April 19, 2009

Church Infallibility

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The topic of April's meeting was Church Infallibility. We were joined this evening by an elder from the OPC and a member of the PCA. The following are notes from April's meeting on Church infallibility:

What is infallibility? Immunity from error on dogmatic teachings regarding faith or morals.

a)contrast with inerrancy
b)infallibility does not mean…

What are the conditions?

a)Dogma – to be definitely held,
b)Regarding faith or morals

What is the basis for Church infallibility?

a)that Christ established the Church
b)that the Church’s fundamental mission is Christ’s mission extended - to save sinners – to deliver the Word
c)whatever Church Christ established must not be a failure – it will succeed
d)to succeed in its goal means to protect and deliver the Word – to fail would be to destroy or pervert the Word:

Pope Benedict XVI Said - “This doctrine obviously needs to be understood very precisely within its correct limitations, so as not to be misused or misunderstood. It doesn't mean that every word that the ecclesiastical authorities say, or even every word said by a pope, is infallible. It certainly does mean that wherever the Church, in the great spiritual and cultural struggles of history, and after all possible prayer and grappling with the truth, insists that this is the correct interpretation and draws a line there, she has been promised that in this instance she will not lead people in to error. That she will not be turned into an instrument of destruction for the Word of God, but remains the mother, the living agent, within whom the Word is alive and truly expresses Himself and is truly interpreted.”

e)Therefore the Church, as Church must be infallible.
f)What is the “Church”?
g)What can Acts 15 teach us of infallibility?
a.Could the Church have gotten it wrong?
b.Would Jerusalem Council be infallible if it wasn’t recorded in Scripture?
c.Is the Church of Acts 15 still around?
h)What can the OT precedent teach us of infallibility?
a.Moses – Judges – Prophets , speaking infallibly on God’s behalf
b.Signs especially regarding the high priest. Talmud & crimson thread

How is Church infallibility different from Scripture?

a)the Catholic dogma on the such is that Sacred Tradition & Scripture have the same number of errors not that they are equivalent in every way
a.Which tradition is infallible? Only Apostolic Tradition.
b)Scripture has a certain primacy
c)infallibility does not imply impeccability
d)infallibility does not imply infallible arguments nor pure human motives

Were the Apostles Infallible?

We have no reason to suppose that there is so great a distinction of dispensation between ourselves and the first generation of Christians, as that they had a living infallible guidance, and we have not.

what can be more absurd than a probable infallibility, or a certainty resting on doubt?—I believe, because I am sure; and I am sure, because I suppose.
Is Infallibility Necessary?

The advocates of Rome, it has been urged, "insist on the necessity of an infallible guide in religious matters, as an argument that such a guide has really been accorded.
Scripture Prooftexts:

Matthew 28:18-20;
Matthew 16:18;
John 14, 15, and 16;
I Timothy 3:14-15; and
Acts 15:28 sq.

April 17, 2009

Development of Doctrine (Next Session)

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Preview of L&L, Session XIII, for Friday May 1st, 2009 at 7:15 pm (see link above) ... wherein we might discuss the fact of doctrinal development in the Catholic Church and at least one theory whereby to account for this fact.

I make bold to develop L&L doctrine along the lines of writing an article for which to preview our upcoming Session. Key and, perhaps, controversial assertions and questions of my own are numbered (these are the things upon which I hope to hone). I hope to come back with a more specific reading list, highlighting those sections in the linked documents which I really like, or really do not like.

My own rough and ready understanding of the phenomenon in question is that:

A development of doctrine occurs when the Church Catholic defines as a matter of Faith some doctrine that had not previously been so defined and which can only be deduced from Scripture and hitherto received Apostolic Tradition by a series of inferences (whether more or less obvious), said doctrine (so defined) not being explicitly articulated in the deposit of Faith once, and once only, delivered to the Church.

(1) I want to make clear at the outset that the question of Development of Doctrine has much to do with the identity of the Church, hence, it ought to be brought to bear upon where you will go on Sunday morning and what you will do there.

