Friday, June 6, 2008

The Trinity and the Development of Doctrine


In countless books on the Trinity (countless in the sense that I do not wish to devote the considerable amount of time it would take to actually count them) that I read during my in depth study of the faith I was born into (JWs), I was constantly reminded that the doctrine of the Trinity was CLEARLY taught in the Bible. Some of the same books also maintained that the pre-Nicene Church Fathers also taught the doctrine. However, when I began my own studies into the ECFs, a different picture emerged. The following brief paper that I composed about a decade ago pretty much sums up my studies into the issue:

My understanding of the Evangelical doctrine of perspicuity is that the Scriptures are clear on the “essentials”. It is also my understanding that Evangelicals believe the doctrine of the Trinity is one of those “essentials”. Now, I would like to explore this issue—is the doctrine of the Trinity clearly (i.e. explicitly) contained in the Scriptures?

All serious scholars of Christian history know that the particular doctrine of the Trinity held to by many, but not all, Evangelicals was not developed until after the Council of Nicea. Bettenson writes, “‘Subordinationism’, it is true was pre-Nicene orthodoxy...”[1]. Hanson wrote the following, “Indeed, until Athanasius began writing, every single theologian, East and West, had postulated some form of Subordinationism. It could, about the year 300, have been described as a fixed part of catholic theology.”[2] And again, “With the exception of Athanasius virtually every theologian, East and West, accepted some form of subordinationism at least up to the year 355”.[3] Newman writes, “If we limit our view of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St. Ignatius may be considered Patripassian, St. Justin arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian...Tertullian is heterodox on the Lord’s divinity...Origen is, at the very least suspected, and must be defended and explained rather than cited as a witness of orthodoxy; and Eusebius was a Semi-Arian.”[4]

The following are a few examples from the early Church Fathers. First, Justin, “Our teacher is Jesus Christ...and we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third...”[5] The Son is, “...the first-born of the unbegotten God...”[6] And, “...next to God, we worship and love the Word, who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God...”[7] Justin then says to Trypho the Jew, “I shall attempt to persuade you...that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things...”[8] The Son, “...was begotten of the Father by an act of will...”[9] And, “...this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures(i.e. creation)...”[10]

Tatian, a disciple of Justin, in his Address to the Greeks, wrote that God, was alone”; that the Logos “was in Him” and “by His simple will the Logos springs forth” and becomes “the first-begotten work of the Father”; and that “the Logos, begotten in the beginning, begat in turn our world”.[11] Theophilus, wrote that, “...at first God was alone and the Word was in Him…The Word then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills...”[12] Athenagoras, “...we acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, imcomprehensible...by whom the universe has been created through His Logos...Nor let anyone think it ridiculous that God should have a Son...the Son of God is the Logos of the Father...the Son, I will state briefly, that He is the first product of the Father...”[13]

Leaving the second century Fathers, and moving on to the third, we will examine what Origen had to say on our subject. From his work De Principiis we read, “That there is one God, who created and arranged all things...This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...Jesus Christ Himself, who came (into the world), was born of the Father before all creatures...”[14] In Against Celsus we read, “We therefore charge the Jews with not acknowledging Him (Jesus) to be God, to whom testimony was borne in many passages by the prophets, to the effect that He was a mighty power, and a God next to the God[15] and Father of all things.”[16] Origen in his Commentary On John wrote, “He (John) uses the article, when the name of God refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the Logos is named God...God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God himself); and so the the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, ‘That they may know Thee the only true God;’ but all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without the article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of exalted rank than the other gods beside Him...The true God, then is ‘The God’, and those who are formed after Him are gods, images as it were of Him the prototype.”[17] The following quote is from Origen’s Dialogue With Heraclides and His Fellow Bishops On The Father, The Son and, and the Soul:

Origen said: “Since the beginning of a debate is the time to declare what the topic the debate is, I will speak. The whole Church is here listening. It is not fitting for doctrinal differences to exist from church to church, for you are not a Church of falsehood. I call upon you, Father Heraclides: God is the almighty, the uncreated One, who is above all things. Do you agree to this?” Heraclides said: “I agree; for this is what I too believe.” Origen said: “Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God (Phil. 2.6), while still being distinct from God in whose form He was, was God before He came into the body: yes or no?” Heraclides said: “He was God before.” Origen said: “Was He God distinct from this God in whose form He was?” Heraclides said: “Obviously distinct from the other and , while being in the form of the other, distinct from the Creator of all.” Origen said: “ It not true, then, that there was a God, the Son of God, and only begotten of God, the first born of all creation (Col. 1:15), and that we do not hesitate to speak in one sense fo two Gods, and in another sense of one God?” Heraclides said: “What you say is evident. But we too say that God is the almighty, god without beginning, without end, who encompasses all and is encompassed by nothing, and this Word is the Son of the living God, God and man, through whom all things were made, God according to the Spirit, and man from being born of Mary.” Origen said: “You don’t seem to have answered my question. Explain what you mean, for perhaps I didn’t follow you. The Father is god?” Heraclides said: “Of course.” Origen said: “The Son is distinct from the Father?” Heraclides said: “Of course, for how could He be son if He were also father?” Origen said: And while being distinct from the Father, the Son is Himself also God?” Heraclides said: “He Himself isalso God.” Origen said: “And the two Gods become a unity?” Heraclides said: “Yes.” Origen said: “We profess two Gods?” Heraclides said: “Yes, [but] the power is one.”[18]

Before leaving Origen, it is important to note what he had to say about prayer. The following is from Origen’s treatise Prayer:

If we understand what prayer really is, we shall know that we may never pray to anything generated–not even Christ–but only to God and the Father of all, to whom even Our Saviour Himself prayed, as we have already said, and teaches us to pray...For if the Son, as shown elsewhere, is distinct from the Father in nature and person, then we must pray either to the Son, and not to the Father, or to both, or to the Father only...There remains, then, to pray to God alone, the Father of all, but not apart from the High Priest who was appointed with on oath by the Father...The saints, then, in their prayers of thanks to God acknowledge their thanks to Him through Christ Jesus.[19]

Next, we shall look at Tertullian whose writings are late second century through the first two decades of the third. From one his polemical works, Against Praxeas, we read that “before all things God was alone, and the Word “proceeds forth from God”. The Word which is also called Wisdom was “created or formed” by God and is His “first-begotten”[20]. From Against Praxeas we also read:

I should not hesitate, indeed, to call the tree the son or offspring of the root, and the river of the fountain, and the ray of the sun; because every original source is a parent, and everything which issues from the origin is an offspring...I confess that I call God and His word–the Father and His Son–two...there must be two; and where there is a third, there must be three. Now the Spirit indeed is third from God and the Son; just as the fruit of the tree is third from the root, or as the stream out of the river is third from the fountain, or as the apex of the ray is third from the sun...Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each other...Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son...we...do indeed definitively declare that Two beings are God, the Father and the Son, and, with the addition of the Holy Spirit, even Three...[21]

Tertullian, like Origen, can speak of two, and three in one sense, and in another sense, of just One God. Eusebius, too, strongly asserts this same theme. We read the following in his Proof of the Gospel:

Remember how Moses calls the Being, Who appeared to the patriarchs, and often delivered to them the oracles afterwards written down in Scripture sometimes God and Lord, and sometimes the Angel of the Lord. He clearly implies that this was not the Omnipotent God, but a secondary Being...This same being who appeared to Abraham is called Lord and God. He teaches the saint mysteriously of His Father’s rule, and speaks some things, as it were, of another God...surely there are Two...we have, by thirty prophetic quotations in all, learned that our Lord and Saviour the Word of God is God, a second God after the Most High...[22]

With the above examples from the Pre-Nicene Fathers in mind, to which dozens more could be added, we can objectively concur with Bettenson and Hanson that subordinationism was in fact Pre-Nicene orthodoxy.


As we move into the Nicene period, we are going find that the theme of subordinationism is not abandoned, in fact, it will be demonstrated that it continues as a dominant theme well into the fifth century. Evangelical apologists strongly suggest that when the term homoousion was put into the Nicene creed we have the triumph of “orthodoxy” over subordinationism. This “orthodoxy” is the affirmation that homoousios teaches the Godhead is one, single, identical substance shared by three Persons. But is this really the case? Concerning the subject at hand, Philip Schaff wrote:

The term homoousion, in its strict grammatical sense, differs from monoousion...and signifies not numerical identity, but equality of essence or community of nature among several beings. It is clearly used thus in the Chalcedonian symbol, where it is said that Christ is “consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father as touching the Godhead, and consubstantial with us [and yet individually distinct from us] as touching the manhood.” The Nicene Creed does not expressly assert the singleness or numerical unity of the divine essence...and the main point with the Nicene fathers was to urge against Arianism the strict divinity and essential equality of the Son and the Holy Ghost with the Father.[23]

The great Reformed theologian Charles Hodge admits that the term homoousios, “...may express either specific sameness, or numerical identity. In the former sense, all spirits, whether God, angels, or men, are homoousioi*.”[24] Although Hodge believes that the Nicene Creed teaches the latter sense, he cites a German theologian who disagrees with him:

Gieseler goes much further, and denies that the Nicene fathers held numerical identity of essence in the persons of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit were the same in substance as having the same nature, or same kind of substance. This he infers was their doctrine not only from the general style of their teaching, and from special declarations, but from the illustrations which they habitually employed. The Father and the Son are the same in substance as among men father and son have the same nature; or as Basil says, Father and Son differ in rank, as do the angels, although they are the same in nature. Gieseler says that the numerical sameness of nature in the three divine persons, was first asserted by Augustine. It was he, according to Gieseler, who first excluded all idea of subordination in the Trinity.[25]

Note that Gieseler made the assertion that it was Augustine “who first excluded all idea of subordination in the Trinity”. As we know from history, it was Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity that eventually became the dominant view of Catholic theology. The reformers inherited, and for the most part embraced Augustine’s view.

Now, when we look at “the” Evangelical doctrine of the Trinty, one is forced to conclude that it is “doctrines”, not “the doctrine”, for the following are but a few examples of the different forms of Trinitarianism held within Evangelicalism. 1.) The Son and the Spirit are generated from the Father’s essence, who is the source, fountain-head of the Trinity (Melanchthon, Jonathan Edwards). 2.) It is the person alone, not the essence which is generated from the Father (John Calvin, Francis Turrettin, and most Reformed theologians). 3.) There is no generation of persons within the Godhead; the Logos became the Son at the incarnation (Oliver Buswell, Walter Martin, early writings of John MacArthur). 4.) The Godhead is one person, and within the being of this one person there are three personal subsistences (Cornelius Van Til). 5.) The Trinity is not composed of persons in the modern sense (i.e. three distinct centers of conscious personal beings), but rather of three modes of existence (Donald Bloesch). 6.) Social Trinitarianism (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Millard Erickson, Edward Wierenga).

So, are the scriptures “clear” concerning the doctrine of the Trinity? When one honestly examines history, and the current state of Evangelical theology, one must conclude that it is not “clear”. IHMO, to maintain that the scriptures are “clear” on this issue is to radically change the meaning of the word “clear”.

[*Note: Greek in the original document has been transliterated.]

ENDNOTES -

[1] Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers (London, England: Oxford Univ. Press, 1978 4th impression) p. 239.

[2] RPC Hanson, “The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD” in Rowan Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy (New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989) p. 153.

[3] RPC Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988, p. xix.

