Monday, June 06, 2005

Richard Hooker and the Authority of Scripture

Thinking Anglicans offers us an essay by Mike Russel, Mr. Hooker and the Windsor Report. He makes some points worth noting;

The classic Anglican position, found in Hooker’s “Laws” is that scripture is the primary source of revelation for “all things necessary for salvation” not all things simply. The WR and the Neo-Puritans are attempting to make it necessary for all things simply. Books II and III of the Laws are quite clear on the boundaries set on Scripture’s “prima” authority having already rejected it as having “sola” authority.

So while Scripture is perfect for the purpose for which it was created, it is for Mr. Hooker and those that follow clearly a mixture of documents as well, many of which are bound by time and place. For example, in the Articles of Religion we see the Church setting to the side not only the Apocrypha, but the judicial and ceremonial laws of Hebrew Scripture. What is most interesting in that is that the specific parts of Leviticus we see bandied about quite often are part of the judicial law and not the moral law which is confined to the Ten Commandments.

So classic Anglicanism has at its core a hermeneutic for prioritizing the contents of Scripture and their respective authority. To treat it in any flat literal sense as a repository of eternal commands is not and never has been Anglican. That the WR is hazy on this, wanting to affirm the authority of scripture, but also warning of the dangers and ambiguities related to interpretation, leaves it listing disastrously to the fundamentalist Neo-Puritan side...
"...a hermeneutic for prioritizing the contents of scripture..." This is one of the main reasons that I am an Anglican; because of the "reasonable" approach taken towards scripture. I've been a Baptist, and a Pentecostal (Open Bible Standard), and had to part ways with those traditions because of their claim that one must accept a literal understanding of the bible as the only source of authority. That has never been something I could honestly agree to, since I first read the bible when I was ten years old. If we are honest, we must admit that the bible contains much inspiration and beauty, as well as "all things necessary for salvation," but also some really bad science, more than a bit of harmful theology, and includes parts that were written by some really twisted people.

It seems to me that the "sola scriptura" brand of Christianity that is so dominant today is responsible for so many falling away from the Church. If I could recognize the flaws at age ten, it is safe to assume that most folks see such errors, but are too polite to mention them. If they are required to buy the whole bill of goods, and sacrifice their intellectual integrity in the process, the honest response, the moral response, is to look elsewhere for spiritual nurture.

And now Anglicanism is seriously considering joining fundamentalism, which is no more than the last gasp of a dying world view. The Church of the future cannot possibly uphold such an absurd position. If it tries, the Church will become a museum piece at best.

As Fr. Russel says in his essay;

What we need to do is resolve whether or not we are going to be true to our Anglican heritage with respect to scripture or slip into the crass fundamentalism that has proven so divisive and destructive in every setting where it has come to power.
In the end, this is the issue before us within the Anglican Communion.

If the fundamentalists take over the Communion, Anglicanism will die. That will be sad, but not devastating. I have no doubt that God will raise up something new from the ashes of our current culture wars.

J.

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