The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are one of the three historic ‘formularies’ of the Church of England. Along with the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal they gave the church its distinctive identity at the time of the Reformation, an identity which has had a formative influence on worldwide Anglicanism. Many parts of the Anglican Communion some have returned to these sources to satisfy a genuine hunger for both Anglican tradition and sound Christian doctrine; this book seeks to contribute to this dialogue. Although the Articles have had a checkered history, the intention of The Faith We Confess: An Exposition of the 39 Articles is to take them as they now stand and interpret what they mean for us today. Historical circumstances cannot be avoided completely and are mentioned as necessary, but the main emphasis throughout this text is theological. Author Gerald Bray explores this question: “what do the Articles say about what Anglicans believe and how should they be understood and applied today?
“The historic formularies were designed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) to give the English Church a solid grounding in the three fundamental areas of its life—doctrine, devotion and discipline. The Articles provided its doctrinal framework, the Prayer Book settled the pattern of its devotional life and the Ordinal outlined what was expected of the clergy, whose role was the key to the church’s discipline.” (Page 1)
“This book is intended to show that, despite their apparent shortcomings, the Articles are indeed the church’s confession of faith and that they remain indispensable to its mission and identity in the world.” (Page 3)
“Nevertheless, the homilies demonstrate the fact that doctrine has to be the starting point for Christian discipleship. Unless we know what we believe and why we believe it, we shall not put it into practice with the consistency and conviction required of true Christians.” (Page 7)
“First of all, ‘impassibility’ was never intended to make God remote from human concerns but rather to insist that his power and sovereignty can in no way be diminished by a suffering inflicted from outside himself.” (Page 20)
“This was the world into which Martin Luther (1483–1546), Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) and John Calvin (1509–1564) were born. They too believed that complex theological arguments could and should be condensed into brief statements that could be memorised and expounded, rather in the way that a professor would now lecture from his class notes. To put it a different way, their theses or articles were meant to be understood as the tip of an intellectual iceberg, giving a clear outline of what lay concealed beneath the surface.” (Pages 4–5)