Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Nicene Creed vs. the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed


In this new thread, I will attempt to address two issues: first, my affirmation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; and second, one of the important reasons why I have difficulty affirming the infallibility of the Ecumenical Councils.

Dave Armstrong, in his last post addressed to me (HERE), wrote:

You imply above (I think) that you accept at least some form of the Trinity. Do not any variations of the Trinity, as you see them, presuppose that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God? There may be all these fine details, as you allude to, but it is still a God in three Persons, no? The word means "Tri-unity" after all.

Until you answer these basic questions or further explain what exactly your difficulties are, I for one have no idea how to go about trying to persuade you of the truth of Catholicism or any kind of Christianity if you are now outside what I would call orthodox trinitarianism: agreed upon by all three branches of Christianity (for the most part).


Earlier, in the same thread, I posted the following (HERE):

As for the Nicene Creed, I have no problem reciting it as we speak; however, I do have reservations concerning subsequent interpretations of the NC, some of which may in fact negate the original intent of bishops who met in 325 and 381.

Now, when I referenced “the Nicene Creed”, I actually meant (following the common usage employed by pretty much everyone) the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Since this creed it considered by every scholar I have read to be Trinitarian, I am a bit puzzled as to why Dave is questioning whether or not I, “accept at least some form of the Trinity.” So, without getting into “fine details”, I would like to, yet once again, make it crystal clear that I do in fact “accept at least some form of the Trinity.”

Moving on the second issue, the infallibility of the Ecumenical Councils, it is the promulgation of the two respective creeds mentioned in the title of this thread that raises one of the important reasons why I have difficulty in affirming infallibility. I will now attempt to outline the evidence(s).

Fact 1 - Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 deletes portions of the Nicene Creed of 325, even though we read from the “Definition of the faith” of the council of Chalcedon in 451 that:

we have renewed the unerring creed of the fathers. We have proclaimed to all the creed of the 318 [i.e. Nicene Creed of 325]; and we have made our own those fathers who accepted this agreed statement of religion—the 150 who later met in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed. (Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Volume 1, Norman P. Tanner, S.J. editor, 1990, p. 83.)

Fact 2 – The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 is not “the creed of the 318” [i.e. Nicene Creed of 325].

Fact 3 – “No copy of the council’s doctrinal decisions, entitled τομος και αναθεματισμος εγγραφος (record of the tome and anathemas), has survived.” (Ibid., p. 21.)

Fact 4 – “The Second Council of Constantinople, A. D. 381, was not originally a general council”. (Joseph Pohle, The Trinity, English trans. Arthur Preuss, 1912, p. 129.)

In summation, we have a creed from an “Ecumenical” council, that “was not originally a general council”, altering (by deletion) the Nicene Creed of 325; and the 4th Ecumenical council erroneously declaring that the creed promulgated at council of Constantinople in 381 was “the same creed” that was promulgated at Nicea in 325. I submit that such evidence(s) (and the above is only one such example) make the teaching of the infallibility of Ecumenical Councils untenable.

[For those who would like to explore these issues a bit more deeply, I highly recommend that you read R.P.C. Hanson’s treatment, found in his The Seach for the Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 812-820.]


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. I want all to know that this thread should not be construed as an attack directed at Dave Armstrong; for the record, I sincerely appreciate the substantial effort/work that Dave has produced since the posting of my 01-06-10 announcement, and shall be looking forward to his (and everyone else’s) comments.

60 comments:

Chris said...

Very interesting, David. I wasn't aware of most of these issues. Thanks,

-Chris

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave W.,

First, which of the those five facts, is, in your mind, incompatible with the Catholic dogma concerning the infallibility of ecumenical councils?

Second, why, exactly, do you think these facts [those you might specify in answer to my first question] are incompatible with the Catholic dogma concerning the infallibility of ecumenical councils?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Lvka said...

All of your "facts", save for the minor editions done in 381 to the Creed of 325 (which was a bit too redundant), seem to be false...

We DO have the Creed, canons, and anathemas of the First Ecumenical Council. -- maybe he meant original manuscripts, in which case I don't see the relevance... (the same goes for the Bible, or for the Greek and Roman classics)

The Synod of Chalcedon did not edit the Creed in any way. (It did however formulate a confession of faith in Christ's two natures in one Person, if that's what you had in mind...)

An Ecumenical (Imperial) Council means a council of the whole Ecumene (inhabited world, in this case the Roman Empire). -- I fail to see how the Synod of 381 was not ecumenical...

Matt said...

Another possible sidelight that may have been addressed in previous threads: I wonder if you have a high standard here for what "infallibility means." Would we agree that, in some sense, the Bible in infallible? I would imagine so. But would we also agree that all of the Biblical authors would not satisfy modern historians in how they deal with, say, the texts of the Old Testament or with historical details, etc.? This might not help. Just throwing it out there.

Matt said...

*what "infallibility" means

Sorry about that.

Also, I should probably draw the concluding question that my preliminary questions were pointing to: do we expect more from an ecumenical council? If so, why?

No need to answer, if you are busy (which, it seems, you are). Just questions that came to mind...

Dave Armstrong said...

I am a bit puzzled as to why Dave is questioning whether or not I, “accept at least some form of the Trinity.”

Because, as I have now stated three times (it hasn't been some huge mystery -- no pun intended), you still have not given a simple answer to the questions, "Is Jesus God?" and "is the Holy Spirit God?" If you are a trinitarian (and I am happy to hear that you affirm that you are), I confess I haven't the slightest idea why you would be reluctant to answer those two questions.

It would be like saying you are an American but refusing to divulge what state you live in and where you were born. If you admit the first, why should the additional ones pose any problem answering?

You say it is complex? Well, trinitarianism means that there are three persons Who are God. One either believes that or they don't. If they do (and you say you do), it seems to me that the answer is immediate: all three are God, and each one individually is God. Yet you hesitate to answer. And that's why I questioned it, and am still perplexed as to your reluctance.

If by "trinitarianism" you mean to say that the range of options that come under this doctrinal umbrella can include belief-systems such as Arianism and Mormonism (or other heresies like Sabellianism), then I must again profoundly disagree. They are impossible to harmonize with trinitarianism. I showed a little bit why I think that in my reply to Edward Reiss today in the other thread, and in my reply to TOm on my own blog.

I agree with what Bryan and Lvka wrote. I don't understand why these details trouble you.

Creeds develop along with everything else. Development is not contradiction, but consistent thought-processes, from simple to more complex.

I want all to know that this thread should not be construed as an attack directed at Dave Armstrong

Understood and appreciated. Nor is anything I have written to be construed as an attack on you. We're simply having theological discussion.

Dave Armstrong said...

I'll take a look at the Hanson material sometime tonight. May not be too long from now.

David Waltz said...

Hi Bryan,

In the quote provided in fact #1, two erroneous claims are made: first, the Fathers assembled at Chalcedon in 451, “have proclaimed to all the creed of the 318 [i.e. Nicene Creed of 325]”. This is simply not true, the creed they actually proclaimed was the creed promulgated by the regional council which met at Constantinople in 381. Second, there is the directly related claim that, “the 150 who later met in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed.” Once again, this is not true, for the two creeds are NOT “the same creed” (i.e. fact #2).

As for #3, I personally find it troubling that the decrees and canons of an “infallible” council were not carefully preserved (if at all). Patristic scholars acknowledge that creed that was supposedly reproduced at Chalcedon in 451 (which was claimed to be the Nicene Creed of 325), has no textual witnesses prior to it.

#4 is also troubling—I am not comfortably with the concept of a council that was clearly a regional one, years later being changed/elevated to an Ecumenical/Universal one. Such a practice suggests that in the future, other regional councils may be changed/elevated to Ecumenical/Universal status, and/or councils that are currently considered Ecumenical/Universal may be demoted to regional status.


