Thursday, February 4, 2010

When (and which), are councils and creeds infallible?


I begin this thread with the above provocative question/title, knowing full well that devout Catholics will answer with something like: only those councils and creeds which have been determined to be Ecumenical and Universal by the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, when speaking on “faith and morals”, are to be deemed infallible.

Lumen Gentium addresses this issue as follows:

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.

And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith. The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith
. (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, accessed at the Vatican website - footnote numbers removed – bold emphasis mine.)

I am going to reserve for a later post the issues concerning when can one know a teaching falls under the categories of “faith and morals”. What I would like to explore further in this thread, is whether or not the above criteria can be found in the teachings/writings of the early Church.

The renowned historian, Ramsey MacMullen, lists no less than 255 councils between the council of Nicea (325) and the council of Constantinople (553) in his book, Voting About God, and then goes to state that, “the councils over this time-span cannot have totalled less than 15,000.” (See pages 2-7.)

Now, do ANY of the councils listed by MacMullen exhibit/meet the conditions detailed in Lumen Gentium in order to qualify as Ecumenical and infallible? To my knowledge, not a single one does. But, I certainly make no claim to infallibility in these matters, and shall eagerly await others to weigh in.

Moving on, Dave Armstrong in this heartfelt post wrote:

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.

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.

With the above in mind, I would now like to ask another question: by what means did the Christians living between 325 and 553 AD come to make their decisions about authority, councils, and doctrine?

In the previous thread, I presented some historic facts concerning the council of Constantinople in 381 and the creed that was promulgated there. I sincerely wonder what would have compelled someone living in the Western region of the Roman Empire to believe that this clearly regional council (see below) was an Ecumenical/Universal council, and that its creed was infallible?

Concerning the creed, Hanson 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. (R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, p. 817)

And Tanner penned:

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.)

As for the nature of the council itself, we read:

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 the spring of 381 Theodosius assembled a council of 148 bishops at Constantinople, with Meletius of Antioch presiding. None who would not profess the Creed of Nicea were allowed to attend. No bishops from the west were present, nor was the Pope represented. Therefore this was not really an ecumenical council…(Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom, p.62)

The Council of Constantinople owes its œcumenicity to the agreement of its doctrinal decisions with the mind of the Universal Church. In the stricter sense of the word the Council certainly was not œcumenical, for the West was unrepresented. Nicephorus distinctly states that Theodosius, as Emperor of the East, summoned only the Bishops of the East. (H.B. Swete, On The Early History Of The Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit, p. 79.)

Dr. Bryan Cross, in the combox of our previous thread, linked to a thread at De Regnis Duobus I had not read before. In that thread, I found the following POST by Andrew McCallum to be germane to our current discussion:

You almost get the impression (and I'm not finished with his essay and am hardly qualified to really deconstruct it yet) that even if there were no real "pope" in Rome for the first handful of decades, it wouldn't really matter.

Jason,

I agree that this approach does seem more plausible at least from a strictly historical standpoint. It's really stretching things to argue that Clement, etc. had the same conception of their authority as those RC bishops in let's say the High Middle Ages. But on the other hand if Newman's position is correct on development then, as you have pointed out, everything that cannot be explained by the data of history can in an ad hoc manner be relegated to development. From my perspective John's list above was relevant even if not everything was a necessary condition to justify the papacy. But if Newman is right then John's list is completely irrelevant. Any Roman Catholic dogma then is unfalsifiable. In that case we might as well all hang this up and go have another margarita or beer or wine... (Saturday, September 12, 2009, 5:56:45 AM – found on page 7 of the comments section.)

I shall end this post with a thought provoking selection from the pen of St. Augustine:

Now let the proud and swelling necks of the heretics raise themselves, if they dare, against the holy humility of this address. You mad Donatists, whom we desire earnestly to return to the peace and unity of the holy Church, that you may receive health therein, what have ye to say in answer to this? You are wont, indeed, to bring up against us the letters of Cyprian, his opinion, his Council; why do ye claim the authority of Cyprian for your schism, and reject his example when it makes for the peace of the Church? But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christain charity? (On Baptism, II.3-4 – NPNF 4.427.)


Grace and peace,

David

51 comments:

Richard Froggatt said...

How was the canon closed?

I hope I'm not being too simplistic.

Tim Enloe said...

David, this will be my only remark here because I have very little time for Internet activity and I do not wish to stay for extended periods of time in fora where "apologists" are doing battle for what they typically speciously call "Truth."

Your point, via the quote from the De Duo Regnibus thread, regarding the unfalsifiability of RC doctrines when read through the lens of "development" is absolutely correct, and exposes the extreme superficiality of many Catholics' grasp - yes, even Newman's - of the history of the Church.

"Development" happens, yes. That cannot be denied by anyone with their eyes open. But development is related to two things which are not as easily analyzed and grasped as "apologists" want them to be: (1) Beginnings, and (2) Endings. Aside from the various problems with Newman's proposed tests for distinguishing developments from corruptions, it is simply a fact for anyone who takes the trouble to REALLY get "deep in history" (as opposed to deep in Newman or deep in "apologetics") that one can take the logical form of "development," apply it to quite different premises than Newman does, and arrive at quite different answers than Newman does. Everything depends first on the particular set of ideas with which you start the development process. And everything depends second on the proposed end (telos) of the development process.

Barring defective genetic material or outside interference, an acorn does indeed turn into an oak. But the oak looks nothing like the acorn, and the oak is the FINISHED form of the acorn. We don't know the FINISHED form of the Church because history is not over and so the development process is not over. Catholics are simply fooling themselves to think that the appeal to "development" proves anything in any kind of rigorous manner. Basically, it proves nothing other than what they want to see while blinding them to what they do not want to see.

As I said, this is all I'm going to say on this thread. I again wish you well in your quest for wisdom, and again express my hope that you won't let the naysayers - whether Catholic or Protestant - dampen your spirit. Truth is harder to find than "apologetics" wants it to be, but it can be found. Knowledge begins in wonder and self-admitted ignorance, and usually has very little to do with the superficial, self-justifying, self-blinding cottage industry of "apologetics" as we know it today.

Chris said...

Thanks, David and Tim for the thought-provoking comments. The Augustine quote was particularly interesting.

Lvka said...

I've already told you once that the West was barely represented at ANY Ecumenical Synod. They were almost exclusively an Eastern matter, since there's where the heresies began, spread, and flourished.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

I gave a reply to the quotes above from Tanner and Hanson in the other thread. For the convenience of readers I'll post it here too:

------------------

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 exercise and relative triviality. It may be interesting historiographically, as to exactly why it occurred (academics thrive on technical minutiae) -- I'm as intellectually curious as the next guy -- , 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.

