If Anglicans Read (more of) Jesus

Alan Jacobs continues to defend himself from charges that his leniency on priests who grant membership to same-sex couples and baptize those couples’ children is a failure to adhere to Christ’s condemnation of false teachers. For some reason, he argues, Christ’s repudiation is irrelevant:

“Didn’t Jesus denounce false teaching?”” He sure did, but that’s not relevant to my argument. “We can’t abandon church discipline.” We sure can’t. Etc., etc., etc. I won’t go off on a “social media have killed reading” rant, but you know, social media really have killed reading.

Anyway, my argument is simply this: The determination of who is and is not a Christian is above your pay grade, and expressly forbidden to you by Jesus.

Jacobs does not seem to be aware that determining how to read Jesus’ words may be way above his own pay grade (though he does get paid to read for his living — not Hebrew and Greek, mind you). How can you be so absolute in ruling out the relevance of Jesus’s or Paul’s or John’s condemnation of false teachers and of wayward Christians and then say that the bottom line is ” We must be patient, humble, gentle, not quarrelsome, encouraging and upbuilding — and must exhibit all those traits even when we believe people are wrong and are striving to correct them? It’s hard work, and I stink at it. But that’s what we’re all called to.”

If we are supposed to follow Christ and the apostles, who were examples in some way, aren’t we also called to condemn false teachers and wayward Christians. At least try to wrestle with the tension between the parable of the wheat and the tares (pro-patience) and Paul’s condemnation of the Judaizers (impatient).

And simply reading Dante for instruction on Hell and Purgatory isn’t going to do much for Protestants who think the Bible is above Dante’s pay grade (nor is Dante a doctor of the church exactly, speaking of pay grades):

In the Purgatorio Dante dramatizes the extended period of waiting that those who have been excommunicated must undergo before beginning their purgation, but they will eventually begin it because they are saved. Of course, excommunicated people can indeed be damned, but that’s neither the result nor the intention of excommunication in any church that I know of. To think that you can determine someone’s salvation or damnation by their inclusion in or exclusion from a given church community would be the very highest level of hubris.

Why did Jesus give Peter the keys of the kingdom, then? To be patient in locking the gates of heaven to unrepentant sinners?

I wonder too if Jacobs notices the restraints that come upon him as an Anglican. Can he really call everyone a Christian who professes Christ and who is not in fellowship with the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Why does all of this matter? It matters because when someone in my church, or within the Christian fold more generally, says or does things that I believe terribly wrong, or terribly mistaken, I have many options available to me but among them is not the declaration that “You are not a child of the kingdom, you are a child of the evil one.“ That is, if I am going to obey the teaching of this parable, I have to treat this person as a brother or sister, as one of my fellow children of the kingdom — and they have to do the same to me.

By that logic, worshiping at any Reformed Baptist or Free Methodist church should do. Why cut yourself off from ecclesiastical communion by becoming an Anglican? If “his” church matters, that mattering cuts off any number of Christians from fellowship.

Can we have a little respect for tradition, ordination, and hierarchy, please?

8 thoughts on “If Anglicans Read (more of) Jesus

  1. I’m curious why he reads Paul’s instruction to the the church in Corinth through the lens of the parable about the wheat and the tares while rather than the other way around. While we may not need to refer to someone who claims to be a Christian as the child of the evil one, Paul does seem to think that it is appropriate to turn some professing believers over to the evil one. The question isn’t whether we should try to figure out who really is a believer, the question is how we should interact with people who claim to be believers while at the same time rejecting what that entails.


