What happens when a Muslim visits an Anglican Chapel?

27 08 2013

The following post comes from Carl Trueman over at Ref21.  I hesitate to post things like this, because in my experience Anglicans with lifeless liturgy, poor preaching, gospel-less theology, and pathetic outreach view such articles as a validation of their ministries.  I have no desire to validate such ministries.  Rather, I’m posting this article because if the only kind of Anglicanism you’ve ever known was the type described above then you probably overlooked the pure gold to be found in the classical Anglicanism of Cranmer’s liturgy.  I’m posting this because outside eyes are sometimes the best way to reappraise the treasures in your own house.  

Do make sure to click through and read the whole thing.

Yet here is the irony: in this liberal Anglican chapel, the hijabi experienced an hour long service in which most of the time was spent occupied with words drawn directly from scripture. She heard more of the Bible read, said, sung and prayed than in any Protestant evangelical church of which I am aware – than any church, in other words, which actually claims to take the word of God seriously and place it at the centre of its life. Yes, it was probably a good thing that there was no sermon that day: I am confident that, as Carlyle once commented, what we might have witnessed then would have been a priest boring holes in the bottom of the Church of England.  But that aside, Cranmer’s liturgy meant that this girl was exposed to biblical Christianity in a remarkably beautiful, scriptural and reverent fashion. I was utterly convicted as a Protestant minister that evangelical Protestantism must do better on this score: for all of my instinctive sneering at Anglicanism and formalism, I had just been shown in a powerful way how far short of taking God’s word seriously in worship I fall.

Of course, there were things other than a sermon which the hijabi did not witness: she did not witness any adults behaving childishly; she did not witness anybody saying anything stupid; she did not witness any stand-up comedy routine or any casual cocksureness in the presence of God; she did not see any forty-something pretending to be cool; in short, she did not witness anything that made me, as a Christian, cringe with embarrassment for my faith, or for what my faith has too often become at the hands of the modern evangelical gospellers.

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3 responses

28 08 2013
panta spaudastis

The article by Trueman makes an assumption of defining “evangelical Protestantism” as something to be shunned or ashamed of….or is what he refers to not in truth ‘evangelicalism’ at all. Would it not be that regardless of how great the liturgy of Cramer, and it is great….Paker and Lloyd-Jones (and other Puritans) would have preferred “the gospel preached” over liturgy alone?

28 08 2013
robsturdy

Cranmer, Packer, Lloyd-Jones, and (I would assume) the author would rather the gospel be preached over bare liturgy. But the broader point is this: many modern day evangelicals don’t preach the Gospel in a way that the aforementioned would recognize it, which is another way of saying that many modern day evangelicals simply don’t preach the Gospel. What many modern day evangelicals are more interested in (according to the author) is nicely summed up in the final paragraph of the post. The point being, if modern day evangelicals view divine worship as entertainment and preaching as a comedy routine/ motivational speech then it would be better if they (like the liberal Anglican chaplain) simply kept their mouths shut and did the liturgy.

But this is obviously not where we want to land. What we want is solid, Gospel preaching married to solid, Gospel centered worship (whether it be with formal liturgy ala Cranmer or more informal ala Lloyd-Jones). The point Trueman is making is that broadly speaking, we’re a long way off from that.

31 08 2013
panta spaudastis

Well re-phrased. Although the hijabi was exposed to creedal Christianity she was not exposed to the Gospel message (call). I (probably incorrectly) read the article as accepting liturgy as the only thing needed and did not understand the article to directly state that what was needed was ‘gospel preaching’ and the need to advance this.

I have been reading several things which include the 15th-17th century Puritan movement as well as J I Packer’s life (1950 and 60s) in England…I can’t find the reference but I recall during one or both of these periods there was a shortage of preachers and people were attending liturgy only services and the Puritans and/or Packer and others were critical in finding this insufficient for people to ‘hear the Gospel’. Packer made a career choice in choosing teaching over academic, parish priest, or other work because he felt called to train conservative evangelical preachers….what True indirectly is saying what is needed.

Sometimes I find theological speak, writing, etc difficult because of the definition (what one means by) of words and phrases especially certain veiwpoint or ‘philosophies’, etc. Take for example “modern evagelicalism” or “modern day evangelical” as used in Tureman’s article and in commnet #2.
I think maybe Packer described this best and related it to preaching the Gospel and not comedy entertainment. As Packer states in his essay to John Owen’s ‘The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”:……the following 4 paragraphs..

There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God–centered in their thoughts and God–fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man––to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction––and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was “helpful,” too––more so, indeed, than is the new––but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on Whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self–esteem). However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need………….

And when we come to preach the gospel, our false preconceptions make us say just the opposite of what we intend. We want (rightly) to proclaim Christ as Saviour; yet we end up saying that Christ, having made salvation possible, has left us to become our own saviours. It comes about in this way. We want to magnify the saving grace of God and the saving power of Christ. So we declare that God’s redeeming love extends to every man, and that Christ has died to save every man, and we proclaim that the glory of divine mercy is to be measured by these facts. And then, in order to avoid universalism, we have to depreciate all that we were previously extolling, and to explain that, after all, nothing that God and Christ have done can save us unless we add something to it; the decisive factor which actually saves us is our own believing. What we say comes to this––that Christ saves us with our help; and what that means, when one thinks it out, is this––that we save ourselves with Christ’s help. This is a hollow anticlimax. But if we start by affirming that God has a saving love for all, and Christ died a saving death for all, and yet balk at becoming universalists, there is nothing else that we can say. And let us be clear on what we have done when we have put the matter in this fashion. We have not exalted grace and the Cross; we have cheapened them. We have limited the atonement far more drastically than Calvinism does, for whereas Calvinism asserts Christ’s death, as such, saves all whom it was meant to save, we have denied that Christ’s death, as such, is sufficient to save any of them.[12] We have flattered impenitent sinners by assuring them that it is in their power to repent and believe, though God cannot make them do it. Perhaps we have also trivialized faith and repentance in order to make this assurance plausible (“it’s very simple––just open your heart to the Lord…”) Certainly, we have effectively denied God’s sovereignty, and undermined the basic conviction of religion-that man is always in God’s hands. In truth, we have lost a great deal. And it is, perhaps, no wonder that our preaching begets so little reverence and humility, and that our professed converts are so self–confident and so deficient in self–knowledge, and in the good works which Scripture regards as the fruit of true repentance…..

The preacher’s task, in other words, is to display Christ: to explain man’s need of Him, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself in the promises as Saviour to all who truly turn to Him; and to show as fully and plainly as he can how these truths apply to the congregation before him. It is not for him to say, nor for his hearers to ask, for whom Christ died in particular. “There is none called on by the gospel once to enquire after the purpose and intention of God concerning the particular object of the death of Christ, every one being fully assured that His death shall be profitable to them that believe in Him and obey Him.” After saving faith has been exercised, “it lies on a believer to assure his soul, according as he find the fruit of the death of Christ in him and towards him, of the good–will and eternal love of God to him in sending His Son to die for him in particular”;[17] but not before. The task to which the gospel calls him is simply to exercise faith, which he is both warranted and obliged to do by God’s command and promise.

Packer then writes for seveal pages on “what preaching the gospel means”
To read the entire essay which the last 4 paragraphs were excerpted go to http://gospelpedlar.com/articles/Salvation/introessay.html

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