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By Roger Salter
August 28, 2023

It is imperative that the Reformational tradition at the heart of authentic Anglicanism should be ably defended as crucial to the future survival of a credible and efficacious Anglican presence in an increasingly topsy-turvy and decadent world.

As Western culture and morality corrodes and collapses so rapidly in stupefying fashion before our very eyes, and much of Christendom reels with uncertainty and surrender to both false teaching and the irrational and chaotic ideologies allied to the wayward propensities of our age, it is only firm adherence to the pure Word of God that can prevail in credible witness to the sovereign ways of Almighty God and the wickedness and woes of a condemned and done for world.

Current Evangelical Anglicanism, generally speaking, is not biblically strong enough to sustain a sound defense of the integrity of the Gospel of God in the heat and merciless onslaught of the grim battle ahead. As a movement it is diffuse and vacillating and shows a distinct reluctance to candidly own and freely confess the fullness of the interpretive tradition bequeathed to us by the English Reformers. This tradition is faithfully and firmly in alignment with the speech of the Lord imparted to us through the Holy Scriptures which are entirely reliable and amply sufficient in their revelation of the way of salvation:

Article VI. Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith or thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, of whose authority was never in any doubt in the Church.

Article VII of our Anglican Confession of Faith further affirms the glorious fact that the central and unitive reality of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ himself and the perfect and eternal salvation he has achieved: The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man.

Reformational Anglicanism [true Anglicanism] is steadfastly biblical and seeks to maintain a constant, consistent loyalty to inspired Holy Scripture in all it teaches and proclaims in its witness to the word of God: its primary task! Its avowed and principal aim is to preach and expound the pure word as the basis of belief, our worship of the Lord, and daily obedience to his will. Scripture is the first and final arbiter of Anglican doctrine and practice. It is with Holy Writ that we are to conform, keeping constant review of our conformity, and not in legalistic, grim faced fashion, but in the sheer joy of preserving precious truth and the guidance of divine wisdom so that we may happily achieve an accord with his thought, rely on his promises and willingly concur with his commandments. The blessed task of lingering long in Scripture is an endless pursuit of immense benefit and joy.

Our Articles of Religion are pointers to the process which commences and sustains our adventure into the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is our overriding motive in attending to the literature of the Bible. Our splendid Reformers guide us to the fountainhead of our saving Faith in the attitude of humility and prayer. The Reformation solas are the ground of our tradition to which all principles of religion are to be compared for authenticity and authority in the elucidation of the Gospel. It is the theological task of the church to probe each affirmation at depth so that our five-fold basis of soteriological understanding will yield intimate contact with the meaning and sense of the very word of God.

The essential topics that define the basic convictions of Reformational faith for an articulate and coherent statement of our theological position are, namely, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone and Glory to God Alone.

Scripture Alone: Humanly speaking, it is indeed the case that there are many approaches to Scripture and varying conclusions derived from it. All must be tested by the Holy Spirit's impress or persuasion of the "ring of truth" sounding through the divine quality of its self-attestation to the sublimity of its message, strengthened by diligent recourse to the analogy of Scripture establishing a clear consistency with the main thrust and meaning of the prophetic and apostolic canon which is principally provided to guide wandering mankind "very far gone from original righteousness" back to God with a restored righteousness and acceptableness before God. In this dispensation of the purpose of the Lord it so happens that the intent of Scripture is to bestow salvation, the correction of a damaged creation, including the rescue and healing of debased mankind.

The way of salvation is the principal wisdom imparted by the word of God and that unique message of the Bible becomes plain to the humble, patient and trusting heart. This disposition of humility and dependence obviates intellectual pretenses and the imposition of private interpretation. The message and the mood of true salvation originate from Scripture alone, which is the infallible foundation of genuine attachment to God. The immeasurable benefit of knowing God as Savior is facilitated by Scripture alone through word of pen or voice of mouth. The mind of man cannot invent or summon the truth of the gospel. It must come as the gift of God and that gift is enclosed in the Book of God. There is no rival to Scripture. With regard to final authority it stands alone. The task of the Church is adherence to Holy Writ in order to formulate a biblical tradition of explication which is to be checked judiciously and prayerfully. Human grasp of truth seeks by the grace of its Author the closest approximation to the revelation of God. No one branch of the Church, nor any human individual, has full possession of the knowledge of the divine disclosures. We are all learners.

Christ Alone: The Lord Jesus Christ by appointment of the Father and the sealing of the Spirit is the author, agent, and finisher of our salvation, representing us before God in his incarnate ministry and human perfection (active righteousness), presenting believers to the favor of the Father through his work of achieving atonement on our behalf (substitutionary sacrifice and passive righteousness), and renewal of our nature through his Spirit (purification, sanctification and conferred righteousness). None other could qualify to make amends for our sin, provide a righteousness for us ( both imputed and actual), and restore holiness within us, bereft as we are of any personal virtue or merit, but that of the adorable God-Man himself. Justification, sanctification, separate but concurrent aspects of our salvation, are due to the rescue and ransom of our souls wrought by Christ alone.

