A RESPONSE TO REVISIONIST LIBERALISM
BISHOP JIM NJEGOVAN’S SEPTEMBER MS LETTER
In responding to anything written by a theologically liberal individual, it is most important to remember that what they are saying in any communiqué they produce is, in their mind entirely reasonable and rational. It is all too easy for theologically Orthodox Conservative Christians to assume that their seeming illogical deceptions and misrepresentations are made in a spirit of meanness and bitterness.
The truth is that, just as the orthodox conservative Christians know that they are presenting and representing the Truth of God taken directly from the Divinely Inspired Holy Word of God, so those of a revisionist liberal bent sincerely believe that they are doing the same – albeit often knowingly in defiance of that same written Word of God! In making this statement, there is no intent to insinuate that both views are equally correct. That would be to support the modernist doctrine of moral relativism. Rather, it is simply recognising the degree of sincerity that actually and realistically exists in the heart and mind of the revisionist liberal.
At the same time, it is difficult for those who know and accept the Holy Word of God (The Holy Bible) as being inspired by the Holy Spirit to understand how one can knowingly contravene, or even attempt to rewrite that Word of God and still claim to be presenting Christianity in the “Will of Christ.” Yet, the ordained individuals in this revisionist liberal camp have all taken the same vows as any clergy in the Anglican Church of Canada to accept the Holy Bible as being the Word of God and containing all things necessary for salvation. Further, they have stated and signed assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Faith in accordance with Lambeth 1968 in the meaning that was intended in their production during the English Reformation. And, in signing their assent to the Solemn Declaration of 1893, they have also accepted adherence to the Traditional Creeds of the Faith and continuing membership in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. Having done this, many of them claim to have assented to something to which they have assigned “modern meaning” as opposed to the intended traditional meaning or have forthrightly denied elements of the clearly define faith content.
The amazing and confusing issue is that these persons of sincerity and conscience who find meaningful explanations of their deviation from the traditional understanding of these matters do not have the integrity to refute their vows and walk away from their ordained status and position. Rather, they hold onto their offices in order to attempt to increase their influence in their contrary opinions. But, because they have convinced themselves that such is just and acceptable and that such denial does not, in reality, exclude them from neither the Church to which nor the God to whom they made their vows they are still able to act with self-recognised integrity.
It is necessary for Orthodox Conservative Christians to recognise this sense of rightness and sincerity that exists with such as are seen to be contravening, negating, and refuting the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, it is possible to understand the anger and vehemence that emanates from the liberal camp when they receive the onslaught of Orthodox Conservative Christian presentation based upon a clear and simple understanding of the Holy Scriptures as defined by the Apostolic Tradition and Reason passed down through the centuries. While the Orthodox Conservative Christians see the Gospel in the light of St. Paul who in Galatians called for those who teach any other gospel to be eternally condemned and St. Jude who bemoans the perversion of the Gospel once delivered to the saints, the revisionist liberals see the gospel as being fluid and changing to “keep up with the times.” Truly, much of the argument in ACofC General Synod 2003 around the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions was centred upon the need to keep up with society or to bring the Church into step with the reality of the political environment. The Orthodox Conservatives see the Church as informing modern society with the Word and Will of God fixed and presented in the Holy Scriptures while the revisionist liberals seek to keep the Church in step with society. In performing this latter they find it necessary to theologise the modern thought by using an equivalent vision of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition (and for some, experience) in producing New Word of God for the times.
In his September letter in the Diocese of Brandon Mustard Seed Bishop Njegovan writes concerning Anglican Essentials Canada and Anglican Essentials Manitoba, “While claiming for themselves the guidance of the Holy Spirit and holding on to what they themselves have determined to be the “Essentials” of Anglicanism, they ignore the basic structures and governance of the Church and have no regard or respect for those “in authority over them” not even for our Primate or General Synod.”
In this statement is seen such a dedication to what human rationale and its vision of the organisational ecclesia has deemed as being correct that sight is lost of the reality of Orthodox Conservative position held by the Essentials movement. Since the revisionist liberal camp bases its theological position upon human comprehension of the human writings of scripture, recent tradition, human reason, and human experience it is natural for those same false criteria to be transferred to the mind of the Orthodox Conservative position.
And herein lies the misrepresentation of the position of Anglican Essentials. Where the revisionist liberal position is based upon the thought structures of humanity in this day and age, the Orthodox Conservative position is based upon the clear and simple understanding of the Divinely Inspired Holy Word of God as intended in its writing and as understood by the original recipients. The Apostolic Tradition defines the understanding of the Apostles of Jesus Christ and their immediate successors of what has become known as the Old and New Testaments. Reason comes into play in the searching out and learning such pure intentions of Almighty God through these means. Thus, Bishop Njegovan misrepresents the Essentials position to his readers – most likely without he himself recognising or possibly even understanding the difference in the roots of the two positions.
Bishop Njegovan goes on to decry what he sees as the failure of those who differ with him and his revisionist liberal positions (and he would also attempt to argue that he is really an orthodox individual) to submit to the structures and “authority” of the Church including those in leadership.
However, in this, he loses sight of the fact that such submission to authority is to be “in all things lawful.” And, when it comes to these clearly doctrinal matters based upon the Holy Word of God being flaunted, no sincere Orthodox Conservative Christian can submit to such heresy. Their first obedience is to the clear and simple Word of Almighty God. The Council of Nicea from whence we received the Nicene Creed as a succinct statement of the teachings of Holy Scripture concerning the nature of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and the Church responded to this type of situation when it stated in its Canons that any Bishop who teaches anything contrary to the Word of God has become apostate and has surrendered his authority. It is not a matter of not submitting to or respecting the office or even the person as a human being apart from the office. Rather it is a matter of having to obey the simple and clear Word of God over and above the machinations, thoughts and ideas of men that contravene such Holy Word.