Grace and peace,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

And by the way, I sent none of David's 1200 emails (lest anyone think I am bombarding him privately). He has enough going on. I have confined myself to replies to this public material.

Lvka said...

Dave, as I said in my previous comment, all your so-called "facts" are dubiously wrong...

David Waltz said...

Hello Lvka,

You posted:

>>All of your "facts", save for the minor editions done in 381 to the Creed of 325 (which was a bit too redundant), seem to be false...

We DO have the Creed, canons, and anathemas of the First Ecumenical Council. -- maybe he meant original manuscripts, in which case I don't see the relevance... (the same goes for the Bible, or for the Greek and Roman classics)>>

Me: None of content the 4 “facts” listed in the opening post of this thread made the claim that we DO NOT have, “the Creed, canons, and anathemas of the First Ecumenical Council”. Where did you get that notion?


>>The Synod of Chalcedon did not edit the Creed in any way. (It did however formulate a confession of faith in Christ's two natures in one Person, if that's what you had in mind...)>>

Me: I disagree—read the creed of Nicea (325), and then read the creed promulgated at Chalcedon (451)—the latter clearly edited the former (by both additions and omissions).


>>An Ecumenical (Imperial) Council means a council of the whole Ecumene (inhabited world, in this case the Roman Empire). -- I fail to see how the Synod of 381 was not ecumenical...>>

Me: Not a single bishop from the West was present. I cited one Catholic scholar (Pohle) who acknowledged that is was not a “general council” (i.e. Ecumencial/Universal); and Dave (Armstrong) in the combox of the previous cited another Catholic scholar (Carroll) who acknowledged the same.


Grace and peace,

David

Lvka said...

Not a single bishop from the West was present

Uhm... that's true for ALL og the Ecumenical Synods. (The Empire = the Eastern one, because that's where all the heresies started and spread; ALMOST no bishops from the West were present at ANY other Synod either, so I don't really get Your complaint...) :-\


The alterations were made in 381, when they dealt with the divinity of the Holy Spirit. -- in any case, I don't understand what You find faith-altering in the small edits to the 325 Creed... is there something that I'm missing, or that You're not telling us here?...

David Waltz said...

Hello Dave,

I am happy to see that you will be participating in this thread. You wrote:

>>Because, as I have now stated three times (it hasn't been some huge mystery -- no pun intended), you still have not given a simple answer to the questions, "Is Jesus God?" and "is the Holy Spirit God?" If you are a trinitarian (and I am happy to hear that you affirm that you are), I confess I haven't the slightest idea why you would be reluctant to answer those two questions.>>

Me: Simply because to state that Jesus is “God” (as well as the HS) does not make one a Trinitarian; as you know, many Arians and Unitarians (and, of course, Mormons) have/do call Jesus “God”.

>>You say it is complex? Well, trinitarianism means that there are three persons Who are God. One either believes that or they don't.>>

Me: Classically speaking (i.e. creedal), Trinitarianism is the teaching that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as 3 eternal, distinct persons (hypostasis), all share 1 one divine essence/substance (ousia).

Anyway, I am not an Arian, and certainly not a Socinian—I am a Trinitarian.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Lvka,

In my opening post, I provided the following:

[For those who would like to explore these issues a bit more deeply, I highly recommend that you read R.P.C. Hanson’s treatment, found in his The Seach for the Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 812-820.]

Not all of the pages are made available in the “limited preview”, but at least, you will get some important background information (and I can later on, after you have read what is online, fill in the rest if need be.)

Another good read (though a bit dated now) on this issue is J.N.D. Kelly’s chapter X, “The Constantinopolitan Creed”, in his Early Christian Creeds.

I sincerely hope that you can read through this important material, for I believe that if you do so, you will better understand my opening post.


Grace and peace,

David

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave,

You wrote:

In the quote provided in fact #1, two erroneous claims are made: first, the Fathers assembled at Chalcedon in 451, “have proclaimed to all the creed of the 318 [i.e. Nicene Creed of 325]”. This is simply not true, the creed they actually proclaimed was the creed promulgated by the regional council which met at Constantinople in 381. Second, there is the directly related claim that, “the 150 who later met in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed.” Once again, this is not true, for the two creeds are NOT “the same creed” (i.e. fact #2).

First, how do you know that the bishops at Chalcedon did not proclaim the Creed according to its wording of 325? Even if we have evidence that they proclaimed it in its 381 form, that does not entail that they did not also read it in its 325 form.

Second, why can't it be true that the Creed of 381 is the Creed of 325, in a more developed form? Why assume that the Creed of 381 is not a more developed form of the Nicene 325? That assumption underlies your claim that referring to the Creed (in its 381 formulation) as the Nicene Creed of 325 is an error. It also underlies your claim that "the 150 who later met in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed" is false. You might not accept the substance-accident distinction, but these bishops did, otherwise they couldn't have believed that the baby Jesus was the same Jesus who hung on the cross. Why think that "same creed" can only mean "same in its wording" rather than [also] "same in its essence" even if different in its wording?

Third, why do you think that the Catholic dogma regarding the infallibility of ecumenical councils extends to the two statements made by the bishops at Chalcedon? I'm sure you are aware that according to the Catholic dogma regarding infallibility, only definitive statements on faith or morals, to be believed by all Catholics, are infallible. Neither of those two statements [which you claim to be erroneous] satisfy those criteria. So, neither of those two "facts" is incompatible with the Catholic dogma regarding infallibility. I'm sure you know this. That's why I'm so puzzled by your suggestion that these two "facts" are somehow incompatible with the Catholic dogma regarding the infallibility of ecumenical councils.

As for #3, I personally find it troubling that the decrees and canons of an “infallible” council were not carefully preserved (if at all).

It is troubling that any of St. Paul's letters were lost. But, such loss is not in any way incompatible with Catholic dogma. Nor is the loss of certain canons and decrees of an ecumenical council.

Patristic scholars acknowledge that creed that was supposedly reproduced at Chalcedon in 451 (which was claimed to be the Nicene Creed of 325), has no textual witnesses prior to it.

That's fully compatible with Catholic dogma. If there were no manuscripts at all, that wouldn't detract from the faith, because the faith isn't built on the testimony of Patristic scholars, but on the testimony of the Apostles, speaking through the Church in her authoritative Magisterium.

#4 is also troubling—I am not comfortably with the concept of a council that was clearly a regional one, years later being changed/elevated to an Ecumenical/Universal one.

Which region was represented at Nicea that wasn't represented at Chalcedon? Why don't you reject [the ecumenical status of] Nicea, if there was a single region of the universal Church not represented at Nicea? What percentage of the regions must be represented at an ecumenical council in order for it to be ecumenical? Where, exactly, are you getting the criteria for what is necessary for an ecumenical council, such that you think 381 doesn't satisfy those criteria?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Lvka said...

Well... pages 812-820 aren't in the preview, and I'm not gonna read the 500+ pages that are there either... :-( Sorry.

Anyway: What exactly do you find so unsettling about the minor differences between the 325 and the 381 Creed?... :-\ (And what has any of this have to do with infallibility?...)

David Waltz said...

Hi Bryan,

Thanks much for responding, you posted:

>>First, how do you know that the bishops at Chalcedon did not proclaim the Creed according to its wording of 325? Even if we have evidence that they proclaimed it in its 381 form, that does not entail that they did not also read it in its 325 form.>>

Me: You have prompted me to go back and reread the material concerning content of the council of Chalcedon from a couple of different translators than Tanner, and I am so glad that I did so. Henry Percival’s translation of the 2nd session of the Acts of the of council Chalcedon (Tanner did not provide the Acts in his work) clearly demonstrates that both creeds were read, with Eunomius reading “The Exposition of faith of the Council held at Nice”, and Aetius reading “The holy faith which the 150 fathers set forth as consonant to the holy and great synod of Nice”. Even though Percival does not provide the full texts of the two creeds that were read, I now suspect that they were not identical in content.

