In this second installment, I continue my reflections on TurretinFan's (hereafter, TF) recent thread, Nicaea Was Local Council, Arianism Not Settled Controversy, Implies Shea .
Shea again: "He regards himself as bound by the teaching and discipline of the synod whose jurisdiction is over his local geographic region, and the person he is writing to likewise feels bound by his local synod."
Maximinus was the Arian bishop of Hippo (see Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature). Augustine was the orthodox ("catholic" but not "Catholic") bishop of Hippo, as everyone knows. Even if the two councils mentioned were "local" councils, or even regional councils, both Augustine and Maximinus were in the same locale and region. Thus, this is the sort of impossible explanation for Augustine's words that can only come out of gross ignorance of the people involved in the dispute.
In part 1, I demonstrated that Maximinus was not an Arian, but rather a homoian, and that homoian Christian bishops condemned Arianism. TF then states that, "Augustine was the orthodox ("catholic" but not "Catholic") bishop of Hippo, as everyone knows". Once again, TF is anachronistically portraying this historical period, for 'orthodoxy' was anything but a settled issue. (As for Augustine being "catholic" but not "Catholic", I will deal with this silliness in a subsequent post.) He then gives one a misleading impression with his statement that, "both Augustine and Maximinus were in the same locale and region"—fact is, Maximinus had just arrived in Hippo with, "Count Sigiswulf (Segisvultus), a Goth," who in 427, "led a Roman army to Africa in order to suppress the rebellion of Bonifacius" [see John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Debate With Maximinus, Introduction (New York: New City Press, 1995), p. 175.]—his ordination, and conciliar loyalty, had NOTHING to do with the Hippo locale/region. Yet once again, though neither Shea, nor TF have a good grasp of the historical landscape of this period, Shea is the more accurate.
Shea again: "With Augustine’s particular question the issue is this, lacking a verdict from the Church universal, and faced with differing rulings from different local councils, he is attempting to come to concensus [sic] by appeal to Scripture, since it is an authority appealed to by both him and his correspondent."
This is basically the same debunked theory we've already addressed above.
The only point that TF has "debunked" is that neither of the two councils being discussed were "local", the rest of his musings do not fit the facts. FACT #1: no council and/or creed up to this period was recognized as universally binding; FACT #2: if any council up to the date of the debate between Augustine and Maxinimus (427/428) had any semblance of a claim to universal authority it was the dual councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, which were convoked by emperor Constantius II in 359. These two parallel councils were really essentially one council held in two different geographical locations for the sake of logistics. The estimates of the number of bishops that attended range between 550+ and 750+, which means that this dual council was significantly larger than council of Nicaea held in 325. Not only the size, but also the geographical and theological representation was considerably more significant—Augustine was engaging in a bit of 'damage control' when he demanded that competing councils be left out of the equation.
Yet there is even more to the story...the famous quote from Augustine concerning the authority councils (see part 1 for full context) is a bit misleading, for it gives the impression that Maximinus gave the council of Ariminum the same kind of authority that was later given to councils that were accepted as Catholic and Ecumenical. Here, again, is what Augustine, wrote AFTER the debate (from TF's quote):
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. [John E. 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.]
Compare the above with what Augustine and Maximinus actually said during their debate:
Maximinus said: "...if you ask questions, I will answer on the points where I can. If you say something reasonable, I shall have to agree. If you produce from the divine scriptures something that we all share, we shall have to listen. but those words which are not found in the scriptures are under no circumstance accepted by us, especially since the Lord warns us, saying, In vain they worship me, teaching human commandments and precepts" (Mt. 15:9).
2. Augustine said, "If I wanted to reply to all these items, I too would seem to be trying to avoid the point at issue. Hence, in order that we may quickly come to the point, state for me your faith concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Maximinus answered, "If you ask for my faith, I hold that faith which was not only stated, but was also ratified a Ariminum by the signatures of three hundred and thirty bishops."
3. Augustine said, "I have already said this, but I repeat it, because you have refused to answer: State for me your faith concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Maximinus answered, "Since I have not refused to answer, why am I accused by Your Holiness as though I made no response."
4. Augustine said, "I said that you refused to answer, because when I asked you to tell me your faith concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—and I ask this now too—you did not tell me your faith, but mentioned the council of Ariminum. I want to know your faith, what you believe, what you think concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you are willing, I will listen to what you say. Do not send me to those writings. They are not now at hand, nor I am bound by their authority. State what you believe concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Maximinus answered, "I wanted the decree of the Council of Ariminum to be present, not to excuse myself, but to show the authority of those fathers who handed on to us in accord with the divine scriptures the faith they learned from the divine scriptures." [John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Debate With Maximinus (New York: New City Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.]
Now, Maximinus does not attempt to 'bind' Augustine to "the decree of the Council of Ariminum" (as if the decree is accepted by all Christians), instead he is merely attempting 'shorten' his response to Augustine's question, directing him to a document that clearly states his position; adding that his appeal to the decree which he believes faithfully represents his views is, "to show the authority of those fathers who handed on to us in accord with the divine scriptures the faith they learned from the divine scriptures." In other words, not only does the decree represent Maximinus position, but it does so based on the authority of "the divine scriptures".
To sum up, apart from incorrectly terming the councils of Arminum (359) and Nicaea (325) as "local", Shea's assessment that, "What Augustine is doing is appealing to a common authority in a dispute where the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus", is quite accurate, whilst TF's overall critique is significantly flawed.
Grace and peace,