Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Development of the Various Dogmas in Light of the Universal Acceptance of Nicaea

On what grounds might we say that the development of any particular dogma effectively parallels the development of the Trinity? Whatever else we Christians may disagree on, we fundamentally agree on this, the most absurd and the most necessary of all doctrinal developments within our faith. In the words of N.T. Wright, if the Trinity hadn’t developed organically, it would have been necessary to invent it. Let these words ring in our ears as we proceed.

What are the Catholic reasons for asserting that Christians who accept the development of the Trinity should also accept other doctrinal developments? I find the following five reasons to be persuasive:

1. The argument for the Trinitarian development is not an argument of proximity to the apostles, but of Church authority. Denying the Trinity would not be to deny clear Scriptural teaching (for it is not clear on this issue) nor supposed “orthodoxy” held since the time of the apostles (since many if not most or perhaps nearly all of the ante-Nicene fathers held erroneous views on the Trinity when held to the Nicene litmus test). Denying the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Trinity would rather be to deny the living, authoritative voice of the Church.

2. Reason # 1 asserts that the pro-Nicene argument is based on authority and not time frame and to supplement that point, one need only ask the question, if Nicaea had occurred 200 years later would the Trinity still be an authoritative Church dogma? Reason number 2 therefore is this: one cannot deny the Trinitarian development because it took over 300 years anymore than one could deny the Immaculate Conception (for example) because it took 1800 years to be defined. Or else, if one could deny the dogma of Immaculate Conception on the grounds of time frame, one has already admitted that 300 years is within the accepted time in which the Church may pronounce dogma while 1800 is not and therefore needs to posit not only an exact range in which the Church is “allowed” to pronounce dogmas licitly but then also provide some strong arguments as to why after 2,000 years an individual has the authority to deny dogma while sometime between 300 & 1800 years, the Church herself lost the very authority to define them.

3. Again to flow directly from reason number 2, the Trinitarian dogma was pronounced on the authority of the Church as were the other dogmas which are in question. If the Church acted licitly by defining the Trinity then it can only be because it was her divine prerogative to do so. If it belongs to the Church to teach authoritatively, to reprimand apostates and defend the faithful from heresies, then it is her duty as long as she sojourns on this earth or as long as those enemies persist. If one denies the authority of the council of Nicaea he does so on his own authority (even if he says it is the authority of Scripture). If one accepts the authority of Nicaea he accepts that it is the Church’s right to answer this question and not the individual’s. Moreover, the deposit of faith (Tradition) belongs to the Church and not to the individual just as Scripture does. And again, if the institution commonly called the “Catholic Church” was “Church” in the biblical sense at Nicaea but not “Church” in the biblical sense at Trent, then the objector must give an exact date and reason for this ecclesiological change.

4. Recalling the above quote from N.T. Wright, it is surely the case that all Christians agree that the Trinity developed out of necessity. Christians all agree that it was necessary to answer the charges of Arius at Nicaea but the Catholic asserts it was necessary to answer the charges of Nestorius at Ephesus and to answer the Protestants at Trent.

5. Finally, one may not selectively dissent to either a particular council or a particular teaching within a council. The objector may say in response to reason 4 “I agree with Ephesus” yet the objector will doubtlessly refrain from calling Mary the “Mother of God” as if, in his private wisdom, he knows better than the magisterium of the Church that the title is misleading based on his private interpretation of Scripture and a line of tradition extending only back 500 years (and not quite to the original reformers themselves!) If one objected to certain aspect of Nicaea because he found a different version of the Trinity in his private study of Scriptures we would label him anathema not on the account of his faulty reading of Scripture but on the refusal to submit to Church authority. The same must be said of anyone who denies the findings of any council which has been established by the Catholic Church.

So this is why the Catholic finds it contradictory when one affirms that it is only proper to speak of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit as co-eternal, of One essence etc... but that it is not proper to speak of the Pope as having the ability to exercise the charism of infallibility. How much more contradictory is it then to say it is not proper to refer to Mary as “the Mother of God” since it was affirmed by the same Church in a council less than 100 years after the Trinity was settled.

48 comments:

Jason J. Stellman said...

Tim,

I axed Oso this, but I wanted to axe you, too:

If there were a few books that deal specifically with the issue of the RCC being the church that Jesus founded, that its authority is infallible, &c, what would they be? I’m not so much interested in books like Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity (or something) where he deals with the various loci of RC dogma. I am just interested in a defense of the church's main claim.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Have you read Newman's Development of Doctrine?

Jason J. Stellman said...

No, I haven't read anything about this stuff. I want something introductory. I'll check out Newman. Any other suggestions?

BTW, your current post is hitting on my exact frustration. I'm not sure it's "scratching where I itch," because then I would enjoy it more....

Tim A. Troutman said...

Well Newman isn't light reading but it's good. I might also recommend something on the Papacy since, generally speaking, that's where our claim lies. With all this talk about councils it is necessary to remind ourselves that there have been councils such as Basel and the Iconoclast council which are not considered authoritative by Rome and precisely because they have not been given the approval of the Roman pontiff. So on that note I would recommend "Upon This Rock" by Steve Ray as an introductory book.