This new read means that I must reject the comments I made to you concerning my analysis of facts 1 and 2 (though actual evidences of facts 1 and 2 that I provided in my opening post still remain true).

Will attempt to address the rest of your post tomorrow—my eyes are getting tired, and need to give them a rest.

Thanks again,

David

P.S. Does the library of the school where you teach have any of the famous collections of the Acta Conciliorum (e.g. Mansi, Hardouin, etc.)? If so, I would sure like to get a copy of the full texts of the two creeds that were read at Chalcedon.

Dave Armstrong said...

I looked over Hanson (what was available on the Google reader: about 70% of it), and he confirms what I already said:

"most of these twelve differences [between the two creeds] have no significance at all." (p. 816)

"We can, I believe, conclude with fair confidence that those who drew up C and those who knew of its existence and probably taught and used it for the next fifty years did not think of it as a new, separate, creed from N, but simply as a reaffirmation of N, an endorsement of what it really meant by means of a little further explanation . . . the fathers of the ancient church were not concerned about the exact wording of formulae, even of official formulae, so much as with their content. If they were assured that the content of one statement was virtually or in effect the same as that of another, they did not mind if the original structure of shape or origin of one of them was different from that of the other . . . N, of which C was a re-affirmation. C did not in their eyes cancel N, but rather enhanced it." (p. 820)

Precisely how I would argue it. Creeds develop, too. Development is not contradiction. Problem solved, if you value this guy's opinion. If there is no contradiction, then obviously infallibility is not affected by what is merely an imaginary problem.

Lvka said...

Again: ... why are we even having this conversation?... I don't get it... Something I'm missing here?

Dave Armstrong said...

Frankly, I think it is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

John Bugay said...

David, while you are looking at the early councils, check out Samuel Hugh Moffett's discussion of the Council of Ephesus ("History of Christianity in Asia," Vol 1). And note that Constantinople II "doubled down" on Ephesus, condemning Nestorius (and "Christotokos) by name. (But that's not all it condemns).

Ludwig Ott calls these condemnations "an authentic expression of Catholic doctrine".

Ephesus (re-ratified by Constantinople II in 553): “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema.”

Chalcedon: “But there are those who are trying to ruin the proclamation of the truth, and through their private heresies they have spawned novel formulas … some by daring to corrupt the mystery of the Lord’s economy on our behalf, and refusing to apply the word “God-bearer” (“Theotokos”) to the Virgin …”

Constantinople II (553) goes further to explicitly state this other word, Christotokos, in its anathemas: "if anyone says that she is the mother of a man or the Christ-bearer, that is the mother of Christ, suggesting that Christ is not God; and does not formally confess that she is properly and truly the mother of God, because he who before all ages was born of the Father, God the Word, has been made into human flesh in these latter days and has been born to her, and it was in this religious understanding that the holy synod of Chalcedon formally stated its belief that she was the mother of God: let him be anathema."

Note, then, the acceptance now of "those who refuse to apply the word Theotokos to the Virgin," in this 1994 Christological agreement signed by John Paul II:

"The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour". In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ". We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety."

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_11111994_assyrian-church_en.html

This translation in English is nothing other than the title "Christotokos" which was clearly espoused by Nestorius, and was in full view in all of the condemnations of Nestorius, Theodore, and the others.
Note this set of clips, with Bishop Kallistos Ware, introducing Mar Bawai Soro at a 1999 conference; Ware quite jocularly throws out that "Nestorius himself is not guilty of the Nestorian heresy."

http://www.oltv.tv/id553.html

http://www.oltv.tv/id518.html

Catholic Answers will tell you, "An infallible pronouncement—whether made by the pope alone or by an ecumenical council—usually is made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics."

Nestorius was "calling into question" "Theotokos," and urging people to use the term "Christotokos" ("Mother of Christ"). Three councils anathematized it, one of them anathematized it by name.

Now we have a pope recognizing "the legitimacy and the rightness" of this term.

I will remind you that the whole Nestorian church -- millions of believers -- were simply cut off and discarded (and left to be killed off by Islam) because of these "infallible conciliar pronouncements".

Principium Unitatis said...

John,

You seem to be trying to claim that there is some contradiction between Constantinople II, and the statement by Pope John Paul II. But if you look at this carefully, there is no contradiction.

Look again at the quotation from Constantinople II:

"if anyone says that she is the mother of a man or the Christ-bearer, that is the mother of Christ, suggesting that Christ is not God; and does not formally confess that she is properly and truly the mother of God, because he who before all ages was born of the Father, God the Word, has been made into human flesh in these latter days and has been born to her, and it was in this religious understanding that the holy synod of Chalcedon formally stated its belief that she was the mother of God: let him be anathema."

That's not condemning the use of the term 'Christotokos' per se; it is condemning its use when it is meant in a certain way, namely, as denying that Mary is the Mother of God. It would be false to claim that Mary is not the Christotokos. She truly did bear Christ. And Constantinople II was not denying that, or prohibiting the use of the term 'Christotokos' tout court. So there is no contradiction between John Paul II using the term "Christotokos", and the anathema of Constantinople II that you quoted.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

Beautiful distinction Bryan. I have no doubt that the document was written to permit such distinctions.

But they wrongly condemned Nestorius, then, who also was not suggesting that "Christ is not God". He also did confess that she was the Mother of God when that term was properly used.

Yet they condemned him and others by name.

Of course, you will now say that that document by John Paul II does not have the formal infallibility of a definition (or something like that).

You may keep your distinctions. Millions of "Nestorian" Christians died bloody deaths at the hands of Islam due to these fine distinctions.

Matt said...

Mr. Bugay,

I know that this is not the main issue here, but I am not sure that we can so easily move from the conciliar condemnation of a group of Christians to "their bloody deaths at the hands of Islam." It seems that you are suggesting that, because the Nestorians were considered heretics by Rome and Constantinople, these Churches had no concern for their fate under Muslim rule.

But Rome and Constantinople condemned each other and were in schism from 1054 (according to the traditional date), but the West maintained a deep concern about the fate of the Orthodox Christians for the centuries that followed.

There are many other historical factors that would condition the West's ability and desire to help the Nestorians other than thinking of them as heretics...

Also, I'm not sure about these "millions" of Nestorians being slaughtered in the first place. Could you give a reference for this one?

John Bugay said...

Samuel Hugh Moffett, "History of Christianity in Asia," 1991

John Bugay said...

This is just another instance in which the defense of an "infallible authority" in the maintenance of "pure doctrine" runs into real human lives and civilizations.

Thank God for the infallible maintenance of that pure doctrine. Thank God that the "schismatics" were exterminated so that they could not bear witness against the Petrine Authority, without which we couldn't have true unity.

John Bugay said...

Above all, Mar Aba gave himself to the work of reunion...in his general council of 544 he saw to it that the Church of the East (Persia and Asia) brought itself more into official theological harmony with the non-Monophysite, orthodox West by adopting the creed and decrees of the Choucil of Chalcedon. At the same time the council reiterated that the basic doctrinal position of the Persian church was the creed of Nicaea as interpreted by Theodore of Mopsuestia.

"Our opinion--the opinion of all the bishops of the East--on the subject of the faith established by the 318 bishops which we defend with all our power, is that which was set forth by the holy friend of God, the blessed Mar THeodore, bishop and Interpreter of the holy Books."

