Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: Dr. Paul Zahl's "The Protestant Face of Anglicanism"

Zahl, Paul. The Protestant Face of Anglicanism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998; paperback; 112 pages; approx. £2.3 to £6 as a used book via amazon.com; ISBN 0802845975. https://www.amazon.com/Protestant-Face-Anglic…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Is there any merit in this nearly 20-year old, brief paperback by Dr. Paul Zahl? Are there any drawbacks? What’s its value in 2017?

First, what are the merits? Dr. Zahl does five commendable things. First, he defines the English Reformation as a “defining moment” for Anglicanism, rather than a detour. We understand the Laudian, Tractarian, ritualist and liberals’ efforts to define it as a detour. Dr. Zahl wants to go back to the English Reformers. He successfully convinces us of his intent. Secondly, he gives sober reasons for why the “Protestant and Reformed” face was defaced. Thirdly, he gives a fair and solid presentation of how the “Protestant and Reformed” face appears in the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church. Fifth, as expected, he offered a working list of sixty-seven volumes or so for the “Selected Reading.” So, yes, there helpful merits from these directions, especially for beginner-inquirers on Anglicanism.

Second, are there any drawbacks? Yes, there are two serious drawbacks. First, after capably postulating the issues noted above, he offers entirely tepid and inadequate answers for “The Face Restored.” That is, he advocates for four 10%-medicines: Protestant-Anglican Christology, Grace, Concept of Intellectual Freedom, and Ecclesiology. His target-audience is not evident, but this is wholly inadequate in terms of direction and depth. After making a great take-off (above), the deck-landing is not very good. Second, Appendix B has an oddballish sermon. Dr. Zahl preached the sermon, entitled “The Risky Question,” at Canterbury Cathedral on 24 August 1997. He tries to mix in some classical statements about justification by faith alone (where he shows some understanding) but then tells the readers that this “question of justification is the root cause of what we today call ‘stress.’” Classical statements are mixed in with a few goofy ones like that. It sounds like a high-browed effort to avoid difficult issues: God’s character and holiness, law, condemnation, Paul’s Romans and more. In short, the sermon is a “nice try,” but is a sermonic failure for such a momentous context. He crashes the jet on the runway like a practicing pilot. It is a bit embarrassing. Hence, insufficient doctrinal answers to restore the marred face of Anglicanism and this bizarre sermon offset the earlier, serviceable and helpful chapters.

Third, what’s its value in 2017? First, the descriptions of the history of the marring of the Protestant and Reformed face are good reading for those reviewing Anglican history. He makes his case serviceably. He clearly wants to restore the Reformed and Protestant face with which we agree, but his answers are not profound. One will do far better with serious Reformed systematic theologies, especially for the young collegians or seminarians.

As such, we do not recommend getting this volume unless one is doing research for a paper on Anglicanism or one is beginner. 20 years later, the Protestant and Reformed Face has not been restored. With his 10%-prescriptions, it won't be restored either. The first half of the book works and the last part fails. To be charitable, C minus.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The North American Reformed Seminary

Let me introduce “The North American Reformed Seminary” at www.tnars.net. What is it? Why it is of value? What may it portend for the future? What are any draw-backs?

What is it? It is a group of ordained Protestant and Reformed clergymen, as Mentors, in the USA seeking to provide free, scholarly, and academic training from the secondary level through the doctoral level, undergraduate and graduate training. You can assess things here: www.tnars.net.  The tuition, books, and lectures are “free” and that is by design.

Why is it of value? First, it is free—tuition, books and lectures. Second, if you research it, the bibliography consists of Reformed classics. There is not one program that exhibits deficiency. Third, one does not have to “up and move” to a “brick and mortar” institution “here-or-there.” Fourth, it can be done from home. Fifth, it is self-paced. Sixth, it works for a local parish of interested Churchman. Seventh, its academic expanse from secondary to doctoral levels. Eighth, it provides Rectors and Pastors an excellent resource for local training. Have an interested layman or laymen? Here you go. Too good to be true? Answer: too good and, yet, too true.

What may it portend for the future? First, it leads the way in electronic and internet learning. Second, it may plant learned, informed, thoughtful, and Reformed parishioners inside varied contexts. Third, it will afford other young academics (like my son, finishing his doctorate in education as a school teacher) with affordable outlets for theological inquiry. Fourth, it is accessible globally, including our beloved England, Scotland and Ireland. 

What are any draw-backs? First, it is not accredited. Second, if looking for advancement to accredited schools, e.g. Oxbridge, this will not work. Third, some denominations may not recognize it. Fourth, for Anglicans, it is largely Presbyterian and Reformed without a sense for old school Anglicanism. As a Reformed Anglican mentor, we afford the Anglican dimension. But, otherwise, expect tough and good readings and a lot of writing. In the Reformed heritage and historiography.

Yours truly, although an Anglican, is a Mentor in the said institution. If interested, take a look.

Whatever the station or position, let us be of good cheer and ever-faithful in the Protestant, Reformed (and historic) Anglican tradition. Press onwards, brothers and sisters, despite appearances.
That’s it in a thumb-nail sketch. Four questions asked and answered. If interested, please peruse www.tnars.net

Tuesday, April 25, 2017