He just examines the history of the papal primacy through the early Church. Let me ask around though.

japhy said...

Jason - Perhaps "By What Authority?" by Mark Shea is apropos for you.

Tim - How many Protestant denominations can actually accept Nicaea, though, given that the Nicaean Creed says that Christians believe in "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins" (rather than "one (or more!) baptism(s) after the forgiveness of sins" or "one (or more!) baptisms for entering our community", etc.?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Japhy: Yea not to mention the "Communion of Saints".

What happens with a lot of people is that in order to appear that they are not incredibly out of sync with the early Church, they say they agree with these things only to radically alter the historical meaning of the text. It's the same with Church authority, they say they believe in Church authority but what good is it when you've radically redefined Church?

Tiber Jumper said...

Tim:
A great post. A classic use of logic in a non-polemic fashion.
Japhy:
As a protestant when we said the nicean creed, we honestly didn't think too much about what it actually said. It was more the emotive effect of reciting it as a congregation once a year. If any of us really thought about it (as I started to) we would have had a lot of questions that ultimately would have made us realize the protestant church we were in, was nothing at all like the Church that came up with the Creed... but we wouldn't let our minds go there.

Rene'e said...
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Rene'e said...
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Rene'e said...

I removed the last two comments I posted inregards to seeing stellmans new blog design.

This is not the place for my oppinion of it.

Phil Snider said...

Tim;

This is nice attempt, but I can't help but feel that you're trying to 'pin' the unwary Protestant, but really you miss the target a bit. Let me explain.

First, let's start with the assumption that doctrine develops. It does, but the mere fact of the development of doctrine doesn't justify it as seems to be implied in your post. That is, the process of doctrinal development is full of mis-steps and detours so that it took the Church a long time to work out what was the best doctrine which caused the least theological problems. The Trinitarian doctrines developed in the way that they did becuase they solved problems around how salvation, the incarnation, divinization work which the alternatives didn't. It isn't enough to see development in doctrine, we have to ask what do those developments do to our understanding of the faith.

Second, it isn't quite accurate to say that the doctrines have emerged solely on the Church's authority. It isn't wrong to say that, but it overly simplifies the process. There is clearly discernment involved, but also a lot of argument and debate which led the Councils to decide the way they did. That included Scriptural argument and, in the later stages, citation of patristic authors. The solutions which prevailed did so because they made a good case and the Councils saw that. If that is so, it is entirely consistent that a Protestant might be able to say that the Trinitarian solution in the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed is the one that makes the best sense of the Scriptural and theological issues without having to concede everything else Roman Catholicism argues.

Third, while I understand that the definition of ecumenical council is different among Roman Catholics, do remember that most other Christians include the Orthodox only accept eight ecumenical councils. Citing Vatican I (I think) as if it were equivilent to these first eight is simply inaccurate for non-Roman Catholics.

That said, I don't actually opposed the doctrine of Immaculate Conception overly strenously. I do have questions about the impact it has on the Incarnation and the position of Mary, but nothing that I can't cope with. There is an argument that this is a tradition in the Church and I'm willing to respect that. But it doesn't have the same status as the Creeds as far as authority.

Peace,
Phil

Oso Famoso said...

Good post Tim. I hadn't though about this quite in this way before.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, thanks for the response.

I am not convinced that I missed the target by your response though.

the mere fact of the development of doctrine doesn't justify it as seems to be implied in your post

I didn't claim that here. I did argue for the legitimacy of development of doctrine in my series on it last month though. I would also recommend Newman's essay.

That is, the process of doctrinal development is full of mis-steps and detours so that it took the Church a long time to work out what was the best doctrine which caused the least theological problems.

Yes.

The Trinitarian doctrines developed in the way that they did becuase they solved problems around how salvation, the incarnation, divinization work

See reason #4, we think the rest of the dogmas were necessary in just such a way. If you disagree, please explain why.

Second, it isn't quite accurate to say that the doctrines have emerged solely on the Church's authority. It isn't wrong to say that, but it overly simplifies the process. There is clearly discernment involved, but also a lot of argument and debate which led the Councils to decide the way they did.

Does the US Senate argue over issues or don't they? When they come to a conclusion is it authoritative or not? Do mom & dad ever argue over decisions? Then when they, having argued and debated, announce their decision to the children, is it authoritative or not? So with the Church.

Citing Vatican I (I think) as if it were equivalent to these first eight is simply inaccurate for non-Roman Catholics.

I'm arguing the Catholic case here not the lowest common denominator. I think Catholics are right so the reason I'm arguing is to show why I think all councils (according to the Roman definition) are as valid as Nicaea. I didn't say "Vatican I is valid and on that basis..." I said "Here are my reasons for thinking all councils are valid and therefore Vatican I is as valid as Nicaea".

Chris Donato said...