A few years later such recognition of Theodore's authority would be labeled heretical in the west. But in 544 it was no act of schism... It is ironic that as the Church of the East was reaching out for reunion with the West, the West was making reunion impossible.
Moffett, "History of Christianity in Asia," pg 219.

Matt said...

Mr. Bugay,

This is not typically my way of doing things, but I am truly outraged by your last comment and must say something.

How dare you put this sentiment into the mouths of Catholics today? I hope that you wouldn't treat an atheist or a pagan in this way. But then you treat with such contempt your fellow-believers in the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the need of grace for salvation, etc., etc. There are many things about which we disagree, and it is possible that there are many things that a person of good will might find worthy of condemnation in the Roman Catholic Church and its history. Fine.

But to say that we would affirm or even celebrate the slaughter of millions to get rid of the inconvenience of those who deny Petrine authority.... that is truly beyond the pale.

John Bugay said...

Matt -- keep in mind that we are talking about "why I have difficulty affirming the infallibility of the Ecumenical Councils."

I am not trying to put anything into the mouths of Catholics today. Bryan Cross is clearly saying such things.

In terms of "treating with such contempt fellow-believers in the Trinity, the INcarnation, the Virgin Birth, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ," etc., the infallible councils are way ahead of any of us.

This was "The Great Schism" of that great church that was supposedly unified under Peter, the way it was supposed to be.

The latest pronouncements of Benedict and Rome talk about such "glory days," prior to the schism of 1054. But the "unity" of that church in the first millenium was bought at the price of "The Churches of the East," fellow believers in the Trinity, etc.

I think that instead of trying to protect the concept of "infallibility" at all costs, much effort should be expended on finding out what really happened.

Matt said...

You say that Bryan Cross is "clearly" saying such things as this:

"Thank God that the "schismatics" were exterminated so that they could not bear witness against the Petrine Authority, without which we couldn't have true unity."

Wow, you are blind. But I suppose that I should probably let him speak for himself.

Principium Unitatis said...

John Bugay,

I have never said such things. If you ever wish to talk about something I have said, please quote me, because you have a very difficult time rightly understanding what I say. You not infrequently claim that I said some [absurd/false] thing that I never said.

As for Nestorius, discipline is not doctrine. The Church's doctrine of infallibility does not extend infallibility to discipline. Hence, even if the discipline decided at Ephesus against Nestorius were unjustified, that would in no way be incompatible with the Church's doctrine of infallibility. All this was pointed out to you last September in this thread.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks much for taking the time to read Hanson’s contribution (hope that some day you will be able to read the entire book).

You wrote:

>>Precisely how I would argue it. Creeds develop, too. Development is not contradiction. Problem solved, if you value this guy's opinion. If there is no contradiction, then obviously infallibility is not affected by what is merely an imaginary problem.>>

Me: I have no problem with the development of doctrine and the creation of new creeds to clarify and crystallize DD; my difficulty lies with the alteration of already established creeds—creeds that are considered infallible by Catholics and the EO. Here again is part of the Hanson quote you provided:

“We can, I believe, conclude with fair confidence that those who drew up C and those who knew of its existence and probably taught and used it for the next fifty years did not think of it as a new, separate, creed from N, but simply as a reaffirmation of N, an endorsement of what it really meant by means of a little further explanation.”

I am quite sure that Hanson’s assessment of what was going through the minds of “those who drew up C” is spot-on, but for me, such an attitude is much too cavalier, especially when one keeps in mind that C was produced by a distinctly regional council of only 148/149 bishops.

A bit earlier Hanson penned:

“We find plenty of passages in pro-Nicene writers in the second half of the fourth century expressing weariness with creeds and a desire to be satisfied with N.” (p. 819)

I do not wish to convey that the 4 “facts” I provided in the opening post of this thread in and of themselves provide ‘proof’ against the doctrine of council infallibility, they are rather troubling “cracks” that appeared in the earliest stages of the formation of councils and creeds. I started with those 4 “facts” to lay the foundation for future posts that will examine the historicity of early the councils and creeds—the why and how some councils came to be recognized as Ecumenical/Universal, even though originally they were not such.

Off to make some breakfast, my stomach is telling me to eat !!!


Grace and peace,

David

John Bugay said...

Bryan said: Bryan -- "As for Nestorius, discipline is not doctrine."

Show me how what was said about Nestorius was disciplinary and not a doctrinal statement. I'll give you a little start:

http://www.piar.hu/councils/ecum05.htm

"The council did not debate ecclesiastical discipline nor did it issue disciplinary canons."

Do you know something that Tanner did not report here? Take a little read thru the infallible canons of Constantinople II some time.

Principium Unitatis said...

John,

All this has already been explained to you in careful detail in the other thread, but you still do not understand the Church's doctrine concerning infallibility. Tanner is right. The canons issued by Constantinople II are not disciplinary in nature, even though they contain references to the errors of Nestorius. The references to Nestorius (in those canons) are not definitive statements concerning the faith that is to be believed by all Catholics. According to the doctrine of infallibility, no statement by an ecumenical council regarding the person of Nestorious, is infallible regarding his person. Nestorius the person is not part of the content of the faith. What is infallible are the definitive statements about the faith to be believed by all Catholics, which includes now, by way of magisterial teaching, the condemnation of the Christology often referred to by the term Nestorianism and associated with (though not infallibly) the name of Nestorius. You (mistakenly) assume that the doctrine of infallibility requires that every sentence within these canons is protected from error. But that's simply not what the doctrine of infallibility teaches or entails.

Again, I explained all this to you in very careful detail in the previous thread last September.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

And I strongly disagreed with your "very careful detail" then, as I do now.

Now, here is where all of your implications come together Bryan. Because it is a "disciplinary" statement, it does not fall under the bailiwick of doctrinal infallibility.

But the real-life consequences of such conciliar statements -- major schism in the church, followed by the dismemberment of the weaker party by Islam -- cannot be the fault of "the Church." Therefore, whatever consequences accrued to the Nestorian churches are really water under the bridge because the precious infallibility of the church authority is not challenged.

So, you get to pontificate on and on about how we need an infallible authority to protect us from doctrinal error, all the while nullifying the real-life decisions of supposedly infallible councils.

Sounds like corban to me.

Principium Unitatis said...

John,

The question of the degree and locus of responsibility for what later happened to the Christians in the Nestorian tradition, is a worthwhile question, and one deserving of focused study. But, it is a distinct question from whether what the Council of Ephesus (431) and Council of Constantinople (553) decreed, is compatible with the Catholic doctrine of infallibility. Mixing the two questions together, would only confuse the issue, and therefore be intellectually imprudent. Here, in this thread, therefore, I am only intending to address the latter question. Nothing you have pointed to in either Ephesus (431) or Constantinople (553) is incompatible with the Catholic dogma concerning infallibility.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

Just above you were pointing to my not knowing the difference between disciplinary and doctrinal statements.

Just to be clear, you said, As for Nestorius, discipline is not doctrine. The Church's doctrine of infallibility does not extend infallibility to discipline.

Now you have backtracked, to say "well ok, it wasn't discipline," but they didn't infallibly misattribute "Nestorianism" to Nestorius, and they didn't infallibly condemn him when they condemned him.

I'll bet you that THEY did not have the "infallible" understanding to go back through and to know what statements of theirs were and were not infallible.

The doctrine of infallibility permits us to go back to supposedly authoritative council statements and pick and choose what was and what wasn't infallible.

Just so we've got that "infallible authority" in place.


* * *

Now you are backtracking again:


The question of the degree and locus of responsibility for what later happened to the Christians in the Nestorian tradition, is a worthwhile question, and one deserving of focused study. But, it is a distinct question from whether what the Council of Ephesus (431) and Council of Constantinople (553) decreed, is compatible with the Catholic doctrine of infallibility.

