Sunday, April 08, 2007

Understanding Paedo-Baptism


A couple of weeks ago our family was invited to spend the weekend (a much needed vacation) with a dear brother in the Lord, Jerry Johnson. Many will recall Jerry as the author of the Apologetics Group’s wonderful DVD “Amazing Grace – The History and Theology of Calvinism”. Jerry has been a great friend in the last few years. He has housed us on several occasions for the Apologetics Group’s Conferences and we have had many wonderful discussions of theology and books, as well as, shared in some business together.

During our past stay with Jerry we were able to relax on a beautiful mountain in Draper, VA right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drank lots of coffee, took it easy, watched a few movies, and discussed numerous theological matters. One of these topics was the subject of infant baptism (paedo baptism). This subject sometimes becomes lost in understanding the connection and also the disconnection of the covenants of the Bible. Let me make clear that my comments are not in anger, nor are they saying that those who baptize their infant children non-Christians. I do not believe that at all. However, I have not come to the conclusion that they are correct either. With that said, I wanted to be able to question Jerry regarding the reasoning behind coming to this conclusion. Jerry was more than willing, since he understood I was not trying to argue with him, but to understand his position. Therefore, I will try to lay out the position as I understand it. Note: I said, as I understand it, this way I will be able to be open for correction from any paedo Baptists who might read this entry. Please do not take this in any way as me trying to be inflammatory towards paedo Baptists, but I truly want to understand the position because should I be found in error, then I want to repent. As of this moment, I cannot turn into the path of paedo baptism.

First, I understand the paedo Baptist position to be consistent up to a certain point, that is from their perspective of how the covenant works. They see a continuity of the covenants, as do I. We both see one over-arching covenant and that is the covenant of grace. Historically, as you read many paedo Baptist authors their language does seem to imply baptismal regeneration, though, thankfully, at least orthodox writers do make the point of stating they do not believe in such a thing. Nevertheless, I have run across numerous statements that even in their context, seem to suggest that. I will provide some of those in a future installment.

We must keep in mind that while there is one over-arching covenant and that being the covenant of grace, there were numerous covenants throughout history between God and man. The covenant of grace is a covenant between God the Father and God the Son, with men being the beneficiaries. The other covenants include the Adamic covenant, the Noahic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Old covenant, and the New covenant. In the New Covenant is the fullest expression of the covenant of grace. In it is the fulfillment of all of the promises that He has made because in this covenant comes the promise that He made and that is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, the issue we are concerned with requires that we understand the difference between the Abrahamic covenant and the Old covenant and the difference of these from the New covenant.

First there is a difference between the covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant God made with the nation of Israel at Sinai (the Old covenant). The major difference is two-fold.

The Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional, while the covenant made at Sinai was conditional. God made promises to Abraham that were not dependent upon Abraham, but upon God. However, at Sinai, that covenant was accepted by the people and was dependent upon their obedience. Consequently, this is why this covenant has passed away
The Abrahamic Covenant is most clearly extended in the New Covenant, while the Old Covenant is made obsolete and ready to vanish away.

Here is where our dispensational friends get tripped up. They intermingle the two as though they are the same covenant and as Dr. John MacArthur showed in his recent attack against a straw man he called a-millenialism. Now paedo-baptists recognize the difference here between these two covenants well. But it appears to me that there is a melding of some of the thoughts behind the “covenant community” of Old Testament Israel and the “covenant community” of the New Testament. This is where I see a glaring inconsistency.

First, we will note that in the Abrahamic covenant we see that this covenant is completely dependent upon God. Abraham is simply the recipient of the promise of God. We find in Genesis 15,


12 ¶ Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
14 "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.
16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."
17 ¶ And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—
19 "the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,
20 "the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,
21 "the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."


They covenant was completely dependent upon God’s own word. We find in Genesis 17 that Abraham believed the promise of God and as it was counted unto him for righteousness, there was also given to him a “sign” of this covenant, circumcision. Abraham, his son Ishmael and all the males in his house were circumcised. Later we discover in the Old covenant that all the males of the nation Israel would take up this sign of the covenant on the eighth day.

Now if one was not circumcised he was to be cut off from his people (Gen. 17:14). In the New Covenant, the paedo-baptist sees continuity between the covenants concerning this sign. That continuity is that the new sign of baptism, which identifies one with the Lord of the New Covenant, is simply a replacement for circumcision. They will reference such passages as Romans 4:11 and possibly their strongest argument comes from Colossians 2:11. We will take a look at these passages in the next post.

They believe, and their argument is really an argument from silence, that the mind of the first century New Covenant Jew would be that since baptism replaced circumcision that it would be natural for believers to baptize their children into the covenant community. I remind us, this “mindset” is argued from silence in the Scripture. I will attempt to show that the covenant community of the New Covenant is not the same as the covenant community of the Old Covenant. For in the New Covenant there are only believers, not unbelievers. All in the New Covenant community are the elect or the true Israel of God.

Now, much like our dispensational friends who want to go back to separating believers based upon ethnicity and end up promoting some fleshly appeal to the Jew for the future, I believe the paedo-baptist does something similar. They have carried the idea of the Old Covenant community into the New Covenant and therefore, they baptize their children based upon flesh (ie. They are their offspring). However, if they are to be consistent with the Scripture it would seem that they would baptize only the children of Abraham. And who might the children of Abraham be? The apostle Paul identifies them for us in Galatians 3,

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.


The children of Abraham should receive the New Covenant sign of baptism because they are of the same faith as Abraham and because they are Christ’s, not because they have believing parents.

28 comments:

Exist~Dissolve said...

The one thing I don't understand is why non-paedo-baptism Protestants would be against paedo-baptism so strenuously.

Unlike the Catholics and Orthodox (and Lutherans and others who participate in the practice), they do not believe that baptism accomplishes anything of meaningful ontological or salvific value. Rather, to most Protestants, the meaning of baptism is ultimately about psychology and proclamation--that is, the grown, sentient believer psychologizes the symbolism between the water of baptism and identification with Christ's death, while the public nature of the practice assures the community of this individual's psychological realization of the same.

Now, whether the early church practiced the baptism of infants or not is immaterial, for the ecumenical church IS united in viewing the sacraments as true means of grace possessing salvific efficacy.

As the non-paedo Protestant argument is against this fundamental feature of the sacraments, the issue of paedo-baptism is really a digression from the major and fundamental disagreement which exists between the traditions of faith which are in keeping with the majority voice of historical theology in re: the salvific efficacy of the sacraments and those which call into question this most primal theological understanding of the Christian faith.

Tim said...

ED,

Thanks for your input. I do understand that even in our catechism we use the term "means of grace" concerning baptism and the Lord's Table. However, you have made mention of the term in relation to them being "salvific efficacy". That part I truly do not see.

As I continue to post, I will inevitably get at what I believe baptism is and how I believe it is defined historically and biblically. If there is one doctrine that I do not believe went through reformation, it is the doctrine of baptism.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Thanks for your input. I do understand that even in our catechism we use the term "means of grace" concerning baptism and the Lord's Table. However, you have made mention of the term in relation to them being "salvific efficacy". That part I truly do not see.

Where do you not "see" it? If you read the ancient writers, the salvific efficacy of baptism and Eucharist (regardless of whether one is speaking of infants or not) is clearly articulated in all the major voices.

For example, in one place Origen likens baptism to the waters to that of Noah, noting that "as Noah and his family were saved upon the waters, so by a like symbol are we saved."

He also boasts that although he knows of one or two who have--through philosophy alone--improved their moral and civic lives, the number is unquantifiable of those transformed by the waters of baptism.

In another part, Athanasius criticizes the Arians for baptizing in the name of Christ, for if (as the Arians claim) Christ is but another creature, how will creatures be saved by baptism in his name?

Clement of Alexandria calls the Eucharist the "medicine of immortality", while the prayer of Scarapion (a widely used liturgy in the Alexandrian tradition) speaks of the spirit of God descending upon the elements of Eucharist precisely for the salvation of God's people who partake thereof.

This is a minute picture of the broader and unified voice of the ecumenical ancient church concerning the salvific nature and efficacy of the sacraments, a tradition which they professed to have been handed down to them in the apostolic tradition.

While one might disagree with their conclusions, the point is that the entire theological history of the church has placed salvific efficacy upon the sacraments of the Church. Therefore, to speak of the "historical" view of Eucharist and baptism must necessarily recognize, unless one is intent upon anachronistically imposing innovated understandings upon the sacraments which are clearly not there in the ancient literature. As to the biblical, one may conclude that the historical view of sacraments is unbibilcal. However, this would necessarily require that one marginalize the nearly entire history of Christian thought, belief and practice. While this is certainly one's prerogative, such an approach would deny the very orthodoxy upon which all modern, orthodox traditions are built.

I would, then, suggest that you investigate more intently the ancient tradition of the Church concerning the sacraments. I think you will find that many modern Protestant understandings of the same are clearly outside of the understanding of the ancient, ecumenical church.

Tim said...

ED,

Yes, I am familiar with each of the men you mentioned, as well as the fact that they also reside 2, 3 and 4 centuries down the road. Therefore, since they do and since there are other views they have expressed that are clearly unbiblical, then I think I'll try to stay in the safety of the text of Scripture.

Although I don't know your background, I presume you are Roman Catholic. This would explain the use of these men, rather than the text of Scripture. Please correct me if I am wrong. I just want to understand where you are coming from. I don't mean this to come across as demeaning you, just know that I am not persuaded by men, but my conscience is bound to what I understand from the Scriptures. I would call you to the same.

If we are to let church history be our authority, then we are going to run into all kinds of problems. Can it aid in some understanding? I think we can glean some understanding from those who have gone before us. But ultimately we must be like those in Berea and examine what they say against Scripture.

I will deal with specific texts in the next post.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Yes, I am familiar with each of the men you mentioned, as well as the fact that they also reside 2, 3 and 4 centuries down the road. Therefore, since they do and since there are other views they have expressed that are clearly unbiblical, then I think I'll try to stay in the safety of the text of Scripture.

Which other "unbiblical" views do you have in mind? These thinkers are the bedrock of Christian orthodoxy, the base standard by which one determines the "biblicity" of an argument. While I do not presume that what they have espoused is infallible, I also do not see where their ideas are outside of the orthodoxy of the ecumenical church.

Although I don't know your background, I presume you are Roman Catholic.

Actually, no. I am a Protestant who has realized how fundamental the apostolic tradition of the ancient church is to the faith of the Christian church.

This would explain the use of these men, rather than the text of Scripture.

I'm not sure I understand you're point here. As the Scriptures speak very little and not very explicitly about the nature of the sacraments, I think it certainly justified to look to the broader apostolic tradition (upon which the Scriptures are based) for formulating a more robust understanding. Of course, if one is convinced that the meaning of Scripture is limited to the personal subjectivities of the individual interpreter, I understand that such reasoning will seem fraudulent.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I just want to understand where you are coming from. I don't mean this to come across as demeaning you

I would not be demeaned by people thinking I'm Catholic, for I value my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, and greatly value the insights and tradition which they bring to Christian theology and praxis.

just know that I am not persuaded by men, but my conscience is bound to what I understand from the Scriptures. I would call you to the same.

I understand you concerns. However, as the apostolic tradition is the impetus and foundation for the Scriptures, I do not see a need to bifurcate between the two.

If we are to let church history be our authority, then we are going to run into all kinds of problems.

I would suggest that the problems that would arise from interpretation bifurcated from the apostolic tradition of the church would create just as many, if not more, problems, for instead of a unified (or at least partially unified) stream of theological discourse, one would be faced with the vagrancies of a billion individual interpreters, the Scriptures being alone subject to the subjectivities of their consciences .

Can it aid in some understanding? I think we can glean some understanding from those who have gone before us. But ultimately we must be like those in Berea and examine what they say against Scripture.