1. The Christology of the NT is higher than that of Nicea. If you've ever gotten into the heads of the NT authors — from a socio-grammatical perspective — your first point here wouldn't have come out. Nicea isn't a culmination of development; it's a negative statement about what can't be said about God in the face of particular, idiosyncratic heresies.

2. The creed would not have been formulated in quite the same way 200 years later. But, let's move that up 1,000 years; the creed would have looked nothing like it did in 325. Different time, different words, different concepts. Thus, as you state, time frame is irrelevant, for the trinitarian creeds at least are not culminations of developing doctrine but point-in-time arguments against certain heretical positions.

3. I'd say this is a fair argument, but it presupposes an infallible magisterium. And that's a problem—even for plenty of Catholics. It also presupposes a particularly wrong understanding of why creeds are formulated to begin with—as if they state positively all that can be said or should be said on a certain subject. Such is hardly the case.

4. Homoousias developed out of necessity. That's all. A robust theology of divine identity was already alive and well in the mid-30s AD. But your point about later pronouncements is well taken. Be that as it may, even at the time of Trent, there were Catholics who had much in common with the concerns of the magisterial Reformers; thus, one could easily have stayed at home (in Rome) while at the same time maintaining Reformation ideals (though not as loudly, to be sure).

5. One certainly ought not cherry pick in such a manner, but when several, indeed, a conciliar number, gather together and call into question this or that point, the magisterium should bend its ear. But, then again, this presupposes a fallible magisterium.

I'm more likely to listen to Constantinople than Rome, in any case.

And, while most Protestants don't think about it, I'm not so sure they'd have a problem with Theotokos.

Phil Snider said...

It might have helped to have noted that you're writing this entry with primarily a Roman Catholic audience in mind. Within that context, I agree. I don't think one should pick and choose arbitrarily within a tradition.

Yet, I think my confusion is understandible given this line: "What are the Catholic reasons for asserting that Christians who accept the development of the Trinity should also accept other doctrinal developments?" This suggests a wider audience than merely a Roman Catholic one.

Peace,
Phil

Tim A. Troutman said...

Chris - Thanks for the reply.

1. I don't get where you're coming from on this one. I don't see how me understanding that the NT authors had perfect Christology is going to negate this point. In fact, I don't even see that it argues against it.

On culmination of development vs. negative statement I think this is half false dichotomy half misunderstanding. Catholics don't believe that the NT authors produced a primitive, skin & bones Christology and then it was added to over time culminating with the Nicene council. We believe that the dogmas of the Church (all of them, not just Nicaea) grew organically and were refined by process of dealing with heresies. As the substance of a mustard tree is contained in a mustard seed, so was the Nicene creed contained in the apostolic doctrine. A seed cannot itself provide shade or produce fruit and likewise none of the apostles would have been able to articulate Nicaea's findings.

2. I think you're approaching this one from an angle that ignores the main point. I'm focusing only on the time aspect here (the distance between Christ and the event) and not which heresies were present or what the social climate was. To bring those into the equation needlessly confuses the issue.

3. Infallible magisterium is not a problem for any Catholics. If you don't believe in it, you're not Catholic. And you're misunderstanding Church infallibility here. Saying that asserting Church infallibility also implies that at every council the Church speaks exhaustively on the issue is as ludicrous as saying that Scriptural infallibility means the same of any given book (or even of the canon as a whole). What need have we at all for councils then?

That secondary councils were needed repeatedly (Constantinople needed to supplement Nicaea for example) is no more an argument against Church infallibility than that Paul needed to write 2 Corinthians is an argument against the inspiration of 1 Corinthians. Much less then is the Nicene council an argument against the infallibility of the Scriptures.

To formulate this in a positive argument - Church infallibility means that God protects His Body (Bride) from becoming an instrument of destruction for His Word. That means when she is faced with heresy , after much prayer and deliberation she will be divinely guided from siding with the heretics. It does not mean that every time she speaks on any issue she does so in such a manner that the issue never needs to be expounded on or revisited in anyway.

None of that proves my presupposition of Church infallibility of course. I just mean to demonstrate that you are attacking my presupposition with an erroneous view of what Church infallibility is.

4. I agree that the Reformation raised plenty of valid points and were right on a lot of things. They were right to want to reform the Church but wrong to start new ones when the Church took too long. Largely in reaction to their movement, the Church did reform but it takes time. Case in point - the Vatican only condemned about half of Luther's theses.

5. You are right about the presupposition. It's the reverse model of Catholicism. It's the bottom up ecclesiology of Protestants and moderns. The Catholic Church is a top down institution - founded by Christ. (So we say).

I'm more likely to listen to Constantinople than Rome, in any case.

Of that I have no doubt nor any doubt as to why.

And, while most Protestants don't think about it, I'm not so sure they'd have a problem with Theotokos.

They might say "God bearer" but most of them wouldn't say "Mother of God". Hell I was probably half way through RCIA before I would dare say it. I had to come to grips with the fact that I was guilty of semi-Nestorianism.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, I'm certainly coming from a Catholic position (presuppositions and all) but it was meant for a wide audience. It was largely in response to a series of discussions I've been having with some Reformed Protestants over at De Regnis Duobus.

