John Jewel's "Challenge" to Rome (2)
October 20, 2017
We need to make a distinction between the various forms of debate that historians classify as "polemical theology." Anti-Catholic preaching at St. Paul's Cross was something different because it addressed a lay audience untrained in the theological details of the question at issue. The strategy was to attack the character or the ethos of the opposition. Aristotle wrote that the speaker’s ethos was one of the three forms of persuasion (along with pathos, the compassion of the speaker and logos, the care in which he uses content and structure to communicate clearly). If an opponent is shown to speak misleadingly, then their case is overthrown without discussing it in detail. Jewel used ethos effectively to persuade his hearers to be suspicious of the Roman Catholic argument because of man's sinfulness and rebellion against God; there is an inevitable corruption of divine worship as God commanded. Jewel’s opponents were examples of this continuing tendency to idolatry. He then uses the early Church Fathers as examples of the right use of Scripture and as men of godliness that preserved worship as Christ commanded.
Jewel, therefore, begins by making the case that holy things can be abused. The Lord’s Supper can be abused in five practices that Jewel labels as abuses but which the Roman Catholic Church did not consider corrupt: the use of Latin in worship rather than the language the people understand; the reception of communion in only one kind; the wording of the canon of the mass, what Anglican will call the prayer of consecration; the adoration of the host, and the private mass. Turning the Roman Catholic argument on its head that Protestant theology is a new order, he underlines how these abuses are a recent novelty of its clergy:
But in the mass, as it hath been used in this latter age of the world, the priest uttereth the holy mysteries in such a language, as neither the people nor oftentimes himself understandeth the meaning. (Challenge Sermon, 9)
This is the greatest antiquity of the whole matter: about three hundred years ago it was first found out, and put in practice; but Christ and his apostles, the holy fathers in the primitive church, the doctors that followed them, and other learned and godly men whatsoever for the space of a thousand and two hundred years after Christ, never heard of it. (Challenge Sermon, 10)
Jewel emphasizes the threat of idolatry involved in the Roman Catholic devotions to the consecrated elements of the Communion, a threat previously unknown to the laypeople of England’s parishes.
Thus we see, even by the confession of …their own doctors, that he that goeth to the mass, and worshippeth the sacrament, unless he be learned and take good heed, may soon commit idolatry. The doctrine of itself is new, the profit of it such as the church of God for the space of twelve hundred years was well able to be without it, the jeopardy of it great and horrible, and scarcely possible to be avoided. (Challenge Sermon, 12)
But Jewel's purpose is not to explain debates over the Lord's Supper here because only the Roman Catholic position is discussed in detail. The effect of his examination of Roman Catholic practices is to make one group of clergy appear to offer complex arguments for dangerous teachings, while the Protestant clergy asserts simple truths from the plain sense of the Scriptures. Where the Roman Catholic wrest Scripture, the Protestant, “…bring you nothing but God's holy word; which is a sure rock to build upon, and will never fleet or shrink. And therefore are we able truly to say with St Paul: Quod accepimus a Domino, hoc tradidimus vobis: “We have delivered unto you the same things that we have received of the Lord.” (Challenge Sermon, 16)
The comparison is not just between doctrines, but between teachers of doctrine. And only one group of teachers is said to bring “God’s holy word” to the people. It is from this comparison of teachers that the “challenge” of the sermon works to devastating effect. Jewel sets out the history and teaching of the Church Fathers throughout the centuries. He uses his patristic knowledge to show that they, like the Protestant clergy of the Church of England, based their teaching firmly upon the Scripture.
The strength of Jewel’s challenge lay in the precision with which he makes his critique. All the abuses of the Roman Catholic Mass were recent, the product of medieval scholastic or devotional habits. For example, Jewel did not ask for proof of the real presence of Christ in the elements because, “some color or shadow of the doctors might be produced by the Catholic side” (Controversy with Doctor Cole, 28). Instead, he demanded patristic statements that Christ is “substantially, corporally, carnally, or naturally” present in the elements and that only the “accidents” of bread and wine persist after the consecration. Terms such as “accidents” do not predate the explanation of Eucharistic theology in the years leading up to the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. As the “challenge” demanded explicit statements from the first six hundred years, Jewel could rest assured that he would not be forced to recant.
And that ye may the more marvel at the wilfulness of such men, they stand this day against so many old fathers, so many doctors, so many examples of the primitive church, so manifest and so plain words of the holy scriptures; and yet have they herein not one father, not one doctor, not one allowed example of the primitive church to make for them. (Challenge Sermon, 20)
Jewel goes on to tell his hearers that the Roman Catholic clergy (now ranked against the hearers as “our adversaries”) had over-awed the laity in the past by claiming the authority of the Church Fathers for their practices, “an easy matter it was so to do, especially before them, that lack either the leisure, or judgment to examine their proofs.” Jewell is now challenging them to produce the evidence of the antiquity of which they had boasted. Of course, the hearers are not being asked to examine the proofs. They still lack the "leisure, or judgment to examine" them. Jewel's argument is about the reliability of the teachers of doctrine. And the proof of his trustworthiness is apparent in the confidence of his challenge.
I remember I laid out then here before you a number of things that are now in controversy, whereunto our adversaries will not yield. And I said, perhaps boldly, as it might then seem to some man; but, as I myself and the learned of our adversaries themselves do well know, sincerely and truly, that none of all them, that this day stand against us, are able, or shall ever be able, to prove against us any one of all those points, either by the scriptures, or by example of the primitive church, or by the old doctors, or by the ancient general councils. (Challenge Sermon, 20)
Jewel’s “challenge” sermon places the laity as judges between Catholic and Protestant theologians (not as judges of Protestant and Catholic theology). This address to the laity was to be sustained in the controversy that followed which led Jewel to write his Apologia. He chose issues on which the Roman Catholic Church can be shown unambiguously to have departed from the practice of the early Church. A proper use of the Church Fathers, therefore, is to give evidence of these early practices and to set out their theological method in their fidelity to the Scriptures. In the controversy that followed the publication of Jewel's Apology in 1564, he continued to question the ethos of his opponents in their use of the Fathers. If anyone doubts our teaching, Jewel writes, they ought to do what the Fathers did, and check it by Scripture:
For the catholic fathers and bishops of those days nothing doubted but that our religion could be sufficiently proved out of the divine Scriptures; nor did they ever dare account any one an heretic, whose error they could not plainly and clearly disprove out of the same Scriptures. ...Wherefore, if we are heretics, and they [as they would be called) catholics, why do they not the same that the fathers, true catholic men, ever did? Why do they not convict us out of the holy Scriptures? Why do they not recall us to be tried by them? Why do they not shew that we have departed from Christ, from the apostles, from the prophets, from the holy fathers? Why do they hesitate? What is it they are afraid of? (Apology, 22-23)