THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church  Marylbone Road London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd  Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.



Coat of Arms: Canterbury.


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We have laid down the principle that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,
the Bride of Christ, is a visible organic society prior to her members (like a family or a nation), and that she may be known by these marks:
right faith, succession from the apostles, and jurisdiction.

I. Application of the Tests of the True Church

We have now to apply this principle. 
There are many religious societies claiming the name of CHURCH
Which of them is the true Church?

But it is not for us, like the builder of Tennyson's "Palace of Art",

to sit as God, holding no form of creed, but contemplating all. 

We are not converts to Christianity seeking which of the different denominations we should join. 
If we were, we should not be in a position to decide, for the decision requires knowledge and experience that the new convert cannot possess. 
Probably few converts deliberately make their choice between the different Christians communions, as Vladimir of Russia is said to have done. 
They join that denomination with which they have come into contact.

We have been placed by the providence of God in the Anglican Communion for which we are profoundly thankful. 
We do not approach the claims of the Anglican Communion as outsiders but as members. 
As we are responsible for reciting the creeds, and therefore must be convinced of the truth of the creeds, so we are responsible for our membership of the Anglican Communion, and therefore must be convinced of the truth of the Anglican claims. 
Otherwise we shall not be able to defend our religion or to persuade others that it is true.

II. The Right Faith is the Teaching of the New Testament,

Interpreted by Tradition and Reason

When inquiring whether a particular church possesses the right faith, we must judge by a test that is outside all the existing divisions. 
The right faith is what the apostles preached. 
The New Testament, therefore, must be our test. 
But since all the existing denominations accept the authority of the New Testament, we need some further test. 
We take the interpretation,
which the ancient Church gave to the New Testament
before the divisions of Christendom began
(not that we are bound to accept all the interpretations given by the ancient Church, but that any interpretation on which the ancient Church was agreed has a strong claim upon us). 
To this we add the conclusions of modern scholars because modern scholars have many instruments of interpretation that the Fathers had not got, such as the critical method and the study of Hebrew (most of the Fathers were totally ignorant of Hebrew and of the Hebrew background of the New Testament). 
Tradition and reason are necessary for the interpretation of Scripture.

III. Belief of a Church Decided by its Official Formularies

What a church believes can only be decided by its official formularies
including its liturgy, which is of special importance,
especially if it is in the mother tongue, because it is in constant use while other formularies may be relics of a past age known only to theologians. 
Neither practical abuses,
nor popular superstitions,
nor the false teaching of particular theologians
(even if they are bishops)
necessarily destroy the belief of a church,
for these may be marks of weakness in discipline,
not of error in doctrine. 
There is no church or communion in Christendom
that has not suffered from grave abuses. 
Perhaps no Christian church was ever in such a corrupt state
as the Church of Rome in the tenth century
when it was too ignorant and too little interested in religion to fall into heresy. 
Yet no one says that it lost the right faith at that time.

IV. Application of the Test to the Anglican Communion

1. Test of Faith

The Church of England and the other Anglican churches which with her form the Anglican Communion possess no doctrine peculiar to themselves. 
They profess to maintain the teaching of Holy Scripture
as interpreted by the Fathers and the Councils,
and the creeds and sacraments of the ancient Church. 
They reject, it is true, most of the medieval developments of Latin Christendom.
[The chief exception is the "Filioque" Clause.  See pp. 132-5.] 
But these developments are not to be found in Scripture
or in the earliest centuries of the Church. 
If it be said that we ought to accept the developed form of the Christian religion rather than its undeveloped form, we reply that the Christian religion has several developed forms of which the Anglican has at least as good a claim to be accepted as any other. 
(For this reason Rome is very shy of using the argument from development, especially since the appearance of Modernism.)

The Anglican Communion has been accused of rejecting the doctrine of the Eucharistic sacrifice and of the priesthood. 
In reality all that it has rejected is the medieval theory that the Sacrifice of Christ availed only for original sin and had to be supplemented by the Sacrifice of the Mass for the forgiveness of actual sin. 
This is the true meaning of Article 31. 
The Royal Supremacy and the other consequences of the peculiar relations of Church and State in England are not found in any of the other Anglican churches.
Though they played a great part in the controversies of the English Reformation, they are only temporary and accidental in the life of the Anglican Communion and in any case have little to do with faith. 
The Anglican Communion cannot fairly be charged with rejecting any doctrine regarded as necessary by the ancient Church or with asserting any doctrine that the ancient Church rejected.

2. Test of Succession

The episcopal succession of the Anglican Communion
is derived from the medieval Church through three lines,
represented by Parker of Canterbury,
Curwen of Dublin,
and de Dominis of Spalato (now Split),
which met in Archbishop Laud (1621). 
All the present Anglican bishops trace their succession to Laud (see p. 397). 
The historical succession cannot be seriously questioned. 
Those who deny that the succession is genuine
maintain that the English Church intended, at the accession of Queen Elizabeth,
to substitute a new ministry for the old one,
and that the changes made in the rite prove this. 
These objections will be discussed later (pp. 399-401). 
It is enough to say here that the rubric at the beginning of our ordination services ever since the first English Prayer Book of 1549 has asserted that

it is evident unto all men ... that from the Apostles' time
there hath been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church,
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.  ...
And therefore, to the intent these orders should be continued,
and reverently used and esteemed in this Church of England,

no man shall be taken to be a lawful bishop, priest, or deacon
without episcopal ordination.
It is the strictly observed rule of the Anglican Communion to accept Roman Catholic priests without ordination, but to require members of the new ministries set up in the Reformation period to be ordained before they may serve in the Anglican ministry. 
(There were perhaps a few exceptions to this rule before 1660; but they were all illegal, and most of them are historically doubtful.)
[A. J. Mason, The Church of England and Episcopacy, pp. 489-511.]