Andrew Preslar said...

Some reflections on Chris's comment (he makes a couple of excellent points [2 & 4], by the way):

I am not sure how a Christology can get "higher" than defining the ontological identity of the Father and the Son. What's the next step up above God? The NT is certainly richer, fuller, more fundamental (in a sense) than the bare creed, but not higher in its Christology.

Tim's third point does not presuppose that ecumenical councils and catholic creeds need teach exhaustively; it does presuppose that they whatever they do teach cannot be contradicted by anyone, for any any reason, on pain of heresy. Anyone is free to wax on theologically, as long as the Catholic dogmas are not undermined.

I have no idea what this means:

"... but when several, indeed, a conciliar number, gather together and call into question this or that point, the magisterium should bend its ear."

Perhaps Chris could clarify.

Chris Donato said...

I am not sure how a Christology can get "higher" than defining the ontological identity of the Father and the Son.

In the Greek philosophical world, you'd be right. But in the world of Jewish monotheism, ontological identity (ousias and all that) wouldn't make much sense. The issue for the first-century church was: who is Jesus? Not what is Jesus? It's a categorical mistake to impose this question upon the NT. Thus, the NT's Christology is perfectly fine without Nicea (just giving preeminence to Scripture here, with Nicea as a mere supplement to that).

Tim's third point does not presuppose that ecumenical councils and catholic creeds need teach exhaustively…

Realizing this, I tried to inject a good point about what creeds exist to do. There's lots of freedom involved, as long as one doesn't, as you say, contradict the Catholic dogma. But, then, there's good old Hans K√ľng, a priest in good standing who rebukes the church for its celibacy ruling and its doctrine of papal infallibility. If he can stay in (indeed, if he can still adminster the sacraments), then I'm Catholic too.

On the last point, I simply do not presuppose an infallible magisterium, and thus I would want to see less rigidity from the magisterium when large groups of Christians take issue with certain aspects of conciliar dogma.

Andrew Preslar said...

Thanks for the response, Chris.

A re-response:

Hans Kung has been disciplined by the Church (he is no longer a theologian in good standing), though not excommunicated for his sub-Catholic teachings. And no, this does not entail that you are Catholic. You aren't, but the door is ever open.

If you had realized that Tim's 3rd point did not presuppose what you said it did, then you should not have said that he presupposed such.

Ontology (cf., ousia) has to do with being- that which is. It is not possible to have a meaningful dialogue concerning Who something is (Reilly, for example) without regard to What something is (Reilly is my boss's dog).

Jews and Greeks live in the same world, the one that is, and both think and write about that world and the things that exist in and beyond it, including God. Now, we believe that the Hebrew scriptures are solid gold. Some aspects of the Greek philosophies might be false (i.e., not corresponding to that which is), and some might be true (i.e., corresponding to that which is).

There simply is no "world of Jewish monotheism" to which "the Greek philosophical world" or the "world of English-speaking bloggers" (in which such-and-such wouldn't make sense) or the "German Protestant world," and so forth, can be set in stark intellectual opposition. You are talking as though theology and philosophy were the same things as ideology, which is to inhabit the "world of modern and contemporary hermeutical discouse."

I don't presuppose an infallible magisterium either (not in the ideological sense of presuppose). I submit by faith, as informed by evidence and reason, to the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church which is, in this world, centered in Rome.

Andrew Preslar said...

for "hermeutical" please read "hermeneutical"

Chris Donato said...
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Chris Donato said...
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Chris Donato said...

Hello, Andrew.

First, let's not stretch what I've said about what the NT challenges us to see who Jesus is to mean that the writers of those documents lived and thought and wrote in a vacuum. I don't mean to pit Greekish philosophy against biblical theology, insofar as "all truth is God's truth."

That said, you're entirely wrong if you think that what we read about Jesus in, for example, John's gospel isn't grappling with and fundamentally based on Jewish monotheism and how Jesus fits into that world, or narrative, etc.

In a world without Greek notions of essence or Arius, etc., questions as to what substance Jesus is made out of would not even come to the fore. It'd be entirely irrelevant, just as it was to the first-century church.

Ontology (cf., ousia) has to do with being- that which is. It is not possible to have a meaningful dialogue concerning Who something is (Reilly, for example) without regard to What something is (Reilly is my boss's dog).

This is glaringly misinformed. "Reilly is my boss' dog" is a statement about who Reilly is, not what (ontologically) he is. If we were really concerned with the latter, then we'd be seeking to determine in what sense Reilly can be said to "exist," and how this entity can be grouped according to similarities and differences.

It is absolutely possible to have a meaningful conversation concerning who a particular person is without discussing what (in the philosophical sense above) he is. The New Testament writers do it with respect to Jesus all the time.

And, incidentally, philosophy, theology and ideology are synonymous. Suggesting otherwise is tantamount to sticking one's head in the sand.

Andrew Preslar said...

Hey Chris, sorry, but you are way wrong on these points:

(1) Greek notions about essence were very much a part of the Hellenistic world, in which the Apostles lived, travelled and wrote, of the first century. When did you think that Greek philosophy began?

