ECFs vs. WCF, Part 2

Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Catholicism, Church History, Communion, Early Church Fathers, Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Featured, Means of Grace, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Sacraments | 130 comments

In response to those who have insisted that the dogma of transubstantiation is an illegitimate importation of medieval metaphysics into the teachings of the early church fathers (who denied that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the very body and blood of Christ), I would adduce the following passages:

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. – St. Justin Martyr First Apology 66

 

When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him? – St. Irenaeus Against Heresies 5:3

 

For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of Godis no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. – Ibid.4.18.5

 

We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. – Origen Against Celsus 8:33

 

The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been madethe bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lectures 19:7

 

He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? – Ibid. 22.2

 

Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changedIbid. 23.7

 

Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, ‘do show the Lord’s Death.’ – St. Ambrose On the Christian Faith 4, 10:125

 

We have proved the sacraments of the Church to be the more ancient, now recognize that they are superior. In very truth it is a marvellous thing that God rained manna on the fathers, and fed them with daily food from heaven; so that it is said, “So man did eat angels’ food.” But yet all those who ate that food died in the wilderness, but that food which you receive, that living Bread which came down from heaven, furnishes the substance of eternal life; and whosoever shall eat of this Bread shall never die, and it is the Body of Christ. – St. Ambrose, On the Myseries 8.47

 

We ought . . . not regard [the elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit. – Theodore of Mopsuestia Catechetical Homilies 5:1

 

He did not say, ‘This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood,’ but, what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood.” – Theodore of Mopsuestia Commentary on Matthew 26:26

 

Rightly then do we believe that the bread consecrated by the word of God has been changed [Gr., metapoieisthai] into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was bread in power, but it has been sanctified by the dwelling there of the Word, who pitched his tent in the flesh. The change that elevated to divine power the bread that had been transformed into that Body causes something similar now. In that case, the grace of the Word sanctified that Body whose material being came from bread and was, in a certain sense, bread itself. In this case, the bread “is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer,” as the Apostle says, not becoming the Body of the Word through our eating but by being transformed [Gr., metapoiumenos] immediately into the body by means of the word, as the Word himself said, ‘This is my Body.’ . . . He shares himself with every believer through the Flesh whose substance comes from bread and wine . . . in order to bring it about that, by communion with the Immortal, man may share in incorruption. He gives these things through the power of the blessing by which he transelements [Gr., metastoikeiosas] the nature of the visible things [to that of the Immortal]. – St. Gregory of Nyssa The Great Catechism 37

 

He [Jesus] disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. – Ibid.

 

The bread again is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ – St. Gregory of Nyssa Sermon on the Day of Lights or on The Baptism of Christ

 

You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, consecrated by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what the chalice holds, consecrated by the word of God, is the Blood of ChristThrough those accidents the Lord wished to entrust to us His Body and the Blood which He poured out for the remission of sins. – St. Augustine Sermons 227

 

The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s Body. – St. Augustine Sermons 234:2

 

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. ‘This is my body,’ he says. This word transforms the things offered. – St. John Chrysostom Against the Judaizers 1.6

 

Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. – St. Jerome Letter to Heliodorus

 

You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body. – St. Athanasius Sermon to the Newly Baptized

 

Christ said indicating (the bread and wine): ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ in order that you might not judge what you see to be a mere figure. The offerings, by the hidden power of God Almighty, are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood, and by receiving these we come to share in the life-giving and sanctifying efficacy of Christ. – St. Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on Matthew 26, 27

 

The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood. But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out. But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same. – St. John of Damascus Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4:13

We see from these citations (1) that the bread and wine “actually become,” are “transformed into,” “made into,” “turned into,” “supernaturally changed into,” are “trans-elemented into,” are “transmuted into,” and confer “the substance” of (2) the “flesh and blood of the incarnate Christ,” “eternal life,” “the Eucharist,” “the sacred Body and Blood of Christ,” and “the Body of God the Word” (3) by means of the “invocation,” “holy prayers,” “Eucharistic action,” “consecration,” “pronouncement of the words,” and “blessing” of (4) a “priest.”

The Westminster Confession, quite to the contrary, says:

[The bread and wine], in substance and nature, still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before. . . . That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason (xxix.5, 6).

Of course, since (as I cited in the comments of the prior ECF thread) Calvin readily admitted that many of the early fathers overstated their case when speaking of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, it is not being untrue or disloyal to Reformed theology whatsoever to concede that Irenaeus, Justin, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Theodore, John of Damascus, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Jerome, Athanasius, and Augustine all erred when it comes to the actual transformation of the bread and wine into the flesh of the Incarnate Christ by the Eucharistic prayers of a priest.

I mean, if Sola Scriptura is true, then there’s nothing to lose by such a concession, right?

130 Comments

  1. I’d note that even the Carolingian writers who Andrew McCallum mentioned as antecedents of the Reformed view said that the Eucharistic elements were “converted” to the Body and Blood of Christ and that both were really present. Nobody, and I mean literally not one living Christian, before Calvin could have affirmed the WCF’s statement. The guy who came closest, Berengar of Tours, was condemned as a heretic.

    I’m with you; why not just admit that everybody got it wrong for the entire fifteen centuries before the Reformation?

  2. Great series. I’m loving it!

    It makes me smile to think that some Protestants like William Webster would go out of their way to “prove” the ECFs taught Sola Scriptura, despite the fact that even if that were granted for argument’s sake would still require one to conclude the ECFs got all these Catholic teachings from Scripture Alone.

  3. Hmm…

    Augustine:
    “The sacrifice of the Church consiteth of two things, of the visible kind of element, and of the invisible flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; both of the sacrament, and of the thing signified by the sacrament: even as the person of Christ consisteth of God and man, forasmuch as he is very God and very man. For everything containeth in it the very nature of those things whereof it consisteth. Now the sacrifice of the Church consisteth of two things, of the sacrament, and of the thing thereby signified, that is to say, the body of Christ. Therefore there is both the sacrament, and the thing of the sacrament, which is Christ’s body.”

    Chyrsostom:
    “The bread, before it be sanctified, is called bread; but when it is sanctified by the means of the priest, it is delivered from the name of bread, and is exalted to the name of the Lord’s body, although the nature of the bread doth still remain.”

    Irenaeus:
    “that the bread wherein we give thanks to God, although it be of the earth, yet when the name of God is called upon, it is not then common bread, but the bread of thanksgiving, having two things in it, one earthly, and the other heavenly.”

    Gelasius: re: the body and blood of Christ…
    “is a godly thing, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine do not cease to be there still.”

    And Origen, declaring the said eating of Christ’s flesh and drinking of his blood, not be undertood as the words do sound, but figuratively, writeth thus upon these words of Christ, Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you: “Consider,” saith Origen, “that these things, written in God’s books, are figures; and therefore examine and understand them, as spiritual and not as carnal men…” (Thomas Cranmer)

    Ambrose:
    “As thou hast in baptism received the similtude of death, so likewise dost thou in this sacrament drink the similtude of Christ’s precious blood”… “The priest saith, Make unto us this oblation to be acceptable, which is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Augustine:
    “in the sacraments we must not consider what they be, but what they signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another…”
    “to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, is a figuative speech, signifying the participation of his passion, and delectable remembrance to our benefit and profit, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.”

    Gabriel [priest and scholar – 15th century]:
    “It is to be noted, that although it be taught in the Scripture, that the body of Christ is truly contained and received of Christian people under the kinds of bread and wine; yet how the body of Christ is there, whether by conversion of anything into it, or without conversion the body is there with the bread remaining still there, it is not found expressed in the Bible…”

    Johannes Scotus:
    “For the words of the Scripture might be expounded more easily and more plainly without transubstantiation; but the Church chose this sense, which is more hard, being moved thereunto, as it seemeth, chiefly because that of the sacraments men ought to hold as the holy Church of Rome holdeth. But it holdeth that bread is transubstantiate or turned into the body, and wine into the blood…”

    Augustine:
    “Seldom, is any difficulty in proper words, but either the circumstances of the place, or the conferring of divers translations, or else the original tongue wherein it was written, will make the sense plain. But in words that be altered from their proper signification, there is great diligence and heed to be taken And specially we must beware, that we take not literally any thing that is spoken figuratively. For contrariwise, we must not take for a figure, any thing that is spoken properly. Therefore must be declared the manner how to discern a proper speech from a figurative; wherein, must be observed this rule, that if the thing which is spoken be to the furtherance of charity, then it is a proper speech, and no figure. So that if it be a commandment that forbiddeth any evil or wicked act, or commandeth any good or beneficial thing, then it is no figure. But if it command any ill or wicked thing, or forbid anything that is good and beneficial, then it is a figurative speech.”

    Augustine:
    “Now the saying of Christ, ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall have no life in you’, seemeth to command an heinous and a wicked thing; therefore it is a figure, commanding us to be partakers of Christ’s passion, keeping in our minds to our great comfort and profit, that his flesh was wounded for us.”

    “in the sacraments we must not consider what they be, but what they signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another.”

  4. Could you cite the actual sources, Jack?

  5. Jack,

    After searching my Logos library (which contains all the writings of the fathers) for one of your Augustine quotes and repeatedly drawing blanks, I Googled a phrase and was directed to your site, where I found this:

    Of Augustine he quotes:

    “The sacrifice of the Church consiteth of two things, of the visible kind of element, and of the invisible flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; both of the sacrament, and of the thing signified by the sacrament: even as the person of Christ consisteth of God and man, forasmuch as he is very God and very man. For everything containeth in it the very nature of those things whereof it consisteth. Now the sacrifice of the Church consisteth of two things, of the sacrament, and of the thing thereby signified, that is to say, the body of Christ. Therefore there is both the sacrament, and the thing of the sacrament, which is Christ’s body.”

    Cranmer, like the continental Reformers, understood that the preaching of the word and the two sacraments of Baptism and the Supper as doing the same thing but in different ways.

    I trust you’re not quoting Cranmer’s summary of Augustine as though it’s actually Augustine’s words. You’re not doing that, right? Because that “citation” of Augustine shows up nowhere that I can find.

  6. I can’t find your Chrysostom citation anywhere, either. Sources please, or I’m deleting your comment.

  7. It should also be added that just because an ancient Christian witness uses terms like “spiritual” or “symbol” in reference to the Eucharist, this does not by any means suggest it’s ‘purely symbolic’. Terms like those can and did have more rich meaning than that.

    At bare minimum, if a Protestant is honest with the evidence, they would have to go with the Lutheran view that the bread and wine are no mere symbols, but that Jesus is really present, just not in the sense of transubstantiation. But I believe the Catholic view is well demonstrated, especially in the very strong language many of the Father’s used, as well as the fact they affirmed it was a Sacrifice and there was a Christian priesthood. Even John Calvin understood this, which is why Calvin was more truthful when he basically said a plain “proof” that the Church went apostate is precisely because the Mass was the norm of worship for Christianity.

  8. To be fair, Nick, the Reformed DO believe that Christ is really present in the Supper. He is present sacramentally and spiritually, although the substance of the elements doesn’t change at all.

  9. Jack,

    It is easy to misconstrue the meaning of those quotations, by taking them out of context. They are referring to the persistence of accidents (without using the term ‘accidents’) while the substance changes. They were also denying the Capharnaite heresy, and this denial does not entail Zwinglianism or consubstantialism. The notion that if the Eucharist is symbolic, then transubstantiation cannot be true, is a non sequitur, because it is both sacrament and thing signified, at the same time

    Augustine:

    The sacrifice of the Church consiteth of two things, of the visible kind of element [i.e. the accidents], and of the invisible flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ [the substance of Christ; both of the sacrament [i.e. the accidents], and of the thing signified by the sacrament [the substance of Christ; ]: even as the person of Christ consisteth of God and man, forasmuch as he is very God and very man. For everything containeth in it the very nature of those things whereof it consisteth. Now the sacrifice of the Church consisteth of two things, of the sacrament [i.e. the accidents], and of the thing thereby signified [the substance of Christ, that is to say, the body of Christ. Therefore there is both the sacrament, and the thing of the sacrament, which is Christ’s body.”

    Chyrsostom:

    “The bread, before it be sanctified, is called bread; but when it is sanctified by the means of the priest, it is delivered from the name of bread, and is exalted to the name of the Lord’s body, although the nature [i.e. the accidents/appearance of bread] of the bread doth still remain.”

    Irenaeus:

    “that the bread wherein we give thanks to God, although it be of the earth, yet when the name of God is called upon, it is not then common bread, but the bread of thanksgiving, having two things in it, one earthly [i.e. the accidents of bread], and the other heavenly [the substance of Christ,”

    Gelasius: re: the body and blood of Christ…

    “is a godly thing, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine [i.e. the accidents/appearance of bread and wine], do not cease to be there still.”

    Origen

    “Consider,” saith Origen, “that these things, written in God’s books, are figures; and therefore examine and understand them, as spiritual and not as carnal men [i.e. as a change only of substance, not as the Capharaites took it]…”

    Ambrose:

    “As thou hast in baptism received the similtude of death, so likewise dost thou in this sacrament drink the similtude of Christ’s precious blood” [i.e. because Capharnaitism is false. The denial of Capharnaitism does not entail the denial of transubstantiation. The sacramental separation of the Body and Blood signifies the death of Christ, and because the content of the Chalice symbolizes Christ’s Blood, it is a similitude, while at the same time by the miraculous transformation at the consecration it is also in substance Christ’s Blood)]…

    “The priest saith, Make unto us this oblation to be acceptable, which is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ [because the Eucharist is both figure and thing signified, in distinct respects

    Augustine:

    “in the sacraments we must not consider what they be [i.e. according to their accidents/appearances], but what they signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing [in appearance/accidents], and signifying another [i.e. Christ’s substance which is invisible]…”

    “to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, is a figuative speech [because Capharnaitism is false], signifying the participation of his passion, and delectable remembrance to our benefit and profit, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.”

    The quotations by Gabriel and Scotus are self-explanatory.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Hi Jason,

    These passages you are quoting should be subjected to exegesis. These passages indeed can be taken to mean that these people really believed that the bread and wine is really transubstantiated to the full divinity, body and blood of Christ when he was incarnate. But this seems to be the question that we should ask.

    For example, if we take the Justin Martyr’s quotation, there are good exegesis of the text that may not be supportive of the view above. I will summarize this below:

    Here’s the quote:

    For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. – St. Justin Martyr First Apology 66

    So Justin explains,

    “For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these,” – He is saying that bread and wine are not “common” anymore. But nevertheless they are still bread and wine.

    “but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught” — So he gives the reason why the bread and wine is believed to be special not “common” anymore when used to celebrate the Eucharist. He said that such belief is rooted in their acceptance that Jesus Christ was made incarnate, having flesh and blood. And the mention of flesh and blood is an allusion to the cross which is “for our salvation”.

    “the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him,” — Because of what they believe about Christ being made incarnate on which the food (bread and wine) has correspondence when used in the ritual.

    “and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured,” — that food (bread and wine) is digested (transmuted) and nurtures our own blood and flesh. The word “transmutation” is not the same as “transubstantiation” where the bread and wine changes into the full divinity, body and blood of Christ. It is the rather referring to the digestion of food which nouriches our bodies.

    “is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” — Here’s the issue. How does the word “IS” function here? The function of “IS” can be taken in different senses. If I hold a picture and say, “This IS me”, does that connote that the picture is me literally? Or does it mean that the picture corresponds to some reality of me? I think Justin is saying that the bread and wine are not “common” anymore because they correspond to the flesh and blood of Christ when used in the Eucharistic celebration. He is not saying that the “food” is really Christ in full divinity, body and blood upon which we digest.

    This interpretation has support in the succeeding sentences of that quote because he refers to the “mysteries of Mithras”. His understanding of the Eucharist seems to be influenced by the hellenistic cults which were prevalent in his days. That word “mystery” refers to “the sacramental rites which constitutes the true event of the mystery, the cultic actualization of the deity, which shows itself to be present in the sacred drama, in the exposition by the hierophants of the sacred symbols and the pronouncement of the accompanying formulae, and which enters into santifying sacramental fellowship with the devotees. Because this encounter takes place in the mystery liturgy, the sacred actions and objects must be protected from all profanation (Kittel Vol.4, p. 807)”. The objects remain to be symbols though now endowed with special purpose. The symbols themselves do not become the diety but the tool on which true events of the mystery are explained or expounded. If this is the background of Justin’s understanding, though unbiblical and far from the it’s Jewish heritage of the Passover as the true background of the Eucharist, then the concept of transubstantiation, a later Arestolian concept, can not be accepted as a development of Justin’s understanding.

    Secondly, Justin argues against eating human flesh and blood as a misrepresentation of the Christian faith. It seems very strange that at this point, if we take his words to mean that bread and wine is really and literally flesh and blood, he becomes inconsistent and gave in the accusations which he calls a misrepresentation. This is highly unlikely.

    What do you think? How do you exegete the passage then and can you give me reasons why “IS” in that quote should function the way you want them to function in your interpreation.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  11. Guys,

    For anyone who cares, this is a rather good article by A.N.S. Lane on the development of tradition and its relation to Scripture in Christian history. I think it is pertinent to some of the discussions about the ECFs here:

    http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol09/scripture_lane.pdf

  12. Jason, the quotes are from Thomas Cranmer’s Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (1550). Arguing against transubstantiation, he cites the sources in his book. It could be argued that Cranmer was a scholar of the early church fathers exceeded be none of his time. He certainly, as Abp of England, had the most extensive theological library in Europe (see McCulloch’s Cranmer bio) I doubt he was manufacturing quotes. His work was replied to by Roman Catholic bishop Stephen Gardiner. I don’t recall any question that he raised as to the quotes Cranmer cites. By the way, there are some citations on my blog for some of the quotes. But you would have to go to Google Books to get Cranmer’s work.

    My reason for citing these quotes is to at least show that it isn’t always crystal clear (as you seem want to make it) as to where the ECFs stood on this and other doctrines. It is all too easy for moderns to read modern understandings, definitions, and usages of words back into their writings… and as a result, misconstrue ECF positions.

  13. +JMJ+

    Joey Henry wrote:

    “is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” — Here’s the issue. How does the word “IS” function here? The function of “IS” can be taken in different senses. If I hold a picture and say, “This IS me”, does that connote that the picture is me literally? Or does it mean that the picture corresponds to some reality of me? I think Justin is saying that the bread and wine are not “common” anymore because they correspond to the flesh and blood of Christ when used in the Eucharistic celebration. He is not saying that the “food” is really Christ in full divinity, body and blood upon which we digest.

    Thank you, Bill Clinton.

    Yes, Virginia, one can exegete the hell out of anything. The letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.

    But as Jason said earlier in this series, “what are the chances, if the teaching from the WCF is true and the Eucharist is no sacrifice at all, that we’d find enough statements from the ECFs about the Eucharist being a true sacrifice to rip from their contexts and build such a specious case in the first place?”

  14. Wosbald,

    I’d like to know what are the chances that the Roman Catholics around here would actually care what the ECFs meant in their context and whether they are addressing the same issues as the WCF.

  15. To Jason “the Prosecutor” Stellman and his WWE tag-team partner, Bryan “the Iron” Cross–

    The modern dictionary meaning of “transform” indicates a complete change in composition (substance), appearance (accidents), or character (nature, essence). These changes occur from composition to composition (grapes are transformed into grape juice is transformed into wine), from appearance to appearance (I dye my hair and buy a new wardrobe), or from character to character (the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in one day).

    In modern parlance, at any rate, apart from the unique example of the Eucharist, one cannot speak of transformation of substance apart from accident. For a “plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage” it must change in appearance, otherwise Cinderella will be sorely disappointed. It’s somewhat difficult to jump into what looks exactly like a pumpkin and make one’s way to the prince’s ball pulled along by a team of white rats. Likewise, a magician cannot tell his audience that this here handkerchief still looks like a handkerchief, but really, underneath it all, it’s a white dove…and it’s flying away…see it go? 😉

    That is not to dismiss the Catholic sacramental transformation as irrational, but to wonder whether it is a natural way to speak of a “transformation,” and whether we can construe the ECF’s to speak in such an unnatural manner.