Lvka said...

The two creeds, from 325 and 381 are almost identical. What in God's name did do You have in mind when you wrote that "the first two articles of the Contantinopolitan creed differ considerably from the Nicene creed" ? -- And this is NOT the first time I ask You this...

Dave Armstrong said...

The Augustine quote I dealt with in my replies to Jason Engwer. My explanation was that he meant by "correct" not "correct what was dead wrong in earlier councils," but rather, "develop the thought of earlier councils." I suspect that if we were to examine whatever his word in Latin was for "correct" it would allow such an interpretation. I imagine it would be correctus.

Failing that for the moment, we still have the immediate context, and it supports, I think, what I am saying:

"even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, . . ."

This is development of doctrine. We know that St. Augustine believed in that from other of his utterances, too.

I think that is perfectly plausible as a counter-argument to what you are trying to contend.

I don't simply argue it because I am a Catholic and therefore can't say otherwise, blah blah blah (i.e., the jaded and -- as usual -- condescending Tim Enloe stereotype of what apologetics and Catholicism are supposedly about). I say this because I truly think it is the most reasonable interpretation.

Even in English, "correct" can have such a meaning. Merriam-Webster online gives as a third definition for "correct":

"to alter or adjust so as to bring to some standard or required condition "

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/correct

For example, we might speak of a "course correction" whereby the direction was basically right, but was fine-tuned even further, for more accuracy. This is very much like development of doctrine.

The Babylon Online Latin Dictionary also allows such an interpretation within its range of meanings:

"correct| set right; straighten; improve| edit| reform; restore| cure; chastise"

http://www.babylon.com/define/112/Latin-Dictionary.html

For more on the cognate corrigo see Lewis & Short:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=corrigo&la=la#lexicon

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave W,

You wrote:

Now, do ANY of the councils listed by MacMullen exhibit/meet the conditions detailed in Lumen Gentium in order to qualify as Ecumenical and infallible? To my knowledge, not a single one does.

Since you don't explicitly list the precise "conditions" to which you are referring, I can only guess that you are talking about this one: "The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter."

In your prior objection, it came down to whether 'same' must mean same in wording, or could mean same in essence. Here it comes down to whether 'with' must mean spatial/temporal co-presence, or could mean doctrinal agreement and sacramental communion. Why do you think 'with' must here mean spatial/temporal co-presence? The sense of 'with' in mind in this condition is not in essence spatial or temporal; it is doctrinal and sacramental (i.e. in full communion).

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

Depends on what "is" is?

Couldn't resist, sorry . . .

David Waltz said...

Good morning Lvka,

Yesterday, you posted:

>>The two creeds, from 325 and 381 are almost identical. What in God's name did do You have in mind when you wrote that "the first two articles of the Contantinopolitan creed differ considerably from the Nicene creed" ? -- And this is NOT the first time I ask You this...>>

I did not write those words; they are from a quote I provided, penned by the Catholic scholar Norman P. Tanner.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

First, I want to thank you for culling the discussions between us from the combox, and placing them into a new thread on your blog—well done.

Second, as for the Augustine quote, I believe that your interpretation MAY be ‘correct’ (no pun intended), however, I must in all honesty maintain it is not the only one that is viable. The flow of the selection begins with “superior position” of “the sacred canon of Scripture”, and then moves on to lesser authorities which undergo correction when, “anything contained in them which strays from the truth”. IMHO, one can argue that the primary axiom for correction stems from that “which strays from the truth.” But, I do not wish to be dogmatic on this…

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Bryan,

Thanks for responding, you wrote:

>> Here it comes down to whether 'with' must mean spatial/temporal co-presence, or could mean doctrinal agreement and sacramental communion. Why do you think 'with' must here mean spatial/temporal co-presence? The sense of 'with' in mind in this condition is not in essence spatial or temporal; it is doctrinal and sacramental (i.e. in full communion).>>

I believe that ‘with’ should be understood as a “spatial/temporal co-presence” due to the overall context of the document. IMO, the “gathered together in an ecumenical council” pretty much demands a “spatial/temporal co-presence” interpretation. However, with that said, perhaps in the future with the aid of satellite TV the “spatial” MAY be achieved via video conferencing; but I doubt that this will actually take place, for the gathering of bishops in a council has always been a face-to-face affair—video conferencing would de-humanize, to some extent, the personal interaction.


Grace and peace,

David

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave W,

Wouldn't part of the context of LG be the fact that the bishops who wrote it were not all idiots unaware that the pope wasn't present (or represented) at Constantinople in 381? Your interpretation [of the 'with' in LG] presupposes a context in which the bishops at VII were unaware of this basic fact of Church history. But that is not an accurate description of the context of VII or LG. It essentially imposes a false context onto the writing of LG.

Your objections seem to be based on 'problems' of your own making. You seem to be insisting on interpreting LG according to what you think it must mean, rather than allowing the magisterium of the Church to tell you what it means here by 'with'. In addition, you seem to be interpreting it not according to the principle of charity, i.e. not making the authors out to be idiots. We should seek to interpret the documents of the Church in such a way that they cohere, not choosing to construe a phrase or line such that it leads to a contradiction, when there is an alternative sense available that harmonizes the line with the rest of Church teaching.

Have you asked your bishop what the 'with' means? If he says that it means doctrinal and sacramental union, and not necessarily spatial-temporal co-presence, will you retract your claim, or will you still insist that it must mean spatial-temporal co-presence? I'm wondering how deep your rule of private judgment goes.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

Are these brief responses to be considered your complete counter-argument, or is there to be a true Round 2 of the discussion where our counter-arguments are dealt with specifically and with the attention to detail that several of us have been granting to your arguments?

If the former, then this becomes eerily similar to the recent experience I had with Jason Engwer, where I documented that he responded to an average of 12.5% of my material in two "replies" of his. That was not dialogue, and you are responding so far to even less than he did.

So one questions the prudence of continuing on in this fashion. I have many other demands on my time that I have been putting off for three weeks. Do you intend to make full responses to counter-arguments or not?

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave W,

I think you are misunderstanding the sense of the 'with' in LG 25. Look at the part of LG teaching the infallibility of the bishops when dispersed throughout the world. Under what conditions are they infallible when dispersed throughout the world? When, among other things, they are " maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter", and are " in agreement on one position as definitively to be held." In other words, LG is saying that the charism of infallibility is enjoyed by the bishops when they are dispersed throughout the world, when they are in sacramental communion with the successor of Peter, and when they are all in doctrinal agreement [with the pope and each other]. Notice, the type of union being described here is sacramental communion and doctrinal agreement, even when the bishops are not assembled together in the same place. So this sacramental and doctrinal union with the pope is enjoyed in the absence of spatial-temporal co-presence with the pope, and is the condition for their infallibility when dispersed throughout the world.