(2) The statement that Reilly is my boss's dog is a statement abount essence, in that it includes the claim that Reilly is a dog (a she not a he, by the way; gender-benders are bound to follow when folks try to buffet theology from philosophical claims about the nature of reality, including personhood; I call to witness the Anglican Communion)

(3) You miss the point when you write that "It is absolutely possible to have a meaningful conversation concerning who a particular person is without discussing what (in the philosophical sense above) he is."

Where did I add "in the philosophical sense" to my claim that a dialogue about a person cannot take place without regard to ontology? One may regard what something is without using philosophical terminology. But the later really helps when hard questions arise.

And we had better regard what something is before talking about it. For example (with respect to Christ): You "presuppose" that the entity in question is a person. That is an ontological matter. Now, I know that Reilly isn't a person; therefore, I don't have the same kinds of conversations about her that I do about Jesus. Here is another ontological claim: My boss is a person, but he is not God. Therefore, I do not have the same kinds of conversations about him that I do about Jesus, who is a person who is God (which is yet another ontological claim).

However, when it comes to this person Jesus, I may need some help from philosophy if I am to going to try to articulate the notion that he is both God and man. More to the point, I may need some help from the Church in order to know the truth about Who Jesus is, which is inextricably bound up in the question of What Jesus is.

The alternative, when a serious question about the What arises, is to be content to equivocate, and that really is a failure of conversation.

(4) On ideology:

Some philosophy, bad philosophy (in my opinion), is ideological. Other philosophies take external reality, not ideas, at the starting point of inquiry. In which case they are not ideological.

Theology takes God's Word, not ideas, as its starting point; thus, theology is not ideological.

Ideology takes ideas as its starting point, and then proceeds to configure all data (e.g., Scripture, sense experience) to those ideas; thus, ideology is ideological.

As for the synonyms: I think that you need to get a dictionary.

Chris Donato said...

1. I didn't say they weren't a part of the hellenistic world in which the apostles lived and breathed; I said such notions were not a part of their fundamental concerns, as their fundamental concerns were preeminently couched within a Jewish monotheistic framework. The battles they fought at that time were not the same as those raised in later centuries.

2. The statement emphatically does not refer to Reilly's essence. It tells us nothing about how Reilly relates ontologically to other dogs or anything else.

3. But the latter really helps when hard questions arise.

My point was, that the christological questions that arose in the third and fourth centuries were not the questions that arose during the first century. And so, in the context of the 3rd and 4th centuries, the "latter" (Greek philosophical terminology) did indeed really help when those particular hard questions arose.

However, when it comes to this person Jesus, I may need some help from philosophy if I am to going to try to articulate the notion that he is both God and man. More to the point, I may need some help from the Church in order to know the truth about Who Jesus is, which is inextricably bound up in the question of What Jesus is.

This is entirely dependent on the socio-historical situation, and thus so is your need for help from "philosophy." Your point about the church is of course true, but no one is disputing that.

4. I just don't share your certitude that you or anyone else has somehow managed to escape the ideological on this issue. Kind of Sartre's bad faith, methinks.

Andrew Preslar said...

I enjoy the back and forth. As far as (2) goes, my statement does indeed refer to Reilly's essence (which is to be a dog). It does not define that essence, or tell us what "essence" is, or how different beings of the same essence relate to one another, but none of this is required to refer to a thing's essence.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Andrew & Chris, I'm enjoying the back and forth too.

Chris - As I said in my initial reply under #2, I still think you're coming at this from an angle which side steps the thrust of my argument.

You're mentioning social climates and particular issues at given times when I asked whether the validity of Nicaea is dependent upon her proximity to the apostolic era (or rather to Christ Himself).

I asked "Would this have been valid if it happened 100 years later" and you seem to be saying "It wouldn't have happened then" which is not really dealing with the question at hand.

The original point was meant to show nothing of how philosophically dependent the fathers at Nicaea were nor to compare their Christology with the NT. It was meant to show that the validity of the council is not based on the number of years which passed between it and the NT.

The reason I bring it up is because Protestants constantly bring charges against various dogmas solely based on the date of their declaration.

On Pastor Stellman's site, someone (can't remember who) said that the Immaculate Conception had never been heard of until the 19th century and used that as at least a partial reason to deny Rome.

After proving that the doctrine had indeed existed since at least the 3rd century he changed his tone and said he was only exaggerating but the truth was that since it wasn't dogmatized until the 19th century that it was still evidence against Rome.

This was the thrust of my point here that length of time between the apostles and the pronouncement of a dogma has no relevance. I don't know how I could have made that clearer.

Chris Donato said...

Hi, Tim.

I guess I'm not big on "what if" scenarios. Or I'm dense. The world is a contingent place; things could have always been "other." But they've happened the way they've happened.

And so defending a point by mentally revising history doesn't strike me as helpful in defending anything at all.

