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THE AUGUSTINE OPTION: THE ONLY HOPE FOR A RESTORED ANGLICANISM

THE AUGUSTINE OPTION: THE ONLY HOPE FOR A RESTORED ANGLICANISM

By the Rev. Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
June 16, 2019

It so happens that there is a superbly brilliant epigram that runs as follows: St Paul said it and St Augustine read it. It also happens, soteriologically speaking, that the Anglican doctrine of salvation finds its derivation in the union of Pauline and Augustinian thought expressed in the precept to which reference has just been made. The divine mission of human salvation described in the Gospel of Jesus Christ happens to be the prime message that the Church of God is called to convey. It is a comprehensive message of description as to the nature, mind, purpose, and action of God; the plight of sinful humanity, guiltily estranged from God, and exposed to the consequences of his just displeasure; and surprisingly, the plan initiated by God for the rescue of the human race and its restoration to righteous (moral) compatibility with God and the enjoyment of his renewed favor. The way of salvation takes priority in the Church's pronouncements.

The Church is intended to be the vehicle of the Word of God and its calling is to proclaim 'the whole counsel of God' with no omissions and no adjustments: ' . . .the Church is a witness and a guardian of Holy Scripture' (Article 20). Its role is to declare all truth necessary to salvation. The announcement entrusted to the Church as its heavenly treasure and earthly tidings is to be both accurate and urgent, for the destiny of souls depends upon faithful and fearless communication. The salvaging of lost souls from merited wrath, a nature turned wrong, and a wasted existence is the predominant concern of the People of God. The Gospel of Redemption
is abridged by the apostle Paul to the earnest teaching/preaching of "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) rendered effective by the Spirit's power (v4).

Paul's reference to the atoning work of the Lord Jesus and the effectual call of the Holy Spirit place the act of human deliverance way out of reach of any human capacity to achieve or assist, and places human reliance entirely upon God and his marvelous grace.

Our Scripturally derived soteriology is the core of our Anglican Confession, the very point that determines Anglican authenticity. When the Articles of Religion were accorded their highest authority in defining the character of Classic Anglicanism some degree of flexibility was allowed with regard to certain points, but the Church was absolutely insistent on whole hearted subscription to the Articles directly pertinent to the subject of salvation, its origin and application. There can be no dispute that the relevant Articles reflect the teaching of the Word of God and that in human interpretation they fundamentally resemble the convictions of Augustine who cogently established the basic orthodoxy of the Western Church, that was widely upheld in the Catholic Church, even in darkest times, and powerfully reinforced and resurgent through the ministrations of the Reformers. The English Reformers, and their key predecessors, eagerly endorsed the Augustinianism of their Continental contemporaries and theological colleagues.

Unless the message and mood of our Augustinian Articles and Prayer Book are firmly and deeply ingrained in the minds of the ministry and membership of our Communion there will be no recovery and return to the strong and worthy Anglicanism of our historic constitution. Until the recapture of the original themes of our theology and message occurs Anglicanism seems to be too amorphous to represent any definite identity or reliable information about God and his ways, and man and his dire need. It is now a nondescript entity attracting many to the outward show of ceremony, processions, and in many instances, pride-producing vestments of dubious necessity and meaning. It is seen to provide color and drama to other traditions bereft of visual variety in an era of attention deficiency.

Anglicanism is in danger of becoming a meaningless label; all things to all comers. Experience in AMiA caused much dread for the future of Anglicanism. It is to be hoped that ACNA and GAFCON will carefully construct, under God's hand, an Anglicanism sound in its foundation and equipped with apt developments (consonant with our heritage) for a useful future in the service of the kingdom. May we be like a wise house owner "who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (Matthew 13: 52). Faithfulness to the past does not require one to be numbered among the company of old fogies.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church

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