As for me and my house (that would be me), we will go where latreia is offered to the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit; where the Son is confessed as homoousian with the Father; the Spirit likewise acknowledged a divine Person, worshiped and glorified; the Son true God and true man, the natures hypostatically united in one Person, that Person fully human and fully divine, having two complete natures, human and divine; consequently, two wills, human and divine, his incarnation rendering holy the images of the holy, which are to be venerated by all the faithful; where hyperdulia is rendered to the Ever-Virgin and All-Immaculate Mother of God; where saints and angels are invoked; where Scripture, such as Tobit and 1 Maccabees and Hebrews, is read, indulgences are made available, the Eucharist is worshiped, the Sacrifice re-presented, Our Lord really present (in the full sense of transubstantiation) upon the Altar and in the Tabernacle; the "Our Father" prayed, and the Pope acknowledged Shepherd under Christ of every Christian on earth, having the charism of infallibility by virtue of his own office, and not only with the approval of or in conjunction with an Ecumenical Council.

Now, I know that none of this doctrine, stated in just this way, can be easily found in the 73 books of Scripture (the written record of prophetic and apostolic doctrine) or the earliest Fathers (who presumably remembered and handed on those doctrines which the Apostles handed to them by word of mouth).

(2) But I believe that it is all the word of God, the deposit of faith, once delivered to the saints. The theory of the development of doctrine has helped me to understand how what I certainly believe to be the case is in fact the case.

(3) In short: The subsequently "developed" doctrines are already there, in the very earliest Apostolic Tradition (written and unwritten), albeit in undeveloped, seed-like form. The tree has grown somewhat since.

However, there are all sorts of fellows who object to this notion. For example, the "undevelopers" supremely love to quote St. Vincent of Lerins to the effect that authentic doctrine does not and cannot develop. Developed doctrines are, by definition, not "Catholic" doctrines.

(4) Now, I take it as a plain fact that Catholic doctrines have in some important sense "developed" in the Catholic Church.

The undevelopers, however, boldly say that the notion of doctrinal development is an obtrusive innovation of that dubious (as judged from a variety of standpoints) fellow Newman.

(5) Interestingly enough, some idea of Development of Doctrine seems to have been advanced by St. Vincent of Lerins himself.

In this case, the idea of "development" was merely developed rather than invented by the Venerable John Henry Newman.

Anyway, no dogmatic decrees to the contrary, any notion of development stands or falls on intellectual merit.

(6) For example: Does the development theory make sense of the facts of dogmatic and ecclesial history?

(7) Should we expect, given those most ancient and extant records of the body of Christian teaching, any subsequent development of that teaching?

And so forth.

Newman famously makes his case in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine . (Here is something for those of you who would rather listen.)

In the interests of equal time for the undevelopment theorists, here is the considered thought of a gentleman who objects to Newman's Essay: Criticism of Newman's Theory. Towards the end, he even goes so far as to quote Papists to the effect that doctrine does not develop.

(8) So we (Catholics) may also have an in-house debate on our hands.

(9) The basis of the theory of undeveloped doctrine is supposed to be this bit from St. Vincent,

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

(10) It is also customary to cite this bit from Trent,

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,—in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, —wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,—whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,—hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established. (Session IV)

together with this bit from Vatican I,

In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers. (Session III, Chapter 2.9)

to the effect that Newman's theory is on shaky grounds from the standpoint of at least two Ecumenical Councils (as reckoned by the Church).

Thus, the the theory of doctrinal development might not even be Catholic in the everyday sense of Papist.

(11) In addition, some go so far as to say that the theory of Development of Doctrine has been quite definitely adopted by the Papal Communion , not only at the expense of internal consistency, but as a quite transparent, last-ditch effort to find some sort of theoretical footing for her many doctrinal innovations.

Modern Roman Catholic historians (so it goes) have finally agreed with the "rest of Christendom" that innovations such as Marian devotion (well, strike the Orthodox on that as well), substantial change of elements in the Eucharist (strike two on the Orthodox) and veneration of saints and images (strike three Orthodox) have no basis in early Christian Tradition, let alone anything like "the unanimous consent of the Fathers."

(12) So.... Has doctrine genuinely developed in the Catholic Church? ("Genuine" in sense of, developed as per the will of Our Lord.)