All I can say is that the validity of Nicea rests on the fact that the council came up with the best answer to the particular heresies of its day. It spoke as the church, not as the Roman Catholic Church. And it did so negatively (thank God), because a lot has been said and hopefully a lot will be said about the triune God that is completely and categorically removed from Nicea.

So, it comes down to ecclesiology, no?

The church is one, even though it is manifested in many places. There is no either/or between the one and the many. No attempt should be made to subordinate the many to the one (the Roman Catholic model), nor the one to the many (the Protestant model). It is both canonically and theologically correct to speak of the church and the churches, and vice versa. This is impossible for Roman ecclesiology because of the magisterium's claim for universal jurisdiction and infallibility. But the same, I must admit, must be said of the Protestant ecclesiologies, which connect the notion of the church with denominationalism (or, put differently, confessionalism), and which make a distinction between the one and the many in terms of the invisible and the visible church. But in reality the church is both catholic and local, invisible and visible, one and many.

I fundamentally cannot grasp your argument because I cannot fathom the Catholic's fundamental claim.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Chris: I think we're approaching level ground even if we're some distance from each other.

Catholic ecclesiology is both complex and simple and if you have a fundamentally different ecclesiology I can certainly understand the difficulty in entertaining the possibility of your concept of "Church" being radically mistaken.

But I have to take issue with statements like these:

It spoke as the church, not as the Roman Catholic Church.

Especially given that we are discussing that very issue, it's not profitable to make claims like that as if they're a given when you know it relies entirely on you being correct.

Also, you don't properly understand the Catholic ecclesiology here. There are something like 24? Churches around the world in full communion with Rome and various liturgical rites. There is as much diversity within Catholicism as within Protestantism if not more. The difference is there is absolutely only one doctrine and one final authority.

But that is not the extent of orthodox ecclesiology. Eastern Orthodox are also properly called "Churches" though not in full communion. Protestant communities lost the proper identity of "Church" when they broke the line of apostolic succession.

For us, Catholicity is only full when in communion with the See of Peter.

You should, like the Orthodox & (at least some) Anglo-Catholics recognize that the See of Peter is objectively extant and that it is lamentable (even if doctrinal disagreements exist) that we are not all in full communion.

The Church fathers repeatedly praised Rome for her orthodoxy. Now a chunk of Christianity mocks her. She is unequivocally the only key to eventual Christian unity.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Especially given that we are discussing that very issue, it's not profitable to make claims like that as if they're a given when you know it relies entirely on you being correct.

Let me clarify this. I should have said it relies entirely on you being correct on presuppositions which are not in the discussion.

Chris Donato said...

Tim, you probably caught this: the bit about ecclesiology I wrote in my last post is the (Eastern) Orthodox party line.

You wrote: Also, you don't properly understand the Catholic ecclesiology here.

Of course there is much diversity within Catholicism. I didn't suggest otherwise. The point of fact is, the see of Rome makes a double claim: universal jurisdiction and infallibility. So, in the end, for all the Catholic's claims of diversity, she still subordinates the many to the one (local see, not Christ).

In practice, of course, it looks a little different: I've seen priests more excited about justification by faith alone that some Lutheran pastors.

The see of Peter is absolutely extant, and it is certainly lamentable that we are not in communion with one another. But the only reason Rome is integral to the Christian unity is because she has so many adherents across the world. Holding on to the double claim mentioned above will only lead to Rome being a key to the reality of Christian disunity.

And this is another can of worms, but Protestants, as well as Orthodox, rest comfortably in their perceptions (I think correctly) that the Roman pontiff came to power later than the first century. It is, like or not, a huge plank in the argument about how the validity of Nicea ought to be perceived.

Tim A. Troutman said...

she still subordinates the many to the one (local see, not Christ).

False dichotomy.

Holding on to the double claim mentioned above will only lead to Rome being a key to the reality of Christian disunity.

Again you misunderstand Rome. She cannotreverse her claim (although your understanding of it is a bit over-simplified... the pontiff is not infallible as a person per se, he has the ability to exercise the charism of infallibility under very specific conditions). This is why Protestants dropping their pride, admitting that they were wrong and returning to communion with the apostolic Church is the only way for Christian unity. Rome has already admitted where she was wrong (in practice) a long time ago.

There is development in the papacy that is for sure. Who needs a papacy in an upper room with 11 men?

Acolyte4236 said...

Tim

All of the early councils were Eastern and Roman authority was put aside in a number of cases to adjudicate matters (Ephesus). The force of the synodoal horos was due to the joint authority of the participating sees, as Cyril for example notes. Some of these councils excommunicated living popes such as Vigilius (without breaking communion with the Roman see) or dead ones such as Honorius. And yes I am familiar with the party line on Honorius which I think is not credible given the Ekthesis and the technical terms he used in agreement with Sergius. It seems odd that all of this “development” wasn’t happening in the West.

Further, you claim that all Christians agree that the Trinity developed out of necessity, but the Orthodox don’t believe in the thesis of development of doctrine. In fact the councils for us are evidence of anti-developmental lines. Their project is the unraveling of philosophical intrusion into theology which is why in many cases their key terms are apophatic. Homoousious for example is an apophatic term for the Orthodox. It doesn’t give us any conceptual grasp of the divine essence and in fact excludes any philosophical content. That is just the point, there is no relation of being between the persons. Homoousious is metaphysically vacuous and merely upholds the divine identity of the Son with the Father.

