Sacramentalizing and Secularizing

As this blog has been in something of a slump lately (not from lack of things to write, mind you, but merely from lack of time to write them), I thought I would resort to a tried and true blogger’s trick and refer you instead to a blog where the action is happening–Wedgewords.  

Steven Wedgeworth is back at his old game of identifying both sides of the political-theological spectrum–the secularizing Reformed two-kingdoms types and the sacramentalizing RO/neo-Calvinist types–as two sides of the same coin: antagonism between nature and grace.  This is a much more casual, in-a-nutshell version of some of the big posts he and Peter Escalante had going on last summer, but it has summoned forth the inevitable combative interaction from Darryl Hart, leading to some interesting discussion in the comments section.

After my Hookerian transformation, I am much more sympathetic to and persuaded by the general point Steven is making here than I would’ve been a year or even six months ago, though I still have some questions as to whether the relation between nature and grace cannot be conceived in more dynamic terms, if we cannot have a full affirmation of nature while still maintaining that “grace perfects nature.”  Steven says in the comments that he is sympathetic to the idea of “maturation,” as long as it’s “one of an heir growing up into inheritance rather than a larva becoming a butterfly.”  And if we allow for maturation, I ask whether certain RO-ish or, for lack of a better word, Leithartian paradigms need be all that far off from what Wedgeworth and Co. want.  

But, that’s a conversation for another day–this summer, Peter E and I are hoping to restart last fall’s scintillating multi-blog natural law/two kingdoms debate.  Stay tuned.

How to Make Conferences Less Awkward…by Not Trying

I’ve been away at the Society for the Study of Theology Conference with no internet for a few days, and I am now emerging, having been inspired in the meantime to write this little (firmly tongue-in-cheek) satire.  This post may only make sense to those of you who have regularly gone to academic conferences (though admittedly, the same phenomena often appear in other more mundane academic settings), indeed, perhaps only those who have regularly gone to British academic conferences.  One has the sense that the vices (or misplaced virtues) I am about to deplore are a particular affliction of the British people, with their penchant for uncomfortable politeness.  

The goal of an academic conference, you see, is to facilitate the free exchange of academic ideas with the minimum discomfort for all those involved.  We come, we sit, we listen, we ask polite questions; then we take our turns at the podium to boost our CVs, while everyone else listens and asks polite questions.  Ideas are gently expressed, gently prodded, and gently defended.  Everyone goes home enriched and intact.  Sounds great, right?

The problem is that this is all built upon a myth–the myth that all ideas are created equal–have equal value, equal coherence, deserve an equal hearing.  And ultimately, most people at these conferences do not buy this myth.  We must publicly pretend we believe it, pretending to be unfazed in the presence of a an idea that is hardly worthy of the name, but privately, we are painfully aware of its falsity.  Before we were academics, after all, we were humans.  And a human being can detect awkwardness the way a shark can detect blood–we have a built-in satellite dish to detect when someone is absolutely blowing it.  In normal social settings, we have built-in damage-control mechanisms–someone interrupts, and diverts attention from the epic failure unfolding before our eyes; or perhaps everyone just bursts out laughing, the offender included.  Or, failing all other devices, someone says, “Well, that was awkward,” and once we have named it, we can move past it.  Not so at the academic conference.  We don’t want anyone to feel awkward, so there will be no interrupting, no laughing, no acknowledgment of failure.  We will Stoically continue on, as if nothing had happened. 

But the laws of nature cannot be so easily derailed–the awkwardness still simmers in the air, the room heats up, people shift uncomfortably in their seats and start fidgeting with their smart phones–as soon as the session ends, everyone bolts for the door in relief.  So, I suggest that for academic conferences, to help us get past this awkwardness, we need to stop hiding from it and embrace it.  Let’s be rude.  Let’s sacrifice the dignity of one or two for the greater good.  I have three scenarios, that any of you conference junkies know all too well, any of which could be solved if “moderators” would actually moderate, would be willing to interrupt and shut people up, or even end the session early, instead of sitting there like dumb sheep.


Scenario 1:
The Mini-lecture as “Question”

You all know this one.  You know this one from freshman year at college, in fact, or, if you went to school with me, from 7th grade.  But guess what?  Senior academics still do it. 