I will deal with specific texts in the next post.


I look forward to it.

Tim said...

ED

Thanks for the response. Thanks for correcing my presupposition concerning Romanism.

You said, "While I do not presume that what they have espoused is infallible, I also do not see where their ideas are outside of the orthodoxy of the ecumenical church."

Ok, maybe the problem is in the use of ecumenical. Is there one true church? Is there one true faith? Is there only one true authority? If so, then we can begin with what determines all of these: the Word of God.

You stated, "I am a Protestant who has realized how fundamental the apostolic tradition of the ancient church is to the faith of the Christian church."

OK, again I am going to stick to Sola Scriptura, not apostolic tradition, which is not Scriptura. Therefore, I cannot accept the so called "apostolic traditions" of some great men who held to such statements as these:

We know that He, before all creatures, proceeded from the Father by His power and will,. ..and by means of the Virgin became man, that by what way the disobedience arising from the serpent had its beginning, by that way also it might have an undoing. For Eve, being a virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her and the power of the Highest overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, 'Be it to me according to Thy word. --Justin Martyr

God recovered His image and likeness, which the devil had seized, by a rival operation. For into Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death. Equally into a virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life; that, what by that sex had gone into perdition, by the same sex might be brought back to salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel; the fault which the one committed by believing, the other by believing has blotted out." --Tertullian

so also Mary, having the predestined man, and being yet a Virgin, being obedient, became both to herself and to the whole human race the cause of salvation. --Ireneaus

Augustine also had some questionable statements concerning Mary.

With all of that said, can I say "Amen", when I believe they are faithful to the Scriptures? Absolutely. And just how are you and I to determine if these men are faithful to the Scriptures ED? Is it not through diligent study ourselves, or are we to sit back and let someone else pontificate to us the what the Word of God SHOULD say?

You said, "As the Scriptures speak very little and not very explicitly about the nature of the sacraments, I think it certainly justified to look to the broader apostolic tradition (upon which the Scriptures are based) for formulating a more robust understanding. Of course, if one is convinced that the meaning of Scripture is limited to the personal subjectivities of the individual interpreter, I understand that such reasoning will seem fraudulent."

Ok, again, I will be making my arguments from the text, not from church history. You recognize that "very little" and "not very explicitly" of the nature of the sacraments are spoken of in the Scriptures. So my question to you is this. How can we be sure that the men you cite concerning this matter are speaking the truth, when they go way beyond what Scripture says? The truth is that you can't be sure. You are now relying upon the wisdom of men and not the sole authority for the believer, the Word of God. Therefore, if one is not convinced by the Word of God, then that, my friend, is all I have to offer:)

Of course the reasoning is fraudulent, because we both recognize those men can err, just as we can. So are our consciences must be bound by the Word of God, not Augustine, Tertullian or any other man past or present. With that said, I do hope you understand that I am not against hearing what they say. As I stated above, I am in agreement with them in many areas, but only where I believe they are affirming the Scriptures.

You said, "However, as the apostolic tradition is the impetus and foundation for the Scriptures, I do not see a need to bifurcate between the two."

Ok, once again the term "apostolic tradition" is thrown around here. What are you basing that on? How do you determine apostolic tradition. Honestly, that sounds very Roman, given the context that you have put it in (ie. Scripture vs. apostolic tradition). How can you be sure the apostles taught and practiced infant baptism? How can you be sure they actually taught it was salvific? You must go outside of Scripture and call it "apostlolic tradition", which is exactly how Rome brings their people into every other heresy that comes into their apostate church.

As to the last comment concerning problems from both sides. I would agree that we are fallible men, but then again so were they. So, should we all just get together around the church fathers and simply affirm their teachings? We would find that they had many differences as well. For instance with Origen, we might need to look deeper into the text for the deeper meaning:) But the truth of the matter is this: we must all give an account to the Lord for our handling of His Word and therefore we are commanded to study His Word for IT is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness so that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped FOR EVERY GOOD WORK. While church history is definitely valuable, only the Word of God thoruoghly equips for every good work, including a proper understanding and application of baptism.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Ok, maybe the problem is in the use of ecumenical. Is there one true church? Is there one true faith? Is there only one true authority? If so, then we can begin with what determines all of these: the Word of God.

I think you are being a bit short sighted. Throughout all of church history, the apostolic tradition (Scripture and tradition) has been the rule of faith for the Church. After all, every ancient heresy was firmly "biblical," and the ecumenical church overcame their appeals to Scripture by pointing the guiding rubric for the Scriptural tradition handed down by the apostles--the apostolic tradition, the unified authority of Scripture and tradition.

Consider the Arians. They appealed fervently to Scriptures to establish their claims about the creaturliness of Christ and his ontological subordination to God the Father (e.g., "The Father is greater than I"). The ecumenical church surely made Scriptural rebuttals, but the final determination of the heretical nature of Arianism was not a greater amassing of proof-texts. Rather, it was an appeal to the guiding tradition of the apostles delivered in succession through the bishops of the faith by which the Scriptures were interpreted and their authority was asserted. In this regard, the Arians had no feet to stand on, for they could not appeal to a greater tradition "behind" their interpretation of Scripture.

OK, again I am going to stick to Sola Scriptura, not apostolic tradition, which is not Scriptura.

I disagree. For centuries, the church has viewed the Scriptures and tradition as one unified, living tradition of the apostles. It is only within the Reformation that the two were bifurcated, much to the detriment of an already fractured Church. Moreover, given the process of canon development in the early centuries of the church, one must confess that there had to be some operative tradition in effect to differentiate between the texts which bore the marks of apostolic authority, and those which were ultimately rejected. After all, the canon took nearly 400 years to assemble in its final form. While many of the books were firmly in place for a good deal of that time, there were many others that were not affirmed as canonical until late in the 4th century. How could this happen in an authoritative way without a guiding tradition behind it?

Therefore, I cannot accept the so called "apostolic traditions" of some great men who held to such statements as these:

We know that He, before all creatures, proceeded from the Father by His power and will,. ..and by means of the Virgin became man, that by what way the disobedience arising from the serpent had its beginning, by that way also it might have an undoing. For Eve, being a virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her and the power of the Highest overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, 'Be it to me according to Thy word. --Justin Martyr


I don't particularly understand the objection that you have to this quotation from Justin Martyr. In reality, this passage is merely a summary of the biblical material concerning the person and work of Christ, from the primal confrontation of woman and serpent in Eden, to the fulfillment of God's salvific promises through the Virgin Mary's conception of the God/human. In every point of this passage, it would appear that Martyr is thoroughly orthodox in what he has written, and offers a nice synopsis of the the history of salvation fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.

God recovered His image and likeness, which the devil had seized, by a rival operation. For into Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death. Equally into a virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life; that, what by that sex had gone into perdition, by the same sex might be brought back to salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel; the fault which the one committed by believing, the other by believing has blotted out." --Tertullian

Again, I don't see what possible objection you could have to this passage. Here, Tertullian is talking about recapitulation--that is, the "making over" of that which had been destroyed in the Fall. As Eve was the instrument through which sin entered the world, so Mary (the fulfillment of the type of Eve) was an instrument through which sin was overcome. To anticipate your potential objections, Tertullian is in no way advocating that Mary is an autonomous salvific figure; rather, she is an instrument source of salvation by virtue of being the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

so also Mary, having the predestined man, and being yet a Virgin, being obedient, became both to herself and to the whole human race the cause of salvation. --Ireneaus

Like Tertullian, Ireneaus is again speaking of the recapitulation of salvation in Christ through the fulfillment of the types of sin and the Fall. Here, "cause" is not meant in terms of "source." Rather, as with Tertullian, Mary is rightly called a cause of salvation by virtue of her instrumentality in the Incarnation. Just as one would call one's own mother the "cause" of one's existence, this affirmation of instrumentality in no way detracts from the affirmation of the exclusive existence-creating and sustaining power of God.

With all of that said, can I say "Amen", when I believe they are faithful to the Scriptures?

Okay. The Scriptures affirm that Christ was born of the blessed Virgin Mary, do they not? Do they not also affirm that Christ has overcome the primal failure of humanity, recapitulating the human race in the perfection of his life and obedience to God? These quotations which you have noted say nothing beyond this. Your objections sound more like the product of a nefarious form of uncritical, anti-Catholic indoctrination. Believe me, I mean no offense by that; nonetheless, I'm not sure that most Protestants would agree with the objections you have raised in re: these quotations.

Absolutely. And just how are you and I to determine if these men are faithful to the Scriptures ED? Is it not through diligent study ourselves, or are we to sit back and let someone else pontificate to us the what the Word of God SHOULD say?

I am not saying that one should inculcate every word they say as infallible doctrinal propositions. Rather, my point is that their united stream of thought testifies to a common, apostolic tradition which suffused their understanding of faith and the Scriptures. In reading their works, it is obvious that they recognize a concomitant tradition at work in tandem with the Scriptures to secure the faith against its detractors. Moreover, given that they have delievered unto us the orthodox faith by which we adjudicate the Scriptures, it seems incumbent upon us---how are severed from the ancient, ecumenical tradition of the church---to recognize the reality of this tradition and allow it to shape how we approach the study of Scripture and the pursuit of our common faith. After all, as I have argued before, apart from this guiding, undergirding tradition, one is left the personal subjectivities of a billion interpreters.

Ok, again, I will be making my arguments from the text, not from church history. You recognize that "very little" and "not very explicitly" of the nature of the sacraments are spoken of in the Scriptures. So my question to you is this. How can we be sure that the men you cite concerning this matter are speaking the truth, when they go way beyond what Scripture says?

As with all things, the affirmation of the truthfulness of their words is a matter of faith, just as one must believe that the New Testament writers were not lying about what they said. As to the certitude of what they have written, I would point once again to the overwhelming witness in the history of the church to the salvific efficacy of the sacraments. I am not aware of any voices before the Reformation that did not affirm this most fundamental element of Christian belief and practice (if you know of any, please inform me). Therefore, one must either conclude that 1600 years of Christian history was fraudulent in its views of the sacraments---including the very descendants of the apostles who testify to the things I have advocated---or one must conclude that some serious theological "innovation" has occurred in recent Christian history that has significantly moved away from the most ancient traditions of the church.

The truth is that you can't be sure. You are now relying upon the wisdom of men and not the sole authority for the believer, the Word of God. Therefore, if one is not convinced by the Word of God, then that, my friend, is all I have to offer:)

One cannot be "sure" of anything, for faith is not based upon epistemological proof, but rather upon faith in the promises of God.

Of course the reasoning is fraudulent, because we both recognize those men can err, just as we can. So are our consciences must be bound by the Word of God, not Augustine, Tertullian or any other man past or present. With that said, I do hope you understand that I am not against hearing what they say. As I stated above, I am in agreement with them in many areas, but only where I believe they are affirming the Scriptures.

But how will you know when they affirm the Scriptures? As you reject the authority of the apostolic tradition of the church, you have severed any meaningful authority for the orthodox dogmas of Christian belief. In such a situation, an Arian must be affirmed as a brother in Christ, for there is no basis from which to overturn what will be an extremely "biblical" argument about the creatureliness of Christ and his ontological subordination to the Father. Therefore, with no basis from which to adjudicate that which is within and without the boundaries of the apostolic faith, you have essentially created a scenario in which orthodox belief is adjudicated solely by the subjectivities of your personal interpretive methodologies.

Ok, once again the term "apostolic tradition" is thrown around here. What are you basing that on? How do you determine apostolic tradition.

The apostolic tradition of the church is the unified testimony of Scripture and tradition which was passed down by the apostles to the bishops of the church, which tradition eventually became canonized in the corpus of Scripture and ecumenical creeds and councils of the ancient church.

Honestly, that sounds very Roman, given the context that you have put it in (ie. Scripture vs. apostolic tradition).