Newman’s theory of development is ironically a development due in large measure to the German Idealism of the time which like its Platonic cousin sees history unfolding towards total consciousness of itself through a dialectical process. Newman’s theory uses idealism to assuage his worries about modernity. It is more a product of Newman’s consciousness than Christian tradition.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Further, you claim that all Christians agree that the Trinity developed out of necessity, but the Orthodox don’t believe in the thesis of development of doctrine.

It's not a thesis to believe in or disbelieve in. It's just something that happened. I might say "I don't believe in the progress of technology" but it's something that has happened and continues to happen whether I believe it or not.

If there's a problem with Newman's theory, tell us what it is rather than trying to make us suspicious by claiming he had idealism clouding his senses.

Newman's theory seems utterly reasonable to me. Nothing you said did. So I would naturally gravitate towards that which seems reasonable.

Andrew Preslar said...

"Homoousious is metaphysically vacuous and merely upholds the divine identity of the Son with the Father."

That is a contradiction. For both "divinity" and "identity" are metaphysically loaded terms. To confess faith in the Holy Trinity is not the same things as to chant "Atman is Brahman."

Acolyte4236 said...

Tim,

Claiming that it happaned just moves the argument, since the Orthodox deny that DoD happaned.

Here is an obvious problem with Newman's thesis relative to Idealism.First Idealism isn't Christianity, and in fact certain features of it are quite antithetical to Christian teaching, specifically that it could justify any later "development." This is a problem with practically all forms of historical Idealism, such as Freudianism, Marxism or Hegelianism. I'd argue that some of these features are latent in Newman's theory. Another problem is that the idea of DoD that Newman has isn't itself part of the tradition.

Acolyte4236 said...

Andrew,

It is only a contradiction if a few things are true. If meaning is reference. If apophatic theology is false. If God is being. I think all of them are false.

Not all meaningful statements refer. And Catholics subscribe to some form of apophatic theology as well, so your claim has to be false on its face, on pain of contradicting Catholic teaching. And God is not being, per Dionysius, ad intra.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Acolyte - I don't consider the concept of DoD to be negotiable as to whether it happened or not so we'll simply have to start somewhere else if we wish to have any meaningful dialogue.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tim,

I don't know why you get to assert your theory without question. There are plenty of scholars who reject the idea that DoD as Newman understood it. Asserting controversial points is fist pounding.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Then how is this not "fist pounding":

Newman’s theory uses idealism to assuage his worries about modernity. It is more a product of Newman’s consciousness than Christian tradition.

Is that not "controversial"?

And I'm not just "pounding my fist". I cannot comprehend what you mean when you say someone thinks doctrine didn't develop. As I understand what you're saying, I consider it as unintelligible as someone saying that technology didn't develop. So that's what I said, I do not retract and if you have evidence that I'm wrong (about what you mean with development of doctrine), I will happily evaluate it.

The orthodox may also believe that cats and giraffes are both the same identical species. If so, I wouldn't debate that with them either and if need be I'd just "pound my fist" and assert my belief that they're different. So if you want to discuss this with me, you need to clarify what you mean by development of doctrine or how on earth any intelligible person could say it did not develop in some sense. Likewise, if you wished to convince me that cats & giraffes were the same species, you'd probably need to convince me of a definition of "species" other than what I understand that word to mean now.

I will readily admit that I know little of Eastern Orthodoxy at least in those ways it distinguishes itself from Rome. I am willing to learn and to engage but we have to have some common ground to start with and at in this present discussion I'm not finding any.

Andrew Preslar said...

"The fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

I take it that a fundamental dogma of Catholic theology, whatever your particular version of Eastern Orthodox theology might be, is that God exists. Necessarily, the proposition is either true or false.

The criterion of truth is correspondence to reality. But if God is not real (existence and reality being roughly synonymous with being), as you suggest, then the proposition is false, and God does not exist.

Yet you may say that the proposition "God exists" is yet meaningful, though not referential (i.e., there is no Being to which the proposition corresponds). Such that the existence of the Holy Trinity is analogous to the purple pants worn by the current king of France.

Very meaningful, but not real.

If you read the Catholic Fathers, e.g., Basil, the Gregories, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Aquinas more carefully, then you may come to understand that the via negativa and the via analogia are not mutually exclusive ways. The Church is Catholic enough to embrace both. If you only count those theologians who insist on the via negativa alone (sola apophaticism), or the parts of their works that are apophatic (ignoring the rest) then you would a sectarian, conjuring theology from your own imagination, and by no means Catholic and only accidentally Christian.

You would be essentially a neo-platonist and/or buddhist who uses Catholic words just for kicks. Atman is Brahman.

Andrew Preslar said...

Of course, I should have said "hindu" rather than "buddhist."

Acolyte4236 said...

