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The Protestant Face of Anglicanism

by Paul F. M. Zahl

Buy the book: Paul F. M. Zahl. The Protestant Face of Anglicanism

Release Date: January, 1998

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Paul F. M. Zahl. The Protestant Face of Anglicanism


An Indistinct Face

This was a very disappointing book. Although I'm an English Use Catholic (a species of Anglican the author barely mentions and then not by name), I'm willing to concede that the English Reformation had a "Protestant face." But Dean Zahl fails to convince that this Protestant face has endured or has ever affected the catholicity of the Anglican faith in any essential way.

"The Protestant Face of Anglicanism" has many flaws. Polemical in tone, strident in style, unnuanced in its history, and often purple in its prose, its brevity doesn't allow the author to make a substantial case for much of anything. The book also suffers from a lack of precision in crucial definitions. For instance, early on in the book, Zahl posits a distinction between "protestants" and "evangelicals." But thereafter, he uses the two terms as synonyms.

The lack of documentation was irritating. Many of Zahl's assertions about English history and the development of Anglican theology were uncited, so there's no way to check his sources or read further. Even fascinating tidbits -- like the complicity of Thomas More in the assassination of William Tyndale -- were uncorroborated. That's too bad. More's one sacred cow that could use a dose of real history.

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simplistic and misleading

The author doesn't like the idea that Anglicanism is a "middle way" between Rome and Protestantism--well, too bad--it is. In the same way that Lutherans are closer to Rome on some things (like the sacraments) but closer to Presbyterians on others (like justification), so are Anglicans in the middle. The Anglican Reformation of Cramer and Hooker was meant to be moderate, appealing to the "ancient and primitive catholic faith." It "reformed" the existing Roman Catholic Church in England--the Anglicans after the Reformation called themselves "Reformed Protestant Catholics" or "Reformed Catholics." The author fails to see that the Anglican Reformers went back to the ancient "catholic" (universal) Church, saw that some of it was good, and cleaned away that which they saw Rome had corrupted. As such, it is both "catholic" and "reformed." The author's distinction of Catholic theology as "Incarnational" and Protestant theology as "atonement" based is also misleading. The great Anglican theologian Richard Hooker's theology is almost completely "incarnational." C.S. Lewis and John Wesley were also highly "incarnational." This does not make them Roman Catholics. "Evangelicals" (such as the author) and "Anglo-Catholics" (who pretend they are Roman Catholics) have to realize they are both wrong and reaffirm their common theology.

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