I have said nothing of Scripture "vs" apostolic tradition. My entire argument is that they are one in the same, the Scriptures being a part of the primal guiding tradition of the church which was delivered unto the following generations of believers by the apostles. As such, some of that which the apostles committed to paper was collected into the Scriptures of the church, and that which was not was preserved in the bishop's leadership and eventual codification of the ancient creeds and conciliar statements of the ecumenical church. The point, however, is that both Scripture and tradition are united, their union forming the apostolic tradition of the church. No bifurcation is present nor possible.

As to my comments sounding Catholic, they also sound Orthodox, the two traditions of the church which are from the most ancient of times. In each tradition is preserved portions of the apostolic tradition although it has, admittedly, been fragmented by the bifurcation of the ecumenical church in 1054.

How can you be sure the apostles taught and practiced infant baptism?

I can't. However, given that the earliest traditions of the ecumenical church (just over a generation removed from the apostles) practiced it, it would seem that either they quickly incorporated major theological and praxial innovations following the apostle's deaths, or (and more likely), they were merely carrying on a practice that had already been instituted by the apostles themselves. That is, just because the apostles did not write about it in the limited documents that we have from that period and from their pens does not mean that they did not practice this. Given that some of their closest followers and heirs DID practice it is strong evidence that they did, in fact, engage in such baptisms. At the end of the day, it is obviously an argument from silence in re: the Scriptural texts. However, if we look beyond the Scriptures to the operative apostolic tradition, the practice cannot be denied and can be reasonably located in or near the apostles' own teaching.

How can you be sure they actually taught it was salvific?

That the early church viewed baptism as salvific is without question. Therefore, the same conclusions as outlined above apply: either the heirs of the apostles quickly innovated on their teachings and incorporated wildly new practices and teachings that were alien to the apostles' own thought, or the generation following the apostles were merely carrying on that which they had learned from their teachers. The former would require the construction of a impossibly tenuous conspiracy theory in which thousands of Christians were either silenced or lied to in the face of theological and praxial innovation (not to mention that all of this was occurring in the midst of scattered, but often severe persecution). The latter, on the other hand, implies the obvious progression of knowledge and instruction delivered from master to the student, for apostle to bishop. Personally, I cannot see any scenario in which the former even resembles a reasonable position.

You must go outside of Scripture and call it "apostlolic tradition", which is exactly how Rome brings their people into every other heresy that comes into their apostate church.

Apostate based on what? Since you reject the apostolic tradition upon which the orthodox beliefs of the Christian church are based, you are left with nothing but the personal subjectivities of your individual interpretative paradigms. How can you apostatize the Roman church when you have concomitantly anathematized the only tradition upon which such determinations of orthodoxy could be made?

As to the last comment concerning problems from both sides. I would agree that we are fallible men, but then again so were they. So, should we all just get together around the church fathers and simply affirm their teachings? We would find that they had many differences as well. For instance with Origen, we might need to look deeper into the text for the deeper meaning:) But the truth of the matter is this: we must all give an account to the Lord for our handling of His Word and therefore we are commanded to study His Word for IT is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness so that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped FOR EVERY GOOD WORK. While church history is definitely valuable, only the Word of God thoruoghly equips for every good work, including a proper understanding and application of baptism.

Again, I am not advocating that the ECF's should be uncritically affirmed in all that they say. My entire point of appealing to their texts was that their collective voices testify unmistakably to a common, apostolic tradition concerning the efficacy of the sacraments. If one wishes to marginalize them on the basis of the vagrancies of individual interpretation of Scripture, that is one's perogative. However, if their united and ecumenical voices are disregarded, it is entirely difficult for me to see how Scripture can have any meaning for the church. After all, if the collective voice of 1600 years of historical theology can be silenced by the objections of the subjectivities of the individual interpreter, what is the point?

Tim said...

Wow! It seems you have far more time than I ED:) I appreciate the dialogue.

My point in the quotes were supposed to show the emphasis upon (ie. italics, which didn't show up very well:) the very parts where Marian doctrine are derived from. My point being this. It is also true that many of the fathers plaed a heavy emphasis upon Mary, not as largely as Rome, that either (1) they held to more than the church at large or (2) we might want to go with Rome on this one. After all, are we going to take apostolic tradition, which seems, at least in this particular doctrine to be against Scripture?

You said, "I am not saying that one should inculcate every word they say as infallible doctrinal propositions. Rather, my point is that their united stream of thought testifies to a common, apostolic tradition which suffused their understanding of faith and the Scriptures. In reading their works, it is obvious that they recognize a concomitant tradition at work in tandem with the Scriptures to secure the faith against its detractors. Moreover, given that they have delievered unto us the orthodox faith by which we adjudicate the Scriptures, it seems incumbent upon us---how are severed from the ancient, ecumenical tradition of the church---to recognize the reality of this tradition and allow it to shape how we approach the study of Scripture and the pursuit of our common faith. After all, as I have argued before, apart from this guiding, undergirding tradition, one is left the personal subjectivities of a billion interpreters. "

See this is the point. Were each of the men you are referring to in agreement on every single doctrine? Let's not be silly here. There were different interpretations then just as there are now. That's not something new to our time. It was going on then as well. I might ask the question, "How do you know the church was in the right against Arius? Because they appealed to apostolic tradition? Then how would you know the Council of Trent wasn't wrong in condemning the Protestants. They appealed to apostolic tradition. You may protest (pun intended:) and say, well they weren't interpreting the fathers accurately. How do you know that? Once again, there is a problem if we are going to lay tradition down alongside Scripture as authoritative.

BTW, when I spoke of Scripture vs. apostolic tradition, I meant to include alone (Scripture alone vs Scripture + apostolic tradition. Some who read this may wonder what the fuss is over. Both of us agree, at least I hope, that the Scriptures are infallible, but men are not (you have said as much earlier, for which I am grateful), so even in light of the apostle Paul's dealing with Peter (an apostle of the church) in Galatians 2 about not being straightforward about the gospel and the fact that in the book of Acts we see him with the Ephesian elders and he says that some will go astray, why in the world would I want to follow tradition when it is opposed to the infallible Scriptures? That's my contention here. If the apostle Peter could be led astray, what about those who came after him??


You asked what Rome's apostatizing was based upon? Sola Scriptura, not Scripture + tradition (that's Romanism, plain and simple). When they go after icons, the veneration of saints and images, the exaltation of Mary, the utter degradation of Christ in the Mass, the selling of indulgences, & condemning the very gospel of Jesus Christ and those who profess such, then yes my friend they are apostate. This is the difference. And if you are truly Protestant, then what are you protesting? What are you protesting against Rome about?


You said, "Again, I am not advocating that the ECF's should be uncritically affirmed in all that they say."

But ED, why not? After all you have said they were closest to the apostles. You stated that the men you quoted were only a generation after the apostles. You've seen our times. You know what can happen in a generation. Look at the rise of Dispensationalism. Do you think the early church held to that, and yet throughout America, the church is predominantly dispensational. The men you quoted came at least 2 generations later (Ireneaus) and the others much later.

My point is this: if you took a census of believers in our country today you would fnd out that they were predominantly dispensational. Would you then conclude that Chrstianity was dispensational? Likewise, just because a doctrine gains ground does not mean it is true. If the baptism doctrine of infants and the salvific efficacy is taught by anyone, then we should check it with the Scriptures. That my friend is what the Protestant Reformation was about: Sola Scriptura.

Exist~Dissolve said...

My point in the quotes were supposed to show the emphasis upon (ie. italics, which didn't show up very well:) the very parts where Marian doctrine are derived from. My point being this. It is also true that many of the fathers plaed a heavy emphasis upon Mary, not as largely as Rome, that either (1) they held to more than the church at large or (2) we might want to go with Rome on this one. After all, are we going to take apostolic tradition, which seems, at least in this particular doctrine to be against Scripture?

The early church was consistent and unified in Marian doctrine in as far as you have quoted them. They understood Mary as an instrumental source of salvation by virtue of her identity as Theotokos, Mother of God. As I'm sure you're aware, this term was borne out of an incredible controversy in the early centuries about the identity of Christ--is Mary simply "Christokos" mother of Christ, or Theotokos, Mother of God? Nestorious argued for the former because it was consistent with his understanding of the hybrid nature of Christ (which is a heretical position). The ecumenical strongly opposed him, however, arguing for the unity of divinity and humanity in Christ, allowing for the dissolution of neither nature within the one person of Christ. To preserve this understanding, the spoke of Mary as the Theotokos to drive home the point that Mary is not merely the mother of a divinized human, but rather that she--through the power of God--is Mother of very God Incarnate. While you may disagree with the later developments in Marian doctrine following the splintering of East and West, there is no denying that Marian doctrine played a drastically important role in the faith of the church from the earliest days, not merely as a peice of theological speculation, but rather as a tangible way of affirming the deity and Incarnation of God in the person of Christ. If one gets rid of the early teachings on Mary, one has removed a major methodology of establishing the doctrine of Christ as the God/man. Such can be seen in much of the fallout of Reformation tradition in modern scholarship.

See this is the point. Were each of the men you are referring to in agreement on every single doctrine?

No, but I am not talking about "every single doctrine." The focus of our discussion is the early church's understanding of the sacraments. As I have argued previously, they were in agreement on this, without exception.

Let's not be silly here. There were different interpretations then just as there are now. That's not something new to our time. It was going on then as well. I might ask the question, "How do you know the church was in the right against Arius? Because they appealed to apostolic tradition?

Yes, precisely. It was the apostolic tradition of the church that overcame the "biblical" arguments of the Arians, for the Arians had no "history" to appeal to in making their claims. If the argument would have been based on sola Scriptura, a conclusion could have never been reached. If you do not believe me, perhaps we could have a mock argument, on the basis of Scripture alone, about the deity of Christ. I will take the Arian side and illustrate the ultimate stalemate that will ensue.

Moreover, if you jettison the apostolic tradition upon which the condemnation of Arianism is based, how can you "know" that your interpretation---which proceeds in line with the determinations made at the early councils---is right? Ironically, your thinking is indebted and ultimately based upon the very tradition which you wish to ignore. Realistically, there is no way in which you can make an argument from sola Scriptura, for your interpretive lenses of Christ's divinity have been passed down to you from the very apostolic tradition which you decry.

Then how would you know the Council of Trent wasn't wrong in condemning the Protestants. They appealed to apostolic tradition. You may protest (pun intended:) and say, well they weren't interpreting the fathers accurately. How do you know that? Once again, there is a problem if we are going to lay tradition down alongside Scripture as authoritative.

I do not necessarily affirm the Council of Trent's decisions as apostolically authoritative. The Council's condemnations were not ecumenical; my argument is about the ecumenical tradition of the early, unified Church, not the deliberations of the splintered traditions which exist today.

But even still, I can turn the question back to you---how do you know the Council was wrong in condemning the Protestants? What is it based upon? Your personally subjective interpretation of Scripture? As I am privy to exactly the same source texts, upon what basis could you possibly say that your interpretation is more authoritative than mine or anyone else's?

BTW, when I spoke of Scripture vs. apostolic tradition, I meant to include alone (Scripture alone vs Scripture + apostolic tradition. Some who read this may wonder what the fuss is over. Both of us agree, at least I hope, that the Scriptures are infallible, but men are not (you have said as much earlier, for which I am grateful), so even in light of the apostle Paul's dealing with Peter (an apostle of the church) in Galatians 2 about not being straightforward about the gospel and the fact that in the book of Acts we see him with the Ephesian elders and he says that some will go astray, why in the world would I want to follow tradition when it is opposed to the infallible Scriptures? That's my contention here. If the apostle Peter could be led astray, what about those who came after him??