    By the by, Bryan’s replacement of many terms (form, nature, substance, thing, sacrament) with “accidents” seems forced, arbitrary, and anachronistic….to me, at any rate.

  16. By the by, Bryan’s replacement of many terms (form, nature, substance, thing, sacrament) with “accidents” seems forced, arbitrary, and anachronistic….to me, at any rate.

    – not to mention, convenient and reductionist.

  17. Eric,

    In modern parlance, at any rate, apart from the unique example of the Eucharist, one cannot speak of transformation of substance apart from accident.

    You just did. So it can be done.

    to wonder whether it is a natural way to speak of a “transformation,”

    Of course it is not *natural*. We’re speaking of a miracle. It is not “natural” to speak of three Persons in one Substance. The Church has to stretch ordinary language because the infinite God stepped into reality. The notion that when language is applied to the supernatural, it cannot mean more than it means in reference to the natural, is semiotic deism, dictating by arbitrary semantic stipulation that words cannot mean more than if the incarnation had never happened. If you want to talk about God becoming man, and all the implications of that event, ordinary language has to stretch.

    By the by, Bryan’s replacement of many terms (form, nature, substance, thing, sacrament) with “accidents” seems forced, arbitrary, and anachronistic….to me, at any rate.

    Of course the technical definitions of those terms (‘substance’ and ‘accident’) as applied to the sacraments, is anachronistic. That’s precisely why during that time period you see the use of various terms, because there wasn’t yet an accepted standardized technical terminology to account for what was taking place. And if you think the explanations I added above are forced, please add analogous commentary to all the quotations in Jason’s post, and let’s compare which one is more ‘forced.’

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. @Robert:
    We care a great deal. In fact, if you haven’t noticed, I actually care more about being historically accurate than defending my own religion or convincing anybody to join it. Ca
    What Jason and Bryan are saying is essentially reflective of contemporary scholarship, while you are citing Lane’s generic article published before I was crawling. It’s gotten much worse for you since Eastern Orthodox scholars started publishing scholarly patristic literature, but you’re acting like the last forty years never happened.

  19. +JMJ+

    Mateo wrote:

    That said, I understand that you can claim to be a “Thomist” without being charged as man holding to a heretical view point. I would hope that you can see that my “Mostian” views are also legitimate for me to hold as a practicing Catholic. We both cannot be right, but we could also both be wrong.

    *facepalm*

    Of course, you can both be “right”. In abstractly dealing with the root mysteries of Nature and Faith, though there is such a thing as being “wrong” (i.e. heretical), there is can be no such thing as being exclusively “right”. If there could be, Jesus wouldn’t have had to have come personally to be The Way (“in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”). Instead, God could have just delivered some systems and equations that would reveal the “solutions” to Life, the Universe and Everything.

  20. +JMJ+

    Whoops. Wrong thread.

  21. Jack,

    … not to mention, convenient and reductionist…

    What I find convenient is citing a bunch of unsourced ECF quotes from a Protestant Reformer’s book, quotes that either seem not to exist elsewhere else, or at best are exceedingly difficult to find. In fact, on your site you preface most of them with the words, “Of Chrysostom Cranmer writes:”, making it sound like you’re actually citing Cranmer’s summaries and not the ECFs themselves.

    Again, sources please.

  22. @Joey:
    By your reading, the conclusion has no logical relationship to the background, and your assertion that it is “nevertheless still bread and wine” is entirely tendentious with respect to the concepts at issue in this discussion. There’s no reason for St. Justin to mention the Incarnation and then connect it by “so, too” with the statement that the bread and wine are “made into” the Eucharist. There’s not a word about any allusion to the Cross there; he’s connecting the Incarnation to the Eucharist.

    Moreover, that is consistent with the patristic view locating salvation primarily in the Incarnation and only derivatively in the the sacrifice on the Cross. So you’ve let your Protestant bias show by anachronistically putting an allusion to the Cross where Justin mentions only the Incarnation and salvation. That’s a good example of why I say that Protestants have to manufacture support anachronistically. It’s certainly not in the text anywhere, nor is there any historical reason to think it would be intended.

  23. @Joey:
    One more thing: you’ve completely ignored the significance of the transmutation you identified in patristic theology. The whole point is that the mingling of the divinized body and blood through ingestion actually produces a spiritual change in us. That part also fits into the connection with the Incarnation; it is an early example of theosis that will already be extremely well-developed in St. Cyril of Alexandria, known as the seal of the Fathers. So even the distinction you identify weakens your exegetical case; if there is no theology of divinization, this would be a pointless, off-hand reference to digestion.

  24. Gee Jason – thanks for thinking the best about me… You may have not noticed that quotation marks are used in the English translation (Cranmer wrote in Latin) to show which words are those of the fathers which he quotes as opposed to the words of his own argument. Rather than having a discussion, you seem more interested in putting me in the dock and disallowing evidence.

    Well you asked for it. I hope you can read Latin, because Cranmer and Gardiner wrote in Latin. By the way, I told you where to find the sources (Cranmer’s book) and told you where to find it (Google Books). Have you gone there? So what’s with the high dungeon? Any way, here is an update I just added at my blog on my third post on this Lord’s Supper issue:

    A question has been raised as to the authenticity of the early church fathers’ quotes in this and the previous two posts. So, I am adding this Link to Authorities in Appendix which is A Collection of Authorities cited by Cranmer and others in the Controversy on the Lord’s Supper ‘. In addition here is a footnote from the first page of that Appendix:

    1 [Cranmer and his adversaries in the Eucharistic controversy seldom printed more than a version of the authorities which they cited : and mutual charges of mistranslation were the result. To enable the reader to form his own judgment on these charges, without referring to the voluminous works of the Fathers, a large number of the original passages have here been extracted. They have been arranged in chronological order, partly for convenience of reference, and partly for the purpose of presenting a series of citations on the Lord’s Supper, from the time of Ignatius, A. I). 101, to that of the Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, when the doctrine of transubstantiation was finally established. The inquiry, it will be remembered, may be pursued further, by referring also to those authorities, which, being quoted by the contending parties in the original language, it has been thought unnecessary to repeat here.]

    Me: Cranmer’s and his Roman Catholic adversary in this dispute wrote their works in Latin. Thus the citations are in Latin. I take the editors meaning to be that any disagreement over translation had to do with the citations of those writers who wrote in Greek or, in addition, subsequent English translations. This is a common area of disagreement in these kind of disputations. That being said, the quotes are sourced.

  25. I’m not impugning your motives or questioning your integrity, Jack. I was just puzzled that many of the quotes were traceable to nowhere outside Cranmer’s book. That just seems suspicious to me.

  26. Jason, your 10:52pm request for a citation can be found as a footnote at the bottom of page 328 of Cranmer’s book:

    Hesychius, In Levit. lib. ii. cap. 3. ” Simul panis et caro est.” Gregorius, in Registro. ” Tarn atymum quum termentatum dum su- ” mimus, unum corpus Domini salvatoris efficimur.” Rabanus dicit, ” Sacramentum in alimentum corporis redigi.” Embd.

    And your 11:03pm request regarding the Chrysostom quote: the citation can be found at the bottom of page 325 –

    P Ad Casarium Monachum. [A few passages only of this Epistle are preserved in Greek, by Jo. Damascene, Anastasius, and Nicephorus. A Latin version is the sole authority for the remainder. Its genuineness was disputed by Gardyner, and has been the subject of much controversy since. Its history is curious. Attention was first directed to it by Peter Martyr, who brought a copy to England, which he presented to Cranmer. When the Archbishop’s library was dispersed at his death, this copy disappeared, and as Peter Martyr had not stated from whence it was procured, Cardinal Perron ventured to charge him with having forged it. But in 1680, the accusation was proved to be false by the discovery of the original manuscript in the library of the Dominican monastery of St. Mark at Florence. It was immediately printed, together with the extracts extant in Greek and a preface, by the discoverer, Emeric Bigot; but some doctors of the Sorbonne interfered, and prevented its publication. The Latin version however was given to the world in 1685, by Stephen Le Moyne, in his Varia Sacra; and in the fol lowing year, Wake, into whose hands the very leaves cut out at Paris had fallen, reprinted the whole in one of his tracts against Bossuet. The evidence in its favour derived from the citations in Damascene, &c. is very conclusive, and has induced even the Roman Catholic writers, Bigot, Hardouin, and Dupin, to place it among the genuine works of Chrysostom. But the Benedictine editor Montfaucon condemns it as spurious, though he takes pains to explain away the expressions which it contains against transubstantiation. Walchius, on the other side, says, ” Contra pontificios satis probatum est, Epistolae hujus auctorem omnino ” esse Chrysostomum.” See Gardyner, Explication, book v. cap. 5. Confutatio Cavillationum, &c. Object. 201. Cranmer, Disputation with Harpsfteld at Oxford. Wake, Defence of the Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church of England. Burnet, Reformat, vol. iii. p. 362. Chrysostom. Opera, ed. Bened. torn. iii. p. 736. Dupin, Eccles. Writers, Cent. v. Walchius, Biblioth. Patrist. p. 224. where is a list of other authors who have written on the subject.]

    If you want any more you can search them for yourself in Cranmer’s “Defence” via Google Books.
    cheers…

  27. As that last footnote shows, not everything is easily found or available through the usual sources. Again, everyone Cranmer quoted in his “Defence” was footnoted on the page where the quote occurs. He was a meticulous scholar.

  28. OK, thanks. I do think that Bryan has been helpful in showing that those citations are perfectly consistent with the idea (then still undeveloped) that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine change while the accidents remain.

    Is this the only way to read these texts? Perhaps not, but it does seem the most plausible.

    As I said in the last ECF thread, if the WCF reflects what the early church believed, and there is no substantial change in the bread and wine whatsoever (the very idea being “repugnant”), then the likelihood of there being this much evidence to argue about is incredibly low. To play my paradigm card, if the WCF reflected what the ECFs thought, they just wouldn’t have said things the way they did.

  29. Regarding the WCF word “repugnant” consider what Augustine wrote:

    “Now the saying of Christ, ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall have no life in you’, seemeth to command an heinous and a wicked thing; therefore it is a figure, commanding us to be partakers of Christ’s passion, keeping in our minds to our great comfort and profit, that his flesh was wounded for us.”

    And therefore St. Ausgustine saith, Contra Maximinum (source), that:

    “in the sacraments we must not consider what they be, but what they signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another.”

  30. Jack,

    You keep treating the patristic rejection of the Capharnaite error as a rejection of substantial change. But those are not the same, as I mentioned above, and explained in comments #4 and #24 at this link.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Bryan–

    Sorry, Bryan, but that’s not how this works. Your parenthetical clarifications sound nothing but wrenched in these contexts, and mine would sound equally wrenched in Jason’s quotations.

    JND Kelly, in his section on the Eucharistic Presence in Early Christian Doctrines (pp.440ff) explains that two contradictory positions were held simultaneously by the majority of the ECF’s. Though there were a few proto-Memorialists, the concept of the Real Presence predominated. One version (which Kelly appears to portray as the original) posits the bread and wine as signs signifying a present reality: the actual glorified (and thus spiritual) body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, apprehended by faith alone. The second version (which he portrays as a development of the first) is much more materialistic, a proto-transubstantiation, if you will. Many of the major ECF’s overlap these two views unapologetically, blaming their lack of capability to explicate the interlocking details on the inscrutability of mystery.

  32. @Jack:
    Augustine doesn’t mean “figure” in the sense of “metaphor,” else he would not refer to participation in Christ’s Passion. Augustine was actually incredibly advanced in his metaphysics of signs, although he did very little systematic exposition (John Deely has done a great deal of work in this area). His concept of signs was in the sense that rain clouds are signs of rain; the cloud itself is not the rain, but one’s knowledge of the rain is necessarily linked to one’s correct perception of the sign. In other words, Augustine did not mean a so-called “conventional sign,” some image invested with meaning arbitrarily by culture, but a real sign (i.e. an ontological relation between two things perceptible by a person).

    That’s a problem for Kelly’s analysis as well, by the way. Almost none of this analysis, particularly in the case of Augustine, has been updated in view of the revolutionary upheaval of Augustine as a Platonist theologian. All of the recent works on Augustine have come out the other way, but these conclusions on the Eucharist aren’t ever revisited. Kelly likewise came before much of the intensive studies of theosis, which have done much to rebut the artificial separation between the views Kelly outlines.

    In short, you kids are still living in the mid-eighties (or earlier) when it comes to patristic theology.

  33. Kelly is so Charles in Charge. We need some Breaking Bad theology up in here.

  34. You don’t want to see me on meth. I’m hyper enough as it is.

  35. Since the discussion.has primarily shifted to Augustine….

    That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend HIS BODY AND BLOOD, WHICH HE POURED OUT FOR US UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” (Sermons 227)

    “The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, BECOMES CHRIST’S BODY.” (Sermons 234:2)

    “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that THE BREAD IS THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE CHALICE [WINE] THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.” (Sermons 272)

    “How this [‘And he was carried in his own hands’] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: ‘THIS IS MY BODY.’ FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS.” (Psalms 33:1:10)

    “Was not Christ IMMOLATED only once in His very Person? In the Sacrament, nevertheless, He is IMMOLATED for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being IMMOLATED.” (Letters 98:9)

    “Christ is both the Priest, OFFERING Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the SACRAMENTAL SIGN of this should be the daily Sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to OFFER herself through Him.” (City of God 10:20)

    “By those sacrifices of the Old Law, this one Sacrifice is signified, in which there is a true remission of sins; but not only is no one forbidden to take as food the Blood of this Sacrifice, rather, all who wish to possess life are exhorted to drink thereof.” (Questions on the Heptateuch 3:57)

    “Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator is OFFERED for them, or when alms are given in the church.” (Ench Faith, Hope, Love 29:110)

    “But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the SALVIFIC SACRIFICE, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH OBSERVES THIS PRACTICE WHICH WAS HANDED DOWN BY THE FATHERS that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the Sacrifice itself; and the Sacrifice is OFFERED also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, the works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.” (Sermons 172:2)

    “…I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, AND GAVE US THE SAME FLESH TO BE EATEN UNTO SALVATION. BUT NO ONE EATS THAT FLESH UNLESS FIRST HE ADORES IT; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; AND NOT ONLY DO WE NOT SIN BY ADORING, WE DO SIN BY NOT ADORING.” (Psalms 98:9)

    Phil P. Notes that Augustine believed….

    (1) The bread having been sanctified “IS THE BODY OF CHRIST”

    (2) The wine having been sanctified “IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST”

    (3) We know Christ in the breaking of the bread; and not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ “BECOMES CHRIST’S BODY.”

    (4) When Christ said “THIS IS MY BODY” He carried “HIS OWN BODY” in “HIS OWN HANDS”

    (5) Christ is “IMMOLATED” (sacrificed in an unbloody manner) in the Eucharist every day (this is not a re-crucifixion but a re-presentation or “making present” before the Father for our benefit and application of His one and only Sacrifice)

    (6) Christ is Priest and Victim OFFERING Himself and in the daily Sacrifice His Body the Church OFFERS herself through/with Him

    (7) All who wish to have eternal life must take as food and drink the Blood of Christ’s Sacrifice in Holy Communion

    (8) The souls of the dead in Christ find relief through the Sacrifice of the Mediator OFFERED for them and through the prayers of the living Body of Christ on earth

    (9) The WHOLE Church observes this practice handed down from the Fathers — the prayers of the Holy Church, the salvific Sacrifice, and alms and works of piety and mercy are offered for those who have died “in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ” so that the Lord might deal more mercifully with their sins

    (10) Christ gave us His own flesh “to be eaten unto salvation” and no one eats that flesh unless He ADORES (worships) it in the Holy Eucharist since Christ is truly present and took flesh in the Incarnation

  36. JP – As I wrote earlier, my reason for the quotes was to show or suggest that not everything the ECFs wrote fits neatly into a set theological box and at times is less than clear as different statements are compared and contrasted. I’m not a scholar and won’t pretend to be one. I think to authoritatively opine on this stuff one would need to be an early church history/theological scholar who is fluent in Latin of that period, as well as Greek. It does occur to me that your analysis of difficult quotes might be inspired by a preset conviction that the ECFs obviously believed everything you and the RCC believe. My understanding and belief concerning the Lord’s Supper (i.e. the Reformed doctrines) isn’t troubled by the fact that different views may very well have been held by different ECFs and that anyone of them in particular might not have always been speaking in a consistent way.

    If the RCC’s teaching is truth and authoritative, I don’t see why it is necessary to treat ECF history as if it always must fit neatly into the “paradigm.” In matters of doctrine they’re not infallible… Heck, even Pope Francis tends to put out ambiguous statements that cause even Roman Catholics to debate and argue over what he has said and what he means – some even becoming dismayed.

  37. All,

    “Now the saying of Christ, ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall have no life in you’, seemeth to command an heinous and a wicked thing; therefore it is a figure, commanding us to be partakers of Christ’s passion, keeping in our minds to our great comfort and profit, that his flesh was wounded for us.”

    I found this quote in Augustine’s writings in context. It can be found in On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 16.

    Here is New Advent’s quote:

    If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53 This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share [communicandem] in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory [in memoria] of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. Scripture says: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink;” and this is beyond doubt a command to do a kindness. But in what follows, “for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head,” one would think a deed of malevolence was enjoined.

    It’s talking not about Christ’s body and blood but rather His command. So what is figurative is you have no life in you and not Christ’s Body and Blood.

    It’s interesting how Protestants take the words and twist them so…

  38. @Jack:
    That’s a fair point, but given the voluminous secondary scholarship in English, I think it’s fair to say that non-specialists can still learn the field awfully well these days. My point is that it shouldn’t be about bias so much as just gathering the best and most accurate information there is at this point.

    In my case, at least, it’s not about trying to fit the Fathers into a Catholic box. It is, rather, pointing out that there is no way for Protestants to put medieval Catholics in a box without putting the Fathers in the same box. If we can agree that sola fide, sola Scriptura and sola gratia were all clearly and unanimously violated by the Fathers, then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether they were wrong to do so. But if we can’t agree on those basic historical facts, even though we should be able to agree in an unbiased way, that’s a problem.

  39. @Dennis:
    I’m not following. Augustine seems to be distinguishing the sacramental (figurative) mode from actual cannibalism, actual bodily harm inflicted on Jesus. At least, that’s how I read it even in that context.

  40. Jonathan,

    The title of the chapter is Rule for Interpreting Commands and Prohibitions..

    So, Augustine starts out by talking about Christ’s commands. He says in the first sentence that if it’s “forbidding a crime” or enjoining an “act of prudence” then it’s NOT FIGURATIVE. If the command is enjoining a crime or vice or forbidding an act of prudence then it’s FIGURATIVE.

    So the next sentence says that eating His flesh…you have no life in you. It’s figurative because it’s saying “unless you eat His flesh, you have NO LIFE. Having no life is figurative (because the reader obviously has life).

    Augustine is saying that sharing in the sufferings of our Lord (by eating His flesh and drinking His blood) brings a “sweet memory” of Christ’s sufferings for us.

    I don’t see Augustine saying that eating His flesh is figurative.

  41. … how Protestants take the words and twist them so…

    Are you sure that you are not? We may disagree, but rather than throwing darts and insults let’s discuss what Augustine is saying. He’s talking about two different commands in the context of how to interpret difficult passages of Scripture (see longer quote below), and as an example of John 6:53. Here Augustine says that 6:53 seems or appears “to enjoin a crime or vice.” Why? Because to literally eat someone’s flesh or drink their blood would be a crime or vice. Especially given the Mosaic law. Therefore is is a figure. He is explaining how to understand this verse about the command to eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood. Since it seems to enjoin a crime or vice then we should take it figuratively and instead “share [communicandem] in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory [in memoria] of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.” The other command is a straight forward kindness and thus is to be take literally as far as loving our enemy, but not as to literally heap burning coals on his head (figure).

    When the disciples complained to Jesus about this hard saying, Jesus said,

    “But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Doth this cause you to stumble? What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.” (vs. 61-63)

    Jesus appears to be saying that the meaning to be applied to the previous command to “eat… and drink…” is to be understood in something other than a literal meaning. I know you disagree with that.

