The Gospel of Salvation
There being an interregnum in the See of Canterbury and a vacancy in the Chair of St Augustine, His Grace is back in town. It has been decided (in Twitter conclave) that he will be in charge for the next 34 days (or 80, if one goes by the spiritual Enthronement of +Justin rather than the temporal election according to statute). He was going to (re-)commence his ministry with the abolition of the CNC and much-needed reforms to the General Synod, but (on reflection) it seems wrong to begin another archiepiscopal stint with navel-gazing issues of church governance.
One must begin with the gospel; the all-sufficiency of Christ's mercy for salvation.
On the one hand is the Lutheran picture of humanity fallen in the disobedience of Adam, helpless and totally under condemnation until given the grace of God through faith; on the other is the more Roman view of a Christian life in which the contrite human will is capable of co-operating with God towards an individual's salvation, by the performance of good works.
Look, it's very simple. From pure faith flows the compulsion to do good works, but they are an effect and never a cause of that great transforming act of God: justification. All is the work of God, and it is a work which cannot be reversed or improved upon by human effort. As His Grace has written, the justified man knows 'that before justification his doings were naught, nor consonant unto equity'. Pure faith involves a recognition that all human works previously performed fall into the category of wasted effort. Faith is the assurance of Christ's mercy:
...he that hath assured hope and confidence in Christ's mercy, hath already entered into a perfect faith, and not only hath a will to enter into it. For perfect faith is nothing but assured hope and confidence in Christ's mercy.Behind the doctrine of the all-sufficiency of Christ's mercy lurks the omnipotence of God in salvation. If humanity plays no part in his own salvation, everything is in God's hands. The visible Christian Church includes the damned as well as the saved. The elect will acknowledge their sin, repent their fault and follow Christ's precepts.
His Grace is aware that this won't go down too well, but he feels it's a message that's been somewhat missing from the Church of England over the past decade. He understands there are niggles remaining over the free-will theology of Erasmus (he is sympathetic), but anyone who reflects on the writings of St Augustine (of Hippo) will be driven to the theme of the grace and mercy of God in considering the scheme of salvation.
His Grace has a diverse following - Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox, liberals, humanists and atheists, not to mention occasional Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus - and he is mindful of the richness of humanity which communes via his august blog. If they were alive today, doubtless Ignatius Loyola and John Calvin would unite in agreement with His Grace on God's overarching control of human destiny. There is doctrinal mediation to be had and theological dispute to be entertained, but ultimately there is One Mediator between God and man, and that is Christ Jesus. It is through His passion that we are saved; not through any pantomime of politics fused with a religious veneer of holiness.