A Review Article -- By: John H. Armstrong
RAR 8:4 (Fall 1999) p. 191
A Review Article
Guarding The Holy Fire: The Evangelicalism Of John R. W. Stott, J. I. Packer, And Alister Mcgrath, Roger Steer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker (1999). 368 pages, paper, $25.99.
Roger Steer, a non-Anglican and the acclaimed biographer of both J. Hudson Taylor and George Müller, now provides the wider evangelical cause with a most important look at the impact of evangelical faith and practice upon the Anglican communion. In his Introduction Steer offers a clear sense of the direction his work will take when he writes:
This is the story of a brand of Christianity which, at its best, has burned with the fire both of holiness and evangelicalism. I chose the title because I think it captures the zeal, commitment and burning spirituality which have characterized the best manifestations of Anglican Evangelicalism from the days of Wycliffe and the Lollards to the era when the present Archbishop of Canterbury found Christ in an Evangelical parish church (9).
To my mind Steer accomplishes his purpose quite well. He never passes over the ambiguities of Anglicanism without
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criticism. He doesn’t miss the subtleties of the story either. He plainly demonstrates that Anglicanism has always produced a mixture of seeming opposites.
Born as a communion of English churches which formally broke away from Rome because of the dissolution of Henry VIII’s marriage, Anglicanism from its beginning had the influence of both Catholic and evangelical streams. Consider for a moment the historic roots of reform in England. John Wycliffe (1330–84), whose ideas and life anticipated the Reformation to no small degree, left an indelible mark on the English churches. Long before the break with Rome, over two centuries later, English Christianity plainly had a distinctly “evangelical” flavor. This flavor has continued for over six hundred years. Wycliffe’s parish church (St. Mary’s of Lutterworth) stands in the present time. On the south side of the church is what had been called for centuries “Wycliffe’s door.” This door is so called because the great preacher was actually carried through this entrance to his death after he had suffered a stroke while leading worship on December 31, 1384. But it was John Huss (c. 1372–1415), the Bohemian reformer and Wycliffe’s most famous disciple, who spread his evangelical ideas even more widely, leading to the people called Lollards (a Dutch word meaning “mumblers”). These Lollards focused upon simple preaching and tracts which stressed the need for “personal faith in and obedience to Christ and the Bible” (19). The Lollards laid great emphasis upon the written Scri...
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