    Here is the fuller context for Augustine’s quote. It concerns how to tell which Scriptures should be taken literally and which ones are to be taken figuratively:

    “Seldom is any difficulty in proper words, but either the circumstance of the place, or the conferring of divers translations, or else the original tongue wherein it was written will make the sense plain. But in words that be altered from their proper signification, there is great diligence and heed to be taken. And specially we must beware that we take not literally any thing that is spoken figuratively*. Nor contrariwise, we must not take for a figure, any thing that is spoken properly. Therefore must be declared the manner how to discern a proper speech from a figurative; wherein, must be observed this rule, that if the thing which is spoken be to the furtherance of charity, then it is a proper speech, and no figure. So that if it be a commandment that forbiddeth any evil or wicked act, or commandeth any good or beneficial thing, then it is no figure. But if it command any ill or wicked thing, or forbid any thing that is good and beneficial, then it is a figurative speech. Now this saying of Christ, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall have no life in you, seemeth to command an heinous and a wicked thing; therefore it is a figure, commanding us to be partakers of Christ’s passion, keeping in our minds to our great comfort and profit, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.”

    This is briefly the sentence of St. Augustine, in his book De Doctrina Christiana.

  42. In Augustine’s Tracts on the Gospel of John, specifically his commentary on John 6 and the Bread of Life discourse, Augustine is very clearly linking it to the Eucharist. He says in this context that the Sacrament is partaken in most places weekly, some places monthly, and some places daily. He includes other details such as how Jesus uses ‘graphic language’ of not merely eating, but rather Jesus uses a graphic term for ‘chewing on’ flesh in a meat-eating sense.

  43. Jonathan–

    This is a first. I have never heard a Catholic deny “sola gratia” before. Care to elaborate?

  44. Jonathan,

    The “so to” was defined in the statement. It is refering to the verbs “received” and “taught”. Just as Christ taught them about his becoming flesn so they were taught and received by the same Christ that the bread and wine corresponds to his flesh and blood. Then “so too” does not mean that the bread and wine took on flesh and blood.

    Regarding the incarnation and the cross, I suggest you read more of the patristics. By separating the two, you operated on concept foreign to their thoughts. For, in the writings of the fathers, the incarnation culminates in the cross and without it, the cross is impossible. As summarized by a 5th century writer, “Whoever denies the incarnation of God, clearly denies his death too, because death can not be believed unless the incarnation must be first proved” (Dissertation VIII).

    Thanks,
    Joey

  45. Bryan, if JJS can press Jack on his sources, I wonder if you might provide yours for Augustine having in mind the so-called Capharnaite error when referring to the figurative language. From what Dennis is saying, I don’t see this error in view in context.

  46. Jonathan,

    In my case, at least, it’s not about trying to fit the Fathers into a Catholic box.

    I’m sorry, I would like to believe you but then you say this:

    It is, rather, pointing out that there is no way for Protestants to put medieval Catholics in a box without putting the Fathers in the same box. If we can agree that sola fide, sola Scriptura and sola gratia were all clearly and unanimously violated by the Fathers, then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether they were wrong to do so. But if we can’t agree on those basic historical facts, even though we should be able to agree in an unbiased way, that’s a problem.

    It’s more than anachronistic to say that that the Fathers violated ideas that only came to the surface centuries later as the result of protests against certain abuses in the medieval church. It’s just as anachronistic to claim that any of the Fathers embraced Protestant doctrine that was formulated in response to abuses in the medieval church. The best any of us can claim is that the Fathers lean more towards later RC, EO, or Protestant developments than any of the others. And even then, one would have to consider particular issues.

    Take sola Scriptura. What is the point of sola Scriptura in the Protestant formulation? The point is that the only things Christians should believe and are binding for salvation are those things that the apostles taught and that when you find a teaching that is demonstrably not in the apostolic deposit, it is not orthodox.

    When it comes to the Fathers, they—in a sense—have a more fluid view of apostolic tradition than later Protestants. Part of this is due to the fact that there was no complete canon until the fourth century (though there was a canonical core quite early). Part of it is trouble communicating across the empire. But it is clear that they held to what they held to because they were convinced that was taught by the apostles, and it is equally clear that if they could be convinced that something they held to was not taught by the apostles, that they would reject it. That comes out again and again in their controversy with the gnostics. Gnostic teaching was to be rejected because it could be shown not to be what the apostles taught.

    I’m sorry, but that position is not fundamentally different from what sola Scriptura is trying to say. There may be a difference as to how one reliably identifies apostolic teaching, which is somewhat less pressing in the second century than it is in the middle ages when scores of accretions had attached themselves to the church, and the Council of Trent presupposes that even the portion of the Western Church that became Roman Catholicism understood that accretions had crept in. Even here, the whole process of canonization puts a primacy on certain claimants to apostolic tradition. If some traditions are not more truly and more surely apostolic than others, why have a canon at all? If Scripture is not to have the heaviest weight of all, why so much discussion about it?

    Speaking of recent scholarship, I was reading McGuckin’s handbook on patristic theology today on Tradition, and he says that at least for Irenaeus, Apostolicity had more to do with who had the Apostolic faith than with the visible succession of bishops. Origen essentially viewed all appointed teachers as being on the same basic level as bishops as far as teaching authority. While I would not want to call either of those men Protestants (or RC or EO), those sentiments are certainly contrary to the repeated RC emphasis that you find the church by finding the bishop with a line of succession back to Peter. At the very least, they seriously undermine it.

    Certain elements of patristic teaching anticipate Protestantism. Certain anticipate RC. It’s historically irresponsible to claim otherwise, just as it is historically irresponsible to call Athanasius a Presbyterian.

  47. I do think that Bryan has been helpful in showing that those citations are perfectly consistent with the idea (then still undeveloped) that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine change while the accidents remain.

    But Jason, these citations are also consistent with the Orthodox position that there is no change in substance. The Orthodox are not stupid. They look at the same ECF’s as you do and come to a different conclusion on the issue of a change in substance. The ECF’s argue for change with a great deal of poetic and metaphorical language but I don’t see any of them arguing that the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine.

    But as pointed out before to you, the WCF is not directed against the ECF’s. I think this is obviously since the WCF speaks to “transubstantiation” and issues around “substance,” concepts and terms peculiar to the High and Late Medieval eras. The WCF takes on Medieval notions of sacrifice of the mass and it’s propitiatory nature.

    But you are of course correct that the Reformed don’t agree with the EO understanding of the change of the sacraments at consecration. But the difference with the EO’s is like that with the Lutherans – it’s not a thing which challenges something basic about Reformed theology. Let’s just say that the ECF’s are correct and there is some sort of sacramental and mystical change in the elements. How does this affect Reformed theology? Not much that I can see. If it did then we would not allow the Lutherans to our table.

    Bottom line is you need to understand the WCF in its historical context, not the context of an era over 1000 years previous.

  48. Andrew,

    the Orthodox position that there is no change in substance.

    No, that’s not the Orthodox position. The Orthodox position does not *deny* that there is a change in substance, but rather chooses not to explain the nature of the change by way of metaphysical terms, and that’s compatible with the truth of the Catholic position.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. @Dennis:

    So the next sentence says that eating His flesh…you have no life in you. It’s figurative because it’s saying “unless you eat His flesh, you have NO LIFE. Having no life is figurative (because the reader obviously has life).

    I agree with Jack, though, that the point is that this sentence would otherwise be commanding cannibalism. In other words, the “you have no life” is not the command; it is, rather, a command to eat flesh and blood, which therefore cannot refer to direct consumption. In other words, the Eucharist is not cannibalism; it is sacramental (figurative).

    @Eric:

    This is a first. I have never heard a Catholic deny “sola gratia” before. Care to elaborate?

    Depending on how it’s interpreted, I don’t deny it either, but there are some who believe that grace in this context is absolutely opposed to works, i.e., that works, whether products of grace or not, are ineffective to salvation and that they play no part in justification. That is not a view one finds in the Fathers.

    @Joey:

    The “so to” was defined in the statement. It is refering to the verbs “received” and “taught”. Just as Christ taught them about his becoming flesn so they were taught and received by the same Christ that the bread and wine corresponds to his flesh and blood. Then “so too” does not mean that the bread and wine took on flesh and blood.

    The quote doesn’t say that. I’ll reproduce the relevant section:
    “but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him … is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus”

    It doesn’t say “but since Jesus Christ our Savior taught that He was made incarnate.” It says “but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate.” In other words, Justin is saying that just as Jesus was made Incarnate by the power of God, so the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the prayer He gave is the flesh and blood of “that incarnated Jesus.” He is equating the divine power by which Jesus was made incarnate with the divine power by which the food is made Eucharist, the flesh and blood of that same Jesus. The “as we have been taught” is not paralleled in the antecedent passage, it refers to the fact that the consequent passage is the Christian teaching, which makes perfect sense given that Justin’s point is to respond to to false accusations about the Christian teaching on the Eucharist. There’s simply no way you can be right about this; the exegesis of applying “so too” to “taught” is grammatically impossible in the translation you’ve offered.

    Regarding the incarnation and the cross, I suggest you read more of the patristics. By separating the two, you operated on concept foreign to their thoughts. For, in the writings of the fathers, the incarnation culminates in the cross and without it, the cross is impossible. As summarized by a 5th century writer, “Whoever denies the incarnation of God, clearly denies his death too, because death can not be believed unless the incarnation must be first proved” (Dissertation VIII).

    I am not separating the two; I am merely distinguishing them. One can’t assume that speaking about one automatically entails speaking about the other, because they are distinct concepts. You are reading the concept in out of the air, because you see “Cross” every time you see “salvation,” but the Fathers were aware of many different aspects of salvation.

    It’s this kind of exercise that strikes me as futile. If you aren’t going to accept real transformation in a passage that clearly teaches it, then I have no idea what the discussion would be. If you’re going to say “black” when the passage says “white,” then there’s no basis for exegetical discussions.

  50. No, that’s not the Orthodox position.

    Bryan,

    Here’s the summary of the EO position that I posted earlier from Energetic Procession:

    Rather it would be better to say that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ without ceasing to be bread and wine in substance but as having a new mode of existence.

    I’ll leave it to you to argue with Perry on this one, but if you trust that he is accurately representing the EO position then I’ll continue to hold that Orthodoxy teaches that there is a change without any change to the elements in substance. But if you think Perry is some sort of renegade EO I’ll be happy to find some other quotes for you – it will be very simply done.

    Cheers…

  51. Andrew,

    Though I respect Perry, he isn’t the EO magisterium. There is no formal EO doctrinal statement *denying* substantial change.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  52. JP wrote:

    but there are some who believe that grace in this context is absolutely opposed to works, i.e., that works, whether products of grace or not, are ineffective to salvation and that they play no part in justification. That is not a view one finds in the Fathers.

    I would disagree but pass on that at the moment. I will argue that it can be found in Scripture. You know the passages in Romans and Galatians. RCC doctrine says, yes… but! To which the Reformers reply,

    4 Now to him that works the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but of debt:
    5 but to him who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

    Not so cut and dry… I know the counter arguments. IMHO and that of men more learned than me, not so cut and dry as to those Trent arguments.

  53. @Robert:

    It’s more than anachronistic to say that that the Fathers violated ideas that only came to the surface centuries later as the result of protests against certain abuses in the medieval church. It’s just as anachronistic to claim that any of the Fathers embraced Protestant doctrine that was formulated in response to abuses in the medieval church.

    On the contrary, the anachronism is precisely in saying that these were ideas that “only came to the surface centuries later as the result of protests against certain abuses in the medieval church.” The truth was that what the Reformers thought were new issues were in fact almost entirely issues that had been resolved centuries earlier, mostly because they shared the same hagiographic view of history as everyone did. Had the Reformers understood St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Augustine, or even authors as recent as St. Bernard, they wouldn’t have made that mistake. But the critical work has been done; we now know what the Fathers said. The fact that this inconveniently turned out to contradict what the Reformers believed about their historical roots doesn’t change the underlying facts.

    These ideas did NOT arise in the sixteenth century, and the Fathers DID address them. This idea that the Reformation conflicts (or the Carolingian conflicts over the Eucharist and justification) were somehow new issues that had not been resolved in the East is simply unbelievable, although the Frankish court theologians were often oblivious to them. The Calvinists especially were by and large simply rehashing old heresies that they didn’t understand, such as Nestorianism, monotheletism, and iconoclasm.

    The best any of us can claim is that the Fathers lean more towards later RC, EO, or Protestant developments than any of the others. And even then, one would have to consider particular issues.

    Then you should equally well believe that “the best any of us can claim” is that the Biblical authors “lean more towards” each of these positions, and even then, one would have to consider particular issues. But you believe that we can achieve such certainty that only people who are unwilling to read the documents in their original context can dispute your conclusions. That’s completely inconsistent. We study, we identify the facts as best we can, and we draw conclusions. From those facts, the Reformers were wrong both in thinking that the issues before them were new (they weren’t) and that the distinctive solutions they proposed had patristic antecedents (they didn’t).

    Take sola Scriptura. What is the point of sola Scriptura in the Protestant formulation? The point is that the only things Christians should believe and are binding for salvation are those things that the apostles taught and that when you find a teaching that is demonstrably not in the apostolic deposit, it is not orthodox.

    So how stupid do you think the Fathers were? Do you think that they were oblivious to what was and wasn’t in the apostolic deposit? That they didn’t realize these things? That’s the sort of ahistorical garbage that produces the problem.

    When it comes to the Fathers, they—in a sense—have a more fluid view of apostolic tradition than later Protestants. Part of this is due to the fact that there was no complete canon until the fourth century (though there was a canonical core quite early). Part of it is trouble communicating across the empire. But it is clear that they held to what they held to because they were convinced that was taught by the apostles, and it is equally clear that if they could be convinced that something they held to was not taught by the apostles, that they would reject it.

    The Fathers were extraordinarily sophisticated about what they considered to be “taught by the apostles,” which went beyond what was taught ipsissimis verbis to all sorts of things that they considered to be the “gist” of the apostolic teaching. If you can miss that in reading, for example, Athanasius or the Cappadocians, then you haven’t read them meaningfully at all. That’s the kind of dumb anachronism, the assertion Lane makes of the “classic” view of Tradition forty years ago, that strikes me as painfully oblivious to what the Fathers actually believed. They knew full well that they were creating and defining tradition, but they believed they had a continuity, and it wasn’t simply mechanical reproduction of the apostolic deposit.

    There may be a difference as to how one reliably identifies apostolic teaching, which is somewhat less pressing in the second century than it is in the middle ages when scores of accretions had attached themselves to the church, and the Council of Trent presupposes that even the portion of the Western Church that became Roman Catholicism understood that accretions had crept in.

    The “portion of the Western Church that became Roman Catholicism?” You just can’t get rid of those comforting security blankets, can you? For your information, what you appear to consider the minor accretion of Arianism nearly destroyed the Church, and the Nestorian schism essentially annihilated the Church in the East. Whatever alleged grievances you have against the Western Church, they were chicken feed compared to what triggered the first seven ecumenical councils. That whole idea that it was *really, really* bad in the sixteenth century is ahistorical. By the time of Trent, the Catholic Church was purer than it had been in centuries.

    Even here, the whole process of canonization puts a primacy on certain claimants to apostolic tradition. If some traditions are not more truly and more surely apostolic than others, why have a canon at all? If Scripture is not to have the heaviest weight of all, why so much discussion about it?

    The Scripture itself is part of the tradition. They aren’t in competition in the Fathers. The Arians, the Gnostics, and the Marcionites were the ones who put Scripture in competition with the apostolic tradtion, not the orthodox. Basically, people who say that Scripture has such weight that it could even override the essential ecclesial tradition were always heretics.

    Speaking of recent scholarship, I was reading McGuckin’s handbook on patristic theology today on Tradition, and he says that at least for Irenaeus, Apostolicity had more to do with who had the Apostolic faith than with the visible succession of bishops. Origen essentially viewed all appointed teachers as being on the same basic level as bishops as far as teaching authority. While I would not want to call either of those men Protestants (or RC or EO), those sentiments are certainly contrary to the repeated RC emphasis that you find the church by finding the bishop with a line of succession back to Peter. At the very least, they seriously undermine it.

    And? What does this have to do with whether the Fathers agreed with the WCF on the Eucharist? These are the kinds of attempts to make everything fit into the Protestant Narrative of the Evil Catholic Church that demolish your credibility as a serious student of history.

  54. @Jack:

    I know the counter arguments. IMHO and that of men more learned than me, not so cut and dry as to those Trent arguments.

    Sure, but we’re talking about the Fathers, and there, it’s not nearly so ambiguous. It is clear that they didn’t take the Protestant interpretation of Romans and Galatians, and it certainly wasn’t because they couldn’t understand Greek!

  55. JP- just one of many ECF “not so cut and dry”…

    Clement of Rome (1st century)

    “Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, ‘Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.’ All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

    – First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32

    Though Clement of Rome does not use the term “faith alone,” he specifically rules out works.

  56. Jack,

    I’ve laid out a Catholic understanding of that passage in St. Clement here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. One more for now:

    Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368)

    “This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies.

    The Latin says “fides enim sola justificat.”

    – In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius, Caput VIII

    The above is pretty self-explanatory. Not so cut and dry…

  58. Jonathan,

    Where is the extended treatise on the doctrine of justification in relation to issues of condign and congruent merit in the early fathers?

    What about the extended discussion of the relationship of oral tradition and written Scripture in regards to ecclesiastical authority in the early fathers?

    I could go on. These issues were simply not a matter of extended reflection like, say, the deity of Christ.

    They knew full well that they were creating and defining tradition, but they believed they had a continuity, and it wasn’t simply mechanical reproduction of the apostolic deposit.

    Where Jonathan, where? Where did they think they could define a tradition that contradicts what was known to be apostolic? They didn’t. Which is why it took so long for absurdities such as indulgences to creep into the tradition and then be defined as dogma.

    And? What does this have to do with whether the Fathers agreed with the WCF on the Eucharist? These are the kinds of attempts to make everything fit into the Protestant Narrative of the Evil Catholic Church that demolish your credibility as a serious student of history.

    Now you are just being a jerk. I have said repeatedly that the WCF may well be condemning exactly what the ECFs taught in regards to the Eucharist but that it is the responsibility of those making such an assertion to prove it, which no one actually has. Jason just keeps throwing out quotes. My entire point about quoting McGuckin regarding what Irenaeus and Origen said about apostolic succession was to show that your claims that Protestantism has no legitimate continuity with what came before it is entirely spurious and not based on the “best of the last 40 years of scholarship” or whatever authority it is that you keep claiming.

    And the charges of Nestorianism leveled against Calvinism are just pathetic retreads.

  59. Bryan,

    I’ve laid out a Catholic understanding of that passage in St. Clement here.

    But not necessarily the catholic understanding…

  60. Jack,

    The Latin says “fides enim sola justificat.”

    For an exegesis of that passage see here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. Bryan,

    Do you ever actually respond in written conversation? Or is it always a link? If you can’t express the essence of your thought in a few sentences then… I wonder, is it just another rabbit trail?

  62. Jack,

    You know from our many conversations on CTC the answer to your own [rhetorical] question. If you don’t want to read the link, that’s fine. Others who are seeking out the truth, and want to study both sides, will read it. If what I say there is true, and you love truth, you have nothing to fear. But if anything I say there is false, feel free to point out a falsehood, and I will retract it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Jack,

    Are you sure that you are not? We may disagree, but rather than throwing darts and insults let’s discuss what Augustine is saying.

    I didn’t think what I was saying was insulting. I legitimately saw it as a twisting of words. My apologies if it came out as insulting.

    I understand your perspective. I saw it as the “life in you” as figurative. I can see it from your side though as well.

  64. B – I read the section on Hillary’s quote. I’m not buying your “interpretation.”

    How about this ECF quote?…

    Basil the Great (c. 329-379)

    “[As the Apostle says,] Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, [I say that] Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, [and] redemption, that, as it is written, ‘he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.’ [For] this is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and has been justified solely by faith in Christ.”

    The Greek says: “?????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??????? ?????????????.”

