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5.0 out of 5 stars The Finest Discussion on Fathers and Anglicans, 24 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Church of England and Christian Antiquity: The Construction of a Confessional Identity in the 17th Century (Oxford-Warburg Studies) (Hardcover)
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"Jean-Louis Quantin shows how, between the Reformation and the last years of the Restoration, the rationale behind the Church of England's reliance on the Fathers as authorities in doctrinal controveries changed significantly. Elizabethan divines, exactly like their Reformed counterparts on the Continent, used Church Fathers to vindicate the Reformation from Roman Catholic charges of novelty, but firmly rejected the authority of tradition. They stressed that, on all questions controverted, there was simply no consensus of the fathers. Beginning with the 'avant-garde' conformists of early Stuart England, reference to antiquity became more and more prominent in the construction of a new confessional identity, which was distinct both from Rome and from Continental Protestants, and which, by 1680, may fairly be called 'Anglican.' English divines now gave to patristics the very highest of missions. In that late age of Christianity-so the idea ran-now that charisms had been withdrawn and miracles had ceased, the exploration of ancient texts provided the only reliable route to truth. As the identity of the Church of England was thus redefined, its past was reinvented. This appeal to the Fathers boosted the self-confidence of the English clergy and helped them to surmount the crises of the 1650s and 1680s. But it also undermined the orthodoxy that it was supposed to support."

Jean-Louis Quantin is neither English nor Anglican, but he sets out to demolish the notion that men such as Cranmer, Jewel or Hooker interpreted Scripture in light of a consensus of the ancient fathers or the fathers of the first four centuries. According to Quantin such a notion is an Anglo-Catholic fabrication that was adopted by later Anglican divines and reread back into the nascent history of the English Church. The Oxford Movement perpetuated the myth of an Anglo-Patristic past and Quantin notes that it persists to this day. In point of fact Cranmer's use of the fathers was rather scholastic and his appeal to a consensus of the fathers was more rhetorical than real. Jewel's appeal to the fathers was more of a weapon to be used against medieval Catholic novelties than a deep appreciation of the fathers on their own terms. Quantin even considers it impossible to ascertain a "Patristic mind" in that no one has been able to systematize ALL of the fathers without giving priority to some. Witness the Tractarians' preference for the late fourth-early fifth century and their preferential treatment of Augustine and Chrysostom evidenced by their extensive translations of these two particular church fathers.

Some of Quantin's assertions are difficult to verify without further exploration, but his mastery of the primary sources is formidable. Quantin's brutal honesty and outstanding scholarship have challenged the notion that Anglicanism go hand in hand since the beginning. This is a particularly heavy blow for Anglo-Catholic historiography, but this is bar none the finest work on the relationship between the church fathers and Anglicans produced to date.
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