For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus, himself man
-1 Timothy 2:5
The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.
– Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher
The Church as a Witness to Divine Realities
In a marketplace of competing narratives, systems and forms of life, what does Protestantism commend to the world? What vision of life do we present? It is usual to speak of the majesty of one’s tradition, the profundity of one’s system, the beauty of one’s arts, the virtues of one’s saints, etc.
Yet Protestantism is not like that. We begin with St Paul’s own words: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord! The Protestantism commends nothing of himself, it does not speak of its own tradition, liturgy, arts or system, though they are considerable. It is first and foremost, the feeble sinner witnessing to the Saviour who loved one as mean as us. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Not many of us are learned in Aquinas, not many of us are noble of extraordinary gifts, not many of us able to read the King James’s Bible or the Book of Common Prayer, yet after our mean and low estate, Christ calls us all, wherever we are and however we are, through the preaching of the Word which makes known to us the Word made flesh, the love of God incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. And through the workings of the Holy Ghost speaking through those words our whole person grasps the divine reality of Jesus Christ so proclaimed.
We hear the divine calling, we follow the leading of the divine will, leading us further and further into the divine life revealed in Jesus Christ, and we share in the infinite riches of which Christ is both the gift and the giver.
The Unmediated Mediator
Thus Protestantism does not present a vision of life, a worldview, a system or even a tradition. It presents a person, a living God incarnate in a man, born two thousand years ago, which Word made flesh is communicated directly through the preaching of the Scriptures. The love of God incarnate in our divine Mediator himself requires no mediation, whether through an ecclesiastical polity, a body of traditional writings, a system of theology or a philosophical worldview. The man Jesus Christ himself is the mediator of the divine life and in his life, his example, his death and his resurrection, the divine light shines forth in all its glory, and we who hear and believe, receive that divine light in all its consolation and rapture without the need for a political, aesthetic or systematic mediator. For Christ the man speaks directly to us as man, flesh to flesh, heart to heart and spirit to spirit, this Mediator man whom God has sent himself contains the fullness of the divine life and needs no additional mediation to mediate the mediator.
Conclusion: The Ultimate and the Penultimate
This is not to say that Protestantism has no profound thinkers, virtuous saints, or man of great glory (see my apology for Anglicanism here). It only means that we distinguish between the penultimate and the ultimate. We distinguish between the source of all good and the goods given by that source. Mankind qua man finds its end, unity, and harmony in the God-Man Jesus Christ, for whom he was made and in whom he shall receive all his good. But what form that good takes in this life and in this world are plural in all its buzzing complexity and subtleties.
Yet we know that we possess “the one thing needful” to live in this varied and complex world which God has made, and we trust that in Christ alone we have a life and resource, and above all, a heart and love, strong enough to match this creation whom He himself have made from the beginning, and continues to guide unto its end at the consummation of the age.