Do you see what ridiculous distinctions you are making to preserve this "Catholic doctrine of infallibility"?

"The Catholic doctrine of infallibility" is like the game of Fizzbin -- you make up the rules as you go along, checking to see that "oh, what we said about the PERSON is not infallible, only the DOCTRINAL CONTENT."

For as smart as you are, you must see the sheer idiocy of this. Somewhere, deep down, I believe you do.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

I do not wish to convey that the 4 “facts” I provided in the opening post of this thread in and of themselves provide ‘proof’ against the doctrine of council infallibility, they are rather troubling “cracks” that appeared in the earliest stages of the formation of councils and creeds. I started with those 4 “facts” to lay the foundation for future posts that will examine the historicity of early the councils and creeds— . . .

But they are not, I submit, troubling at all! Even the source you provided verifies that. I don't see the "troubling 'cracks'" that you see. If this is the sort of thing you actually start with as a premise, and move on from there, then it is a castle made of sand. You haven't even established (by any stretch of the imagination) that this is a solid difficulty in the Catholic position.

my difficulty lies with the alteration of already established creeds

You miss the point. Some words being altered doesn't necessarily mean that the belief-system is altered. This is what Hanson was trying to say. The Apostles' and Nicene and Athanasian Creeds do not "contradict" each other simply because they are worded differently. They are all consistent with the apostolic Catholic faith. The four Gospels don't "contradict" one another. Luke doesn't "alter" Mark or Matthew. John doesn't "contradict" the Synoptics. Many atheists, of course, claim that they contradict each other. Insofar as you argue as they do, in such a manner, you are adopting their same fallacies: claiming contradictions where there are none. This ought to trouble you; not the fact that Creeds word things differently.

I am quite sure that Hanson’s assessment of what was going through the minds of “those who drew up C” is spot-on, but for me, such an attitude is much too cavalier . . .

But you make that judgment on private judgment grounds. How do you decide as an individual that the decisions made by the Church: that have become the Mind of the Church and results of a patristic consensus, are "cavalier"?

You can do that if in fact you adopt the rule of faith of Protestants, which allows such judgments of historic Catholicism and her authoritative decisions all the time (themselves quite "cavalier"), but then what are you left with?

If you are reluctant to adopt Protestantism in some form, on other grounds, where do you go? Arianism? Mormonism? But you are trinitarian, so those options are ruled out. What is left? Traditional Anglicanism? Orthodoxy accepts the authority of the early councils, so you can't go there, either, if you start to doubt them.

This sort of skepticism leads to nowhere, and that is what you must face, as I don't believe you want to end up nowhere, without faith, and left only with your private judgment, which is infinitely more arbitrary than anything you are criticizing.

You care too much about truth to end up with nothing, and abject skepticism. That is evident. So we must warn you of what inevitably lies ahead, should you continue down this dangerous path, before it is too late.

There is already a loss of supernatural faith, once one starts doubting the tenets of the faith, and that is the scariest thing of all, because we are then left on our own, in our own logical and analytical powers (heaven forbid!) and that is not sufficient to attain to Christian faith, since the stream can't rise above its source. It'll never get there without divine help, and that is what is being spurned when we start doubting the faith, and on manifestly inadequate grounds.

It's a battle for your soul, David. I don't mean to sound harsh or judgmental at all. I'm simply providing a Catholic point of view and noting that the stakes are very high.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Dave,

Before I begin working on the material for a new thread, I wanted to respond to one more quote of Hanson’s that you provided:

"most of these twelve differences [between the two creeds] have no significance at all." (p. 816)

I agree with Hanson; however, he also wrote:

“The alterations which may be significant are the omissions by C of ‘that is, of the substance (ousia) of the Father (iii), originally in N; the new clause in C ‘and there will be no end of his kingdom’ (x); the considerable addition to the article on the Holy Spirit (xi); and the omission of N’s anathemas…The omission of ‘that is, of the substance ousia of the Father (iii) has caused much heart-searching among scholars. (p. 817)

Tanner seems to agree with Hanson on some key points:

"Scholars find difficulties with the creed attributed to the council of Constantinople. Some say that the council composed a new creed. But no mention is made of this creed by ancient witnesses until the council of Chalcedon; and the council of Constantinople was said simply to have endorsed the faith of Nicea, with a few additions on the holy Spirit to refute the Pneumatomachian heresy. Moreover, if the latter tradition is accepted, an explanation must be given of why the first two articles of the so-called Contantinopolitan creed differ considerably from the Nicene creed." (Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Volume 1, Norman P. Tanner, S.J. editor, 1990, p. 21 – bold emphasis mine.)


Grace and peace,

David

Principium Unitatis said...

John,

Now you have backtracked, to say "well ok, it wasn't discipline,"

Again, you misrepresent me as you invariably do. I have not "backtracked" anything. I never said those words that you quote. Recall my request above always to quote me when referring to something I said, to avoid misrepresenting me. When I say "Tanner is right. The canons issued by Constantinople II are not disciplinary in nature" that is not backtracking from my previous statement that "Hence, even if the discipline decided at Ephesus against Nestorius were unjustified, that would in no way be incompatible with the Church's doctrine of infallibility." You are not being careful enough with my statements, and this doesn't help your credibility with regard to your historical claims.

The doctrine of infallibility permits us to go back to supposedly authoritative council statements and pick and choose what was and what wasn't infallible.

Not if by "pick and choose" you mean in an arbitrary or ad hoc fashion. Only what satisfies the objective criteria for dogma, is protected from error, according to the Church's doctrine regarding infallibility.

Do you see what ridiculous distinctions you are making to preserve this "Catholic doctrine of infallibility"?

Have you stopped beating your wife yet? (Point being, you are asking a loaded question.) I'm not so much concerned whether you think the fine distinction between what is dogma, and what is not dogma, is "ridiculous". Your perceiving this distinction as 'ridiculous' says more about you than about the distinction itself. Even Christ, who is the Truth, was ridiculed. So we ought not reject something merely because some people think it ridiculous. Rather, the question we should be asking is whether it is true. And the distinction between dogma and non-dogma, is a real distinction, and statements to that effect are true statements, whether or not such statements are ridiculed by non-Catholics.

When you can't refute a Catholic doctrine, you resort to ridicule and ad hominem ("For as smart as you are..."). That's always how the faith of the Church has been treated by those who reject it. If you could refute it, you wouldn't have to resort to ridicule and ad hominem. So doing so only shows that you have no means of refuting the Catholic doctrine.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David Waltz said...

Dear Dave,

I posted my last response to you before realizing that you put up your February 4, 2010 10:39 AM post. I cannot begin to convey to you (and so many others), the sincere appreciation I have as it pertains to your concerns about my eternal welfare—truth be known, I too have concerns! I want to be 100% sure that I have embraced “the faith once and for all delivered unto the Saints”. One of the biggest reasons why I am sharing my research on the internet is to elicit important feedback on my thoughts and reflections—I am deeply grateful for not only your contributions, but also for the many others who have taken time to share their thoughts with me.


God bless,

David

John Bugay said...

Bryan said: you have a very difficult time rightly understanding what I say.

This statement from you is ad hominem right from the beginning.

I did not come here to "refute Catholic doctrine," (speaking of "misrepresentations." You are not being careful enough with my statements, and this doesn't help your credibility with regard to your historical claims).

No, Turretin "refuted" the whole of Catholic doctrine in his day. We need another Turretin today.

What I am doing is pointing out is simply one more instance of how you "leave the commandment of God" -- you excuse genuinely wrong conciliar decisions -- "and hold to the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8) -- in order to somehow separate out the meaning of what these councils said, from (a) what they actually said, and (b) from the real life consequences of what they said.