Tim,

The fact that Newman’s theory is idealistic is not controversial. As for being a product of his consciousness that may be, but I am not asserting it and claiming that it is beyond question.

To assert a controversial point and place it without argument is fist pounding. Simply because you can’t comprehend that doctrine doesn’t develop isn’t an argument that it doesn’t in fact do so. I suppose it is best to get clear as to what you think it means for doctrine to develop since it is far from clear that technology and doctrine are comparable in that respect.

The cats and giraffes is not a comparable example and so is irrelevant. Even if it were, one wouldn’t need to simply assert their difference. A competent person would be able to give arguments as to why they were so.

Personally I always find it interesting that the vast majority of Protestant converts to Catholicism simply ignore the second largest and oldest Christian tradition on the planet prior to converting.

I think there is plenty of common ground, but I don’t think it is neutral ground.

Acolyte4236 said...

Andrew,

I don’t know what your particular version of Catholicism may be, but you need to say more about being that it is existence since there are multiple theories of existence.
As for the law of bivalence, truth and falsity apply only to things that be, so you are begging the question. Further if you wish to concede that Orthodoxy has a different doctrine of God than Catholicism, that’s fine with me, but down the drain goes any claim that we have more substantial agreements than disagreements.

If the criterion of truth is correspondence to reality, then deflationary theories of truth or coherrentist theories of truth would be necessarily false. I seriously doubt you have an argument to show that they are. I fully assert that God is real, but I also assert that God ad intra is beyond being. God ad extra though is being. Consequently I affirm apophatic and cataphatic theology.
Further, even on a Thomistic account the statement that God exists does not directly correspond to a being since God is not a being but self subsisting being and so no statement univocally refers to God since its mode of signification is skewed.
Further, plenty of terms and statements are meaningful but not referential. Commands, moral statements, indexicals etc. are all meaningful, but do not refer.

I have read the Cappadocians, Augustine, Dionysius and Aquinas carefully enough and I do not think they agree. Augustine’s Platonism precludes him from agreeing with the Cappadocians for example on divine vision. They preclude vision of the divine essence absolutely, whereas Augustine does not. Of course Augustine then has to gloss theophanies as created intermediaries. As for Aquinas, his gloss on God as beyond being depends on a mistranslation of Dionysius from Albertus Magnus which comes out as super-essential being as opposed to beyond being. Contemporary scholarship has I think corrected that error. So the question in any case is not if Catholicism has some form apphatic/cataphatic theology, it most certainly does, a number of versions of it in fact, but whether it is the same version as the Orthodox. Consequently I don’t think you have grasped the Orthodox view.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Acolyte, I'm done wasting my time. We disagree on fundamentals of logic and it is pointless to continue this discussion.

I disagree with everything you said.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tim,

Suit yourself.

Andrew Preslar said...

Thanks for the response to what was admittedly a highly rhetorical comment on my part. And I was confusing on the bit about negative theology and apophaticism (they are not the same things).

I think that you have raised an important question concerning whether God ad intra is unknowable per se or unknowable to finite minds, from which unknowing we are saved in the beatific vision. The Catholic Fathers may differ on this one, but my point was not to exclude some from the pale of Catholicism on that basis. The further question is "which opinion is true?" And that is indeed important.

As to the question of whether or not God is Being: that depends, of course, on one's metaphysics; i.e., what one understands by being qua being.

If you are as metaphysically vacuous as you claim that the Nicene Creed is, then it is probably best not to talk about the relation of God and Being. If, on the other hand, you have some understanding of Being, i.e., metaphysical knowledge, then perhaps you could justify your claim that God is not Being.

In either case, any assertion about God vis-a-vis Being, even if not intended to refer to God, is metaphysically loaded.

Some statements are referential, and these are either true or false. One of the points on which we disagree appears to be whether or not God statements (e.g., God exists) do or do not refer to God ad intra (and behind all of this is the Eastern development of doctrine concerning Divine essence and energies).

How a statement might refer to God is a further question, and it is here that I thought Orthodoxy and Catholicism might find some common ground. That, of course, may not be possible if your opinion that God statements are non-referential is itself representative of (refers to?) standard Orthodox doctrine (as developed by Gregory Palamas?) and is not merely the opinion of your own school of Orthodox thought.

As I have indicated, non-referential statements can be meaningful, but if non-referential, they are indistinguishable from fiction. They are simply inventions of the mind and do not take us beyond our own minds towards an encounter with reality.

On the falsity of coherence theories of truth: Such theories state that truth is coherence. This proposition either refers to truth or it does not. If it does not refer to truth, then, again, it might be meaningful, but it is just an invention. If the statement refers to truth, then it is self-defeating.

I wonder: do you think that any statements are referential? And, do any such statements correspond to that to which they refer? Finally, if a referential statement corresponds to that to which it refers, then isn't that what we mean, in common parlance, by the statement being true?

For example: The statement that God exists is true if in fact God exists. I would go on to add that the statement is true if and only if God exists, which is the correspondence theory of truth.

For my part, I seriously doubt that you have an argument which shows that theory to be false.