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Orthodoxy and Calvinism in Dialogue

Discussion in 'St. Justin Martyr's Corner: Debate an Orthodox Chr' started by Ignatius21, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox
    Part 1 of 2:

    This is my response to a thread posted in the Soteriology subform of GT. The OP there, abacabb3, posted his response to a blog article written by a Calvinist-turned-Orthodox author. The original blog entry is here: Why I Stopped Being a Calvinist (Part 1): Calvinism presents a dehistoricized Bible | Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

    abacabb3's blog response is here: Why I am a [Calvinistic] Christian – Part 1 – The Bible Says So | Reformed Christian Theology

    The Orthodox blogger's claim is that "Calvinism presents a dehistoricized Bible." In his post, this blogger briefly addresses only one basic issue, namely, the assertion that Reformed theology (wrongly) emphasizes an individualistic interpretation in Paul's epistles, focusing on individual election and justification, while Paul's actual message was corporate, referring mainly to the inclusion of Gentiles into Israel, the two becoming one in the Christian Church. The blogger writes:

    Now, I must say that it strikes me as a bit unusual that an Orthodox writer would appeal almost entirely to modern, and mostly Protestant, historical and textual criticism, in making a case against Calvinism and for Orthdoxy. First, it's been noted by several Orthodox scholars that the so-called "New Perspectives on Paul" aren't especially new, and that the early Church Fathers understood the matters of including gentiles into the covenant with Israel. While modern scholarship is helpful in confirming what the ancient Church pretty much knew to be the case, I wouldn't hang my hat on it. The blogger goes on to refer readers to no less than four meaty textbooks, and one long podcast series by N.T. Wright.

    Now, as I am myself a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy from a Calvinist background, I very much understand which issues are of central importance in this dialogue. I do, in general, agree that Calvinists--indeed all Protestants--handle the Bible in a way that separates it from the historical current in which it was written, received, canonized, and defended. Classical Protestant traditions, Reformed included, generally accord much weight to the Bible's history, and to their credit, do not believe they are divorcing it from history, but rather are rescuing it from many centuries of man-made clutter that's been added to it.

    In summary, I believe that the Orthodox blogger--and therefore, the Calvinist responder--both pretty much missed the real essence of the matter: the one focusing on Pauline scholarship, the other focusing on whether justification (in the Protestant sense!) is monergistic. Nothing really was said about the Bible's place in history and tradition. So in this post here, I will try to address three major areas:

    1. The matter of how we, in modern times, can come closest to the mind of those who wrote the Scriptures.

    2. The relationship between Scripture and the Church (both as a spiritual/sacramental reality, and as an earthly institution).

    3. The fallacy of believing that anyone can "just read the Bible."

    Distance in Time

    The Calvinist blogger begins his response with this:

    I grant that he has a point. There is no such thing as a denomination, or even an individual Christian, who today believes EXACTLY the same things as the apostles, or the very earliest Christians. It's very anachronistic to cite ancient sources in favor of a particular theological position that came centuries after their time. Would Clement have sided with The Roman Catholics or the Lutherans over the matter of transubstantiation or consubstantiation? Would Ignatius have agreed wholeheartedly with Gregory Palamas and his hesychastic monks on the matter of created vs. uncreated energies? Would Polycarp have come forward at a Billy Graham evangelism crusade? We simply can't answer these questions with certainty. And he has a point, that our understanding of history can change rapidly, even in an era where every word spoken is recorded in videos or on the Internet. So no, Calvinism is not wrong simply because it originated--as a consolidated movement--some 15 centuries later.

    What I found on my own journey, however, is that we can get a bigger sense of whether a given group of interpreters possessed the same "mind," the same overall worldview and set of concerns, as those who came at an earlier date. We can see what the larger priorites were that occupied their minds. In the case of the early Fathers, we can see that worship, prayer, baptism, the eucharist, fasting, standing firm under persecution, mortification of sin and transformation by degrees of the Church--and within the Church, individual Christians--into the likeness of Christ himself. At the time of the Reformation, however, the entire emphasis in the West and largely shifted and this is confirmed by nearly any historical survey of Western christian history, I recommend in particular Many Mansions (Many Mansions: An Introduction to the Development and Diversity of Medieval Theology West and East (Cistercian Studies): David N. Bell, Terryl N. Kinder: 9780879075460: Amazon.com: Books) for a brief but thorough exploration of the matter.

    The emphasis had largely shifted away from a corporate understanding of the Church, the Body of Christ, as that which is "saved," to a more individual emphasis upon individual persons begin saved, who then collectively make up the Church. The understanding of salvation being primarily about crime and punishment, of justification as being primarily about having sufficient "merit" to stand before God guiltless per the law, and of Christ's death being primarily about satisfaction of justice and wrath--these were all entrenched in the thinking of both the medieval Roman Catholics and their Lutheran and Reformed detractors (and much more so in the Reformed). Note that the Reformers didn't dispute that salvation was about having sufficient merit, they simply changed the metaphysical mechanism by which that merit became the believer's...for Rome, Christ's merit was infused by degrees through good works and sacraments; for the Reformed, it was legally imputed all at once in an abstract switch-a-roo. But the underlying framework remained. And thus, both Rome and Geneva are far closer to each other on fundamental issues, than either is to Eastern Orthodoxy.

    In Orthodoxy, the overall understanding of Christ's atonement being grounded in the Incarnation more so than in the crucifixion; of salvation being about transformation into the very likeness of God more so than about eternally contemplating God's essence; of Christ's life recapitulating all of human experience (as with Irenaeus of 2nd Century Lyons, so too with Orthodoxy today); of sacraments as mystical participation in the divine energies, and not about being infused with legal merit--all these things are demonstrable closer to the thinking of both Latin and Greek Christians from the earliest writings. So it isn't "distance in time" that makes me believe Orthodoxy is closer to the apostolic doctrine than Calvinism. It's the "mind of the Church" that makes Orthodox closer in thought to the early Christians, and therefore to the apostles.

    Scripture and the Church

    Immediately after asking the question "Ultimately, in the present day (2,000 years removed) we generally have monergists (belief is given to believers by God) and synergists (the opposite)*. Only one side is right. If proximity in time does not help us know who has it right, what does?" the Calvinist blogger answers with this:

    Really? Proves? Historically? On what basis is this substantiated? Only this:

    Apparently, all that is required of someone to see that not only the BIble, but also the early Fathers, taught doctrine consistent with Calvinism, is that they read the Scriptures honestly. If this is true, then we have an awful lot of dishonest readers. Not only today, but throughout all of history. Chrysostom, a synergist, failed to read the Bible honestly. The Cappadocian fathers, synergists, failed to read the Bible honestly. John Wesely wasn't just wrong, he wasn't honest.

    At this point I have to narrow down my response. Apart from remarking that the blogger's subsequent quotes from Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch are completely and utterly irrelevant to the discussion of a 16th century understanding of justification, I will jump to this:

    And here, is where the blogger breaks most decisively from both the Orthodox and the Patristic understanding of this. The Bible is the CHURCH'S primary source, and by way of that, is the individual Christian's primary source. When anyone today picks up a Bible, what is he picking up? He's picking up one of many translations, of some interpolation of a multiplicity of copies of what may have been original documents. He's picking up someone's decision as to whether the Greek Septuagint was more or less faithful than the Hebrew Masoretic. He's picking up a canon of books that was settled across many centuries and disagreed on by many titans of Christian thought and piety. In other words, what he is picking up, is a bound volume of traditions. Yes, Scripture is God's Word, and is such because it simply is. But what we have, here in time and space, came to us mediated by many, many many people.

    When the blogger decides that Wisdom of Sirach is not to be considered canonical, or that 2 Maccabees isn't to be consulted decisively to discern whether prayers for the dead were part of Scripture, what he is really deciding is that one group's tradition (the Reformers') is better than another group's (everyone other than the Reformers). On what basis is this decision made? It can't be on the basis of reading the Bible, that he determines whose tradition of the Bible is the correct one--that's circular. What's really happening--what really makes the Calvinist's bible "dehistoricized"--is that he is picking up many centuries of tradition, and then using these to sweep aside everything else that was believed by the same people who held and delivered those traditions about Scripture down through the Church.

    I used to do this myself. I really believed "Orthodoxy is one tradition, Rome is another...but I have the Bible! I don't need either of them." It was only by painful discernment that I realized how naive my beliefs really were in this matter.

    I can only summarize this point by saying, I came to realize and understand, that apart from apostolic succession of ordained leaders in the Church, there is simply no way to determine which historical current actually holds a credible claim to delivering correct traditions, and these traditions include the Bible itself.
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  2. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox
    Just Read the Bible!