The lecture ends.  Everyone applauds politely.  The moderator opens the floor for questions, and points to the first person to raise their hand.  They stand up, and begin to talk.  And they continue to talk, and to talk.  They cite a half-dozen of their favorite scholars, they tell you a bit about their own research.  They tell the speaker repeatedly of the impressions they had of what the speaker was trying to do.  At several points, they pause for breath, and the main speaker thinks they are now being given the opportunity to respond–to either affirm or deny that those impressions are correct.  But after a single stuttering syllable, the main speaker is silence again, by the resumed tirade of the “questioner.”  Unable to get a word in edgewise, the main speaker resorts to facial expressions and gestures to try to signal his response to the questioner.  The audience watches impotently, while the moderator, banned by the laws of politeness from actually moderating anything, looks on in self-imposed impotence.  At last the questioner concludes, though only occasionally in a sentence that could legitimately be written with a question mark.  Unfortunately, this rarely constitutes the end of the encounter, as such a questioner is unlikely to let the speaker go without a follow-up.  

We can only assume that these “questions” must result, more often than not, from people who submitted paper proposals, and were rejected. Wanting to heal their wounded pride and assert that they too have enough worthwhile thoughts to give a lecture of their own, they take the Q&A session as an opportunity.  Perhaps then we ought to provide empty rooms during the conference in which all rejected paper proposers could air their ideas to anyone or no one willing to listen.

Scenario 2: 
The Q&A disconnect

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this one too.  Someone raises their hand, and stands up to ask a question, that usually begins with something like, “Thanks, that paper was really interesting…it sorta reminded me of [insert completely unrelated text or field of discourse here].  I wondered if you might comment on that.”  Or sometimes, the question is more focused than that, but the end result is the same–the main speaker clearly has no idea what is being asked.  But he tries to answer anyway.  He flails desperately about with generalities, hoping to stumble by chance on what the questioner was getting at, and then concludes, “Does that answer your question?”  Invariably, it does not.  The questioner follows up, often in what seems a completely different direction from the original question, and the speaker tries again, but comes no nearer.  The exchange drags on and on, with both interlocutors sliding further and further into incoherence, or else speaking at complete cross-purposes, while everyone else looks on, ears reddening in embarrassment.  Again, the moderator remains in his self-imposed impotence.  Finally, the speaker mercifully decides to give up on the interchange, and looks frantically about for another questioner, who is usually happy to oblige, to free us all from the torture.  


Scenario 3:
The Epic Fail

Don’t tell me you’ve never been in that paper.  The paper where the speaker clearly had no idea what they were talking about.  Maybe they’d never presented at a conference before, maybe they had a flattering supervisor who wouldn’t tell them how badly off they really were, who knows?  It’s reminiscent, perhaps, of some of those auditions from American Idol they used to love to show on TV–where someone walks in, convinced they have a lovely baritone, and proceeds to give a good impression of a screech owl.  At conferences, it’s not always so immediately obvious.  We are generous people after all, we academics, ready to give the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps we simply didn’t understand what the speaker was trying to do.  Perhaps it was our fault, not theirs.  Perhaps a few well-placed questions will elicit more clearly the point they were trying to make, and it will prove a profound one. 

Or not.  Instead, what happens is that the questions reach out, groping, into a vacuum.  There is nothing there.  Follow-up questions close in on the victim, not like buzzards ready to devour, but rather like lifeguards, to try to rescue him and give him some opportunity to redeem himself, but they only worsen the problem.  He flounders and sinks.  His answers become more and more repetitive and platitudinous; sometimes he indulges in long digressions about only tangentially related subjects to fill the void and to make the clock go by faster.  The audience too is looking at the clock.  After all, we’re not ancient Romans.  We didn’t come to watch a slow death in the gladiatorial ring.  We want out.  We don’t want to watch the implosion, but we are forced to, for there is nothing else to watch.  At last, the session ends, and everyone runs for the door, with a silent pact amongst us not even to mention the lecture amongst ourselves henceforth–the memory is too painful.  The presenter, often as not, steps out still fixed in their delusion that they delivered a solid paper, since no one was ever willing to say anything otherwise.

So one of these days, I would like to go to a conference where the moderator was not afraid to stand up and say, “Ok, that’s enough.  You have nothing to say.  It’s no reason to be offended, it happens to the best of us–all of us have large air pockets in our heads, and it is likely that sooner or later, we will open our mouths and nothing of substance will come out.  That, my friend, is what is happening to you now, and it’s best that we saved both you and ourselves from enduring it any longer.”  Or we could just all agree to laugh.  If everyone understood that that was the procedure, we could carry on, shake it off, and enjoy a conference freed from gratuitous awkwardness. 

