i. of faith in the holy trinity
Disclaimer: I am in no way a theologian. I am just me, reading the Articles, trying to figure out what the author, Thomas Cranmer and others after him meant and using some books that will help me do this.
As I have gone through this article, I am so thrilled and blown away by how carefully thought through these statements are. Despite the fact that the 39 Articles are somewhat skeleton-like especially when compared to the Westminster Confession, they truly are the true tenets of the faith. They are so filled with hope for daily life.
God is living. He is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). He is everlasting. “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King…” – Jeremiah 10:10
He has no body. (John 4:24) (“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” – Luke 24:39).
God has no passions. This is a difficult statement. The Articles were originally written in Latin, because it was the language of the Church at the time. If you translate the Latin directly, the word is really impassible. Webster says, impassible is “incapable of suffering or of experiencing pain or inaccessible to injury.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impassible). If we take that to be the meaning, then really God is not without passion, but instead, God does not feel pain as we do. It could also mean that God does not have the reaction to things as we are. He does not have knee-jerk reactions to sin. (Bray, Faith, 20)
Psalm 145 states:
This passage alone speaks to the article’s statement of God is infinite in power wisdom and goodness as well as the next statement of God being the maker and preserver of all things. We rest in the fact that God sustains all things. (Matthew 19, 2Kings 19:15, Psalm 104). He is intimately involved in the world around us. He is not far off. What he does in the world, he does with love. It is for our benefit and for His Glory that He makes the world go round.
“And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (Genesis 1, John 14:9, John 10:30). We cannot comprehend fully the ministry of the Trinity as humans. We know that God is in three persons is co-eternal and unchanging with the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are made of the same stuff, the same substance. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 discussed and hammered out this theological sticking point to counter Arianism which believed that Christ was NOT God. Cranmer made sure to include this truth because the Arian heresy was still around in his time and I know there are those who question the divinity of Christ even today. We don’t know how this works, we take it on faith, knowing that Scripture says what it says.
I love that Anglicans are very relaxed when it comes to doctrine and/or Bible verses by stating that the boundaries to interpreting Scriptures is Scripture. Sometimes it’s just hard to understand what the original authors meant. Their boundaries are the Scripture themselves and anything outside of that is extrapolation. Anglicans are satisfied that there are scriptures that are just mysteries. They can rest in the fact that sometimes “I don’t know” is a valid answer to the questions. I really like this. I like resting in the fact that there is so much about God and about life that we don’t know. We cannot know it and that is okay.
The first article of the 39 is an Article that causes me to rest. Despite being a worrier and filled with much anxiety about the further, reading the words, “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” brings much rest.
I can rest in the fact that Lord is one God, he has always been, He will always be. He holds all things together, and I need not worry about tomorrow. Everything is sifted through His hands and He knows all that will happen and nothing surprises Him.
May you rest in that as well.
Bray, Gerald Lewis. The Faith We Confess: an Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Latimer Trust, 2009.
West, Rich, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Sunday School Class, January 2020.
Photo By Laurom – Photo reproduction of art., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2126728