    – Homilia XX, Homilia De Humilitate, §3, PG 31:529.

    In context, Basil appealed to the example of the Apostle Paul as a regenerate man. This quotation both speaks of justification solely by faith and contrasts that with works.

  65. Jack,

    and has been justified solely by faith in Christ

    Again, as I’ve explained in all these cases, you have to look at the context. The “alone” in the “faith alone” of the Reformers denied that we are regenerated by baptism. But St. Basil taught baptismal regeneration, as when he said, “Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.” (De Spiritu Sancto, 10) Hence the “alone” of St. Basil does not have the same extension as the “alone” of the Reformers. Therefore it is an example of the fallacy of equivocation to co-opt his “faith alone” language as support for the Reformed notion of “faith alone.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Jonathan,

    I respect your opinion on the matter. You want to parallel the the process of incarnation to the bread and wine in Justin’s view of the Eucharist. That’s a possible interpretation. But that is not the only possible interpretation as I argued in my previous response. Let me give try to give you a diagram so you can see where I am coming from:

    Background: This statement was given to explain why no one is allowed to partake the eucharist except those believe about Christ’s being incarnate whose death and incarnation for the salvation of men was prophesied and fulfilled. He said “no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true” then gave the reason why this is the case:

    For not as common bread nor common drink
    do we receive these;
    but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh
    and blood for our salvation,
    so too,
    as we have been taught,
    the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him,
    and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured,
    is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.

    As you notice the main point of Justin is that they do not believe that the bread and wine are “common”. They do not “receive” or “believe” it to be such. They are bread and wine but not common food. They signify a truth and reality of their confession. Thus, the took an exclusivist position on who can partake the Eucharist. Because, in order for one to partake he must also “receive” or “believe” that Christ had both flesh and blood as they were taught. If he eats the Eucharist, the person confesses the reality of the “incarnation” since they were taught by the same Christ that the “food”- “IS both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus”. The bread and wine are not “common” food though digested the same manner as common food because they signify the reality of the incarnation which culminates in the death and resurrection of Christ. The problem is how do you take the “IS” in that statement? I have argued that taking it to mean “transubstantiation” is not accurate. Read my previous post. The statement can easily be understood that the “IS” functions as representational such as when we say “This IS me” when holding a picture of me. This is the most natural and common way of understanding the statement.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  67. Jonathan,

    I respect your opinion on the matter. You want to parallel the the process of incarnation to the bread and wine in Justin’s view of the Eucharist. That’s a possible interpretation. But that is not the only possible interpretation as I argued in my previous response. Let me give try to give you a diagram so you can see where I am coming from:

    Background: This statement was given to explain why no one is allowed to partake the eucharist except those believe about Christ’s being incarnate whose death and incarnation for the salvation of men was prophesied and fulfilled. He said “no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true” then gave the reason why this is the case:

    For not as common bread nor common drink
    ………..do we receive these;
    ………………… but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh
    ………………… and blood for our salvation,
    so too,
    ……….as we have been taught,
    …………………the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him,
    ……………………………..and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured,
    …………………is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.

    As you notice the main point of Justin is that they do not believe that the bread and wine are “common”. They do not “receive” or “believe” it to be such. They are bread and wine but not common food. They signify a truth and reality of their confession. Thus, the took an exclusivist position on who can partake the Eucharist. Because, in order for one to partake he must also “receive” or “believe” that Christ had both flesh and blood as they were taught. If he eats the Eucharist, the person confesses the reality of the “incarnation” since they were taught by the same Christ that the “food”- “IS both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus”. The bread and wine are not “common” food though digested the same manner as common food because they signify the reality of the incarnation which culminates in the death and resurrection of Christ. The problem is how do you take the “IS” in that statement? I have argued that taking it to mean “transubstantiation” is not accurate. Read my previous post. The statement can easily be understood that the “IS” functions as representational such as when we say “This IS me” when holding a picture of me. This is the most natural and common way of understanding the statement.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  68. Bryan,

    as when he said, “Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.” (De Spiritu Sancto, 10)

    As unto the elect. Indeed, baptism is effectual as to regeneration for those whom God graciously chose in Christ…

    Eph. 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love:
    5 having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

    The elect were united with Christ way back when and it became effectual for them in their baptism.

  69. Jack,

    Whether it is only to the elect or not is irrelevant. The point is that for St. Basil (and all the Fathers) justification is not by faith alone, because (among other things) it is *als0* by baptism.

    In the peace of Christ.

    – Bryan

  70. @Robert:

    Where is the extended treatise on the doctrine of justification in relation to issues of condign and congruent merit in the early fathers?

    Ever read St. John Chrysostom? Or St. Augustine? Or St. Cyril of Alexandria? All of them talk about the relationship of grace, works, and the Law. These are issues they understood well.

    What about the extended discussion of the relationship of oral tradition and written Scripture in regards to ecclesiastical authority in the early fathers?

    You mean like St. Athanasius’s Discourses against the Arians? Or the Cappadocians’ similar works? Again, these are issues they understood well, a fact that was evident once people actually started to read them.

    Where Jonathan, where? Where did they think they could define a tradition that contradicts what was known to be apostolic? They didn’t. Which is why it took so long for absurdities such as indulgences to creep into the tradition and then be defined as dogma.

    Obviously, they didn’t believe that traditions could contradict apostolic tradition, and neither do Catholics. You talk about “absurdities like indulgences,” but you accuse Catholics of denying the Gospel for being on a “sacramental treadmill,” which is the same sacramental treadmill that every Father walked and demanded of their entire flock. Where were the people sticking up for the Gospel then? Why do these corruptions and accretions date back centuries before indulgences among people who supposedly didn’t accept the authority of the papacy? Your position just doesn’t make any sense; your excuses for the Fathers are based on them all being idiots who never actually thought about things that they wrote entire books about. Yes, maybe you could get away with that a hundred years ago when our understanding of the Fathers was relatively primitive, but now it’s just embarrassing.

    Now you are just being a jerk. I have said repeatedly that the WCF may well be condemning exactly what the ECFs taught in regards to the Eucharist but that it is the responsibility of those making such an assertion to prove it, which no one actually has. Jason just keeps throwing out quotes.

    I’m a jerk for asking you to stay on topic and keep your Mythical Catholic Church of Babylon theory to the sidelines? OK, I guess I’m a jerk. Quotes that clearly demonstrate his point when correctly read in historical context is what normal people call proof. The responses so far have been nothing.

    My entire point about quoting McGuckin regarding what Irenaeus and Origen said about apostolic succession was to show that your claims that Protestantism has no legitimate continuity with what came before it is entirely spurious and not based on the “best of the last 40 years of scholarship” or whatever authority it is that you keep claiming.

    That was an attack on the papacy, which does jack squat to prove that Irenaeus would have considered Protestant distinctives legitimate. It doesn’t defend your claim; it simply makes an irrelevant attack that has nothing to do with the discussion.

    And the charges of Nestorianism leveled against Calvinism are just pathetic retreads.

    If they’re so pathetic, then somebody should be able to answer them, which no one has in the years since either Perry Robinson or I have raised them. It’s like football; keep running the play until they can stop it.

  71. Bryan,

    But St. Basil taught baptismal regeneration, as when he said, “Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.” (De Spiritu Sancto, 10)

    And Reformed teach baptismal regeneration for the elect! Basil speaks of believers, i.e. For those that are Christ’s their baptism is an effectual sign and seal of the grace of God.

  72. Jack,

    And Reformed teach baptismal regeneration

    You didn’t seem to be taking the FV side on Green Baggins. Have you changed over to FV?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Bryan,

    You didn’t seem to be taking the FV side on Green Baggins. Have you changed over to FV?

    Nice snark… What i just wrote is not FV teaching. You should know that, unless you are not as up to speed on doctrinal issues as you suppose…

    WCF CHAPTER 28
    OF BAPTISM

    1. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

    6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.

  74. Jack,

    It wasn’t snark. It was a sincere question. And I’m aware of what the WCF says. Baptism, according to the WCF is a sign of regeneration, a pledge that if the infant is elect, he will be regenerated (though if he is elect, he will be regenerated anyway, so the sign doesn’t tell you anymore than you already knew). The WCF does not say or teach that we are regenerated by baptism, but only that it is a pledge of grace to be given. And as PCA pastor Wes White says, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is “impossible in the Reformed system.” You seem to be trying to have it both ways, both rejecting the FV system when on GB, but then (to try to have St. Basil on your side) embracing (here at least) an FV tenet.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Bryan,

    Read carefully…

    “but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.”

    That is, baptism is conferred (effectual) unto those whom it belongeth according to election, i.e according to the counsel of God’s own will. Eph. 1:4-5,11

    Not having it both ways, simply Scripture’s way.

  76. Jack,

    The problem here is that what is meant by conferral of grace to the elect is not what St. Basil meant and understood baptismal regeneration to be, because he believed it to be an infusion of righteousness, and also something that could be lost permanently through mortal sin. And if it can be lost, then justification is not by “faith alone” in the Reformed sense, but also by faithfulness in good works.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. ….he isn’t the EO magisterium

    An EO magisterium? Did not not know there was such a thing. I’ll have to ask my EO friends where to find this 🙂

  78. Jonathan,

    If they’re so pathetic, then somebody should be able to answer them, which no one has in the years since either Perry Robinson or I have raised them. It’s like football; keep running the play until they can stop it.

    And the collective Orthodox, RC, and Protestant scholarly and ecclesiastical community says, “Jonathan and Perry, who?”

    Your position has been refuted by me, Eric, Joey Henry, and a host of other Protestants via the doctrine of imputation and union with Christ. Your best response has been to yell nominalism and then go pout in the corner.

    You mean like St. Athanasius’s Discourses against the Arians? Or the Cappadocians’ similar works? Again, these are issues they understood well, a fact that was evident once people actually started to read them.

    Yes, the early fathers believed Scripture needed to be read within the context of the tradition of the rule of faith. Now please tell me where the earliest fathers listed beliefs as part of that rule of faith that cannot be derived from Scripture. When Irenaeus and Tertullian list the rule of faith, for example, they’re essentially giving the content of the Apostles creed, every single tenet of which can be proved from Scripture. Their argument against the gnostics, as well as Athanasius’ arguments against the Arians is based on the fact that the Arians misconstrue the Scriptures by not reading them according to the rule of faith, but if the content of the rule of faith is coincident with Scripture, you are essentially advocating a position that the Reformers would later call sola Scriptura.

    The rule of faith does not include:

    Indulgences
    the Papacy
    Justification by baptism plus purgatory to get rid of your venial sin
    The bodily assumption
    The immaculate conception

    There is no inkling of a two-source theory of tradition until Basil, and even then it is weak. And then, even though many in Rome adopted it for so long (and many still do), it has had to be put on the sidelines because it is, quite frankly, embarrassing that the church ever taught—infallibly—that such things like the papacy were there from day 1 based on such things as the 2-source theory of tradition. Oh wait, now that we know that isn’t true we have to say that wasn’t part of the infallible teaching of Vatican 1. Too bad the church leaders at Vatican 1 didn’t see fit to expunge that at the time. It would make the job of the Roman apologist much easier.

    I’m a jerk for asking you to stay on topic and keep your Mythical Catholic Church of Babylon theory to the sidelines? OK, I guess I’m a jerk. Quotes that clearly demonstrate his point when correctly read in historical context is what normal people call proof. The responses so far have been nothing.

    Where have I advocated a “Mythical Catholic Church of Babylon”? Apparently you think that just because I believe the Western Church fell into serious error on certain matters at certain times that the whole of the tradition is worthless. Others are doing an able job on the Eucharist. My beef with you is your absurd claim that Protestantism represents no stream of thought in the tradition. That claim is just not defensible.

    That was an attack on the papacy, which does jack squat to prove that Irenaeus would have considered Protestant distinctives legitimate. It doesn’t defend your claim; it simply makes an irrelevant attack that has nothing to do with the discussion.

    Are you paying attention? Apparently not. If Irenaeus thought that Apostolic succession had more to do with the content of faith than with the ability to trace a historical line back to Peter, that is an essentially Protestant position. If Irenaeus were to be dropped down into the PCA general assembly today, would he recognize it? Probably not. But that is anachronistic. He wouldn’t recognize Rome either with all of its beliefs imposed upon the laity as matters of salvation that were unknown in his day.

    If the key to identifying the church is the visible succession of bishops back to Peter—a la Rome—and Irenaeus, though he put great weight on such a line, saw holding the Apostolic rule of faith as the primary significance of Apostolic succession, that is a Protestant view. Every Reformer I know was very concerned with historical lineage, even those who rejected episcopalian government. But forget those. The Anglicans have both Apostolic succession and the rule of faith a la much of church history, and they are Protestant to the core (except for the Anglo-Catholics, of course).

    Your position just doesn’t make any sense; your excuses for the Fathers are based on them all being idiots who never actually thought about things that they wrote entire books about. Yes, maybe you could get away with that a hundred years ago when our understanding of the Fathers was relatively primitive, but now it’s just embarrassing.

    Again, you aren’t paying attention. Yes the Fathers thought about many of these things. Yes they wrote books on them. But it is anachronistic to say they would not recognize sola Scriptura, sola fide, et al when they are writing books on the Trinity and treating these subjects more tangentially. If Athanasius is writing against the Arians, he’s not setting out to compose a complex theological discourse on the proper relationship of Scripture and tradition in the context of a church that is holding to a two-source theory of tradition in order to defend the papacy, indulgences, etc. And that is exactly what had to be done during the Reformation. When your understanding of the Scriptures and the rule of faith is coincident, and when it is demonstrably so you are talking about something far different in regards to the role of Scripture and tradition than the council of Trent in its response to Luther. It is historically irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

    As far as the Fathers being idiots, I have never said that. The closest I’ve come is to say that the Fathers believed that certain things were part of the tradition that only later were proven not to be. Irenaeus thought Jesus lived to be 50 or so. Do you mean to tell me he did not think this had any claim to being tradition? He didn’t put it in the rule of faith.

    The question for the fathers is this: If they held a belief that they could be convinced was not a part of Apostolic teaching, would they hold to it? You want to tell me that RCs would reject a belief if they knew it wasn’t part of the Apostles’ teaching, but that is ridiculous when you have popes saying “I am the tradition,” and defining dogmas that were unknown for the first 300-400 years of the church, and pontificating on how atheists can be saved even if they deny Christ.

  79. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Your position has been refuted by me, Eric, Joey Henry, and a host of other Protestants via the doctrine of imputation and union with Christ. Your best response has been to yell nominalism and then go pout in the corner.

    Here’s the thing… if you or Eric or Joey Henry or a host of others want to adhere to an unreal and deficient philosophy (perhaps because it facilitates your living in an unreal and ineffably abstract religious realm), then there’s nothing any of us can do about that. No one, not even God, can force you to conform your thoughts to Reality (Natural Revelation).

  80. Eric,

    Re your 10/16 9:06 a.m. comment, please consider this. Reformed folk also believe in transubstantiation, but don’t realize it. Here’s what I mean. Before you were a Christian, you looked like Eric, had Eric’s dna, and had all the features that make Eric, Eric. Once you are in Christ, you are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We see this as a mystical reality, not simply symbolism. Thus, if you look at Eric’s dna and molecules before and after Christ, by all appearances, he’d look the same. Though, I think we’d both agree that would be an immense understatement. Eric is truly transformed into a new creature.

  81. Bryan –

    The problem here is that what is meant by conferral of grace to the elect is not what St. Basil meant and understood baptismal regeneration to be, because he believed it to be an infusion of righteousness, and also something that could be lost permanently through mortal sin. And if it can be lost, then justification is not by “faith alone” in the Reformed sense, but also by faithfulness in good works.

    Basil says, “Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.” (De Spiritu Sancto, 10)

    The WCF (1 &6) says, “Baptism is… a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration… [which] grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred [i.e. given], by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.

    I understand your position regarding Basil. I don’t see these two at odds with each other. Basil doesn’t speak as to when and how that grace is exhibited, only that it is given in baptism. But clearly WCF is at odds with Rome’s definition of baptism.

    Ursinus writes in part, in his HC commentary, “Baptism is a sacred rite instituted by Christ in the New Testament, by which we are washed with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to signify that God receives us into his favor, on account of the blood which his Son shed for us, and that we are regenerated by his Spirit…” (let me add the last words of WCF 28:6) “to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.”

    This is not FV and certainly not RCC doctrine. Reformed Protestants can and do say that the grace of regeneration is effectually conferred in baptism – “to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.”

    But this topic has gone far afield of Jason’s post…

  82. Wosbald,

    Here’s the thing… if you or Eric or Joey Henry or a host of others want to adhere to an unreal and deficient philosophy (perhaps because it facilitates your living in an unreal and ineffably abstract religious realm), then there’s nothing any of us can do about that. No one, not even God, can force you to conform your thoughts to Reality (Natural Revelation).

    How does one evaluate whether one’s philosophy is deficient or not? I’ll go with Paul on that one, and Paul had some decidedly negative things to say about the wisdom of this world.

    There’s nothing abstract about the Calvinistic worldview and everything abstract about these gnostic conceptions of ecclesiastical infallibility that only pertain to words and not what the people speaking those words thought about them.

  83. All,

    During the patristic period, the focus was not on whether Christ was literally, really, figuratively or symbolically present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, the focus was on Christ himself. Just as the early church submitted to Scripture without articulating a doctrine of Scripture, and just as the Fathers directed their faith toward Christ without explaining clearly what was and was not faith, so also here, the Fathers insisted that the Eucharist points us to Christ and enables us to feed on him, without seeing the need to define with any specificity how that can be possible. And here again, I believe the Fathers have much to teach us on this point. The Greek fathers’ word for what we call “sacraments” or “ordinances” was “mysteries,” and perhaps because of this word choice, they did not believe it was necessary or profitable to expain the mysteries. Instead, the affirmed that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we participate in Christ’s body, and thus that we remain in him and in his Father as well.

    Donald Fairbairn Life in the Trinity, p. 218

    This is from a textbook from an evanglelical patristics scholar that is highly recommended and endorsed by two significant EO theologians: Bradley Nassif and J.A. McGuckin, the second of whom is one of the foremost patristics scholars in our day.

    Just sayin’…

  84. unpacking this phrase:

    the grace of regeneration is effectually conferred in baptism – “to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.”

    In other words, the grace effectually promised in baptism (including regeneration & remission of sins) truly and only belongs to those chosen of God according to counsel of his own secret will [election] – those whom the Father has given to the Son – and is efficaciously conferred by the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit in his own time, evidenced by repentance and faith in Christ not necessarily tied to the Christian’s moment of baptism – i.e. it may be before baptism [e.g. Cornelius and the Gentile believers upon whom the Spirit came] or after baptism [e.g. me as an infant then coming to faith years later].

    Ok, back to work now…

  85. I think it’s all fine for someone to make up their own confession and follow it, but my question is why should I accept the WCF, especially if those who hold to it claim that it is dogma?

    Now, I would imagine that the response to this is that this is the Scriptural position and as such should be accepted with Divine Authority. But this pushes, I think quite appropriate, the entire issue to the “Sola Scriptura” and authority debate.

    It is for this reason that I believe the discussion about the ECF, while important, frames the debate in such a way that resembles the proof-text wars in the authority debate.

    I think Aquinas had it right, as it states in the CCC, 1381:

    “That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’

    And how, precisely, is that divine authority implemented? Through a book and random, undisclosed readers and interpreters of that book? No, I think the case is weak for that position. It’s one of the reasons why I’m Catholic.

    My faith obliges me to see what the Church see’s, through the eyes of faith, that in these signs Christ is really present.

    Augustine in one of his sermons says as much:

    “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction.”

    In addition to all of this, Augustine said something that was quite explicit in my mind, and the language he uses leaves out the possibility of talking about something simply symbolic, he said:

    “Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands” (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).

  86. Hello Daniel,

    Just to clarify…

    I think it’s all fine for someone to make up their own confession and follow it, but my question is why should I accept the WCF, especially if those who hold to it claim that it is dogma?
    Now, I would imagine that the response to this is that this is the Scriptural position and as such should be accepted with Divine Authority. But this pushes, I think quite appropriate, the entire issue to the “Sola Scriptura” and authority debate.

