Doing Theology the Anglican Way #2

Again, an example of how theology is done within Anglicanism via an excerpt from A Season of Fasting: Reflections on the Primates Meeting by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Both parties hold positions that can be defended by appeal to our Anglican sources of authority – scripture, tradition, and reason – but each finds it very difficult to understand and embrace the other.

I was once a strong believer in Hooker’s Three Legged Stool: Scripture, Tradition, and reason. These have been traditionally used as the sources of authority within Anglicanism. The above excerpt shows how deep this runs, even to the point of being our Anglican idea. It is almost an unquestioned assumption. It is, of course, nowhere codified nor defined.

The problem lies with the confusion between the terms. Tradition here is understood as identical with continual interpretation of Scripture. The authority still comes from Scripture. The first two terms, however, could be considered to be common to most (if not all) Christian denominations to some extent. What makes this approach Anglican is the addition of reason. This is also it’s greatest downfall.

The problem with this approach is how one defines reason. Too often, I think, reason is here seen as a synonym of logical: a theological statement which makes sense within a particular context is deemed to be reasonable, that is, the conclusion is logical.

No one ever claims to be unreasonable or illogical. But philosophical logic and culturally excepted norms of logic are quite different ideas. The Western Church, of course, as a well defined and codified form of reason, that is the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. But somehow I do not think that is what the Primate of the USA means by reason!

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