LG is definitely not saying that the bishops acquire the charism of infallibility by being in the Pope's (or each other's) spatial or temporal presence. LG is not teaching that gathering together in ecumenical council gives them infallibility. Rather, regarding their gathering together LG is saying that their authority and infallibility are more clearly made manifest [to the Church] when they gather together formally to give some definitive decision to the Church regarding a matter of faith or morals.

You are assuming that the 'with' in question refers back to the description of the bishops gathering together, rather than to the earlier description of the unitive conditions under which the bishops when dispersed are infallible. But that's not a justified assumption. It would make no sense theologically for the bishops when dispersed to have infallibility on the condition of sacramental communion and doctrinal agreement with the pope, but then when gathered together to have infallibility on the condition of spatial/temporal co-presence with the pope. Why would the fundamental conditions for infallibility for the bishops change, depending on whether they were dispersed or gathered together?? That is theologically absurd. And the Church doesn't believe or teach this.

So for this reason, your interpretation of the 'with' makes theological hash out of LG 25. That's another very good reason to believe that you are misreading the sense of the 'with'.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David Waltz said...

Hello again Bryan,

You posted:

>>Wouldn't part of the context of LG be the fact that the bishops who wrote it were not all idiots unaware that the pope wasn't present (or represented) at Constantinople in 381? Your interpretation [of the 'with' in LG] presupposes a context in which the bishops at VII were unaware of this basic fact of Church history. But that is not an accurate description of the context of VII or LG. It essentially imposes a false context onto the writing of LG.>>

Me: IMO, you have neglected another probable context of LG, namely that it is delineating the ordinary/contemporary understanding of what a council must entail to be Ecumenical and infallible. I would sincerely like to know directly from you if you believe that the above is NOT a viable option?

If (and obviously I believe it to be so) the above option is the most reasonable, then one must acknowledge that many of the early Ecumenical councils were extraordinary in nature.


Grace and peace,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

Bryan's previous post is a perfect example of the depth of the replies to you, David. He is doing that analysis and I have provided extensive counter-argument regarding the supposed clash of the creeds and Augustine's statement about councils.

Yet you come back with (paraphrase), "well, that MAY be the case, but I don't think so." That just don't cut it.

With all due respect, you need to actually deal with the arguments if you are serious about real discussion on these matters, rather than glibly dismissing solidly constructed rebuttals to your assertions, without further consideration.

At this very moment, I am looking up the St. Augustine passage you cited in Latin, from online Latin versions I have found.

David Waltz said...

>> Have you asked your bishop what the 'with' means? If he says that it means doctrinal and sacramental union, and not necessarily spatial-temporal co-presence, will you retract your claim, or will you still insist that it must mean spatial-temporal co-presence? I'm wondering how deep your rule of private judgment goes.>>

The Seattle archdiocese has been liberal for a number of years now, and has pumped out a considerable number of liberal priests. But, that aside, would not the opinion of a solitary bishop be an exercise of private judgment?

Dave Armstrong said...

Here is the Latin for St. Augustine, On Baptism, II. 3-4:

3. 4. Nunc se, si audent, superbae et tumidae cervices haereticorum adversus sanctam humilitatem huius sermonis extollant. Insani Donatistae, quos ad pacem atque unitatem sanctae Ecclesiae remeare, atque in ea sanari cupimus et optamus, quid ad haec dicitis? Vos certe nobis obicere soletis Cypriani litteras, Cypriani sententiam, Cypriani concilium: cur auctoritatem Cypriani pro vestro schismate assumitis, et eius exemplum pro Ecclesiae pace respuitis? Quis autem nesciat sanctam Scripturam canonicam, tam Veteris quam Novi Testamenti, certis suis terminis contineri, eamque omnibus posterioribus episcoporum litteris ita praeponi, ut de illa omnino dubitari et disceptari non possit, utrum verum vel utrum rectum sit, quidquid in ea scriptum esse constiterit: episcoporum autem litteras quae post confirmatum canonem vel scriptae sunt vel scribuntur, et per sermonem forte sapientiorem cuiuslibet in ea re peritioris, et per aliorum episcoporum graviorem auctoritatem doctioremque prudentiam, et per concilia licere reprehendi, si quid in eis forte a veritate deviatum est: et ipsa concilia quae per singulas regiones vel provincias fiunt, plenariorum conciliorum auctoritati quae fiunt ex universo orbe christiano, sine ullis ambagibus cedere: ipsaque plenaria saepe priora a posterioribus emendari; cum aliquo experimento rerum aperitur quod clausum erat, et cognoscitur quod latebat; sine ullo typho sacrilegae superbiae, sine ulla inflata cervice arrogantiae, sine ulla contentione lividae invidiae, cum sancta humilitate, cum pace catholica, cum caritate christiana?

http://www.augustinus.it/latino/sul_battesimo/index2.htm

I don't see "correctus" or "corrigo" in there, so some other word was used, that was translated "correct" (by the standard Protestant Schaff translation that is not without Protestant bias at times). I can try online translators, and if needs be, consult a good friend of mine who has a Master's in linguistics.

Dave Armstrong said...

Looks like the key phrase is posterioribus emendari, so we already have a better, more accurate idea, I think, of what St. Augustine truly meant.

David Waltz said...

Dear Dave,

You posted:

>>Are these brief responses to be considered your complete counter-argument, or is there to be a true Round 2 of the discussion where our counter-arguments are dealt with specifically and with the attention to detail that several of us have been granting to your arguments?

If the former, then this becomes eerily similar to the recent experience I had with Jason Engwer, where I documented that he responded to an average of 12.5% of my material in two "replies" of his. That was not dialogue, and you are responding so far to even less than he did.>>

Me: I am just a simple beachbum Dave, and am trying interact with what is being sent my way. There is a lot going on in the comboxes of two threads now, and I doubt that I will be able to address everything. But, with that said, a large volume of words does not necessarily relate to whether or not some issue has been addressed. My last comments to you concerning the quote from Augustine, though brief, conveyed with clarity my understanding of what Augustine meant. And, with all due respect, the ‘defense’ of my view does not require an over abundance of verbiage.

Question: do you believe that my understanding of what Augustine meant is an impossible interpretation, or that yours is merely a better one?

