Anglican Centrist Looks at the Primate of Nigeria’s Theology


Fr. Jones has posted an essay in which he does a close examination of the use of norms in Archbishop Akinola’s writing. Fr. Jones says, in part:

“Archbishop Akinola asserts as a matter of principle that issues like this one are worth dividing the Church over — because, he says, ‘two cannot go together except if they agree.’ This is a bizarre principle to assert in an Anglican tradition where many have disagreed over the meaning of baptism, eucharist, ordination, salvation, biblical interpretation, and more, and yet managed not to divide.

Archbishop Akinola reveals that his theology is little different than the Calvinist Reformed theology of modern day conservative evangelical protestants. It is a theology which reflects a kind of ‘sola scriptura’ basis. The claim is that the Bible is all that is needed in all questions of ethics – ancient and modern; that the Bible is not only sufficient to salvation (the classical Anglican claim) but is also a fully comprehensive road map to how to live rightly in every age. There is no recognition that there are some questions which the Bible is not particularly clear on — and that there are others where the Bible’s clarity is no longer abided by faithful people. In other words, apart from the structure of the Nigerian Church — with its clergy orders and Prayer Book worship — the Nigerian Church appears to be a very Calvinist Reformed evangelical protestant church which has adopted the theological and scientific thinking of the 17th century. If this kind of Anglicanism is to be ‘the new standard of excellence’ in the Anglican Communion, then a new day is indeed dawning. The sad news is that preaching the Gospel of a crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus, seeking numerical and spiritual growth for churches, and sharing God’s saving love in ministry does not require adopting an extreme Calvinist evangelical protestant theological framework or an anti-intellectual stance that exhibits extreme ignorance of the discoveries of modern science.”

I’m struck especially by the initial paragraph in this quote. It’s pointing out the same point that I’ve tried to make as well.

Read the rest here: Anglican Centrist Looks at Primate of Nigeria’s Theology


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  1. Dear Nick,
    Thanks for posting this, and the full link as well. The more I’ve heard out of so much of the discussion leading up to and coming out of the Tanzania meeting, the more I’ve realized that the theological baisis for many of the statements made has been Calvinism. In addition, your link to John Rodgers and Stephen Noll’s material also proves the point.
    Individuals may certainly choose to interpret Scripture and theology in ways that make sense to them – including Calvinism – but Calvinist theology has never been mainstream Anglican; that’s part of what the Elizabethan settlement was all about!
    And if TEC is to be asked to hold to the 1662 BCP as normative, then that is a new and rdical departure for us. Any Episcopal seminarian (and, I hope, many adult parishioners who have been in good adult Christian ed classes)will know that when the new church in America adopted the Scottish Eucharistic prayer in thjanks and agreement for Bp. Seabury’s consecration, it was reaching back beyond the 1662 theology to an older Orthodox understanding (at least in part).
    I know that one can point in history to various Anglican clergy, leaders and groups who held to a more Calvinist interpretation, but (as I said before) that has never been the mainstream. And where would that leave Anglo-Catholics and Prayer Book Catholics whose theology of Eucharist is most definitely not 1662?
    Sometimes our current situation seems like those Russian nesting dolls-within-dolls, but each one offering some new and strange twist.

