from first grace, there is always the means for restoration by way of Penance. Penance is perhaps today would be the equivalent of preaching (private or public); followed by our personal response in faith, sorrow, and repentance; giving way to absolution. In Henry, I sense an older system of soteriology where the discourse is organized around the principle of baptism (not the secret decree or inner workings of the heart but the sacrament). There is also the residue ‘feel’ of the penitential books– the priest as judge, exercising discipline for the sake of equity and restoring.
But even here the emphasis upon an abiding faith, not works, turning to the Promise for confidence– not medieval ‘satisfaction’. Nonetheless, it is deeply sacramental, and Henry keeps pointing back to the offices of the Church for men who fail. There is no eternal destiny, but at the same token there is neither the ‘individualism’ of enthusiasm. Henry’s catechism is basically a discourse on corporate life in Christ, and I tend to believe, due to the incessant war between Arminians vs. Calvinists over ‘predestination’, corporeality has been lost.
Furthermore, I tend to think Oxford ritualists added fuel to fire by identifying Calvinist formulas with the Articles. When they did this, they overlooked the role justification played in the sacraments, overthrowing Anglican worship altogether in favor of medieval accretions. There is also a modern tendency to exchange discipline (penance as a sacrament to express and live corporate life) for aesthetic which too often Oxford is reduced.
Regarding Predestination, which seems to always draw problems, I would emphasize the latter half of Article 17– i.e., avoid carnal and vain speculation. This was Henry’s advice, and I suppose Wesley’s too? The intractability between Articles 17 and 16 leads me to believe their tension serves purpose, and as Henry says neither grace nor freewill should be so denied as to extinguish the other but proclaimed as pastoral situations require.
I find nothing at all challenging to synergistic soteriology in Article 17. Indeed, the term “predistination” is a biblical term, and nothing in the Article suggests that predestination means arbitary, divine predetermination absent consideration of a man’s response to previent grace. Indeed, had that article said that “unconditional predestination to life and reprobation” were God’s eternal purposes, then I would feel challenged by it.
Allow me to add too, that with Bishop Burnett, I am most persuaded by the ancient, and patristic “Greek” position on soteriological synergism and not necessarily with all the peculiarities of the much later Arminian system.
Yes. Both Arminian and Calvinist soteriologies are like two-sides of the same coin. Both abstract the sacrament…neither are especially catholic, and both exaggerate what normally should be limited to a ‘pastoral emphasis’. I prefer to admit some mystery here. Like the trinity, we have apparently contradictory truths– i.e., freewill and predestination– so rather than pit scripture against scripture, or fit one fact into a ‘cookie-cutter’ for the sake of some competing supposition, I’d rather acknowledge both and, if doubt persists, point to the Holy Mysteries instituted by Christ, “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God,and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort: and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.” etc. — Good to hear from you, as always, DB.
I want to thank Nicholas at Comfortable words from this quote which also appears in the 1604 Canons of King James. I believe the Church of England has never stood dogmatically calvinist or arminianist (in particulars) but have let pastoral need drive theology. Repeatedly there are warnings to avoid entertainment of vain speculation, and this is usually exhorted for the sake of weak consciouses. King James I’s letter is case in point:
Here is a series on prevenient grace. After reading this one, it seems both calvinists and arminians deviated from Augustine, in a most damaging way, by separating preventing grace from baptism. So, was this how the ‘visible church’ lost ‘visibility’?
OK> Now I am beginning to see a root to both fundamentalism and liberal theology? Both outlooks abstract preventing grace away from the baptismal font.
For those who really want to go deeper with Arminian theology:
Society of Evangelical Arminians
Thanks for the link, and all these interesting ideas.
Wesley had read very widely in the Church Fathers, and his position probably reflects a Greek influence alongside a Latin one. Reformed theologians seem to place a great deal of emphasis on Augustine, and define concepts such as Original Sin (whose meaning in Scripture is not so self-evident to me, I must confess), in ways that I feel are not wholly representative of the Patristic consensus.
Of all these views, your own emphasis on the pastoral goes to the heart of it, I think, and in fact I personally think this is what Wesley is saying too.
Article XVII says that God “hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind”.
It doesn’t say on what basis that choice is made: indeed, it stresses that the decision-making process is secret from us. But it does guide clergy into comforting “godly persons” who occasionally fall with the assurance of divine grace, and avoiding the potentially disastrous discouragement of others.
Charles Simeon also affirms both free will and predestination as scriptural; see the extract at http://barnabasproject.wordpress.com/resources-for-those-staying-in-tec/, under the title (not his) ‘Predestination and Free-Will—Is There a Contradiction?’
BTW. I failed to give a link to Henry’s catechisms and Articles of the period. They can be downloaded here in unabridged form!
Formularies of Faith during the Reign of Henry VIII.
Very interesting read, Charles. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Have your read “Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance” by Ashley Null? It is a very thorough examination of the progression of Cranmer’s theology with much information drawn from Cranmers’s Annotations and Great Commonplaces… and I think very relevant to your articles. Here is a link to a posted interview with Null on Cranmer at the Anglican Church League:
Thanks Jack. I will definitely check it out. Cranmer is interesting because he tends have great affinity with continental protestants– more so than Jewel. The 42 articles and 1552 BCP were largely the product of his progressive thought on worship and faith. For a while I was trying to understand the Settlement through early Lutheranism (1530’s). That had some pay-off but also definite limits.
The Henrician formulas which AB Cranmer partially drafted gives insight into Cranmer’s thought and influences. Reading Anglican documents as a continuous stream of thought from 1532 to, say, 1588 is a long-term project. It really gives a context and helps illuminate the intrinsic conservative character of the Settlement where Crown, together with high church party, managed to protect royal prestige/precedent while restrain puritan enthusiasm.
At RTBP you asked about PCK in debates with the ACC-UEC. This is the only document I know: PCK Unity… From what little I understand, PCK might back off if UEC merges too quickly with ACC. ACC is the bigger denomination and sees itself as the natural center. You should read the Athen’s statement sometime. However, the logic within would make the old AEC bishops ‘prime’, not Chamber succession. I guess AEC is now mixed up in ACC, APA, so it’s a moot point. Amongst Chamber’s Bishops, the UEC is the eldest– by a few dozen minutes or so. Doren, alongside Chambers, consecrated Morse and Mote. If you can get copies of PCK canons, please let me know. Otherwise, I will ask a nearby cleric(s). I happen to live very close to St. Joseph’s. I think PCK retained the PEC canons. So, constitutionally, it is closer to UEC.
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Good discussion everyone. I have found that Ashley Null tends to interpret Cranmer’s position on predistination in ways that are not at all certain from the original sources themselves (I would go so far as to say that his reading of Cranmer is often based on strained interpretations of unclear passages which ignore or overlook many far more clear passages). He also tends to neglect the theologies of some of those who are closest to Cranmer (such as Latimer).
Dr. Null’s claim to a better understanding of Cranmer is largely based on some texts that he has unearthed. The problem is that the texts appear to add nothing new on the issues of predestination, etc., and actually are far less clear than other writings that have long been in circulation. I’m sure Dr. Null is an excellent Christian who has sincerely sought to be faithful to Cranmer’s views. I’m afraid, though, that his own theological convictions (which tend toward TULIP Calvinism) have colored his reading of Cranmer on certain key points.
Well, back to work. Unfortunately, I won’t have time for the next few weeks (at least) for further participation in the thread.
Blessings in Christ,
p.s. In case anyone is wondering, I’m a “reformed” Augustinian (or, a “catholic” Calvinist) in my own beliefs.
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