I do not hold to the infallibility of Scripture. It is not that I believe them to be "fallible," but rather I do not think that "fallibility" and "infallibility" are legitimate categories to impose upon Scripture. Besides, even if one posits that the Scriptures are "infallible," the issue still remains of the personal subjectivities of interpretation, which would categorically render fallibility or infallibility moot issues. I have not argued that the apostolic tradition of the Church is perfect, even as the interpetation of Scripture is never perfect. However, perfection has nothing to do with it. Christians are subject to the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition of the Church not because either are objectively and ascertainably "flawless," but rather because they encapsulate the teachings of Christ and of the apostles who learned from Christ. Just as we must have faith that the apostles were truthful in what they wrote and taught, so we must have faith that their heirs were dilligent in preserving what they had been subsequently taught. Again, if we cannot trust them, why should we trust the Scriptures, given that the heirs of the apostles were also the ones who collected, preserved and codified the apostles writings into the Scriptures that we now have? If they cannot be trusted and if we must conclude that they are not authoritative in their representations of the apostles' teaching, then the entire basis for affirming the authority of the Scriptures is undermined.

You asked what Rome's apostatizing was based upon? Sola Scriptura, not Scripture + tradition (that's Romanism, plain and simple). When they go after icons, the veneration of saints and images, the exaltation of Mary, the utter degradation of Christ in the Mass, the selling of indulgences, & condemning the very gospel of Jesus Christ and those who profess such, then yes my friend they are apostate. This is the difference.

No one denies (not even the Catholic Church) that serious errors and abuses have occurred in the history of the church. Examples such as the selling of indulgences were not accepted by all Catholics and has been set aside since the Reformation. As to iconology and the veneration of saints, this is again an example to which I will point of the unity of witness from the earliest of times. While you may not agree with these, writings from the earliest centuries testify to the legitimacy and value of these practices and ideas. You may see them as "anti-biblical;" however, the ecumenical church throughout history has not, so the onus is upon you---not them---to make a case from your historically-distanced position. As you will not find a tradition to appeal to that stretches back much father than 500 years, I assure you that you will have a difficult time making a reasonable case that does not eventually terminate in anathematizing well over 1500 years of Christian history.

As to the issue of persecution of Protestants, again that is an isolated incident that does not meaningfully intersect the history that we have talking about (not to mention that the so-called "Reformers" were just as brutal in their persecutions...30 years war, anyone?). And concerning the Mass, you will have to expound a bit more on that, as I do not entirely know what you are getting at.

And if you are truly Protestant, then what are you protesting? What are you protesting against Rome about?

Nothing. I do not see anything in Catholicism nor Orthodoxy to protest against. The abuses against which the Reformers protested (and many Catholics of the Reformation era, for that matter) were dealt with within Catholic tradition.

But ED, why not? After all you have said they were closest to the apostles. You stated that the men you quoted were only a generation after the apostles. You've seen our times. You know what can happen in a generation. Look at the rise of Dispensationalism. Do you think the early church held to that, and yet throughout America, the church is predominantly dispensational. The men you quoted came at least 2 generations later (Ireneaus) and the others much later.

What you are ignoring is the fundamental difference between the earliest centuries and today. In the earliest centuries, the ecumenical church was united in its orthodoxy, even in spite of regional/political/culutural differences. They all appealed to a common tradition and saw themselves as a united church. Today's splinitered Christianity in America is no such thing. The Church has been bifurcated into a million independent bodies, each of which feels that it is "true" tradition of the church.

Moreover, if the majority of voices in America espoused dispensationalism, I would, in fact, surmise that the predominant eschatological understanding of the church in America is dispensationalism. However, such a determination would be entirely different than considerations of the early church, for unlike them, the tradition in America is not united nor ecumenical, and any phenomenological correspondence in doctrine would be just that.

My point is this: if you took a census of believers in our country today you would fnd out that they were predominantly dispensational. Would you then conclude that Chrstianity was dispensational? Likewise, just because a doctrine gains ground does not mean it is true. If the baptism doctrine of infants and the salvific efficacy is taught by anyone, then we should check it with the Scriptures. That my friendis what the Protestant Reformation was about: Sola Scriptura.

As I said before, I would conclude that Christianity in America was dispensational given these factors. However, as I would also take note of the fact that few of the traditions in question would understand themselves as ecumenically related to historic Christian theology, I would also not make much of this determination. After all, if the traditions themselves do not see themselves as united, why should I think that they somehow espouse in their individual assertions the ecumenical understanding of the historic Church?

But even still, your logic is self-defeating, for if the united witness of historic theology concerning the apostle's understanding of these things is not convincing to you, why should I be convinced about your assertions concerning your interpretation of Scripture which is ultimately mediated by the personal subjectivities of your presuppositional methodologies? You may assert that "Scripture alone" is authoritative; however, given that any interpretation of Scripture will be mediated by personal subjectivities; and as you have eschewed the usefulness and meaningfulness of the historic tradition of the ecumenical church; I can hardly see how you could possibly assert the authority of your interpretations of Scripture. After all, if sola Scriptura is the only criterion, what of my alternative interpretations that contradict yours? How will we adjudicate between the two? This is the primal question which you must answer.

Tim said...

ED,

I keep hearing personal sujectivities mentioned here. Let's boil it down to one thing. While you want to go to apostolic tradition, without citing verses in their context to promote the fact that we should do what you are saying, the Scripture alone perspective suggests that we not use personal subjectivity, but rather take the "ecumenical" eyewitness of the apostles THEMSELVES. Surely they knew better than someone 2, 3 ,4 or 5 generations down the road what they were teaching. Therefore, when we come to the text of Scripture, we must realize that there were different writers with just one author, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you are making an argument against me that you cannot uphold either. You must determine that all those that you promote on this issue stood upon apostolic doctrine (ie. Scripture, because there is nowhere else where we can verify their teaching if it isn't contained in Scripture). So you must be subjective in interpreting those "ecumenical church councils" in order to understand what they are saying right? Right.

I am saying that when we interpret the Bible, we must do so in such a way as to see the harmony of the writers together. If we go wrong there, then surely we will be wrong in our conclusions. It seems to me that on this issue, these men were wrong because they saw the harmony of the covenants, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME failing to see the distinction of the new covenant and the old covenant. What do I base that on? Gal. 2-4, Eph. 2-3, the book of Hebrews. I do not go to "apostolic tradition" outside of the Scriptures.

As for Rome dealing with indulgences and it not going on anymore, that's a nice try. Mass cards are purchased daily. Pilgrimages still take place. Money is still offered to deliver souls from purgatory. Vatican II did absolutely nothing. Nor can it reverse the doctrines of the Roman church for they are "infallible".

The Scriptures are infallible. They and they alone can and do lead to a true understanding of God, man, sin, ordinances, covenants, and the gospel.

As for this section:
And if you are truly Protestant, then what are you protesting? What are you protesting against Rome about?

Nothing. I do not see anything in Catholicism nor Orthodoxy to protest against. The abuses against which the Reformers protested (and many Catholics of the Reformation era, for that matter) were dealt with within Catholic tradition.


Then you are not a protestant my friend.

Second I didn't point to atrocities and persecutions by the RCC. For I fully realize there was some error of that nature on the Reformers side as well. That's why I didn't go there:) But I realize that when I look at both sides, that I must evaluate whether or not they were right.......not by "tradition", but by Scripture and by Scripture Alone.

Tim said...

ED,

One last thing. Maybe this will help in evaluating your position. Your presupposition is that since these men were closer to the time of the apostles, albeit 2 generations or more, that their traditions were apostolic, at least concerning baptism and yet I have not seen you defend that tradition from Scripture. Subsequently, I have heard the arguments for baptismal regeneration, and paedo baptism and can see that they are not consistent between all the writers of the New Testament. Therefore, are you suggesting that I am just not getting it and that I should go outside of Scripture to help me in my waywardness? Many cults may find that appealing and so do apostate churches such as the Church of Christ and Rome, but if I understand Christ correctly, He did not hold people accountable to traditions, but to every jot and tittle of the Words God had spoken through the mouths of Moses, and the prophets. So, too, are we to be held accountable, not by traditions of men, but by every word of God.

Therefore, my conclusion, from what I understand you to be saying is that men cannot know what the truth is regarding the nature of baptism, unless they study the vast amounts of writing of men from the early part of church history, not from the Word of God, which claims that IT, not "tradition" is:

"is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Notice the Word of God (Scripture) is given for doctrine (this includes baptism) and that it makes the man of God complete..........and thorughly equipped for every good work. Nothing in this passage is mentioned about "apostolic tradition" in regards to doctrine, BUT the Scriptures are given for that specific task.

If we are to conclude what you are suggesting, then let's get rid of our Bibles and read the early church fathers only. Not only that, since reading them opens us up for interpretations, because I may not interpret them correctly either, let's just vote on a new pope and "hope" that he'll get things right for us.

All of this not only sounds Roman, it also sounds very emergent as well. Though I do appreciate your candor here, I think you fail to see your own presuppositions in this matter and how they are doomed to circular arguments.

As far as the Arian controversy, if Scripture doesn't affirm the diety of Christ and His humanity, then I would never hear the arguments from tradition. Scripture is clear on both. Only those who not guided by the Spirit of God would not see who the person of Christ is. Lest anyone misunderstand, Jesus was clear when He said "I AM". He clearly defined Himself as the I AM of the Old Testament and the New Testament writers clearly defined Him as the Creator who was manifested in the flesh. That is not confusing, except for those who will not submit to the God of the Bible.

Exist~Dissolve said...

I keep hearing personal sujectivities mentioned here. Let's boil it down to one thing. While you want to go to apostolic tradition, without citing verses in their context to promote the fact that we should do what you are saying, the Scripture alone perspective suggests that we not use personal subjectivity, but rather take the "ecumenical" eyewitness of the apostles THEMSELVES.

This is a strawman--the Scriptures will always require interpretation, which brings us back to the hegemony of personal subjectivity which I have been talking about. Moreover, when the act of interpretation is divorced entirely (as sola Scriptura does) from the stream of the apostolic tradition and the tradition of interpretation involved therein, upon what basis can one speak authoritatively about the interpretation? The point is that you cannot, for one will inevitably be espousing nothing the hegemony of interpretive methodoloy which one has utilized in the subjective act of interpretation. While the ancient interpreters were by no means immune from this, my entire point is that their collective witness and unified tradition of interpretation concerning the essentials of faith provides the only authoritative basis for taking a stand one way or the other in terms of the Scriptures. Apart from this tradition, one is left with one's own individual, atomized interpretation and the force of assertion which is made concerning the legitimacy of meaning is entirely circular and self-legitimating.

Surely they knew better than someone 2, 3 ,4 or 5 generations down the road what they were teaching.

Obviously, but this has nothing to do with my point. I am not saying that the individual interpreters are infallible. What I am saying is that the apostolic tradition to which they all appeal is the authority by which the interpretation of Scripture is given life and force in the faith and belief of the body of Christ, as this very apostolic tradition is not only the impetus for the Scriptures, but the very means of its composition as well.

Therefore, when we come to the text of Scripture, we must realize that there were different writers with just one author, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you are making an argument against me that you cannot uphold either.

Which is what? You are the one upon whom the onus falls to substantiate that your isolated interpretation which is bifurcated from the stream of historic, apostolic thought is legitimate. In this sense, you are the one who must uphold it, and all that you have offered thus far is a circular, self-legitimating argument which begins by positing (upon the force of one's own assertion) that the Scriptures are alone the authority for the believer, and then proceed to find the supposition coded into the text which you subsequently claim as authoritative! Moreover, you reject the authority of apostolic tradition, all the while not realizing (or ignoring, to the detriment of your argument) that it was upon the authority of this tradition that these Scriptures were delivered unto you! It is like saying that a tree is legitimate while concomitantly denying the existence of the seed from which it sprung, or like lauding the locomotion of an automobile as the exclusive reality while synchronomously denying the gasoline from which the locomotion is derived.

