Friday, September 09, 2011

Archbishop Cranmer on those pesky Evangelicals

Our favourite Tory blogger, the pretendy dead Archbishop Cranmer, recently commented on the Evangelical Alliance's report, 21st Century Evangelicals: Does belief touch society? He has some nice things to say about the document, but can't resist having a swipe at those pesky Evangelicals. His somewhat condescending tone is reminiscent of the words of the current real Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who opined,
It is something that I think became very important to me at one or two points when I needed it as a kind of corrective to what can be a slightly precious and elitist anglo-catholicism. Sometimes you just need to sing Blessed Assurance and hit a tambourine. You just need to know that there is something profoundly simple about what an evangelical would rightly call a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that nothing substitutes for that. (See here). 
That's it, you see. You don't look to Evangelicalism for theological depth.  It is all about banging tambourines and singing rousing old hymns. Here is Cranmer's own verdict, 
In His Grace’s experience, they [Evangelicals] are almost universally kind and hospitable; sing an awful lot of Shine, Jesus, Shine; believe the Canon of the Bible was handed down by God; praise the Lord when they find a lost saucepan; rejoice in Middle-East bloodshed and social breakdown, ‘for these things must be’; and their view of Church history begins with Acts and then jumps straight to Amazing Grace. Certainly, His Grace has never yet met an evangelical who grasps the Patristics, understands Chalcedon or appreciates the historical significance of any of the early Ecumenical Councils.
Looks like Cranmer's 'unworthy right hand' is at it again. The trouble is that there is more than an element of truth in what he says. There's no point in denying it. Evangelicals tend to be a bit patchy when it comes to church history and they often have little grasp of the nuances of the confessional heritage of the church. Evangelical preachers will say things like "Jesus became a human person", when, according to Chalcedon, what happened at the incarnation was that the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity took a human nature. But such a theological misstep is usually due to carelessness rather than deliberate heresy. The Roman Catholic Church is wilfully sub-Chalcedonian when is teaches that the humanity of Jesus is present on every altar at the Mass. Chaldedon explicitly rules out the communication of divine properties such as omnipresence to the human nature of Christ.

But on the whole Evangelicals have held consistently to the biblical teaching reflected in the historic creeds and confessions of the church. We worship the Triune God of the gospel and proclaim that Jesus is fully God and fully man in accordance with the Nicea and Chalcedon. Our vision of salvation is thoroughly Augustinian. We declare that only the grace of God in Christ can rescue human beings from sin. A glance at Evangelical confessions of faith such as the Westminster Confession and the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, and even the more succinct FIEC Basis of Faith will readily bear this out. 

In stead of taking his few happy clappy Evangelical chums as representative of the movement as a whole, perhaps the pseudo-Archbishop Cranmer should invest some time in reading up on some of the classic works of Evangelical and Reformed theology. I recommend The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Communion with God by John Owen and Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck. As far as contemporary Evangelical literature, is concerned, His Grace is already aware of the writings of John Stott. Perhaps he should also get acquainted with The Gagging of God by Don Carson and The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, by Robert Letham, to give a couple of examples. I think he'll find that the best representatives of Evangelical theology have a deeper understanding and respect for the theological heritage of the church than he might expect. 

Anyway, that's me done.

Right then, where did I leave my tambourine? Altogether now...

"Shine, Jesus, shine...." 

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