    Most of the remaining blog post addresses issues of whether various verses do, or don't, teach double predestination and the like--issues that aren't relevant here. The one remaining section written that does pertain to my final point is this:

    Interestingly enough, I believe this statement shows a profound lack of understanding on just what the Fathers actually did believe. For starters, almost all of those whose work is most pivotal in Christian history, were all bishops, ordained through apostolic succession, tracing their apostolicity back to an apostle by direct succession. This structure, which adapted in form but not in principle to the political structure of the Roman empire over time, was simply a presupposed part of the councils, whether local or ecumenical. The fathers didn't simply teach that anyone could pick up a Bible and just read it. They taught that any baptized Christian, who was part of the church and in submission to his bishop, who regularly partook of the sacraments and who humbled and disciplined himself through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, could read and understand the Scriptures--sort of, since even the fathers themselves saw that the Scriptures contained impenetrable mysteries (indeed, Chrysostom says exactly this about predestination and election!). Membership in the mystical AND earthly Body of Christ, the One Church (interchangeably called "Catholic" and "Orthodox" over against heretical sects) was presupposed. The Bible was to be read and understood in the context of worship, and collectively within the Body. Ignatius has already been quoted...what about the rest of his letters that form the context for his words here cited? His insistence upon submission to the Bishop, and participation in the corporate worship of the Church, and reception of the eucharistic meal, "the medicine of immortality?"

    Beyond this, one doesn't "Just read" anything. One brings a lens, a grid, a set of traditions to the reading of the Bible. Beyond the already-mentioned issue of which canon to accept, and which manuscripts to consider most appropriate for the life of the Church, is the whole issue of interpretation. Where can allegory be used? Why sweep it off the table as many Protestants did, and do? Christians from the earliest times...in fact, Jews from well before the time of Christ...understood that there were deeper, more spiritual meanings in the Scriptures than were revealed only by a literal reading of the text. Why believe that these exegetes were wrong in their methods, and that only those who came 16 centuries later actually were right?

    In summary, then, I believe the following so far about the blogs:

    1. The Orthodox blogger focused his arguments against the historicity of Calvinists' use of the Bible, in the wrong (or at least, too specific) area.

    2. The Calvinist blogger simply presupposes a host of things that he isn't proving, and that I hope he will in fact substantiate, regarding the Bible's place in the history and tradition of the Christian Church.

    3. Many of the statements put forward represent the very same views I used to hold myself--sincere but naive assumptions about what the Bible is, how it is to be read and by whom, and the degree to which tradition inescapably permeates everyone's reading of the Scriptures. Applied consistently, it becomes apparent that someone who holds to these views does not in fact submit to the Church, or to Scripture as a primary source, but rather to one's own beliefs about which traditions to accept, and which to reject.

    I will leave it at that, for now. The second post by the Orthodox blogger delves into such things as Divine Simplicity, essence and energies and the like, and will take FAR more care to parse, if that direction ends up being taken.

    I'd appreciate abacabb3's response to my comments above, which were given with pious intentions and in the spirit of brotherhood...and his forgiveness if I have not come across that way.
  3. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    Thank you for your response, as I am not very knowledgeable of the Eastern Orthodox account for things and you came across very well.

    I am unsure if I should blog this. I might if this is blogged to somewhere? Or I'll just link to this thread?

    Anyhow my response, without going tit for tat, is as follows:

    This is a good point, one of which I have given careful thought and very much am in agreement. That's why I don't even like calling myself a "Calvinist," because even understanding monergism and predestination are important and, for me, give me great peace*, they are not the largest emphasis found in Scripture. Scripture emphasizes the need for faith, forgiveness, and the necessity for good works. You don't even need to know what exactly predestination is, or why as Christians we a propelled towards good works, in order to be a faithful Christian. And, as a Calvinist, it seems like all we ever get to talk about is monergism and predestination to the point that every time you mention "good works" you have to apologize for it, like they are a bad thing!

    *In my opinion, in a time of dark suffering, the complete knowledge that God is totally sovereign over what is occurring and that He loves you, working all things out for good, is most helpful and is dear to me.

    I will say this, though. I have not read the church fathers exhaustively. Perhaps Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, a little of the survivng work of Irenaeus, a little Eusebius, a little Athanaius, a little Augustine, and anyone else I cannot remember specifically. Speaking historically, I see very clearly a definite shift of emphasis from Biblical times, to Clement, to Ignatius, to by the mid 2nd century a lot of the things considered important are totally different. Even wackier are the heretical views of the day. Reading Against Heresies from Irenaeus is almost unreadable, because the totally insane things the heretics taught were so out there, that unless you are really into astrology your brain can't take reading into it anymore.

    This brings be to the author's next point:

    There is also truth to this. My personal reading of Ephesians 5 is that believers are in union with Christ specifically as a church body (the bride) and Christ Himself (the bridegroom.) I think in this divine mystery is the answer to how on Earth God can see a guy like me, or any other person, as righteous. In my opinion, my union with Christ means that just as my wife and I have a single corporate identity, so do believers as the church with Christ. We are identified "in Christ" to use Biblical terms, or "as Christ" to use more simplistic terms. We are righteous because God sees the perfect righteousness of His son, not our own sinfulness (whose records have been erased on the cross.)

    There is definitely a tendency in Protestantism to make salvation "all about me." Though there is truth in the fact that individuals are saved, that is not the Biblical emphasis at all. There are promises of "you will be saved, you and your household" which means we need to be thinking as a group identity, viewing each other as different vital body parts within a single church body (to borrow the oft used biblical metaphor.)

    However, on the flip side of the coin, there is a tendency within the early church to go off into far great an emphasis on church ordinances that are not found in Scripture. I would have to read Eusebius all over again to get to the specific points, but even by the fourth century church disputes were over things that the Bible never talks about. For one, does your "baptism count" if the wrong guy baptized you? But this heresy didn't state in the fourth century, because even by the time of Ignatius, the existence of church rules and practices that were not the same as that of those in New Testament (or even Clement's) time are apparent. I have a whole blog specifically about this issue here.

    My impression is that even early on, the train went off the tracks very quickly. But, to me, that is hardly surprising. The US government is not even recognizable to the one that existed pre-Civil War. And that is merely 225 years or so. In 225 years, the issue of the triune nature of God was not even explicitly settled.

    Personally, I don't ascribe to the arbitrary line that the universal church was perfect until X council. I think many of the councils did say things that were true, but very early on there were already things that were not Biblical and thereby not true. So, no, the early church was not perfect and often emphasized the wrong things, if not blatantly taught the wrong things.

    If you read the Old and New Testaments, this is not the case, however. Again, the Orthodox religion is not a Sola Scriptura religion so in their mind this is not an issue. But more on this soon.
    The "beatific vision" is not found in Scripture, and the former sort of is. I am not an expert of eschatology, so I will just say that I know is that there are believers in heaven and they participate in worship of God.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  4. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    Simply go read the church fathers. In matters of doctrine, they go to Scripture.

    Quickly peruse Augustine on the idea of free will: CHURCH FATHERS: On Grace and Free Will (St. Augustine)

    Or Athanasius' statement of faith: CHURCH FATHERS: Statement of Faith (Athanasius)

    Just read Polycarp, Ignatius or Clement. They substantiate all their big points with Scripture. Perhaps the only thing they invoke tradition is as it pertains to church government, because the Bible was not explicit about this. However, what we do see is that much of what they say is found in the Scripture and because at least two of these men were appointed my apostles, they would have been talking about their knowledge of apostolic church government from personal experience.

    Irenaeus observed in Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 2: "When, however, they [heretics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. "

    We want to avoid this danger. This is how highly esteemed the Scripture is!

    Now, in the same chapter, he says the following about tradition: "But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth."

    Now, is this tradition equal to Scripture? I don't believe that Irenaeus saw them as conflicting, and at times canceling one another. Instead, the Scripture was part of tradition:

    (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 4)

    Obviously, tradition was relied upon for matters that were not addressed to the written Scripture, because we do have letters from apostles. The obvious priority would be to what is commited to the written word, and when something is lacking, gleaming truth from tradition.

    This is much like Islam, which has the Qu'ran and the hadith (oral tradition). Hadith do not abrogate the Qu'ran, but one can generally determine which hadith are legit and which are not by invoking the Qu'ran.

    This is what I believe was true of early Christian tradition. Take the Trinity, for example. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are presented as God in Scripture. The apostolic fathers affirmed this understanding. But to explicitly state that God is triune in nature is something that has been the result of church tradition, and not explicitly from Scripture.

    So, I see church traditions as legitimate as long as they don't contradict Scripture.

    To this point, Irenaeus continues in the same section:
    So, it seems clear to me that these barbarians are saved not because they memorized Scripture, but they have been preached the Gospel and accepted it. And, this Gospel does not deviate from what is found in Scripture. What Irenaeus describes are how Christians, without the Scripture, are saved. They remembered accurately what was preached.