  2. William Paul says

    Akinola is not–agreed–a modern theologian. But, still, Anglican Centrist deals in caricature, lifting a few phrases here and there and then saying, for instance (from a very bried article by Akinola), that he is living in another century, that Akinola says the Bible is “all that is needed in all questions of ethics – ancient and modern’ (he doesn’t) and that he says “that the Bible is not only sufficient to salvation (the classical Anglican claim) but is also a fully comprehensive road map to how to live rightly in every age” (again, Akinola doesn’t). How one can say anything about Akinola’s undertanding of the relationship between science and theology from that small article is beyond me. Sounds like a kind of tar and feathering of someone with the broad brush that is often applied to anyone who is not ready to dispense with Scripture in the way so many have.
    As for the first paragraph, one very simple way to see why the presenting issue in Anglicanism today is in the minds of some worth dividing over in a way that other issues were not is that we are not talking just about different understandings of theological topoi, but about an action, sacramental or quasi-sacramental for some, of elevating to the the episcopate a “manner of life” fundamentally at odds with our historic understanding, not to mention clear injunctions of Scripture and, yes, even against Jesus’ teaching about the reservation of sexual relations to marriage.
    One might also think, of course, about how one can make an appeal to one contingent historic arrangement (Elizabethean compromise, commitment to comprehend opposing view, etc.), call it a tradition, and think that this somehow trumps the other tradition(s)of the Church, like it’s long, unbroken, reservation of marriage to heterosexuals, including the specific dominical teaching. (NB I’ll leave it to others to decide how it is that they can be perfectly assured that God is doing a new thing with revised sexual ethics and yet God, so it seems, can or would never do a new thing with the . . .ECUSA, the Anglican Communion, the Elizabethean compromise or whatever they take to be the genius or essence of Anglicanism.)
    Interestingly, in connection with the first paragraph of the cited text, what has been overlooked in the Mark Lawrence matter is the really sparkling insight he expressed in his awareness of the contingency of past arrangements and that the Church is going through a restructuring.

  3. ….not to mention clear injunctions of Scripture ….
    Well, no. There’s nothing “clear” about lesbianism in Scripture; there’s only one possible reference which is certainly not “clear” by any stretch of the imagination. St. Augustine didn’t read Romans 1 that way, and neither did Clement of Alexandria; both wrote about it.
    And of course, even if it is about lesbianism, that makes a grand total of one Biblical passage on the topic. BTW, what you refer to as Jesus “reserving sexual relations to marriage” is actually a passage in which he answers a question about divorce.
    (And I hate to mention it, but gay people view their relationships with their spouses as God-given; obviously you can’t see it, but perhaps that’s because you view us as nothing but walking body parts, and our lives as a series of “acts” that you find distasteful. That’s the impression I get from reading your posts, at any rate.)

  4. William Paul says

    Sorry BLS, the New Testament is pretty clear about marriage between male and female as the place for sexual relations, which is, we all know, the presenting issue. Of course, as I have said before, there might be lots of other goods in same-sex relations. Great. I support all those other goods, whether you believe I do or not. But the teaching of the Scriptures, and the overwhelming teaching of the church, affirmed at Lambeth in 1998 make it clear that the Church has no real green light to bless this let alone elevate it. (I don’t BTW see how the occasion of Jesus’ affirmation of marriage as the arena for sexual relations diminishes his teachings.) It’s a difficult issue pastorally because, of course, nobody seems to be able to say gently and affimingly enough to gays that there might be a better way and, for sure, there aren’t enough supports in society or the Church for gays and lesbians.
    But, in the main, I was responding to the caricature of Akinola and the fact that the
    poster(s)above seemed incredulous over why some people would see this as a communion-breaking issue. So, even if I am wrong about the propriety of SSS (and maybe if it is a ‘sin’, maybe God’s mercy will ultimately overlook it in the name of love–I have no problem saying I could be wrong–but I think even then it would be more of a forgiveness and a healing than a positive endorsement), I am surprised that people on the left-side of the aisle on this are astonished or surprised in even the littlest bit that many others think it is fundamental for so much is ranged against the direction ECUSA is taking.
    PS Surely what we do with our bodies matters, right?

  5. William Paul, what are you talking about? Jesus nowhere “affirms marriage as the arena for sexual relations”; He said almost nothing at all about sex, in fact. You can’t just make things up as you go along, you know.
    Jesus did clearly say that Love was the sum total of the Law, though – and He demonstrated what Love was for all of us. Paul reaffirmed it: “If I have not Love, I am nothing.” Love is all, William Paul. But that’s real love, not just lust or fleeting emotion or some throwaway thing. We even have a definition we can use: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    So to answer your question, of course it’s important what we do with our bodies, because in our sacramental view of life, body and soul are not separate things. If what we are doing has nothing in common with the above, then it is not Love. If it has much in common, on the other hand, it may be Love. We have a list of “fruits of the spirit,” which concurs: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Same stuff.
    BTW, I know a priest who thinks that this is what Jesus meant by “the narrow way” that few would find.

