The Uncommon Bread of the Caroline Divines

This is a guest post by Peter Escalante:

At the request of my friend Steven Wedgeworth, I am making this little essay available. It was originally published on the now retired Reformed Catholicism forum, and was composed quickly in order to provide some initial rebuttals of untenable claims made by Mr Steel and Mr Douglas, and to begin a public discussion. Mr Steel withdrew. But even recently, on the Auburn Avenue blog, he claimed that his “evidence” was not addressed. I believe this to be far from the truth; but readers can decide. The basic points of contention have been handled very ably by Pastor Wedgeworth in discussion at the Bucer site. What I might add is that Steel had originally claimed that the use of material metaphors such as “artery” showed that Andrewes had a non-Reformed view of the Eucharist; but I gave passages, in the essay below, to show that Andrewes used exactly the same language of prayer. Steel gave quotes from John Johnson, as representative of Andrewes’ school of thought; I gave a quote to show that Johnson was a typical epikletic virtualist, as most of the Nonjurors were; this Eucharistic theology is well known to be a direct development of Calvin’s teaching (much to the distress of Eastern Orthodox examining possible points of agreement between themselves and the English tradition). I concluded with something of a rhetorical trick, using a quote from Andrewes which mocks and abhors as unholy the natural liturgical consequences of Roman doctrine: and that means the substance of the doctrine, not simply a speculative exposition of its metaphysics (transubstantiation). I also gave quotes from Andrewes showing that Andrewes held that the body of Christ is in heaven and not here, and even one place where explicitly distinguishes English church doctrine from that of Rome on this point; this of course is the extra Calvinisticum, a term which makes more sense relative to Lutheran theology, but can serve to indicate the consensus Calvinist teaching on this point. Mr Steel chose not to continue his part in the discussion; and I think it fair to say that I consider myself the one whose evidence- and this essay was just meant to be the beginning of a discussion- was not answered.

Why does any of this matter? Sacramental theology is important, for involved in it are some of the chief principles of the relation between God and man. Unreformed theologies of the Eucharist are bound up with deformed doctrines of the church, which make religious fetishes of the sacred symbols, and thereby subject the people of God to the control of the class thought to have the spiritual mark enabling them to create and dispose these reified means of alienated “grace”.

What also matters is the memory of the old English church. My initial debate with Steel began when he criticized the work of the eminent liturgical historian Dr Bryan Spinks, which I had earlier in that conversation recommended, as biased toward a Reformed reading of the Carolines. Dr Spinks’ excellent work speaks for itself; but I would point out here that Dr Spinks is known and respected for his work on early Syrian liturgy, so it is certainly not as though his intellectual horizons are narrowly 16th century. The early English church, despite all the misconstruals of it by Anglo-Catholics, was Protestant and Reformed. The history of the 19th Anglo-Catholic attempt to deny this is a painful one for those who prize integrity of inquiry. The work of Peter Nockles and the more recent, and excellent, work of Jean-Louis Quantin, have shown how wrongheaded that 19th century orgy of wishful thinking really was. But this was proved back in the 19th c itself by Nathaniel Dimock, regarding sacramental theology, and regarding ecclesiology, by the American Bishop Charles McIlwaine, in his Roman, Oxford, and Anglican Divinity Compared.

The English Church of Elizabeth, James, and Charles is, in some ways, a model of importance for own time. Reformed churches, their common mind constricted by familiarity only with Scots and English Presbyterianism, miss the riches of Reformed thought available in Richard Hooker, or Richard Field, or Lancelot Andrewes (just as they miss the riches available in the thought of German and French Reformed). Anglo-Catholic attempts to prove that the established church was somehow not really Protestant are attempts to deprive modern Protestants of useful heritage. Upon closer examination, many of the things which look less like the Protestantism Americans are used to, can clearly be seen as consistently evangelical appropriations of catholic- and by catholic I mean catholic, which excludes the distinctives of the unreformed- tradition. And too, part of the problem is a narrowly insular focus: just as the Episcopalian settlement of England is seen as less unique when compared to its Swedish parallel (or the teaching of the German Protestant Joachim Stephani), so too Andrewes’ Eucharistic doctrine, for example, looks less unique when compared to that of David Pareus (and other reformers ; the work of Nick Thompson is very helpful here).

At issue in the Andrewes debate particularly is the matter of the ancient church. Those who would read Andrewes as unreformed make much of his “patristic” and “Eastern” inclinations; but although, as Jean-Louis Quantin has shown, the 17th century royalist divines did make much of patristics in the service of forging a distinctly national-confession identity, this does not necessarily imply a departure from Reformed distinctives (Quantin is an excellent remedy to the sort of thing one finds in works such as Canon Middleton’s on the English interest in the old Fathers). As one of the quotes from Bishop Joseph Hall in the essay below shows, the English could easily read the Fathers as basically consonant with Reformed Eucharistic doctrine; and the 18th c Waterland, a great patristics man, engaged in close and extensive patristic exposition, and yet his doctrine on this point is entirely Reformed.

I have removed a single sentence from the beginning of the essay as irrelevant, and ask the reader to remember that it was written quickly as an informal contribution to the beginning of a discussion. Continue reading