The Origin and Subscription of the 39 Articles: Review
Posted by Pablo Sánchez Márquez , 10 Jul 2018
Pablo Sanchez reviews the new Spanish edition of “The Origin and the Subscription of the 39 Articles” by Mark Thompson, Rector of Moore College. This is the first book in a series of studies on Anglican identity published by Sabiduría Libros.
The publishers considered it to be of enormous importance to have a resource that explains “what it is that Anglicanism has always stood for”, that is, “the gospel of salvation by grace alone… so powerfully rediscovered in the 16th century”, as Lee Gatiss writes in the prologue.
In this book, Dr. Thompson addresses the origin, function and theology of the Articles, challenging us to see that the Articles have a “continuing relevance” and therefore they are neither a merely historical monument nor relegated to England. In fact, their relevance relies in their function to correct the always returning “departures from sound biblical doctrine”. So when facing doctrinal difficulties, confessing Anglicans can return to what we consider “sound” and “biblical”.
The theology of the Articles is properly described as “uncompromisingly protestant”. This is especially helpful for the Latin American context, in which “the oft-repeated caricature […] that Anglican Theology, as epitomized by the Articles, seeks to steer a middle course between Rome and Geneva” is quite dominant. It helps us know that “the extremes against which the Articles defined themselves weren´t so much Rome and Geneva as Rome and Münster”.
In the chapter on the “History of the Subscription of the Articles”, Dr. Thompson states that “Subscription to the Articles as a means of preserving the doctrinal orthodoxy (…) did not and ultimately could not prevent dissembling and deviation”. Indeed, the reality has been that “Far too many Anglican leaders have been willing to subscribe to the Articles and yet by their life and teaching to deny the Protestant and reformed character of them”. A phenomenon not exclusive to England! Moreover, Dr. Thompson boldly writes that “Authentic Anglicanism is not just an ethos”, and [not even] a “liturgical and ecclesiastical compromise”. This is (or should be) a striking fact. There is one authentic anglicanism which “has a definite theological shape … [that] finds [its] expression in The Thirty-nine Articles”.
The truths contained in this book should encourage Anglicans in Latin America as well as in the rest of the globe, to go back to the Articles without fear, knowing that in them we´ll find the “authentic anglicanism” that expresses uncompromisingly “doctrinal orthodoxy” and “sound biblical doctrine”, and “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today”, as the Jerusalem Declaration states.
We have much to share, as Anglicans in Latin America and Europe, about our past and much more about our future. We know that “The effectiveness of subscription relies upon integrity on the part of the one making the subscription”, but we also know by recent events that “generations of faithful men and women have found in them a proper expression of biblical truth and an appropriate vehicle for a common confession”.
It is a real joy to see this book now available in Spanish (and we long for more!) to all Spanish speaking Anglicans, and hope to meet the challenge observed by Lee Gatiss in his prologue: “Each generation must re-examine and re-appropriate [the Articles] afresh as our inspiration and guidance under scripture for life in an Anglican context. To do that well, we must understand their background and context.”
It is our prayer that “The Origin and Subscription of the 39 Articles” by Dr. Mark Thompson, be of great encouragement to all faithful and bible-based Anglicans who will read it.
To purchase the Spanish edition of the book, please contact the publisher.
The essays on which the book is based were originally published in Churchman and may be found here and here.
Pablo Sánchez Márquez is Director of Sabiduría Libros, Chile
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