    I don't think anyone knows purely by word of mouth anywhere the Gospel anymore. In fact, now that we are 2,000 years removed, the Scripture is our only indisputable source of accurate tradition (hence my argument concerning returning to the Christian's primary source.)

    Now, if any church has always got it right for 2,000 straight years, then I would say their present day "tradition" would be accurate. But as Christ accurately observed: "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8).

    And this is what in my mind, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have horribly wrong. They act as if tradition is divorced from the Scripture, if not the Scripture is a mere product of tradition and can be in light of that tradition disregarded. However, the Scripture is the only authoritative tradition we have! And, if you read the church fathers, it is most obvious, especially the earlier you go, how reliant upon Scripture they were. They knew that Scripture was the only indisputable tradition there was.

    To take Irenaeus said about apostolic succession and to apply it to its logical extreme (the Bishop of Ephesus is always right, because he was appointed by the guy who was appoint by the other guy who was appointed by John or Paul; and the Bishop of Alexandria...etc.) is incomprehensible, as we have different Bishops in disagreement with each other in recorded history. So obviously, it is not the virtue of men or even a corporate body inheriting traditions from earlier corporate bodies that originated with the apostles, but rather, those corporate bodies holding fast to the traditional teachings which we must admit, in their most unadulterated form, are in the Bible.

    This is the idea behind: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thes 2:15).

    And, when no one can remember what Paul said apart from his epistle, guess what we have? His epistle.

    Allegory can be appropriate, but it is not when talking about things that are said explicitly. An allegorical interpretation never makes void a literal interpretation, it merely adds another aspect of truth. The Bible does not have too many allegorical interpretations in it. Chiefly what comes to mind is Paul's interpretation of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4. While, the allegorical interpretation adds truth to the story, the story in of itself is true. And, where do we stop with our allegorical interpretations. Do we get to understand Galatians 4, the interpretation of an allegory, as an allegory?

    "Oh, that's silly," you say. But, if something is written in literal terms, such as 2 Thes 2:12-13, isn't the logical way to read it as a statement of truth?

    The danger in allegorical interpretation is to ignore obvious literal interpretations at the whim of the reader. This is why many famous allegorical interpretations, such as Augustine's interpretation of Genesis or medieval Catholicism's interpretation of Leviticus as instructions to the Roman Catholic Church, don't hold water nor stand the test of time.

    Personally, I only try to read into allegories when the poetic language may demand it (apocalypses, Song of Solomon) or when the Bible specifically addresses it (Israel as metaphor for the church, addressed in Romans 11.)

    That wasn't even true in Ignatius' time let alone in the NT era. To quote Acts 17:11
    Much the opposite of what you are claiming, just as Jews were read the law every Saturday because understanding Scripture was so important, the presumption is that we will search the Scriptures to determine the truth behind all religious matters.

    It is ironic, that the whole crux of my argument, that you took offense to, is that if we read the Scripture honestly, we are forced to take a Calvinist soteriology. And, what does the debate devolve into? The authority of Scripture! I do not see this as coincidence that those who doubt the truth behind Calvinistic teachings also doubt the central role Scripture has in determining doctrine.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  5. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox
    abacabb3, thank you for your responses! Clearly, "tit for tat" isn't the way to proceed, or we'll spill over into every issue imaginable (and some that aren't!). So sticking to broad themes is probably best. So I'll attempt to do that. I see a few consistent themes that run through your original blog post, and through your two responses here. Essentially, in responding to my critiques of your arguments, you are repeating the same arguments right back again without actually defending them. I think this is because most of them aren't arguments, so much as assumptions and presuppositions, which are better known as (drumroll!) TRADITIONS! Whence cometh these traditions? Let's look into this.

    I will take your responses in a few groupings, not necessarily in the original order. Let's start with your conclusion:

    What is ironic to me, is that you are continuing to think that this matter is about the authority of Scripture. It's about no such thing. Nobody here is questioning the authority of Scripture. What is in question is the matter of who interprets it authoritatively, and the source from which this authority comes. In any church that isn't simply a free-for-all, there exists some body of rulers, who determine what is and is not correct doctrine, correct worship, and correct living. These decisions are imposed upon all who submit to that authority. This authority must be derived in some way from God himself, or else it's nothing more than humans who impose their interpretations upon other humans, borrowing God's name for more oomph. It's clear that the Bible cannot govern a church. When a dispute arises, we cannot ask a leather-bound volume of text to tell us who is right, and who is wrong. People must approach, interpret, and experience what is in the Bible, and then those people must act on it. But which people? And on what basis? That's what this whole thing is about. It's the core issue that disloged me permanentaly from Protestantism in any form. But never once did I question the authority of God, nor the authority of his revelation in the Scriptures. I questioned the authority of those who told me that their intepretations were right, mine were wrong, and therefore I must accept their views or face some form of church discipline.

    So those who doubt Calvinistic doctrine are not questioning the "central role Scripture has in determining doctrine." I am doubting the authority of those who claim to have the right interpretation, and the authority to teach those interpetations as binding truths upon my conscience. Scripture has the central role, but at the center of what??? The center of the Church.

    Now, regarding what I said about Scripture being interpreted by baptized, believing Christians who were in communion with the Church, you wrote:

    You're putting too much weight on this, and stretching it too far. Paul was speaking to Berean Jews. Jews who were already part of the covenant body of God. Christianity was not being brougth to them as a new religion unto itself, but as the fulfillment of what they already believed. Thus, they were searching the Scriptures, but they were searching their own Scriptures. He was approaching Jews, as a Jew, with new revelation (not yet recorded in Scriptures) that a particular fellow Jew, was the promised Messiah who had already fulfilled the Law and been resurrected. This is different from a pagan with no knowledge whatsoever of the Law, with no expectation of a Messiah, just picking up a Bible and reading it to determine whether the Christian preaching to him is right on a fine point of doctrine.

    Irenaeus, whom you've quoted several times, wrote:

    The central mysteries (called "sacraments" in Latin) of the faith--baptism and the Eucharist--were kept hidden from all those who were not yet prepared to receive them. The Gospel call was preached, focusing on the coming of Christ, his divine life in human flesh, his death in our stead, and his overthrow of death and conquering of all demonic forces in his resurrection. Those who received this message were catechized--yes, based on the Scriptures--until they were ready to receive Baptism. Only then could they learn the deeper mysteries of faith, and only then could they receive the holy Eucharistic meal and be in fellowship with those who, like themselves, received "the rule of truth...by means of baptism." The processes of catechesis became much more formulized over time (see for instance St. Cyril of Jerusalem's Catechetical Lectures) but the essentials didn't change. Eventually the Creed became the summary of the whole faith, and this creed was not to be taught to the catechumens until day of their baptism.

    I'm not saying that no portion of Scripture is intelligible to the unbaptized. Yes, anyone with basic language skills can get the essentials of Christ's life and miracles, of his death at the hands of Romans, his burial and resurrection. 1 Cor. 15 will drive home the point to anyone that the resurrection is THE central hinge upon which all of Christian life turns. But let's remember, the NT gospels and epistles weren't written to the public at large. They were written to churches, made up of baptized Christians, who were in communion with their elders/bishops/deacons.

    Now, Irenaeus' words about the "fox" and the "king" make sense if we back up to what he said just prior (and you probably already know this):

    Who is it, who will properly assemble the Scriptures into the likeness of the king, and not of the dog or fox? We already answered that--the baptized. And there was no such thing as a baptized Christian who was not in fellowship with his elders/bishops, and by extension in fellowship with all other baptized Christians.

    Thus, Irenaeus is saying that Scripture is rightly interpreted and applied only within the established Christian Church.

    The other passages you've already quoted from Irenaeus further establish this point...we know truth by reading the Scriptures according to the Tradition handed down by Christ, to the apostles, "which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches." Elsewhere, as you know, Irenaeus flatly identifies the succession of ordained bishops--using Rome as his case study, the list of which includes Clement himself, to whom we'll return soon--as a means by which to identify who holds the Tradition handed down from the Apostles, and who doesn't. Which brings up a matter that always ruffles feathers, namely "apostolic succession." So for a slight departure, I'll address something else you wrote:

    With the exception of "papal infallibility," nobody has ever advanced the idea that a bishop is infallible simply because he's a bishop. You're absolutely right, bishops have always disagreed with each other, sometimes stridently. And they still do today. They err. They fall into heresy. Nestorious was a bishop. Pope Honorius was a bishop. Unfortunately there is no tidy way to prove mathematically who is right, or who is wrong. Councils of bishops have overruled individual bishops. But later councils have also overruled previous councils. The best we have is that certain councils--like the 7 Ecumenical--have stood the test of time, being accepted universally by clergy and laity alike, for thousands of years. Others haven't. The best I can say about apostolic succession is this: it is absolutely necessary to ensure that a given bishop is part of Christ's Church, and it is absolutely not sufficient to ensure taht a given bishop is correct in his teaching. One thing that rang very true to me about Orthodoxy, is that it has never offered a forumulaic answer to any of this. It recognizes the true complexities of history and reality, and does not speak beyond what it believes is warranted.