Theopolis: A Heart for the City

One of the projects I run is a website called Theopolis, a venue for New College students to reflect on the needs for Christian service and ministry here in the city of Edinburgh and more widely in our society, and to discuss how to work to meet those needs.  This semester, we started running a monthly meeting called “Theopolites,” where we actually carry on this discussion in person, instead of the virtual dialogue of cyberspace; the fruits of this reflection then make it onto the website in the following weeks.

The first round of reflections from this new format, “A Heart for the City,” is now being posted, and I encourage you all to check it out and follow our progress here; our focus is specifically on Edinburgh, but many of the needs we’ll be discussing are common to any major city in the modern West, so hopefully others can profit from it and join in the discussion as well.

“Let Love Be Our Guide”–Calvin’s Dialectic of Law and Liberty

As promised, I am returning to finish explaining Calvin’s understanding of Christian liberty, and here we finally get to the real meat of it, with enough food for thought to keep you digesting for at least the rest of Lent.  This too, like the recent Luther post, is an excerpt from the chapter draft I’m putting together–it overlaps somewhat with the previous post on Calvin, but for the most part picks up where that one left off.  (Apologies for the somewhat haphazard and incomplete page references, which are of course to the McNeill edition.)

Conscience, Calvin carefully defines, “is a certain mean between God and man…[an] awareness which hales man before God’s judgment….Therefore, as works have regard to men, so conscience refers to God.  A good conscience, then, is nothing but inward integrity of heart….properly speaking, as I have already said, it has respect to God alone.” (848-9)  A conscience-binding law is thus one that “simply binds a man without regard to other men, or without taking them into account”; to violate such a command would be sinful before God even if no other man lived on earth.  This constrasts with the adiaphora, which relate only to our outward actions before men, in which “we ought to abstain from anythign that might cause offense, but with a free conscience.” (849)  Here we may be bound for the sake of men, but not for the sake of God: “But however necessary it may be with respect to his brother for him to abstain from it, as God enjoins, he still does not cease to keep freedom of conscience.  We see how this law, while binding outward actions, leaves the conscience free.” (849)  The “indifference” of the adiaphora, then, is not to be understood as an absolute indifference, for it still makes quite a difference to our fellow man how we conduct ourselves in these matters, and God calls us to a vigilant awareness of this, ready to be the “dutiful servant of all,” in Luther’s words.

This paradigm illuminates Calvin’s discussion of church laws in IV.11, which shifts rather abruptly from an unrelenting polemic against man-made ecclesiastical traditions to a vigorous defence of the need for human laws in the church.  Calvin can make both arguments because he is distinguishing between laws made for the sake of our relationship to God and laws made for the sake of our relationship to men: “My purpose here is, therefore, to attack constitutions made to bind souls inwardly before God and to lay scruples on them, as if enjoining things necessary to salvation.”  The Christian’s duty to God has been defined clearly enough in Scripture, and is unchanging–human authority should not add anything to it.  But we have a duty to edify and love our neighbors, and, in this, a duty that is always changing, human law is very important.  The exact same law might therefore be made in the church (say, regarding vestments), but if it were done for the sake of God (“worship” or “religion”), it would be wicked, but if done to edify the church, it would be good (this was in fact Bullinger’s argument in the Vestiarian Controversy).   

Calvin recognizes the danger of confusion here, warning, “At this point it is exceedingly easy to be deceived, for it is not apparent at first sight how much difference there is between the former and the latter sort of regulations.” (1205)  So he explains why the latter sort of laws are necessary: any human society requires a “form of organization…to foster the common peace and maintain concord”; “in human transactions some procedure is always in effect.”  This is no less true in the visible church, a human society, than in any other organization; indeed, it should be more true, since concord is essential to the continuance of the church.  For such concord to be maintained amid a diversity of opinions, churches must be “constituted with definite laws.”  Indeed, says Calvin, “we are so far from condemning the laws that conduce to this as to contend that, when churches are deprived of them, their very sinews disintegrate and they are wholly deformed and scatterd.” (1205).  The important thing to remember, however, is that while it is necessary that there be some laws in this matter, there is flexibility according to the needs of particular circumstances; we must not imagine that any one particular arrangement not given in Scripture is in itself necessary for the being of the Church, for that would intrude upon God’s sole sovereign lordship over the Church and the consciences of its members.