You must determine that all those that you promote on this issue stood upon apostolic doctrine (ie. Scripture, because there is nowhere else where we can verify their teaching if it isn't contained in Scripture).

This parenthentical statement of yours is the primary problem and fatal flaw of your argument. Obviously, if one begins with the presuppostion that Scripture alone is meaningful for faith and belief, then one must necessarily conclude as you have. However, as the history of the Christian faith clearly reveals that the apostolic tradition produced the Scriptures, your assumption is patently false and cannot reasonably account for either the force and authority of ecumenical, historical theology (to which you must, ironically, ultimately appeal for the very existence and codification of the Scriptures) which supposed no such bifurcation between the apostolic tradition of the Church and the Scriptures which were a part of it.

So you must be subjective in interpreting those "ecumenical church councils" in order to understand what they are saying right? Right.

I fail to see the point of this. Obviously, all evaluations of history while engage the subjectivity of the interpreter. However, as the ecumenical councils are the basis upon which the existence and the authority of Scripture is ultimately based (for without them, the canon would not have been codified into the form we have today...), your argument is aborted before it even begins, for the source of your authority is non-existent if you create the bifurcation which you presume exists between the apostolic tradition of the church and the Scriptures.

I am saying that when we interpret the Bible, we must do so in such a way as to see the harmony of the writers together.

I have asked this several times already, and you have dodged the answer every time. Upon what criterion would you determine that this, in fact, takes place?

If we go wrong there, then surely we will be wrong in our conclusions. It seems to me that on this issue, these men were wrong because they saw the harmony of the covenants, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME failing to see the distinction of the new covenant and the old covenant. What do I base that on? Gal. 2-4, Eph. 2-3, the book of Hebrews. I do not go to "apostolic tradition" outside of the Scriptures.

But that is your fundamental mistake. The apostolic is not "outside ofthe Scriptures." You are assuming a bifurcation between the two, when the earliest of Christians did not. Rather, as they assumed the Scriptures to be integrally related to the apostolic tradition, their understanding of the extra-biblical witnesses and authority did not garner the reprehensible character which you presume exists in that which is outside of the canon of Scripture.

As for Rome dealing with indulgences and it not going on anymore, that's a nice try. Mass cards are purchased daily. Pilgrimages still take place. Money is still offered to deliver souls from purgatory. Vatican II did absolutely nothing. Nor can it reverse the doctrines of the Roman church for they are "infallible".

I'm pretty sure that I didn't say it was erradicated (if I did, it was not intentional). The point of what I was saying is that the Catholic Church of history and the Catholic Church of today are not the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages which all interested parties---Catholic and otherwise---agreed needed reforming, just as the violent and nationalistic churches of Protestantism of that same period are not the Protestant church of today. Therefore, it is pointless to try to make "points" on the basis of mistakes made by various groups throughout history---no tradition is immune, not even the apostles themselves.

The Scriptures are infallible. They and they alone can and do lead to a true understanding of God, man, sin, ordinances, covenants, and the gospel.

Based upon what criterion? How are you to determine objectively that this is so? Sure, you can quote verses, but using the text that you believe to be infallible as a proof for their own infallibility is somewhat silly---that's the circular argument of which you wish to accuse me, even though you have not substantiated such.

Then you are not a protestant my friend.

I take it back. I am protesting Protestant groups that wish to live in the dark ages of polemics against the Catholics and who, in their fervency for "truth," do nothing but foster the divisions and strifes which have ripped apart Christianity throughout history.

One last thing. Maybe this will help in evaluating your position. Your presupposition is that since these men were closer to the time of the apostles, albeit 2 generations or more, that their traditions were apostolic, at least concerning baptism and yet I have not seen you defend that tradition from Scripture.

As to the number of generations, one could reasonably put it to 1, not 2, but that is not material to my argument.

As to your last sentence, I have no idea what you wish from me. My entire argument is that within the apostolic tradition is a tradition that, while not explicitly stated in the extremely limited corpus of apostolic writing that we today possess, carries on the teachings of the apostles that is not recorded in Scriptures. As we only have a few letters from some of the apostles, it must be recognized that the apostles taught more than they recorded. Therefore, my thesis is, and has been, that the apostolic tradition to which the later generations appeal and which is explicated in their writings is that which was passed down through the apostles to those who were subsequently entrusted with the apostles' teachings. Obviously, just as we must trust what the apostles said, so we must trust those to whom the apostles entrusted the teachings of Christ and the ordinances of the Church.

A perfect example is doctrine of the Trinity. There is no way in which one can explicate the orthodox definitions purely from Scripture alone--anyone who says they can is lying, or naively ignoring the effect that knowledge of the orthodox tradition has had upon their interpretation of Scripture. So how did the fathers come to this definition and why is it now authoritiative in all Christian traditions, even in those which, ironically, deny the legitimacy of the tradition upon which the same is built? Obviously, the Scriptures played a tremendous role. However, the fuller, more robust tradition of the Trinity came from outside the codex of Scripture, yet from within the broader apostolic tradition preserved within the succession of bishops of the Church. In this sense, the doctrine of the Trinity is a wholly SCriptural belief even though the fullness of its thinking was derived from technically extra-biblical sources. However, even the term "extra-biblical" is a misnomer, as those who appealed to the apostolic tradition would not make such a distinction.

Subsequently, I have heard the arguments for baptismal regeneration, and paedo baptism and can see that they are not consistent between all the writers of the New Testament. Therefore, are you suggesting that I am just not getting it and that I should go outside of Scripture to help me in my waywardness?

I wouldn't even suggest that the former is "outside" of Scripture. Paul clearly affirms that Christians are "buried and raised" with Christ in baptism. Most Protestants will balk that this is speaking of BR, but the most straight-forward reading of the text (IMO) would seem to confirm the early church's teaching.

As to paedo-baptism, there is obviously no direct biblical notation. However, the meaningfulness and restrictiveness of this will depend upon how seriously the meaningfulness of the apostolic is assumed by the interpreter.

Many cults may find that appealing and so do apostate churches such as the Church of Christ and Rome, but if I understand Christ correctly, He did not hold people accountable to traditions, but to every jot and tittle of the Words God had spoken through the mouths of Moses, and the prophets. So, too, are we to be held accountable, not by traditions of men, but by every word of God.

Historically, most heresies of the Christian church were those which, ironically enough for your argument, were based on sola Scriptura. I have already spoken of the Arians and their appeals to the texts of Scripture. As to Christ's teaching, he did, in fact, advocate the authority of tradition, for he entrusted his apostles to carry on his work and teachings. This is obviously a very serious tradition, the one upon which the Christian church is established and continues to exist today.

Therefore, my conclusion, from what I understand you to be saying is that men cannot know what the truth is regarding the nature of baptism, unless they study the vast amounts of writing of men from the early part of church history, not from the Word of God, which claims that IT, not "tradition" is:

"is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."


I have not claimed that one must study intensively every writing from the early church--this is pretty weak attempt as mischaracterization. All that I have said is that appealing to the ecumenical tradition of the church which is based upon the promulgated tradition of the apostles is a better place to begin than the subjective interpretive methodologies of someone removed two millenia from the culture, language and meanings which gave rise to the Scriptures from which one is attempting to ascertain the truth.

Notice the Word of God (Scripture) is given for doctrine (this includes baptism) and that it makes the man of God complete..........and thorughly equipped for every good work. Nothing in this passage is mentioned about "apostolic tradition" in regards to doctrine, BUT the Scriptures are given for that specific task.

Sure, but there is nothing in this passage to exclude it, either. Moreover, considering that the apostles established churches and mentored leaders to take their place, it is, IMO, incredibly naive to think that they would not wish their pupils to also propogate the traditions which they delievered that they either did not record in letters, or which were not preserved by the church. Just as Aristotle's tutorship was composed of more than Plato's corpus of literature, so the apostles' followers instruction contained more than the extremely limited amount of instruction contained within the corpus of the NT.

If we are to conclude what you are suggesting, then let's get rid of our Bibles and read the early church fathers only. Not only that, since reading them opens us up for interpretations, because I may not interpret them correctly either, let's just vote on a new pope and "hope" that he'll get things right for us.

No offense, but this is absurd. You are clearly not taking what is being said seriously, for I have in no way denigrated the value or importance of the Scriptures to the tradition of faith within the Christian Church.

That being said, one new pope would be better than the billion which your position necessarily creates.

All of this not only sounds Roman, it also sounds very emergent as well.

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take that. You must understand that as I do not share the same (and I believe errant) assumptions about the bifurcation of Scripture and tradition, sounding "Roman" is not an insult to me. As to your reference to the emergent movement, you will have to expound upon that as I do not see how that connects in a meaningful way to what I am advocating.

Though I do appreciate your candor here, I think you fail to see your own presuppositions in this matter and how they are doomed to circular arguments.

As I have shown, yours is also doomed to the same fate. As you reject the apostolic tradition upon which the canon and codification of the Scriptures is based, you subsequently reject the very authority of them. After all, if the tradition of the early Church, apart from the Scriptures, is errant, how can the Scriptures be a source of authority when their deliverance unto you is based upon the "false" authority of this same tradition?!?

As far as the Arian controversy, if Scripture doesn't affirm the diety of Christ and His humanity, then I would never hear the arguments from tradition. Scripture is clear on both.

Oh really? I will renew my suggestion about a mock argument from "scripture alone." I will show you very clearly why the fathers appealed to the larger tradition, and then perhaps you will realize where you are mistaken.

Only those who not guided by the Spirit of God would not see who the person of Christ is. Lest anyone misunderstand, Jesus was clear when He said "I AM". He clearly defined Himself as the I AM of the Old Testament and the New Testament writers clearly defined Him as the Creator who was manifested in the flesh. That is not confusing, except for those who will not submit to the God of the Bible.

I was waiting for you to say this, for my experience has been that the final resort of the sola Scriptura advocate is to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Okay, so I will appeal to the same source. Now which of us has the correct interpretation?

Tim said...

ED,

You write way too much for me to read:)

I will write much less in between: only two paragraphs in this post. First, to your last claim and question. You have failed to provide and interpretation of Scripture, so I don't even know where to begin. And as far as the canon being delivered to me form the council.... While this is true historically, was there a canon before that council? Did the church not have a closed canon centuries before it was declared in an ecumenical council? I believe they did. Men in a council just affirmed what the church recognized for centuries as Scripture.

Just to be clear, I believe in apostolic tradition. However, I based that on the teachings of the apostles, not necessarily what someone taught years later on a subject that I do not agree that they upheld biblically. How hard is that to understand?

Tim said...

BTW, I checked out your website and was wondering what those church fathers would say concerning your interpretation of Genesis 1 and the whole male female comparison to the image of God? I'm just betting that they probably wouldn't agree with you:)

Exist~Dissolve said...

First, to your last claim and question. You have failed to provide and interpretation of Scripture, so I don't even know where to begin.

Okay, let's take the Arianism issue. Let's say that you come to the conclusion that Christ is divine, and I that Christ is "created" by God, and both of these answers from the "Scriptures alone." After we amass our prooftexts against one another, what is to be the determiner of who has the correct interpretation? As I have pointed out now numerous times, the Arian position was not inevitably overcome by a exclusively Scriptural argument, but rather through an appeal to the broader Christian tradition behind it. Hypothetically, then, how will you overcome the same argument without this tradition, if the Scriptures themselves are sufficient to adjudicate orthodox doctrine?

And as far as the canon being delivered to me form the council.... While this is true historically, was there a canon before that council? Did the church not have a closed canon centuries before it was declared in an ecumenical council? I believe they did. Men in a council just affirmed what the church recognized for centuries as Scripture.

