Skip to content

From the Church Society of the U.K.: W.H. Griffith Thomas’ Principles of Theology online

February 24, 2011

If you have not seen it yet, the Church Society of the U.K. is engaged in a project to make available online W.H. Griffith Thomas’ Principles of Theology.  This is an ongoing effort in which additional chapters of this work on Anglican doctrine will be posted as they are completed.  At this point, the Preface, Introduction, and Articles I through V are basically complete.  This is a brief excerpt from Dr. J.I. Packer’s Preface to the book:

Though Thomas deals with most of the standard themes of theology, offering superb mental frameworks for both introductory overviews and subsequent deeper research, he casts his book into the form of a one-by-one study of the Articles, rather than a topically organized treatise. This gives it an inescapably episodic character, like a stroll through a department store where treasures and trinkets of all sorts are on sale together. It is a reversion from the method of the two evangelical textbooks which, effectively if not intentionally, Thomas’ book displaced, Litton’s and Handley C. G. Moule’s brilliant little Outlines of Christian Doctrine (1889; fourth (?) printing, 1919), to that of Boultbee. Was this, we ask, the best option? In his preface, Thomas allows that one may wish to ‘study the subject of Dogmatics from a wider standpoint’, but he would certainly have made two points to justify what he did.

First, the Articles retain their place as the Anglican confession – ‘they mark the position of the Church of England as it was re-stated in the sixteenth century, and … they still mark our present position and attitude’– and in view of their  importance, both historical and normative, they ought to be studied in their own terms. Thomas wrote his book, sub-titled ‘An Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles’, to help us do this, and so learn to distinguish the given and fixed ‘theology of the Church of England’ from the opinions, right or wrong, wise or foolish, of individual Anglicans.

Second, an exposition of the Articles is not only a more modest but also a more representatively Anglican undertaking than a comprehensive dogmatics can ever be, just because at so many points the Church of England leaves its adherents free, in John Wesley’s words, to ‘think and let think’. Thomas’ aim clearly was to write a book which demanded to be read, not as a ‘one-man’, ‘party’ statement, however brilliant, but as a solid demonstration of where the Church of England, as by law established, actually stands on questions of doctrinal truth.

Please take a look at this project – it is well done by the Church Society and I look forward to seeing more of it.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. H Lee Poteet permalink
    February 24, 2011 11:15 am

    The Church Society may have changed but it began as a revolt against a demand for obedience to the Book of Common Prayer. It was involved with violence against parishes which acted in obedience to the rubrics of the prayer book. Indeed, I believe its founder died as the result of violence which he initiated.

    • Irene permalink
      February 24, 2011 2:51 pm

      When was the society founded, and what were the leanings of this “revolt” — Cromwellian or Oxford Movement? I have been wondering about the current leanings of this (or any) society still within the established Anglican Communion. I am wary of the possibility that such remaining entities would probably have entered the apostasy of the larger institution.

  2. Irene permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:44 pm

    The entire book is already online as html at Anglican Books Revitalized under the menu for the 39 Articles on which the book is based.

  3. February 24, 2011 3:45 pm

    I have followed the Church Society for a few years; their history as per the website can be found here, at But I don’t know anything about the assertion that they were founded “as a revolt against a demand for obedience to the Book of Common Prayer.” I had the idea that they were primarily against Roman Catholicism and later Tractarianism – what they often called “ritualism” as opposed to a strict observance of the 1662 Prayer Book’s rubrics. If anyone has any sources for the early history of the Church Society I’d be interested.

    I definitely understand any concern about organizations/societies trying to work within the Anglican Communion as it now is, but I DO think if there is a pocket of determined resistance to the depredations of liberalism IN the Anglican Communion, it is this group – at least as they now exist today.

  4. February 17, 2012 9:01 am

    The Church Society’s forebears were established to resist the introduction of Anglo-Catholicism into the Church of England, and have never been opposed to the Prayer Book. On the contrary the Church Society in its constitution seeks to uphold the Book of Common Prayer (as well as the 39 Articles). The posting by H Lee Poteet is incorrect.

    According to its Memorandum the main objective of Church Society is: ‘To maintain the doctrine and worship of the Church of England as set forth in the 39 Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer, as reviewed and adopted in 1662, and to uphold the supreme and exclusive sufficiency and authority of Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation.’

    David Meager
    Church Society

    • February 17, 2012 10:33 am

      Thank you for setting the record straight, and also for the excellent and valuable work you folks at Church Society do. It is very much appreciated.

  5. May 21, 2012 11:22 am

    Thanks Will for your kind words,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: