Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tilting at Windmills?

Kepha at Fides Quaerens Intellectum in the thread, The (Catholic?) Need for Development, wrote the following:

I’ve begun to wonder, how much of all that we’ve been discussing here (i.e., sensus fidelium, ecclesial intuition, ”material sufficiency,” implicit and unconscious dogma, etc.) is necessitated by a need peculiar to Rome? It is interesting that these various epistemological attempts all coincide with the rise of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, and the Bodily Assumption. (Kepha)

The above comes after a quote from John E. Thiel’s recent book, Senses of Tradition. However, prior to the portion that Kepha’s cites, Thiel speaks of numerous other models of development, invoking Johannes Stöhr’s, “Conceptual Models in the Understanding of Development”, who, “distinguished eight depictions of doctrinal development”, with the following labels: “fixed”, “progress”, “regress”, “syncretist”, “rediscovery of beginnings”, “clarification of knowledge”, and the “synthesis of dialectical oppositions”. (pp. 57, 58.) [Note: many other models of DD have been presented by other authors/scholars.]

Thiel continues with brief descriptions of each of the models:

The “fixed” model represents the movement of tradition as the constant repetition of a once-given apostolic truth. The “progress” model images each movement in tradition as an advance, as a step beyond an ecclesial present being ever redefined. The “regress” model applies the analogy of cultural decline and death to the doctrinal tradition in order to explain an instance of loss of meaning in the communication of faith. The “syncretist” model attributes development to the influence of a culture-at-large upon the culture of the gospel message through which the latter is accommodated to the former, though not necessarily in a pejorative manner. The “rediscovery of beginnings” model sees the movement of tradition as a repristination of its primal and insuperably authoritative teachings. The “organic” model appeals to the analogy of life to depict the development of doctrine as a growth from earlier to later, and more mature, expressions of faith. The “clarification of knowledge” model envisages more developed doctrines as the refinement of an idea of consciousness in the course of time. And the “synthesis of dialectical oppositions” model conceives the tradition as the historical encounter of conflicting Christian claims from which resolved doctrinal true emerges. (p. 58)

Thiel then writes:

One can readily agree with Stöhr that, among the options that he has sketched, the organic model conveys most clearly the compatibility of development and continuity. But Stöhr’s classification may be to too quick to identify the organic model with authentic development—what I have labeld “development-in-continuity”—to the exclusion of a consideration of elements of authentic development in the “syncretist,” “clarification of knowledge,” and the “synthesis of dialectical oppositions” models…these three models are better understood as various expressions of the organic model’s basic assumption that the tradition’s development-in-continuity is a growth conceived as the unfolding of a givenness preserved as it matures in time. In addition to this shared assumption, Stöhr’s “organic,” “synthesis of dialectical oppositions,” “clarification of knowledge,” and “syncretist” models all describe particular theories of tradition as a development-in-continuity that have appeared in nineteenth- and twentieth century Catholic theology. (p. 59)

Thiel renames the last three models: “the dialectical, the noetic, and the reception”, and follows this with a treatment of each model, including the organic which keeps its original name. (pp. 59ff.)

Now back to Kepha’s somewhat puzzling contribution. I cannot help but wonder if Kepha has chosen to ignore the fact that the “epistemological attempts” he listed, “(i.e., sensus fidelium, ecclesial intuition, ”material sufficiency,” implicit and unconscious dogma, etc.),” all have one or more representatives among the early Church Fathers, or if he is just unaware of this.

I am also left wondering if he actually believes that the various forms of Protestantism lack the need for a theory of the development of doctrine—certainly such works as Peter Toon’s, The Development of Doctrine in the Church; Rolf Pöhler’s, Continuity and Change in Christian Doctrine; Jaroslav Pelikan’s, Development of Christian Doctrine; James Orr’s, Progress in Dogma; and Maurice Wiles’, The Making of Christian Doctrine and The Remaking of Christan Doctrine (among so many others) suggest otherwise.


Grace and peace,

David

12 comments:

Chris said...

Thiel seems to neglect to explain the progress model.

I've never much liked the analogical use of the word "organic" as applied to systems of thought. It sounds really smart and satisfying-- because who doesn't like to be "organic"?-- but it's never quite clear what the analogy's content really is. In fact, it almost serves as a cop-out to avoid further explanation, because most "organic" systems are so complex as to be virtually beyond our understanding.

The analogy that Christianity is "growing up," by the way, is one that has used by a number of liberal thinkers. In former times Jews and Christians were primitive and needed things like miracles and ugly rituals to sustain them; now that we are "adult," we no longer need such things. It is doubtful that everyone who uses the organic analogy means it this way. That is part of why I say that the analogy's actual content needs to be much more carefully spelled out, and should perhaps be used for illustration rather than for paradigmatic definition (which is supposed to be precise).

Kepha said...

David, you ask if I realize that "all [development theories] have one or more representatives among the early Church Fathers, or if he is just unaware of this." I wonder if you realize that I don't take your personal contributions on the development of the trinity, or on the issue of development in general, as authoritative because I've not found any scholars supporting your assertions. So, it's not that I'm ignoring what you say. Honestly, I keep it in mind, but nothing more until I see scholarly authorities confirming your views. Obviously, as of right now, I don't. I am not trying to be disrespectful, I honestly am not. I'm just stating it like it is. Let me leave you with just one reason why I choose scholars over David Waltz:

David Waltz: "While reading Gregory Nazianzen’s 'Fifth Theological Oration – On The Holy Spirit', I noticed something I had previously overlooked: a theory of doctrinal development."

John Thiel: "Drey’s Brief Introduction was influenced in both organization and content by Schleiermacher’s 1811 Brief Presentation of the Study of Theology, in which one finds the first explicit theory of doctrinal development in the history of Christian theology” (Senses of Tradition, p. 61; emphasis mine).

Anonymous said...

Hi Kepha,

I don't see that David is necessarily claiming that St. Gregory's is an "explicit theory of doctrinal development." Also, there is presumably a reason Thiel points to Schleiermacher as presenting the "first explicit theory" on the subject. Is it not likely that he perceives that other theories of doctrinal development are discernible in works not dedicated solely to the subject?

Filter Boy

Anonymous said...

Chris said:

The analogy that Christianity is "growing up," by the way, is one that has used by a number of liberal thinkers.

Filter Boy:

True. But be careful. I am among the most liberal Catholics in my acquaintance (exceeding in some ways perhaps even David!). Many Christians resist doctrinal development for that very inadequate reason.

Of course I disagree that "ugly rituals" only serve "primitive Christians". Presumably, you are only referencing the Old Testament sacrifices that foreshadowed the passion and death of Christ. As such, they continue to inform the liberal, organically progressive Christian of today that without the ugliness of the Passion, we don't have the beauty of the Resurrection and salvation from the sin without which there would have been no Passion or ugly ritual.

I had not thought about the objection to the "organic analogy" in the way you mention. Surely we don't understand the complexity of organic systems, but we recognize a monster, a deformity when we see it. According to my understanding of "organic development" nothing could be permitted in the name of progress which violates the teachings of our primitive fathers in the faith who "needed things like miracles and ugly rituals to sustain them".

I would illustrate an organic monster or deformity in this context as one which would teach that the miracles and "ugly rituals" to which you refer are now superfluous.

Filter Boy

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

You wrote:

>>Thiel seems to neglect to explain the progress model.>>

Me: Agreed. I wonder if it has anything to do with the nature of his book being an assessment of Catholic tradition and development, for he also ignores the Reformers reduction model.

>>I've never much liked the analogical use of the word "organic" as applied to systems of thought. It sounds really smart and satisfying-- because who doesn't like to be "organic"?-- but it's never quite clear what the analogy's content really is. In fact, it almost serves as a cop-out to avoid further explanation, because most "organic" systems are so complex as to be virtually beyond our understanding.>>

Me: Yet the seed to tree analogy was used by Jesus Himself (and picked up as early as Tertullian to explain doctrinal development).

>>The analogy that Christianity is "growing up," by the way, is one that has used by a number of liberal thinkers. In former times Jews and Christians were primitive and needed things like miracles and ugly rituals to sustain them; now that we are "adult," we no longer need such things. It is doubtful that everyone who uses the organic analogy means it this way. That is part of why I say that the analogy's actual content needs to be much more carefully spelled out, and should perhaps be used for illustration rather than for paradigmatic definition (which is supposed to be precise).>>

Me: Good points; I think this is why Newman, Walgrave, Nichols and other ‘conservative’ Catholic scholars are so keen on making sure that certain presuppositions are in place before that go on to develop their theory of development.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

Thanks for responding; you posted:

>>David, you ask if I realize that "all [development theories] have one or more representatives among the early Church Fathers, or if he is just unaware of this." I wonder if you realize that I don't take your personal contributions on the development of the trinity, or on the issue of development in general, as authoritative because I've not found any scholars supporting your assertions. So, it's not that I'm ignoring what you say.>>

Me: But I have listed scholars who do support what I have written on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, with the emphasis on subordinationism in the pre-Nicene Fathers. In fact, it was R.P.C. Hanson’s book, The Search For the Christian Doctrine of God which laid the foundation for my personal contributions. Also, in THIS THREAD, I cite 4 other scholars who support by basic thesis on subordinationism (and can add more if you so desire).

>>Honestly, I keep it in mind, but nothing more until I see scholarly authorities confirming your views. Obviously, as of right now, I don't. I am not trying to be disrespectful, I honestly am not. I'm just stating it like it is. Let me leave you with just one reason why I choose scholars over David Waltz:

David Waltz: "While reading Gregory Nazianzen’s 'Fifth Theological Oration – On The Holy Spirit', I noticed something I had previously overlooked: a theory of doctrinal development."

John Thiel: "Drey’s Brief Introduction was influenced in both organization and content by Schleiermacher’s 1811 Brief Presentation of the Study of Theology, in which one finds the first explicit theory of doctrinal development in the history of Christian theology” (Senses of Tradition, p. 61; emphasis mine).>>

Me: And yet you completely ignored J.N.D. Kelly, who I cited in the same post! Kelly, once again:

“To explain the lateness of His [the Holy Spirit] recognition as God he [Nazianzen] produces a highly original theory of doctrinal development.” (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 1960, second edition, p. 261.)

I have since found two more scholars who concur with Kelly: Jaroslav Pelikan, and Jan Walgrave. Plus, it seems that Jay has added yet one more: John D. Zizioulas.

Hope you can appreciate my sense of frustration with some of your assessments…


God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Filter Boy,

You wrote:

>>I don't see that David is necessarily claiming that St. Gregory's is an "explicit theory of doctrinal development.">>

Me: Exactly. Just as one will not find an “explicit” doctrine of the Trinity prior to Nicea, one does not find an “explicit” theory of DD prior to Schleiermacher; and yet, one can certainly discern ‘undeveloped’ elements of the Trinity prior to Nicea, and ‘undeveloped’ theories of DD prior to Schleiermacher.


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

For Chris...

If you're still reading, this is Rory. Filter Boy was a kind of joke I made awhile back, probably WWI (Writing While Intoxicated). Dave figured it out way too fast. I thought I was tricking him. Anyway, since I said some things bordering on the personal, I wanted you to know who I am. I have been intending to get an account one of these days. There sure aren't many option when you're anonymous.

Take care,

Rory

Chris said...

Hi Rory,

I didn't take anything you said personally. The statement you picked on about ugly rituals and miracles being childish and superfluous was intended as a summary of the views of the liberal Christians who have use the "growth" analogy, not of my own views. I don't consider miracles childish or superfluous, though I admit to some skepticism as to their existence. And while I do think that animal sacrifices were "ugly," I frankly don't agree with the view that primitive peoples "needed" them or that God promoted them for pedagogical reasons. I also avoid judging them too harshly, since it was a very different time and place and I would undoubtedly have participated had I lived then rather than now. Unfortunately the doctrine of "accommodation"-- held by Irenaeus and Justin Martyr as well as by some liberal Christians-- has occasionally bordered on judgmentalism and even anti-Semitism.

As for your view that liberal Christianity is a monster or a deformity, I can't really hold that against you since it is a view I held myself less than a half-dozen years ago. All I can do is disagree agreeably.

David,

You noted that Jesus used the "growth" analogy in the parable of the seed and the tree. That is true, but then Jesus' parables are deliberately mysterious; he was not setting up a scholarly paradigm with the precision appropriate thereto. He also, I think, was not referring to doctrinal development. His growth analogy is arguably more appropriate when applied to the numerical, spiritual, or geographical increase he intended than when applied to the history of ideas. It was with respect to the latter that Paul-- more in accord with the liberal view I described above-- said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things," and "The law was a pedagogue (i.e. nanny, live-in tutor) to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."

Best,

-Chris

Anonymous said...

Oh man...

Misunderstandings.

Chris says:
I didn't take anything you said personally.

Rory:
I am sorry, my fault. I didn't mean I thought you would be offended. I made some reference to being a liberal Catholic and I realized that you wouldn't necessarily know me since I was anonymous.

I also didn't mean to be picking on "liberal Christianity". I would only describe something as monstrous or deformed in connection to the analogy of organic growth. I don't say this to persuade you. I know you don't like the analogy anyway. But unlike a cancerous growth in an animal, or a birth defect, the "monstrosity" in this context would ordinarily be very attractive in itself.

I guess you identify yourself as a liberal Christian. Allow me to say I respect and admire you quite a bit. I don't visit your blog because you are a boring, stupid monster ya know!

I hate to betray my ignorance, but I am unfamiliar with the expression "doctrine of accomodation" Chris. I know, it's probably on your blog. I didn't say I've ready every article. Help me out if you can. It sounds interesting to place those two ante-Nicene fathers with so-called liberals, judgmentalism, and anti-semitism.

Yours Truly,

Rory

Chris said...

Haha! Sorry about the misunderstandings, and thanks for the kind words. I respect you, as well.

The "doctrine of accommodation" says that God accommodates his commandments and revelations to our limited cultures and levels of understanding. The most common and inoffensive way this doctrine gets applied is to say that the anthropomorphic language of the Old Testament was just God speaking to ancient peoples in a way they could understand. But accommodation also gets used to explain "ugly" Old Testament teachings and rituals, like animal sacrifice. Thus Justin argued that the ritual Law was given "on account of the hardness of your people's [i.e. the Jews'] hearts." He further says, "the Lord, accommodating Himself to that people, commanded that sacrifices be brought in his Name lest you practice idolatry." He cites the golden calf incident as the catalyst for the giving of the ritual Law. Irenaeus similarly distinguishes between the ethical law, which contains "natural precepts" (natural law?) that have universal validity, and the ritual Law that was added to it as an accommodation after Israel worshipped the golden calf. The same concept appears in Eusebius, Athanasius, and a great many other Christian and Jewish writers throughout the ages. Some early Jewish-Christian documents, like the Recognitions and the Didascalia, actually suggest that the abolition of the ritual Law was Christ's primary purpose in coming to earth.

That the Fathers accepted the doctrine of accommodation is probably not all that surprising, given that in the Hellenistic era (as in our post-Enlightenment era) bloody sacrifice seemed so superstitious and offensive to cultured sensibilities that Marcion and the gnostics dismissed the entire Old Testament as the work of an evil demon, and even so conservative a Father as Ignatius could dismiss the Law as "fables." The accommodationist view is actually an apologetic to prevent this sort of wholesale rejection of unpleasant biblical passages. In fact, the same could be said of theological liberalism in general: its intent is often primarily apologetic, as it was for Schleiermacher.

Best,

-Chris

Chris said...

By the way, an excellent study of the doctrine of accommodation is Stephen D. Benin's The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought. I recommend it highly.