That's not entirely true. While there was a certainly a "proto-canon" in circulation from an early date (probably the mid-2nd century), the final form of the NT--especially some of the Petrine literature--was strongly disputed well into the 4th century. So while there was definitely, in the councils, and affirmation of a common tradition, this affirmation was far more than just a "nod" of approval; rather, it was an authoritative, ecumenical decree that effectively determined the final shape of the canon of Scripture and closed it permanently. Therefore, it is upon the authority of these councils that you and I even have the Scriptures in the first place. In light of that self-evident reality, I have a hard time conceptualizing how you can continue to make such claims about the exclusivity of its authority. That is, until you deal perspicuously with this primal question (and up to this point you have not), yours is an uncritical and ultimately circular and self-justifying hermeneutic of authority.

Just to be clear, I believe in apostolic tradition. However, I based that on the teachings of the apostles, not necessarily what someone taught years later on a subject that I do not agree that they upheld biblically. How hard is that to understand?

It's not hard for me to understand. What is hard for me to understand is how you can blatantly ignore the continued tradition of the apostles in the history of the Church, a tradition which delivered unto you and me the very Scriptures which oare the focus of our discussion.

Exist~Dissolve said...

BTW, I checked out your website and was wondering what those church fathers would say concerning your interpretation of Genesis 1 and the whole male female comparison to the image of God? I'm just betting that they probably wouldn't agree with you:)

The Scriptures are where God's image in located in both male and female; surely you must recognize that. As to the use of the feminine in relation to the divine nature of God, there is a rich tradition of thinking along these lines in the historical theology of the Church, specifically among the mystics and in relation to the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, as God does not have male body parts, but, as the Scriptures say, is "spirit," I hardly see any necessity of using exclusively masculine pronouns for God. After all, if male and female both reflect the image of God, it is apparent that God not only transcends, but also encapsulates the masculine and feminine in the eternal nature of God whereby the differentiation in the two might be simultaneously representative and "imaging" of God's nature.

Tim said...

Ok ED,

Up until the last post I have written and you have written. Point is this: We both are coming to different conclusions. I must trust that God will bring us both to submission to what is authoritative. Your argument seems to bear as much weight with me as mine with yours:)

Isn't this the same issue that we have with what you are claiming the Arian controversy surrounded? Proof texting is not necessary. Please you must understand that the Scriputres teach both natures. Isn't that obvious? Obviously not for the Arians:)
In fact it seems that the reason for the council at Chalcedon was to clear up the Scriptural teaching for both the divine and human natures. OK, I pointed out a council actually taking into account that Scripture taught both:)

However, is the fact that a church council said it what determined my conclusion? Absolutely not. I came to the conclusion by reading the Scriptures. I did not discover it through the means you are proposing. If you did, then fine, but don't push that upon others who have discovered it in the Scriptures. Likewise, there are those who post things against Calvinism. But I didn't learn what is called Calvinism from Calvin or the Reformers but from the Scriptures.

You said, "That's not entirely true. While there was a certainly a "proto-canon" in circulation from an early date (probably the mid-2nd century), the final form of the NT--especially some of the Petrine literature--was strongly disputed well into the 4th century. "

Actually most believing scholars would date the earliest manuscripts of Scripture during the first century and quite a few would put them all before 70 AD. Therefore, I would submit that when the Scriptures were written, the church had the complete canon, not a proto-canon.

You keep suggesting I am not answering the question. So, for your next post, would you please ask a specific question, so that I may answer it to the best of my ability. Sure, you may not be satisfied with it, but I will attempt to answer it.

As for the response to Gen. 1, I figured you would go with the mystics and I can see why people point to you as gnostic and such. Since you are free to go with the feminine for God, why do the Scriptures not go with the feminine for God? See? Once again, you presume too much from something and someone outside of Scripture, rather than Scripture itself. You have followed your own musings in a path that seems right, but you have dishonored God in the process. I understand that He is Spirit and does not possess a body. However, we must determine what "the image of God is". And where are we to find this definition? In Scripture.

BTW, I am curious in noting some of your other sites if you believe the phrase you posted on one of them: God became man so that men can become God.

The White Family said...

First there is a difference between the covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant God made with the nation of Israel at Sinai (the Old covenant).

OK, I agree with this difference...BUT (you knew that was coming, huh?), isn't it interesting how the CT at Sinai, God specifically began by mentioning the CT with Abraham, and because of these promises He brought them out of Egpypt?

Tim said...

Yes it is Nathan. But, (you knew that was coming:) He specifically mentioned that concerning those of Abraham's descendants who would go into captivity for 400 years and then be brought back. This, I have no problem with at all. I guess maybe once we look over into Galatians we see the distinctions of the Abrahamic and Old covenants.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Isn't this the same issue that we have with what you are claiming the Arian controversy surrounded? Proof texting is not necessary. Please you must understand that the Scriputres teach both natures.

Okay...but how can you seriously come to the orthodox definition of the hypostatic union of Christ based only the texts of Scripture? And how are you going to, from the Scriptures, properly relate these natures to one another while avoiding errors such as Apollonarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, etc? Not to mention, how you plan on yet overcoming the Arian who will argue just as vociferously about the created-ness of Christ's divine nature?

The point is that you will not be able to. If it could be done, the councils would not have been necessary. After all, the heretics did not preach what they did out of depraved motives to explicitly distort the faith. Rather, they were following what they interpreted the Scriptures to say. The problem was, however, that they insisted on doing this apart from the guidance of the apostolic tradition which not only produced the Scriptures originally, but moreover preserved its proper interpretation and application.

Again, even though you claim that you can come to these orthodox determinations concerning Christ's nature, relationship to God, etc. from Scripture alone, you have yet to do it, nor are you willing to take up the challenge I have raised to recreate the Arian debate.

Isn't that obvious? Obviously not for the Arians:)

Yes, exactly, because they were convinced that their interpretation of "Scripture alone" was correct. Given your criterion for determining proper doctrine and belief, it is difficult to see why they should hvae been anathematized.

In fact it seems that the reason for the council at Chalcedon was to clear up the Scriptural teaching for both the divine and human natures. OK, I pointed out a council actually taking into account that Scripture taught both:)

Yes, exactly. But you see, the fact that the interpretation needed to be "cleared up" only establishes my point. If atomized interpertation of Scripture is sufficient, there should have been no need to clear anything up. But obviously, it was not sufficient, primarily because of the issues of interpretation that I have outlined ad naseaum now.

However, is the fact that a church council said it what determined my conclusion? Absolutely not. I came to the conclusion by reading the Scriptures.

That is patently false. Again, I would challenge you to the recreation of the Arian discussion in order to establish what I have been saying. Apart from the councils precise definitions, and the larger apostolic tradition behind the same, you would be incredibly hard pressed to arrive at the same orthodox defintions simpy by virtue of your interpretation of Scripure. Again, the Arian controversy---as well as all other Christian heresies---makes this point painfully self-evident.

This is why, interestinly enough, the chatechism has always been crucial to the stablity of the church, for if people are not instructed in the traditional faith of the church, they will make the Scriptures say anything and everything that they want them to say.

I did not discover it through the means you are proposing.

So you were never taught about the dual nature of Christ, or the nature of the Trinity, or any other points of christian dogma? Rather, you came to the exact same definitions of the ecumenical councils through a personal interpretation of Scripture within a vaccuum of any other instruction? That is obviously not true, and you are anachronistically applying the knowledge you have gained of these things to your presuppositions about the exclusivity of the authority of Scripture.

If you did, then fine, but don't push that upon others who have discovered it in the Scriptures. Likewise, there are those who post things against Calvinism. But I didn't learn what is called Calvinism from Calvin or the Reformers but from the Scriptures.

This, again, is a patently false statement.

Actually most believing scholars would date the earliest manuscripts of Scripture during the first century and quite a few would put them all before 70 AD. Therefore, I would submit that when the Scriptures were written, the church had the complete canon, not a proto-canon.

The date of authorship has nothing to do with my dating of the proto-canon, for even if all of the books were finished by 70 AD (which I wouldn't agree with anyway, but is still immaterial to my argument), the nature of a "canon" is that it is recognized, solidified whole. Therefore, when I speak of a "proto-canon," my meaning is of a collection of books recognized as authoritative that do not contain all of the books of the finalized canon. So again, even though this proto-canon probably did exist by the middle of the second century, it is without dispute that many of the remaining books (again, especially some of the Petrine literature) were not universally recognized by many of the bishoprics, the last of the current canon not being affirmed as authoritative until late in the 4th century. One is then faced with a situation in which the canon of Scripture is quite nebulous and fluid for well over 300 years within the Christian tradition.
You keep suggesting I am not answering the question. So, for your next post, would you please ask a specific question, so that I may answer it to the best of my ability. Sure, you may not be satisfied with it, but I will attempt to answer it.

My question to you, then, is how you can make claims about the exclusivity of the authority of the Scriptures when it was the authority of the apostolic tradition that finalized the eventual form and content of the that which you claim is exclusively authoritative?

As for the response to Gen. 1, I figured you would go with the mystics and I can see why people point to you as gnostic and such.

?? I have no idea what the mystic tradition has to do with gnosticism. LoL, have you been talking to gojira?

Since you are free to go with the feminine for God, why do the Scriptures not go with the feminine for God?

Sure they do. The wisdom literature, which equates "Wisdom" with the nature of God, is frequently cast in the feminine. The Psalms frequently speak of being sheltered "in the wings" of God, an obvious allusion to the care of mother birds to their chicks. Moreover, there are numerous points within the prophetic literature in which the relationship of God and Israel is characterized as the relatioship between mother and offspring. And let's not forget Jesus' lament over Jerusalem in which he longs to gather the people as a hen gathers "her" chicks.

So we see there is a clear and obvious recognition of the feminine within God, even in the face of the patriarchialism of the writers of both Testaments.

See? Once again, you presume too much from something and someone outside of Scripture, rather than Scripture itself. You have followed your own musings in a path that seems right, but you have dishonored God in the process.

How would you determine that I have dishonored God? The original post to which you refered was an interpretation of Scripture--I appealed to it as the primary source, and only referenced others as a means of fleshing out my post. Since the Scriptures---according to you---are the only authority for truth, upon what criterion can you determine that I have dishonored God? Why is you interpretation more valid than mine?

I understand that He is Spirit and does not possess a body. However, we must determine what "the image of God is". And where are we to find this definition? In Scripture.

But I did exactly this thing! I showed from Scripture that the image of God is revealed in both the masculine and feminine, being located exclusively in neither, but rather being fully revealed in the actualization of both. Yet again, the inconsistency and untenability of your position is revealed, for even if I appeal to Scripture---which you surmise is the only source of authority for right belief---you say that I have interpreted it incorrectly! However, as the Scriptures themselves, in your view, are the only basis for determining a correct interpretation, there is no way for you to accuse me of a false interpretation, for you have no other authority besides your own personal opinions from which to critique what I have interpreted.

BTW, I am curious in noting some of your other sites if you believe the phrase you posted on one of them: God became man so that men can become God.

Yes, of course I believe it. The hope of humanity, and the reason for the Incarnation, is that we might recreated and restored in the image of Christ, that we might, through his resurrection, become in grace what Christ is in nature.

Tim said...

ED,

It's obvious that if I take your reasoning that I am a slave of the church fathers. End of story. However, both of us present our views and neither is willing to give in. I simply rest on what God has said in His Word. I have not denied that men can be helpful, but I do not look to them as authoritative. You do. You have affirmed that icons, veneratin of saints and images, and the Roman Church are not apostate. By doing so you have affirmed this based on..........biblical interpretation??? NO. Your version of apostolic tradition. You have apostatized and don't even know it. If you believe that the above things are ok, then you my friend have erected idols in the place of Christ.

