Athanasius, Irenaeus, and the Church of England Bus
By Gavin Ashenden
March 29, 2017
I was recently reading an argument about whether or not Irenaeus of Lyon really wrote "The glory of God is a human being fully alive".
The Latin is Gloria Dei est vivens homo! There was complaint that to add 'fully alive' is to buy into the Jungian- New Age paradigm of the idolatry of the developing self.
So sidestepping the threat of heresy for a moment, Irenaeus of Lyon writes that just to be alive, capable of joining the angels in praise, responding to the gift of new life Jesus won for us on the cross is stuff for the glorification of God who fathered us and breathed His life into us.
But to be alive also means staying alert to what is changing around us. Staying alive can also mean evading the grip of spiritual death, as in a fit of jealously our spiritual enemy sets out to rob us of what God has given us at such cost. The faithful church has always taken heresy seriously since it threatens to deprive us of what Christ won for us.
As I have watched the changes in the Church of England, it has seemed to me that we are facing a new semi-Arianism; a new version of an old heresy.
Arians demoted Jesus to a 'creature', something less than St John's eternal Word, through whom all things came into being, and in whom all things subsist.
Gender and Purpose
Jesus is very clear in the Gospels that men and women come together to share in the agency of creation, co-creating children together. This is God's intention for us.
The new Progressive theologies replace this by treating gender as a spectrum, diluting the polarities of male and female and prioritising erotic and romantic attraction- no matter which direction it is aimed at. It doesn't seem to matter that this contradicts the teaching of Jesus. He is treated as a voice that can be sidelined.
In the Gospels, Jesus is very clear that he has come to introduce us to the Father. He and the Father are one. To see him is to see the Father.
But the movement to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate has released a stream of spirituality that is uncomfortable with the father. It has been politicised and become adverse to patriarchy. And so God begins to be called mother instead instead of father. In some liturgies the trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit has been removed and replaced with the gender-free "creator, redeemer and sustainer".
The authority of Jesus has been treated as culturally relative, demoted and sidelined.
The struggle the Church faces over revelation and gender is not just about gender and the fashion of identity politics; it is also about the status of Jesus and the authority of the written Word as well as the Living Word.
When Athenasius was faced with the heresy of Arianism, he was convinced that if the Church demoted Jesus, it would lose the understanding of salvation and the medicine of immortality that the Church offered the lost. This was not a matter for compromise and conciliation.
I have come to agree with Athanasius. Seeing the Archbishops and bishops of the Church of England gradually but inexorably adopt a secular narrative of gender and preference romantic eroticism over all other Christian values, I recently relinquished the legal part of my Church of England orders, remaining an Anglican, but no longer a Church of England priest.
This is rather quaintly done by lodging a deed in the High Court in London and invoking the Victorian Clerical Disabilities Act of 1870. It is being said that I have left the Church of England, but the fact is that the Church of England I was baptised and ordained into has left me.
It has chosen to repudiate its historic orders, modifying them to reflect secular cultural and political preference, diluting its allegiance to the Bible, and the recognition of Jesus as the Living Word who brings us to the Father.
If you are on a bus that has changed direction and is set to drive over the edge of a cliff, there comes a moment when you decide to jump off. For me, this was it. It's about staying alive. I think both Athanasius and Irenaeus would approve.
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