In a blog post written from the perspective of the liberal wing of the Anglican Church I was somewhat surprised at the attack on bible believing Anglicans who know the bible to be the word of God to His people in every generation. The item upheld the view that the Anglican Church looks to scripture, reasoning and tradition as the guiding principles of the church.
My thoughts went back to my time in the early 70’s where I was training as a young police officer at the world renown Police Training College at Hendon. As a significant part of my training then was what were tests that were known as a ‘Knowledge and Reasoning’. Here after studying a particular aspect of the law we were tested not only on our knowledge of the law, but also how it would be applied and worked out in a number of varying situations. The situations would vary enormously, as is the reality of day to day policing, but the law remained the same. We were assessed not only on our knowledge of the law, but also how we applied it in the circumstances with which we were presented. The circumstances changed, but the law did not.
It occurred to me that our church leaders need to learn a valuable lesson from my police training. The application may differ in each generation, but the law, or in our words scripture, remains the same, unchanging and unchangeable.
Accepting scripture as the word of God.
A significant part of our decision must rest on our acceptance of the bible as the inspired word of God. It tells us it is, but even more compelling is the bible story itself were we see what befalls those who treat it lightly. even a cursory reading of the Old Testament will give us an insight into that. An equally true, though less compelling argument must be that if the bible is not authoritative in everything it is not authoritative in anything. If it is not trustworthy in one thing it is not trustworthy in anything. It has been the foundation document of the whole church, not just Anglicans, but all Christians. It must therefore carry a hugely greater significant authority that either reason or tradition.
If we look to reason as authority, that reason can only be established in teaching that is trustworthy and secure, as Christians that can only be the Bible. History reveals that were we rely on reason there we see the winds of fashion blowing us about hither and thither. There we see vested interests making a significant mark, there we see dictators reign as they apply their own reason. There we see capitalists reign as they apply reason to their own goals. I do not want to say any of this is wrong, that must be a personal decision, one that we are all entitled to make, but reason without foundation is always going to result in error. Therefore I come back to my police training, the knowledge must be reasoned on the basis of something. In that case it is the law of the land, in the church it can only come back to scripture.
If we look to tradition as an authority, the tradition of the the church has always been based on scripture. However there have been many times when we can see that those seeking self determination have been selective over the tradition they seek to promote. Once again we only need to look to history to see there are times in the past where things have been done by the church in the name of tradition of which we are rightfully ashamed. But even more recently we have seen string movements in the church that sought to restore traditions that no longer accept scriptural authority.
So we need to return to the solid ground that is scripture. We may not like it in parts, we might not want to accept what it clearly teaches us in many aspects of our life, but it is the inspired word of God to every generation and we ignore it at our eternal peril.