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Posted on Mon 31 July 2017

6 of 6: A response to Stephen Marriott and Neil Hirst’s letters (31 July)

As both Stephen Marriott and Neil Hirst refer to me personally (Telegraph Letters, 31 July), I feel that I must offer a reply. I welcome their theological seriousness. I wish it was more evident in the proceedings of General Synod.

Where Mr Marriott is concerned, it is true that St Paul teaches us that we should not rely on observing the Law for our salvation but the Law drives us to Christ and Christ then helps us to adhere to the true meaning of it. As Article 7 of the 39 Articles declares, “no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments called moral”. Disregarding the moral law results in the old heresy of antinomianism, with its attendant permissiveness and promiscuity.

As to Mr Hirst and Richard Hooker, in Book 3 of his Ecclesiastical Polity, Hooker tells us, “we do not add reason as a supplement of any maim or defect therein, but as a necessary instrument, without which we could not reap by the Scripture’s perfection that fruit and benefit which it yieldeth”. And again, “Wherefore if I believe the Gospel, yet is reason of singular use for that it confirmeth me in this belief the more: if I do not as yet believe, nevertheless to bring me to the number of believers except reason did somewhat help, and were an instrument which God doth use unto such purposes, what should it boot to dispute with infidels and godless persons for their conversion and persuasion in that point?” Such is the role of reason in the triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason referred to by the Bishop of Norwich (Letters, 27 July).

This is not to deny that reason also has a role, for example, in the discernment of Natural Law and in the forming of polity. The Canons of the Church of England state that its teaching and worship are grounded in the Scriptures and in what is agreeable to the said Scriptures.

+Michael Nazir-Ali

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