Only what satisfies the objective criteria for dogma, is protected from error, according to the Church's doctrine regarding infallibility.

Where are these "objective criteria for dogma"? Where are they written down? Where is the "infallible" "canon" of these criteria?

You are grandstanding. You have nothing but a great big circular argument, and you are using the biggest words you can to beat your chest for an audience you think here will be impressed. Maybe you will impress some people who need desperately to hold onto "infallibility" with regard to church authority.

It was your "branch/schism" that sent me on the search that eventually found these profound injustices not only on the names of individuals like Nestorius, Theodore, and Theodoret. But there were profound and deadly consequences for millions of Christians, centuries down the road, based on the decisions of these councils.

That you want to separate "dogma from non-dogma", to uphold an "infallibility" that was defined centuries later, is just an incredibly petty distinction.

Dave Armstrong said...

Re: further Hanson and Tanner quotes:

My response remains the same: two creeds can be different in wording and emphasis without being essentially different; one or the other can add, omit, or reiterate concepts without necessarily contradicting the other, just as the four Gospels do, and the later creed can develop the earlier. The demand that they be precisely, exactly the same, and have no differences whatsoever, even in linguistic or grammatical matters, is a modern hyper-rationalistic mentality imposed upon ancient texts. This appears to me what you are falling prey to. As Hanson explained, it was not regarded that way at the time (nor does the Bible generally manifest this concern about technical detail and minutiae).

I'm putting together a dialogue on my blog, too, of our interactions, just so you know. It gets pretty confusing for anyone in your comboxes, with five simultaneous discussions going on.

Nicholas Kirk said...

Hey Dave Waltz,

This is Rory...We have a contractor remodelling the house and I notice it is his name that is now associated with blog posting. He apparently used the computer today. So far, I have been Lisa and Irene. Now Nicholas Kirk.

Before you went to Mexico I think asked Chris Smith about whether the same methodology that rules negatively in regard to infallibility could extend itself to a negative answer if applied to inspiration of Scripture.

Do you think that you are using the same method to defend infallibility and eventually pronounce negatively, as you would use to affirm inerrancy of Holy Scripture? Dave Armstrong seemed to raise a valid point in comparing the Gospels with the creedal documents which you have found troubling. If you are finding that these documents are conflicting, do you think it is possible that upon reflection you might discover that the Gospels are in conflict too?

You have always been very sensitive to using a consistent methodology and so I know you will give this serious thought. To me, and others here, your evidences so far do not seem egregious. Of course I am more familiar with biblical difficulties, but they seem to loom much larger, and yet, at least to the eye of faith, they are reconsilable. But if we can't reconcile the Nicene Creed with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, how are we going to harmonize the Gospels? Is it possible that you are using an unnecessarily rigorous procedure in your investigation of infallibility than you would be willing to use in your investigation of Holy Scripture?

Rory (not Nick)

Principium Unitatis said...

John,

What I am doing is pointing out is simply one more instance of how you "leave the commandment of God" -- you excuse genuinely wrong conciliar decisions --

I have never excused any "genuinely wrong" conciliar decision. But your false accusation is duly noted.

Where are these "objective criteria for dogma"?

No one who doesn't know the answer to that question should be publicly arguing against the Catholic doctrine of infallibility. You can't rightly criticize what you don't first understand. And the critical stance is not the learning stance.

That you want to separate "dogma from non-dogma", ... is just an incredibly petty distinction.

If you think the distinction between dogma and non-dogma is petty, then I'll let your statement serve as my refutation, and rest my case.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

You cited Hanson:

“The alterations which may be significant are the omissions by C of ‘that is, of the substance (ousia) of the Father (iii), originally in N; . . . The omission of ‘that is, of the substance ousia of the Father (iii) has caused much heart-searching among scholars." (p. 817)

Here are the "Nicene" and "Constantinopolitan Creeds" copared side-by-side in Schaff's Creeds of Christendom:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds1.iv.iii.html

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον) with the Father; . . .

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

This you pose as a problem, because of the omission in the later creed of the bracketed portion of the earlier. But is it such a difficulty that we must posit actual contradiction? No; and the reason is because the same concepts are taught in each, anyway; or, I should say, the two are harmonious in their assertions.

One way we know this is from "begotten" (present in both). If this is the scriptural monogenes, then it is dealing in large part wit the same notion of "same essence or substance". For example, Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, for John 1:14:

"The glory was like, corresponds in nature to, the glory of an only Son sent from a Father. It was the glory of one who partook of His divine Father's essence . . ."

Or, W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of NT Words (under "Only Begotten"):

"He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood. This necessitates eternity, absolute being . . ."

In fact, the earlier version of the creed actually defines "only-begotten" in exactly this fashion ("the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God"). Therefore, if one knows the meaning of "only-begotten Son of God", to define it further is not strictly necessary; thus, omitting a definition of a thing already known and understood in the previous clause, is not only not a contradiction, but not even necessary in terms of both logic and content (because it omits merely a clarifying parenthesis that adds nothing essentially new to what already was).

The so-called "problem" then, that some scholars have with this, is just an academic triviality. It may be interesting historically, as to exactly why it occurred (academics thrive on technical minutiae), but it poses no problem in terms of faith and continuity of consistent development, as I think I have shown.

Secondly, the phrase "very God of very God" remains in the later creed, and this includes, by nature, the notion of the substance and essence of God, as part of all the divine attributes.

Thirdly, the later creed retains "being of one substance with the Father" which is saying basically the same thing as "of the essence of the Father").

These three considerations taken together demonstrate, I contend, that there is no problem with dogma or infallibility here at all.

I spoke to that generally before, now I have spelled out with specificity why I believe it is the case.

Mike L said...

Dear David:

In their concern for your spiritual welfare, Bryan Cross and Dave Armstrong have made some excellent points. My thanks go to them for sparing me much effort. I have only two substantive points to add.

The very notion of "development of doctrine" is itself a development, which makes its first recognizable appearance only about 430, with Vincent of Lerins in the "backward" West. Accordingly, one cannot expect the Eastern churches of the first millennium to evince any awareness that they were "developing" anything, much less Nicaea I's doctrine. They saw themselves simply as applying that council's doctrine faithfully to new and pressing questions. Similarly, the "orthodox" party at Nicaea I saw itself simply as explaining Scripture by re-introducing the non-Scriptural term homoousios in a specific meaning, after the Council of Antioch had rejected it as ambiguous in 268. When we look retrospectively at the doctrines of the seven "ecumenical" councils of the first millennium, we can see a self-consistent triadology and christology developing over the course of several centuries, one which was vigorously and plausibly contested at every point during that course of development. That contest is what led to schisms, two of which--the Monophysite and the Nestorian--persist to this present day. But it also led to the unity of the old and new Romans around a creed we now take to define orthodoxy.

That process would discredit the Catholic doctrine of infallibility only if the resulting dogmas had logically contradicted earlier formulations enjoying the same degree of authority. But they do not, and you have presented no evidence that they do. The various creedal formulations of the councils in question are successive developments of the same basic hermeneutic of the "sources," i.e. Scripture and all which falls under the heading of "Tradition." And so, like Bryan, I am puzzled by your doubts. As you have posed it, the question of Constantinople I's "ecumenicity" is simply irrelevant; for on Catholic doctrine, a given council's dogmas bind the whole Church as de fide if and only if the pope ratifies them as such, and that was eventually done for Constantinople I, even though the exact moment when that occurred is not entirely clear from the historical record.

Best,
Mike

Dave Armstrong said...

The latest dialogue of our exchanges is now up at my site:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/02/dialogue-with-david-waltz-on.html

CrimsonCatholic said...

At the same time the council reiterated that the basic doctrinal position of the Persian church was the creed of Nicaea as interpreted by Theodore of Mopsuestia.

