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By The Revd Dr Mark Pickles

In his book, Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, author Mark Pickles does a good job of keeping the focus on the main things—what is the gospel and how does Anglican Christianity factor in to the Christian faith? Pickles has spent many years ministering in Church of England parishes and in theological training. For a number of years, he was the Director of Anglican Ministry Training at Oak Hill. This excerpt from pages 16 & 17 of his 2017 book, Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, does a very good job of explaining basic differences.

“The Tractarian Movement of the 19th century famously argued that Anglicanism is the ‘via media’, the middle way of between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism.

“However, even a cursory glance at the 39 Articles and the BCP reveals that is quite simply untenable.

“The Articles clearly articulate a Protestant Reformed theology and that theology finds liturgical expression in the Prayer Book.

“It is important to note that historic Anglicanism is ‘Reformed’ in contradistinction to Roman Catholicism but also at some significant points in contradistinction to other parts of the broader modern evangelical world.

“Firstly, to make clear its Reformed theology over against Roman Catholicism — in particular in its understanding of authority and the content of the gospel — there are two vital questions that need to be addressed and clearly answered, in every age. They are, ‘What is the gospel?” And, “How do you know what the gospel is?”

“Paul’s letter to the Galatians deals with both these questions. The Galatian churches had been infiltrated with false teaching, in fact, with a false gospel. Of all Paul’s letters, this is Paul at his most passionate and forceful. The very life and health of the church is at stake because they have been taught a different gospel to the one Paul preached to them, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the Grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one” (Galatians 1:5-7).

“There is only one gospel, there is no other gospel. The gospel is the Good News of God’s salvation won for us through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If this gospel is changed, distorted, if anything is added to it or removed from it, the gospel is lost and if the gospel is lost men and women will not be saved. It is impossible to overstate its importance and thus the need for clarity and faithfulness in proclaiming this gospel.

“Paul is almost beside himself because these Galatians have been led astray, have allowed themselves to have been led astray by these false teachers and their false gospel. In all of his writings, he never writes with such vehement passion and strong denunciation as he does in these opening verses of Galatians. He could not express himself more forcefully than he does with these words, “if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Literally, ‘let him be anathema’. This a strong word:

“… it thus … means being delivered up and devoted to the judicial wrath of God.” (Fung, Ronald Y.K. The Epistle to the Galatians Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988 p47)

“To be anathema is to be under divine curse, like the Canaanite cities that God utterly destroyed. Paul is saying that he would be damned if he ever preached another gospel. Anyone who teaches another gospel is subject to the wrath and curse of God.” (Ryken, Philip G. Galatians P&R Publishing: Philipsburg, New Jersey 2005 p23)

“There is so much at stake, so the denunciation is so strong. In case his readers thought this was simply Paul writing in the heat of the moment, the fury of a passionate outburst rather than a thoughtful, measured response, he then repeats himself for clarity and emphasis, “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

Used by the kind permission of the author, The Revd Dr Mark Pickles.