Arthur Middleton on Defending orthodoxy
I spent Lent with John Chrysostom, whom Lancelot Andrewes emulated in his preaching, and William Laud. Both were resolute defenders of the integrity of the Catholic Faith, the golden mouthed against going down the Arian way and the archbishop against Calvininsm and Puritanism and saving the Church of England from going down the Genevan way, both standing firm on theological principle. They were persecuted severely.
An Archbishop’s Vision
Laud’s vision for the Church of England never dimmed even though from all through his ministry he was opposed to the dominant Calvinistic theology that was prominent in Parliament, in the Church of England, in the university of Oxford and Cambridge and in the popular mind. His vision was to purge the Church of England of the foreign leaven which had nearly transformed her into another being, to aid her in throwing off the yoke of Calvin, Zwingli, and the like, and to return to the true principles of her own reformation for which Laud lived and died his violent death. It is crucial to understand this if we are to have a true estimate of Laud. When we understand this we will not be surprised at the violent pangs and convulsions that ushered in the birth of a sounder school of theology that was strong enough in less that twenty years of Laud’s martyrdom to procure a revision of the Book of Common Prayer on its own principles and to turn the whole current of English theology. We owe everything to this uncompromising archbishop and his determination to arrest the downward progress of our Church that we still retain the Catholic faith and are not floundering in a sea of Continental Protestantism, Socinianism or Rationalism or living in the Genevan way. The principle on which the English Reformation proceeded was by appealing as against Rome to Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Primitive Church. His attitude to the whole problem is expounded in his controversy with “Mr Fisher the Jesuit”. He was a true scholar who went to the study of the past to provide a basis for present faith and saved the Church of England from going down the Genevan way which the Puritans wanted.
Laud appealed to an old and persistent theological tradition going back through Ockham to Augustine. The Church is founded on the Faith, not the Faith on the Church and it is her duty to guard the principles of faith, the dogmata deposita and keep them unblemished and uncorrupted and side by side with the Creed is the preceding, prime principle of belief which is Scripture the word of God which is sufficient to salvation and contains in it all things necessary to it.
In this present time we may well like Laud and Chrysostom stand firm in preserving the integrity of the Catholic Faith when the ideology of political correctness holds the culture captive, in Parliament, in the popular mind, in an insidious Erastianism, and in the hermeneutic of sociological reductionism that holds the Church of England captive. It will mean embodying a spirit our Reformers embodied in the Canon of 1571, which required its priests to teach nothing but what is agreeable to Holy Scripture and what the catholic Fathers and ancient bishops have collected out of that said doctrine. Herein is an expression of true Catholicism, the Catholicism owned by the Church of England and in which is delineated the limits of toleration in doctrine and behaviour. Those limits are bound by the Creeds sanctioned by the Ecumenical Councils, and we have no right to deviate from the sense intended by their authors. Nor must we be undermined by a cultural determinism that clamours for what is insidiously described as a ’restatement’ of truth, or the emasculating of truth to accommodate political correctness. An essential ingredient of our claim to be catholic requires an obedience to something much larger than ourselves, what may be described as our ancient catholic Mother, while at the same time Reformation rather than innovation emancipates us from any narrower obligations. Our Formularies encapsulate for us those great outlines of Scriptural and catholic truth and within those outlines our Church has always abstained from exercising authority over us. While the Canon of 1571 speaks of this . a Canon of 1603 cautions us not to depart from the churches of Italy, France, and Germany, except in those particulars in which they were fallen, both in themselves in their fallen integrity and from he Apostolic Churches which were their first founders.
Our catholicity is indissolubly bound up with the phronema or mind of the Fathers which in essence was a scriptural mind. It was this ecclesiastical mind that was appropriated by Anglicanism and made the basis of Christian living and the context of Christian thinking.This is what will save the Church of England from going down the secular way which is the only way that political correctness will lead it. It will bring persecution, discrimination and exclusion from preferment and any part in the policy making of the Church of England but it will produce a Church that is truly orthodox in Faith and Order.