3. Test of Jurisdiction

As long as the Anglican churches maintain the right faith and the true succession, their jurisdiction is beyond question, except on the theory that all jurisdiction is derived from the Pope. 
For the English bishops are appointed in the same way as they were before the Reformation, and there were no rival diocesan bishops in Great Britain until the nineteenth century. 
(After the great immigration of Irish Romanists which followed the potato famine of 1847, Pope Pius IX created a number of new dioceses, first in England and Wales (1851), and then in Scotland (1878). 
In Ireland the bishops accepted the Reformation with very few exceptions, and the present Romanist bishops in Ireland are not the successors of the medieval bishops but of the "titulars" appointed in opposition to them by the Pope in the reign of Henry VIII.) 
The Anglican churches in other countries derive their jurisdiction from those of the British Isles. 
They do not interfere with other jurisdictions already existing (as in Canada and India), but confine themselves to providing for their own people for whom the churches (if any) already existing in those countries could have done nothing,
and to preaching the Gospel to those outside the Christian fold.

We conclude that since the Anglican churches possess right faith, historical succession, and jurisdiction, they are true parts of the Catholic Church.

4. Test of Activity

But all such proofs would be in vain if the Anglican churches were failing to perform the duties of the Christian Church. 
During the last 160 years the Anglican churches have spread all over the world,
not only in the English speaking countries
but also among many other races. 
In 1780 there were about fifty bishoprics in the Anglican Communion. 
There are now over 300.
There are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Negro, and Maori bishops. 
There are also many priests belonging to the Arab, Persian, Sinhalese, Malagasy, Bantu, Corean, Melanesian, Polynesian, Australian Aboriginal, Red Indian, and other races. 
The Anglican Communion has produced its saints and martyrs in every part of the world and of every race. 
Its liturgy, in six or seven forms and in more than a hundred languages, is recited in every continent and has won the enthusiastic devotion of worshipers in many lands.
At the synod of the diocese of Madagascar, most of the members of which are natives of the country and not even British subjects, an English priest once remarked, "We would not die for the Prayer Book".
(meaning that the Prayer Book is not essential to the Christian religion)
He was misunderstood, and interrupted by shouts from every part of the room, "Yes, we would!"

Where is this church? Please e-mail me if you know.

V. The Anglican Churches

The Anglican Communion now includes thirteen self-governing churches:
the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Church of Ireland, the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, the Church of England in Canada, the Church of the Province of the West Indies, of the Province of South Africa, of India, Burma, and Ceylon, the Church of England in Australia, the Church of the Province of New Zealand, the Nippon Sei Ko Kwai (Holy Catholic Church in Japan), and the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (Chinese Church).
Of these the Church of England and the Church of Ireland are ancient. 
The Welsh Church was from the twelfth century to 1920 part of the Church of England. 
The Scottish Church in its present form dated from 1660. 
The other churches have all come into existence since 1784. 
Besides these there are six dioceses in Asia,
eighteen in Africa,
four in America,
and one in Europe (twenty-nine in all),
which are immediately subject to the Archbishop of Canterbury until they are ready to be organized in provinces. 
The bishops of all these dioceses, with their suffragan and assistant bishops, are members of the Lambeth Conference, which meets every ten years. 
The total number of dioceses at this moment (1943) is 311.

VI. The Old Catholic Churches in Communion with the Church of England

With these we must reckon the Old Catholic churches that came into full communion with the Church of England in 1932. 
The ancient bishopric of Utrecht, founded by St. Willibrord in 696, was made an archbishopric and divided into six dioceses in 1560, but the other dioceses were soon swept away by the Reformation. 
In 1701 there was a breach with Rome due chiefly to the opposition of the Jesuits to the Archbishop and Chapter of Utrecht. 
The first archbishop independent of Rome was consecrated in 1724,
[Cornelius Steenhoven, consecrated by Dominique Varlet, Bishop of Babylon.]
and two other bishoprics were soon afterwards restored. 
In 1870 many Roman Catholics in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland refused to accept the decrees of the Vatican Council and were excommunicated. 
Bishops were consecrated for them, and in 1889 the Old Catholic churches of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria formed the Union of Utrecht, which was afterwards extended to other countries. 
There are now five self-governing Old Catholic churches in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, and the U.S.A., which include thirteen bishoprics.

These churches, though in full communion with the Anglican churches, are not Anglican. 
They have a different history, different customs, and different liturgies. 
But they hold the same faith. 
The Agreement of Bonn (1931) is the basis on which intercommunion between Canterbury and Utrecht was restored.
[Some of the smaller Anglican churches have not yet formally accepted it.] 

The terms of this agreement were as follows:

  1. Each communion recognizes the catholicity and independence of the other and maintains its own.
  2. Each communion agrees to admit members of the other communion to participate in the sacraments.
  3. Intercommunion does not require from either communion the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion, or liturgical practice characteristic of the other, but implies that each believes the other to hold all the essentials of the Christian Faith.