[4] John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, (6th edition 1989) p. 17.

[5] Justin Martyr, The First Apology, ch. 13, in Roberts & Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 1(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979 edition) p. 167.

[6] Ibid., ch. 53, p. 180.

[7] Justin, The Second Apology, ch.13, ANF1 -p. 193.

[8] Justin, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. 56, ANF1 -p. 223.

[9] Ibid., ch. 61, p. 227.

[10] Ibid., ch. 62, p. 228.

[11] Tatian, Address of Tatian to the Greeks, ch. 5, in Roberts & Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979 edition) p. 67.

[12] Theophilus, Theophilus to Autolycus, ch. 22, ibid. p. 103.

[13] Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, ch. 10, ibid., p. 133.

[14] Origen, De Principiis, preface, chapter 4, in Roberts & Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979 edition) p. 240.

[15] This is but one instance where Origen contrasts Jesus Christ as “a God” (theos) with the Father who is “the God” (ho theos).

[16] Origen, Against Celsus, book 2.9, ibid. p. 433.

[17] Origen, Commentary On John, book 2.2, in Roberts & Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979 edition) p. 323.

[18] Origen, Dialogue With Heraclides, chapters 1-2, Ancient Christian Writers volume 54 (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1992) pp. 57-59.

[19] Origen, Prayer, chapter 15.1-2, Ancient Christian Writers volume 19 (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1954) pp. 57-58.

[20] Tertullian, Against Praxeas, chapters 5, 7, in Roberts & Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979 edition) pp. 600, 601.

[21] Ibid., chapters 8, 9, 13, pp. 602, 603, 604, 608.

[22] Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, books 1.5, 5.25, 30 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981 reprint) pp. 26, 27, 267, 271.

[23] Philip Schaff, History of the Church volume 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981 edition) pp.672-673.

[24] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981 reprint) p. 460.

[25] Ibid., p. 463.


In addition to my short paper, I would like to bring into the mixture the following comments from the pen of Raymond Brown:

In the “olden” days (before Vatican II) it was apparent, even against the background of a sometimes unsophisticated biblical exegesis, that certain doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church were not easily detectable in the NT. In a widely held thesis of two sources of revelation, Scripture and Tradition, it could be maintained that such doctrines were passed on orally as part of the living tradition of the church, and were simply not mentioned until a much later era because no one questioned them. A more nuanced thesis was that such doctrines could be logically derived in an almost syllogistic manner from ideas of affirmations that were in the Bible. Vatican II changed the focus of the discussion significantly. The draft of the schema on the sources (plural) of revelation to the Council in November 1962 was rejected…doctrines for which there is no sufficient witness in the Bible are dealt with in another manner. A more sophisticated theory of hermeneutics argues that the written books of the Bible, as literary artifacts, had a life of their own and so their “meaning” involves the ongoing interpretation of them the Christian community. (Raymond E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis & Church Doctrine, 1985, p. 30.)Brown then goes on to discuss to 3 distinct categories concerning the “relationships between scripture and doctrine”: first, “Doctrines for which There is Abundant but Incipient Basis in Scripture”; second, “Doctrines for which There is Slender Basis in Scripture”; and third, “Doctrines about which the Scriptures are Virtually Silent(in which he places the Marian dogmas, including the Assumption).

Concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, Brown wrote:

Nevertheless, in no NT passage, not even in Matt. 28:19 (“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”) is there precision about three divine Persons, co-equal but distinct, and one divine Nature—the core dogma of the Trinity. Greek philosophy, sharpened by continuing theological disputes in the church from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, contributed to the classical formulation of the dogma…If ‘tradition’ implies that first-century Christianity already understood three coequal but distinct divine Persons and one divine Nature but had not developed the precise terminology, I would dissent. Neither the terminology nor the basic ideas had reached clarity in the first century; problems and disputes were required before the clarity came…Precisely because the “Trinitarian” line of development was not the only line of thought detectable in the NT, one must posit the guidance of the Spirit and intuition of faith as the church came to its decision. (Ibid. pp. 31-33.)


In summation, doctrine develops, even the so-called “clear” and “essential” doctrines were in need of development. Now, with this in mind, it seems to me that if one takes orthodoxy seriously, then it is Newman’s theory of development which is the most consistent, for to date, I have not come across a theory of DD that poses less difficulties. But, I am certainly open to the possibility that one does exist…


Grace and peace,

David

43 comments:

Ken Temple said...

Wow. That was a very meaty blog post. I will have to print that out and meditate on it.

Very, very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

As you know, I once did, but I do not now need to be convinced.

It took a long time for me to reject the perspicuity of Scripture. But looking back, I can see that God was leading me that way from the beginning, even in my very first days at Bible college.

I was taking part in a prayer meeting, preliminary to going out door knocking, or soul winning as we called it. As a very recent Christian, I naively and innocently enough prayed aloud when it was my turn, that God would save those who He had predestined to eternal life.

That landed me in one of the professor's offices. Little known to me, and little understood by me at the time, this dispensationalist school had been experiencing a small outbreak of Calvinism that needed to be squelched, and it was perceived that poor little old me, who couldn't have known the difference between a Calvinist and a Darbyite was being thought of as a possible troublemaker.

I was repeatedly asked who taught me that God predestined anyone's salvation. I replied that I just read the Bible. And I had read the Bible rather voraciously on my own for the past year or so, and I am sure I had some verse or other to justify my prayer. I was asked who was my pastor. One of the graduates of the college.

Evidently, I apparently convinced him that I really was willing to change my mind and conform to what the Bible "really teaches". But I was an enigma to him. I couldn't, according to him, have learned this false doctrine from merely reading the Bible. Why? Because you can't get false doctrine from reading the Bible! You can only get false doctrine from a false teacher. In other words, the Scriptures alone will infallibly lead anyone, untampered by teachers, into true doctrine.

Wow. Nevertheless, I still held to this doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture throughout the next six years of my studies and into my first four or five years of the pastorate. It wasn't until a fellow named David Waltz came along and asked about why we need teachers of the Scripture is clear, that I became troubled enough about the assumption made and taught me by the Bible professor, to question myself the doctrine of perspicuity.

The fact that we need teachers, seems to argue that the Scriptures are not clear. Even the most eager and humble readers are not led by the Holy Spirit into all truth in this fashion. We are probably all familiar with the response of the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip's inquiry as to how he understood what he was reading in the 53rd of Isaias. Unless I am again deceived by false teachers, the Scripture itself seems to apparently be making the case against perspicuity. For the eunuch's response, recorded for all Christian posterity by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit replied when asked how he understood: "And how can I, unless some man shew me?"

The wisdom of God, and the light of the Holy Spirit in my experience does not shine upon those who closet themselves alone with the Scriptures, apart from careful examination of the reports given by those who preceded them. Neither would it seem, does Scripture teach such a pathway to the light. Rather, we have to identify the true teacher. The first qualification of the true teacher, in my opinion, is that he not try to convince me that the Scriptures are clear and easy to understand, or perspicuous. This is ultimately what easily eliminated most of the non-Roman options for me.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Oh...I was hurried and must be brief now...my boy just got back moments ago from basic training, Camp Pendleton, for a ten day leave. He looks pretty sharp if I say so myself.

My comments above were intended to be understood in connection with Raymond Brown's division of teachings as to their clarity from Scripture, as well as the continuing diversity in virtually all camps in regards to various forms of Trinity doctrine.

There is no question in my mind that Arianism is a plausible understanding of Scripture, unless there is some kind of official interpreter to which we are obliged.

Proud Dad, Rory

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings

On the subject of the trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Kepha said...

I have only a few obersavations:

1.) I wonder about your contention, which is clearly implied, that "orthodoxy" is born via Ecumenical Councils (and Popes). Thus, prior to the Council of Nicea, there was not, what we would today call, an "orthodox" view of the Godhead.

This is awefully close to the liberal contention, made famous by Walter Baur, that prior to "orthodoxy" there was simply heresy, and "orthodoxy" was/is nothing more than the view of the "winners." Baur's thesis, as well as yours, I cannot accept because of the implications that it has for Jesus' instruction of the Apostles, the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, and the Apostles' asserted consciousness of their knowledge of the Truth (see, e.g., 2 Pt 1:16-21, esp., v. 19a).

2.) I wonder if you have taken into account that all throughout the history of the Church there has lacked a perfect balance of understanding and expression regarding the Person of Christ. At some points in Christian history, in other words -- and I'm not talkng about pre-Nicene history! -- there were almost gnostic emphases upon Jesus; likewise, His humanity was emphasized to the detrimint of the immutable aspect of His Person at other periods.

3.) This is the most important point: if the case you make for development is true, then what Protestants say is explicit in Scripture is still fundamentally true. Let me explain: When a Protestant argues that the Trinity and the truths concerning Christ's person are explicit in Scripture, they obviously mean that they are there in the way that we understand them today (even with the various emphases you mention). What you have done is simply made the Protestant argument more accurate, not dispoven it, for you have now shown that the truths they say are explicit in Scripture are explicit, just not formally so. Thus, if one holds to the material sufficiency of Scripture, what the material is is no longer in question.

The explicit material, then, in Scripture is what is developed or made more precise and systematic. This brings us back to the heart of the issue regarding the Catholic understanding of doctrinal development, namely, the notion that the Immaculate Conception and the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences are "implicit" in Scripture. Unlike the explicit material in Scripture, which can be verified even in the midst of disagreement about just how formally defined it is in Scripture, the "implicit material" cannot be verified. We simply have to have faith alone in the Papacy. The East say, however, that what is "implicit" in Scripture is actually mere speculation and/or piety and cannot then develop into dogma.

David Waltz said...

Hello Kepha,

As you pointed out, your 3rd point is “the most important”, but I would like to make a brief comment on your 1st point before proceeding on to the 3rd. You wrote:

>> I wonder about your contention, which is clearly implied, that "orthodoxy" is born via Ecumenical Councils (and Popes). Thus, prior to the Council of Nicea, there was not, what we would today call, an "orthodox" view of the Godhead.

This is awefully close to the liberal contention, made famous by Walter Baur, that prior to "orthodoxy" there was simply heresy, and "orthodoxy" was/is nothing more than the view of the "winners." Baur's thesis, as well as yours, I cannot accept because of the implications that it has for Jesus' instruction of the Apostles, the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, and the Apostles' asserted consciousness of their knowledge of the Truth (see, e.g., 2 Pt 1:16-21, esp., v. 19a).>>

Me: I disagree, for I reject the major premise of Bauer’s thesis and begin with Irenaeus’ apologetic as delineated in his Against Heresies Book 3, chapters 1-4.

Now to point 3:

>> if the case you make for development is true, then what Protestants say is explicit in Scripture is still fundamentally true. Let me explain: When a Protestant argues that the Trinity and the truths concerning Christ's person are explicit in Scripture, they obviously mean that they are there in the way that we understand them today (even with the various emphases you mention). What you have done is simply made the Protestant argument more accurate, not dispoven it, for you have now shown that the truths they say are explicit in Scripture are explicit, just not formally so. Thus, if one holds to the material sufficiency of Scripture, what the material is is no longer in question.>>

Me: I must be dense Kepha, for I am finding it difficult to follow your line of thought here. As Brown pointed out in the book I cited, “the ‘Trinitarian’ line of development was not the only line of thought detectable in the NT”, such that “one must posit the guidance of the Spirit and intuition of faith as the church came to its decision.”