I cannot discuss anything with someone who is going to call my statements concerning how I came to understand the doctrine of the Trinity or the concept known as Calvinism a lie. I simply will not do it. Maybe you have had the fathers words so that you know how I came to understand those things. But, in reality you don't.

As far as your canon argument goes and in answer to your question:

I go about it the same way the church went about it. Did the church have an authority in the beginning? I believe it did. Concerning at least the apostle Paul, Peter wrote and said as much that he wrote Scripture. Surely the other writings were accepted as well. While I believe you are correct that there were some who did not accept them and wanted to include even others. Ultimately te writings of the New Testament were embraced as authoritative by God's people.


As for the feminine comments, especially the one where Jesus uses a reference to a hen and then you promote that as though God is somehow feminine, I find absolutely sad. You have the audacity to actually say that it is "clear" and "obvious" recognition of God. Anyone reading that will immediately see how far off base you are.

The dishonoring God part I have cited above. I believe you might have actually appealed to Scripture one time during our entire dialogue. Also, as to your last comment, it is greatly dishonoring to God. If you cannot see the tremendous difference between the nature of the creature and the nature of the Creator and that we were not, nor was man ever the nature of God, then Yes you sinning a great sin and are in need of true repentance. You think yourself to be on the way to Godhood and yet claim Christianity. One day, there will be a rude awakening on the horizon for you when you face the one true living God. Want to know if I can distinguish between those natures? Scripture Alone. God says,

"21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
from Isaiah 42.

You may say that when He said it that was true, but in the future little God's. That is patently false. If we are made truly in the image of Christ ED, then see what that is: An image is not what it reflects, it is a reflection, not a duplicate.

You are an intelligent young man. I give you credit. I actually had to look up some words you used:) But don't think that salvation is determined by what you know. Salvation comes as Jesus said,

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." John 17:3

In either case, we have gone way off topic. If you would like to post on my blog in the future, please try and stay on point.

Exist~Dissolve said...

It's obvious that if I take your reasoning that I am a slave of the church fathers.

I see absolutely no reason why that is a necessary conclusion. Nonetheless, I would propose that being a slave to the tradition of the historical church is better than being enslaved to the subjectivities of one's own interpretive methodology which must inevitably become a circular and self-justifying hermeneutic.

I simply rest on what God has said in His Word.

Well, at least on what you interpret that to be...

I have not denied that men can be helpful, but I do not look to them as authoritative. You do.

Not men, the tradition of the Christian Church, of which the Scriptures are clearly and indelibly a part.

You have affirmed that icons, veneratin of saints and images, and the Roman Church are not apostate. By doing so you have affirmed this based on..........biblical interpretation???

2000 years of Christian history has not anathematized these things. Why do you presume yourself and your infant tradition to be in a position to do so? You may disagree with it, but given that you have jettisoned the authority of Christian tradition in your preference for the authority of your own personal interpretive subjectivities, there is little reason to accept the anathemas that you would presume to issue, for they lack any weight beyond the baises of your own individual interpretations.

Your version of apostolic tradition.

True, but mine also has the backing of 2000 years of Christian history. While you may be comfortable with marginalizing and anathematizing all those who have come before (and upon which your very knowledge of Christian faith is based), I cannot and will not do that in preference for my own private, individuated interpretations of Scripture.

You have apostatized and don't even know it.

Based upon what criterion? Your intereptation of Scripture? Given that 2000 years of Christian history has accepted these as appropriate and vital to the Christian tradition, please forgive me if I don't find much in your verdict to take seriously. That you would presume to anathematize nearly the whole of Christian history for your own interpretation of Scripture is quite breath-taking.

If you believe that the above things are ok, then you my friend have erected idols in the place of Christ.

This is a straw-man, and you know it.

I cannot discuss anything with someone who is going to call my statements concerning how I came to understand the doctrine of the Trinity or the concept known as Calvinism a lie.

I didn't say it was a lie. I said that your statements were false in that they wrongly assumed an origin for your understanding of the Christian tradition. That you have been influenced apart from your private interpretation of Scripture is undeniable. Therefore, you have been influenced by some form of tradition, even though you would presume to deny it.

I go about it the same way the church went about it. Did the church have an authority in the beginning? I believe it did. Concerning at least the apostle Paul, Peter wrote and said as much that he wrote Scripture.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Did this description extend to all of Paul's writings? Did Peter understand his own writings this way?

Surely the other writings were accepted as well.

Sure, eventually and over time. However, that is not my point.

While I believe you are correct that there were some who did not accept them and wanted to include even others. Ultimately te writings of the New Testament were embraced as authoritative by God's people.

But the point you are missing is that the formation of the canon took place over CENTURIES and that the final determiniation was made by a council of bishops who obviously believed themselves to have the authority to make a definitive determination over the final and closed shape and content of the canon. If you reject the authority of apostolic tradition, you must ultimately reject the Scriptures themselves, for apart from the tradition and authority of tradition which gave final shape to the canon, the Scriptures--in the form in which they exist today--would probably not have coalesced as they did. Without this authoritative determination, there would have been a proliferation of a multitude of different canons, and different segments of Christianity would have held to different collections.

As for the feminine comments, especially the one where Jesus uses a reference to a hen and then you promote that as though God is somehow feminine, I find absolutely sad. You have the audacity to actually say that it is "clear" and "obvious" recognition of God. Anyone reading that will immediately see how far off base you are.

How is that? Besides, I am not saying that God is "feminine," just as I would not say that God is "masculine." As I said before, God both transcends and encapsulates human gender, so that concomitantly it is appropriate to say that God is spirit (and without the designation of human gender) as well as that human beings--as male AND female--both properly and completely "image" the divine.

It is interesting, though. You accuse me of not interacting with Scripture, yet when I do, you sluff it off as "obvious" distortions of Scripture. Perhaps you could actually show me how this is, for currently your non-interaction with my Scriptural appeal merely validates everything that I have said about the logical end of your methodology and appeal to the "authority" of Scripture (which turns out, in fact, to be merely your opinions about it).

The dishonoring God part I have cited above. I believe you might have actually appealed to Scripture one time during our entire dialogue.

Yes, and when I did, you disregarded it completely because you feel it is an "obvious" distortion. You have completely proven my point about the necessary end of your interpretive methodology.

Also, as to your last comment, it is greatly dishonoring to God. If you cannot see the tremendous difference between the nature of the creature and the nature of the Creator and that we were not, nor was man ever the nature of God, then Yes you sinning a great sin and are in need of true repentance. You think yourself to be on the way to Godhood and yet claim Christianity.

You obviously did not read what I wrote. I said that in Christ, we are made "by grace" into that which God is "by nature." That is, we do not become what God is in nature, but merely by grace. You mischaracterization would propose that I am saying that we become one in nature wiith God, which is clearly not what I have said.

One day, there will be a rude awakening on the horizon for you when you face the one true living God. Want to know if I can distinguish between those natures?

Apparently you cannot, because I have not advocated that we become one in nature with God. This is your distortion and complete mischaracterization of my position.

You may say that when He said it that was true, but in the future little God's. That is patently false. If we are made truly in the image of Christ ED, then see what that is: An image is not what it reflects, it is a reflection, not a duplicate.

I agree. Which is nothing more than I have said when I advocated that in Christ we become by grace what God is in nature. The fact that you cannot understand the difference, or refuse to see it does NOT mean that your patently misleading characterization of my position is accurate.

You are an intelligent young man. I give you credit. I actually had to look up some words you used:) But don't think that salvation is determined by what you know.

I'm not really sure what this has to do wiith anything, as I have not at any point advocated that salvation is merited by the intelligence of an individual or one's philosophical graspo of the nature of the divine.

Tim said...

I simply rest on what God has said in His Word.

Well, at least on what you interpret that to be...

And your interpretation of Gen. 1 would be?? (your interpretation or the fathers).

As for 2000 years of church history backing you concerning idolatry, veneration of saints and images and backing of the Roman Church as not being apostate I must confess that you cannot point to Scripture for those, unless you take them out of context.

See ED, the bottom line is this: You must interpret the fathers as well as interpret the Scriptures. Both of us are in the same boat. But since the Scriptures are God's Word and since men can and have erred, then I will simply stick to making my attempts at interpreting Scripture. After all, tell us, how do you know you are interpreting the fathers correctly? The circular arguing is going on from your position. You believe the Scriptures are authoritative only as long as the fathers say so. And how can we actually check them to see if they are telling the truth? Well your line of reasoning is that we can't because we can't interpret Scripture on our own. We must submit to what they have said.

You quoted Ireneaus before. Let's let readers examine this quote from Ireneaus. After all you say that he is one who got his "traditions" from the apostles. Now before I quote him, I do understand that you said the ECF had a collective voice, but upon what basis would you say that Ireneaus is wrong here, if you would say he is wrong?

"Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the statement. Whom then should we rather believe?"

Ireneaus asks a good question here. Should we believe him? Should we believe what he says John said, even though the gospel accounts put Jesus at around 33 when he was crucified? After all you have made the claim that such men as Ireneaus was closer to the time and he himself claims this is apostolic tradition. He goes even further in this quote to say that the Gospel is on his side in this area. Are you going to stand alongside such error?

I am assuming you will say "No". But the fallacy has been demonstrated. One who was closer to the apostles (in time) than you or I was in error and the only way to demonstrate that error is to go to the Scriptures themselves and if you honestly think that I cannot understand from the Scriptures alone, that Jesus was not 50 years old, then honestly, I have nothing more to say.

I do see your point about influence. However, influence did not bring me to the conclusion and unless you were actually here and know how much influence, especially in the area of Calvinism, of which I had only straw man influences, and those after I was already seeing those things in Scripture, then you have accused mean falsely.

You said, "Yes, and when I did, you disregarded it completely because you feel it is an "obvious" distortion. You have completely proven my point about the necessary end of your interpretive methodology."

Ok, now your putting words in my mouth concerning your use of Scripture. I quoted your use of "obvious", not mine.


BTW, what is the nature you describe when you speak of becoming like God? I am asking, because the quote doesn't say that "God became man so that men might partake of the divine nature". It says, "God became man so that man might become God".

Exist~Dissolve said...

I simply rest on what God has said in His Word.

And your interpretation thereof...

And your interpretation of Gen. 1 would be?? (your interpretation or the fathers).

First of all, I did not appeal to the church fathers in my post. I responded that there was a strong influence in historical theology along the lines of using the feminine to describe the ineffable nature of God, but I did not appeal to their writings to establish my point. Rather, I interpreted Scripture as I saw fit, and you have yet to respond to your objections to my conclusions based on Scripture. I find this interesting, as you have continually accused me of making unbiblical arguments, yet will not respond to the biblical arguments that I do make. As before, your refusal or inability to make a counter-Scriptural argument to mine only verifies in my mind the frailty upon which your interpretive methodology rests.

As for 2000 years of church history backing you concerning idolatry, veneration of saints and images and backing of the Roman Church as not being apostate I must confess that you cannot point to Scripture for those, unless you take them out of context.

That didn't answer the question about how you can presume to anathematize this history based upon your private interpretation of Scripture. Moreover, will not someone come along using your exact same methodology (sola Scriptura) and anathematize you? How will you respond? You will not be able to, for the exact same authoritarian structure which you have located within your own personal biases and prejudices will be equivalent in your detractor.

See ED, the bottom line is this: You must interpret the fathers as well as interpret the Scriptures. Both of us are in the same boat.

I have not denied that the Scriptures and the fathers require interpretation. However, what is different in our approaches is that mine has the consensus of 2000 years of Christian theological history. Yours has your own private sphere of interpretation, and those who happen to agree with you (or who you have convinced to agree with you). As before, I completely agree that whichever approach one takes, one is going to have to trust the source of authority. I am simply saying that I will side with the stream of history and the historical consensus of the people of God throughout the ages, rather than appealing only to the subjective interpretations that I can make out of Scripture (which itself belongs only properly to the stream of historical Christianity, NOT to the individual interpreter).