Once we understand this distinction, we will be able to begin to understand the relationship of conscience to such outward matters.  For we might have been tempted to ask whether such outward matters are really irrelevant to conscience.  Don’t we have a duty to love our neighbor?  If we fail to do that which is edifying, will not our consciences condemn us before God?  Does it really make sense to say that it is “not necessary” to obey these church laws, if it is in fact necessary if we are not to sin against peace and order?  This necessity to do what was edifying, as we have seen, proved a stumbling block for many puritans as they wrestled with the notion of adiaphora.

The key for Calvin, however, seems to lie in a distinction between per se and per accidens.  Calvin does not want any of these externals to be considered in itself, regardless of circumstances, a requirement for the believer before God–this would be superstition and idolatry.  Love for neighbor, to be sure, is a requirement for the believer before God, and involves certain general duties laid down in Scripture.  This general necessity, therefore, will mean that in given circumstances, a special necessity attaches to certain external acts (e.g., love of neighbor means that in this circumstance, I must wear vestments to preserve the unity of the church), but this necessity is not in the things themselves, but in their relations, and also in our attitude to them–even if we misjudge what the circumstance requires, we are safe if we are acting out of genuine love (“But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe.” (1208))  Therefore, we are able to recognize that such observances are relative, changeable; the error of papists (and puritans) is their failure to recognize this, imagining an eternal necessity to something mutable and temporal.  “Because…the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accomodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones.”  One discerns here a remarkable resonance with the spirit of Hooker.

This special necessity, or indirect conscience-binding, attaching to externals, is described in Calvin’s treatment of the apostolic decree of Acts 15:20.  Here, says Calvin, the Apostles do not lay down a new law binding on the conscience before God, but rather “the divine and eternal command of God not to violate love.”  This command is being specified into a particular requirement in present circumstances; the Gentiles are being told not to use their freedom in a way that will offend other believers, which we have said all along is a restraint on freedom.  (1200)  And to this extent, the law did affect their consciences.  “For even though these things, superstition aside, are of themselves indifferent, still, when offense to the brethren is added, they cannot be committed without sin” (1200).  But, since the end of the law, not the particular circumstances, were what mattered, the Corinthians could later disregard its law because they saw that its purpose would not be violated.  They were obeying the end of the law–love–not the specific means thereunto, which was not applicable. “They knew that the law was to be judged by its purpose.  Since, therefore, this law was framed with a view to love, in it nothing is prescribed except as it pertains to love.” (1201)

Calvin will later make a similar argument about kneeling for corporate prayer, which he gives as an example of a law of decorum.  This law is simultaneously human as well as divine.  “ I say that it is human, as it is also divine.  It is of God in so far as it is a part of that decorum whose care and observance the apostle has commended to us.  But it is of men in so far as it specifically designates what had in general been suggested rather than explicitly stated.”  We are bound before God with regard to the general end, but only to the specific means insofar as “the necessity of the church will require for order and decorum” (1208).

Our obligation in such things, being dependent not on the things themselves, but arising out of their relations, does not do away with our freedom: “each one of us will keep his freedom in all these things; yet each one will voluntarily impose some necessity upon his freedom, in so far as this decorum of which we spoke or considrations of love shall require.” (1210)


Now, thus far we have spoken only of church laws.  What about civil laws?  Calvin recognizes that he cannot simply declare conscience to be bound to these without qualification, as other Reformers had.  He sees Romans 13:5 as a potential problem passage, not as one to be blithely asserted, as so many of his predecessors seem to have done: “Moreover, the difficulty [of defining conscience] is increased by the fact that Paul enjoins obedience toward the magistrate, not only for fear of punishment, but for conscience’ sake.  From this it follows that consciences are bound by civil laws.  But if this were so, all that we said a little while ago and are now going to say about spiritual government would fall.” (848)  He notes the problem in III.19.15, and returns to it in IV.10.4: “For if we must obey rulers not only because of punishment but for conscience’ sake, it seems to follow from this that the rulers’ laws also have dominion over the conscience.  Now, if this is true, the same also will have to be said of church laws.”  Calvin is completely aware, as Melanchthon did not always seem to be, that what was said about civil laws would apply also to church laws, seeing as both shared the nature of human law.  Therefore, the same restrictions must reply to both: “human laws, whether made by magistrate or by church, even though they have to be observed (I speak of good and just laws), still do not of themselves bind the conscience.  For all obligation to observe laws looks to the general purpose, but does not consist in the things enjoined.” (1183) 