>>So one questions the prudence of continuing on in this fashion. I have many other demands on my time that I have been putting off for three weeks.>>

Me: The needs of the one should never out way the needs of the many; everyone’s time is precious, so I urge you to devote your resources to those areas that are most dear to your heart.

>>Do you intend to make full responses to counter-arguments or not?>>

Me: If you want me to address specific arguments, I am certainly willing to do so, but ONE at a time. May I suggest that you start with the argument on the top of your list.

Thanks much for your patience,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

We see that the various related Latin words that start with "emend" can carry the developmental meaning I have posited: "amendment," "improvement," "purifying," "perfect," etc.

Moral of the story: don't hang your argument on one word. This reminds me of the wooden, context-free Protestant arguments from the simple presence of adelphos / brother in Scripture, supposedly proving that Jesus had siblings, as though "brother" even in English doesn't have a wide range of meanings, as adelphos does in Greek.

Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Armstrong said...

I meant to include the link to the online Latin Perseus lexicon, as to Latin words starting with "emend":

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?type=start&lookup=emend&lang=la

Dave Armstrong said...

Typos corrected:

I've been giving my arguments: mostly from the meanings of words, complete with recourse to lexicons. You are free to interact with them or not.

I see a great deal of evasion and special pleading. You even use the same tired reply that Jason used in response to me, by saying, "a large volume of words does not necessarily relate to whether or not some issue has been addressed."

You know full well that I have been directly addressing your claims, with great detail and specificity, including direct reply to the scholars you have been utilizing, not just a bunch of empty words (as the anti-Catholics would love to convince themselves, is all I ever do). Bryan and others have done the same.

The seeker after truth will incorporate anomalous information and counter-argument into his search. The choice is yours.

You're not a "beachbum" nor are you a simpleton. I've read about how many multiple thousands of books you own and how much you read. That schtick gets old real quick. You can do better than that.

Mike L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Waltz said...

Dear Bryan,

You penned:

>>I think you are misunderstanding the sense of the 'with' in LG 25. Look at the part of LG teaching the infallibility of the bishops when dispersed throughout the world. Under what conditions are they infallible when dispersed throughout the world? When, among other things, they are " maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter", and are " in agreement on one position as definitively to be held." In other words, LG is saying that the charism of infallibility is enjoyed by the bishops when they are dispersed throughout the world, when they are in sacramental communion with the successor of Peter, and when they are all in doctrinal agreement [with the pope and each other].>>

Me: I agree with your understanding of the above, but remember, our original context pertains to what constitutes a duly convened Ecumenical council.

>>Notice, the type of union being described here is sacramental communion and doctrinal agreement, even when the bishops are not assembled together in the same place. So this sacramental and doctrinal union with the pope is enjoyed in the absence of spatial-temporal co-presence with the pope, and is the condition for their infallibility when dispersed throughout the world.>>

Me: Once again, no disagreement here on what LG is conveying.

>>LG is definitely not saying that the bishops acquire the charism of infallibility by being in the Pope's (or each other's) spatial or temporal presence.>>

Me: Agreed.

>>LG is not teaching that gathering together in ecumenical council gives them infallibility. Rather, regarding their gathering together LG is saying that their authority and infallibility are more clearly made manifest [to the Church] when they gather together formally to give some definitive decision to the Church regarding a matter of faith or morals.>>

Me: Apples and oranges. IMO you are now conflating two separate contexts/circumstances: one context is the bishops dispersed throughout the world. In this context what they teach is infallible if it is in agreement with what has already been determined to be infallible teaching. In this context, the bishops CANNOT define/clarify any NEW infallible definitions/decrees.

>>You are assuming that the 'with' in question refers back to the description of the bishops gathering together, rather than to the earlier description of the unitive conditions under which the bishops when dispersed are infallible. But that's not a justified assumption.>>

Me: I disagree, LG has moved one context to another; namely from the bishops dispersed, to the bishops gathered together in an Ecumenical council.

>>It would make no sense theologically for the bishops when dispersed to have infallibility on the condition of sacramental communion and doctrinal agreement with the pope, but then when gathered together to have infallibility on the condition of spatial/temporal co-presence with the pope. Why would the fundamental conditions for infallibility for the bishops change, depending on whether they were dispersed or gathered together?? That is theologically absurd. And the Church doesn't believe or teach this.>>

Me: That is NOT what I am arguing. Once again, the bishops in the first context CANNOT promulgate/develop any NEW definitions/decrees. However, in the second context (i.e. an Ecumenical council), they can. One cannot conflate the two.


Grace and peace,

David

Mike L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike L said...

David:

Two points.

1. LG 25's presentation of the infallibility of the bishops was not intended primarily to answer the question what makes a given council ecumenical. Its primary purpose, as indicated by then-Cardinal Ratzinger's citation of it in his Responsum ad Dubium (1995), was to assert and briefly characterize the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the college. To be sure, the infallibility of the college is expressed in a "extraordinary" way by the dogmatic canons of an "ecumenical" council. Yet, since no such council adds or purports to add to the "faith once delivered," all its dogmatic formulations do is make more explicit what had already been taught infallibly by the OUM. Of course the question: "Which non-defined doctrines belong in that latter category?" is one to be settled ultimately by the Magisterium itself, not by scholarly opinion alone.

2. The complaint that defenses of Catholic doctrine by means of some theory of "development" are "unfalsifiable" is less impressive than it appears. In philosophy, analytical philosophers who now call themselves 'naturalists' have long rejected theism in general for partly that reason; yet no party to this debate finds that reason cogent, nor should they. Contemporary "naturalists," e.g., have at least as much trouble explaining mind without explaining it away as theists have always had explaining the pervasiveness of evil without explaining it away. As I used to tell students, what's at issue here is not whose worldview is "falsifiable" or "verifiable," but whether commitment to a given worldview can be assessed in terms that all parties to the dispute can accept as reasonable without their also being probative. Applied to the present debate, the lesson is this: whether one's hermeneutic of the sources is governed by a comprehensive theory of "development," or by the maxim of the "perspicuity" of Scripture, or by any other standpoint of sufficient scope and ambition, the premises and goals of any hermeneutical paradigm can be neither discredited nor validated by any other hermeneutic of equal scope and self-consistency. One can, by the accumulation of facts or the force of logic, rule out certain moves made to defend a given paradigm; but even those will not ultimately be persuasive to those sufficiently committed to the paradigm. E.g., a Catholic cannot defend the papal claims by appeal to the Donation of Constantine, because that document was decisively exposed as a forgery in the 15th century; a Protestant cannot defend sola scriptura by appeal to Scripture, because it just isn't there, and the appeal itself would be circular if it were there. Ultimately, the question which hermeneutical paradigm to adopt for interpreting the "sources" boils down to whom and what one is willing to trust, and why. One can give better or worse reasons for one's decision; but ultimately, the decision is free, not intellectually compelled; and when the decision moves one in the objectively right direction, grace elevates the mind beyond what reason alone can establish.

