On August 8th, 2011, the secretive, anti-Catholic, fellow who debates and writes under the psuedonym "TurretinFan" (hereafter, TF), posted a thread titled, "Nicaea Was Local Council, Arianism Not Settled Controversy, Implies Shea", on two separate websites: his own blog, Thoughts of Francis Turretin, and at James White's AOMIN blog .
The thread is a polemical piece directed at comments made by the Catholic apologist Mark Shea (link to Mark Shea's comments).
Apart from correcting Shea's obvious error of terming the councils of Nicaea (325) and Ariminum (359) as "local", the rest of TF's post is riddled with inaccuracies and misnomers. Citations from TF's post will be in red, my responses in black, and other cited references in blue. TF opens his post with:
I admit that I've never had a high view of Mark Shea's scholarship, yet a mixture of surprise and amusement washed over me as I took in Shea's breathtakingly ignorant response to a reader's question regarding Augustine and Sola Scriptura. A reader had pointed out to Shea that Augustine, in responding to the Arian heretic Maximinus, had sounded exactly like a Sola Scriptura Christian.
TF has established the tone for his thread. The following is the "reader's question regarding Augustine and Sola Scriptura", and the quote from which "the reader" formed his question for Mark Shea:
Apparently St. Augustine made this statement:
“I ought not to adduce the Council of Nice, nor ought you to adduce the Council of Ariminum, for I am not bound by the authority of the one, nor are you bound by the authority of the other. Let the question be determined by the authority of the Scriptures…”
It really does sound like he is preaching sola-scriptura there.
Now, we know he also made famous statements such as “I would not believe the Gospel if the Catholic Church did not tell me it was true”, so overall that is clearly not the case, but do you happen to know if there is more to his statement? Was his theology still evolving, etc? I cannot find a serious Catholic commentary on this quote anywhere online or in any of my books.
The quote that "the reader" provides for Shea is from Augustine's, Contra Maximinum Arianum ("Against Maximinus, an Arian"). "The reader" obtained the quote via a "challenge from one of the forum members", who appears to have linked "the reader" to the Fundamental Baptist Institute's online rendition of J.A. Wylie's, The Papacy; Its History Dogmas, Genius, and Prospects: Being The Evangelical Alliance First Prize Essay On Popery, Book II, Chapter VII - "Infallibility" (FBI incorrectly titles the book, History of the Papacy, and "the reader" incorrectly links to chapter XVII instead of VII—corrected link—a pdf version of the 1867 4th edition of the book is available HERE).
Now, "the reader's" quote is partial; the following is Wylie's actual quote from Augustine:
"I ought not to adduce the Council of Nice," says St. Augustine, "nor ought you to adduce the Council of Ariminum, for I am not bound by the authority of the one, nor are you bound by the authority of the other. Let the question be determined by the authority of the Scriptures, which are witnesses peculiar to neither of us, but common to both." (Page 252 in the pdf version linked to above.)
[Note: Wylie incorrectly attributes the above quote to Augustine's "De Unitate, c. xvi", instead of his Contra Maximinum Arianum.]
Having 'cleaned up' some of the germane sources, I shall now return to TF's post; he continued with an expanded citation of the above mentioned passage from Augustine's Contra Maximinum Arianum; however, interestingly enough, he did not use the same source that "the reader" supplied, opting instead, for the following from a different translator:
Augustine (354-430 AD):
The Father and the Son are, then, of one and the same substance. This is the meaning of that “homoousios” that was confirmed against the Arian heretics in the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority. Afterward, in the Council of Ariminum it was understood less than it should have been because of the novelty of the word, even though the ancient faith had given rise to it. There the impiety of the heretics under the heretical Emperor Constantius tried to weaken its force, when many were deceived by the fraudulence of a few. But not long after that, the freedom of the Catholic faith prevailed, and after the meaning of the word was understood as it should be, that “homoousios” was defended far and wide by the soundness of the Catholic faith. After all, what does “homoousios” mean but “of one and the same substance”? What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but the Father and I are one (Jn 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicaea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.
JohnE.[sic] Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Answer to Maximinus, Book II, XIV - On the Sameness of Substance in the Trinity, Section 3 (New York: New City Press, 1995), p. 282.
NOTE: the above quote is actually from pages 281-282.
[BTW, this particular passage from Augustine is quite popular among anti-Catholic polemicists; in addition to Wylie, others that have cited it include John Calvin, John Jewel, William Goode, Michael Hobart Seymour, William Preston, and George Salmon.]
TF continues with:
Shea responded: "What Augustine is doing is appealing to a common authority in a dispute where the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus."
