Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wesleyan-Arminian Confession

I've been using the Anglican liturgy for five years now in the liturgical service I preside at for College Wesleyan Church. I've always been unhappy with the confession. It is a corporate confession as much as an individual one, so I have swallowed hard the presumption in the Anglican confession that we will have sinned intentionally or unintentionally. Isn't it at least possible in theory that in the course of a week, the people of God might have been entirely pleasing to God? I think so, regardless of how many few weeks it might be.

So here is a suggestion for a Wesleyan-Arminian revision.
Almighty and most merciful Father, all we like sheep have gone astray and have turned to our own way. We follow too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We offend against your holy laws. We leave undone those things that we ought to have done, and do those things that we ought not to do.

But you, O Lord, have mercy on us. Spare those who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to humanity in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen


Ken Schenck said...

Many will not know my understanding of sin that truly counts before God--intentional, willful action, with mind or body. Doing what you know you should not or not doing what you know you should. I am not talking about absolute perfection but what Paul calls being blameless.

I'll admit the poetic quality of the above is lacking. Maybe better would be "We offend... we do... we leave..."

Bob MacDonald said...

you read too much into the 'have'. Consider the envelope of Psalm 119 verses 5-6 and verse 176 - my translation for taf:
Time and again I am straying like a sheep that has perished
seek your servant for I do not forget your commandments

And perhaps there is more to the corporate view than you let it have where we confess and pray for each other.

I am not prepared to defend or accuse any confession - even my own. I have been very critical of it in the past - but that was for its abusive behaviour and its ignorance of Scripture in local areas. All in all it has a solid tradition of scripture. But that doesn't mean we have it all together, as it were.

Ken Schenck said...

I've altered it slightly now, to where it can be read either way. What think ye all?

Bob, I had thought of a particular way of taking the have that would fit with my understanding of 1 John 1:8.

Bob MacDonald said...

Ken - I will give it some thought. The problem it seems to me is in how we apprehend time and tense. The continuous present is worse than the auxiliary verb with past as far as intent is concerned. I see the clear-headed clayboy has chided you - perhaps he will comment.

Ken Schenck said...

I'm taking it as more "gnomic," a general truth, though not necessarily true of this week...

Doug Chaplin said...

The present tense is probably better than the modal auxiliary. However, it brings its own problems: actually right then, in the present "the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit" as penitence is offered – which might also be an acknowledgement of humanity's status before God in which we also participate from time to time and usually more frequently. The past tense seems to me to work better.

Perhaps, however, the BCP intensity is less appropriate for what you want to say than some modern prayers of penitence.

Bob MacDonald said...

While humming my way to work on my bicycle this morning, and having just read a bit of Richard Beck's latest on 'why I pray', it occurred to me that Jesus is my ultimate centre and his cross the centre of space and time. I am not my ultimate centre and the congregation where I worship is not my or their ultimate centre. Only this death frees my self from its self centered tendency. If one died for all then all died. If one lives to God then in him all live to God. Since 'all live to God' is manifestly untrue in our current worldly state, I must pray with acknowledgment that I am corporately involved in sin even if I am perfect as far as the law is concerned. I have left undone those things which I ought to have done and done those things which I ought not to have done. My health is in him, not in me. The godly, righteous and sober life he leads me into is work - his and mine - but in a completely different framework from moral success or failure - though they measure failure weakly. Whether my Anglican forebears thought this way or not - whether some of them thought at all - is not my problem. It is how I take this prayer and I take it as part of the absolution sequence - a true rehearsal of our life in God, however little or much we think we have anything. They who think they stand should take care lest they fall - but he is able to make us stand.

John C. Gardner said...

Your confession ignores 500 plus years of history within the Anglican tradition. Second, there is no mention of the Holy Spirit's role in sanctification. Third, Wesley seems to have said that holiness in this life was possible but he had not seen anyone who had attained it. It seems as if this is an idiosyncratic addition to a creed or replacement for it based upon the "tradition" of a denomination which is a statistical outlier when compared with what was believed everwhere by everyone over two millenium. I am a Wesleyan layman but even some Wesleyan ministers have doubts about your proposition. Thanks for keeping us thinking.
Blessing in Christ,

John C. Gardner

Ken Schenck said...

My line of thought here certainly relates to entire sanctification, but even a Keswick person would affirm at least the possibility that a local congregation could go a whole week without intentionally sinning.

Wesley did give examples of individuals whom he thought were entirely sanctified. I personally wonder if his standard for entire sanctification was too high at times, being the perfectionist that he was. But he did sway between more optimistic days and more pessimistic days. In his more pessimistic days he wondered if it might not be until later in life till sanctification might happen. In any case, we are Wesleyans not early Methodists, so we are not obligated to believe as Wesley himself.

Christian tradition is something I take seriously--I have to in order to be orthodox. But my questions about the Augustinian tradition come from the New Testament, which in my opinion massively undermines the sense that Christians should in any way be described normatively as sinners after they have been justified.

John C. Gardner said...

It is my understanding that you do not accept the original interpretation of Scripture which may differ from a Christian reading of Holy Writ as handed down through consensual tradition. That would seem to mean that the consensual meaning of Scripture(see the writing of Tom Oden)as found in tradition would see the Wesleyan and holiness traditions as statistical outliers. Are you now appealing to the original meaning of Scripture which you seem to reject except for the original audience to which Scripture was addressed? The Holiness tradition does seem to me to be a small part of Christian tradition and not part of the consensual understanding of sanctification.

Ken Schenck said...

The Wesley-holiness movement's understanding of entire sanctification is as you say probably somewhat of an outlier. I am of course a Protestant and not a Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian, so I apparently have not conceded that consensus is absolute in authority, although it is clearly more stable in content than agreeed biblical interpretation.

One question is also what constitutes consensual tradition. The Orthodox wing of Christianity, for example would not best be characterized as believing in total depravity, nor would the Catholic tradition since Aquinas did not believe in absolute depravity in every area of fallen humanity. So there is some room in the consensual tradition for debating some aspects of the Augustinian tradition, it seems to me.

I think Bounds would tell you that the early patristic fathers were closer to Wesley on some of these things.