In other words, Brown believes the “material” of the NT allows for more than one line of development. I fully concur with him on this, and would add, that the raw material of the NT not only “allows” the development of an Arian, Semi-Arian, or Socinian theological systems, it “allows” such developments without doing violence to that raw material.

The video that Adam Pastor linked to brings back some old memories of my Northwest Bible Conferences days. These bi-annual Bible conferences were started by a group of former JWs to discuss via lectures and debates a broad range of theological issues. As one might expect, the doctrine of God and Christology were the two hottest topics. I would say that the majority of the speakers and attendees were Arian (in varying degrees), with Socinians being the second largest contingent. The few Trinitarians that gave lectures and attended (including yours truly) had a tough-row-to-hoe. Over the course of about a decade, I delivered 4 lectures defending Trinitarianism, and will never forget the question and answer period after my “Monogenēs” talk during which two disciples of Anthony Buzzard took me behind-the-wood-shed for a good ol’ fashioned spanking. “The Human Jesus” video also brings to mind James White's debate with Greg Stafford (HERE) in which James, at best, manages but a draw. (The same must said of St. Augustine’s famous debate with the Arian Maximinus – see "The Works of Saint Augustine", Arianism and Other Heresies, Vol. 1.18, pp, 175 – 227.)


I can agree that the doctrine of the Trinity is “clear”, but only clear to those who embrace the belief that the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church in Her formulations down through the ages; and to Protestants armed with Greek grammars and theological works written by Trinitarians.


A.N.S. Lane’s following reflections (displayed on AF’s side-bar) are worth repeating again:

“The Reformation principle was not private judgement but the perspicuity of the Scriptures. Scripture was ‘sui ipsius interpres’ and the simple principle of interpreting individual passages by the whole was to lead to unanimity in understanding. This came close to creating anew the infallible church…It was this belief in the clarity of Scripture that made the early disputes between Protestants so fierce. This theory seemed plausible while the majority of Protestants held to Luthern or Calvinist orthodoxy but the seventeenth century saw the beginning of the erosion of these monopolies. But even in 1530 Casper Schwenckfeld could cynically note that ‘the Papists damn the Lutherans; the Lutherans damn the Zwinglians; the Zwinglians damn the Anabaptists and the Anabaptists damn all others.’ By the end of seventeenth century many others saw that it was not possible on the basis of Scripture alone to build up a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent.”


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

Pfc McKenzie is napping. I'm not. Heh.

kepha:
I wonder about your contention, which is clearly implied, that "orthodoxy" is born via Ecumenical Councils (and Popes). Thus, prior to the Council of Nicea, there was not, what we would today call, an "orthodox" view of the Godhead.

Rory:
Hi kepha. It seems to me that we can't ignore the fact that the pre-Nicene Fathers, who we accept, and rightly so, as our true fathers in the faith, labored at a time before which the Trinitarian doctrines had been refined.

I don't accept Baur's view about the "winners" being orthodox, rather, I accept what St. Paul said about heresies when he observed the positive influence that they would have for the faithful: "that they also, who are approved may be manifest among you." I Cor. 11:19

There are different plausible interpretations, but one is certainly that until heresy arrives, doctrine tends to remain static. Arius comes along and has some pretty sound biblical arguments to say that Jesus was created. ("The Father is greater...", and so on).

It is when the faithful ponder a teaching like that, one with which they are not comfortable, that the faith once delivered to the saints is vivified and progresses. Apart from the Arian heresy, it seems difficult historically, to imagine the doctrines of Nicea being formulated as they were. One could say the same thing for a host of doctrines, some causing more difficulty than others for inquirers.

So my position is that Baur is correct if he observes that pre-Nicene Christianity was tolerant of that which it could not tolerate later. If one holds that there can be no greater progress in theological understanding than that which one could find if they could have sat at the feet of Sts. Peter, John, and Paul, then we would be seeing regression.

I suggest that a case can be made that the Apostles themselves in their preaching, and even when writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not have pondered the Word of God so deeply, as to have arrived at perfectly complete understandings of the truths with which they were entrusted. Or do we think that perfect understanding was infused into the Apostles? I tend to think not. If they did, they only perfectly comprehended that which they themselves wrote because St. Peter speaks of Paul's writings as being difficult. (2 Peter 3:16)

My position is that The Apostles gave us all that God wanted them to give us, in a form which has never been perfectly comprehended by anyone. The Apostles are our foundation, but they did not pass down to us perfect comprehension, even if they did have it themselves. With that in mind, it becomes more reasonable to suppose that just as Jesus could not say everything to the Apostles Himself, but waited for the Paraclete, so the Paraclete has continued to say things to the sons and daughters of God who have correctly identified "those who are approved" as they are "made manifest" during times of heresy.

Heretics like to speak of theology debates in terms of winners and losers. But I am convinced that the Councils, which mirror that first one in the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit spoke, are one of the ways by which we may identify the true developments of the apostolic deposit. Heretics are those former Catholics, who stubbornly refusing to submit to Councils, think that the truth will lose in history?

It is not for me to decide by analyzing the arguments between different schools of theological thought. According to St. Paul, in I Cor II, it is for the faithful to identify persons, the true prophet, and the true church, not forgetting to remember that we will "know them by their fruits". I am the last person to say that Protestants have bad arguments. I am the first person to say that I don't see a way to identify them as the true church, built on an apostolic foundation.

If it is simply that orthodoxy is merely the winner, per Baur, and error is proposed, accepted, and canonized as apostolic truth, that does not set me up to be a Protestant, for I don't know how to apply St. Paul's principle in I Cor., if the "losers" have the truth. I guess I have worked out a system that assumes that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the church into all truth, and not let her promote error by merely "winning."

-----

I might not quite understand what you call your "most important point". I think I hold to the material sufficiency of Scripture. I do not hold to an oral tradition that proposes treasury of merits or the Assumption. In my opinion, those doctrines are wrapped up in the idea of legitimate progress in understanding of the Apostolic deposit, which includes a progress in the Church's own self understanding of Her own prerogatives, which includes the authority to bind and loose, with the promise of Christ that heaven will ratify what is legislated on earth. No other church than the Catholic seems willing to accept the burden of this prerogative which according to them, must have expired with the Apostles.

-----

Kepha:
This brings us back to the heart of the issue regarding the Catholic understanding of doctrinal development, namely, the notion that the Immaculate Conception and the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences are "implicit" in Scripture. Unlike the explicit material in Scripture, which can be verified even in the midst of disagreement about just how formally defined it is in Scripture, the "implicit material" cannot be verified.

Rory:
I don't know how to verify Nicene Orthodoxy vs. Arianism without the authority of the Council of Nicea. As per Paul, I identify not the teaching, not the argument, but "those who are approved". I use the same methodology to arrive at the Trinity as I do to arrive at the Immaculate Conception and indeed as I do to arrive at papal infallibility. I believe in the authority of an ecumenical council before I believe in papal infallibility, which is precisely why it took Vatican I to give us infallibility, not Pius IX to give us Vatican I.

I don't have faith alone in the papacy to believe in the Assumption. I have faith that I have identified that body of believers whose spiritual fruits I am enraptured with. Maybe I shouldn't be so in love with the Cure of Ars, Teresa of Avila, the Little Flower, Dominic, Alphonsus Liguori, Padre Pio, and the hosts and hosts of martyrs, virgins, and doctors whose faith in Christ I hope to imitate? Who else is there? David Brainerd? Christmas Evans? Dwight Moody? I could name other non-Catholics that I don't mean to denigrate...but they are pale, dim reflections to me, of the light of Christ which seems to shine through these others who had faith that Christ's true Church would not fail, would not lose, and would not propose error to the faithful.

The Catholic who fails to find love and deep devotion, identifying the good fruit of the Lord to his own satisfaction, is always going to be more susceptible to discouragement. Dry arguments do not feed the will. Intellectual arguments are difficult to love. The Catholic will never be strong who does not search and find in addition to truth, the goodness and beauty which ratify his intellectual decision to accept the arguments proposed by the Holy Catholic Church. I believe in the Assumption, and the developments which gave Pius XII the boldness to proclaim it. With all my heart I believe that we have a happy band of heavenly intercessors from Augustine to Jerome, Bernard to Francis, Ignatius to deSales, and Vianney to Pio, who would have done the same. They didn't have "faith alone in the Papacy". They knew the good and wonderful fruits of practicing the truths that the Catholic Church proposes, and I am with them.

Not by their arguments, but by their fruits, we identify the true teachers. If you are convinced that the best fruit is found in the Moravian brethren. If that is where your heart identifies the peak of goodness and beauty, be it ever so true, there is no argument I could offer that would satisy you for long. A lot of shaky Catholics are of a double mind. They perceive the truth of arguments, but their wills are not joyfully engaged with delight. Their wills and their intellects are not one. Truth alone is not enough for us. We must give our souls something to love.

A blessed Lord's Day to you Kepha on the morrow, with my prayers that you may rapidly find your true earthly and heavenly Zion which will hold both your heart and mind captive.

Rory

Kepha said...

I must think some more on what has been said before I respond. I would like to, however, attempt to clarify my third point which, I admit, was difficult to follow.

Mr.Waltz, wrote:

"In other words, Brown believes the 'material' of the NT allows for more than one line of development. I fully concur with him on this, and would add, that the raw material of the NT not only 'allows' the development of an Arian, Semi-Arian, or Socinian theological systems, it 'allows' such developments without doing violence to that raw material."

This is precisely my point, namely, what is allowed. Even granting that these various understanding are "allowed" by the God-breathed material, this only makes the case that the marian dogmas are not allowed, not to mention the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences. By "not allowed" I mean that the Apostles never taught them; we have to "develop" them, and that not even from the explicit material!

Hopefully this makes better sense of what I was trying to say. But, as I said at the beginning, I need to think some more about what has been said.

TOmNossor said...

David and all,
I have enjoyed the recent three threads on your blog a great deal. I even started a response only to lose it somewhere. Anyway, here goes again.

I do not believe that there are any religious traditions worth embracing that do not have significant problems with them. I think I would agree with Rory also that there must be more than just intellectual merit in our particular religious choices. I however would also suggest that being aligned with the “saints” may inspire in ways beyond intellectual choice, but when the intellect attempts to gauge such “saints” (as Rory seemed to do concluding when he asked “If you are convinced that the best fruit is found in the Moravian brethren”) I think the results are subjective (I still prefer my Saints to his Saints). So while being inspired by Saints, being enraptured during the partaking of the Eucharist, and receiving direct revelation from God are IMO important they do not transfer from one believer to the next well. Thus to the extent there is worth in these discussions (and there is probably less worth in these discussion than there is in deeply personal experiences of our individual faiths), I think they need to be more aligned with history and doctrine and less with personal experiences of the faith.

Another thing I would like to mention is that “problems with religious traditions” will never be the reason they are embraced by their followers. I lean towards the view that the reasons to disbelieve in a particular faith tradition are of less evidentiary value than the reasons to believe in a particular faith. This does not mean that problems should be ignored or that problems cannot reach such magnitude that they cannot be overcome. But if there are problems with all religious traditions and we let ourselves believe that the presence of problems are sufficient reasons to reject a religious tradition, we will find ourselves without a religious tradition (I do not think Chris is at this place currently, and I hope he does not get to this place). One thing that we simply cannot do if we are to be consistent and reasonable is believe the mitigation of our problems makes them go away and the existence of problems in other traditions is sufficient reason to reject those traditions. I am likely guilty of just this on occasion, but to the extent I can see around this beam there are many others with similar inconsistencies.