David Waltz said...

Dave A. wrote:

>> I've been giving my arguments: mostly from the meanings of words, complete with recourse to lexicons. You are free to interact with them or not.>>

Me: I am honestly at a loss as to why you think a sustained dialogue concerning the meaning of the word “correct” is productive. I do not disagree that “to correct” CAN mean to clarify and/or add to something previous. As such, I saw no reason to interact with you and/or lexicons on this. Why argue over a point I concede?

That is why I took the following direction in my discourse with you concerning the Augustine quote:

“…as for the Augustine quote, I believe that your interpretation MAY be ‘correct’ (no pun intended), however, I must in all honesty maintain it is not the only one that is viable. The flow of the selection begins with “superior position” of “the sacred canon of Scripture”, and then moves on to lesser authorities which undergo correction when, “anything contained in them which strays from the truth”. IMHO, one can argue that the primary axiom for correction stems from that “which strays from the truth.” But, I do not wish to be dogmatic on this…”

And then followed with:

“Question: do you believe that my understanding of what Augustine meant is an impossible interpretation, or that yours is merely a better one?”


Grace and peace,

David

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave W,

IMO you are now conflating two separate contexts/circumstances:

I'm not conflating the two situations (i.e. bishops dispersed, and bishops gathered). I'm saying that the Catholic Church, and LG, does not teach that the charism of infallibility enjoyed by the bishops, depends on whether they are dispersed or gathered. The ordinary universal magisterium is no less authoritative and infallible than is the extraordinary universal magisterium. The basis for their charism of infallibilty is not dependent on their spatio-temporal proximity to the pope. See Ad tuendam fidem and the accompanying commentary put out by the CDF. There we find:

"In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter."

Notice that the with is explained as "in communion with".

You wrote:

In this context [i.e. dispersed] what they teach is infallible if it is in agreement with what has already been determined to be infallible teaching . ... Once again, the bishops in the first context CANNOT promulgate/develop any NEW definitions/decrees. However, in the second context (i.e. an Ecumenical council), they can. One cannot conflate the two.

Before I go on, where are you getting this idea that there is a qualitative difference in authority between the ordinary universal magisterium, and the extraordinary universal magisterium? That's not the Catholic position.

If the ordinary universal magisterium teaches something, and it has never been previously defined, it is no less infallible than is a doctrine taught definitively by an ecumenical council. A doctrine does not have to have been previously formally defined in an ecumenical council, in order for it to be taught infallibly by the ordinary universal magisterium, i.e. the bishops dispersed around the world, in sacramenntal and doctrinal union with the pope.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Lvka said...

I know that You didn't write them, but when You quoted them, You did it in a manner suggesting of approval... I don't care about technicalities... what exactly is it that's bothering You there? :-\

David Waltz said...

Dave A. posted:

>>I see a great deal of evasion and special pleading.>>

Me: I am trying to keep pace with two professors of philosophy (accredited degrees), one full-time lay apologist, and some interested amateurs. If it is “special pleading” to convey that I am having some difficulty in doing so, then so be it.

>>You even use the same tired reply that Jason used in response to me, by saying, "a large volume of words does not necessarily relate to whether or not some issue has been addressed.">>

Me: Trust me, I did not know that Jason has used the same reply. However, with that said, I believe the reply has merit. I have dealt with likes of TurretinFan, King and so many others, over the issue of whether or not the early CFs taught sola scriptura. They provide dozens of quotes, and lengthy commentary, on the “what the Fathers taught”, yet I saw no need to match their volume of output—all I felt compelled to do was list the numerous patristic scholars who disagreed with them, and provide quotes from the Fathers that were not compatible with their understanding of SS.

Now, if I did/do not respond to everything that you have so far written to me, it is due to one of two reasons: first, time constraints; second, I did not see the import that you may have.


Grace and peace,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

“…as for the Augustine quote, I believe that your interpretation MAY be ‘correct’ (no pun intended), however, I must in all honesty maintain it is not the only one that is viable. The flow of the selection begins with “superior position” of “the sacred canon of Scripture”,

Material sufficiency and biblical inspiration . . .; this does not prove anything whatever with regard to some supposed quasi-sola Scriptura position in Augustine. That's so patently obvious that I deliberately didn't waste time answering it.

and then moves on to lesser authorities which undergo correction when, “anything contained in them which strays from the truth”. IMHO, one can argue that the primary axiom for correction stems from that “which strays from the truth.” But, I do not wish to be dogmatic on this…”

No one disputes that bishops can be corrected by councils, and local councils by ecumenical councils.

And then followed with:

“Question: do you believe that my understanding of what Augustine meant is an impossible interpretation, or that yours is merely a better one?”


It is possible prima facie and in the realm of "all conceivable possible scenarios." But things do not occur in isolation. We don't just have this one statement from Augustine as to his beliefs about authority.

You want to take this, based largely on the one word "corrected" and make out that now St. Augustine thinks that ecumenical councils are not infallible. You wish to argue precisely as do the Protestant pseudo-scholars Webster and King when they deal with the fathers, and Jason Engwer alongside them (as he made this same exact argument).

That is hanging far too much on one citation. Therefore I looked into the word being used (which turned out to be emendari). When we say that an amendment to the constitution is added, we don't hold that this is a contradiction of the Constitution; we say it is an expansion or "development" (if you will).

Dave Armstrong said...

[cont.]

Moreover, I made two additional arguments: from the following context ("things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid") that strongly suggests development rather than contradiction; and St. Augustine's espousal of doctrinal development elsewhere. These are crucial in order to understand his utterance in this case. But you ignored both things.

The fathers have to be interpreted in context and in light of their other writings, just as the Bible has to be interpreted in context and in light of its entire teaching, minus single words and supposed prooftexts ripped out and used in isolation.

If you want me to address specific arguments, I am certainly willing to do so, but ONE at a time. May I suggest that you start with the argument on the top of your list.

Sure. Why don't you now interact with my reply to your two scholarly quotations regarding supposedly troubling differences between the two creeds? You presented your argument twice; I replied twice in two different comboxes (pasting one from the other, in hopes that it would be dealt with), and you didn't reply to my arguments twice.

