REFORMATION ANGLICANISM: Biblical -- Generous -- Beautiful
By Chuck Collins
Foreword by Ashley Null
Reviewed by David W. Virtue DD
August 3, 2015
If you have really want to know what Anglicanism is truly all about, written in plain English, and cutting through the usual Anglican speak, there are fewer books that I can recommend more highly than Chuck Collins' 160-page history of our wonderful Anglican Communion.
Anglicanism is defined and guided by the Bible. The 16th Century reformers didn't see themselves as starting something new; they only wanted to return the church to the authority of the Bible and to ancient consensual Christianity from which the Medieval Catholic Church had departed. The "Anglican formularies" that speak about what Anglicans believe all affirm that the Bible more than just "contains" or "speaks of" the Word of God, it is the Word of God written. IT is the authority by which every other authority is judged, writes Collins.
The author quickly dismisses the myths surrounding the origins of the church during the reign of Henry VIII and his wifely problems, arguing that the Church of England goes all the way back to Jesus Christ and the apostles. "The most ancient form of Christianity in Britain is not Roman Catholicism, but 'Celtic' Christianity," argues Collins.
Anglicans, he says, are permanently linked to the Protestant principles of the English Reformation: the Bible as supreme authority (over tradition, reason, and experience), "Justification by faith" alone through grace alone by Jesus alone (we can be "right" with God by receiving in faith what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, not by being "religious" or "good"), and the "Priesthood of all Believers" (we don't need a priest, pope, or any other intermediary to relate to God personally).
Collins notes that while there is plenty of room for debate about secondary issues, there has been substantial agreement over the centuries about a fixed doctrinal core. The documents of the English Reformation, the key Anglican theologians (including Cranmer, Hooker, Jewel, and Andrews), and the Anglican formularies (including the Articles of religion, the Homilies, and the Book of Common Prayer) all affirm a certain defining principle. Namely: the primacy, clarity and sufficiency of Holy Scripture is the final source of authority in the church and true for all people for all times.
A chapter on the arrival of Anglicanism into America draws up the tension and churchmanships of two men, William White and Samuel Seabury. White spoke from a foundation of Reformation or evangelical Anglicanism and Seabury from a high church or Anglo-Catholic foundation.
Evangelicals believe that the key elements of Anglican theology were largely settled in the time period between Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker (1554-1600).
Anglo-Catholics then and today view the Caroline Divines (from the mid 1600's) up through the Oxford Movement (staring in 1833) as a settlement of previously developing Anglican theology. They take their cue from pre-Reformation Catholic ideals.
Collins quotes the well-known saying; "In essentials -- unity; in non-essentials -- liberty; and in all this -- charity." But this is Anglicanism! Indeed it is.
Collins is not afraid to take head on issues like "Sin -- not promiscuous genes" in one chapter and "The Sacrament of New Birth" in another. Here is his take on "Why Baptize Infants?"
"Roman Catholics emphasize the objective reality of God's grace and treat baptism as always effecting the new birth it symbolizes (the ex opera operato view of sacraments). Protestants generally emphasize personal conversion and they treat baptism only as a symbol of the new life that God gave them when they were converted. Anglicans hold a middle ground between these views. We believe that God objectively extends his grace in baptism, that it is far more than just a symbol. To access the grace of baptism requires a personal response of faith, which itself is a gift from God."
It will come as no surprise that the book is endorsed by such Anglican luminaries as ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach; the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer; the Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry; the Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry among others.
Collins' writing is lucid, light-hearted, and a joy to read. His background includes being a 1st place winner of poetry prizes.
Chuck Collins' Reformation Anglicanism makes the faith both reachable and understandable. He shows the winsome beauty of God's character that is deeply embedded in Anglican worship and prayers, and that what sets the world's largest protestant group apart is that it is generously orthodox, completely biblical, and liturgically beautiful. Fr. Collins is the Associate Rector of Christ Church Anglican in Phoenix, Arizona.
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