From a lecture in November 2016, on ‘Anglicanism and New Testament’, by theologian and Anglican Bishop, Tom Wright. This talk summary is from the Course ‘Anglicanism: A gift of Christ.’
From the start, the Anglican Church and the Bible
Myth that we have Anglicanism only because Henry VIII wanted a divorce! The roots of English Reformation is about the Bible – Reformers saw events on the Continent and desired to have the Bible in English, for the Bible to be in the language of the people. Significant people involved in this work were William Tyndale (martyred, outside Brussels in 1536 due to his work translating the Bible into English).
It is possible to see the Bible only about salvation ‘over there’, in order to some good ‘over here’. However English reformers held a vision, a belief that the Bible should be at the heart of the life of people. That meant: its importance for personal salvation; its great value for personal spiritual growth and faithful following; for the ongoing reformation of the Christian Church; and crucially for the Transformation of Society.
Anglican view of Scripture
Anglicans hold to the importance of Scripture, Reason, Tradition. Scripture has the primacy, for Anglicans.
Tradition – that thinking which has come as the Church wrestles with Scripture. But Scripture also needs to be able to challenge, question and (re-)shape that tradition. Tradition cannot become something un-challengeable.
The Anglican position is that…
The Good News of Jesus Christ is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
It is summarised in the Catholic ( ie. Universal) Creeds.
The Gospel is witnessed to by the historic Anglican formularies – the 39 articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 Ordinal.
However it is the Scriptures which are primary. Scripture reveals Christ first, the Creed sets forth and summarise the good news, and the Anglican formularies witness to that faith.
Anglican Prayer: Encountering Scripture
The Anglican church has two main lectionaries by which individuals can read parts of the OT and NT daily. If it is followed, a significant amount of the Bible is encountered and enters our spiritual blood stream.
However, the Anglican Vision, Bishop Wright suggested, when we read the bible is not primarily study – to grow in knowledge, though that is important – but the first aim when we read the Scripture is to help us “to declare the mighty acts of God to the praise and glory of God,” to help us worship. When we read Scripture we read it prayerfully, read it wisely, see what is bubbling up for the life of the church or for us individually, and to be formed by it.
New Testament (‘NT’) – what is it all about?
6 points for Bishop Wright.
- NT declares itself to be how the Old Testament reaches it goal and climax, where the plans of God were going. The Bible is about a single great story focused on Jesus Christ. The NT is NEWS that something hugely important has happened.
- NT Reveals what God has done in Jesus Christ – it is not the gospels alone that reveal but the entire of the New Testament: Acts, Epistles, Revelation, tells this explosive event of God in Christ from different angles.
- NT It tells how heaven and earth are redeemed and united – a cosmic vision of God’s work.
- NT reveals God’s action in Jesus into which we are now incorporated – we are part of the story through the Spirit, Baptism and faith in Christ.
- NT declares the shape and pattern of the mission of the Christian Church. The Church is to be an agent, to do the works of the Kingdom, to be the examples of the Kingdom, to be heralds declaring the Kingdom.
- NT sets the internal shape and internal pattern of the life of the global and local church.
Devotionally reading the Scriptures
We are to love God will all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength.
Heart – to be warmed deep within;
Mind to be actively engaged in study seeking to understand;
Soul – our human frame being recast reformed;
Strength – we do it!
Practical Ways to get the Bible into our Blood Stream?
- to read it, even if we don’t understand all of it all the time.
- If possible to listen to it, to experience it being read to enter into that way of ‘living the letter / gospel’.
- Small groups where the bible is read, wrestled with, if things aren’t understand, ask the chaplain!
- As we read the Bible regularly, Old Testament and New Testament, we are shaped by it, as a stone is shaped by being inside a stream.
- Note: “Scripture forces us to grow up mentally, emotionally in terms of our community living.” Scripture asks a lot of us if we give the authority it has.
A suggested technique is Latin phrase ‘lectio divina’ – meaning, divine reading. How? Take a passage, pray, read it again, meditate on it, pray for the issues arising, for the people / day ahead. Depending on the genre of literature : gospel, acts, epistle, apocalypse (ie Revelation), a slightly different approach needs to be taken.
Genres in the New Testament and how we approach them devotionally…
It is possible to have two different emphases. One is upon the Epistles– we concentrate solely the importance of salvation and conversion and personal discipleship. Another approach, is Gospel focused Christian faith – we focus on doing things, the work of the kingdom. We need a balanced approach embracing both.
Enjoy the flavours of each gospel, what each writer – Mark, Matthew, Luke, John is saying about Jesus.
Engaging prayerfully: we would imagine in prayer the Gospel scene we read, dwell upon it, image you are there, in the crowd watching, hearing all that is said. Then the crowd parts at the end, and Jesus looks at you / turns to you, and we consider, what would he say to us, in light of what we have seen and heard, dwelt upon.
“Absolute page turner.” Helpful to read it in one go, or read it in 2 or 3 large chunks. It is a book showing what Christianity looks like on the streets. It asks us the question about how we live out our faith – and prayerfully we consider, how does the writing in Acts, affect my daily witness, what can we do, should we do, how in our culture and situation…
Some Christians do not like Paul’s writing. Of course, Paul did not write all the epistles, but we have writings by Peter, James, John, Jude… Yet to pray with the words we read, to see Paul, Jude etc’s passion for the Church, to see their sorrow for the failings and the sins of the Church. We see the problems that can exist in church. Yet there is a commitment to the Faith, to hold problems in the light. Prayerfully we consider what problems our church our Christian community faces, and how we should respond…
The Apocalypse – known as Revelation
Coded literature, which was clearly understood by the listeners of the day. We see the true reality revealed – as we gather and worship, see the heavenly realm of prayers and worship as shown in Revelation chapters 4 & 5.
Finally from Tom Wright…
Anglicans hold to the importance of Scripture, Reason, Tradition.
Scripture has the primacy, for Anglicans all three – Scripture, Reason, Tradition, are not treated equally.
Scripture is to equip us for our mission,
to shape us and energise us to be the people of God,
in the power of the Spirit
for the world.