I look back now and realize that in the 1950s there began to be a specific and increasing drift away from clear truths of Holy Scripture in much of the Anglican world. Some of these steps seemed to be rather small at the time, but they gradually instilled an attitude that made breaking the scriptures more and more easy to do. Even among ordained leaders. Yet our Lord Jesus clearly taught it was not to be done!
The pathway to this sin was laid down in the nineteenth century, when many faithful people and leaders were not helped to understand the difference between believing the Holy Scriptures and making every passage of equivalent value or purpose. Much that has been written for our learning is not to be imitated, but the truth is to be learned from it all. It is one thing to know what Judas Iscariot did, it is another thing entirely to imitate him. It is one thing to balance the teaching of one place in the light of another, but an all together different matter to assert that something is untrue.
From at least the early second century, the faith of the church was summed up in the creeds in order to help all who would follow Christ Jesus to know the central truths of the gospel. They did not replace the Holy Scriptures, but they did give clarity and focus to them. In the Western Church the first of these came to be called the Apostle’s Creed, and it was considered the absolute minimum for sustaining the journey of faith. Every affirmation in that creed was based on the truth revealed in the Holy Scripture. It was to point the faithful to the truth of God’s Word. And his Word was trustworthy and true.
In addition, Sunday by Sunday, the people of God heard the Holy Scriptures read, and it was the duty of the ministers of the church to expound them for the church. To depart from them was unthinkable, and whenever it happened ministers were corrected, disciplined, and if necessary removed. Believing the Holy Scriptures were true and authoritative was a matter of faith, and no one dared to argue otherwise.
All this changed in many of the historic churches of America after WWII. Nowhere more rapidly than in the Episcopal Church.
Nothing stands out more in my memory than the gradual undermining of the Apostle Paul, and the authority of his writings for Christian believers. For all the history of the church it was believed that he had been appointed by Almighty God to be a preacher and teacher of the Gentiles. He was raised up to speak to the entire non-Jewish world. His doctrine was not “his” doctrine, but the teaching of Jesus. His guidance was not “made up” but given by the Holy Spirit to the whole church. It was gospel.
The first step was to dispute his clear teaching about the Cross, then about sexual morality, and then about gender roles. Grievously, seventy-five years later, now to hold to the truth of the Holy Scripture in these and many other matters is to be spoken against and marginalized, even in churches that think themselves “orthodox.”
Next Week: Making a Lie Acceptable.