A Scriptural Mind

For Athanasius Scripture is all sufficient for the declaration of divine truth and the instruction of our people in the way of salvation.

In these alone is proclaimed the doctrines of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these … the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And he reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol IV, p552)

This integrity of the scriptural mind, fundamental to Anglicanism, is being lost in a continuum of ‘demythologizing’ as Anglicanism becomes captive to a hermeneutic of sociological reductionism.

We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous ‘reinterpretation’. But how can we interpet at all if we have forgotten the original language? Would it not be safer to bend our thought to the mental habits of the biblical language and to relearn the mental habits of the Bible? No man can receive the gospel unless he repents –‘changes his mind’. For in the language of the gospel ‘repentance’ (metanoeite) does not merely mean acknowledgement of and contrition for sins, but precisely a ‘change of mind’ – a profound change of man’s mental and emotional attitude, an integral renewal of man’s self, which begins in his self-renunciation and is accomplished and sealed by the Spirit. (George Florovsky, in Bible, Church and Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, p10)

Preach the Creeds

Florovsky states, ‘I am going to preach Jesus, and him crucified and risen … the message of salvation, as it has been handed down to me by an uninterrupted tradition of the Church Universal. I would not isolate myself in my own age … I am going to preach the “doctrines of the creed.” ’

A prophetic Church needs the scriptural mind to instruct God’s people and to prevent the Church from teaching ‘nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by Scripture.’ This persuasion is not a matter of private judgement or any kind of authority. In Article 20, it is the Church that has authority in controversies of faith and in Article 8, it is the Church’s three ancient Creeds that ‘ought thoroughly to be received and believed’, ‘for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.’

Restraint on private judgement is no captivity. Scientists become scientists through membership of the scientific community, by accepting the established laws of that community as the foundation of future breakthroughs. Musicians become accomplished by imitating their predecessors in the community of musicians. Preachers and theologians, are members of the ecclesial community where the Bible requires us to hand on the tradition, so that bishops in every age emulate the apostles and commit to us what they themselves have received (2 Tim, 2, 2). The Church passes on the flame of Divine truth, as the witness and keeper of Holy Writ, otherwise our task would be hopeless if every generation had to rekindle that flame for itself.

Bible and Church

In Contra Epistolam Manichaei Augustine stated, ‘For my part I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.’ This early assertion of the dependence of the Scriptures for authority on the Church means that Christianity depends upon the Bible dancing with the Church and the Church with the Bible. Without the Church the Bible is lifeless and would not have been received as the written Word of God unless the Church’s authority had first persuaded us. The Ordinal instructs priests to teach nothing but what the Church persuades us is concluded and proved by Holy Scripture as interpreted by the ancient Fathers. It is not authority to create or develop new doctrines, but to declare judicially for purposes of discipline what is the faith once delivered to the saints – authority to determine what is heresy and what is not.

Councils, synods and bishops have been doing this, basing all their decisions on Scripture and conclusions from Scripture. These decisions sanctioned by the Church’s collective conscience, established the doctrine in Creeds, Canons, Articles and Liturgies, which the Church gives to its clergy requiring them to promise to be guided by these in all their teaching. This historic faith, claims to be based on the warrant of Scripture and owes its present authority, not so much to the councils and synods that originated them, as to the collective conscience of the Church of succeeding ages.

Arthur Middleton