Calvin calls this a distinction of “genus and species”: while “individual laws may not apply to the conscience, we are still held by God’s general command, which commends to us the authority of magistrate.” (1183-4).  Calvin does not elucidate any further, but from his discussion of church laws that we have already considered, we can ascertain what he seems to have in mind.  We are bound in general to be in subjection to the magistrate, just as we are bound to love the neighbor–indeed, Calvin would probably equate the two, arguing that love of neighbor requires subjection to the magistrate, who advances the common good.  Therefore, this love requires both an attitude of subjection, and a readiness to do what that subjection requires in particular circumstances–a requirement that will be primarily stipulated for us by the laws.  By virtue of our duty toward the magistrate, and the fact that he has decreed these particular things, we are therefore conscience-bound to obey these laws, but again, not because of any necessity in the laws themselves, a necessity they have only per accidens.  This conception implies that, since such necessity is relative, we have a certain liberty to disobey these laws and fulfill our general duty to seek the common good in a different way, if circumstances seem to demand this (just as the Corinthians could do with the apostolic decree of Acts 15:20.  Calvin never says this, of course, but the implication would seem to follow.  If this is correct, then in Calvin we have a helpful corrective to Melanchthon, making clear that civil laws, no more than any other human laws, bind only per accidens and therefore may be set aside if charity permits or requires.  


It may still appear that this distinction, whether in the case of civil laws or church laws, is overblown and makes little difference.  Why should such an indirect binding of conscience be so different from the direct binding that Calvin attacks so strongly (almost unrelenting from IV.10.9 to IV.10.26)?  Calvin, though an improvement on his predecessors, is still not quite as clear as we might like on this point, but drawing on both his explicit statements and their implications, we may discern at least six points of difference.  First, it’s a matter of avoiding idolatry.  We must learn to recognize that the necessity lies not in the external thing itself, which could indeed be ordered completely otherwise, but merely in our relationship to it in this particular situation.  We thus avoid superstition and  rationally, which is to say freely.   Second, because of this–because the evil is not in the thing itself, but in our relation to it–we are not enslaved by fear and paranoia, concerned that one overstepping of the boundary condemns us.  Rather, it is a contemptuous, unloving attitude that condemns us.   Third, we therefore are freed to obey out of love, instead of fear, out of a realization that our love of brother calls us to this observance in this situation, not out of fear that acts so as to avoid penalty.  Fourth, we are able to recognize the essentially human character of the law.  This law is in place for men’s sake, not for God’s.  It is for God only insofar as God desires good things for men.  So for instance a ceremony is fine as long as we do it for the edification of the congregation, and not because we imagine that God thereby receives some special honor.  Fifth, the law is not necessarily binding, but only binding insofar as the end of the law is concerned.  If we judge that in a particular circumstance, conformity to the end of the law does not require conformity to the spirit of the law, we may disobey the law.  Sixth, the law is mutable, free to be altered by the society as circumstances require, instead of shackling it forever.

These points may help make sense of a paradox of sorts–that Calvin’s doctrine of freedom is not opposed to necessity; on the contrary, it is completely wrapped up in necessity.  Our internal freedom is a freedom to be bound by God, to follow his authority and his laws absolutely in the internal forum.  Our external freedom is a freedom to be bound by love of neighbor to act in certain ways as circumstances demand.  Given certain circumstances, it will be necessary for us to abstain from meat, or necessary, perhaps, to wear vestments.  But this necessity does not contradict freedom.  To do something freely, for Calvin, means to embrace this necessity cheerfully, rationally, and without fear.  Bondage is to respond fearfully and slavishly to the necessity of circumstances.  The believer’s freedom is his ability to work in the world with his head held high and his eyes open and attentive to what the need of his neighbor demands, a demand that he will thus respond to not blindly, but rationally and voluntarily.

Relics of the Amorites?

When (if) we read about the controversies over vestments that inaugurated the English Puritan movement, we’re probably tempted to wonder how people got quite so worked up about this.  Were a mere robe, surplice, and cap really the “relics of the Amorites”? “filthy rags culled from the popish dunghill”?  Was it really worth abandoning the ministry rather than agreeing to wear such vestments, vestments that after all were simply the uniform that the clergy had always worn?  So what if the papists wore them–hadn’t the papists worshipped in the same church buildings too?  And no one was saying that these should be simply abandoned and torn down.

