Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In the comments section of the LAST THREAD here at Articuli Fidei, Iohannes (John) provided a quote from John Behr’s book, The Nicene Faith – Part 1 which is critical of certain reflections made by R.P.C. Hanson in his book, The Search For the Christian Doctrine of God, and his essay The achievement of orthodoxy in the fourth century AD (important pages missing in the “limited previews”; I own all three books, and can provide further quotations if requested).
Behr argues that, “Christian theology, at least as vindicated by the councils of Nicea and Constantinople, has been shown to be very much, and in a very specific manner, an exegetical task” (p. 16). And again, “Christian theology, as established as normative by the end of the second century, on the basis of the way the gospel was proclaimed from the beginning, and then reaffirmed by Nicea and Constantinople, is an exegetical enterprise, reflecting on the revelation of God in Christ through the engagement with the Scriptures, understood as having been spoken, by the Spirit, of Christ, and so to be read in a reciprocally ‘spiritual’ exegesis” (ibid.).
Now, what Arian would argue against the notion that “Christian theology…is very much…an exegetical task”? Further, the assumption that “Christian theology”, was “vindicated by the councils of Nicea and Constantinople”, would be hotly contested, via an exegetical method, by Arians. Behr’s ‘method’, IMHO, solves little; and his criticisms of Hanson stem from the faulty notion that doctrine does not develop. Dr. Liccione has thoroughly exposed Dr. Behr in his thread, THIS TIME, FR. BEHR. (Dr. Liccione’s previous thread, DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE, FR. LOUTH, AND ECUMENISM, addresses Dr. Louth’s skewed concept of DD.)
Despite Dr. Behr’s and Dr. Louth’s pleadings to the contrary, doctrine does develop—the real question is this: how does one determine authentic development from corruption? So, with this introduction of sorts in place, we can now examine Iohannes recent comments on DD; JOHN WROTE:
To make an end of this rambling on my part, if the question is whether Scripture is clear enough "to bring the reader to the [substance of the] doctrine of the Trinity apart from development/tradition," I think it indeed is, but in this sense: when the Nicene formula is presented, and its terms explained, we can see for ourselves that it is correct, even independently the Church's say-so. The tradition is public, and is amenable to investigation by all, with no one set up as a privileged interpreter (someone who can see more in principle than others can see). Thus St Athanasius defended Nicaea and knew it was right, not because a duly constituted ecumenical council had promulgated it, but because he could look at what Nicaea said side by side with what was taught in Scripture, and could see the correspondence between them. He saw for himself the truth of the Church's doctrine. Hence he stood up for it, even when he faced opposition from others in the Church.
Here is the ‘rub’: “when the Nicene formula is presented, and its terms explained, we can see for ourselves that it is correct, even independently the Church's say-so”. Yet without the “Church's say-so”, the vast majority of Christians were subordinationists; without the “Church's say-so” (creeds, confessions, catechisms, seminaries, et al.) many do not embrace one of the forms of Trinitarianism.
Once again, doctrine develops. A fairly recent book illuminates this point even further; Kevin Giles in his, JESUS AND THE FATHER, raises some very interesting (and controversial) issues concerning the ‘revival’ of subordinationism among conservative Evangelical theologians. Dr. Giles believes that many of his Evangelical brothers are not only misreading the Church Fathers, but also, the Scriptures! (Dr. Giles book sheds some further light on the controversial issues I reflected on in the JOHN CALVIN: A TRI-THEISTIC HERETIC? thread.)
Yet one more time: doctrine develops (and still is developing). The implications of this fact raises not only serious questions concerning the very nature of DD, but also over the doctrine of sola scriptura.
Grace and peace,