Now, back to this thread:
I think this thread makes a strong case that the Bible is not formally sufficient with respect to the view of the Trinity that I most often encounter among folks who tell me that my view of the Trinity is so flawed I am hell bound. I would like to mention four views and talk about the problems and merits of each. Each view will be my particular envisioning of the view and as such I acknowledge that I am only the world authority on what I believe (as well as becoming perhaps increasingly entrenched in my own personal BIASES).


1. Catholic View – The Trinity and Christology were defined during ECs. This is developed theology. It was once delivered by Christ to the Apostles, but it required His Bride to develop/define it. BTW, someone mentioned that they thought modern Catholic apologists, like Hahn, embraced that Newman tradition. It has been my experience that modern Catholic apologist so neglect the developmental nature of the Trinity, Catholic authority, and most things. Instead these folks favor a Protestant or St Vincent de Lerins view to such an extent that I wonder if Newman is even part of modern Catholic apologetics.
2. James White View – The Trinity is not developed under that authority of the Catholic Church. Instead, it is present in scripture and present in the great theologians in the early church. The correct view of the Trinity is very important for ones salvation, and incorrect views like those held by Mormons and JW’s are damning.
3. Chris View – The Trinity generally as it was defined by councils is the greatest truth, but certainty in such things is not as present as Catholics or James White might suggest (BTW, I would have responded to Rory’s Paul with the greatness of doubting Thomas AND with “blessed are those who do not see and still believe.”)
4. LDS View (and JW View)– The developed theology within the early church is not the belief of the apostles and thus not the greatest truth.


The above 4 positions scream or hint at the problems with each. The Catholic problem(s) seems to have been the main thrust of the last few threads here at AF. Are the development theories of Newman accurate ways of describing history (and I personally might add, are they Catholic ways of describing history)? The Chris View seems to exist in response to problems with other views and I would suggest its problems lie elsewhere. If certainty is unavailable do we have enough to worship (and I personally would add something about authority)? The LDS and JW view have problems again not directly related to this particular question. Instead, they beg that we ask why should views emergent (emergent in some ways) in the 19th (and developed through the 20th I would suggest in both cases) century be considered? The foundational issues for these religious paradigms are frequently (and appropriately I would suggest) cited in conjunction with addressing these issues (I would like to suggest that in light of some of the info that is presented here that the common, “The Bible does not support your view!” might be undermined however).

Finally, as horribly BIASED as I am, I would suggest the James White view has a combination of all of these problems and in some cases the most problematic version of these problems of any in the group. The James White view seems to not provide an adequate response to the bulk of the history presented in this thread. If we express concerns that Newman’s theory does not adequately describe history, I think the concerns that White’s certainty within history and in the Bible is a less adequate description of history and the Bible (this is a larger issue than the similar one in Catholicism IMO). Next, having unmoored from an infallible church, does the White view leave us with too little to worship (this I would suggest is a smaller issue than the similar one in liberal Christianity)? Finally, are there not foundational issues for the White view too? Can the Reformers modest departures in theology be justified without an adequate foundational claim for such a departure from the source of the theology (I think this issue is both bigger and smaller for the White view than for the LDS/JW view)?


I can imagine that it would not be hard to find a Catholic, a James White (or similar believing, dare I say, disciple), a liberal Christian, and a JW/LDS who would be willing to say that they do not have any semblance of the problems I suggest that they do. That being said, I think the fairest of these various adherents would acknowledge that there is something to the problems highlighted and yet they are addressed with XYZ. Concerning sin there is a popular saying within my church (and we perhaps stole it from another source as is the case with many such sayings). “If all the problems of all of mankind were placed upon a table and we had the opportunity to pick up the problems of another person instead of ours, we ultimately would choose to take our exact set of problems rather than trade for another person’s.” Similarly, I think most adherents here would pick up their religious paradigm problems rather than trade for another groups. That being said, I think the Catholic problems have loomed large in the last three blog posts here, but I personally would choose to pick those up if I was forbidden to re-shoulder my own tradition’s issues.

Charity, TOm


P.S. As a post script, I wish to add (in response to a few other posts in one of the other threads that influenced my above post just a little), that I like Chris have read Strobel (Case for Christ and Faith) and C.S. Lewis. I have also read William Lane Craig, a little Habermas (and some McDowell). I like Chris have dealt with LDS truth claims (and unlike Chris embrace them as the least problematic paradigm). I am fond of making the following point and since Chris and Ken Temple invited me to do so will here. Richard Packham, a very vocal critic of Mormonism, specifically addressed Strobel and McDowell and claimed “In the case of Mormonism, for example, with which I am very familiar, I think the Mormons have better evidence for the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith than the Christians have for the resurrection.” Also, like Chris, Paul Owen specifically mentioned his engagement with Mormonism when explaining why he has moved away from Evangelical Christianity (and towards Catholicism BTW). While not explicitly mentioning Mormonism like Owen did, I like to link Beckwith to Owen since Beckwith is among the few critics (James White not included IMO) who have dealt with strong LDS claims and like Owen recently ceased to be an Evangelical Christian and moved towards Catholicism (Beckwith is Catholic, Owen is not). There are also some similar stories for other participants on this board.
I surely do sin in my disdain for James White and the evangelical Christianity that I link and that I don’t link to him, but I cannot help but again and again see the shakiness of the foundation upon which it is built. I have spent less time with Chris’s liberal Christianity than I should, but I lean towards the view that when weighing the evidence among the paradigms I do not embrace, Catholicism and liberal Christianity are stronger paradigms than Evangelical Christianity (Strobel, McDowell, Habermas, Craig, and … considered). Catholicism still stands as my clear second choice BTW.

Ken Temple said...

Richard Packham, a very vocal critic of Mormonism, specifically addressed Strobel and McDowell and claimed “In the case of Mormonism, for example, with which I am very familiar, I think the Mormons have better evidence for the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith than the Christians have for the resurrection.”

That, on the face of it, seems like a real stretch and a goofy statement.

Ken Temple said...

Just because the exact words, "homo-ousias" and "three hypostasis" or "three persona" or "Tri -Unitas" are not used in sacred Scripture, does not mean that those concepts are not there.

Amazing that some think Arian theology is legitimate development in the face of John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:6-8; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; I John 5:20; John 5:18; 8:56-58; 10:3-33; 19:6; Colossians 1:15ff; 2:9, and many other passages.

There is proper and legitimate development, and there is invalid development. The Trinity and Substititionary Atonement (Isaiah 53 and other texts to Anselm to Calvin and Reformers), and sola fide and Sola Sciptura are proper developments, using different words later to reflect good exegesis of the text of Scripture.

Taking all the scriptural data together, that is why the Nicene fathers and other ECF wrote what they wrote and testified that the doctrine of the Deity of Christ, and the Trinity is true and is Biblical.

Seems more "disdain" is being dished out here for Evangelical position than any other position.

I am quite surprised that some think Mormonism has archaeological evidence for its foundations.

The liberalism view is also a strange view, stranger than Newman and conservative Roman Catholics. Liberalism expressed here is the highest kind of "pick and choose"; "whatever I want for myself, that feels good to me" kind of Christianity.

TOmNOssor said...

Ken,
I am not sure why it is a “goofy statement.” To be 100% honest, I do not know exactly what evidence Richard Packham means when he makes his claim, but having read Strobel’s book I could guess.
Here is the more full quote:
“And yet, in asking us to relax the strict rules of evidence in the case of Christianity, the apologists would be unwilling, I am sure, to make the same relaxation in the case of the claims of other religions, such as Mormonism, or Islam, or Baha'i; (In the case of Mormonism, for example, with which I am very familiar, I think the Mormons have better evidence for the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith than the Christians have for the resurrection);”
Before I tilt at windmills too much, why is this a “goofy statement?” I have long felt that the skepticism critics of Mormonism invite LDS to use when examining our truth claims would decimate non-LDS Christianity (especially Evangelical Christianity). I also feel I have various witting and unwitting validaters (or partial validators I reckon) for this view.
Charity, TOm

TOmNossor said...

Ken said:
Seems more "disdain" is being dished out here for Evangelical position than any other position.

I am quite surprised that some think Mormonism has archaeological evidence for its foundations.

TOm:
I should have read along. I am guilty as charged.

Despite reading some of Darby at David’s suggestion about 1-2 months ago and despite reading these threads, I cannot help but see Catholicism as such a less problematic paradigm.
I do not wish to suggest that Newman’s development theories are without problems or that Mormonism or Chris’s liberalism is without problems. In fact, part of my point is that problems can be found and magnified sufficiently that any paradigm can be rejected. I have “disdain” for James White who I think does far more magnification of the problems within other paradigms than he does self reflection upon his own paradigm’s problems.

Now, I should have been more clear in my post. I am a LDS. The problems that I would reshoulder instead of the problems with Catholicism are Mormonism’s problems. I have come to grips with the archeological issue you mention (and would suggest that there is more far more Old World –and perhaps a little more New World- evidence for the BOM than there is for the Exodus in the Bible).

My mention of Mormonism (unlike Richard Packham’s) was not solely to dig even harder at Evangelical Christianity by placing it below Mormonism on the evidentiary totem pole. Truth be told, I place all Christian paradigms below Mormonism on the evidentiary totem pole.

Chris specifically mentioned that certainty in his paradigm was affected by his engagement with Mormonism. He, it seems, and I have both engaged Strobel and C.S. Lewis and LDS thought. I felt the desire to comment as I did so I did comment. I do not wish to offend. I also fear that I might derail this thread, so I will ATTEMPT to back out of my pro-Mormon musings.
Charity, TOm

David Waltz said...

Wow, so much is happening that is difficult where and how to proceed. As such, I am going to jump back into the fray by commenting on something that jumped out at me from Ken’s pen. Ken posted:

>>Amazing that some think Arian theology is legitimate development in the face of John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:6-8; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; I John 5:20; John 5:18; 8:56-58; 10:3-33; 19:6; Colossians 1:15ff; 2:9, and many other passages.>>

Me: First, the length, deep, and breadth at which Anthanasius, the Cappodicians, Augustine and other Church Fathers had to proceed along in order to combat Arianism in their day should cause one to at least wonder…

As for the passages that Ken cited, I think Murray J. Harris summed up the situation best when he said: “It is a curious fact that each of the texts to be examined contains an interpretive problem of some description; actually, most contain two or three.” (Jesus As God, p. 11.)

One of the largest obstacles that I had to overcome during my journey out of the JWs was the distinctive language that is reversed for God the Father in the Bible and early ECFs. This, along with the fact that much of the language usually brought to bear in the defense of our Lord’s FULL deity, is also used of God’s adopted, and glorified Sons, shed a different light (IMHO) on the passages that Ken invoked.

I have been working on a book (off and on for about 5 years now) concerning the relationship between the doctrine of deification and the doctrine of God in the Bible and ECFs.

Chapter one concerns deification in the NT. The following is opening paragraph:

Chapter abstract: The terminology used to describe the doctrine of deification in the New Testament has many points of contact with the terminology used to describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. This terminology used to describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son has convinced the vast majority of Christians down through the ages of the Church to conclude that because Jesus Christ shares so deeply in the nature and divine life of God, He too must be of the same order of being as God the Father. One must water down the motifs of “image of God”, "Son of God", “immortality”, “heir”, “kingly rule”, etc. in order to avoid the clear teaching that Jesus Christ truly shares in God the Father’s “divine nature.” If the same terminology used to describe this relationship between God the Father and God the Son is used to describe the relationship between Jesus Christ and God’s adopted Sons, what should are conclusions be?