(13) If not, what do Catholics make of the fact that some of our distinctive doctrines seem to find little explicit support in Scripture and the Ante-Nicene Fathers, or even for some time after?

(14) If, on the other hand, doctrine does develop, what constitutes a genuine development versus an illegitimate corruption?

(15) Interesting related question: And who says so?

(16) By what means does doctrine develop?

(17) Finally, what would the undevelopment theorist point to as undeveloped doctrine? Is there really such a thing?

We should all spend some time looking into Newman's Essay on Development. He really digs in here and makes an articulate case, then promptly goes all Papist on the Brits.

(18) There is a lesson in that.

April 10, 2009

Which is More Important - Christmas or Easter?

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By Sid Cundiff:

The topic for the March Liturgy and Lager meeting was Why has Easter been given a 2nd place to Christmas in popular culture and Christian practice. After reading the Marcan Resurrection account, we examined several paintings. One of the problems is an aesthetic one: that Christmas and Good Friday have been often portrayed in art, yet the Resurrection is hard to visualize. We looked at two visualizations of the Resurrection, on of Piero della Francesa and Michaelangelo.

We then read selections from the Church’s liturgical documents that establish the Easter Triduum as first in importance, and both Christmas and Pentecost 2nd; and the document that says the Easter Vigil is the central event of the Triduum.

Then we noted that that in all countries with a majority Catholic population, except maybe Ireland, and a majority Orthodox population, Easter has no superior in importance. It's only in Protestant Europe, the British Dominions, and America than Christmas is deemed more important. Why is this so?

We noted some historical facts: Christmas was one of the last solemnities to be established (AD 5th Century). Christmas isn’t celebrated among Arminians, Jehovah Witness, and the Puritans. We noted also some seasonal differences: In southern Europe, it rains in the winter, and is usually clear in the Spring, thus perhaps suggesting why Easter has such a prominence in southern Europe.

We considered then several theological issues:
  • The false theology of the Resurrection as a epilogue, which we just touched upon. The Resurrection is in fact part of the redemption.
  • Is the Incarnation the most important dogma? The Eastern Church is correct to stress the Incarnation as redemptive, yet the Eastern Church still makes Easter more important. The Western Church has stressed Good Friday.
  • The false theology of ignoring the Old Testament and the Exodus/Passover. In fact, on Holy Thursday we recall the establishment of the new cultus, on Good Friday the Passover lamb is slain; yet it is at the Easter vigil when and where we flee Egypt, cross the Red Sea, and then, in time, cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Not to know the Old Testament is not to know the New.
  • Several saints got sucked up into Christmas: Nicholas and Lucy: but what about Mary (25 March – the real nativity of Our Lord) and Joseph (19 March)? Can they be incorporated into Easter?
  • The false theology of regarding Mary as just a Christmas figure. She is present at the Cross; she is Our Lady of Sorrows. Also even in the Christmas cycle, we have the circumcision, the presentation in temple, and “a sword pierce your heart”; she is also present at Pentecost; the Assumption as a fruit of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection and the Ascension as the beginning of the Parousia.
  • The false de-emphasis on the Eucharist among Protestants: Memorialism and Quarterly Communion – resulting in the de-emphasis in turn of Easter.
  • The false theology of ignoring Holy Saturday: The Son in fact goes as far from the Father as possible – into Hell, and yet He still lives for the; the Harrowing of Hell
We only began to consider the problems in moral theology that comes from putting Christmas before Easter.
  • Antisemitic misuse of Good Friday (and Liberal & Calvinist: “humans are God killers”)
  • Excessive tender piety at Christmas, and the effeminate view of Our Lord coming from the 19th Century and David Strauss.
  • Easter can’t be secularized (but can be ignored as “Spring Break” at Daytona beach and wet t-shirt contests)
  • Theology “Christmas is for children."
  • “We can’t party on Good Friday"; but Easter Sunday? We noted the prejudice: entertainment vs joy. Entertainment, pleasure, and fun ought to be the consequence of real joy; otherwise, these activities are just a whistling past the cemetery.
  • The problem with penal substitutional atonement violates our sense of justice . Leads to a de-emphasis of Good Friday.