    The WCF wasn’t made up by someone, rather, as accepted by Reformed churches, it is a confession and creed of reformed Christianity that was the result of well over a hundred theologians and ministers meeting over a six year period in the mid-1600s. It is not infallible dogma (only Scripture is infallible), but nonetheless an accurate and concise statement of Christian Doctrine, faithful to Holy Scripture.

  87. During the patristic period, the focus was not on whether Christ was literally, really, figuratively or symbolically present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, the focus was on Christ himself.

    Robert,

    I think these first two sentences you quote from Fairbairn get at the issue very succinctly. The kinds of metaphysical questions that Medieval RC’s were attempting to solve were not an issue with the ECF’s. The question as to “what is this substance?” did not become a question until a number centuries after the ECF’s. And I think this is why EO writers will sometimes speak of the Scholastic attempt to answer this question as an unjustified and rationalistic attempt to penetrate the mysteries of the Eucharist.

  88. The WCF wasn’t made up by someone, rather, as accepted by Reformed churches, it is a confession and creed of reformed Christianity that was the result of well over a hundred theologians and ministers meeting over a six year period in the mid-1600s.

    Jack,

    I would add to your point that the WCF was just one of a number of Reformed confessions, all of which looked to the the Scriptures and tradition of the Christian Church to determine an accurate summary of the Christian religion. And they were in substantial agreement with each other in all points outside of a few issues (of which the nature and efficacy of the sacraments was obviously one). Part of Europe followed the Reformation creeds and the other part held to the Tridentine formulations. So why should a given area or congregation follow WCF over Trent, or the other way around? Both sides looked to the same Scriptures and the same tradition but came to different conclusions.

  89. Jack,

    I find it interesting how very modest are the reformed apologists claims to history. While Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox historians both attempt to claim absolute continuity with the ECFs protestant confessions seem to aim for making things “not so crystal clear”. The goal isn’t to prove the ECFs believed as you do (deep down you know that’s impossible) instead the goal is to muddy the waters of history as much as possible so that no one can stake a claim. Who can know what the early church really taught after all?

    When I read the early fathers I see a theology that, while not absolutely uniform, is broadly catholic in its framework. Is the Catholic case bullet proof? Of course not. But it is a pretty darn strong claim. To me, the protestant claim for development would be much stronger if their was some visible stream of proto-protestant theology going back to the beginning. Some visible lineage if sola fide sola scriptura doctrinal succession over AS proclaiming Christians. Instead, what I am shown, are church fathers (up to) hundreds of years apart from each other making QUASI protestant statements here and there in an OCEAN of otherwise Catholic/EO theology. The reformation therefore appears to be an abrupt cleaving of Christendom rather than a legitimate theological development.

  90. Kenneth…

    Instead, what I am shown, are church fathers (up to) hundreds of years apart from each other making QUASI protestant statements here and there in an OCEAN of otherwise Catholic/EO theology. The reformation therefore appears to be an abrupt cleaving of Christendom [read Roman Catholic historical interpretation] rather than a legitimate theological development.

    And likewise, then, the Old Testament prophets (over a thousand years) would appear to be an abrupt cleaving of Israel, the O.T. chosen nation/church, rather than the expectation they had and their supposed place of which they assumed secure in God’s outworking of the plan of salvation. God doesn’t always work in a linear fashion – both in the era of the Old Testament and the New. Just food for thought…

  91. Jack,

    Then I must ask with Francis de Sales “where are the reformers miracles?”

  92. Andrew M…

    I would add to your point that the WCF was just one of a number of Reformed confessions, all of which looked to the the Scriptures and tradition of the Christian Church to determine an accurate summary of the Christian religion.

    Amen and amen. Personally, I hold to the the Three Forms (Belgic, Heidelberg, and Dort) as well as the Westminster Standards. They speak in in unison…

  93. Kenneth…

    Then I must ask with Francis de Sales “where are the reformers miracles?”

    Now, that is funny! And where are Rome’s? No, you can’t claim the New Testament miracles, because Reformed and all Christians do claim them. So what do you have left? Tears from a statue?

  94. The Catholic Church has been a hurricane of miracles for 2,000 years. Lourdes/Fatima are great examples. But that’s all besides the point. You wanted to compare the reformers to the old testament prophets. Those prophets always came with miracles whenever God shook up the system. The reformation was a dramatic change for all of Christianity. No miracles? Seems…. Odd.

  95. Jack Miller,

    The WCF wasn’t made up by someone, rather, as accepted by Reformed churches, it is a confession and creed of reformed Christianity that was the result of well over a hundred theologians and ministers meeting over a six year period in the mid-1600s.

    Very well, I was speaking generally, but what is left at least is that it was “made up.”

    It is not infallible dogma (only Scripture is infallible), but nonetheless an accurate and concise statement of Christian Doctrine, faithful to Holy Scripture.

    And is it an infallible judgement that this is an “accurate” statement of Christian Doctrine?

  96. Kenneth,

    Now you really have given me a chuckle. Yes, a hurricane of tears from statues and other superstitions. Really…

    Kenneth, the age of miracles (as a witness to the initial announcement of salvation through faith in Christ crucified) ended with the Apostles. Their testimony was set down in Scripture. The gospel now proclaimed goes forth as God’s announcement of his miraculous power of salvation, converting souls (the real miracle), i.e. to all that believe in him (Rom. 1:16).

    Jason, come on… You can’t be amening this miracle stuff, can you?

  97. Jack,

    have you ever read up on Lourdes or Fatima? Those miracles are amazing and difficult to just dismiss with a wave of your hand. I don’t remember the bible teaching that all miracles were passed with the apostles? Is that in the WCF too?

  98. Daniel,

    And is it an infallible judgement that this is an “accurate” statement of Christian Doctrine?

    No, not an infallible judgment. But, when weighed with Scripture it is received as an accurate testimony. So bring it on. Disprove WCF with Scripture, which is the standard that the ECFs employed.

    Btw, from whence is the infallible judgment that Rome’s doctrines are infallible? From what infallible authority does their conclusion flow? Implicit faith? Tradition? Development? Please…

  99. Kenneth,

    There are many claims of miracles in the world. Even given that a miracle has ocurred at Lourdes or Fatima, how does that substantiate Rome’s doctrine of salvation through grace enabled works? The New Testament affirms that miracles were given as signs confirming the gospel of salvation through faith in Chrits Jesus alone, as per the Gospel of John.

  100. +JMJ+

    Is it me, or is there something incongruous with first appealing to the OT’s institutional discontinuities (which, itself, seems problematic for those who believe in the foundational stability of the Christic Fulfillment) and, then, appealing to Cessationism, after the Reformers’ dearth of miracles is broached?

  101. Kenneth,

    I find it interesting how very modest are the reformed apologists claims to history. While Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox historians both attempt to claim absolute continuity with the ECFs protestant confessions seem to aim for making things “not so crystal clear”. The goal isn’t to prove the ECFs believed as you do (deep down you know that’s impossible) instead the goal is to muddy the waters of history as much as possible so that no one can stake a claim. Who can know what the early church really taught after all?

    When I read the early fathers I see a theology that, while not absolutely uniform, is broadly catholic in its framework. Is the Catholic case bullet proof? Of course not. But it is a pretty darn strong claim. To me, the protestant claim for development would be much stronger if their was some visible stream of proto-protestant theology going back to the beginning. Some visible lineage if sola fide sola scriptura doctrinal succession over AS proclaiming Christians. Instead, what I am shown, are church fathers (up to) hundreds of years apart from each other making QUASI protestant statements here and there in an OCEAN of otherwise Catholic/EO theology. The reformation therefore appears to be an abrupt cleaving of Christendom rather than a legitimate theological development.

    No, you miss the point. We can know what the Fathers taught, and it is clear that they did not teach RC, EO, or Protestant distinctives. We should not expect them to. To ask for an early Father to teach papal infallibility, sola Scriptura, indulgences, or anything else is anachronistic when the primary issues at debate were other matters and when for the first 300 years or so, the Christian church is just trying to survive persecution. That’s not to say these matters are not addressed at all, but they are more tangential.

    On an issue of sola Scriptura, what do we find. We find the Fathers concerned to judge everything by apostolic tradition. The question becomes, what is apostolic tradition? How do you define it? When the Fathers are talking about interpreting Scripture properly in their confrontations with the Arians and others, they continually bemoan the fact that the heretics are not reading Scripture in the context of the rule of faith and the kerygma of the church. But then when you get them to tell us what the rule of faith and kerygma is, it is all beliefs that are taught very clearly in Scripture. That does not help the RC position at all. Where does Irenaeus tell us that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven? Where does Athanasius talk about the treasury of merit and the papal ability to apply it to souls in purgatory via plenary indulgences? But all of these things now must be believed upon pain of hellfire. (I think. The current pope and V2, after all, are much kinder to “heretics” like modern Protestants than the church used to be.)

    Its just a matter of trying to be honest with the historical evidence, something that Rome has not been honest with for generations. Vatican I said that the papacy has been recognized in the church as it is from day 1. The power of the papacy was built to a large degree on forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine. You have popes claiming that they themselves are the incarnation of tradition. And we’re supposed to believe all of this is a legitimate development not only of Scriptural understanding but also of patristic thought, which, if anything, was pretty clear that you should not be LYING to establish your position in the church.

    In my reading of the Fathers, I see them as catholic—small c catholic. That’s great because Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, et al are catholic as well. What I don’t see is the thirteenth century medieval church, which even Benedict recognizes. You want to find an extended doctrinal treatise on sola fide or sola Scriptura that lays out the issues exactly as they had to be formulated in the 16th century because of an out-of-control papacy in order to see Protestants as laying claim to streams of tradition. Well, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I want to see an extended doctrinal treatise on the necessity of cooperating with grace to produce good works and congruently merit final justification and heaven. It does not do any good to point to a church father who says in passing that we need to do good works to go to heaven. Every Protestant confession that I know of agrees that our good works are necessary in at least some sense. The question is always as to the sense in which they are necessary.

  102. Daniel,

    My question is why should I accept the WCF, especially if those who hold to it claim that it is dogma?

    I could ask the same question of the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the canons of Trent, the Roman Catholic Catechism, et al. The WCF is not unique in that regard just because billions of extremely nominal RCs don’t accept it and don’t even know what their own church teaches.

  103. @Robert:

    And the collective Orthodox, RC, and Protestant scholarly and ecclesiastical community says, “Jonathan and Perry, who?”

    Except that the same view is based on patristics scholars who you yourself cite, like McGuckin, not to mention Calvinist scholars like Paul Helm. But nice try to avoid the issue again.

    Your position has been refuted by me, Eric, Joey Henry, and a host of other Protestants via the doctrine of imputation and union with Christ.

    As you say, Eric, Joey, and Robert who? I’m looking for people with the heft of a McGuckin or a Michel Barnes or a Lewis Ayres who are actually able to refute them. That’s my point; your articulation of union with Christ has nothing to do with the patristic view of union with Christ. They are incommensurable. We know what they believed, and that wasn’t it.

    Yes, the early fathers believed Scripture needed to be read within the context of the tradition of the rule of faith. Now please tell me where the earliest fathers listed beliefs as part of that rule of faith that cannot be derived from Scripture. When Irenaeus and Tertullian list the rule of faith, for example, they’re essentially giving the content of the Apostles creed, every single tenet of which can be proved from Scripture. Their argument against the gnostics, as well as Athanasius’ arguments against the Arians is based on the fact that the Arians misconstrue the Scriptures by not reading them according to the rule of faith, but if the content of the rule of faith is coincident with Scripture, you are essentially advocating a position that the Reformers would later call sola Scriptura.

    That’s nonsense. It’s not “essentially” sola scriptura if there is an appeal to tradition as an authoritative interpretation of Scripture; the entire point of sola scriptura is that any tradition lacks infallible authority. You’re just running away from your own position to come up with a coherence with the Fathers that isn’t there. Nobody points to Athanasius as an advocate of sola scriptura; even Protestants concede this isn’t the case. I’ll leave aside your irrelevant reference to Catholic beliefs, which again show your irrational need to attack Catholicism even when it isn’t the topic.

    There is no inkling of a two-source theory of tradition until Basil, and even then it is weak.

    If Athanasius believe sola scriptura and Basil agreed with him, then it shouldn’t have even been possible for him to posit anything like a two source idea. This proves several things: (1) it is highly unlikely that Athanasius denied the authoritative nature or subjected it to sola scriptura; (2) it is highly likely that two-source tradition was an acceptable variation of Athanasius’s view of tradition, and (3) it is highly likely that a tradition that explicitly venerated Basil as a father accepted the concept of authoritative tradition, thus denying sola scriptura. That is all just common sense, which you apparently have difficulty exercising when it comes to advocating for your own religion. You should be able to be fair about basic historical matters regardless of your religious commitments. Again, the attacks on Catholicism are irrelevant, and I couldn’t care less about the two-source, one-source debate, because none of it is dogma.

    Apparently you think that just because I believe the Western Church fell into serious error on certain matters at certain times that the whole of the tradition is worthless.

    It should be worthless. If the Western Church fell into serious error on certain dogmatic matters at certain times, particular on matters that you assert are essential to the faith, then it should have no more value to you than any non-Christian religion. And my point is that the Western Church universally contradicted principles that you consider essential to the faith.

    My beef with you is your absurd claim that Protestantism represents no stream of thought in the tradition. That claim is just not defensible.

    Again, read my claim. My point is that the Protestant distinctives are actually contradicted by the tradition. The “stream of thought” nonsense is just warmed over liberalism, like the “spirit of Vatican II.” We’re talking about concrete beliefs that are explicitly contradicted. These people had concrete and systematic beliefs that actually made sense; the “streams of thought” paradigm treates religious beliefs like they aren’t even true and don’t actually mean anything.

    Are you paying attention? Apparently not. If Irenaeus thought that Apostolic succession had more to do with the content of faith than with the ability to trace a historical line back to Peter, that is an essentially Protestant position.

    There you go again with that “essentially Protestant” fuzzy thinking. A denial of the papacy is not a belief; you would have to show that Irenaeus believed in sola scriptura as the authority (the Protestant distinctive). If Ireneaus would have rejected everyone’s authority principles, then we are all irrational to accept those authority principles, since the people who handed them to us didn’t believe them. Your argument says that Irenaeus denied the papacy, which would at best prove both Protestantism and Catholicism false. I’ll look for your conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy shortly.

    If the key to identifying the church is the visible succession of bishops back to Peter—a la Rome—and Irenaeus, though he put great weight on such a line, saw holding the Apostolic rule of faith as the primary significance of Apostolic succession, that is a Protestant view.

    That’s not a Protestant view. The Protestant view is that the rule of faith should be examined against Scripture; Irenaeus says that the rule of faith must be used to interpret Scripture and therefore cannot be falsified by Scripture in principle. Those two views are in absolute contradiction.

    Again, you aren’t paying attention. Yes the Fathers thought about many of these things. Yes they wrote books on them. But it is anachronistic to say they would not recognize sola Scriptura, sola fide, et al when they are writing books on the Trinity and treating these subjects more tangentially. If Athanasius is writing against the Arians, he’s not setting out to compose a complex theological discourse on the proper relationship of Scripture and tradition in the context of a church that is holding to a two-source theory of tradition in order to defend the papacy, indulgences, etc.

    That’s where you’re in denial of reality. There have been entire books written on exactly how critical the view of relevation and authority was to the arguments of the Eastern Fathers. And you’re coming here calling those concepts tangential rather than essential, which simply means that you aren’t following the arguments. Their view of authority, which was explained in detail in their arguments, contradicts sola scriptura, sola fide, etc. (“et al.” is other people, “etc” is other things, by the way). Again, the papacy stuff is irrelevant; become Eastern Orthodox if you don’t care for it. The point is that he composed a complex theological discourse on the proper relationship of Scripture and Tradition that contradicts the way those were used in the Reformation. Regardless of whether Catholicism is also rejected by this standard, Protestantism should be.

    To put it another way, if you don’t respond to the argument against Protestantism, you’re simply arguing for Orthodoxy or atheism by making the tu quoque

    As far as the Fathers being idiots, I have never said that. The closest I’ve come is to say that the Fathers believed that certain things were part of the tradition that only later were proven not to be. Irenaeus thought Jesus lived to be 50 or so. Do you mean to tell me he did not think this had any claim to being tradition? He didn’t put it in the rule of faith.

    The problem is that you are contradicting things that they implicitly or explicitly considered to be in the rule of faith. Do you think that they would violate their own rule of faith in the way the Protestants did?

    The question for the fathers is this: If they held a belief that they could be convinced was not a part of Apostolic teaching, would they hold to it?

    Well, since there is no way that they could be convinced that their rule of faith is false based on Scripture, it’s a meaningless hypothetical. The entire point was that they rejected Scripture as a corrective of the rule of faith, so you would be asserting (from their perspective) apostolic tradition contradicting apostolic tradition. Hence, the question is of the form “if someone could prove that Christ wasn’t resurrected, would you still accept the authority of Scripture?” It’s a stupid question; of course you wouldn’t, but you have no reason to believe that is ever going to happen. In other words, the Protestant belief that anything could be revised based on Scripture would be based on an inconceivable premise that the Christian Church could cease to be Christian.

    This is from a textbook from an evanglelical patristics scholar that is highly recommended and endorsed by two significant EO theologians: Bradley Nassif and J.A. McGuckin, the second of whom is one of the foremost patristics scholars in our day.

    Just sayin’…

    I don’t even disagree with Fairbairn on that point. The problem is that unless their concept of divinization and sacrifice is completely senseless, then consistency requires a certain interpretation of the Real Presence, which was in turn worked out in great detail by the Cappadocians, Cyril, and others. Even if the earlier Fathers were ambiguous, the conciliar Fathers certainly weren’t.

  104. To ask for an early Father to teach papal infallibility, sola Scriptura, indulgences, or anything else is anachronistic when the primary issues at debate were other matters and when for the first 300 years or so, the Christian church is just trying to survive persecution.

    Yes, absolutely right Robert. The place I like to start is with the general theological method of the ECF’s rather than what they said about specific issues. This is the rule of faith matter that you speak of. The quote I’ve used so many times previously to start of this discussion comes from the EO scholar, Georges Florovsky. Florovsky says that in the Early Church exegesis was “the main, and probably the only, theological method, and the authority of Scriptures reigned sovereign and supreme.” The reason why the ECF’s said nothing about the distinctively Roman Catholic issues that you speak of is because Scriptures had nothing (or at least nothing obvious) to say about them. That raises the issue as to where later theologians came up with the idea of the Assumption or whatever other distinctly RCC dogma we might be interested in. But, before we get into such specifics we need to talk about general theological principles. Here’s the million dollar question – In the ECF corpus, is there a case to be made for an infallible standard of the Christian faith apart from what is laid down in Scriptures? It’s that kind of methodological question that Reformed scholars (i.e. Heiko Oberman, Keith Mathison) are asking Roman Catholics to consider. If these kinds of methodological and paradigmatic questions are not answered there is no point in going on to a discussion of specific dogmatic positions.

    The answer often comes back that we can’t approach the writings of the Early Church in some sort of neutral scientific manner to determine what it is that the ECF’s believed concerning Scripture. And this is of course true. Both sides (or all three sides if we bring in the Orthodox perspective) approach the history of the Church with our respective paradigms. We can’t escape this fact in theology (or in any other area of human thought for that matter). We utilize our own paradigms when we investigate the paradigms of the ECF’s – this makes things messy and complicated sometimes, but not insurmountable I think.

  105. Jack Miller,

    You wrote: “Even given that a miracle has ocurred (sic) at Lourdes or Fatima, how does that substantiate Rome’s doctrine of salvation through grace enabled works?”

    You’ll pardon a drive-by/one shot comment, but I actually think you’re underselling the matter significantly. Let’s suppose the Lourdes miracles are genuine (which seeks likely, although not certain) – this would increase the probability that the things purportedly said by the Marian apparition were actually said (rather than being lies told by or deceptions of Mlle. Soubirous). Among other things, the Marian apparition at Lourdes said “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!” and “I am the Immaculate Conception”.