Perhaps a little background would be helpful here. Maximinus was an Arian. The question was whether the Father and the Son are consubstantial. This is a matter that was directly addressed by the Council of Nicaea. We can agree with Shea in a limited way, namely that the Council of Nicaea was not ecumenical in the sense of speaking for every person who professed to be a part of the Christian faith: after all, it condemned the Arians. By that standard, there have not been any ecumenical councils, ever. If that's Shea's position, he's at loggerheads with Rome.
Judging Nicaea by modern Roman standards, though, Nicaea did not just "arrive at a consensus" but actually defined dogma that must be accepted de fide. That's obviously not how Augustine judged Nicaea, but that's because Augustine didn't share the epistemology of modern Rome.
Strictly speaking, TF's "little background" is deficient, for it fails to accurately portray the historical context of Augustine's statement. The period between the council of Nicaea in 325 and Augustine's Contra Maximinum Arianum (427/428) was one of the most contested in the history of the Christian Church; more than 130 councils were convened! (Consult Ramsay MacMullen's, Voting About God, pp. 3, 4 for the names and dates of the councils—see this thread for information about the book).
Concerning this turbulent period, Shea is certainly correct when he states that, "the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus". Directly related to this historical fact is nature and role of the various councils that were held during this period; the understanding that some councils were "ecumenical", that the "ecumenical" councils were infallible when teaching on faith and morals, and needed to be accepted de fide, was a much later doctrinal development. As such, to write that, "Augustine didn't share the epistemology of modern Rome", concerning nature and role of councils convened in 4th and early 5th centuries, is to state the obvious. IMO, TF is pretty much wasting our time here, for even Shea is in agreement with him on this point!
[FYI: I have devoted 4 previous threads (which includes the above mentioned post) to the issue of councils, and they can be accessed via this link.]
Moving on, TF's statement that, "Maximinus was an Arian", is, at best, breathtakingly simplistic. An Arian is one who adheres to the basic theology of Arius—did Maximinus endorse Arius' basic theology? No, he did not. In fact, he emphatically denied THE defining doctrine of Arius, the doctrine that the Son of God was created ex nihilo; note the following:
The part of Arius' doctrine which most shocked and disturbed his contemporaries was his statement that the Father made the Son ' out of non-existence' (ἐκ οὐκ ὄντων). (R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, p. 24.)
This particular view of Arius [i.e. creation of the Son of God ex nihilo] has never been supplied with a convincing antecedent. It has always been an erratic boulder in his doctrine, preventing that doctrine being easily fitted into any known system...(Ibid., p. 88)
Before getting to Maximinus' theology, I think it would be prudent to supply a little background. Shortly after the council of Nicaea (325), the ordained bishops of the Christian Church at large split into 4 distinct factions; modern patristic scholars have termed those 4 factions as: 1.) the homoousians, those who accepted the Nicene Creed; 2.) the homoiousians, those who replaced homoousios (same being/essence/substance) with homoiousios (like being/essence/substance); 3.) the homoians, those who rejected the terms homoousios and homoiousios as being un-Biblical, and embraced the view that the Son of God was homoiōs (like, similar, in the same way) with respect to God the Father; and 4.) the 'Neo-Arians', sometimes termed the anhomoians (see Hanson, Search, p. 598 for the reason why many modern patristic scholars prefer the name 'Neo-Arian' over others).
Of the 4 factions, only the 'Neo-Arians' accepted Arius' most basic tenant that the Son of God was created ex nihilo, with the other 3 emphatically rejecting this doctrine.
Now, Maximinus was a staunch homoian, his theology being essentially that of the creed universally adopted by Christian Church at a council convened in 360 AD at Constantinople, which creed was a slight revision of so-called "Dated Creed" that was adopted in 359 AD via the convocation of a general council by emperor Constantius II, which convened at two separate locations: Ariminium (now Rimini) and Seleucia.
Commenting on this creed of 360 AD, the esteemed patristic scholar, J.N.D. Kelly wrote:
Arianism, it will be appreciated, is really a misnomer, for the creed asserts none of the articles of the old heresy [i.e. Arius/Arianism] and explicitly condemns Anomoeanism [i.e. 'Neo-Arianism']. (Early Christian Creeds, 2nd edition, 1960, p. 294.)
So, is it accurate to call Maximinus an Arian? With all due respect to the scholars that do attribute the label "Arian" to Maximinus, to do so is, IMO, a "misnomer", for Maximinus emphatically denied (as did all homoians) the most basic tenant of Arian theology: the creation of the Son of God ex nihilo. To call Maximinus an Arian would be analogous to calling someone who emphatically rejects TULIP a Calvinist!
So much more to cover, but given the length of this post, I think it best to do so in a subsequent thread.
Grace and peace,