I compared the texts and gave several distinct but related arguments as to why I think there is no problem whatever. I happen to think that was not empty verbiage, but solid argument. One can always disagree, but your "problems" were directly dealt with, reasoned replies were given, and I think they deserve at least minimal consideration on your part, since you threw out the questions and I made some attempt to answer them.

If you simply want replies and other options thrown out, but have no intention of grappling with them and engaging in dialogue, then I'm not your man, as I engage in dialogues, not mutual monologues.

I understand your time is limited, too (whose isn't?), but I remind you that I wasn't among the ones who bombarded you with 1200 e-mails. I have confined myself to direct replies to your publicly posted material, that you have made time to write, and where you have stated interest (reiterated recently) in contrary opinions.

Dave Armstrong said...

I am trying to keep pace with two professors of philosophy (accredited degrees), one full-time lay apologist, and some interested amateurs.

We are all arguing different things. For my part, I have mostly confined myself to direct response to your stated difficulties: replying to your posts and what obviously is troubling you.

That's why I concentrated on the textual considerations of the creeds and the Augustine citation.

I don't see how you can have a perspective whereby you put out your posts, ask provocative questions, seek discussion, yet when I offer direct reply to the very things you would like to see discussed and resolved (?), you either give cursory reply or none at all, and claim that I have a lot of verbiage not necessarily connected to the subject at hand.

If you don't have the time to discuss the posts you are putting up (two recently), then why are they up there in the first place? There was no law that said you had to put them both up. You could have taken two weeks to discuss what was in the first one posted since you got back from your trip.

So this appeal to time is a two-edged sword. The very presence
of a post implies that the author has at least some time to discuss different opinions regarding the contents therein.

Iohannes said...

Hi David,

I'm sorry time doesn't allow me to participate much here, but I wanted to send my best wishes as you work through these matters. Understanding the councils is tough. My own view is that they give precedents, some of which are so weighty as to be de facto infallible, even if none is de jure infallible. On that view it matters less how we see the original status of the council, more how the council was subsequently received by the faithful across the ages. But now isn't the time to argue for that idea, I just mention it as one possibility to consider.

Blessings in Christ our Lord,

John

David Waltz said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks much for your response (and the link!). You wrote:

>>1. LG 25's presentation of the infallibility of the bishops was not intended primarily to answer the question what makes a given council ecumenical. Its primary purpose, as indicated by then-Cardinal Ratzinger's citation of it in his Responsum ad Dubium (1995), was to assert and briefly characterize the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the college. To be sure, the infallibility of the college is expressed in a "extraordinary" way by the dogmatic canons of an "ecumenical" council. Yet, since no such council adds or purports to add to the "faith once delivered," all its dogmatic formulations do is make more explicit what had already been taught infallibly by the OUM.>>

Me: Is it accurate/safe to say, that this understanding is itself a development? For instance, prior to definition of Papal infallibility promulgated at V1, was PI infallibly taught by the OUM? What about the doctrine of limbo?

>>Of course the question: "Which non-defined doctrines belong in that latter category?" is one to be settled ultimately by the Magisterium itself, not by scholarly opinion alone.>>

Me: Then it seems that much remains “open” to interpretation. As for the OUM, I am unclear as to when it actually functions infallibly when teaching on dogma that has NOT been defined (i.e. “non-defined doctrines”) by the EOUM—are we talking about a consensus of ALL the bishops, a majority of bishops, or something else.

I cannot help but ask: what good is an infallible OUM if “non-defined doctrines” cannot be known to be infallible until “settled ultimately by the Magisterium itself”?


Grace and peace,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

For documentation's sake: I stated that St. Augustine espoused development of doctrine elsewhere. I provided several examples in my paper, Historical Development in the Understanding of Doctrinal Development of the Apostolic Deposit

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/02/historical-development-in-understanding.html

[St. Augustine section: the fathers are listed chronologically]

This was included in the version of this dialogue on my blog.

What he states in the present citation under consideration ("correct" / Latin, emendari) is quite similar to what he wrote about development in other places. Hence, my contention that this interpretation of "correct" / emendari is the most plausible one. We can make informed decisions as to the superiority of one "possible" option over another. We don't have to be left hanging in the cold winds of uncertainty. Linguistics is not an exact science, but context and cross-referencing make it a question of lesser and greater degrees of probability.

If this is an objection to the Catholic notion of infallibility, it is certainly an exceedingly weak one.

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for responding to my direct question; you posted:

>>It is possible prima facie and in the realm of "all conceivable possible scenarios." But things do not occur in isolation. We don't just have this one statement from Augustine as to his beliefs about authority.>>

Me: Agreed! Now, with this in mind, how often does Augustine appeal to a plenary council? How often does he appeal directly to Scripture? Further, to better understand what Augustine meant in the quote we have been discussing, would it not be wise to establish which councils he was referring to as the “plenary Councils”, and then establish which previous PCs needed to be ‘corrected’/freed from faults by the subsequent ones?

>>You want to take this, based largely on the one word "corrected" and make out that now St. Augustine thinks that ecumenical councils are not infallible. You wish to argue precisely as do the Protestant pseudo-scholars Webster and King when they deal with the fathers, and Jason Engwer alongside them (as he made this same exact argument).>>

Me: I strongly disagree Dave—my online written record concerning the Church Fathers is at odds with the vast majority of the views propagated by Webster and King (can’t speak on this concerning Jason, for I have read very little of his writings).

>>That is hanging far too much on one citation. Therefore I looked into the word being used (which turned out to be emendari). When we say that an amendment to the constitution is added, we don't hold that this is a contradiction of the Constitution; we say it is an expansion or "development" (if you will).>>

I own Lewis and Short’s massive revision (2,019 pages) of the Fruend-Andrews “Latin Dictionary”; the following is their definition:

“to free from faults, to correct, improve, amend” (p. 641)

This resolves little (if anything)…


Grace and peace,

David

Mike L said...

David,

You've posed excellent questions to me. This is what we need to be talking about. The limit on comment length forces me to break this up into two parts.

The notion that the teaching authority of the Church is infallible under some conditions is certainly a development arising from the Church's early sense of her own indefectibility. Explicit use of the term 'infallible' predates Vatican I by centuries. It appears explicitly in Thomas Aquinas: "Whoever does not adhere to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible and divine rule can affirm what is "of faith," but he does not do so "by faith" (ST IIa IIae Q5 A3 resp). Around that time, both conciliar and papal infallibility were generally affirmed by theologians, though the relationship between the two forms of infallibility, as well as both to that of the Church in general, was temporarily obscured by the scandalous papal schism of 1378-1417 and some of the claims made by the Council of Constance in the course of resolving it. By the time of the Counter-Reformation, however, conciliar and papal infallibility were being taught together by the college of bishops as a whole. That's because conciliar dogmas could not be said to be binding unless ratified by the pope, and the papacy could not function as the locus of final appeal if a pope's ex cathedra ratifications were themselves subject to reversal as false. Thus, infallibility in all three forms--that of the Church as a whole, that of general councils, and that of the pope--were infallibly taught by the OUM over time.

