The Devil and the Church of England

This morning I ran across a couple of posts on my Twitter feed that were talking about a decision by the Church of England concerning the reference to Satan in the christening ceremony. According the latest piece from the Telegraph,

The Church of England is introducing a christening ceremony that removes the requirement on parents and godparents to “repent sins” and “reject the devil”….

In the current version, in use since 1998, vicars ask parents and godparents if they “reject the devil and all rebellion against God” and if they “repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour”.

However, the new text asks them instead to “reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises”, with no explicit mention of the devil or sin. 

The Daily Mail (apologies for the ridiculous sidebars) adds to this by listing the change in the actual service in a helpful graphic illustrating the differences.

CorleoneNow, this new service plan is an alternative option for christening services (which just get a baby wet anyways and do nothing for them salvifically) and is not normative for Anglicans. The larger picture though is that we’re seeing a most definite move from a historical and orthodox theological grounding. While these ideas have certainly been floated in private and spoken of in remote circles in the past, with the shift in leadership within the Church of England away from worrying about such troublesome things as biblicism and historical orthodoxy, there are certainly more moves ahead.

For what it’s worth, I’m not so much worried about the lack of reference to Satan in the christening service but the weakened charge and confession of being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Part of the Anglican theology of baptism is that the faith of a child’s parents, grandparents, and godparents does matter to the child being christened. Though I entirely disagree with any notion of baptismal imputation or salvation, to remain faithful to their own theological dogma, the Church of England needs to remove this alternative and reclaim the traditional statements.

Of course, the Devil is in the details.

Satan is a real figure who is clearly outline in both Old and New Testaments of the Christian canon of 66 books known as the Bible. Satan has a definite origin as the leader of a rebellious sect of angels (yes I sound crazy…crazy like Augustine of Hippo.) Denying his involvement in the world in opposition to the plans and will of God ultimately leads to a weakened view of sin and salvation. Besides, it denies a historic tenant of the Christian faith.

Nevertheless, let’s just remember the reality is that Satan enjoys living in the shadows of doubt and the realm of clandestine activity. After all, the greatest trick the Devil ever played, with all due respect to Kaiser Soze/Verbal Kind, wasn’t tricking the world that he didn’t exist…but starting with theologians and churchmen.

Kaiser Soze