Anyway, if others are interested in pursuing these issues further, please do so, I have no problem with my threads proceeding down diverse tangents.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Tom,

Welcome to AF!!! You wrote:

>>I felt the desire to comment as I did so I did comment. I do not wish to offend. I also fear that I might derail this thread, so I will ATTEMPT to back out of my pro-Mormon musings.>>

Me: When it comes to the related issues of development and apostasy, us more “historic” Christians tend to forget the CoJCoLDS. However, the Mormon paradigm is an important one (IMHO), for of all the restoration groups, it is by far the largest. So, I shall gently urge to rethink your last comment.


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. I am going to start working on a new thread that I suspect you will be very interested in. Lord willing, I will post it later today.

Kepha said...

Rory,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. It has made ponder, to be sure. Mr. Waltz did not deal with the reason why I cannot accept the notion that there was no orthodox understanding prior to Nicea. He did not even quote this part of my comments. They are as follows:

Baur's thesis, as well as yours, I cannot accept because of the implications that it has for Jesus' instruction of the Apostles, the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, and the Apostles' asserted consciousness of their knowledge of the Truth (see, e.g., 2 Pt 1:16-21, esp., v. 19a).

You comments, on the other hand, do deal with this.

For me, it is not so much the sufficiency of Scripture that is the issue; rather, it is the sufficiency of the Apostles' teaching that is at stake. You have stated, as well as Mr. Waltz, that the teaching of the Apostles' is not sufficient. This is incredibly difficult to accept, for when I read the New Testament, I get the impression that the writers think their knowledge to be sufficient for the Church.

When Jude writes that the believers should "contend earnestly for the faith," it is "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (v. 3; emphasis mine) by the Apostles; it is the Faith which the early Christians "devoted themselves to" (Acts 2:42); it is the Faith that the Apostle Paul said to "take as your norm" (1 Tim 1:13).

When Irenaeus was combating the Gnostics, he had no appeal to developing tradition. Significantly, he had recourse to the teaching of the Apostles which had been handed down publicly (as opposed to secretly like the Gnostics). Indeed, as Robert Lee Williams has pointed out in his dissertation on the issue of apostolic succession, Irenaeus's understanding is not that whatever a successor of the apostles regarding the Faith goes by virtue of his office; rather, it is that a successor of the apostles is a torch-bearer. Like the Apostle Paul, each successor says, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received"!

From what I can see, you and Mr. Waltz are arguing that this teaching and its handing on is not sufficient, becuase there were many interpretations of it. Those are my thoughts for now. God bless.

Kepha said...

ORRECTION:

I wrote:

Indeed, as Robert Lee Williams has pointed out in his dissertation on the issue of apostolic succession, Irenaeus's understanding is not that whatever a successor of the apostles regarding the Faith goes by virtue of his office; rather, it is that a successor of the apostles is a torch-bearer.

It should read:

Indeed, as Robert Lee Williams has pointed out in his dissertation on the issue of apostolic succession, Irenaeus's understanding is not that whatever a successor of the apostles says regarding the Faith is true by virtue of his office; rather, it is that a successor of the apostles is a torch-bearer.

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

You wrote:

>>For me, it is not so much the sufficiency of Scripture that is the issue; rather, it is the sufficiency of the Apostles' teaching that is at stake. You have stated, as well as Mr. Waltz, that the teaching of the Apostles' is not sufficient.>>

Me: Materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient. Just wanted to make sure that there is no misunderstanding.

>>This is incredibly difficult to accept, for when I read the New Testament, I get the impression that the writers think their knowledge to be sufficient for the Church.>>

Me: I get a different impression. The need for teachers suggests to me that the apostolic deposit needs authoritative interpretation.

>>When Jude writes that the believers should "contend earnestly for the faith," it is "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (v. 3; emphasis mine) by the Apostles; it is the Faith which the early Christians "devoted themselves to" (Acts 2:42); it is the Faith that the Apostle Paul said to "take as your norm" (1 Tim 1:13).>>

Me: OK, no argument here. But what are the bare essentials of that faith? Perhaps you could give us a list so that they can be further discussed. For instance, did the apostles teach baptismal regeneration? How about infant baptism? How about baptism for the dead? What about an ordained ministry? Etc., etc.

>>From what I can see, you and Mr. Waltz are arguing that this teaching and its handing on is not sufficient, becuase there were many interpretations of it.>>

In my latest thread (posted today) I link to an interesting (at least to me) essay from Darby. About two-thirds of the way into the essay he delineates (briefly, but quite accurately) what the earliest non-biblical authors were teaching and handing on—IMHO, I think their writings strongly indicate that the apostolic deposit was not formally sufficient.


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Do you have a link to Robert Lee Williams’ dissertation?

David Waltz said...

The following is part of the apostolic tradition that Irenaeus was handing down...

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.6.1 “God stood in the in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. (ANF 1.419).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.18.7 Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partakers of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. (ANF 1.448)

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.19.1 To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: “I said, Ye are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but ye shall die like men.” He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. (ANF 1.448). [See also 3.6.1]

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.Pref.4 - 4.1.1 ...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption. Since, therefore, this is sure and steadfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption. (ANF 1.463).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.33.4 ... how can they be saved unless it was God who wrought out their salvation upon earth? Or how shall man pass into God, unless God has [first] passed into man? (ANF 1.507).

Irenaeus - Adv. 4.20.4 Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. (ANF 1.488).

Irenaeus - Adv. 4.20.5, 6a These things did the prophets set forth in a prophetical manner; but they did not, as some allege, [proclaim] that He who was seen by the prophets was a different [God], the Father of all being invisible. Yet this is what those [heretics] declare, who are altogether ignorant of the nature of prophecy. For prophecy is a prediction of things future, that is, a setting forth beforehand of those things which shall be afterwards. The prophets, then, indicated beforehand that God should be seen by men; as the Lord also says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But in respect to His greatness, and His wonderful glory, “no man shall see God and live,” for the Father is incomprehensible; but in regard to His love, and kindness, and as to His infinite power, even this He grants to those who love Him, that is, to see God, which thing the prophets did also predict. “For those things that are impossible with men, are possible with God.” For man does not see God by his own powers; but when He pleases He is seen by men, by whom He wills, and when He wills, and as He wills. For God is powerful in all things, having been seen at that time indeed, prophetically through the Spirit, and seen, too, adoptively through the Son; and He shall also be seen paternally in the kingdom of heaven, the Spirit truly preparing man in the Son of God, and the Son leading him to the Father, while the Father, too, confers [upon him] incorruption for eternal life, which comes to every one from the fact of his seeing God. For as those who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendor. But [His] splendor vivifies them; those, therefore, who see God, do receive life. And for this reason, He, [although] beyond comprehension, and boundless and invisible, rendered Himself visible, and comprehensible, and within the capacity of those who believe, that He might vivify those who receive and behold Him through faith. For as His greatness is past finding out, so also His goodness is beyond expression; by which having been seen, He bestows life upon those who see Him. It is not possible to live apart from life, and the means of life is found in fellowship with God; but fellowship with God is to know God, and to enjoy His goodness.

Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God; which, as I have already said, was declared figuratively by the prophets, that God should be seen by men who bear His Spirit [in them], and do always wait patiently for His coming. (ANF 1.488, 489.)

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.24.2 and that His Word, invisible by nature, was made palpable and visible among men, and did descend “to death, even the death of the cross;” also, that they who believe in Him shall be incorruptible and not subject to suffering (Latin: impassiblies – impassible), and shall receive the kingdom of heaven. (ANF 1.495)

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.38.3-4 His wisdom [is shown] in His having made created things parts of one harmonious and consistent whole; and those things which, through His super-eminent kindness, receive growth and a long period of existence, do reflect the glory of the uncreated One, of that God who bestows what is good ungrudgingly. For from the very fact of these things having been created, [it follows] that they are not uncreated; but by their continuing in being throughout a long course of ages, they shall receive a faculty of the Uncreated, through the gratuitous bestowal of eternal existence upon them by God. ...man, a created and organized being, is rendered after the image and likeness of the uncreated God... we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods...He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil. (ANF 1.521-522).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.39.2 How, then, shall he be a God, who has not as yet been made a man? Or how can he be perfect who was but lately created? How, again can he be immortal, who in his mortal nature did not obey his Maker? For it must be that thou, at the outset, shouldest hold the rank of a man, and then afterwards partake of the glory of God. (ANF 1.522-523).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 5.Pref ...the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself. (ANF 1.526).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 5.1.1 Since the Lord thus has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, imparting indeed God to men by means of the Spirit, and, on the other hand, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God...(ANF 1.527). [see also 5.36.3]

Irenaeus – Adv. Her. 5.6.1 Now God shall be glorified in His handiwork, fitting it so as to be conformable to, and modeled after, His own Son. For by the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not [merely] a part of man, was made in the likeness of God. Now the soul and the spirit are certainly a part of the man, but certainly not the man; for the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was molded after the image of God. For this reason does the apostle declare, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms “spiritual,” they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual. For if any one take away the substance of flesh, that is, of the handiwork [of God], and understand that which is purely spiritual, such then would not be a spiritual man but would be the spirit of a man, or the Spirit of God. But when the spirit here blended with the soul is united to [God’s] handiwork, the man is rendered spiritual and perfect because of the outpouring of the Spirit, and this is he who was made in the image and likeness of God. (ANF 1.531)

Irenaeus – Adv. Her. 5.32.1 Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God’s dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum)…(ANF 1.561)

Ken Temple said...

TomNossor,
Sorry to probably offend you Tom, nothing is meant personally as an attack against you as a person.

I have always believed Mormonism to be lacking in credibility because of its polytheism, the teaching that God has a physical body, Adam as God/Elohim; the history of polygamy, the lack of archaeological evidence in Mormonism; the sermons and lives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and Mormon church’s practice of continuing revelation and it’s history of racism until 1978.

But for social ethics and morality, many Mormons are great, moral people and family oriented—for that I am thankful and I respect that aspect of it. (I like Mitt Romney and Dale Murphy, the baseball player; former Atlanta Brave!)

But the following are just too much to even consider Mormonism as credible:

1. Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse

2. Brigham Young's 1852 Adam-God Sermon

3. Lorenzo Snow couplet. Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president and prophet of the mainstream sect of Mormonism, is famous both in and outside of Mormonism for his couplet: "As man is God once was, as God is man may be." This short couplet summarizes the traditional understanding of what Joseph Smith taught in the "Sermon in the Grove" and, most famously, in the "King Follett Discourse"

4. There just does not seem to be much credibility to Mormon archeological claims. You will probably be offended, but Walter Martin’s writings, Bill McKeever, Sandra Tanner, James White and other evangelical ministries provide enough evidence to not believe any Mormon archeological claims.

That is what I meant by “over-board” and “goofy”.

