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The study of the fathers in the Anglican tradition 16th-19th centuries

Middleton, Thomas Arthur (1995) The study of the fathers in the Anglican tradition 16th-19th centuries. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The Anglican study of the Fathers was primarily in relation to controversies that Anglicanism had to face in the aftermath of the Reformation and the struggle for Anglican identity, rather than for their own sake. Throughout these controversies it is the Fathers who speak, not only in the defence of Anglicanism, but in defence of themselves and an improper use of their writings. In this sense there is a kinship with the Fathers and the search for Anglican identity, in that, it was the controversies of their own times that gave birth to their writings The thesis divides into three parts. The first part, The Fathers in the English Reformation, examines the way in which the Reformers used the Fathers chiefly as a means of proving what had and what had not been primitive doctrine and practice and as a valuable authority secondary to the Bible. They used the Fathers in two ways, negatively, to prove the absence of Roman doctrines, and positively, to promote a right interpretation of Scripture and demonstrate a Scriptural way of life for the Church. This is demonstrated in relation to two Reformers, Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel, and then in relation to Anglican foundation documents. The second part, Fathers and Carolines, demonstrates how the Anglican divines of the seventeenth century, building on the scriptural and patristic foundation laid by the Reformers, go farther and use the thought and piety of the Fathers within the structure of their own theological vision. Their theology finds its centre in the Incarnation, a kinship shared with the Nicene Fathers, and characterised by a vision of the Church that embraces East and West, a consequence of their immersion in Greek and Latin divinity. Again it is a theological vision that is wrought in controversy, in relation to Puritanism and Calvinism on the one side, and Roman Catholicism on the other. Part Three, Objections and Responses, examines the Anglican response to objections brought against the Fathers. The first series are Direct Objections, and came from such people as John Daille, the controversy surrounding the authenticity of the Ignatian Epistles, and John Barbeyrac. These were attempts to discredit the reputation and authority of the Fathers as having any relevance for the contemporary Church. A second series, Indirect Objections, came in the form of a new Arianism, its associations with Socinianism and its English expression in Unitarianism. It attacked the catholic doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity, some of its advocates using the Fathers to justify their attacks upon orthodoxy. An Appendix has been added to include The Tew Circle, a group of individuals, who were not so much directly attacking the Fathers, but questioning the appeal to antiquity in their search for a simplification of theological method. The presence and voice of the Fathers at the heart of Anglicanism gives to the Church of England what Dr. Jebb, the Bishop of Limerick described as The Peculiar Character of the Church of England. The Oxford Movement has been omitted, since this would need a thesis in itself. Certain nineteenth century theologians equally concerned with the renewal of patristic study, are considered. The names of such people include Henry Gary, John Collinson, J.J.Blunt, their concern being to free the Fathers from the misrepresentations of Daille and Barbeyrac, encourage young divines to read the Fathers and discover the peculiar character of the Church of England, and thereby free themselves from the ruts of modern theology. J.B.Lightfoot is included in relation to the The Ignatian Controversy.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Thesis Date:1995
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Oct 2012 15:08

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