General Synod falls into a similar category when it ignores, contravenes, or seeks to alter the Holy Scriptures. While the common appeal made by the revisionist liberals is to the democratic vote, the Scriptures are clear that God’s Word is not open to such. When Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Horeb he did not ask for a vote. He presented God’s Word and the people were left to accept it or deny their God. When Moses delayed in his return the people rose up and took a vote concerning their plight. And this vote led to the making and worshipping of the Golden Calf – an act of outright idolatry. Jsus never asked for “opinions” concerning that which He presented. Rather the statement s He made were, in context, accept this and accept God or reject this and reject God! Similarly, the validity of any act of the Church Leadership or any Synod is dependent upon its faithfulness to the clear and simple understanding of God’s Word. Any act violating the same is to be considered invalid and non-binding.
Of course, there is always the comeback asking, “Who has the right to interpret God’s Word?” or “Should not the determination of the leadership trump that of the masses?” Or, as Bishop Njegovan stated at the last Diocese of Brandon Synod, “The people do not have the right to determine the doctrine of the Church. That is the responsibility of the General Synod and the Church hierarchy.” The only right debate is based upon the understanding of God’s Word once delivered. Any attempt to modify or rewrite the same even for the times is anathema. Hence the right of interpretation goes to such an understanding and the leadership ceases to be leadership when such understanding is violated.
Bishop Njegovan goes on to say, “Being an issue-driven movement, they (Anglican Essentials) distort for their own benefit statements made by our Synods and Bishops.”
Again Bishop Njegovan knowingly or unknowingly misrepresents the position of Anglican Essentials. In making this statement he is referring to the current hobbyhorse of the revisionist liberal camp – that of the blessing of same-sex unions or the actual marriage of same-sex couples. But Anglican Essentials, while having one primary issue in the place of the Holy Scriptures in Christendom, is not a one-issue movement as he is intimating. Rather Anglican Essentials is centred upon the issue of the centrality of the Holy Scriptures and their standing in judgment of all else within Christendom.
Anglican Essentials clearly accepts what liberal Christianity tends to erroneously call the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. However, whereas revisionist liberals wish to place these three with redefined contexts on an equal basis together with their newly introduced concept of “experience,” Anglican Essentials holds to the traditional understanding of these three original factors as having Scripture informed by Reason and Tradition but, as clearly described by Richard Hooker the well founded Reformation Theologian, with Scripture always standing in judgment over Reason and Tradition. Further, Scripture is understood in accordance with the intentions of the Spirit Guided writer and the understanding of those who originally received these writings as being The Holy Word of God. Reason is the God-given Gift that enables such comprehension and moves Orthodox Christians to truly seek the Spirit Guided intentions of the original writings in their original context as opposed to the modernist tendency to reinterpret the same in the light of current experience. Tradition is understood in accordance with the original intentions in the writing of the Old and New Testaments as they are seen in the light of the Apostolic Traditions or understandings of the Apostles and their immediate successors in the early Church that has then been passed down through the ages.
Anglican Essentials (Canada or Manitoba) does not distort the statements of Synods or Bishops. Rather it analyses such statements in the light of Holy Scripture as informed by Godly Reason and Apostolic Tradition. The comments and stances of Anglican Essentials are based upon such analyses. Thus, the argument is not whether or not the decisions of Synod and Bishops are misconstrued but rather whether or not such are in line with the Holy Word of God and therefore acceptable to Christianity as a whole. The revisionist liberal concept of distortion is in that there has been a general judgment based upon God’s Word that the actions of current Synods and Bishops are out of step and contrary to God’s Divinely Inspired Word. Their desire is that such proclamations, because they come from them, are equal to or even supersede the Divinely Inspired Holy Word of God. And Orthodox Conservative Christians can never accept such trivia in such a perverse manner.
The goal of Anglican Essentials is to produce realistic Evaluations of the current world circumstances, inside and outside of the Christian Church, in line with the clear and simple teachings of the Divinely Inspired Holy Word of God – The Holy Bible! The issue is the right of God to judge all human activity and, most especially, that which occurs within the Body of Christ, the Christian Church. While revisionist liberals decry and condemn such evaluation, analyses, and judgment upon their efforts and respond via distortion and condemnation of the same, it is the Christian Duty to stand firm and clear in upholding God’s Word when any teaching violates the same.
It is essential to remember what Jesus said, “If you bear witness of me before men on earth, I will bear witness of you before my Father in Heaven. If you do not bear witness of me before men on earth, I will not bear witness of you before my Father in Heaven.” Thus, the stance of the Orthodox Conservative Christian Church will first serve God to Whom her members are dedicated. Secondly, Anglican Orthodox Christians will remain committed to such arms of the Worldwide Anglican Christians that remain faithful to the Holy Word of God and in the faith once delivered and passed down through the ages. Thirdly, Orthodox conservative Anglicans will remain members of the Anglican Church of Canada so long as she walks in concert with the Bible Believing Worldwide Anglican Communion. Thus the authority is given to God, then to the leadership that follows God and His Divinely Inspired Word, and then to the local province so long as she exercises God’s Word in her jurisdiction. Such would seem to be the Will of Almighty God for those who truly stand for Him in this world