- 4.(continued) on archaeological Mormon claims
http://www.mrm.org/topics/book-mormon/smithsonian-institution-statement-regarding-book-mormon

5. Furthermore, all the evidence that historic Mormonism taught some kind of physical union between mortal Mary and immortal Elohim (God the Father); while denying it in modern Mormonism, adds to the lack of credibility in Mormonism.

http://www.mrm.org/topics/jesus-christ/redefining-virgin-birth-mormonisms-teaching-concerning-natural-conception-jesus

6. Also, the Mormon church’s teaching on Lucifer is indeed “goofy”.

Lucifer. One of the literal sons of Elohim and Heavenly Mother. A spirit-brother of Jesus (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 34). Lucifer was present at the council of the gods, which was called to determine how mankind would be saved. Lucifer's plan was rejected, resulting in his rebelling against his father Elohim (D&C 29:36, Book of Abraham 3:27-28). In the Bible, Lucifer is a fallen angel whose rebellion against God caused him to be cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18). He was a created being brought into existence by Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2).

7. History of racism in Mormonism:
http://www.mrm.org/topics/miscellaneous/black-skin-and-seed-cain

8. Many other problems with Mormonism in the books, The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin and One Nation Under gods, by Richard Abanes.

Ken Temple said...

Tom,
I also wish you charity and peace and trust that you understand that my statements on Mormonism are about the doctrine and history, not about Mormons as people.

I hope you would not give up on discussion just because you are LDS.

Sincerely,
Ken Temple

TOmNossor said...

Ken,
I am surely not offended or upset. I will say a bit abruptly here, but I also hope you will not be offended or upset.
David seemed to encourage me so I will give you some more of my pro-Mormon musings.

As I mentioned in my post, I have read Strobel, McDowell, C.S. Lewis, and other Christian authors who offer evidence for the truth claims of Christianity. I have also read some or a lot from virtually all of the critics of Mormonism you mentioned. I have spoken with James White and had prolonged dialogue with Richard Abanes. I have also had prolonged dialogue with Richard Packham (previously mentioned atheist), Bob Betts (head of Concerned Christians –online and in person), and Patrick Madrid (one of the few Catholic apologists who has dealt extensively with Mormonism –online and in person). I mention this to suggest that I am not unaware of the arguments made by Mormonism’s critics and I am not unaware of the types of apologetic responses offered to atheist critics by Christians (such as Strobel). It is my considered opinion that the James White methodology if consistently applied to his form of Christianity would leave it looking “non-credible,” “goofy,” and “over-board.” In addition to this, EVERY one of the folks you mentioned (and the folks I just mentioned) FAIL to deal with Mormonism in a serious or charitable way. They lack seriousness because they avoid dealing with the most informed presentations of Mormonism (some even know they avoid this, but intentionally persist to fight weaker foes). They lack charity because they are more interested in scoring points than honestly representing Mormonism.

The unfortunate result of the popularity of folks like White, Martin, and McKeever is that folks like you think they know the score. This allows you to dismiss Mormonism without seeing a more full picture. I like the words Chris offered, the words I quoted from Richard Packham, and the witness of folks like Paul Owen and Francis Beckwith. None of them seem likely to ever become LDS, but all of them have engaged Mormonism more fully than White, Martin or McKeever. Chris has become somewhat of an expert on the single biggest problem with Mormonism IMO (one you did not mention), but with his knowledge of this problem he still made the comments in the other thread. Richard Packham IMO consistently applies the skeptical principles he invites LDS to apply to our religion and sees them as damning to all Christianity. He stands with a number of atheist critics of Mormonism who find/found (and claim) that if a person continues to reason concerning non-LDS Christianity in the way this person reasoned to depart from Mormonism, they will become non-Christians. Paul Owen and Beckwith charitably and seriously addressed LDS theology. In so doing Paul Owen specifically claims he moved toward Catholicism because Evangelical Christianity could not provide adequate responses to serious LDS apologetics. Beckwith to my knowledge has made no such claims, but after engaging Mormonism seriously and charitably he became a Catholic.

Now, I am not particularly excited to respond to the list of criticisms you offered, but I am aware of them and know were multiple responses from faithful LDS are. I can point you towards these responses if you wish to seriously consider becoming a LDS, but for now I would rather point you to this essay by Mosser and Owen (Paul Owen):
http://www.cometozarahemla.org/others/mosser-owen.html
It is my position that while Chris and David have very good reasons for not being LDS, those who think James White has dealt the death blow to Mormonism are woefully misinformed. I know of zero converts that have resulted from my longwinded babbling, but a small number of folks who have acknowledge that perhaps things are not quite as simple as White would have one believe. That is my more modest goal, but I am often forced to be content with failure. It is just too easy to dismiss Mormonism for good reasons like Chris offers or fair to poor reasons like you offer.

Similarly, I still have little trouble dismissing non-LDS, non-Catholic Christianity and am only beginning to be ever so slightly interested in Chris’s liberal Christianity. I hope having read Strobel, McDowell, C.S. Lewis, some Darby, some White, many debates, and much more; I am not guilty of precisely that of which I accuse you. The beam in my eye may in fact be eclipsing truth, but I try to read pro-evangelical literature to prevent such myopia. And of course, I seek God’s aid in my attempts may He be with all of us especially those who Seek in this wild landscape of religious truth claims!

Charity, TOm

Ken Temple said...

David Waltz wrote:

The following is part of the apostolic tradition that Irenaeus was handing down...

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.6.1 “God stood in the in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. (ANF 1.419).

Ireneaus seems to use that verse to try and bolster the doctrine of the Deity of Christ; but later in context, he speaks closer to the true meaning and original intent of Psalm 82. (Against Heresies 3:6:3) It is obvious that God is using sarcasm against those prideful rulers and judges who thing they are “gods” by their political power and military might. Verse 6 makes it clear, that he is saying that they think they are “gods”, but they will die like men. The whole Psalm must be interpreted in context within itself.

And Irenaeus should also be interpreted in context, even though he too takes Psalm 82 too far from its original intention and applies unsound exegesis.

Against Heresies 3:6:3
3. When, however, the Scripture terms them [gods] which are no gods, it does not, as I have already remarked, declare them as gods in every sense, but with a certain addition and signification, by which they are shown to be no gods at all. As with David: “The gods of the heathen are idols of demons;” (Psalm 96: 5) and, “Ye shall not follow other gods.” (Psalm 81:9) For in that he says “the gods of the heathen”—but the heathen are ignorant of the true God—and calls them “other gods,” he bars their claim [to be looked upon] as gods at all. But as to what they are in their own person, he speaks concerning them; “for they are,” he says, “the idols of demons.” And Esaias: “Let them be confounded, all who blaspheme God, and carve useless things; These words are an interpolation: it is supposed they have been carelessly repeated from the preceding quotation of Isaiah. even I am witness, saith God.” (Isaiah 44:9) He removes them from [the category of] gods, but he makes use of the word alone, for this [purpose], that we may know of whom he speaks. Jeremiah also says the same: “The gods that have not made the heavens and earth, let them perish from the earth which is under the heaven.” Jer. 10:11. For, from the fact of his having subjoined their destruction, he shows them to be no gods at all.

The rest is just too much to comment on.

Ken Temple said...

Tomnossor,
That's cool. no problem. Thanks for your answer. I am glad you were not offended personally and understand your point about being fair and reading the other side of the argument. I thought that you had probably had also known about or read those things and those evangelicals like Walter Martin and the Tanners and Dr. White, more than likely, are notorious in Mormon circles.

You wrote:
"Chris has become somewhat of an expert on the single biggest problem with Mormonism IMO (one you did not mention),"

What is that; what is the single biggest problem with Mormonism?

peace,
Ken Temple

Kepha said...

Mr. Waltz, let me first apologize for being so unclear. When I read your comments I see that I'm not being as clear as I could be. I must admit that this discussion, as well as the one at Dr. Liccione's blog, has developed my thinking. I suspect that this has something to do with my inadequate presentation of my reasoning.

You wrote:

I get a different impression. The need for teachers suggests to me that the apostolic deposit needs authoritative interpretation.

I do not disagree with this at all. My point has to do with that which is interpreted. Are we interpreting that which was handed down by the Apostles? Or are we interpreting/dogmatizing theological speculations and/or pious beliefs?

You also wrote,

OK, no argument here. But what are the bare essentials of that faith? Perhaps you could give us a list so that they can be further discussed. For instance, did the apostles teach baptismal regeneration? How about infant baptism? How about baptism for the dead? What about an ordained ministry? Etc., etc.

Again you miss the point. You seem to be focusing on formal sufficiency while I'm focusing on material sufficiency. My point is, to use your example, at least we know that Jesus and the Apostles taught baptism and that it was not optional; you can't even say that about the Imaculate Conception or the Bodily Assumption or the Treasury of Merit or Indulgences! You don't even have that basis to stand on.

Here then lies the heart of the issue, and please understand this: At this point in Catholic theology, the development of doctrine must change. It becomes no longer just a development of the teaching of the Apostles that is so strongly emphasized in the New Testament; development now becomes a development of "implicit" things that one cannot see unless they trust the Magisterium.

I hope that this makes clearer my thinking.

Chris said...

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this thread, since my name came up a few times! I'll try to play catch-up. First of all, Ken:

>>What is that; what is the single biggest problem with Mormonism?

That would be the Book of Abraham. A lot could be said on the subject, but for a brief run-down of what I consider the "smoking gun", see here.

>>Liberalism expressed here is the highest kind of "pick and choose"; "whatever I want for myself, that feels good to me" kind of Christianity.

Ultimately, that's more or less what we all do. I am reminded of an argument made by William Jennings Bryan to the effect that "the degradation of the Bible leaves the Christian world without a standard of morals other than than upon which men can agree." The problem with this reasoning is that the only reason the Bible has served as an effective standard of morals is that so many people have agreed upon it. Even if biblical infallibility were true, society would still need to engage in a process of negotiation and indoctrination in order to implement it as a moral standard. The brute fact of biblical infallibility would not alleviate moral anarchy; nor, unfortunately, could it prevent it. Infallible Bible or no, we have "no standard of morals other than than upon which men can agree," and there's nothing we can do about it.

The situation is much the same in the case of religious loyalties. All human beings must choose what they will believe, even if that means they merely decide to stick with what they were taught as a child. We engage in this selection based on a range of criteria, including whether it makes us happy, whether we believe it's true, and whether it convinces us that it can connect us with something transcendent. What makes pluralism a unique option is that it sees the bewildering array of other religious options and the virtually hopeless selection process people engage in and concludes that one of four things must be true: either 1) God will not condemn people for choosing wrongly, 2) there is a sense in which any option we choose, so long as we choose with right motives, is the "right" choice, 3) God does not exist, or 4) God is cruel/capricious/unjust. I choose option number 2, not because I am following the crowd or because it makes me feel good, but because in my opinion it is the most defensible. There are cases of transcendent experience-- miracles, if you will-- in many different religious traditions that I simply cannot explain. This is not to say that all traditions are equally beneficial or that they all contain equal amounts of truth, but it is to say that divine intervention does not seem to be contingent upon (or even intended to communicate) correct belief.

One possible consequence of a pluralist view is that maybe we all have license to go with whatever religious option "feels good to me," as you asserted. But this is not a necessary consequence, and it is not what I consider to be the consequence of the pluralist view. I see evidence that God values sincerity and loving action toward others. To select one's religious practices based strictly on selfish motives, then, would in my opinion be misguided.