"Our opinion--the opinion of all the bishops of the East--on the subject of the faith established by the 318 bishops which we defend with all our power, is that which was set forth by the holy friend of God, the blessed Mar THeodore, bishop and Interpreter of the holy Books."


As per the usual, you only read what you want to read, and any claim that fits your position will be affirmed regardless of whether it was true. Theodoret's Christology was meticulously analyzed by Paul B. Clayton, and it is a simple fact that as a purely logical matter, it necessarily contradicts Jesus Christ's divinity. There is no logical alternative for Antiochene Christology; there is no orthodox way out.

So, yes, Nestorians may affirm the divinity of Christ, and may the mercy of God be on them for doing it, but it is clearly only by a "blessed inconsistency." The Church of the East may well have even *believed* that they were orthodox, and Nestorius himself may well have believed it, but they were wrong. Mar Theodore and Mar Diodore endorsed error that was no part of the teaching of the Apostles. Any claim to the contrary, and any attempt to rehabilitate them, simply doesn't acknowledge the historical reality of the situation. It's well and good that their hearts are in the right place, just as it is well and good that Protestants' hearts are in the right place, but that doesn't change that their belief is no more intellectually consistent than a square circle.

What you don't realize, and what you never appear to have realized, is that if Nestorius and Turretin are within the scope of orthodoxy, then the very idea of orthodoxy is nonsense. Truth cannot admit logical contradictions; *either* Jesus is the Word of God *or* Nestorianism is true. *Either* the Eucharist is the saving, Life-giving Body and Blood of Christ *or* Calvin's view is true. This double-minded attempt of yours to attack Catholics by saving heretics just shows how desperately false your beliefs are. It's like listening to Obama contradict himself in the same speech; you begin to wonder how anyone with any sort of conscience or moral sense can be uttering the words.

Nor do your like accusation against Bryan Cross bear anything like the ring of truth. You accuse him of changing the game when he has done no such thing, you impute beliefs to him that he has never stated, you disagree without providing a reason (or worse, providing a self-contradictory reason). And then, at the height of it all, you hypocritically accuse him of some wrong.

I suppose I cannot expect people who accept contradictions as truth to be anything but madmen after a while. But I am still disappointed.

CrimsonCatholic said...

David W.:
It seems to me that if you really wanted to go after the infallibility of Nicaea, then you could point out that many of the 318 (or so) bishops who voted FOR the Council later ended up espousing an Arian interpretation, which is exactly what they thought they were supporting when they agreed to the words (or at least, they supported them only with mental reservations to placate the Emperor). Rather than simply pointing out the change in creeds, you could point out that bishops freely present at the ecumenical council has their own position later treated as an authority to contradict that same position! That is, in fact, one of the principal logical difficulties that I see with the conciliar theory of Eastern Orthodoxy, and why I see papal authority as the sine qua non of Christian authority generally. As Mike said, even papal authority changed over time for contingent reasons (like the fact that even an ecumenical council didn't work in the case of Nicaea). The need for authority may be contingent, but if there is in fact a need, then there needs to actually be one to affirm Christian orthodoxy itself, and the Pope genuinely appears to be the only viable candidate.

It seems to me that both you and Mr. Bugay have crafted excellent arguments for why Christianity CANNOT be believed. I'm still curious as to why you think it can.

John Bugay said...

As Mike said, even papal authority changed over time for contingent reasons (like the fact that even an ecumenical council didn't work in the case of Nicaea).

Yeah, it went from being nonexistent -- nobody thought of poor Sylvester for this one, and nobody cared about what he thought -- to being wealthy in the world and being worth Damasus's killing of 137 supporters of his rivals to gain the wealth and status of that position.

It seems to me that both you and Mr. Bugay have crafted excellent arguments for why Christianity CANNOT be believed. I'm still curious as to why you think it can.

You've got a mistaken idea of Christianity. Consider just this one fact: Both atheistic and Christian (Biblical) scholars agree that the "Resurrection was probably reported in the same year it happened."

http://blog.bible.org/primetimejesus/content/resurrection-probably-reported-same-year-it-happened

Some things have been thoroughly investigated by the worst kinds of critics -- and as this Blomberg story shows, the life and death of Christ are more firmly established as facts of history than ever before.

On the other hand, the Vatican (and you guys in kind) are no longer saying, as I learned as a cradle Catholic, that the line of popes extends unbroken back to Peter.

On the contrary, you're having to use all sorts of secondary, philosophical-based justifications for why Clement was really the Roman Messenger Service, claims to papal authority outside of Rome were pretty much universally rejected everywhere (see Firmilian, for example), and you're making excuses for killers who ascend to the throne.

I have no worries at all about the validity of Christianity. It's the Roman wolves who are (and have been) the danger.

John Bugay said...

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/historical-literature-on-the-earliest-papacy/

The same kinds of modern historians who are confirming the validity of the Gospel -- the life, death, and resurrection of Christ -- are pushing any notion of a papacy later and later into history.

The apostles preached Christ. You guys have to wriggle about what the Church is, and why anybody *is required* to believe all of its ahistorical "dogmas" which have no basis anywhere other than a bankrupt authority whose only recourse is "because we say so."

In reality, the papacy is the ghost of the Roman emperor sitting on the grave of the Roman empire.

Good luck with that.

CrimsonCatholic said...

You've got a mistaken idea of Christianity. Consider just this one fact: Both atheistic and Christian (Biblical) scholars agree that the "Resurrection was probably reported in the same year it happened."

No, you are the one who has a mistaken idea of Christianity, at least as historically understood. The fact that Jesus was resurrected does not prove He was God, as many people were resurrected who were not God, and it is not even sufficient basis for concluding that His claims to be God were true. The Arians and Nestorians, for example, believed in the Resurrection, but they did not believe that Jesus could be God.

What you are effectively saying is that the belief that the Jesus Christ Himself was actually God is irrelevant. That is, in a nutshell, the massive error that the first seven ecumenical councils. It must be true BOTH that Jesus was resurrected AND that He was Himself the divine Word of God, being the one mediator between human and divine natures, for His claims of salvation to have any meaning. The historical fact of the Resurrection is not enough; anyone who is Christian on that basis could just as easily be Arian or Nestorian as orthodox, even thought those options are mutually self-contradictory.

One could therefore leave aside entirely the question of authority and simply ask which doctrine is even logically possible. That is the question that you must necessarily ask if you think it matters at all whether Christian theology is true, although many liberal scholars ironically disregard this. But when a scholar takes the correct methodology, as John McGuckin did in his work on Cyril, as Clayton did in his work on Theodoret, as several scholars have done with St. Maximus, as Vaggione did in his work on Eunomius of Cyzicus, then these issues *matter* for the truth of Christianity. In that respect, it's entirely true that these "developments" were simply about what was already logically embedded in the true doctrine, and *logically* speaking, one did not even need an ecumenical council because they were logically entailed in the correct belief. But some within the tradition also held erroneous and inconsistent beliefs, and that is what the so-called "development" answered.

So if you think truth and logic doesn't matter, and that it doesn't matter whether Jesus Christ is actually the World of God Himself, then "good luck with that" as you say. I think the ecumenical councils actually meant something significant for the truth of Christianity, and in fact, they are the only logical alternative available for coherent Christian belief. Incoherent Christian belief is incompatible with the truth, and it therefore cannot be claimed to have Scripture support, which affirms that Jesus Himself is the Truth. Unless you're cherry picking what is and isn't true in the Scriptures, the ecumenical councils are your only option. And the fact that you are savaging them in your attempt to get at Catholics says a great deal about what kind of Christian you are.

CrimsonCatholic said...