    By this same criterion--accepted universally and standing the test of time--we can also judge other practices that have been elaborated from Scripture and its interpretations. The Trinity, the full deity and full humanity of Christ, the two wills of Christ, the canon of Scripture, the Nicene Creed (without the "filioque," of course!) and darn near all of traditional Christian morality. Of course, the list of things that have stood those same tests also include baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, apostolic succession of the episcopacy, prayers for the dead, prayers to the saints, the significance of Mary as Mother-of-God, and a host of others.

    All these things are found in Scripture, some more explicitly than others, but all contain a significant degree of interpretation and interpolation across centuries of Christian thinking. You recognize this when you write:

    You're right. It's also clear that, compared to such core teachings as the resurrection, ascension, and Jesus' ethical teachings, and the union of Jews and Gentiles as a single Church--the actual relationships among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not treated very fully at all in Scripture. The Incarnation, as a doctrine unto itself and all its implications, isn't really emphasized in the New Testament. Yet these two issues--the Trinity, and the Incarnation--consumed the Church's attention for the first 800 years at least. Even the 7th Council, remembered as being about icons, was really a council about the implications of the Incarantion on our ability to depict Christ in his human form. Why is this so? Did the Church really go off the rails and forget about such important things as justification, becoming obsessed with rabbit trails about how Jesus could be God and Man at the same time?

    I would answer instead, that the major issues facing the Church and demanding its attention had already changed as early as the 2nd-3rd Centuries, the earlier issues having been largely resolved. Why don't we see all that much theologizing about whether to baptize adults or infants, or whether regeneration comes with baptism? Why don't we see anything clear about prayers for the dead until the 2nd Century? And why is it that, when these things do eventually pop up in the Fathers, they are referenced as things that have always been believed and practiced? Could it be because (gasp) the really had always been believed and practiced?

    To be continued... :)
  6. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox

    As a case in point, let's take the passage from 1 Clement that you have repeatedly put forward as some sort of evidence that the Reformed idea of justification, and even predestination, were present in the 1st Century:

    The bolded text is what you didn't include in your blog article. You present it to be a statement about how the Old Testament saints were "justified," assuming and implying that by "justify" Clement has the same notion of forensic aquittal that Calvinists hold to. However, he's talking in Ch. 32 about how these descendants of Abraham came to be "justified." What was he talking about in Ch. 31?

    This seems almost to contradict what he said just below in Ch. 32, about them not being blessed because of their own works or righteousness. But granting that he's not being illogical, what he's clearly referring to here is the way by which the father of the Jews came to be blessed, and entered into the covenant with God--by faith that includes, necessarily, obedience to God's will. He's talking about one from among many who comes to be in a right relationship with God--justification--then the spreading of that blessing through his descendants, and finally to the Church. This is indicated by his expression "And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves..." This makes even more sense when you zoom out further, because the topic Clement presents before and after these two chapters, is about the necessity of good works done in obedient faith.

    In other words, he's practically paraphrasing Paul. His concerns are exactly the same: how is it that God's blessing came to one man, and through him, to all men? Phrased another way, how is it that men come to be justified? Justification, for Clement as for Paul, has everything to do with coming into a right standing with God, first the Jews and then the Gentiles. To assume it had anything to do with the imputation of forensic righteousness per 16th Century theological and philosophical categories, is anachronistic. Did Clement disagree with the Orthodox understanding of justification? No. Did he disagree with the Reformed understanding? He couldn't possibly have, because it hadn't arrived yet. He was restating what Paul stated. These passages from Clement could be cited to support just about anyone's idea of justification by faith, because the nuances had been conceived of yet.

    So why is it that the early Fathers so quickly focused on such things as the Trinity, and Christology, and sacraments, and said so relatively little about justification as its own topic? I think the answer is simple, really. The whole context of justification as expressed in Paul and also in 1 Clement--the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Covenant made with Abraham--had already been mostly resolved by the mid-2nd century. The jews who were going to convert, mostly already had. Those who weren't, were off the radar screen of the Church. The temple was gone, the hub of Judaism was gone, and the controversies about how Gentiles were to be included in the faith of the Jews were settled. Thus, in the apologists beginning with Justin and especially Irenaeus, the emphasis shifts almost entirely to engaging with Greek thinkers. This is why such a large degree of Irenaeus' writings are so heavily philosophical. Proving that Christ was the liberation from the Mosaic law meant nothing to Platonists who'd never heard of the Mosaic law. But Christ's liberation of humanity from bondage to death, and the answer he provided to the age-old philosophical questions of how uncreated ideals could relate to created matter, did capture their attention.

    This "loss of focus on justification" (as some Reformed writers have spoken of the post-apostolic Christian era) wasn't a loss of the supposedly Pauline understanding of forensic justification by imputation of legal righteousness. Rather it was a shift in emphasis that simply confirms what ancient churches have always known, and what modern scholars are now "discovering." Namely, that Paul's discussions of justification were all about the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant made with Jews, and the participation of individual believers in those covenantal groups.

    At this point, I believe you have proven the point of the Orthodox blogger's first post: you're reading Paul, and Clement also, in a 16th century context, and not a 2nd century context :)

    Much of what you seemingly have dismissed as "philosophical mumbo-jumbo" in your 2nd blog (which I won't address further in this post) was not Greek philosophical baggage, but rather it was the heart and soul of how the world thought at that time. The Greek and Latin fathers marshalled the whole spectrum of philosophy to explain and defend the truths of Scripture, which were NOT written to an audience of unbelieving pagan philosophers.

    A last comment on something you wrote:

    Why is it that philosophical elaboration of the Church's understanding of baptism, communion, confession, annointing, etc. is a "twisting beyond biblical recognition" when the Church's elaboration of the Trinity, also going well beyond what's in Scripture, is acceptable? By what standard can you deem that the early church got sacraments "very wrong, very fast?" By Scripture? No.

    By your own interpretation of Scripture. You accept the early church's canon for reasons you admit are not fully clear to you. You accept a Reformation-era hermeneutic (a tradition), Reformation-era categories of merit and justice (traditions), all guided by your particular feelings about what makes sense to you and what doesn't. Where to use allegory? Wherever you deem appropriate. Where to decide that some philosophical speculation (Trinity) is okey-dokey, and other (sacraments) isn't? Wherever you think the Church got it right.

    I'm not attacking you. I'm speaking as much to myself. I gave myself this message a long time ago. Because I had to accept that my standard, ultimately, really wasn't Scripture, it was myself. I submitted to a body of Reformed elders, because they agreed with my reading of Scripture. When my reading began to shift, and they no longer agreed with me, they admonished me to "return to the teaching of Scripture, and to sumit to Godly authority in the church." But why would I submit to them any longer? After all, they had ceased to match the way I felt about the Bible and what it meant, and since they were disgreeing with the Bible, they had no authority over my concience, right? In the end, I was submitting only to myself. My bible was dehistoricized, and I myself was dehistoricized.

    Behind your belief that you "honestly read the Bible" lie myriad assumptions and traditions that do NOT originate from Scripture. They can't. I don't doubt for a minute that you're reading honestly, but let's make sure we're equally honest about the traditions we're bringing to it.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  7. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    Thanks again for your responses. I hope that someone other than you and me is edified by this, and if we reach the point where we are debating past each other, I think it is important that we set down which premises we won't budge on so it is apparent where ideologically we are precisely apart.

    I believe you identified one, that being the 16th century origin of theological doctrines. But I would go farther and say that much of Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity is taught after the mid second century, which result in at least six generations (120 years) where not even a whisper of almost all of their tradition is even spoken of, outside of church government (which likely Protestants have totally wrong.)

    But then you say

    However, this argument is meaningless to all but the "unchurched." As the Ethiopian eunuch said, "How can I understand unless someone teaches me?" So, I don't think I am arguing that people, apart from teaching, should just go ahead and read their Bibles. God gave men the gift of preaching for a purpose.

    Rather, the issue with the Berean Jews being addressed is how do we sift through good and bad teachers? One is, obviously, their fruit. The second is to see if what they teach can be found in the Bible.

    The latter point definitely proves that unless you can defend a doctrine from Scripture, that doctrine is incorrect. So, if I argue in favor of the doctrine of assurance, the argument should not be over what some church father said about it. It should be what the Scripture says. Then, it can help one's side to show that certain respected authorities had this or that interpretation of the same verse. However, the authority is in the Scripture, no where else.

