faith of our fathers

Arthur Middleton explains why we must recapture the lost Anglican mind in order to overcome ignorance of the true spirit of Anglicanism

The word ‘mind’ is used here in a specific sense. It is used in the way in which the early Christian Fathers used it in their theology, to refer to the mindset or outlook, the Orthodox mind of the Church. The attaining of this mind is a matter of practising the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).

This mind refers to the completely self-sacrificial trust and faith in religious and moral truths, an unshakeable certainty about the truth of the Faith for all time and the practice of Orthodox Anglican worship, piety and behaviour. This mind is vested in the Anglican understanding of Scripture, tradition and reason, against all heresies and schisms of all times. This mind is also termed the ‘mind of the Church’ and thus ‘the mind of Christ’.

A cause of the crisis

The loss of this mind today underlies not only the general ignorance of and antipathy towards the true spirit and practice of Classical Anglicanism and the widespread success of the modernist and politically correct agendas in the Anglican Communion. The hysteria surrounding Gareth Bennett’s Crockford’s Preface in 1987 caused many to miss its most important point. In a section entitled ‘A Theology in Retreat’, he pinpointed the crisis within Anglicanism as being fundamentally theological and stemming from a deliberate rejection of this balanced synthesis, the Anglican mind which is a distinctive Anglican theological method.

The development of an Orthodox Anglican mindset, so essential in our day when there are so few who propagate it, or even recognize the biblical-patristic ethos of the Anglican mind, cannot take place apart from orthodox Anglican worship, piety and behaviour. Michael Ramsey would say that we do our theology to the sound of church bells, or in other words from inside an ecclesial context.

Acquiring an Anglican mind does not mean collecting a head full of ‘Anglican quotes’. Rather it refers to the transformation of the whole person, resulting in one’s gradual participation in the heavenly vision. In the biblical-patristic understanding it means the whole turn of mind which prevails in a person from the way in which he lives, and from the relationship which he has with God. But if the mind, and here we think more widely than reason or the intellectual and mean the spiritual faculty, is illuminated, it has the Holy Spirit within it, so that the whole mind is a mind of the Spirit and, of course, a mind of the Church and the mind of Christ.

When we speak of having an Anglican mind we mean chiefly that our mind is the mind of Christ, as the Apostle Paul says, or at least that we accept the experience of the saints and have communion with them. This is the way of the life of the Anglican Tradition and the way of life of Christ’s life.

The Anglican mind is expressed by the dogmas of the Church in the Creeds and Councils, and in the Book of Common Prayer, because, on the one hand, the dogmas express the life which the Church has and the revelation which the saints have received, and on the other hand, they lead God’s people in Christ to unity and communion with God.

An unchanging message

The clergy are not supposed to preach their private opinions. They are commissioned and ordained in the Church precisely to preach the Word of God. This gives them some fixed terms of reference – namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and they are committed to this sole and perennial message.

The Word of God must be presented with conviction and command the allegiance of every new generation and every particular group. It may be restated in new categories, if the circumstances require. But above all, the identity of the message must be preserved. They are to preach the same Gospel that was delivered and must not introduce instead any ‘strange gospel’ that is idiosyncratic.

The Word of God cannot be easily adjusted or accommodated to the fleeting customs and attitudes of any particular age, including our own time. Sadly, today, we are often inclined to measure the Word of God by our own stature, instead of checking our mind by the stature of Christ. The ‘modern mind’ also stands under the judgment of the Word of God. ND

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