    How many changes would need to be made to the WCF to accommodate these statements? How many changes would need to be made to the Book of Concord to accommodate these statements? Then think of how many changes would need to be made to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to accommodate these statements and sing “Which of these is not like the other?”. :-p Of course *whether* they’re genuine miracles and *whether* the apparitions were genuine are tricky questions. But *if* they were, that would (significantly?) increase the probability of Catholicism’s being true (and also [significantly?] increase the probability of Protestantism’s being false), no?

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  106. @Andrew:
    It’s your willingness to accept all of that “paradigm” and “worldview” stuff that I don’t understand. Why is it not true that we can approach the Fathers in a neutral, scientific manner? The entire point of the Catholic view on science is that we *can* approach these issues in a neutral, scientific manner, but that what we take away theologically from those conclusions may be different.

    If we don’t start from what we can assess neutrally and scientifically, then there’s no point in even talking. It’s the unwillingness for people to check their theology at the door that I can’t comprehend.

    Also, just conceptually, you’re not framing the issue correctly. You’re already begging the question by assuming that Scripture is a stand-alone authority in and of itself, which is precisely what Florovsky would deny. This entire “source” or partim-partim analysis is obscurantist from that perspective, since even that is an anachronistic way to think about the issue. What you would need to show, rather, is a Father correcting an error in the rule of faith, such as the Nicene Symbol or the Chalcedonian decree, based on the authority of Scripture. Good luck finding that in the Fathers, or Florovsky for that matter.

  107. Jonathan,

    What you would need to show, rather, is a Father correcting an error in the rule of faith, such as the Nicene Symbol or the Chalcedonian decree, based on the authority of Scripture. Good luck finding that in the Fathers, or Florovsky for that matter.

    That is absolutely and completely ridiculous. If the rule of faith contains the teaching of Scripture, which is what Andrew has argued, I have argued, Mathison has argued, and so forth, it does not need to be corrected by Scripture. If the Nicene Creed reflects biblical teaching, of course the Fathers are not going to “correct” it by Scripture. I can ground every single one of the creed’s teachings in Scripture, and the creed itself uses explicitly biblical language in many places. Let’s contrast that, shall we, with distinctive Roman teachings such as indulgences.

    In other words, what you are saying is that if the Church Fathers believed in anything analogous to sola Scriptura, the only way you can prove that is if the Fathers use Scripture to disprove things they believe are taught in Scripture.

    The key question is in regards to what the Fathers said about ecclesiastical authority, what do the Fathers list as the content of the rule of faith and is there anything in the rule of faith that cannot be proved from Scripture?

    You’re already begging the question by assuming that Scripture is a stand-alone authority in and of itself, which is precisely what Florovsky would deny.

    This is an ambiguous statement. No confessional Protestant that I know believes that Scripture is a stand alone authority that operates independently of the church. The point is that the only infallible source of apostolic tradition is Scripture, and if this is not true, there is no point to canonizing it and even treating it as having first place, which even many RCs want to do.

  108. @Robert:
    No, let’s not contrast it with Catholic beliefs that are completely off-topic. Let’s stay on the point for once, and I will even if you won’t.

    You say that you can “ground” the teachings of the creeds in Scripture, but that is not relevant either. What you would need to show is that the Fathers considered the creeds at least in.principle falsifiable by Scripture, i.e., that the creeds were fallible. Otherwise, you haven’t showed sola Scriptura. Andrew asks for a demonstration of what was considered infallible, and I pointed to Irenaeus’s rule of faith and Athansius’s ecclesiastical scope. They did not believe that these rules were infallible because they were taught in Scripture; rather, they believed that the rules were infallible and therefore an independently reliable guide for discerning the content of Scripture. In other words, they interpreted Scripture as if the rules were infallible, not falsifiable, which is a direct contradiction of sola Scriptura.

    Scripture is canonized because it is *an* infallible authority, but not because it is the *only* infallible authority. Your point about the historical development of the Canon cuts against you in that regard; if Scripture is the *only* infallible authority, then the Canon would need to be surely complete before any doctrinal conclusions could be drawn. The fact that people could agree on the rules of faith as sure dogma without even agreeing on what the Canon was demonstrates that Scripture was not viewed as the *only* infallible authority.

    As Andrew says, it’s a question of method. The method practiced by the Fathers wasn’t sola Scriptura; it contradicted sola Scriptura by recognizing Scripture as one of multiple authoritative teachings. They did not require an independent derivation from Scripture alone to recognize something as infallible. These are basic historical facts as per the most accurate scholarship on the major patristic authors, and I am not aware of any works refuting them. The fact that your different and contradictory methodology comes to the same conclusions does nothing to reconcile the two methodologies. Sola Scriptura as an approach simply can’t be found, nor can the Reformed view of Eucharist or sacrifice, as this paradigms series points out.

    None of this would be a problem if you could simply admit that the Reformers were wrong about patristic support (which is true) and that you don’t news them anyway, because the Bible is the only infallible authority. Why don’t you just yield the point, which is irrelevant to your view anyway, so that we can have a reasonable discussion?

  109. Jonathan,

    The fact that people could agree on the rules of faith as sure dogma without even agreeing on what the Canon was demonstrates that Scripture was not viewed as the *only* infallible authority.

    Wrong. The early church did agree on a canonical core, including the 4 gospels, the Pauline epistles, and books like Acts, 1 John, etc. The only books that were ever seriously in doubt—if we use “seriously” in the loosest sense possible—were books of an unsure provenance such as Revelation, which was certainly unnecessary to establish what was in the rule of faith. That is, even if we lost Revelation, we still have the rule of faith’s content.

    What you would need to show is that the Fathers considered the creeds at least in principle falsifiable by Scripture, i.e., that the creeds were fallible. Otherwise, you haven’t showed sola Scriptura.

    Anachronistic. There is no reason for the Fathers to even think about such things “in principle” until there arises serious reason to question whether what is in a particular creed is actually apostolic. And there’s no reason to raise these questions until beliefs start being defined as apostolic and essential for salvation that aren’t in Scripture or cannot be legitimately deduced from Scripture—like indulgences. It’s not a matter of changing the subject; it’s a matter of what would have led to the view of sola Scriptura being promulgated in the first place so that you could understand what it would or should look like if something analagous to it was in operation 1200 years before Luther, Calvin, et al.

    I would say the same thing about Transubstantiation. If transubstantiation or something analagous to it was present in the early church, we would expect to find a true substantial transformation being spoken of not necessarily in Aristotelian terms but in terms that go beyond simply people saying they are offering up a sacrifice, eating the body of Christ, drinking His blood, or even just the “bread is transformed” etc. And even then, you have to ask when this first happens, where it first appears unambiguously, etc. I am no expert on the early church’s doctrine of the Eucharist. I don’t necessarily have a problem if a non-WCF view of the Eucharist is present quite early. The question for me is really how early it appears. The sources I have looked to point to Cyprian. Okay, that’s a good 150–200 years after the death of the last apostle.

    There’s a reason why the Reformation took 1500 years to happen—it took 1500 years of accretions—plus the recovery of Scriptures in their original languages—for people to sit up and say, “wait a minute, something may not be kosher here.” It took hundreds of years of abuses of an out-of-control-papacy, abuses possible in large measure because of the East-West divide, and then a rereading of earlier tradition to get people to wake up. It took the recognition of blatant forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine to get people to question whether the papacy really was delivered to the church in the form the medieval church said it was. Until all these things come together, if you are a Western churchman, you don’t have reason to question what you’ve been taught. It took a long time for things to reach a boiling point. The church did not go apostate when Constantine became emperor. It wasn’t even fully apostate during the Reformation. The Reformers desperately wanted a council, they wanted Rome to uphold its pledge to hold regular councils after the problem of 3 popes was solved. Rome refused. The divide is Rome’s fault, and it continues to be Rome’s fault as it elevates things that otherwise could exist as pious opinions—such as the assumption—to matters that one must believe for salvation.

    The method practiced by the Fathers wasn’t sola Scriptura; it contradicted sola Scriptura by recognizing Scripture as one of multiple authoritative teachings. They did not require an independent derivation from Scripture alone to recognize something as infallible.

    Sola Scriptura recognizes that there are multiple sources of authority. It says that the only infallible source of authority is that which was given directly by the apostles themselves and that that which was given directly by the apostles themselves must be the final court of appeal.

    Independent derivation from Scripture alone is not what makes something infallible. The issue is how do we know a teaching is truly apostolic? Is it apostolic because the church says it is apostolic—Rome—or is it apostolic because it is demonstrably apostolic—Protestantism and the earliest church fathers. The minute you start saying things like you have no principled means to distinguish divine revelation from opinion without an infallible church is when you abandon Scripture and the early church. The fathers simply do not speak this way. How did they know something was true? Because the church told them. Why did the church tell them? Because it was apostolic. How did the church know it was apostolic? They knew it was apostolic because it conformed to the known body of apostolic teaching found in the rule of faith and in Scripture, the content of which are believed to be identical, at least in the earliest fathers such as Irenaeus. Welcome to the essentials of sola Scriptura.

    They did not believe that these rules were infallible because they were taught in Scripture; rather, they believed that the rules were infallible and therefore an independently reliable guide for discerning the content of Scripture. In other words, they interpreted Scripture as if the rules were infallible, not falsifiable, which is a direct contradiction of sola Scriptura.

    No, they didn’t believe the rules were infallible because the rules were infallible. They believed the rule of faith was infallible because they believe it came from the apostles. And if the theory of tradition even you have alluded to is correct, the rule of faith is not independently reliable but works hand in hand with Scripture.

    Sola Scriptura does not say that the Bible works independently of the church. It says that the authority of the Bible does not derive from the authority of the church. And that is the position of the early fathers. Scripture isn’t Scripture because the church says so, it is Scripture because the Church recognizes it as apostolic and therefore cannot do anything but recognize it as Scripture. If the authority of Scripture was thought to have derived from the church, the church never would have canonized Revelation. Apostolic authority stands over the church. The question, again, comes down to how you know what is apostolic, and there is no reason to pose the answer to that in the form of sola Scriptura until there is serious reason to believe that some of what the church with any kind of legitimate pedigree is teaching as apostolic is demonstrably not apostolic.

    Historical continuity is important. Irenaeus was quite correct to question the provenance of the gnostic teachers. What is wrong is to from that to saying all we need to do is to find a bishop with some kind of claim of succession a la Rome of the East, and it’s only when you define the church in that way that you can say absurd things like Protestantism does not reflect anything of the early church. It does. Not perfectly. At times not even the majority report on certain issues, depending on the century. But that is equally true of Rome and the East as well.

  110. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    If transubstantiation or something analagous to it was present in the early church, we would expect to find a true substantial transformation being spoken of not necessarily in Aristotelian terms but in terms that go beyond simply people saying they are offering up a sacrifice, eating the body of Christ, drinking His blood, or even just the “bread is transformed” etc.

    Well, if that doesn’t sum up the dynamic exhibited on virtually every thread, I don’t know what does.

  111. Brianbel–

    To tell you he truth, I don’t have a huge problem with transubstantiation per se. It’s just one of many explanations of the mystery of the Eucharist. Unfortunately, it does have a tendency to tempt many toward idolatry, making it less than an ideal formulation.

    As far as the “new creature” having a different dna, I’m not at all sure that’s true. My guess is that it would have the same, though a perfected, dna. Besides, we are both earthly and heavenly, already and not yet. My old “substance” has not disappeared, leaving my old “accidents” in place. Both are still here to kick around, and both still give me grief.

    As regenerate, my old essence or character or spirit has changed, but my physical nature remains. Very much like the concept of the virtual/spiritual presence of Calvinism (and the Early Church Fathers).

  112. Why is it not true that we can approach the Fathers in a neutral, scientific manner?

    Jonathan,

    I’ve been critiqued by some of the Catholics at CTC for saying things that sounded like I was approaching Church tradition from a neutral standpoint (which I was not). Generally I think that Catholics would not agree with you here. See David Anders post and his reference to “neutral data sets” here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/02/on-the-usefulness-of-tradition-a-response-to-recent-objections/

    I realize that I come to the Church Fathers with a certain framework and I interpret the Fathers through these conceptual glasses. But the same goes with Catholics who look at the Fathers. That’s the way I see it. I don’t think any of us are neutral in the way we look at Scripture or tradition.

    You’re already begging the question by assuming that Scripture is a stand-alone authority in and of itself, which is precisely what Florovsky would deny.

    The way I would state it is that Scripture is the only infallible rule of authority for the Church. Tradition which is outside of Scripture, or derived from Scripture, is not infallible. The ECF’s assume the role that Scripture plays as an infallible standard. Our argument, one that I hope Catholics will consider, is that we don’t find them assuming that other traditions, while certainly important and necessary, are infallible. You are likely correct that Florovsky would not agree with this given his ecclesiastical affiliation. But Florovsky is remarkably forthcoming in his admission on the unique role that Scripture played in the thinking of the ECF’s. Florovsky could certainly have made such a statement about Medieval Roman Catholicism, could he? So why the difference?

    What you would need to show, rather, is a Father correcting an error in the rule of faith, such as the Nicene Symbol or the Chalcedonian decree, based on the authority of Scripture.

    But the Protestants are not in disagreement with the Catholics over Nicea or Chalcedon. The rule of faith for the ECF’s did not include stuff on popes or Mary or indulgences or anything like that.

  113. Correction: Statement should have said: Florovsky could certainly not have made such a statement about Medieval Roman Catholicism, could he? So why the difference?

  114. Andrew,

    I realize that I come to the Church Fathers with a certain framework and I interpret the Fathers through these conceptual glasses. But the same goes with Catholics who look at the Fathers. That’s the way I see it. I don’t think any of us are neutral in the way we look at Scripture or tradition.

    Bingo! We can work toward understanding our biases, we can even make progress toward more “neutrality” or “objectivity.” But we cannot turn ourselves into blank slates. And when we pretend that we can, that’s when we are most susceptible to missing our own biases and demanding anachronisms from history.

  115. Robert,

    I could ask the same question of the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the canons of Trent, the Roman Catholic Catechism, et al. The WCF is not unique in that regard just because billions of extremely nominal RCs don’t accept it and don’t even know what their own church teaches.

    The last sentence doesn’t really seem to be important, but I’ve seen that in your previous posts you’ve attempted to use nominal catholics as a sort of invalidation.

    Nonetheless, I know you can ask the same question, that is precisely my point. It means that this issue comes down to the authority debate and even from an objective position, the WCF simply doesn’t hold as much weight.

  116. @Andrew and Robert:
    I’m starting to understand why you aren’t even speaking Catholics’ language at all, which is something. It isn’t advancing the substantive discussion, but it’s something.

    First,

    I’ve been critiqued by some of the Catholics at CTC for saying things that sounded like I was approaching Church tradition from a neutral standpoint (which I was not). Generally I think that Catholics would not agree with you here. See David Anders post and his reference to “neutral data sets” here

    Bingo! We can work toward understanding our biases, we can even make progress toward more “neutrality” or “objectivity.” But we cannot turn ourselves into blank slates. And when we pretend that we can, that’s when we are most susceptible to missing our own biases and demanding anachronisms from history.

    You’re both equivocating here, and it’s exactly why you (apparently) have no concept of what authority even means in the Catholic worldview. This stuff about “objectivity,” “neutrality,” and “blank slates” is all throughly modernist, which produces postmodernism and relativism when people realize that the whole idea is a shell game. This Kantian idea of separating the real connection between mind and reality and the Cartesian ethic of purely internal certainty is just so much modernist rot in education. One removes biases in sciences by performing according to the discipline that corresponds to the object, not by turning into a modernist. That is true of both the Aristotelian and the Neoplatonic notions of science that prevailed in the entirety of Christian history; it was only after Ockham’s modernist innovations that this idea of what would later become Cartesian sciences started to break in. In both Orthodoxy, via the Eunomian controversy, and Catholicism, in the scholastic era, this placement of the role of theology and other sciences was fleshed out.

    According to these views, historical exegesis is by definition incapable of being normative. This is because one methodologically has to set aside one’s dogmatic commitments in order to engage in the activity in the first place, because they are by definition no part of the discipline, so it cannot adjudicate between theological commitments. That’s why the Pontifical Biblical Commission, for example, is OK with the scholarship of Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and John Meier. These things simply aren’t threats as long as there is a clear distinction between the normative sense and the historical sense, which, if you’ve read any of their works, is clearly maintained. This is why modernity is not a threat for Catholicism, so long as people are willing not to go “full modern” in the sense of incorrectly making the findings of historical exegesis theologically normative. That is what the Catholic internal debate about modernity resolved, and that is why the lines ended up being drawn where they did.

    One needs a different approach, a science of authority, in order to provide any normative sense of what is said in Scripture. Hence, the entire concept of Scripture as a norma normans non normata, the only infallible rule of faith, is incoherent, because there is no way that historical exegesis could serve as a norm unless both the entire content and the normative sense was absolutely clear and undisputed. Reality clearly does not conform to that assumption; Scripture is quite obviously not self-interpreting. But the very concept of Scripture as an authority via mental intrepretation is itself based on the Cartesian view of authority, which is denied by both Catholics and Orthodox.

    Sola Scriptura is therefore ultimately about denial of reality. Robert, for example, once made the incredible claim to Susan Vader that the only reason there was disagreement over the meaning and normative content of Scripture was that people refused to read it as an ordinary historical document in its historical context. That is impossible; in fact, Christian Smith wrote an entire book called The Bible Made Impossible on exactly this subject. What one would need is an agreed way of deriving theological authority from texts, which is precisely what one cannot produce by reference to the sources. Hence, the assertion of the Protestant method based on Scriptural inerrancy is always question begging, because it is a normative assertion about methodology that is rejected by Catholicism (and the Fathers, for that matter).

    That is why we say that Protestantism has no principled means of determining normative content. Inerrancy, and the theological method asserting perspicuity of Scripture, must be asserted by brute force, because the historical method, on which Protestantism exclusively relies, is incapable of being normative. Catholics wouldn’t believe Scripture in the first place if they weren’t Catholic, nor Orthodox if they weren’t Orthodox, so to assert the inerrancy of Scripture based on Protestant principles (and specifically, the combination of perspicuity and historical exegesis) without any basis to Catholics and Orthodox is irrational. You’re just insulting our intelligence and historical competency without any justification for doing so.

    Given a Catholic or Orthodox view, the goal of finding “apostolic teaching” is not, and has never been, to literally discover what the Apostles personally taught. That is not what the Fathers were looking for, and it is not what Catholics are looking for, because that wouldn’t even be the relevant question. That view is the anachronistic one; it is purely modernist, as if one were simply trying to reconstruct a set of historical beliefs according to historical methods. The goal is not to find what the Apostles taught explicitly, but rather to understand the object of the Apostles’ faith. The closure of revelation likewise does not refer to a closed body of formal teaching, but rather to the fact that all revelatory events necessary for understanding the life of the Church were experienced within the Apostles’ lives and everything that we could possibly learn from those revelatory events. This is why both Catholics and Orthodox accept private revelation even today, yet both believe that public revelation is closed. Trying to anachronistically read the Fathers as if they were referring to a closed body of formal teaching misses the entire point.

    The patristic literature on Athanasius, on the Cappadocians, and on Cyril all affirm that they had this sort of view, not a closed body of formal teaching, but phronema, the mind of the Apostles. This became clear in the Cappadocians’ conflict with the Eunomians, because Eunomius was the Greek philosophical analogue of a modernist Cartesian scientist. The Nestorians were likewise methodological rationalists in this way; Paul B. Clayton’s analysis of Theodoret in this regard is impeccable (and he’s Episcopal, by the way, so this isn’t a distinctively Catholic/Orthodox view). It simply isn’t true that the Fathers didn’t have to think about these issues; they did so explicitly in the Arian and Nestorian controversies, as attested by numerous patristic studies since the nineties.