    So if you reject it, even when the Scripture says you are wrong, then you are in error. And I issue my challenge, where does the Bible explicitly speak against assurance when Romans 8:38-39, John 6:39 clearly speaks in favor of it, as clearly as Romans 9:5 calls Jesus God Himself.

    Lastly, I will note that in your disputations, you do not even quote the Scriptures, which shows that they are not the basis of your disagreement (and thereby, not the authority that you attest it is.)

    This is an unfair characterization of Calvinism, though it would be a very fair view of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. These religions boast that apart from the written Scripture, like the Valentinians, they have a body of knowledge that is indisputable (which they call "the Church.") It is interesting to note that Paul calls the body of the Christian religion "the faith" and the Church is the body of people that adhere to "the faith" that are in union with Christ.

    It seems to me when we find support for our ideas not primarily in the Scripture, but in the writings of men, our basis for truth is incorrect. We should be grounded in God's revelation.

    Personally, Apostolic Succession does not bother me, as long as we all agree that those who inherited the role of Bishop, from the previous Bishop, all the way back to an Apostle aren't given magical apostolic powers. Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp did not identify themselves as apostles, even though they inherited the role as Bishop.

    Furthermore, Apostolic Succession as a means of sifting through good and bad churches made more sense when the established churches still historically had something to do with the apostolic church. For example, Clement writes to the Corinthians telling them "read that letter Paul wrote you!" (paraphrased!) The Eastern Orthodox church in Corinth now has nothing to do with that ancient church. For one, the city of Corinth has probably moved a couple miles away from where it used to be. Second, they no longer have their original letter from Paul or memory of who were the elders there and anything of the sort.

    So, my point is Apostolic Succession makes sense when people actually remembered who succeeded who, and who those previous people really were. Now, 2,000 years later, all we have are likely fictitious huge lists, lacking credible information about who the Bishops were and what they stood for. And, as Athanasius can attest to, many of these Bishops became apostate against him! Even the Bishop of Rome, under much compulsion, turned against him!

    So, to me, there is a practical side to apostolic succession and a wholly impractical side to it as well.

    This is a perfectly acceptable explanation, like I said before, I am not against traditional church government. I think the problem is that how is it that Christian Brand Name X, because it has a self-proclaimed "Bishop" who as you admit can be totally heretical, has a greater claim to truth over an "Elder" of a Baptist Church with an orthodox understanding of theology?

    Obviously, the one with the correct theology is the one we should listen to. The question then becomes, how do we know who has the correct theology? Again, we return to the Scripture using the church fathers to help us interpret the Scripture.

    Orthodox Protestants don't throw these out in the garbage, minus the "two wills of Christ," which I am ignorant of.

    If any of these contradict Scripture, then they are wrong. IF, they do that is. But again, supposed "apostolic authority" does not give one the right to say "no one can understand the Scripture other than the Bishop, go listen to Him!" Because, as the Berean Jew example shows, that is not the case for knowledgeable, mature believers.

    In fact, if it is exceedingly obvious that praying to (or "with") Mary instead of God is blasphemous, that baptism with water does not save a soul, and a host of other matters that the Scripture teaches against.

    A lot of these things were not issues until the late second century. So, the better question was, why did it take over 100 years for people to start making a big deal out of stuff they never made a big deal out of before?

    The reason the Church fought so much about these things was because the Scripture was not explicit on these matters. The doctrines of grace generally were not opposed. Even when major ecclesiastical errors started raising their heads (such as those revolving around baptism as early as the mid second century), you still had the church opposing doctrines such as Pelagianism.

    My reading of the church fathers just doesn't show the huge emphasis (some of it is there, though not in the first two centuries of the church) on sacraments that became popular in the middle ages.

    So, instead, I pose this question back to you. If infant baptism, obsessing over the triune nature of God, praying to saints, and a host of sacraments are so important, why are none of these things talked about from the time of Jesus plus another 200 years? Two centuries is a ton of time! A ton of errors can develop in 20 years, let alone two hundred!

    I don't see this at all. Go read the whole Epistle to the Corinthians. I don't think I am quoting anything out of context. Nor am I claiming he is emphasizing predestination more than faith. Generally, the Bible, though it does talk about predestination and uses the actual word translated as "predestination," emphasizes preaching and faith. Faith is the means of salvation. The basis is grace.

    This was the observation Clement was making. He noted that faith does not come from individual learning, because he, like Paul, affirms faith is "not of your own" (Eph 2:8).

    So, the section you quoted beforehand, has nothing to do with works. It has to do with faith. Faith is the thrust of the passage, which I did not hide, as that's what I even said initially.

    So, now it is back to you. If, as Clement says, faith is not a matter of wisdom, and justification is a "operation of His will" and God "calls" believers, how does that even make sense apart from a monergistic worldview? How could God call someone, when in reality it is that person calling on God? How is it the "operation of His will" when in the person's own wisdom, apart from grace, he accepted Christ?

    Your system simply doesn't work, and it obviously ignores what the Bible teaches and how Clement clearly understood it.

    Again, am I making this argument? In a debate, you have to address the claims I am making, not the claims others are making. What I am saying is that Clement takes for granted that it is God who elects, God who enables the faithful to do good works, and God who predestinates men. Augustine, would be heartily in agreement with this, and he (not so coincidentally) makes all these arguments from Scripture, very succinctly I may add in On Grace and Free Will.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
  8. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    No, they weren't all about the inclusion of gentiles. Paul addressed both matters. First, the status of the individual. Second, the status of Jews versus Gentiles. For example, let's look at Ephesians. Paul is obviously addressing what you are talking about in verses 12 and 13 in chapter 1. But in verse 5, the term "us" is inclusive for Jews and Gentiles, as it pertains to predestination. Then, the first ten verses of chapter 2, though addressed to the audience in Ephesus (mostly gentiles) isn't addressed in such a sense that it would be untrue to Jews.

    So, if you are going to argue that Ephesians 2:1-10 isn't monergistic, you have to show me what there is being taken out of context, because the lack of emphasis (though, not lack of existence) of the doctrine does not prove anything.

    As Paul writes in Romans:

    if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

    I think the "new perspective" on Paul presses it's case too strong. Paul is clearly arguing that there is no distinction between Gentile or Jew, that they are saved by faith (not works), as is written in Hebrews: "For by it the men of old gained approval" (Heb 11:2). And then, in the "Hall of Faith," we see clear examples of men justified not by works, but by their belief.

    I understand how people misconstrue Paul. They will say that the passage "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due" (Romans 4:4) is interpreted out of context if we address it to mean all works and not merely Paul speaking against the ceremonial aspect of the Law.

    In Galatians 3, he refers to the whole (not just ceremonial) Law as a tutor (to let us know we are in need of a savior) and then in Chapter 5 he makes an important point: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal 5:13). Christians are called to freedom, this is why they must be warned not to abuse it. If justification came by works, then loving one another becomes an obligation necessary for salvation. Rather, it is not an obligation, it is merely the evidence of faith.

    Without this understanding, James' epistle becomes incomprehensible. "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?," he asks in v. 2:14. "But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'" (v. 18)

    Then he puts it all into perspective:

    "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; ... You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:21-22, 24)

    So, we are forced to either say James is disputing Paul (and Clement for that matter) over some vague notion that Christians are to only be concerned about not being wedded to the ceremonial Law, or more likely, James is directly addressing the logical extreme that Paul's orthodox theology brings up: "If I believe that Jesus is Lord, can't I just do anything I want?"

    James answer is an obvious "no," and his argument is that faith apart from works is counterfeit. Implicit in the discussion is that obviously justification comes from faith, just not the counterfeit faith that James is decrying.

    Thus the framework that James is addressing isn't a narrow works of the Jewish Law versus grace, but rather of the way that is more intuitive: works in a broad sense versus grace.

    And, here is the crux of my point: what examples does James employ to show that faith apart from works is counterfeit? If he were speaking of the necessity of good works, but not necessarily those of the Law (your interpretation), why does he speak of Abraham and the good work of circumcision in approval of it? Obviously, Abraham was justified not by the work but by the belief that necessitated the work.

    As James' second example, he speaks of Rahab's faith. Interestingly enough, her faith had nothing to do with the Law at all. Her faith was believing in God's awesome power, and in accordance with that belief, acting upon it in aiding the Israelites.

    So, James' view of justification is not one were we have to reap up enough deeds. He is merely telling his readers that their faith has to mean something that people can see, like Rahab. Read examples of faith in Hebrews 11. They have nothing to do with legal justification, nor are they put in contrast with legal justification. They are simple examples of substantive faith, and it is this faith with the necessary substance of works undivorced from that faith, which is the means God employs to render people righteous.

    An awful doctrine is that in which we merit our salvation apart from faith in any way. The sacraments are unnecessary for salvation. There is no amount of good works that proves one's faith. It seems to me that the Catholic system of works merely replaced the Levitical system. In that sense, it is useless, if not detrimental for salvation.