It is not important to fix the precise times when one could say, from a scholarly standpoint, that the conditions had been met for such doctrines to have been infallibly taught by the OUM alone. If the doctrines in question are de fide, which they are, then something logically equivalent to them was always taught infallibly by the OUM; if that were not the case, then substantive addition to the deposit of faith would be occurring over time, which nobody is willing to allow. The "development" consists in coming to see this over time, when it was not fully explicit at first to those who were in fact exercising the charism of infallibility.

Limbo is often cited as a counterexample to LG's doctrine of the IOUM. But the problem has a standard resolution favored by the Pope himself. Limbo was a theory introduced in the Middle Ages to mitigate Augustine's view that unbaptized infants went permanently to hell--albeit with the "mildest of punishments"--and St. Thomas' version of it did not take long to gain general acceptance, which persisted until Vatican II. But limbo cannot be said to be de fide, precisely because it was introduced to mitigate the consequences of an Augustinian theory that was itself not de fide: the theory that original sin is personal culpa not just reatum, which latter term is weaker, and was used by Trent. That underlying Augustinian theory has been rejected by the Church (cf. CCC 405).

Dave Armstrong said...

So you see no significance in his words right after "correct" / ememdari that seem to me to clearly be talking about development of doctrine, not correction of contradictions in earlier plenary councils?

Do you deny that he is discussing development there?

How often does he appeal directly to Scripture?

Tons of times, as I do. What is the point? What does that have to do with anything? Now you're back to the Webster / King / Engwer methodology again, whereby any conceivable difficulty, no matter how weak when examined, supposedly shows that the contrary proposition is somehow profoundly questionable and no longer worthy of allegiance, and no better than the "difficulty" brought forth to counter it.

This is a fundamental error of method that you seem to have fallen prey to. It's a dead-end. Keep doing that and you may very well end up not only out of Christianity, but out of theism altogether, because if you insist on being skeptical about everything you see, where does it end? As was alluded to by Rory earlier, if you consistently apply this sort of skeptical mindset, it will sooner or later be applied to the Bible, just as all theological liberals eventually take to hacking the Bible to pieces and treating it merely as a piece of ancient anthropology and myth.

Back to the absolute necessity and primacy of supernatural faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit . . .

Mike L said...

The key issues you raise are as follows: As for the OUM, I am unclear as to when it actually functions infallibly when teaching on dogma that has NOT been defined (i.e. “non-defined doctrines”) by the EOUM—are we talking about a consensus of ALL the bishops, a majority of bishops, or something else. I cannot help but ask: what good is an infallible OUM if “non-defined doctrines” cannot be known to be infallible until “settled ultimately by the Magisterium itself”?

To summarize the essential points made by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, a given doctrine D counts as having been infallibly set forth by the OUM just in case its subject matter belongs to the deposit of faith, and it has been taught by the diachronic consensus of the college from the beginning. In his Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem, Ratzinger noted that such doctrines require "definitive assent" from Catholics. But of course, if we just left it up to scholars to decide when D satisfies those criteria, then requiring "definitive assent" would be meaningless; for scholars rarely agree for long if at all, and they are not the Magisterium anyhow. So the question whether D satisfies the relevant criteria, when that is a matter of dispute, ultimately must be answered by the Magisterium itself. Scholarly considerations are of course quite relevant too, but they are not in themselves decisive.

As I've already implied, the entire deposit of faith has been infallibly taught by the OUM from the beginning. If the dogmatic pronouncements of the infallible "extraordinary" magisterium were always necessary for the exercise of infallibility, then nothing was taught infallibly before the first ecumenical council--a consequence unacceptable for all sorts of reasons, one of which is that it is ultimately incompatible with the very idea of a "faith once delivered" in its entirety. And so, e.g., the assertoric content of the confessions of faith contained in "the Apostles' Creed" were infallibly taught by the OUM all along. Nobody disputes that; the question always is what the relevant affirmations mean, exactly; and such questions are settled over time by the Magisterium.

Best,
Mike

Dave Armstrong said...

In other words, all of us can continue to discuss relative minutiae and all kinds of technical philosophical, theological, and historical details, but if you don't also examine your first premises and overall methodology, then you will not solve any of the problems of allegiance that you are trying to resolve for yourself.

I'm not saying to not do the technical discussions, but I urge you to also examine your presuppositions going in.

The relentless skepticism you have chosen doesn't lead anywhere, because it is reactionary. You have to develop a pro-active viewpoint, wherever you end up.

Your hostility to the infallibility of ecumenical councils precludes Catholicism and Orthodoxy as options, until you resolve it. So you are already a Protestant by default, or else "nothing" (some sort of vague unclassified theist who remains trinitarian) until you resolve the question of authority.

At this point I would be absolutely delighted to see you espouse some form of Protestantism, because to me it is a distinct possibility that you could lose Christian faith altogether if you keep going down this road, following this in-the-end deadly method of inquiry.

You could very well be writing over at, e.g., Debunking Christianity a year from now, giving your deconversion story. Why would I say that? Well, because I have read many of those (and have refuted some of them), and many started their journey into unbelief precisely as you are doing now: questioning many things, but not being quite as willing to entertain the prospect that the many "difficulties" suggested can be refuted by more plausible alternatives. They exhibit the same sort of skeptical mindset. We are (or will become) what we eat.

I feel that it is supremely important that you be warned of these dangers before it is too late. This is not a "Catholic thing" I am talking about now: it is a "Christian thing" and even a "theistic thing."

David Waltz said...

Hello again Dave,

Once again, thanks much for responding to one of my specific requests; you wrote:

>>Why don't you now interact with my reply to your two scholarly quotations regarding supposedly troubling differences between the two creeds? You presented your argument twice; I replied twice in two different comboxes (pasting one from the other, in hopes that it would be dealt with), and you didn't reply to my arguments twice.