    The problem with you guys is that you’re asserting a question-begging interpretation of what “apostolic teaching” is in the first place. “Apostolic teaching” doesn’t mean (and never meant before the Reformation) “what the Apostles personally taught.” Rather, it means “whatever can be learned from the Apostles’ experience.” Likewise, when say that that “everybody has to make the same epistemic judgments,” you are asserting the Cartesian view of the mind-in-a-box, in which everything is a matter of intrepretation, even science and the senses themselves. Whether you agree with Catholics or not, you’ve got to at least be able to get out of your views on this area to even understand what Catholics (or Orthodox or the Fathers) are saying. You’re just not getting it, and what you’re saying is completely non-responsive to people who actually do understand the Catholic view.

  117. Jonathan–

    And how is the Gnostic mindset also not “phronema”…or the LDS “burning bosom” upon reading the Book of Mormon?

    You sound exactly like a member of a cult!

  118. Daniel,

    From an objective perspective, the WCF does not hold as much weight as Nicea or Chalcedon. I agree on that, largely because WCF is not an ecumenical creed, at least in the sense of Nicea or Chalcedon do.

    Objectively, the WCF does not hold less weight than the modern CCC, Trent, or really any other creed not accepted by the three main branches of the Christian tradition.

  119. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Jonathan–
    And how is the Gnostic mindset also not “phronema”…or the LDS “burning bosom” upon reading the Book of Mormon?
    You sound exactly like a member of a cult!

    I think that the issue is whether the ECFs sound exactly like the members of a “cult”.

  120. Jonathan,

    With all sincerity, before I respond, thank you for the elegantly written response. You are right that what you are saying gets precisely at the differences between us.

    You’re both equivocating here, and it’s exactly why you (apparently) have no concept of what authority even means in the Catholic worldview. This stuff about “objectivity,” “neutrality,” and “blank slates” is all throughly modernist, which produces postmodernism and relativism when people realize that the whole idea is a shell game. This Kantian idea of separating the real connection between mind and reality and the Cartesian ethic of purely internal certainty is just so much modernist rot in education. One removes biases in sciences by performing according to the discipline that corresponds to the object, not by turning into a modernist. That is true of both the Aristotelian and the Neoplatonic notions of science that prevailed in the entirety of Christian history; it was only after Ockham’s modernist innovations that this idea of what would later become Cartesian sciences started to break in. In both Orthodoxy, via the Eunomian controversy, and Catholicism, in the scholastic era, this placement of the role of theology and other sciences was fleshed out.

    I’m not trying to separate a real connection between mind and reality, and I am certainly not looking for purely internal certainty. People are internally certain about all sorts of things that are flat out wrong.

    Biases in sciences are not removed simply by performing according to the discipline that corresponds to the object. The discipline itself often reinforce biases. An obvious example of this would be the modern biological sciences. The discipline in itself is so methodologically naturalistic that it is forever and always biased against finding evidence for the Creator. The evidence can stare one in the face, but the only conclusion that will be accepted in the peer-reviewed literature is one that gives no place to the Creator. Perhaps that will change, but the entire discipline will have to change in significant ways.

    According to these views, historical exegesis is by definition incapable of being normative. This is because one methodologically has to set aside one’s dogmatic commitments in order to engage in the activity in the first place, because they are by definition no part of the discipline, so it cannot adjudicate between theological commitments. That’s why the Pontifical Biblical Commission, for example, is OK with the scholarship of Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and John Meier. These things simply aren’t threats as long as there is a clear distinction between the normative sense and the historical sense, which, if you’ve read any of their works, is clearly maintained. This is why modernity is not a threat for Catholicism, so long as people are willing not to go “full modern” in the sense of incorrectly making the findings of historical exegesis theologically normative. That is what the Catholic internal debate about modernity resolved, and that is why the lines ended up being drawn where they did.

    When the historical is entirely contrary to the normative, you are completely outside of the realm of biblical thought and historic Christianity. Christian revelation takes place in history. If its account of history is wrong, we have no religion even if the church says otherwise.

    When I was an undergraduate, Raymond Brown came to my college and gave a lecture on the birth narratives. I recall walking away from that lecture thinking, “this guy is not really sure that the New Testament teaches the Virgin Birth and he’s only affirming it because He’s RC and that’s what RC has said.” RCs have also noted this tendency, to their chagrin. At best, it seems, Brown thought the infancy narratives were pious legends, or at least that large sections of them were:

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=525

    Basically, it sounds like what you are indicating is that what the RC internal debate resolved on modernity resolved was that something can be historically false or of dubious historical pedigree but can still be true theologically. That’s just a hair short of Protestant liberalism. It’s also quite similar to the medieval Islamic philosophers who said something can be true philosophically but false theologically, and vice versa.

    One needs a different approach, a science of authority, in order to provide any normative sense of what is said in Scripture. Hence, the entire concept of Scripture as a norma normans non normata, the only infallible rule of faith, is incoherent, because there is no way that historical exegesis could serve as a norm unless both the entire content and the normative sense was absolutely clear and undisputed. Reality clearly does not conform to that assumption; Scripture is quite obviously not self-interpreting. But the very concept of Scripture as an authority via mental intrepretation is itself based on the Cartesian view of authority, which is denied by both Catholics and Orthodox.

    But if Scripture is the very Word of God Himself, and it certainly makes that claim, its very teachings are normative.

    The entire content of Scripture, at least of the NT, is absolutely clear and undisputed, at least among the three major branches of the Christian tradition. I’m not sure what you mean by saying the normative sense is absolutely clear and undisputed. I guess you are saying that since there is disagreement as to the meaning of Scripture (in at least some areas), Scripture cannot be the only infallible authority. If so, that means there’s no authority anywhere. There’s disagreement within RC as to the meaning of dogmatic pronouncements, and I can’t even get the Vatican to give me an infallible list of infallible pronouncements. I’ve brought this up time and again, and the best you guys can give me is “at least there is a way to settle disagreement.” But you guys don’t settle disagreement. You wink at the liberals. People are still trying to figure out what in the heck V2 accomplished and taught.

    I don’t know what you think we mean when we say Scripture is self-interpreting. It seems you think that means the book just sits on the shelf and interprets itself, or something. I don’t deny that we need the church to interpret Scripture. But since the church is filled with sinners, we also need a way to know when the church has not done its job correctly. Saying that it must be verified against we actually know came from the Apostles is the only way this can be done if we care at all to reflect what they taught.

    Sola Scriptura is therefore ultimately about denial of reality. Robert, for example, once made the incredible claim to Susan Vader that the only reason there was disagreement over the meaning and normative content of Scripture was that people refused to read it as an ordinary historical document in its historical context. That is impossible; in fact, Christian Smith wrote an entire book called The Bible Made Impossible on exactly this subject. What one would need is an agreed way of deriving theological authority from texts, which is precisely what one cannot produce by reference to the sources. Hence, the assertion of the Protestant method based on Scriptural inerrancy is always question begging, because it is a normative assertion about methodology that is rejected by Catholicism (and the Fathers, for that matter).

    Well, I’m not sure I meant what you think I meant by my comment to Susan. To put it more comprehensively, the reasons why there is disagreement over the meaning and normative content of Scripture is that people refuse to acknowledge the biases they bring to Scripture, do not read it in its original historical context for what the apostles intended to teach their first readers, and, finally, because the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to bring about perfect unity yet.

    If Scripture is the Word of God, it has normative authority by definition. God said it, that settles it. You have the same essential perspective when it comes to the church’s dogmatic statements. The RC Magisterium said it infallibly, that settles it because that is God speaking. The essential difference between us is that you don’t really think God can speak through Scripture without a Magisterial pronouncement.

    That is why we say that Protestantism has no principled means of determining normative content. Inerrancy, and the theological method asserting perspicuity of Scripture, must be asserted by brute force, because the historical method, on which Protestantism exclusively relies, is incapable of being normative.

    That is really rich coming from RC. Your church has a history of enforcing its theological method by brute force that far surpasses anything Protestantism can offer. And it is only since the Vatican has lost so much power and temporal authority that it hasn’t tried to enforce its historical method by brute force. The results are quite telling. Liberalism is rampant in RC and nobody tries to stop it. Nobody cares. Well, Kenneth does.

    Catholics wouldn’t believe Scripture in the first place if they weren’t Catholic, nor Orthodox if they weren’t Orthodox, so to assert the inerrancy of Scripture based on Protestant principles (and specifically, the combination of perspicuity and historical exegesis) without any basis to Catholics and Orthodox is irrational. You’re just insulting our intelligence and historical competency without any justification for doing so.

    Not following you here.

    Given a Catholic or Orthodox view, the goal of finding “apostolic teaching” is not, and has never been, to literally discover what the Apostles personally taught. That is not what the Fathers were looking for, and it is not what Catholics are looking for, because that wouldn’t even be the relevant question. That view is the anachronistic one; it is purely modernist, as if one were simply trying to reconstruct a set of historical beliefs according to historical methods. The goal is not to find what the Apostles taught explicitly, but rather to understand the object of the Apostles’ faith. The closure of revelation likewise does not refer to a closed body of formal teaching, but rather to the fact that all revelatory events necessary for understanding the life of the Church were experienced within the Apostles’ lives and everything that we could possibly learn from those revelatory events. This is why both Catholics and Orthodox accept private revelation even today, yet both believe that public revelation is closed. Trying to anachronistically read the Fathers as if they were referring to a closed body of formal teaching misses the entire point.

    The goal, indeed, is to understand the object of the Apostles’ faith. But that can’t be done without identifying what the Apostles’ taught explicitly. And the Reformed theological method is not to find only what the Apostles’ taught explicitly but what is the good and necessary consequences of what they taught explicitly.

    Otherwise, thank you for admitting that Rome believes revelation is ongoing and has not ceased.

    The Fathers weren’t “looking for” what the Apostles personally taught because they believed they possessed what the Apostles taught. The question was always how what the Apostles taught should be understood and how one could identify it. Hence Irenaeus’ protest against Gnosticism.

    The patristic literature on Athanasius, on the Cappadocians, and on Cyril all affirm that they had this sort of view, not a closed body of formal teaching, but phronema, the mind of the Apostles. This became clear in the Cappadocians’ conflict with the Eunomians, because Eunomius was the Greek philosophical analogue of a modernist Cartesian scientist. The Nestorians were likewise methodological rationalists in this way; Paul B. Clayton’s analysis of Theodoret in this regard is impeccable (and he’s Episcopal, by the way, so this isn’t a distinctively Catholic/Orthodox view). It simply isn’t true that the Fathers didn’t have to think about these issues; they did so explicitly in the Arian and Nestorian controversies, as attested by numerous patristic studies since the nineties.

    Irenaeus clearly thought of Apostolic teaching as a fixed body. When your response to the Gnostics is, essentially, “if these secret teachings were true, surely the Apostolic churches would know of them,” you are thinking of a fixed body of teaching to which you want to hold people accountable.

    Sure the Fathers want to get the “mind” of the Apostles. I want to get the “mind” of the Apostles if that means figuring out how the Apostles would respond to modern issues not explicitly raised in the Apostles’ day. My own reading of the Fathers shows that this is what they thought they were doing. This is what Protestants do when addressing topics ranging from abortion on demand to purgatory.

    If the Fathers merely wanted the “mind” of the Apostles, there is no reason for a canon of Scripture.

    The problem with you guys is that you’re asserting a question-begging interpretation of what “apostolic teaching” is in the first place. “Apostolic teaching” doesn’t mean (and never meant before the Reformation) “what the Apostles personally taught.” Rather, it means “whatever can be learned from the Apostles’ experience.” Likewise, when say that that “everybody has to make the same epistemic judgments,” you are asserting the Cartesian view of the mind-in-a-box, in which everything is a matter of interpretation, even science and the senses themselves. Whether you agree with Catholics or not, you’ve got to at least be able to get out of your views on this area to even understand what Catholics (or Orthodox or the Fathers) are saying. You’re just not getting it, and what you’re saying is completely non-responsive to people who actually do understand the Catholic view.

    Interesting, but this does not answer the question as to how we know what we have learned from the Apostles’ experience is actually legitimate. And it is actually a position that leads to rank liberalism. Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Sullivan learn from the Apostles’ experience that gay marriage is a-okay. Why are they wrong?

    If the fathers did not conceive of Apostolic teaching being what the Apostles personally taught, there is no point to canonizing Scripture, quoting Scripture in arguments, or appealing to it at all. All they would have had to do is say “hey, we met in a council, determined the apostles’ mind on this, and the conciliar decree is sufficient because we the people tasked with figuring out the apostles’ mind say it is.” That’s not what you get with Athanasius, et al.

    If the fathers did not conceive of Apostolic teaching being what the Apostles personally taught, there is no way they would have canonized Jude, 2 Thessalonians, or any of the other NT books that speak of the faith as a body of objective content delivered once for all.

  121. You’re both equivocating here, and it’s exactly why you (apparently) have no concept of what authority even means in the Catholic worldview. This stuff about “objectivity,” “neutrality,” and “blank slates” is all throughly modernist, which produces postmodernism and relativism when people realize that the whole idea is a shell game.

    It sounds as though most of your critique is leveled against Robert, but I wanted to comment on these opening few sentences from your reply. I don’t what you mean by “equivocating.” In what sense are we “equivocating?” It sounds like you don’t understand my reference to neutrality. I had referred you to David Ander’s post above where, concerning Scripture and Tradition, David says things like this:

    They do not form a neutral data set from which we independently exegete the content of the faith. Rather, they transmit the content of revelation within a community endowed with authoritative interpreters. Only within such a community could you ever know with certainty that you possessed a definitive account of the faith.

    David is critiquing what he sees as the Protestant approach to tradition and Scripture, and my reply is that this is not correct, and that we affirm what David says above in that we agree that tradition and Scripture are to be utilized within an interpretive community. Now of course Catholic, EO, and Protestants sometimes disagree over an interpretation because they disagree as to the right that a given interpretive community has to make the judgment under consideration. So for instance in the context of this thread, the EO and the Reformed community do not accept the Scholastic conclusions on the issue of the substance of the elements because we both (for not exactly the same reasons) reject the claim by Trent that she had the right to making dogmatic statements binding on all Christians. But that does not mean that, as Anders seems to think, that we Reformed believe that Scripture or tradition can be interpreted outside of an interpretive community. And so we agree with Anders concerning his statements that Scripture and tradition should not be viewed as “neutral data sets.”

  122. Andrew Maccalum, you write:

    But that does not mean that, as Anders seems to think, that we Reformed believe that Scripture or tradition can be interpreted outside of an interpretive community.

    It seems to me that you are stating the obvious, that you are interpreting the scriptures in light of the traditions that you have received as a Calvinist. But that is the root of the problem – the traditions that you are assuming to be true are nothing but theological novelties unleashed by the Reformers, and not the Sacred Tradition that was handed down from the Apostles. A good example of a false tradition of men found within Protestantism is the idea that the Eucharist is true God and true bread. No Church Father ever believed or taught this Protestant novelty.

    Jason Stellman has posted several quotes from the Early Church Fathers that attest to the thesis that transubstantiation is a belief of the ECFs. But there is more that can be said about this. There are the Eucharistic prayers of the Christian Churches that have a two-thousand year history – the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox. None of these Churches proclaim that the Eucharist is “true God, and true bread” in their Eucharistic prayers. Lex orandi, lex credendi

    Given that all the churches that have maintained Apostolic Succession affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, why should anyone give weight to the novel traditions of sixteenth century protesters? Educated Calvinists know that Calvin contradicted the Church Fathers, but the Calvinists blithely proceed with the assumption that if John Calvin and a Church Father are in disagreement, then it is safe to assume that John Calvin is right, and the Church Father is wrong.

    … in the context of this thread, the EO and the Reformed community do not accept the Scholastic conclusions on the issue of the substance of the elements because we both (for not exactly the same reasons) reject the claim by Trent that she had the right to making dogmatic statements binding on all Christians.

    And I can ask you, where in Sacred Scriptures, or Sacred Tradition, is it taught that all men must submit themselves to the heretical opinions of John Calvin? Why isn’t it much more plausible to believe that if John Calvin was in conflict with so many of the Early Church Fathers that is much more likely that John Calvin was wrong, and not all the Early Church Fathers?

  123. It seems to me that you are stating the obvious, that you are interpreting the scriptures in light of the traditions that you have received as a Calvinist.

    Mateo,

    Did you read the quote I gave in the context that David Anders presented it? If it’s so obvious then why does David raise the issue? Consider the fact that the vast majority of Evangelicals try to interpret Scriptures outside any interpretive context. So maybe it’s not so obvious.

    the traditions that you are assuming to be true are nothing but theological novelties unleashed by the Reformers, and not the Sacred Tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.

    This statement is just begging question. If this statement could be proved true then we would all be Catholics.

    A good example of a false tradition of men found within Protestantism is the idea that the Eucharist is true God and true bread. No Church Father ever believed or taught this Protestant novelty.

    We’ve already been though this earlier in the thread and I really don’t want to repeat my and other responses to Jason. But very briefly, the ECF’s did not get into the issue of substance and the question as to what the substance of elements was did not not become a matter of debate until at least the 9th century. So there is no reason to think that the ECF’s were defending transubstantiation in the same sense that the Scholastics were many centuries later. See my previous quote from an EO theologian saying that there is no reason to think that there is any change in substance at consecration. Again, I don’t want to regurgitate the whole debate in this thread. Go back and read it yourself.

    On Calvin, we do not “submit” ourselves to the opinions of Calvin. John Calvin plays a similar role in the Reformed understanding of the historic Christian faith as Aquinas does to the Roman Catholic understanding of the Christian faith. They are both systematic theologians who summarized the elements of the Christian faith within their respective traditions.

    Why isn’t it much more plausible to believe that if John Calvin was in conflict with so many of the Early Church Fathers that is much more likely that John Calvin was wrong, and not all the Early Church Fathers?

    The issue that you raise on the Real Presence is not a matter where the Reformed take great issue with the ECF’s. It just not that big a deal. Some of the EO today like to say that the Roman Catholic attempt to answer the question on the metaphysical nature of the bread and the wine is a rationalistic attempt to penetrate the mysteries of the Eucharist. And we would agree with this. And there is no reason to think that the ECF’s would not agree with it as well. The whole issue of exactly what the ECF’s thought about the substance of the bread and the wine is not an issue which is of primary interest in the Reformed creeds.

  124. Andrew Maccalum, you write:

    Consider the fact that the vast majority of Evangelicals try to interpret Scriptures outside any interpretive context.

    No one interprets the scriptures outside of an interpretive context. That is the point. If one’s interpretive context is formed by the WCF, then one believes that the scriptures are so perspicuous that even the unlearned can discern the essentials of salvation outside of any tradition.

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. –WCF 1.7 

    The WCF interpretive tradition is that whatever makes sense to the unlearned “elect” must also be a correct interpretation of interpretation, at least on the essentials of salvation. But the Calvinists are mistaken on this point, because the doctrine of the Real Presence is an essential of salvation, and the Calvinists have the doctrine of the Real Presence all messed up – “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

    … there is no reason to think that the ECF’s were defending transubstantiation in the same sense that the Scholastics were many centuries later. See my previous quote from an EO theologian saying that there is no reason to think that there is any change in substance at consecration.

    Here we go again with the divide and dismiss tactic – the ECF’s were right, of course, but they didn’t mean to say anything that would support Catholic doctrine as it was taught in the Middle Ages. To understand what the ECFs really taught, you have to understand that the ECFs were teaching the doctrine that the Eucharist is true God and true bread. Sheesh!

    Andrew, you may be able to find an EO theologian that agrees with you that the Eucharist is true God and true bread, but I can counter that example with this:

    Synod of Jerusalem, (1672), council of the Eastern Orthodox church convened by Dosítheos, patriarch of Jerusalem, in order to reject the Confession of Orthodox Faith (1629), by Cyril Lucaris, which professed most of the major Calvinist doctrines. The synod rejected unconditional predestination (the doctrine that God has eternally chosen those whom he intends to save) and justification by faith alone, while it affirmed the essentially Roman doctrines of transubstantiation (the change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the mass) …
    .
    Reference: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/302892/Synod-of-Jerusalem

    The Eastern Orthodox Church Synod of Jerusalem declared: “We believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, … but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin Mary, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which, as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world.”
    .
    Reference: Wikipedia article: Real Presence

    John Calvin plays a similar role in the Reformed understanding of the historic Christian faith as Aquinas does to the Roman Catholic understanding of the Christian faith. They are both systematic theologians who summarized the elements of the Christian faith within their respective traditions.