    No Calvinist is arguing that Christians shouldn't have good works. They must. But, when in the last day God looks at the deeds of all men, when He looks at mine He will not be looking at my good works, or my faithful good works, but He will look at the fact that the whole church is betrothed to His son, and He will see His own infinite goodness. That is how I am righteous, I am righteous in Christ, by faith in Christ, all by God's grace.

    I am happy you are reading it, but I was referring to both the Calvinist writers and the Orthodox writer of the blog. They were both going apart from the Scriptures to describe God's justice.

    But, we are Christians supposedly speaking to other Christians. Our reliance upon Hellenistic philosophy shows an exaggerated emphasis on where we derive our worldview from. So, in a debate over whether Calvinism is stupid or not, if it is a Christian argument, it should be based upon Scripture.

    Good question. If we add to anything from the Scripture, and claim to know it to be true, we may be in error. If we contradict anything from the Scripture, and claim to know it to be true, we are in error. This is how the church fathers used the Scripture, they did not see outside traditions in contradiction to it.

    This is why I called RC Sproul Jr. and other's discussions about God's justice "philosophical mumbo jumbo," because they were adding to the Scripture.

    So, if you were to say, "God is a triune God," I would say, "Yes He is, the Trinity is listed in Scripture twice, and the personhood of each individual part of the Godhead is also affirmed throughout the Old Testament." But, if you were to say, "Christ when He was born was the fullness of deity in His intellect from His first birthday to the day to His death," I'd tell you, "That may or may not be true, we don't know."

    Much of what the Church argues about, such as the perpetual virginity of Mary and monophysitism vs. dyophsitism (sp!), really is not covered in Scripture, nor by anyone, for at least one hundred years after Christ. If these things were so terribly important, why was it only a battle ground until later?

    I totally understand your logic, but in all of this you never show how I (and a ton of others) are wrong. Your whole church can be a age old heretical sect. Simply appealing to their age does not prove this to be false. So, how do you know? Again, like the Berean Jews, you are going to need to use your discernment and search the Scriptures for truth.

    I honestly don't see myself as bringing up any other tradition than that explicitly laid out by the church for It's first 70 years or so of its existence, before the train got partially derailed. If I were coming here quoting contradicting verses with absolutely no knowledge of the church fathers, then maybe it would make sense that I am uncritically quoting Calvinistic preaching. However, I have formed many of these ideas after being challenged by such preaching, searching the Scriptures and the church fathers, and finding it to accurately portray the earliest Christian understanding.

    I would agree with you that Calvinists to over-emphasize God's aspects of God's sovereignty and predestination, much as all of us "orthodox" Christians put too much emphasis on the Trinity. We should want to emphasize ideas to the same degree they were emphasized in Scripture.
  9. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian Supporter

    Eastern Orthodox
    Our parish priest mentioned that the late 2nd to early 3rd century theologian Tertullian compared the salvation given by our Lord Jesus Christ to that of being acquitted of a crime under Roman law. The presumption of guilt is dominant & the emphasis is on human legalism & the atonement of our Lord seems reduced to a legal transaction granted to a few unworthy wretches who acknowledge this. Those who do are determined as this are the predestined elect. I personally think this is the flaw of western theology & it is interesting that Tertullian was later an apostate. Our Lord fulfilled the law of Moses & St. Paul preached how this was accomplished to the Gentiles. There is no Roman or any human legalism in this.

    Jesus Christ said the golden rule (Matthew 7-12) is the law & the prophets & that the law & prophets are defined as loving God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40 etc.). The Lord said that those who have done good will be saved & that those who have not will be damned (Daniel 12:1-3, John 5:26-29 etc.). The Lord will judge by the will of the Father who sent Him (John 5:30). While the will of God is infinite, clearly He has provided us free will in the finite world where we exist. Clearly, God tells this to Moses, "See I have set before there this day life and good, and death and evil" (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Before that God told Moses the secret things belong to Himself & the revealed belong to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).
  10. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    And what work is this? The Jewish Law? Of course not. Good deeds in general? Not according to Jesus:

    "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
    Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
    (John 6:27, 29)

    Yes, man has free will, but he is not autonomous (meaning, God at times does change the desires of a man's heart). To quote Augustine:

    Now if faith is simply of free will, and is not given by God, why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe? This it would be absolutely useless to do, unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief wills that are perverse and opposed to faith. Man's free will is addressed when it is said, Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. But if God were not able to remove from the human heart even its obstinacy and hardness, He would not say, through the prophet, I will take from them their heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 That all this was foretold in reference to the New Testament is shown clearly enough by the apostle when he says, You are our epistle, . . . written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 We must not, of course, suppose that such a phrase as this is used as if those might live in a fleshly way who ought to live spiritually; but inasmuch as a stone has no feeling, with which man's hard heart is compared, what was there left Him to compare man's intelligent heart with but the flesh, which possesses feeling? For this is what is said by the prophet Ezekiel: I will give them another heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, says the Lord. Ezekiel 11:19-20 Now can we possibly, without extreme absurdity, maintain that there previously existed in any man the good merit of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his stony heart, when all the while this very heart of stone signifies nothing else than a will of the hardest kind and such as is absolutely inflexible against God? For where a good will precedes, there is, of course, no longer a heart of stone. (Chapter 29, On Grace and Free Will)
  11. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) Supporter CF Ambassadors

    Oriental Orthodox
    Excellent points for the dialogue :)
  12. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox
    Taking a few days off has given me a chance to read, and reread, both the remainder of Robin Phillips' blog articles, and your replies to them. Rather than go "tit for tat" as you said, I will try to take the very broad contour that runs through these blog posts as series. Especially since I've become very puzzled at the approach Mr. Philips has chosen to take in his argumentation, and also convinced that you are generally missing the point of the arguments he does make.

    I'll post a few times as I'm able, first to summarize my take on his overall arugments, then to interact some with yours specifically, and finally to explain why I think his 5th blog, which you've chosen to dismiss and ignore altogether, is hands-down the most significant issue affecting the discussion about monergism.

    His second post, which got into the debate between created and uncreated energies of God, is a very real and historically lengthy philosophical debate, with very real implications. And while the Bible does not directly address it (it is, after all, largely Greek philosophical jargon), it does make many references to God that are puzzling to say the least. What exactly was the fire burning in the bush that was not consumed? Was it real fire? Clearly it made God present to Moses...but in what way? Was it something God created in order to reveal something to Moses, or was it in some sense the actual uncreated presence of God himself? How was it that such a dramatic bodily change overcame Moses, that his face actually shone with light? Which light? A created light, or with the uncreated light of God's own presence?

    How are we to reconcile the many references to God's love, anger, joy, wrath, sorrow, regret, justice, mercy, forgiveness, vengeance, etc. with the clear teaching that God himself is incapable of change? Are all these "attributes" simply analogical ways of speaking? Are they just various ways that we, changeable creatures, experience the unchangeable God? Or are they real, distinct actions (or in Greek terms, energies, of God himself? If we believe, as Augustine and most Western fathers (which eventually lead through Anselm, Aquinas and yes, Calvin) that God is purely simple, then every attribute is actually the same as every other attribute. And this has real consequences for how man can actually relate to God, even to the point of affecting how we understand the very nature of salvation itself. Scripture doesn't reconcile these things for us, any more than it reconciles exactly how God is One and Three, or exactly how God's will relates to mans'. We must read in between the lines. At some point we must grapple with this.

    And the Reformed do. The first sections of any standard textbook on theology delve into God's essence, his "communicable" and "incommunicable" attributs and so forth. And while it isn't spoken of much anymore, Reformed theology is in virtual lock-step with medieval Roman Catholicism on the matter of God's "absolute divine simplicity." Occasionally some Reformed scholar will write an article about it, bemoaning the fact that so few Protestants today actually understand why Divine Simplicity is so centrally important. Adn they're correct...this philosophical view of God is deeply ingrained in the Western view of God. Do you think Augustine arrived at his doctrines of absolute predestination simply by reading a few verses in Romans? Far from it. His views on this were fully grounded in his philosophical notions about God's essence and his energies/activities. (We could use the term "attributes" although that tends to diminish the importance. In ordinary language, an attribute is what someone has while an activity or "energy" is what someone does. I believe that monergism and absolute predestination are necessary consequences of Divine Simplicity. This is at the root of why I believe that synergistic expressions of Protestantism are ultimately inconsistent with themselves. The strongest proponents of Divine Simplicity, like Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and much later Calvin and many of the Puritans, all believed in absolute predestination. It's no coincidence. Even today there are "Thomistic" Catholics who still hold to a view of soteriology not entirely different from Calvin's, because Calvin's views were so similar to Aqunias' on those points.

