The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture by Peter Toon

The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture by Peter Toon (Bishopstone: Brynmill Press, 2006).

The basic thesis of this short book is that Anglican doctrine is and ought to be grounded in the classic Anglican Formularies: the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Thirty-nine Articles, together with the Homilies which can be seen as a commentary on those other Formularies.   Separate chapters discuss the Articles, the Prayer Book and the Ordinal, before a concluding chapter “One Canon with Two Testaments” about how the Formularies and Homilies depend ultimately on the authority of the Bible.  Toon sums this up by saying that “To maintain and use the three Formularies, as the distinctive Anglican means and ways of being subject both to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and to the Holy Scriptures, the Word written, and thereby retaining the Reformed Catholic nature and characteristics of the Anglican Way, is a high privilege and solemn duty” (page 63).

 

The author has been a theological tutor in several English Colleges and also a professor of systematic theology in the U.S.A., as well as the vicar of an English parish.  For some years he has also been a very active President of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. and this short book has been issued in America by “the Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A.”.  This gives something of a feel for its perspective which is grounded in a version of Reformed Catholicism which feels (to this reviewer at least) ever so slightly old fashioned in some respects, but still has much to teach a doctrinally latitudinarian age.  In a time when the Church of England seems overly eager to cut loose from its historic moorings, this brief reminder of the evangelical riches to be found there is salutary and most welcome.

The book is released at the same time as a new edition of the Homilies themselves by the same press, available through www.edgewaysbooks.com.  It is no doubt meant to explain the importance of that volume, which is still incredibly useful for establishing what Anglican doctrine truly is (as a friend discovered recently when locked in a debate with members of the PCC about images in worship – a subject which the Homily entitled “Peril of Idolatry, and Superfluous Decking of Churches” is very clear about!).

One may not want to agree with every conclusion here, and some things could perhaps have been phrased a little clearer. A more in-depth defence of certain aspects of Anglican ecclesiology (such as the episcopate) would have been useful, and many questions are left unanswered (such as, what precisely is the definition of a “truly credible form of the Anglican Way” which deserves to be tolerated in a genuine comprehensiveness?).  This being said, the broad contours of the book are helpful, and might be especially useful for an ordinand to use during the process of selection, giving them a handle on Anglican ways to say evangelical things (as it were).

This review was published in Churchman 122/4 (2008).

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