I compared the texts and gave several distinct but related arguments as to why I think there is no problem whatever. I happen to think that was not empty verbiage, but solid argument. One can always disagree, but your "problems" were directly dealt with, reasoned replies were given, and I think they deserve at least minimal consideration on your part, since you threw out the questions and I made some attempt to answer them.>>

Me: It seems that you are under the impression that the bulk of my difficulties with infallibility rests with the changes THEMSELVES of Nicene creed by the regional council of Constantinople. If I have given you this impression, I sincerely apologize. Before proceeding on to those changes (which, in and of themselves do not constitute a ‘proof’ against infallibility), I want to make it clear it was the PROCESS involved that I find particularly troubling (and even this, does not, by itself, constitute a ‘proof’ against infallibility, rather it sets the stage/foundation for future actions/processes that I find suspect).

Concerning the changes you wrote:

>>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.>>

Me: I did? I know I am getting old, but when did I do so? I quoted Hanson who stated: “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”.

In the later anathemas of the original N, we find that “hypostasis”/person and “ousia”/substance are treated as identical. If we allow the creed formulated at Constantinople to be a correction/clarification of N, then the omission is a ‘considerable’ one (as Tanner suggests). How so? We have later historical issues that arose which may very well be related to this omission, and the “semantic confusion” that surrounded the Nicene period (see Hanson, ch. 7, pp. 181-208). One of these issues needed to be resolved as late as the 13th century. Abbot Joachim, a student of Peter Lombard, accused Lombard of being a heretic. From the 4th Lateran Council we read:

==We therefore condemn and reprove that small book or treatise which abbot Joachim published against master Peter Lombard concerning the unity or essence of the Trinity, in which he calls Peter Lombard a heretic and a madman because he said in his Sentences, "For there is a certain supreme reality which is the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit, and it neither begets nor is begotten nor does it proceed". He asserts from this that Peter Lombard ascribes to God not so much a Trinity as a quaternity, that is to say three persons and a common essence as if this were a fourth person.==

[cont'd in next post]

David Waltz said...

[cont'd]

4LC then affirms:

== We, however, with the approval of this sacred and universal council, believe and confess with Peter Lombard that there exists a certain supreme reality, incomprehensible and ineffable, which truly is the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit, the three persons together and each one of them separately. Therefore in God there is only a Trinity, not a quaternity, since each of the three persons is that reality -- that is to say substance, essence or divine nature-which alone is the principle of all things, besides which no other principle can be found. This reality neither begets nor is begotten nor proceeds; the Father begets, the Son is begotten and the holy Spirit proceeds. Thus there is a distinction of persons but a unity of nature. Although therefore the Father is one person, the Son another person and the holy Spirit another person, they are not different realities, but rather that which is the Father is the Son and the holy Spirit, altogether the same; thus according to the orthodox and catholic faith they are believed to be consubstantial. For the Father, in begetting the Son from eternity, gave him his substance, as he himself testifies : What the Father gave me is greater than all. It cannot be said that the Father gave him part of his substance and kept part for himself since the Father's substance is indivisible, inasmuch as it is altogether simple. Nor can it be said that the Father transferred his substance to the Son, in the act of begetting, as if he gave it to the Son in such a way that he did not retain it for himself; for otherwise he would have ceased to be substance. It is therefore clear that in being begotten the Son received the Father's substance without it being diminished in any way, and thus the Father and the Son have the same substance. Thus the Father and the Son and also the holy Spirit proceeding from both are the same reality.==

The omission of C was now added back into this new statement of faith by 4LC; and the equating of the hypostasis/person with ousia/substance in N, is now emphatically denied.

Does not this raise, at the very least, SOME question(s) concerning the actions of the regional (originally) council which convened in Constantinople in 381?


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Need to take a break; have not had lunch yet, and my eyes are tired (sure wish my eyes were in as good as shape as my body).

Dave Armstrong said...

Okay, David; you have now introduced a whole bunch of new elements that lead in yet another direction, away from the textual considerations that I was trying to concentrate on (which you seem to think of relatively little consequence).

I have run out of both time and energy to keep going round and round on all this. I must now get back to projects I have been putting off for almost a month: namely, the editing of three books and several upcoming audio projects. This directly ties into my income, and if I don't get to it soon I will likely have financial difficulties in a few months.

I also have responsibilities at the CHNI forum, where I work part-time, so I don't have absolutely all the time I want to write whatever I want. I, too, have constraints of time, and financial demands that require me to do certain things so I can continue to pay my bills.

I appreciate you putting up with me in all my comments here, and I hope I have not said anything truly offensive to you. If so, you have my sincere apology, and it was not my intention.

I may check in here and comment now and then, but because of my tendency to give everything I have when engaged in vigorous discussions, I have to necessarily make a big reduction in my participation, for the reasons given.

It has caused some frustration and stress in me today, as all can see, I think, in my recent posts. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by all the competing demands on my time now (I'm sure you can relate!).

I will add what you have to say today onto my blog post, so that you can have the "last word."

God bless,

Dave

Lvka said...

In the later anathemas of the original N, we find that “hypostasis”/person and “ousia”/substance are treated as identical.


Uhm, ... no: what happens is that hypo-stasis and sub-stantia are equivalents, and this is the way the word sub-stance was used in olden times... now it came to be used for ousia. -- So the problem is with translation-technicalities into English, and not with the Creeds themselves. (NO-ONE ever used or uses hypo-stasis as ousia, if that's what you're worrying about...) [hypo = sub = under; stasis = stantia = stance/standing]

Mike L said...

Good point, Lvka.

TJW said...

"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."

It's not really a shared presupposition as each immediately qualifies that claim by adding the means by which 'scripture' is to be properly interpreted.

On another point, does any of this difficulty in deciding what is and isn't true in theology and history cause you to doubt the existence of God at all? It seems that only highly intelligent and relatively wealthy modern Westerners have the ability to critically scrutinize the competing claims in a reliable manner and thus discern the true will of God. The flaws in the Catholic and Protestant perspectives drove me to atheism. Although I still think the Catholic 'side' is more convincing I don't think that the alternative, even the highly sophisticated one you're putting forward, is any more convincing.

David Waltz said...

Hello TJW,

You asked the following:

>>On another point, does any of this difficulty in deciding what is and isn't true in theology and history cause you to doubt the existence of God at all?>>

Me: My belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is rock solid. I am fairly well versed in the arguments against theism, but every other option I have examined poses much greater problems for me.

[FYI - I grew up with an uncle who was more like a brother being only 4 years older than myself. He became an atheist in his early teens, and after entering college, he began ‘sharing’ his philosophical and historical apologia with me. The philosophical portion of my library contains about 3 dozen atheistic philosophical books, and about 150 Christian works geared towards refuting the atheistic worldview—I collected many of these books to prepare for the lengthy discussions I had with my uncle.]

Anyway, once again, I am a Christian theist, and I have a love for the Bible that is probably impossible to explain to explain to another...


David