    Anyway, this is all to say two things. First, what you have dismissed as philosophical mumbojumbo, is actually one of the most significant theological topics that has ever existed. And second, you've proven my earlier points about why nobody actually "just breaks out their Bibles and finds out!" These kinds of things aren't derived only from the Bible. They can't be. As soon as we try to make sense of the data we have, we must assemble it according to some sort of grid, and that grid is what we bring with us. It is a tradition. It's overarching and becomes the Tradition. Tradition exists only among groups of people.

    His third post was...well...I won't interact with it. I don't think it really established anything more than his particular experiences.

    The fourth post was most puzzling. Why he chose to interact with particular professors, or unidentified Calvinists from his old church, and not with standard Reformed confessions or catechisms, or with standard and accepted texts on theology, is not clear to me. And I do agree with you, he never delivers the punchline on the matter of why monergism is heresy. Rather, he kind of squirts out in all directions, bringing up random threads like icons and relics that he never really pursues.

    At any rate, his fourth post kind of missed the point, becuase I'm not entirely sure what the point actually was. And your response to it missed whatever points he did make :)

    More on that later!
  13. Gxg (G²)

    Gxg (G²) Pilgrim/Monastic on the Road to God (Psalm 84:1-7) Supporter CF Ambassadors

    Oriental Orthodox
    Intensive discussion :)
  14. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    I just noticed that the debate resumed here. Plus, I'm debating you via email. Let me respond in more detail soon.
  15. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

    Eastern Orthodox
    Yes, our discussion has proceeded along several fronts. Email was more direct to discuss the various tangents that are foundational to the discussion. It's quite clear at this point that we will not reach a consensus regarding the reading of Scripture or the basis of authority in the Church. Our fundamental presuppositions (and I think we probably both admit that these are, in fact, presuppositions and therefore could also be called traditions) about the significance of "absence of evidence" in the writings of the earliest Fathers.

    For instance, if no explicit mention is found about baptizing children until the 3rd century, or no explicit mention is found about praying for the dead until the 2nd--despite recognizing that these things were brought up as uncontroversial and "normal" when they did appear in the patristic writings--I take this as evidence that the practices were present during that time, and in fact were so unremarkable as to not warrant discussion. Were it not so, we would have seen the first mention of these practices contested when they were suddenly encountered a few centuries later.

    You take the opposite view, that if something wasn't found until the 3rd century writings, then it was in fact not practiced before then. Your explanation is that it must have arisen very gradually, and the passage of time was enough to allow it to slip in undetected.

    Neither of our approaches can be proven to be right, because they are assumptions that we believe to be most reasonable. 2000 years downstream, I've come to believe that a practice that has stood the test of time, is to be accepted.

    We also seem to agree that Scripture is the central authority in the Church, but disagree about how it is to be interpreted and by whom.

    At any rate, we can certainly discuss other aspects of your blog posts about Orthodoxy and see what interesting places we can reach. Although, we may get nowhere :p
  16. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    That very well may be the case, but the man is all over the place (and isn't he in seminary?) How do I know even what to respond to other than things I see clearly to be in the wrong. I am not going to understand subtle EO stuff when I am not EO.

    That I totally disagree with, this would require major explanation, as I simply don't see the relation nor see the importance of the minute Christological details that the Bible is silent over. I don't need to obsess over stuff that not only I can't prove logically or empirically (that's the whole Faith!) but I cannot even draw from our only one source of immutable revelation, the Bible.

    I don't even care about this stuff, the Apostle Paul did not talk about it, nor care about, it, so I am with him on this one. It is philosophical mumbo jumbo, as is what the Calvinists theologians get into when they speak of such matters. Anything that has no practical application in my life and no discussion in the Scripture, is to me entirely useless.

    For example, is "time" really the fourth dimension, or is it a man made invention? Could time travel paradoxes really exist? I just don't care.

    How do these questions edify the believer? how do they edify the church? They are vain speculation.

    We don't need to, we just accept them. God accepts us to accept the impossible (virgin births, raising from the dead, etc.), we don't have to come up with a working philosophical system to answer these questions.

    And I am very serious about this. Paul warned "see to it that no one takes you captive through deceitful philosophy," and though he was talking about judaizers in Colossians, the point still rings true. If you want to follow philosophy, you will find that any Idealist philosophy, as opposed to a materialist one, is much harder to substantiate, if not unreasonable. While we have indications that there is an immaterial reality, other than that, any specifics about it (i.e. what is "the good," what is "justice," what is true "beauty") are all totally "unprovable." Meanwhile, materialists have empiricism and stuff that people actually see and quantify every day. If we follow the road of philosophy, we either go off the deep end into crazy pie in the sky speculation, or into the world of materialism which has brought us social darwinism, immorality, and the like.

    Philosophy does not ground us, as it is subject to change with the next good sounding line of argumentation. The Bible does not change, God's revelation rings true for eternity.

    O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
    Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
    Or in things too difficult for me.
    Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
    Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
    My soul is like a weaned child within me.
    O Israel, hope in the Lord
    From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 131)

    Agreed. If we purposely over-complicate stuff and add to what isn't there, we add conditions to salvation and put artificial barriers between us and God.

    Exactly, we should just accept it and move on.

    They may, but I think you understand now, these things are not my concern, I did call it "mumbo jumbo."

    You can say that, but I can show from the Scripture that they are both true (presuming the Scripture is even correct).

    This is why, I beg again, bring on the Scripture! Let's stop arguing these useless side issues. Why do we differ, you and I? Is it because I regard the Scripture and you don't? If that's the case, there isn't a conversation between me and you. If it is becase you read the Scripture differently than I, then let's put this all aside and get into the Scripture!

    "For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures!" (Cyril of Jerusalem)

    Well, maybe in Christendom. But, there are almost as many Muslims as Christians, and I'd consider all of their concerns as unworthy because they are built on false premises. So, if you say "this is a big deal" but I don't buy into the premise why it is, you can see where I am going with this.

    Yes, they could be. But granted, we can sure make up a bunch of lies by going outside of the Bible. But, I'm not interested in idealistic philosophy and pie in the sky nonsense.

    He did establish an important principle: he wanted a god that made sense to him, a god that would meet him on his terms. This is no new desire to men. Men fashioned idols out of wood, stone and bronze so they can make god what they wanted god to be and put god where he wanted to put him (over the fire place, in a bag, on the window, etc.)

    My contention, which i hope you agree with, is that we always meet God on His terms, not the other way around. Furthermore, what is true about God is often despite of what we want to believe about Him, for "My ways are not your ways."

    I was hoping he would, but apparently he lacked reasoning. His argument from archaeology was particularly bad, and easily disprovable. Quite frankly, I think from our short debates together, you would have done a much better job.

    For me to miss points, he would have had to make points.

    Personally, I think my point in the end is extremely important and remains unanswered:

    [W]hat kind of synergism to synergists even believe? The kind that Augustine and I talk about, which is generally referred to as monergism anyway? Or, do they just think God has zero involvement whatsoever because there is an invisible law out there that God will never violate your “freedom” to have your own will? Sadly, it is the latter, which is not synergism at all. For God’s will to cooperate to man’s will, God has to be able to add something to the equation!
  17. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    Good point. But let me make clear, I find your view of tradition as a lot more complicated and nuanced. Furthermore, from my understanding of ancient history, I would never jump to such huge conclusions about anything, religious or secular, based upon one writing and the claims made in it, decades if not centuries after an event. It's simply bad history.

    I think the EO and the RCC have built most of their theology on bad historiography and an indiscernible cherry picking of tradition, as there are things from the church fathers that are flagrantly disregarded that were not opposed at their time (Jerome on baptism, Tertullian on the veiling of virgins where he says more than half of the contemporary churches, including Corinth that received Paul's letter made women wear veils, etc.)

    And, to further state, that all discussions about the same topic in baptism for example, all carried a different presumption (they ALL universally talked about baptizing new believers.) Not coincidentally, now that paedobaptism is the dominant form, if men were to look back and read modern discussions on baptism, they would not find the same universal assumption that existed in the first two centuries of the church, which I again reiterate, is a ton of time. 150 years ago, slavery existed in the US! That's how long 150 years is!

    But, you admit that EO has shifted and changed over time, so the practice has not stood the test of time while the institution of that church arguably has.

    Why can't believers interpret the Scripture to see what the claims others make about it are true?

    Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." (2 Thes 2:15) Paul is talking to the whole congregation, and tells them to remember what they were taught. He includes his previous letter. Why wouldn't this still be true today? 2 Thessalonians was arguablly the second or third earliest book of the NT Canon. For such matters, Paul could not appeal to Scripture that did not yet exist. Rather, he appealed to his own letter (Scripture) and the oral gospel (which later became codified in Scripture.)

    It seems to me, for modern believers to stand firm, we all need to go to our Scripture, not encessarily the teaching of just any church (which may be heretical.)