But on second thought, this mania, bizarre as it seems to be, appears relatively explicable when one considers the fact that there are apparently still a great many Protestants who recoil in horror and revulsion from the the idea of distinctive clerical garb.  It’s one of those things I grew up around so much that I never stopped to reflect just how bizarre it was.  Just what is the objection?

In his magisterial The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, Patrick Collinson offers some hint as to why the vestments proved so polarizing, which puts the Puritan protest in a more sympathetic light (but renders modern objections all the more inexplicable).  

It was not, he said, so much that the non-conformist clergy were themselves unable to stomach the thought of clerical garb, or even of clerical garb that was similar to that the papists had worn.  Many would have preferred to do without it, for a variety of reasons, but would not have gotten up in arms about it on their own account.  For most, their objection was founded on an honest conscientious concern for their more simple-minded parishioners:

“However much they might detest the old ceremonial, men of learning could preserve a measure of detachment toward the more incidental trappings of popish worship, distinguishing between the thing itself and its superstitious use….But for ‘simple gospellers’ (as the London ministers describe them) the symbols themselves were a concrete, visible offence.  Their emotional reaction reminds Dr. T.M. Parker of the attitude of the revolutionary sans-culottes to the knee-breeches of the ancien regime, and even of the artorial principles of the first Socialist Cabinet ministers of 1924.  The comparison is not strained, for Elizabethan protestants regarded the surplice and the square cap as the uniform of an oppressive class.  Unlike the new bishops and many of the preachers, they were witnesses of the Marian burnings, and they were well aware that many hangers-on of these cruel proceedings continued to hold office in the Elizabethan Church, and that it was for them that the English ministry was still saddled with some portions of ‘the pope’s attire.’”   

In other words, for many of the ordinary folks in the pew, it felt as it might have felt to a German in 1950 if all their policemen were going around in Gestapo uniforms and swastikas.  The vestments in themselves have nothing to do with the errors of the Roman church, and certainly nothing to do with the murderous persecution under Mary, but one can certainly understand your average Joe in the pew for honing in on such visible symbols, and having trouble abstracting them from the context he had originally encountered them.  If this was how many parishioners felt, one can begin to understand the conscientious scruples of some of their ministers.


But of course, this sharpens the question–Why is it that so many Protestants today maintain this phobia for vestments?  The closest thing to a sensible answer I’ve heard seems to be that in the apostolic church such things would not have been worn, but all things would have been done with simplicity.  But this shaky skeleton of an argument (which was boldly asserted by many of the Elizabethan Puritans) invites a host of objections: how do we even know that?  It is entirely an argument from silence.  Even if it were so, on what basis is that normative, any more than the fact that back then, they met in houses rather than church buildings for worship?  And the simplicity that is so often extolled when it comes to ceremonies and such was of course not simply a feature of apostolic worship (if it was that–again, this is mainly an argument from silence), but was clearly a feature of the whole lifestyle of the early Church, in which all things were held to be common and luxury was eschewed.  Until Protestants are ready to return to that kind of simplicity across the board, it’s hard to see what force a call for such simplicity in clerical vestments could have.

It seems to me, then, that the main impetus for the objection today is not all that dissimilar from the phobia that Collinson identifies above.  Then, it was understandable…but now?  How many modern Protestants have had friends burned at the stake by Catholic zealots?  How many have witnessed an oppressive economy of indulgences and works-righteousness?  Indeed, given that vestments have now been honored with hundreds of years of use by fine Protestant clergymen, one can scarcely complain that they carry the inescapable association with “popery.”  What is it with the seemingly unshakeable phobia of all things Catholic that still dominates large sections of American Protestantism at any rate?  Are we fated always to be a religion of reaction?  Can Protestantism ever grow up and stop defining itself in merely negative terms, desperate to prove above all that “We’re not Catholics” (and now, more recently, “We’re not liberals”)?  

Anglicanism gets a bad rap for being a lukewarm middle way, with no positive contribution, but in many ways, it seems better positioned to demonstrate what a positive Protestantism looks like than so many Reformed and evangelical churches, which remain trapped in a perpetual reaction to imaginary foes.