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Sunday, August 29, 2010

History a Warning to Episcopal Diocese of Sydney (Part 6)

This is my sixth and final instalment of "History a Warning to Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney". All quotes (except for the Australian political quote) can be found in and referenced in the first five parts.

R. J. Sheehan provided a helpful analysis of the slide that occurred within the evangelical church in England in the Nineteenth Century. Sheehan drew encouragement from a steadying he saw in the 1980's but I doubt he would be content with the present situation.

Concerning the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney I and many others observe distinct and troubling parallels destroying evangelicalism within what has been termed the largest evangelical Episcopalian Diocese in the world.

To parody the words of an Australian politician who recently and ruthlessly deposed her leader and attempted to justify the action - "A good government had lost its way."

An Episcopalian Diocese which, for approximately two centuries, had seemingly resisted Higher Criticism, Liberal Theology and Anglo-Catholicism proudly presents itself as a bastion of evangelical conservatism. Indeed it would declare itself to be one with evangelicals of early Nineteenth Century England of whom W.R Glover said "The inerrancy of the Bible was so intimate a part of their religious thought and life that a denial of it seemed to threaten the destruction of the faith itself. "

But as R. J. Sheehan observed in England after the attack of Higher Criticism, and objective observers note of the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney, the rhetoric has failed to match the actions. Old Testament history has been stripped of much of its authority. Concepts and themes prevail over historical events and their timing in earth history. The latter are "questioned, contradicted and reconstructed."

It was too much for Higher Criticism to assault the New Testament first. That had to come later - once the Old Testament battle had been won. Anyone who "preached the Gospel" was a potential prisoner if only their foundation in the inerrancy of Old Testament Scripture was first undermined. The theology of the Old Testament without the "facts" had to be maintained and as Sheehan also observed - "Thus the history of the Bible could supposedly be understood in terms of the theory of evolution and the Book's basic central message remain unchanged."

Just as theological seminaries of Nineteenth Century England became off limits to any Old Testament scholar who didn't espouse the Higher Criticism method so has become the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney's theological seminary, Moore Theological College, off limits to Biblical Creationist scholars. Indeed, students espousing the Biblical Creationist position have been cautioned with serious sanction. I am happy to be corrected on this. Would any reader confirm the presence on faculty of any Old Testament scholar in the past twenty years who has held to the Biblical Creationist position i.e. six twenty-four hour days of creation approximately six thousand years ago?

Just as Higher Criticism conquered evangelicalism in England in the late Nineteenth Century via submission of allegedly evangelical clergy it has likewise triumphed in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. They all declare and "preach the Gospel" but they have already questioned, contradicted and reconstructed to the point of dismissing the foundation of Old Testament history in Creation. External influences opposed to biblical history are given authority to dictate the timing of subsequent Old Testament events and the consequence is a confused and destabilized reading of Scripture.

Not that you would think anything wrong if you read the statements emanating from leaders within the Diocese. "Peace", "Peace" for your evangelical conscience is what you are to receive with utterances such as "And yet this trustworthy, powerful word of God has been entrusted to us, with the responsibility to guard it, to hold firmly to it, to rightly handle it. I can think of no greater human responsibility than to hold firmly to the trustworthy and faithful word of God, taught as a good deposit entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit. Only then will we be able to exhort, to comfort with sound, healthy teaching." and "We are going to beware of intellectual fads." delivered by Dr John Woodhouse, Principal, Moore Theological College in his recent Eternity article.

One could imagine Dr Woodhouse is speaking only of the New Testament because, according to previous statements and actions, he, at best, entertains all views on the matter of the Creation account in Genesis. You see, Dr Woodhouse is firmly in the camp of the "mixed multitude who would not side with either the old evangelical view of Scripture or with the new view of Scripture, who held the key to the decline [in the Nineteenth Century]. They would not discipline error and so they were overwhelmed by it. The consequence of their indecision and cowardice was that whereas, 'The early nineteenth century saw a quickening of religious life all over Europe . . . when the nineteenth century closed Christianity was at a low ebb'."

With influences such as Karl Barth, the "wolf in sheep's clothing", so widely admired within the Diocese, the battleground is about to shift from the Old to the New Testament. The one thing readers can confidently take from Dr Woodhouse's Eternity article is "History suggests what is taken for granted by believers today may be forgotten by the next generation of believers, and denied by the one after that." The rot is well set within. Cowardice has brought the allegedly evangelical Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney to the point reached by the Evangelical Church in England in the late Nineteenth Century.

R.J. Sheehan observed that Calvinism had been something of a stay against the decline in evangelicalism in England in the Nineteenth Century. In the end it did not prevent the decline in England nor has it prevented the decline in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. Unbelief is unbelief no matter what the doctrine.

The "death throws" of evangelicalism within the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney are real. New life through the Holy Spirit is the only remedy. Let us pray for such an activity of God's Holy Spirit with urgency. Who knows, maybe some of the alleged evangelicals of the Diocese will stop, look back and see where their cowardice has taken them. Maybe they will repent, believe and be instruments in God's hands for good.

Sam Drucker


sam drucker said...

To correct an oversight I have added a new penultimate paragraph to this blog.

Sam Drucker

Eric said...

Sam, I womder if their 'card-carrying' Calvinism is part of the problem: they defer to an authority outside the Bible without necessarily subjecting their theology to the discipline of the Word of God: thus Barthianism, and every other ism is on the table; just not Biblical adherence.

If one learns not to test some ideas by the scriptures, because 'Calvin said', then maybe people learn to defer to extra-biblical authorities in all areas.

The irony is, of course, that Calvin did adhere to the Bible's teaching on origins!

sam drucker said...

Eric, perhaps they are not as Calvinistic as they profess?

I have been wondering whether to post the comments on the situation from a writer a few decades ago. In light of your comments I might do it in a couple of posts commencing a couple of days from now.

Sam Drucker