  2. Wheat and tares is about the world, not about the church. Those who worry about becoming isolationists and sectarians are being intolerant in their own way against those who still care about the truth of the gospel. https://heidelblog.net/2010/02/is-reformed-theology-isolationist/

    Machen—A true Christian church will be radically intolerant. The intolerance of the church, in the sense in which I am speaking of it, does not involve any interference with liberty… One of the most important elements in civil and religious liberty is the right of voluntary association – the right of citizens to band themselves together for any lawful purpose whatever, whether that purpose does or does not commend itself to the generality of their fellow men. Now, a church is a voluntary association. No one is compelled to be a member of it; no one is compelled to be one of its accredited representatives. It is, therefore, no interference with liberty of a church to insist that those who do choose to be its accredited representatives shall not use the vantage ground of such a position to attack that for which the church exists… When I say that a true Christian church is radically intolerant, I mean it presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faiths. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christian religion, but therein lies also it glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is no Christianity at all. . . .”

    NT Wright—Dante’s middle volume is the one people most easily relate to. The myth of purgatory is an allegory, a projection, from the present on to the future. But the glorious truth is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin, and may or may not make small and slight progress towards genuine holiness, our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death.”

    William Tyndale vs Dante and Thomas More—“Christ taught that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that souls were now living hell or in purgatory or in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. With that doctrine they take away the resurrection.”


  3. Who said we are decisively telling anyone whose child they are not? We are simply saying we can’t say assuredly, from the objective standards we *have* been given, whose child they *are*? Not to sound snarky, but this is simply predictable. Jacobs is brilliant, but he *is* also an academic and a liturgic… Really, if you end up remaining conservative, you end up going either Low Church Reformed or Pius XII — not Anglicanism, and certainly not 2016 Rome! First Things notwithstanding. The way of Welby and Ratzinger is the way of the Quite Conflicted. Just saying…


  4. “The determination of who is and is not a Christian is above your pay grade, and expressly forbidden to you by Jesus.”

    Well, then, all Christians must cease all evangelism towards Jews, Muslims, and Hindus and just about everyone else as well. I always assumed that people who were practicing other faiths or no faith at all weren’t Christian and needed the Gospel. But now professor Jacobs has relieved me of the burden of preaching the Gospel to them. I can now rest easy knowing that I don’t have to stir up trouble with strangers, coworkers, neighbors, and family members over messy things like Heaven, Hell, Jesus, The Cross, Salvation, etc.

    That will give me more time to focus on Redeeming The City, Redeeming the Culture, Racial Reconciliation, and Gospel Centered Social Justice.

    Thanks, Jacobs!


  5. McMark: Wheat and tares is about the world, not about the church.

    I would suggest that this is not an either/or situation, but one in which the situation in the world includes the situation in the church.

    After all, Jesus certainly explains in the parable that the field is the world (Matt 13.38). But he also explains that this is a parable describing the kingdom of heaven (13.24).

    The point of the parable is to show that it is not possible to (fully) distinguish between nor place a (perfect) separation between the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one until the eschaton, and that to do so would uproot some of the sons of the kingdom (13.28-30).

    Now, if it were the case that the field represents the world BUT NOT the church, then

    (a) There would be clear distinction between the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the devil, and
    (b) The sons of the devil would not be being pulled out of the kingdom of God (13.41).

    So yes, the parable is about the world — and the church is, for now, located within the world.


  6. Andrew Alladin says: ..evangelism…

    The world is influence by evangelism .. and godliness

    “Salvation, then, calls us to a place that is, in a sense, precarious because we’re commingled in the world. But listen to this very carefully. I don’t think the Lord is greatly disturbed by that because the nature of the wheat is that it cannot be changed. We may be next to the darnels, but they can’t change our nature if we’re wheat, right? But the converse is not necessarily true. Their nature can be changed by the influence of godliness. And so, we are called, then, to be patient.” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2300/the-kingdom-and-the-world


  7. Since discipline in an ecclesia is not perfect, then let’s not do discipline yet–except for certain kinds of immorality, but otherwise we welcome the magistrates to the sacraments to find grace , despite their ignorance and disagreement with our Confession of Faith, in the hopes of making the world a little better than it could be?

    If only hillbilly baptists would read more Anglicans https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/democracy-literacy/

    Clair Davis— God’s decision comes at the beginning; but in our lives we’re only called to learn about election if and when we really need it.

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.”


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