Tom,

It is clear you have been reading and thinking deeply about my posts. Thank you. I don't find many people who are willing to take my perspective seriously, which is a bit distressing for me since it sometimes makes me wonder if I've completely lost my marbles. :) I'm glad to hear you think my perspective is more coherent than evangelicalism. I'm moving in the right direction, then! *grin*

I think I agree with the remark that there is better evidence for the appearance of Moroni than for the resurrection. (As a pluralist, I can accept both if I feel compelled to do so! *grin again*)

You mentioned as the "Chris view" the following: "The Trinity generally as it was defined by councils is the greatest truth, but certainty in such things is not as present." To clarify, my view is that the Western view of the Trinity (specifically homoousios) may in fact be an excellent fit for what the writer of the Fourth Gospel had in mind. But I see diversity in the New Testament and the Early Church. I also do not necessarily see the Fourth Gospel's view as normative or the Trinity as "the greatest truth". I think that the Trinity conceived in Johannine/Platonic terms is probably the most defensible version of the doctrine, but I would not say I actually hold this view. I lean more toward Emerson's view that Christ was God incarnate in a non-exclusive and non-unique sense. He was a pioneer of the incarnation of the divine in humanity, and the best model I have encountered of how this incarnation can be effected, but he is not the only instance of it. I do not hold rigidly to this Emersonian view (which as I'm sure you notice has strong ties to the medieval mystical tradition), but I do presently find it the most compelling way to conceptualize Christ and his role as the exemplar for my personal faith.

And now that I'm done spouting my heresy, I bid you adieu and wish you well. Good night! :)

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hello Kepha,

I sincerely appreciate the constructive and charitable dialogue that is taking place. In your last response you wrote:

>>Again you miss the point. You seem to be focusing on formal sufficiency while I'm focusing on material sufficiency. My point is, to use your example, at least we know that Jesus and the Apostles taught baptism and that it was not optional; you can't even say that about the Imaculate Conception or the Bodily Assumption or the Treasury of Merit or Indulgences! You don't even have that basis to stand on.>>

Me: Let see if I understand your position: baptism is explicitly mentioned in Scripture, but the theology concerning baptism (including mode, subjects, effects, etc.) required development. However, the Marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, and as such, there can be no legitimate development. Is this an accurate assessment of your position?

>>Here then lies the heart of the issue, and please understand this: At this point in Catholic theology, the development of doctrine must change. It becomes no longer just a development of the teaching of the Apostles that is so strongly emphasized in the New Testament; development now becomes a development of "implicit" things that one cannot see unless they trust the Magisterium.>>

Me: A few months ago I would have had little to add to your above comments. However, in preparation for the release of Bavinck’s 4th volume of his Reformed Dogmatics in English, I decided to reread volume 1 (Prolegomena). The following extract ‘hit home’:

“By the method of dogmatics, broadly speaking, one must understand the manner in which dogmatic material is acquired and treated. Three factors come into play in this acquisition: Holy Scripture, the church’s confession, and Christian consciousness.” (Page 61.)

Bavinck sees the Holy Spirit at work in all three factors, and though he states that the RCC has placed too much emphasis on the latter two factors, Bavinck does not exclude them (as many EVs seem to do). So my question is, what is to be done with the “implicit” material that of the Scriptures that has come to the fore among/within the Christian consciousness? Can any semblance of certainty exist at this level?


Thanks much for your continued patience. Shall be looking for to your next response.


Grace and peace,

David

Kepha said...

Mr. Waltz, you wrote:

However, the Marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, and as such, there can be no legitimate development.

No. As I stated before: "For me, it is not so much the sufficiency of Scripture that is the issue; rather, it is the sufficiency of the Apostles' teaching that is at stake." The marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in the teaching of the Apostles, and so there can be no development.

TOmNossor said...

Ken Temple:
What is that; what is the single biggest problem with Mormonism?

TOm:
I can’t tell you that! Just kidding and Chris answered already.
I personally make a big deal of the fact that the Book of Mormon in my opinion defies explanation. Dan Vogel and Grant Palmer have offered a great deal recently (I do not think they deal with all that is their and I find their ideas less than compelling). Some informed internet critics postulate Joseph Smith had numerous obscure books from which he (or someone) researched the BOM. The BOM has been declared the work of a fool, a deceiver, a religious genius, and …. Where I not a LDS, I would see the BOM as having some satanic causes.
Now, having made a big deal of the fact that critics do not have a satisfactory explanation (IMO) for the origins of the BOM, I think it only appropriate that I acknowledge that LDS do not have a satisfactory explanation for the origins of the Book of Abraham. The BOA did not come in any obvious or straightforward way from the Book of Breathing. There are three main theories as to how we got the BOA, but I do not find any of them particularly compelling. I believe the BOA is scripture based upon the strength (my view of the strength) of other LDS evidences. Some of those evidences are contained within the BOA, but the most powerful ones are not. In any case, the origins of the BOA is IMO a big problem.

Charity, TOm

TOmNossor said...

Chris:
One possible consequence of a pluralist view is that maybe we all have license to go with whatever religious option "feels good to me," as you asserted. But this is not a necessary consequence, and it is not what I consider to be the consequence of the pluralist view. I see evidence that God values sincerity and loving action toward others. To select one's religious practices based strictly on selfish motives, then, would in my opinion be misguided.

TOm:
Chris, thanks for responding (NO Thanks for answering Ken’s question!!! Just kidding!).
I think I have a higher view of the Bible than you do.
I think I have a higher view of certainty in many things than you do.
I think however we have some similar views on religious pluralism. You might be less than comfortable with my view that there is a “highest” truth, but perhaps not. Here is a thread I wrote on this long ago (May 2005):
http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php?showtopic=8450
I believe that Mormonism with post-mortal evangelization and pre-mortal existence provides a lot of fertile ground for developing religious pluralistic ideas (not to mention theodicies).
With a high view of the Bible, I still think there is a oneness of the church. I see this as the focal point of salvific relationships (God), the existence of an absolute truth (truth is not all relative), the existence of a paradigm whose premises are closer to absolute truth than other churches, and the existence of a church most (more) directly lead by God who is at its head.

I sometimes wonder just how “teachable” I am. I do not shy away from ideas that are very dissimilar to mine. However, do I reject them on occasion not because they lack merit, but because they are very different than my current paradigm? The Bahai offer compelling apologetics. My problems with them seem likely to be similar to my problems with your view. Christ is just more than the Bahai (or it seems Emerson) allow Him to be. Is this a view I adopt based on evidence or personal preference. I can say some of it is because I have met Christ, but I do not think that should have much sway as I dialogue with others (and I have not in any kind of literal sense watered His feet with my tears or anything near so extraordinary). Still, I am left with the impression (both from external and internal evidence) that Christ is uniquely the savior of men. As you (religious liberals and critics) poke holes in the external evidence that Christ is uniquely the savior of men, perhaps my internal (personal such that it will not compel others into belief) evidences seem to take a larger role. Still I have covenanted with Christ and He is my God, I have faith, and I doubt I could (and really do not see a need or have a desire) to walk away.

Chris:
I don't find many people who are willing to take my perspective seriously, which is a bit distressing for me since it sometimes makes me wonder if I've completely lost my marbles. :) I'm glad to hear you think my perspective is more coherent than evangelicalism. I'm moving in the right direction, then! *grin*

TOm:
Before you celebrate too much remember, I think the BOA is scripture!

There is much that I am uncomfortable with in your paradigm. But, I have seen (especially recently) how your ideas seem to sidestep some of the most obvious problems I see with being a non-Catholic, non-LDS Christian. Sidestepping problems is certainly not a bad thing, but the devotee to high school math also avoids much of the problems in various Christian traditions. I worry sometimes that you believe too little. And, I would be very sad to discover that you one day decided to believe even less.

Concerning the Trinity, I think Ostler’s (I cannot remember if you have read his first two books) third book makes a compelling case for an integration of the Social Trinity with a Monarchical Monotheism. Of course you might be likely to reject the polytheism and monolatry present in the Old Testament rather than trying to integrate all the Biblical books into a remotely consistent whole. I would of course reject the idea that the books of the Bible are univocal, but I would be uncomfortable trying to discard certain avenues of thought all together. (I am not a fan of the fairly rare LDS apologetic tactic of saying that XYZ is an area of Biblical corruption).

Concerning Emerson, I am less comfortable with the idea that Christ is God incarnate in a non-unique way, while still maintaining that Christ is God in a non-exclusive way. Christ is the God-man who was fully divine while being human. We are called to be as He is/was, but our divinity will be born of Christ’s humanity (meaning the entire sweep of Christ’s earthly ministry: birth, teaching, atonement, death, and resurrection). Christ’s divinity while associated with communion with the Father is not born of the atonement or … of another. So when deified men enter into communion with God, we will have been elevated by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ did not require a mediator as deified men do. Still our communion will be full and within the oneness of God, there will be no jealousy because “at first we were not gods.”

Charity, TOm

David Waltz said...

Hello again Kepha,

You responded with:

>>[DW]However, the Marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, and as such, there can be no legitimate development.

[K]No. As I stated before: "For me, it is not so much the sufficiency of Scripture that is the issue; rather, it is the sufficiency of the Apostles' teaching that is at stake." The marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in the teaching of the Apostles, and so there can be no development.>>

Me: OK, sounds like you hold to a constitutive “teaching of the Apostles” that is not explicitly in the Scriptures; if this is the case, where does one find that body of teaching? However if the “No” in your response pertains merely to terminology, such that you believe “the teaching of the Apostles” = the Scriptures I fail to understand the correction.

Grace and peace,

David

Kepha said...

Mr. Waltz, as I've stated before, the teaching of the Apostles is in the New Testament and tradition of the early Church. Further, as I've stated before, I believe both are essentially the same. Hence, one of my most recent comments:

"Indeed, as Robert Lee Williams has pointed out in his dissertation on the issue of apostolic succession, Irenaeus's understanding is not that whatever a successor of the apostles says regarding the Faith is true by virtue of his office; rather, it is that a successor of the apostles is a torch-bearer. Like the Apostle Paul, each successor says, 'I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received'!"

BTW, I totally forgot about your request for a link to Williams's dissertation. Here is a link to it on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Bishop-Lists-Succession-Ecclesiastical-Dissertations/dp/1593331940/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213133495&sr=1-1

Chris said...

David,

Are you at all familiar with narrative theology? It is the idea that the Bible's fundamental purpose is to convey a narrative of God's salvific work in the world. From my perspective, it is much more tenable to read the Bible as a narrative in this manner (especially since so much of it has no pretentions to being a transcript of divine revelation) than to read it as a propositional sourcebook for systematic theology. There's nothing systematic about the biblical text. Is it not a bit presumptuous, then, to try to impose a systematic structure upon it to which we assign the same authority as was possessed by the original text? If God gives us a set of revelations, and they happen to be a mess, who are we to authoritatively tidy them up or "develop" them systematically?

I can see how one might speak of new chapters in God's salvation narrative being "unfolded" as history proceeds, but I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the assertion that a magisterium composed of fallible, political, and often immoral human beings is somehow invested with the authority to infallibly "develop" the words of God. Newman's development theory lodges the unfolding of God's work in a few wealthy Europeans who happen to have appropriated to themselves tremendous political and ecclesiastical power. This is a far cry from the universal scope of the biblical narrative, in which God's work is unfolded through shepherd-prophets, carpenters, and fishermen as much as through kings and priests. The theory of development is history and theology written by the winners, which in and of itself should make us suspicious of it. The Bible records several instances in which the "winners," so to speak, were not God's chosen vessels. So I'd say that Newman's theory of infallible development is itself an unfaithful development of the text.