    Let's go for it, you have four blog posts to choose from, and another four more on the authority of Scripture to come!
  18. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian Supporter

    Eastern Orthodox
    Actually the Lord summarized the Law with the golden rule & the 2 great commands as He fulfilled it. The Creed is the necessary theology for every Orthodox Christian (any Christian for that matter). The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are directly instituted by God almighty. The Lord Jesus Christ has called us to prayer, alms giving, & fasting in living our faith.

    These are given to us by God & instituted in His Church. While any observer may rightly criticize how the faith has been kept by sinning humanity regrettably too often, the fabricof faith remains within this framework. This is the framework that can be understood by any layperson, literate or not. It must be heartfelt & not mechanical. The laity must be properly nurtured & the laity has an obligation to be responsive.

    Truly, the time has arrived for (at least for us American Orthodox) to be able to express our faith in more scriptural terms. Orthodoxy is the same faith in all lands & can be expressed in various forms so what I am saying is at least for some of us in America but not necessarily elsewhere. Our Bibles & any decent prayerbook can satisfactorily equip any layperson alongside living our faith in the world.
  19. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

    Eastern Orthodox

    This is quite a preposterous understanding atleast to any Eastern christian. There is no personal interpretation in Christianity, The Holy Spirit has completly taken it off the table. The Holy Spirit not being the author of confusion has made it an impossibility. For eastern Christians such an assertion would be a red flag to run the other way.

    When Paul had his vision on the road to Damascus, he went to Peter and James in Jerusalem and resided with them, He did not unilaterally branch off. . He then had to go a second time "by revelation" and verify what he was preaching to the entire Jerusalem Church lest he been led astray.(Gal 2.2) By revelation means by the direct instruction of the Holy Spirit.

    Now whether it is right belief or wrong belief both historically use the scripture to back up their opinions. Not only the Orthodox but the heretics as well.

    The Ebionites used a version of the gospel of Matthew that omitted any reference to a virgin birth, the ebionites basically believed Matthew 1:18-25 was simply a goyim interpolation. For them Christ truly was of the seed of David conceived naturally through the royal lineage of Joseph. And they could make use and did make use of scripture such as various portions of Matt such as 13.55, and Romans 1.3 would be and is considered by ancient heretics and modernists alike as proof that Paul was completely unaware of a virgin birth and such a tradition did not exist in the earliest decades following the resurrection.

    On the other hand the Docetists accepting the virgin birth concluded that Christ was merely a phantom. Their evidence was that a virgin cannot conceive of flesh and blood and truly remain a virgin. The inviolate state does not allow for such a thing. They argued in a culture that did indeed believe in ghosts and spirits; that Christ was an apparition. And they too had their evidence, the virgin birth being the backbone of that evidence, miracles like walking on water, passing through a closed door, altering His appearance etc, simply bolstered their claims.

    Instead the Church rejected both these interpretatons. The use of scripture to bolster a doctrine has always been employed, but ultimately it comes down to what the Church catholic upheld as truth when that same Church clarified the wrong belief with right belief.
    The use of scripture alone interpreted by personal opinions detached from the experience of the Church universal; is heresy. This personal interpretation detached from what the apostolic churches passed down was and is not entirely new, its mentioned in the epistle of Peter:

    "And also in all his (Paul's) epistles speaking in them of these things; in which some things are hard to be understood, which that they are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

    Ireaneous wrote extensively on this. Here is just a small excerpt: ' True knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world. And the distinctive manifestation of the Body of Christ according to the succession of bishops by which they have handed down that church which exists everywhere.'

    During the Arian controversy, Arius used scripture to prove his heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. Afterall Christ said that, Neither the angels NOR THE SON knew the hour but only the Father. Christ also said in the gospel of John, "My Father is greater than I". There also existed a tradition of subordination of the Logos to the Father in many writings of the Fathers.

    The Orthodox party had their scriptural proofs as well such as the saying, 'Me and my Father are one", etc. Instead the Nicene Creed adopted a completely unscriptural word to describe this equality. That word was homoousion. Quite controversial at the time, some objected because in past ages it was used by heretics, others weren't too keen on it as it was pivotal in the Nicene Christology but not found in scripture at all, still others wanted to retain some elements of subordination. The bottom line is the Creed clarified the right belief of an ancient Tradition. That is the Triune God is revealed in three equal hypostasis but the Logos and the Spirit derive their source from the Father alone.

    St Basil the Great explains that the Nicene Creed is all that is needed pertaining to the Trinity. It supercedes any scriptural interpretations and furthermore this Creed must also be understood in the same light as the Fathers that authored it. St Basil in his epistle to Eustathios of Sebasteia instructs :

    Both men whose minds have been preoccupied by a heterodox creed and now wish to change over to the congregation of the orthodox, and also those who are now for the first time desirous of being instructed in the doctrine of truth, must be taught the creed drawn up by the blessed fathers in the Council which met at Nicæa....It is therefore desirable to receive them with the confession not only that they believe in the words put forth by our fathers at Nicæa, but also according to the sound meaning expressed by those words.

    St Basil the Great also in his monumental work "On the Holy Spirit", explains the written and unwritten traditions:

    Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.

    Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents. What was the meaning of the mighty Moses in not making all the parts of the tabernacle open to every one? .... In the same manner the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. “Dogma” and “Kerugma” are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence; the latter is proclaimed to all the world.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  20. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

    I never said there was. I said ultimately all of us have to make a judgment call when deciding if we agree with a tradition or an interpretation. This is exceedingly obvious, and I don't like that EO try to shut down conversation by accusing others of privately interpreting religion, when on an individual basis, we are making some level of interpretation.

    I agree, the Holy Spirit precludes truly privately interpreted religion, as God supplies wisdom to all those who seek it. But, at some level you are making a judgment call. There's a reason you are EO and not RCC. You judged that one tradition is false and the other true. We all make claims to guidance from the Holy Spirit. That's between the one making the claim and God.

    And they could make use and did make use of scripture...[/quote]

    I am quoting from the same Scripture, next point...

    This is incorrect. Look at Tertullian's On the Veling of Virgin's. He essentially says, "Half the apostolic churches veil women, the other half don't. Let me show you from Scripture why they should."

    So, Scripture was the decider in these issues, not some sort of side issue. So, let's pretend I was an EO myself, but have become convinced of the doctrinal tenets of Calvinism. Historically, if you followed the model of the fathers, our dispute would be settled from the Scriptures. To reject this is to reject their clear methods.

    Yes, but what if an issue was disputed by the early church (i.e. synergism versus monergism?) How do we settle it? Again, we take an informed look from the Scriptures.

    I am getting really tired of being shut down with the screed that "unless you buy our tradition, you can't interpret the Scriptures." What if your whole religion was the "antiquity of error?" How would you prove me wrong in that contention? Merely quoting your tradition, why I would contend to be in error for generations, does not prove anything. You would have to make theological and historical arguments to substantiate your point.

    He also wrote:

    “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3, 1, 1).

    The tradition is Scripture. To misunderstand Scripture is to misunderstand tradition.

    Are there any 21st century books that you agree with wholeheartedly? If so, that proves the ability of one to agree with a non-God-breathed writing and believe it to be true. Creeds are summaries of Biblical teachings about certain matters.

    It supercedes incorrect interpretation, but not the Scripture.

    You forgot the next section:

    Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on the mystery of godliness 1 Timothy 3:16 is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers;— which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches;— a word for which the arguments are strong, and which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery?[/i]

    Now, I'm not making the same argument as Basil, that oral tradition of the Apostles has been accurately passed down and should be followed. Being that we don't have traditions recorded for hundreds of years, from a historical basis, the fact that so many bishops never knew about them and all of the sudden a bishop in the 4th, 5th, or even 10th century accurately preserved such a tradition is almost completely impossible.

    That being said, his own words betray that tradition does not carry equal force to the Scriptures. The point I am making is that Basil says if you disagree with a tradition, the only evidence he will allow to counter him is Scripture.

    SO, what is he saying in chapters 66 and 67? He is saying that traditions from the Apostles (presumably accurate) are inspired by God, equally to the Scripture which was written by those same Apostles. If someone heterodox takes issue with the tradition, they must show how the tradition (presumably universally accepted) would be in contradiction with the Scripture.

    For example Basil writes: "What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer?"

    Nothing specific. It is mentioned in Daniel 6 when Daniel prays towards Jerusalem. And this is Basil's point. The tradition from the APostles fills many gaps in things Scripture does not explain. However, if some tradition is in doubt, show him from the Scriptures where he is wrong. After all, if the same apostles wrote both, they should not contradict.

    SO, this whole debate started over Calvinism. If the fathers adhere to different parts of Calvinist doctrine and others dispute this, how do we settle it? We do what Basil did. We show from the Scriptures how one side is right and the other is wrong.

    “Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth” (Basil, Letter 189, 3).
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014