Faith Alone: Something fully achieved for us can only be received by us without contribution. Its validity can only be recognized by trust and gratitude. Propitiatory action in our stead as miserable and condemned evildoers requires no assistance. Confidence in the information of completed action on our behalf [the gospel] can only be described as belief. We believe unto salvation. The message of Luther as he sums it up is not "do but done". We take hold of a gift [pardon and acceptance] paid for, procured and presented by another, our Redeemer, exclusive of any desert as recipients, with the assurance that any further payment is not due. Faith in the gospel is glad acceptance of gratuitous goodness provided for us by a bounteous benefactor who has acted in full knowledge of our sin and incapacity to help ourselves in our total spiritual destitution and moral depravity, but who looks upon us in immeasurable compassion and electing love.

Grace Alone: The divine love and power that secures our salvation [in action and application] proceeds from the Lord's disposition toward mercy. "Lord God, you who show your almighty power most of all in showing mercy and pity" (Collect for the 11th Sunday after Trinity). All the way through Scripture we discern God's inclination toward graciousness in his treatment of man. His kindness abounds in the dealings and blessings of common grace enjoyed [but not recognized] by all people and distributed widely [but not equally shared] across the membership of our sorry and pitiful race. Rain and sunshine are provided indiscriminately to all people without their awareness that the "riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience . . . God's kindness leads you toward repentance [Romans 2:4]. To the pagans in Lystra he testified, "Yet he has not left him without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you the rain from heaven and the crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" [Acts14:17]. The Lord's common generosity is designed to be corrective of human hostility and hubris before our Maker. It is a wooing gesture of a welcome from God in turning to him in genuine repentance for our universal revolt. But by nature, Man is incapable of such a conversion of heart and the advance of divine kindness toward the world is rejected.

This inevitable refusal of the care and concern of the Lord calls for the action of special grace which by divine determination and predilection infallibly secures the rescue and return of a chosen portion of mankind; the many who have been redeemed. Salvation is not merely a bidding from God to seek him but a certainty of his free favor in that everything necessary for our deliverance from a state of sinfulness, alienation and defiance of God will be removed and that through Atonement (the shed blood of Christ) and the Effectual Call of the Holy Spirit (regeneration) those chosen by the Father (predestination) will be included in the kingdom of heaven and become heirs of the inheritance of eternal life and glory. The word grace becomes the abbreviated manner of affirming that salvation is exclusively of the Lord, and solely of his un-obligated decision without any worthiness in, or work from, the restored offender to the honor and praise of God - sovereign and almighty.

With regard to this critically essential "sola" the majority within the body of Evangelicalism, including Anglican evangelicals unfortunately, find it uncongenial to go the full way with the Reformational monotheism, hereby manifesting a potential Achilles heel with regard to the authority and credibility of the Faith; for Arminianism tends to the ultimate dismantling of Gospel Faith by assuming and inserting the arrogant principle of the necessity of human sanction or prevention over the divine will in its intention, thus positing an unwarranted provisionality in the purposes of God. This is hubristic basis to human philosophy and theology, the false exaltation of man in the scheme of things, is to be deplored. We should heed, as C.H. Spurgeon advises us, "the wills and shalls" of the Lord.

The four preceding "solas" must of necessity come to the culminant acknowledgement of the excellence of the Lord. Glory to God alone! For he only is the sure help and refuge of the helpless sinner, helpless to improve his condition and avoid his doom. He alone must initiate and assist every phase in the work of salvation. He alone commences and completes his program of redemption as the apostle assures the church at Philippi: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, he he began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. [On that great triumphant day will Christ mourn the loss of even one whom he redeemed?].

Reformational theology through the spectrum of the five solas is the most orthodox and reliable heritage the church has inherited from its past as regards the outlining of the way of salvation; the most practical purpose of the word of God given our predicament before the Lord - "What must I do to be saved?", or Luther's cry, "How may I find a gracious God".

Strangely these concerns are almost mocked by a highly reputed "Anglican" scholar and specialist of the New Testament, which undeserved courtesy, and some aversion to those who assail the integrity of the gospel, will omit to name.

But without the possession of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ all attempts at Christian profession and theologizing is in vain. So magnificent and magnanimous is the grace of God that many who inadvertently compromise the asseverations of the solas nonetheless participate in the soteriological benefits that they enumerate. The tradition of the Augustinian construct of the explanation of grace in its application to sinful man comes to its culmination and clarification in the combined wisdom of the great and godly preceptors, preachers and pastors called out from Romanism to reform the thought and practice of the people of God.

Fealty to the heritage we are entrusted to guard and preserve must never wane. We may meet with denunciation, disagreement, and dilution of our Faith but that only inspires us to firmer conviction, contention, and communication of the truth as Jude 3 exhorts. We are reminded of the infinite value and beauty of the truth divine revelation imparts to us. It is strength and solace to our souls in the service of God and our spreading of the gospel to all without discrimination.

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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