-Chris

Chris said...

Tom,

I agree that Mormonism is more open to a sort of pluralism than the tradition in which I was raised. In fact, that was the most significant attraction for me when I initially investigated the Church. Joseph Smith had managed to wed biblical exclusivism to a merciful and loving God in a way that not only sounded remarkably reminiscent of Irenaeus' three kingdoms of heaven, but that also made sense of the otherwise-incomprehensible passage in Corinthians about baptism for the dead. The soteriology of the Roman Catholic Church accomplishes none of these things, and none of the evangelical alternatives I had encountered-- including PME, annihilationism, and inclusivism-- accomplished them in the measure that Joseph Smith had done. With all of this to commend it, Mormonism had to have some pretty serious deficiencies in order to turn me away. Unfortunately, said deficiencies were not long in manifesting themselves. Still, I can certainly sympathize with those who find the LDS Church spiritually and intellectually satisfying.

Regarding the divinity of Christ: this has been a very difficult issue for me, and my view is one at which I have arrived only after much soul-searching. In studying Mormonism and other religious traditions, I was struck by just how many persons throughout history had claimed to be special, divine, messianic-type figures. I was also struck by how vast is the scope of the history of human (and proto-human) religion, which may date back a hundred thousand years or more. In all of this, I was presuming that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, just because he was the one I happened to be attached to due to upbringing and personal experience. From an evidentiary perspective, I realized I had no real justification for privileging Jesus. And doing so seemed to so narrow the scope of God's work on earth as to make him a rather parochial deity. All of this left me profoundly unsettled and unsatisfied with my beliefs, despite my reluctance to let go of them. Reading mystics like Emerson, Denck, Franck, and others provided me with what I think is a coherent framework-- and one consonant with my experience-- for both affirming Christ's divinity/sincerity and allowing God to be as big as I believe he has to be.

Maybe I do believe too little. But I think pluralism allows me to believe in a pretty big God. In my mind, that compensates for all the lesser dogmas that get lost along the way. And it doesn't leave me with the kind of agonizing dissonance that has always so deeply troubled me. Best,

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

I am sure it is I, and not you, but your position on these issues remain a bit fuzzy.

I am a left brain kinda guy, so bear with me as I put the ducks-in-a-row.

You said: “the teaching of the Apostles is in the New Testament and tradition of the early Church”. Understood, but how is this any different than the Catholic position?

Next: “Further, as I've stated before, I believe both are essentially the same.” This is very close to what Lane terms the “coincidence view”, Scripture and Tradition coincide.

Given the above, I fail to understand is why you seemed troubled with what I posted earlier:

DW:>> Me: Let see if I understand your position: baptism is explicitly mentioned in Scripture, but the theology concerning baptism (including mode, subjects, effects, etc.) required development. However, the Marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, and as such, there can be no legitimate development. Is this an accurate assessment of your position?>>

You replied with:

K:>> No. As I stated before: "For me, it is not so much the sufficiency of Scripture that is the issue; rather, it is the sufficiency of the Apostles' teaching that is at stake." The marian dogmas are not explicitly mentioned in the teaching of the Apostles, and so there can be no development.>>

If the New Testament and “tradition of the early Church” are “essentially the same” then how can there be any “essential” difference between “the sufficiency of Scripture” and “the sufficiency of the Apostles’ teaching”?



Sincerely trying to understand,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

I only have had limited exposure to SRTICT “narrative theology”; by strict I mean a focus on the narrative aspect while virtually ignoring both systematic theology and biblical theology. Personally, I think all three are important when dealing with the Scriptures and the development of doctrine; one should never overemphasize any of the three. Yet as with so many things with life, balance is so difficult to achieve.

As for God being able to use fallible men to teach infallible truths, I think you know where I stand on this [wink].


Grace and peace,

David

Kepha said...

Mr. Waltz,

1.) I understand the teaching of the Apostles to be contained in both the inscripturated Tradition (New Testament) and the oral Tradition passed on via the Early Church.

2.) I understand both the inscripturated and oral apostolic teachings to be doctrinally the same, that is to say, there are not apostolic doctrines that did not make it into the canon but were passed on orally.

3.) I understand that the Church's understanding of the teachings that the Apostles handed down to her has developed in response to erroneous teachings.

In light of the above, I don't understand where the notion of "implicit apostolic teachings" comes from? I mean, it seems to me that for hundreds of years the Church was dealing various interpretations of the body of teachings handed down by the Apsotles, and then at some point she started dealing with "implicit teachings," that is, teachings not handed down by the Apostles but that were logically inferred.

Hope this helps.

Chris said...

>>As for God being able to use fallible men to teach infallible truths, I think you know where I stand on this [wink].

Yes, I think I do. :)

But then, I don't buy it. You'll have to forgive me for being a bit blunt in what follows, David. I certainly am not trying to be offensive: this is really the way I see things, and if I'm wrong I would like to be corrected. The truth is that if "fallible" were the worst adjective that could be truthfully applied to members of the magisterium who historically oversaw the development of the church's doctrine, I might at least be able to understand your view (even though I see no real evidence for divine supervision of the developmental process). But as I'm sure you know, there have been some fairly important figures in the history of the Roman Church who were immoral or worse. Sometimes their this-worldly motives seem clearly to have impinged upon their ecclesiastical decision-making. How Vatican I be portrayed as other than a Papal power play? How can a council this "rigged" even be considered an authentic council? If what happened there was a logical working out of the biblical tradition, it was something of an accident. But that just scratches the surface. Even Athanasius, that great champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy, fielded something of an ecclesiastical mafia in order to accomplish his theological ends. Nicene orthodoxy was also advanced by such dubious means as systematic book-burning. The very importance that has been attached to Trinitarian orthodoxy in the subsequent history of the church can have been affected not a little by Constantine and his political agenda to unite church and empire. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Where "development" was clearly intended to support totalitarian regimes and to consolidate the power of the few over the many, what is there but sheer, blind assertion to assure us that these are legitimate and logical outworkings of an apostolic deposit?

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

Thanks for the link to the book; it sounds very interesting but $99.00 ??? OUCH…

[Though I did find cheaper at B&N (HERE)…still a bit too expensive for a beachbum with a modest book allowance and so many areas of interest.]


Found the following from the B&N site quite interesting:

In crises of the first century, the New Testament recorded (monepiscopal?) bishops and succession, and Ignatius and 1 Clement make monepiscopacy and apostolic succession explicit.”

Williams position on 1 Clement is certainly a bit surprising, for I have found only a hand full of recent Catholic and Anglican patristic scholars arguing for the monoepiscopate in Rome during the time of Clement. Does Williams discuss this at length in his book?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

After reading over your June 10, 2008 posts again, I wanted to briefly comment on a couple of items.

First, on this:

TOM:>>The BOM has been declared the work of a fool, a deceiver, a religious genius, and …. Where I not a LDS, I would see the BOM as having some satanic causes.>>

Me: I have never been satisfied with any of the non-supernatural arguments that have put forth since the early 1830’s in an attempt to explain away the BOM. And yet, as one who is not LDS, I also am not comfortable with a Satanic cause, leaving me in a state of limbo on the true origin of the BOM.

And second:

Tom:>> I believe that Mormonism with post-mortal evangelization and pre-mortal existence provides a lot of fertile ground for developing religious pluralistic ideas (not to mention theodicies).With a high view of the Bible, I still think there is a oneness of the church. I see this as the focal point of salvific relationships (God), the existence of an absolute truth (truth is not all relative), the existence of a paradigm whose premises are closer to absolute truth than other churches, and the existence of a church most (more) directly lead by God who is at its head.>>

Me: The Bible has fallen on hard times with many “internet” Mormons, as well as a few BYU scholars. This trend goes against a much stronger “tradition” of the CoJCoLDS’ stance on the Bible as I pointed out in this THREAD.

I find it refreshing to see you bucking the more recent trend, and embracing “a high view of the Bible”. I think you may find the following quote from Nibley an interesting one:

“Worst of all, the Book of Mormon bears such alarming resemblance to scripture that, for Meinhold, it not only undermines but threatens in a spirit of ‘nihilistic skepticism’ to discredit the Bible altogether. Since one can reject the Book of Mormon without in any way jeopardizing one’s faith in the Bible, and since no one ever can accept or ever has accepted the Book of Mormon without complete and unreserved belief in the Bible, the theory that the Book of Mormon is a fiendish attempt to undermine faith in the Bible is an argument of sheer desperation. Recently Professor Albright has noted that the Bible is first and last a historical document, and that of all the religions of the world, only Judaeo-Christianity can be said to have a completely ‘historical orientation.’” (Hugh Nibley, “The Book of Mormon True or False?”, in The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 220.)


Grace and peace,

David

Tim A. Troutman said...

Nice work. I fully agree with the thrust of this argument but do take a slight issue with the notion that Subordinationism could rightly be called "orthodoxy" pre-Nicaea. I have no doubt whatsoever of the father's inability to rightly speak of the Trinity before Nicaea but to say they adopted Subordinationism is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

I do not have any problem labeling Tertullian & Origen as such, but beyond that, I think we would meet with difficulty. I don't think the apostle Paul could have spoken correctly about the Trinity if pressed to give precise definitions but I don't think he could be called Subordinationist, Modalist or anything else even if he were to use sloppy language like Ignatius and a few other orthodox fathers.

At any rate, once again - wonderful discussion.

David Waltz said...

Hello Tim,

Just now noticed your new post in this thread; you wrote:

>>Nice work. I fully agree with the thrust of this argument but do take a slight issue with the notion that Subordinationism could rightly be called "orthodoxy" pre-Nicaea. I have no doubt whatsoever of the father's inability to rightly speak of the Trinity before Nicaea but to say they adopted Subordinationism is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.>>

Me: I suspect it depends on how one defines “Subordinationism”. Two dominate themes permeate the pre-Nicene Fathers: one, the term “the one God” is reserved for God the Father; and two, sharp contrast between the Father as the producer/begetter/creator and the Son as the one produced/begotten/created.

>>I do not have any problem labeling Tertullian & Origen as such, but beyond that, I think we would meet with difficulty. I don't think the apostle Paul could have spoken correctly about the Trinity if pressed to give precise definitions but I don't think he could be called Subordinationist, Modalist or anything else even if he were to use sloppy language like Ignatius and a few other orthodox fathers.>>

Me: Once again, it probably hinges on ones definition of “Subordinationism”. How would you personally define the term?

>>At any rate, once again - wonderful discussion.>>

Me: Thanks Tim; and I sincerely appreciate your participation. Hope to see more of you here at AF.

Grace and peace,

David

Tim A. Troutman said...

Dave, you'll be seeing more of me, I added your blog to my reader.

I also featured this thread as the top post on the Patristic Carnival I just hosted.

As for the discussion, I think it depends as much on the word "orthodoxy" as on "Subordinationism" here.

I don't think sloppiness in language with the earliest fathers equals heterodoxy (I'm sure you will agree). For example, when certain fathers speak of the Eucharist they fall well short of Transubstantiation in the earliest centuries but I wouldn't say they denied it. St. Paul speaks of the Trinity in Scripture (or fails to) in a way that would simply be unacceptable post-Constantinople yet I think it would be almost dangerous to speak of primitive Trinitarianism as pre-Nicene orthodoxy.

I don't think I really disagree with you on this, I just don't see strong Subordinationism in other ante-Nicene writers, I just see sloppiness on the Trinity.