  6. william paul says

    BLS says “Jesus nowhere “affirms marriage as the arena for sexual relations”; He said almost nothing at all about sex, in fact. You can’t just make things up as you go along, you know.”
    I might begin with these words from a pastor in North Carolina:
    Article 7 of the 39 Articles (BCP 869) says that Christians are not obligated to keep the ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament, but are obligated to obey the moral laws.
    Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:17-18) If Jesus places this much authority in the moral law of the Old Testament, then we should also.
    Jesus also mentions the male/female union. When Jesus was confronted with a question
    regarding divorce, and faced with a decision, he quoted the Genesis account specifically-
    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning ‘he made them male and female,’
    and said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
    and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what
    God has joined together, let man not separate.” Jesus affirmed the original creative intent
    of God as expressed in the text of Genesis. The direct teaching of Jesus affirms
    heterosexual, monogamous marriage, and no other configuration.
    The creation account, the Holiness Code, and the Lord Jesus speak with one voice. Our
    Anglican forebears acted wisely in giving us article 7. Analysis of the pertinent texts
    shows conclusively that the Old Testament moral laws are valid for Christian believers.
    When people argue “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality,” they are technically
    right. This is the argument from silence, the weakest of all hermeneutics. Jesus never
    mentioned incest or bestiality either. The incarnate Lord was a Jew operating in a Jewish
    culture. He didn’t mention homosexuality or other sins listed in the Old Testament,
    because he didn’t have to. Everybody was in agreement that Torah was God’s will.
    He did mention homosexual practice indirectly. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts,
    murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what
    makes a man ‘unclean.'” (Matt. 15:19-20a) Jesus condemns adultery- breaking the marital
    covenant- first. He then adds “sexual immorality.” The Greek word in the original text,
    porneia, is a term that would include all the sexual deviations listed in the Old Testament.
    To pull homosexual practice out of the list would be dishonest.
    To say that Jesus loves everybody, including homosexuals—is true! Homosexual
    orientation is never condemned in scripture. It is the practice of non-marital sex that Jesus
    proscribes. We are not free to
    make Jesus into someone who would bless whatever relationships we chose —just so
    long as we feel love. Jesus teaches us over and over that our loves are disordered. He
    showed us that we must not trust ourselves. Fallen humans need to be taught a new life
    where we love what God loves and hate what God hates.”

  7. Again, William Paul: there is nothing in the Hebrew Bible about lesbianism. (Maimonides agrees with, and has written about this, BTW, noting that punishment for lesbianism is “neither Biblical nor rabbinic.” The punishment, BTW, does exist: it’s horsewhipping, and the violation is “disobedience to the husband.”) But lesbianism is simply not “listed” in the Old Testament, so there’s no dishonesty involved.
    And I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve read the Hebrew Bible, but polygamy is certainly allowed (and is widespread). Concubinage is allowed; prostitution is allowed. Adultery pertains only to women; men are in fact permitted to have sexual relations with women not their wives – as long as they are not the property of other men. Women are taken as spoils of war and given to single men to be their wives. Men could divorce their wives for any reason – or no reason – but not the reverse, which is what Jesus was speaking to. Slavery, BTW, was also permitted and there are many laws pertaining to it; a man could sleep with his female slaves. A virgin who is raped must marry her rapist. Abraham impregnated his maid – and then he and his wife kicked her out of the house to give birth in the wilderness. Abraham was a righteous man.
    You can be exiled from the community for having sexual relations with your wife while she’s having her period. And of course, she mustn’t go near the livestock at that time. And, BTW, it’s absolutely clear – spelled out in at least 3 places – that anyone who does work on the Sabbath is to be put to death.
    Are those the kinds of jots and tittles you mean?
    “Porneia” is defined as “illicit sex.” But then, that’s what’s at issue here, isn’t it?
    And you’ve totally missed my point about Love, William Paul. It’s precisely not about “feeling,” as I’ve said; it’s an entire complex of actions, which are given explicitly in my post. It comes as the result of conversion to faith in and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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