    Catholics look to the magisterium to know what constitutes orthodoxy, and Thomas Aquinas is not the magisterium. Calvinists have John Calvin as their magisterium, whether they admit it or not.

    The issue that you raise on the Real Presence is not a matter where the Reformed take great issue with the ECF’s. It just not that big a deal.

    In your opinion, the Protestant doctrine that the Eucharist is true God and true bread is not that big a deal. But few within the EO or OO would agree with you. It is a big deal, and that is why the Eastern Orthodox Church called the Synod of Jerusalem – to counter the heresies unleashed upon the world by Calvinism.

  125. Jason (and the CC’s) earliest argument for the epiclesis and transubstantiation is Justin Martyr? Is that correct?

    If not, what other passage can be presented as the earliest textual evidence for these beliefs?

  126. No one interprets the scriptures outside of an interpretive context. That is the point. If one’s interpretive context is formed by the WCF, then one believes that the scriptures are so perspicuous that even the unlearned can discern the essentials of salvation outside of any tradition.

    On your first sentence here, yes that’s correct. But I’m speaking of folks who assiduously avoid any kind of creedal association.

    I raised the issue of interpretative context because of the question that Jonathan raised. My position was that I agreed with David Anders on the impossibility of “neutral data sets” and pointed out that we Reformed were not using this kind of appeal when we looked to the tradition of the Church.

    ….the doctrine of the Real Presence is an essential of salvation,….

    But the Reformed don’t agree with that. We can for instance reject the Lutheran version of the Real Presence and still consider the Lutherans to be brothers. How exactly Christ is present at the table can remain a mystery. My perception is that someone can delve into this mystery and take some sort of position as to how Christ is present without delving into outright heresy. Therefore it’s not a central matter to the faith.

    Likewise EO theologians may reject the Roman Catholic formulation and refuse to try to further define what they believe to be a mystery without breaking fellowship with you.

    Here we go again with the divide and dismiss tactic….

    I’m honestly not trying to divide here, Mateo. I sometimes address Orthodox explanations for certain positions because I know that Roman Catholics may be more likely to respect the EO position than a Protestant one. In the case at hand, the EO have a very similar philosophy towards the ECF corpus as the Roman Catholics. They look at the same ECF’s as the Roman Catholics, but do not come away from the reading of the ECF’s with the conclusion that the ECF’s were arguing for transubstantiation as the Medieval RCC was. The issue as to the nature of the substance of the elements just was not at issue for the ECF’s and its not obvious that anyone much before the 9th century cared about the specific issues brought up by the Roman Catholics in the High to Late Middle Ages.

  127. I’ll go in reverse order for the moment.

    @Andrew:

    It sounds as though most of your critique is leveled against Robert, but I wanted to comment on these opening few sentences from your reply. I don’t what you mean by “equivocating.” In what sense are we “equivocating?” It sounds like you don’t understand my reference to neutrality.

    It sounds to me like you don’t understand David’s reference to neutrality, because you’re equivocating between neutrality in the science of historical exegesis, which is possible at least in principle (although highly unlikely for any complex text), and neutrality in the science of theological authority, which is impossible even in principle because special revelation cannot be derived. In short, you’re conflating the historically knowable content of Scripture (which is limited) and its normative authority.

    Let me illustrate:

    David is critiquing what he sees as the Protestant approach to tradition and Scripture, and my reply is that this is not correct, and that we affirm what David says above in that we agree that tradition and Scripture are to be utilized within an interpretive community. Now of course Catholic, EO, and Protestants sometimes disagree over an interpretation because they disagree as to the right that a given interpretive community has to make the judgment under consideration. So for instance in the context of this thread, the EO and the Reformed community do not accept the Scholastic conclusions on the issue of the substance of the elements because we both (for not exactly the same reasons) reject the claim by Trent that she had the right to making dogmatic statements binding on all Christians. But that does not mean that, as Anders seems to think, that we Reformed believe that Scripture or tradition can be interpreted outside of an interpretive community. And so we agree with Anders concerning his statements that Scripture and tradition should not be viewed as “neutral data sets.”

    That’s actually a disagreement. Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy give the interpretive community infallible authority, which is how one bridges between the content of Scripture and its normative authority. You are instead asserting that the content of Scripture without a normative interpretive community. And if that is the case, then the only way Scripture itself could serve in this way is if it were, in fact, a neutral data set. In other words, David’s problem is not with the idea that historical exegesis can, at least to some meaningful extent, be a useful data set, but that it cannot simultaneously function as a neutral data set and produce normative content. You’re essentially saying that the “is” of Scripture can produce the “ought” of Christianity, and that is a conclusion that is impossible to accept, as both Christian Smith and Brad Gregory demonstrate at length.

  128. @Robert:

    I’m not trying to separate a real connection between mind and reality, and I am certainly not looking for purely internal certainty. People are internally certain about all sorts of things that are flat out wrong.

    I agree, but that’s what makes it impossible for Scripture to serve as a source of authority. Your internal certainty about the authority of Scripture is always something that you, by definition, cannot have. That is why Scripture itself, the content of Scripture discerned by historical-exegetical science, cannot serve as an external authority even in principle. It would always appeal to some internal state of certainty for its authority, and that appeal is by definition incapable of producing such certainty, because purely internal certainty is, as you say, vacuous. You’ve actually given a great example of how Protestantism produced this same attitude:

    Biases in sciences are not removed simply by performing according to the discipline that corresponds to the object. The discipline itself often reinforce biases. An obvious example of this would be the modern biological sciences. The discipline in itself is so methodologically naturalistic that it is forever and always biased against finding evidence for the Creator. The evidence can stare one in the face, but the only conclusion that will be accepted in the peer-reviewed literature is one that gives no place to the Creator. Perhaps that will change, but the entire discipline will have to change in significant ways.

    You’ve got this exactly backwards, and this is probably the main reason that I’ve never even considered Protestantism as a viable alternative. Because the discipline is methodologically naturalist, it cannot provide evidence for the creator, and more importantly, it should not be used to do so. It is because people wrongly try to derive theological content from a methodologically naturalist discipline that cannot provide it even in principle that people draw unwarranted conclusions from the findings of science. The discipline works just fine. In fact, being a phenomenally successful tool when used for its proper purpose is why people are so tempted to overuse it. That is likewise why, when the historical-critical method first emerged under Renaissance humanists, the Reformers believed that it could be used to identify normative theological content as well. That is essentially the same position as contemporary secular scientists, both believe that science can do more than it can possibly do.

    When the historical is entirely contrary to the normative, you are completely outside of the realm of biblical thought and historic Christianity. Christian revelation takes place in history. If its account of history is wrong, we have no religion even if the church says otherwise.

    I agree, but it’s an equally bad error to say that “unjustifiable according to historical methods” is “wrong.” Historical methods are limited, and they cannot produce normative content. Saying that we should not take our theologically normative content exclusively from what we can develop via historical methods is simply the opposite error. If the theologically normative were “entirely contrary” to the historical methodology (IOW, if we believed something that was certainly false according to historical methodology), then yes, that would be wrong. But that is of the same form as “if historical methods conclusively proved that Christ was not resurrected, would you stop being Christian?” There’s simply no reason at this point to think that there is historical evidence contradicting the dogmatic claims that any Christian tradition is claiming at this point.

    When I was an undergraduate, Raymond Brown came to my college and gave a lecture on the birth narratives. I recall walking away from that lecture thinking, “this guy is not really sure that the New Testament teaches the Virgin Birth and he’s only affirming it because He’s RC and that’s what RC has said.” RCs have also noted this tendency, to their chagrin. At best, it seems, Brown thought the infancy narratives were pious legends, or at least that large sections of them were

    That may well be true. It’s probable that the tradition of the Dormition (Assumption) was delivered explicitly as a pious legend, at least for purposes of historical method, as well. That’s where we say that historical methods don’t suffice; the evidence of the reception of a tradition in the Church can make it theologically normative even if we can’t historically derive it, because the Tradition considers it part of the apostolic deposit. Brown thinks that theological normativity doesn’t end at the boundaries of his discipline, and that’s generally true of Catholicism.

    Basically, it sounds like what you are indicating is that what the RC internal debate resolved on modernity resolved was that something can be historically false or of dubious historical pedigree but can still be true theologically. That’s just a hair short of Protestant liberalism. It’s also quite similar to the medieval Islamic philosophers who said something can be true philosophically but false theologically, and vice versa.

    It’s not different than what you say when you say that methodogical naturalists should not be able to comment on the existence of God. “Historically false” is one thing, just as “scientifically false” would be. For example, if we had compelling evidence that Christ was never resurrected, then we should not be Christians. But of “dubious historical pedigree” simply means that it can’t be proved by historical methods, which is no different than saying that God has a “dubious scientific pedigree” when measured according to the standards of methodological naturalism. Historical methods simply aren’t the right tools to demonstrate theological normativity.

    But if Scripture is the very Word of God Himself, and it certainly makes that claim, its very teachings are normative.

    That’s the conclusion that doesn’t follow. You can’t derive that Scripture is the very Word of God from historical analysis any more than you can derive that the Christian God is the creator of the universe from methodological naturalism. There’s no way to bootstrap normative claims into Scripture, because even if that’s Scripture’s claim, you aren’t normatively bound to obey it simple because Scripture says so. Moreover, there’s interpretive ambiguity over the concept of how “the Word of God” is normative, so you’re ascribing that false certainty to your belief that you previously decried.

    The entire content of Scripture, at least of the NT, is absolutely clear and undisputed, at least among the three major branches of the Christian tradition. I’m not sure what you mean by saying the normative sense is absolutely clear and undisputed.

    You’re equivocating about “content” again. In terms of which books are accepted as Scripture, there’s not even consensus there; the Ethiopian Catholic and Orthodox Churches accept additional books as Scripture, for example. But with respective to normative content, I mean pervasive interpretive pluralism (PIP). There is no consensus normative sense, nor can historical-exegetical methods produce such a consensus, so there is no undisputed normative sense.

    I don’t know what you think we mean when we say Scripture is self-interpreting. It seems you think that means the book just sits on the shelf and interprets itself, or something. I don’t deny that we need the church to interpret Scripture. But since the church is filled with sinners, we also need a way to know when the church has not done its job correctly. Saying that it must be verified against we actually know came from the Apostles is the only way this can be done if we care at all to reflect what they taught.

    I mean that Scripture could in principle be so absolutely clear and unambiguous and the historical and cultural continuity so incredibly consistent in practice that there would be no dispute over the normative sense. That is the only way that the normative sense could possibly be “verified against [what] we actually know came from the Apostles.” Because there’s no consensus normative sense, there’s nothing against which to make such a verification. This is perfectly analogous to the modern scientists who want to see scientific proof of God’s existence, verification, before they will believe in God. The verificationist assumption is wrong in both cases; we don’t (and almost certainly can’t) verify apostolic teaching via historical methods.

    Well, I’m not sure I meant what you think I meant by my comment to Susan. To put it more comprehensively, the reasons why there is disagreement over the meaning and normative content of Scripture is that people refuse to acknowledge the biases they bring to Scripture, do not read it in its original historical context for what the apostles intended to teach their first readers, and, finally, because the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to bring about perfect unity yet.

    Then I misunderstood, but leaning on those first two premises still indicates a serious problem in your reasoning that I pointed out, and the last is simply an unsupported assertion.

    If Scripture is the Word of God, it has normative authority by definition. God said it, that settles it. You have the same essential perspective when it comes to the church’s dogmatic statements. The RC Magisterium said it infallibly, that settles it because that is God speaking. The essential difference between us is that you don’t really think God can speak through Scripture without a Magisterial pronouncement.

    When you say that the Scripture “has normative authority by definition,” that is a completely unfounded assertion. I don’t believe that the Magisterium has normative authority in the same way that you believe Scripture has normative authority, and my view of Scripture’s authority is derivative of the Magisterium.

    That is really rich coming from RC. Your church has a history of enforcing its theological method by brute force that far surpasses anything Protestantism can offer. And it is only since the Vatican has lost so much power and temporal authority that it hasn’t tried to enforce its historical method by brute force. The results are quite telling. Liberalism is rampant in RC and nobody tries to stop it. Nobody cares. Well, Kenneth does.

    I just mean intellectual brute force, i.e., believing things on sheer say-so (as you do with the claim that Scripture is the Word of God). The real difference here is that we don’t *need* to enforce anything, because subjective individual beliefs aren’t the relevant standard anyway. For the good of people’s souls, we should be caring about dissenters, and we should try to get them back. But because the authority system itself is different, this does not in any way impugn the external authority itself.

    I have more to say, particularly about the concept of ongoing revelation, but I’ll have to get back to it later.

  129. Jason,

    Praying for you sir!

    Now I admittedly cannot go the distance with all you theological braniacs. But I’ll point out something that makes sense to this simple guy regarding the Eucharist as Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity. When Jesus proclaims in his Bread of Life discourse (Jn 6: 51), “The flesh is of no avail.” It seems unlikely that he was referring to his own. After all, was his flesh that was nailed to the cross and scourged by whips of no avail? Of course not. “By his stripes we were healed.” Furthermore, re: “The Spirit gives life the flesh is of no avail…”, where in all of Scripture was the “Spirit” a substitute for symbol? I don’t worship symbols, but the Father, the Son and the Holy SPIRIT.

  130. To wrap up, the question of closed revelation in turn depends on what one’s concept of revelation is. If one conceives of revelation as “what the Apostles taught explicitly,” then that brings with it a different definition of closure. Thus, Robert puts the matter this way:

    The goal, indeed, is to understand the object of the Apostles’ faith. But that can’t be done without identifying what the Apostles’ taught explicitly. And the Reformed theological method is not to find only what the Apostles’ taught explicitly but what is the good and necessary consequences of what they taught explicitly.

    Otherwise, thank you for admitting that Rome believes revelation is ongoing and has not ceased.

    The Fathers weren’t “looking for” what the Apostles personally taught because they believed they possessed what the Apostles taught. The question was always how what the Apostles taught should be understood and how one could identify it. Hence Irenaeus’ protest against Gnosticism.

    Irenaeus clearly thought of Apostolic teaching as a fixed body. When your response to the Gnostics is, essentially, “if these secret teachings were true, surely the Apostolic churches would know of them,” you are thinking of a fixed body of teaching to which you want to hold people accountable.

    Sure the Fathers want to get the “mind” of the Apostles. I want to get the “mind” of the Apostles if that means figuring out how the Apostles would respond to modern issues not explicitly raised in the Apostles’ day. My own reading of the Fathers shows that this is what they thought they were doing. This is what Protestants do when addressing topics ranging from abortion on demand to purgatory.

    If the Fathers merely wanted the “mind” of the Apostles, there is no reason for a canon of Scripture.

    If the fathers did not conceive of Apostolic teaching being what the Apostles personally taught, there is no point to canonizing Scripture, quoting Scripture in arguments, or appealing to it at all. All they would have had to do is say “hey, we met in a council, determined the apostles’ mind on this, and the conciliar decree is sufficient because we the people tasked with figuring out the apostles’ mind say it is.” That’s not what you get with Athanasius, et al.

    If the fathers did not conceive of Apostolic teaching being what the Apostles personally taught, there is no way they would have canonized Jude, 2 Thessalonians, or any of the other NT books that speak of the faith as a body of objective content delivered once for all.

    I’ll grant that the Reformed teaching includes “good and necessary consequences” of what was taught explicitly. That really makes no difference from my perspective, because logical implications of propositions are necessarily included in the teaching of the propositions themselves. The major difficulty is the logical gap between “what was taught explicitly” and “a fixed body of teaching.” This assumes that explicit teaching (and logical implications thereof) are the *only* way to fix a body of teaching. But that doesn’t follow unless one equates fixity with formal closure, which is not justifiable.

    What separates the Catholic and Orthodox views of Scripture is the idea of reasons. In other words, it presumes that we have common experiences of the life of the Church that serve to show the underlying reasons that the Apostles said what they said. We essentially have special insights into the reasons and experiences of why they explicitly taught what we did, which allows us to derive dogma that goes beyond what was explicitly taught.

    The entire concept of Sacraments is this idea of “doing what the Church does.” Indeed, that is the explicit dogmatic definition of what makes a Sacrament. Nor is that secret or hidden just because it is not taught explicitly. There is no appeal to hidden wisdom or secret knowledge; it is an appeal to the open life of the Church. That’s not to say that we disrespect what was explicitly taught by the Apostles; we simply respect the entirety, including how their actions are carried forth in the life of the Church. In other words, we considering the apostolic succession to include the actions of the Church as Church, not just the words.

    For example, the Marian dogmas were reached through this process centuries before they were ever formally defined. With respect to the Dormition, one asks questions like “why was Mary venerated, but not her relics?’ We knew about veneration of the bodies of the Saints, both from Scripture and from practice, and we knew Mary was venerated as a holy woman. So when the Protoevangelium of James arrived, even though the document itself was known to be false and the document itself rejected, the pious reasoning was persuasive to the mind of the Church. The veneration of icons itself was formally derived from Christological principles, but supported by a similar exposition of the life of the Church.

    So what is fixed is not just the explicit teaching but also those essential activities that have been place since the beginning, the reasons for which may only be understood years later. For example, Matthew 16:18 was known to be in Scripture explicitly, but people did not realize why it was there without the benefit of seeing how the Church actually operated around it. From the Catholic perspective, that is an entirely natural development in the life of the Church. You speak of this as the “Magisterium of the moment,” but it is actually the result of centuries of introspection and contemplation about why the Church as a whole behaves as it does. The Magisterium is simply fixing that formally at a certain point, while the Tradition remains open to further definition in continuity of life.

    When we say, therefore, that public revelation is closed, what we mean is that the public life of the Church, the Catholic Church, does not change. And this is what Ireneaus believed as well. He judged by Scripture and by public tradition both. So did Athanasius. We might better understand *why* that Church does certain things She does, but the bottom line is *that* She has certain characteristic actions that define Her. The point is that we can judge either by Scripture or by what the Church has considered characteristic activity, and either of these things are valid judges of apostolic teaching.

    This is not to say that individuals were never wrong about what was and was not explicitly taught by the Apostles and what was and was not essential to the life of the Church. For example, Irenaeus inferred that Christ had gone through the proper ages of man, but that was not part of the Tradition. But when there is a consensus about matters that becomes universal at some point, that is a fixed point in Tradition, what we call in Catholicism the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Then we delve into the reasons that these particular parts of Tradition became fixed, and that provides explicit, formal dogma.

    All of this is sheerly incompatible with sola Scriptura, which denies apostolic authority to anything but what is confirmed by Scripture. It cuts off the entire process of Tradition at the root. That is not something any of the Fathers recognized, nor was the closure of the canon (which technically hasn’t happened, since in principle, more books could be added) considered to do so. The purpose of canonization was to provide a minimum content of apostolic dogma, not a maximum. As I said, some churches, even those in full communion with Rome, recognize even more Scripture than the Catholic Church (e.g., Jubilees, Esdras). If the canon were formally closed, they shouldn’t be able to do that. So this process of definition is never intended to say “this is where the explicit teaching of the Apostles ends,” but rather to say that it extends at least this far.

    This is why I have repeatedly taken amiss suggestions that claims of apostolicity are claims that something was explicitly taught by the Apostles. There are numerous examples, likely beyond counting, of cases where the Fathers claimed apostolic support of dogmas in full knowledge that they had never been formally taught, and they weren’t appealing to “good and necessary inference” from some explicitly taught dogma either. But they did appeal to inference fom how the Church actually lived, the eccesial scope of Scripture. When we talk of things always being taught or being always understood in the same sense, it is almost invariably referring to these tacit reasons for practices and almost never to explicit or formal understanding. So when we you accuse us of making a Protestant-style claim, as if we are saying that the Apostles actually taught the doctrine in question explicitly, that is simply not understanding the nature of the claim.

    I hope this will serve to provide some kind of introduction as to how Catholics and Orthodox actually think about these subjects. Right now, it seems apparent that the claims aren’t even being grasped.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

wordpress visitor