September 6, 2020
Categorised in: Sermons
Despite the robust refutations of Cranmers Collects in the dear old BCP
It seems that Britains first- and worst- public intellectual is making a comeback.
Pelagius- or Morgan as his British name would be- was a C4th theologian who denied the need for divine aid in performing good works.
He thought we all had it in us to simple buck up our efforts and obey Jesus’ Command to be that Good Samaritan.
He contended that we all had it in us to overcome our fallen nature
and be the good two-shoes that he was- or purported to be.
However, as the more worldly-wise St Augustine demonstrated,
and many other more-experienced and realistic Christians have long known
this may seem lovely and affirming in theory
but it is nigh- impossible in practice in ones own life
and is obnoxious to see pretended to in another’s.
What happened to Pelagius and to Puritans like him throughout the ages,
is a predictably psychological shift:
Realising, at some point, and on some level,
that they could not live up to their own counsels of perfection
(and having denied God’s good grace
the fulsome role it deserves in the conversion of our hearts)
they switch their focus to other people and preach at them
until they give in or tune out.
Evidence of this new puritanism may be found all over social media, in what we now call ‘cancel culture’, in the outing of people, and in the generally obsurd ethical discussions of today’s culture wars.
I don’t know about you but I simply can’t keep up with the every growing tide of what I need to believe now in order to keep up with the ethical jones’s
(or Morgans should I say)
For those of us who would listen there is a remedy at hand.
Having struggled with Puritanism in its genesis Anglican liturgy-
and in particular the Collects of the BCP all reflect
the more gracious economy of God’s prevenient grace.
This is the doctrine that we find it far harder to do good than ought to be the case, and that, when we do manage it, it is best to attribute that good
(as we should with all good things), to God’s grace.
It is PRE-venient because it arrives in our lives even before we know it.
On a first glance St Augustine’s insistence that we are all fallen and cannot help ourselves seems to condemn us as worthless.
But upon reflection it much more accurately reflects our real experience
and reassures us that we are WORTH IT.
It much more faithfully reflects the theology of St Paul- who tried to do good but simply couldn’t do the good he willed.
And it more accurately places us as the person in NEED in this parable and shifts the emphasis onto the need to SHOW MERCY to others in need.
There but for the prevenient grace of God go I.
So- don’t be a MORGAN.
Remember instead Cranmers words in the Collect for today:
Almighty and merciful God,
of whose only gift it cometh
that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;
Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,
that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.