PS, in case this didn't come across, "what kind of Christian" is a direct reference to your description of Romans as wolves, when you yourself appear to be the one covered in sheep's clothing while attacking the Christian doctrine.

TOm said...

Crimson Catholic,
I think I detected an inconsistency in your post. I thought I would point it out and ask you some questions around and relating to it.

You said:
One could therefore leave aside entirely the question of authority and simply ask which doctrine is even logically possible. That is the question that you must necessarily ask if you think it matters at all whether Christian theology is true

In that respect, it's entirely true that these "developments" were simply about what was already logically embedded in the true doctrine, and *logically* speaking, one did not even need an ecumenical council because they were logically entailed in the correct belief.

And you said:
I think the ecumenical councils actually meant something significant for the truth of Christianity, and in fact, they are the only logical alternative available for coherent Christian belief. Incoherent Christian belief is incompatible with the truth, and it therefore cannot be claimed to have Scripture support, which affirms that Jesus Himself is the Truth.

TOm:
What rang for me as inconsistent above is that if the ECs merely defined what was logical and coherent (theoretically building from some kernels of truth like, “It must be true BOTH that Jesus was resurrected AND that He was Himself the divine Word of God, being the one mediator between human and divine natures, for His claims of salvation to have any meaning.”) then they are not anything more significant for the truth than a similar logical progression within a sola scriptura framework.

I assume you would not suggest that the charism of an EC is not the “supernatural logic powers?”
I assume you would not suggest that the folks at an EC possessed intellects so superior to the best minds of Protestantism (or Mormonism ~smile~) that they were capable of logically defining truth better?
What am I missing?

Next, would you suggest that scripture logically leads to Nicene orthodoxy concerning the homoousian Trinity?

I am interested in you elaborating on the above. At present, I lean towards two things. First, I would guess that you have a high view of the need for ECs and the authority present such that while they are logical developments, they are necessary; but I do not know how you will assert this. Second, I think your position that the 7 EC orthodoxy is the logically coherent development of some simple starting points (like the quote I offered above) is in reality the (or a) logically coherent development of some simple starting points WITH a number of presuppositions of which you may or may not be aware (but are far more elaborate than just simple starting points).

Charity, TOm

David Waltz said...

Hello Jonathan,

Thanks for responding. I would like to address a couple of the points you made: first, concerning your comments that, “many of the 318 (or so) bishops who voted FOR the Council later ended up espousing an Arian interpretation, which is exactly what they thought they were supporting when they agreed to the words”, I intended to bring this out in a subsequent thread, along with the violence and gang coercion which took place between many of the councils.

Second—you stated:

>> It seems to me that both you and Mr. Bugay have crafted excellent arguments for why Christianity CANNOT be believed. I'm still curious as to why you think it can.>>

I think some of your concerns are addressed in the following I penned, from the opening post of my most recent thread:

“Apart from acknowledging that doctrine does indeed develop, what I am attempting to do in this new series of threads on councils, creeds, and infallibility is look at the historic evidences and processes without ANY premise(s), save the presupposition shared by ALL the varying theological schools of thought in this period that the Sacred Scriptures were divinely inspired and infallible.”


Grace and peace,

David

CrimsonCatholic said...

David W.:
You've identified exactly the point that I would question. You said:
"what I am attempting to do in this new series of threads on councils, creeds, and infallibility is look at the historic evidences and processes without ANY premise(s), save the presupposition shared by ALL the varying theological schools of thought in this period that the Sacred Scriptures were divinely inspired and infallible"

That assumes that it was a presupposition, which I would consider a highly dubious assumption. For one thing, "presupposition" is an anachronistic concept, at least as that term is later used. For another, there are several Fathers (St. Augustine most explicitly) who note that even those who accept the authority of Scripture can nonetheless err if they read the Apostles as if they held their own defective beliefs. In other words, the sola scriptura approach might work in particular cases, but it could just as easily fail, so this is not an approach that even the Fathers themselves endorsed for people whose understanding was sufficiently off base that they didn't even understand the basic creedal necessities of Christian belief.

That brings me to my point. Someone who, like an Arian, a Nestorian, a Judaizer, a Pharisee, or a Calvinist, believes something logically inconsistent with Jesus Christ being divine has problems that aren't going to be fixed by appeal to Scripture, even if he ostensibly accepts their authority. Moreover, the very concept of "inspiration" *supposes* an orthodox account of the Trinity. If one does not have a correct and consistent belief in the Holy Spirit and the mediating role of the Son, then how can one have an adequate rational understanding of inspiration?

Certainly, Israel had reasons to believe Scripture on account of a direct, historical interaction, but that was clearly inadequate even on its own terms for all of humanity. The Christian revelation corrected this deficiency; Jesus Himself said this as well. To posit the authority of Scripture without it, as you have done, is simply to contradict reason and reality in addition to rendering Scripture self-contradictory. The same can be said of the authority of the Apostles; the reason they have authority for us is *because* they recognized Jesus Christ as God, i.e., they witness what we ourselves have seen. To speak of true recognition of apostolic authority by heretics is nonsense.

I hope you will indulge me in being blunt here, because I agree with Dave A. that the stakes are too high to play around. The notion that there was, or even could be, a common recognition of Scriptural authority among heretics and orthodox Christians is just as ridiculous as Mr. Bugay's notion that the not-A of Nestorianism can be just as orthodox as the A of true doctrine. It's insane for a Gentile to accept Scriptural authority without an orthodox concept of Christ, or even for a Jew, knowing Christ, to go back to his previous views. Hence, your premise, your "presupposition," is an absurdity. The fact that Frank Ramirez and John Bugay are the ones saying that they took a similar approach should be setting off alarms, because their ravings do not originate by coincidence. They behave crazily because their theology is founded on a nonsensical presupposition. I would very much like to see you saved from that.

CrimsonCatholic said...

TOm:
See my comment to David W. above. The problem with sola scriptura as a normative principle is that you can interpret it according to an incompatible Christology, in which case your very concept of Scriptural authority can be defective in the first place. Likewise, if you interpret the Scriptural authors as sharing these defective premises (e.g., that there can be a human person Jesus Christ joined with the Word of God who can be worshipped as the Word of God), then you can arrive at consistent interpretations that are nevertheless wrong. You need more information than the content of Scripture to be able to usefully interpret it, which is necessary for anything to be normatively authoritative.

John Bugay said...

>> It seems to me that both you and Mr. Bugay have crafted excellent arguments for why Christianity CANNOT be believed. I'm still curious as to why you think it can.>>

Jonathan: I've provided some excellent reasons why Christianity should be believed, but why Roman Catholicism's version of it cannot be believed here:

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/a-positive-view-of-christian-foundations/

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/historical-literature-on-the-earliest-papacy/

If you'll notice, core doctrines of Christianity are strongly attested in history, and accepted now as fact by both Christians and their atheistic detractors.

On the other hand, such a core Catholic doctrine as the papacy has less and less historical attestation as time goes on, and reliance on "development" is heavier and heavier. Whereas once Rome believed and taught that Peter somehow founded the church at Rome and was bishop there for 25 years, Rome now has to scrape for historical scraps to show some kind of evidence that Peter was even there.

The "infallible papacy" is the foundational principle for all the authority that Rome claims it has. That it is on such threadbare foundations, whereas the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (and the surety of the Scriptures as reliable historical documents) is just too glaring a discrepancy for anyone to ignore.

John Bugay said...

as ridiculous as Mr. Bugay's notion that the not-A of Nestorianism can be just as orthodox as the A of true doctrine.

By the way, you have a factual error here Jonathan. I do not hold that Nestorianism is orthodox. I do hold that Nestorius was unjustly attributed with that (made-up) belief, and that it's widely understood that Nestorius "was not guilty of the Nestorian heresy."