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 Issues | Doctrine | Anglican view of Scripture

The following extract is from 'English Church Teaching' by Moule, Drury and Girdlestone.

Canon R B Girdlestone. Late Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Our Church holds, as the early Christians did, that the Scriptures are "God's Word Written" (see Article 20), and that they are intended to be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested (see Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent). According to our Church, these precious records are for the laity as well as the clergy; though the clergy ought to be especially mighty in the Scriptures, and experts in their interpretation. We are encouraged by our Church to believe that, as the Holy Ghost is the truth Author, so He is the true Interpreter of the Scriptures, and that no Church nor individual, clerical or lay, can get vital hold of the truth contained in Scripture, except by the Holy Ghost (see Homily for Whitsunday).

In saying this, our Church does not detract from the high relative importance of creeds, councils, formularies, commentaries, dictionaries, and interpretations of experts. All these ought to be listened to respectfully, attentively, and patiently; but after all we must compare them with Scripture, that we may see if these things are so (Acts 17.11). The Scriptures and naught else are, under God, our Church's final Court of Appeal, in matters of Christian faith. We thus take our stand where the early Christians did, on the writings of the apostles and prophets of Christ, and on the more ancient Scriptures to which they appealed.

The testimony of the Articles of our Church is clear on this point. Their verdict may be summarized thus:-
Article 6: Within the compass of Scripture are to be found all things necessary to salvation. Nothing is an article of Faith which cannot be read therein or proved thereby.
Article 8: The Creeds are to be received, not because they have been given by the Church, but because they may be proved by Scripture.
Article 17: God's promises are to be received as generally set forth in Scripture; and that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.
Article 18: The reason why we cannot be saved by "living up to our light" is, that Holy Scripture only points out one way to be saved.
Article 19: No Church has a right to the name, if the pure Word of God is not preached in it. Tested by this axiom, the ancient patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome are found to have been in error.
Article 20: No Church laws can stand which are opposed to God's Word written, or which are only bolstered up by isolated texts. The Church is to witness to Scripture by its faith, and to keep Scripture from being tampered with or neglected, and to be loyal to its in all respects.
Article 21: General Councils cannot claim infallibility or absolute authority; they are subordinate to Scripture. Nothing that they decree can be a matter of faith unless it may be declared (i.e. made clear) that it is taken out of Scripture.
Article 22: Romish teaching on Purgatory, Pardons (i.e., Indulgences), Image worship and Relic worship is foolish and vain, being opposed to Scripture.
Article 24: So is the system of having public prayer and administration of the Sacraments in an unknown tongue.
Article 28: So is Transubstantiation.
Article 34: No traditions or ceremonies may be ordained which are against God's Word.

Such is the voice of the Reformed Church of England. It testifies with absolute consistency to the supreme position of Scripture as the Rule of Faith.

This testimony may be confirmed from the Ordination Services. Presbyters are there solemnly instructed to teach out of the Holy Scriptures, and to live according to them. They are exhorted to pray for the help of the Holy Ghost, that by daily reading and weighing of the Scriptures, they may ripen in their ministry. They pledge themselves to instruct the people from Scripture and to teach nothing unscriptural; but rather to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word. The same is the case with the Bishops' Consecration Service. A heavy responsibility is thus thrown upon our spiritual teachers to be loyal to the Scriptures. The Homilies, of which the first Book was written in the reign of Edward VI., and the second in that of Elizabeth, give excellent illustrations of all that has been here advanced. No student of Church doctrine should overlook them.


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