Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Article 21: Blackjack!

As usual, today's article is an interesting amalgam of Anglican heritage(s). It is very politely anti-Papal authority and anti-Catholic Holy Tradition. It is also very politely insinuating that the King is the head of the Church and that councils can err since they are made up of humans who err. Here is today's Article portion:

XXI. Of the Authority of General Councils
General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.

Being an American who values the logic in the secular philosophy of "separation of Church and State," I have trouble with the first sentence of this article because I think it beholdens the Church to the whim of secular rulers. I will admit that history is pretty clear that the 7 Ecumenical councils (one of which is where the Nicene Creed comes) were usually called at the behest of the Emperor, or at the very least with the Emperor's approval. But to think that the Church can never call a Council and govern it by its own merit as the Body of Christ is very dangerous. Just look at the following photograph if you think that the Church cannot be influenced by secular rulers or dictators to the detriment of their integrity, if not their souls. 

The last few sentences of this article I don't have major issue with, as they do not say all Church councils can and have erred. The article says that all councils may err, and sometimes have erred. The logical inference, however, is that a least a few have not erred. I take that as a tip of the hat to the Ecumenical councils that gave us the Nicene Creed. 

It is also a thumbing of the nose at all councils called by the Pope, particularly the Council of Trent which was largely a several year long response to the Protestant Reformation's theological issues. There were of course several church councils summoned from after the 7 Ecumenical council until the Council of Trent (The Council of Toledo and the Lateran Councils being one (or several) examples.) This article is responding to these types of councils, summoned by the Pope, who would hereafter call them Ecumenical councils, though Protestants were often excluded, and binding in matters of doctrine, faith, and worship. This made Reformed Protestants go bananas, needless to say. 

The final sentence, however, is historically inaccurate. Namely because the Council of Nicea, again from whence we get the Nicene Creed, was actually called before the Church had established the Canon of Scripture. A lot of people don't realize that the major Creed of Christianity that is said on most non-Baptism Sundays was put together as a rule of faith before what we call "The Bible" was finalized. Thus, for this article to argue that things that Ecumenical Councils purveyed containing things necessary for salvation to be based specifically on Scripture is an anachronism. Christianity had finalized the points of faith in Nicene Creed (and other doctrines like the Trinity or Baptism) before the Bible was complete not afterward. Holy Tradition and the Bible, both inspired by the Holy Spirit, guard and complement each other, not one being based solely on the other.  Thus, by this article's logic, we must discount both the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed, both of which are commended as good and holy by a prior Article of Religion. 

Methinks the Puritans couldn't be bothered to look as an historical calendar before commenting on this idea, because the Council of Nicea was in AD 325. The canon of the Bible was not finalized until at least the Council of Carthage in AD 419, and then only finally settled when St. Jerome translated the bible into Latin and his canon of scripture became what was accepted until the Reformation. So, actually, the Creeds informed the debate on what books went into the Bible, not the Bible informing what doctrine should go into the Creeds. 

Food for thought.

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