But since the Scriptures are God's Word and since men can and have erred, then I will simply stick to making my attempts at interpreting Scripture.

How can you be sure men did not "err" when canonizing the Scriptures? The bottom line is that in order to assert what you do about the Scriptures, you must ultimately posit authority within the ecumenical councils of the Church upon whose authority the canon was composed, compiled and finally codified.

After all, tell us, how do you know you are interpreting the fathers correctly? The circular arguing is going on from your position.

That's fine. However, I feel that the concensus of thousands of years of historical Christian thought is sufficient to come to an approximation of the father's meanings. Moreover, given that they devoted innumerable pages to clarifying their thought on the subjects at hand, again, I feel a reasonable correspondence of meaning can be attained.

But even if there is a circularity to my thinking, yours is worse, for not only do you categorically divorce the Scriptures from the tradition of the Church which gave rise and canonization to the Scriptures, but you are also divorced thousands of years from the writers. How do you then presume to arrive at a more precise interpretation of the Scriptures than the one who would appeal to the consensus of the ecumenical church concerning the same issues? That is absurd, and I pity your naivety in this matter.

You believe the Scriptures are authoritative only as long as the fathers say so.

That makes no sense whatsoever.

And how can we actually check them to see if they are telling the truth? Well your line of reasoning is that we can't because we can't interpret Scripture on our own. We must submit to what they have said.

How is this different from your position? How can you know the apostles weren't terrible, murderous liars who made the whole thing up? The bottom line is that you cannot verify this beyond a shadow of a doubt. You must trust them, even as we must trust those to whom they entrusted the words of Christ and his teachings after their deaths. Christianity is not an abstract, individuated faith that is arrived at by disconnected interpretations of sacred texts. Rather, it is a tradition and community created by Christ, nurtured by the apostles, and perpetuated through their disciples and heirs. The point at which one divorces the history of Christianity from the present is the point at which one has created a new faith that is utterly alien to Christ, the apostles and those with whom they entrusted their message.

Now I am not saying that you are outside the Christian faith or community. What I am saying is that your methodology concerning faith and the interpretation of Scripture must inevitably lead to such a historical severing of the people of God from the faith of the apostles.

You quoted Ireneaus before. Let's let readers examine this quote from Ireneaus. After all you say that he is one who got his "traditions" from the apostles. Now before I quote him, I do understand that you said the ECF had a collective voice, but upon what basis would you say that Ireneaus is wrong here, if you would say he is wrong?

"Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the statement. Whom then should we rather believe?"

Ireneaus asks a good question here. Should we believe him? Should we believe what he says John said, even though the gospel accounts put Jesus at around 33 when he was crucified? After all you have made the claim that such men as Ireneaus was closer to the time and he himself claims this is apostolic tradition. He goes even further in this quote to say that the Gospel is on his side in this area. Are you going to stand alongside such error?


I hardly see how it is an "error" considering that the age of Christ at his death is hardly a matter of faith or dogmatic Christian belief. Moreover, as I have consistently maintained, the apostolic tradition is not located exclusively in the voices of individual fathers of the church. This is why I have consistently spoken of the apostolic tradition as the consensus of their voices.

But this consideration aside, I do not see the relevance of this question to the topic of our conversation. I have said time and again that the fathers are not infallible in every word they speak, but that they are authoritative in that they speak collectively concerning the dogmas of Christian faith and belief. In this regard, Ireneus' ideas about the age of Christ at his death is completely irrelevant, and was certainly not an issue of importance for the early church, regardless of how you may attempt to spin it.

I am assuming you will say "No". But the fallacy has been demonstrated. One who was closer to the apostles (in time) than you or I was in error and the only way to demonstrate that error is to go to the Scriptures themselves and if you honestly think that I cannot understand from the Scriptures alone, that Jesus was not 50 years old, then honestly, I have nothing more to say.

But you cannot also say exactly how old Jesus was. Your surmise that he was 33 years old, but you cannot conclusively say what his precise age was. Moreover, I fail to see what relevance this has to anything, besides you trying to score "points" on meaningless trivalities while concomitantly avoiding the force and thrust of my argument concerning the errant positing of interpretive authority within your own personal subjectivities. You continually dodge the issue without dealing perspicuously with how you imagine your own personal interpretive biases to be sufficient to properly adjudicate the truth of Scripture over and against the consensus of 2000 years of Christian history. Up to this point, your only answer has bee "I simply rest on what the Lord has said in the Scriptures" which, given that you have not dealt meaningfully with my objections to the same, can only mean that you trust in the abilities of your personal, individual and subjective interpretive methodologies and are content, on their basis, to anathematize the proponderance of Christian history with which you disagree. In you, my friend, is the full error and danger of sola Scriptura fully manifested, for you would damn the very tradition and community of faith which has delivered unto you the faith which you profess.

I do see your point about influence. However, influence did not bring me to the conclusion and unless you were actually here and know how much influence, especially in the area of Calvinism, of which I had only straw man influences, and those after I was already seeing those things in Scripture, then you have accused mean falsely.

I could care less about the issue of Calvinism. My questions of influence have to do with your affirmations of articles of historical Christian faith concerning the deity of Christ, the dual natures of Christ, and the Trinity. There is no way in which you arrived at these conclusions "from Scripture alone," for the formulators and articulators of these articles of dogmatic Christian belief did not either.

Ok, now your putting words in my mouth concerning your use of Scripture. I quoted your use of "obvious", not mine.

Oh, sorry, the word you used was "clear." My mistake, even though the two words in the context of my usage are entirely equivalent...

BTW, what is the nature you describe when you speak of becoming like God? I am asking, because the quote doesn't say that "God became man so that men might partake of the divine nature". It says, "God became man so that man might become God".

As I said before, in partaking of the divine nature, we become 'by grace' what God is by nature. That is, we are made to share in the divine life of God through the grace of God. Though joined to God and partaking of the divinity, we do not become God in eternity; rather, by grace we are made to share in God's divinity. This, really, is the fulfillment of the Incarnation, for in that God has become human and shared in our humanity in the person of Christ, so we are "divinized" and come to share in the life of God. As Paul himself says, "We shall be made like him."

Tim said...

This will be my last post concerning this. It seems obvious to me that we are not going to convince each other of the others position.

As to your comment about not appealing to the fathers and going to interpretation, there you have shown your inconsistency. You have wandered from the path you are calling me too.

In response to your assertion that Jesus uses the feminine to describe the nature of God, He simply used the analogy of how God cares for His own. However, when He taught us to pray, he said we should pray to our Father, not our Mother. Jesus is also, the Son, not the daughter. Christ, though God was manifested in the flesh as a man, not a woman. That's my point.

Also, you keep claiming 2000 years over and over. Can you, from the Sciptures point to where Jesus, the disciples or any believer prayed or kneeled in a worshipful manner that was correct or that they prayed to those who had died or asked those who had died to pray for them? If not it does seem curious that you claim this as somehow biblically normal and accepted.

You said, "I have not denied that the Scriptures and the fathers require interpretation. However, what is different in our approaches is that mine has the consensus of 2000 years of Christian theological history. Yours has your own private sphere of interpretation, and those who happen to agree with you (or who you have convinced to agree with you). As before, I completely agree that whichever approach one takes, one is going to have to trust the source of authority. I am simply saying that I will side with the stream of history and the historical consensus of the people of God throughout the ages, rather than appealing only to the subjective interpretations that I can make out of Scripture (which itself belongs only properly to the stream of historical Christianity, NOT to the individual interpreter)."

Again, you don't have total of 2000 years for the particular doctrines that I have brought up. Apostolic tradition should be what is written in the Scriptures, not what is supposedly oral, but not written.

You also said this: "That's fine. However, I feel that the concensus of thousands of years of historical Christian thought is sufficient to come to an approximation of the father's meanings. Moreover, given that they devoted innumerable pages to clarifying their thought on the subjects at hand, again, I feel a reasonable correspondence of meaning can be attained."

Now I ask this. Where does true Christian thought come from? Is it not from the Scriptures alone? Even from your perspective, where did those early believers get their theology? From the Scriptures.

You said, "In this regard, Ireneus' ideas about the age of Christ at his death is completely irrelevant, and was certainly not an issue of importance for the early church, regardless of how you may attempt to spin it."

Not so fast. For the point being made may seem trivial, but if one is to take seriously the prophecy found in Daniel 9, then one would not come to understand that Christ could be both 50 years old at His death and still fulfill the prophecy. That is hardly trivial.

I do understand what you are saying about a collective voice, and that was the point I was making about dispensationalism in this country. How do we know that those collective voices were not completely wrong on the issue of baptism and especially infant baptism? The only way I know to check is to go to the source.

Again, you said, "But you cannot also say exactly how old Jesus was. Your surmise that he was 33 years old, but you cannot conclusively say what his precise age was. Moreover, I fail to see what relevance this has to anything, besides you trying to score "points" on meaningless trivalities while concomitantly avoiding the force and thrust of my argument concerning the errant positing of interpretive authority within your own personal subjectivities."

Yep, just trying to read the text ends up being my own persona subjectivities. You are just absolutely right. I just have to apply those in anything and everything I read:)

You said, "In you, my friend, is the full error and danger of sola Scriptura fully manifested, for you would damn the very tradition and community of faith which has delivered unto you the faith which you profess."

I believe the Scriptures damn the particulars I mentioned. Are you going t side with Rome on the whole dulia-latria controversy? I am curious to know.

You said, "I could care less about the issue of Calvinism. My questions of influence have to do with your affirmations of articles of historical Christian faith concerning the deity of Christ, the dual natures of Christ, and the Trinity. There is no way in which you arrived at these conclusions "from Scripture alone," for the formulators and articulators of these articles of dogmatic Christian belief did not either."

So are you saying that someone could be sheltered from society and history and that if they had a copy of the Scripures and they studied them, that there is no way that they could possibly come the conclusion that Christ is deity and yet man? and that there is no way would could grasp the concept of the Trinity apart from something that came from the fathers? I truly beg to differ there. While they may not end up with the same terminology, it seems clear to me that they could see those concepts.

As to your last statement, thanks for clarifying that, though I must confess that sounds much more biblical than "man becomes God". Maybe you should change the slogan, since us poor interpreters might mistake what you mean by that:)

Exist~Dissolve said...

As to your comment about not appealing to the fathers and going to interpretation, there you have shown your inconsistency. You have wandered from the path you are calling me too.

I'm not sure this is entirely accurate. I have never called you to accept uncritically the interpretation of individual church fathers. What I have advocated is that it is necessary to acknowledge the authority of the apostolic tradition of the church as manifested in the ecumenical decisions of the church if one is to be consistent theologically and biblically.

In response to your assertion that Jesus uses the feminine to describe the nature of God, He simply used the analogy of how God cares for His own.

Um, okay... How is that any different from using masculine analogies to speak of the ungendered divine and eternal nature of God? Unless you believe that God has a penis, which is what the pagan mythologies believed, among other things.

However, when He taught us to pray, he said we should pray to our Father, not our Mother. Jesus is also, the Son, not the daughter.

So Christ, the eternal Logos of God, is a male in eternity? I thought that God, in the eternity of the divine nature, was above the qualification of human attributes. Apparently not...

Christ, though God was manifested in the flesh as a man, not a woman. That's my point.

I hardly see what that has to do with anything. The Incarnation obviously had to occur in a gendered way. However, I hardly see how the Incarnation of the eternal Logos of God in a masculine person somehow is retroactively applicable to the eternal and uncreated nature of God. There is no necessity in such a conclusion, and would seem to merely be the product of an uncritical application of human attributes onto the eternal nature of God.

Also, you keep claiming 2000 years over and over. Can you, from the Sciptures point to where Jesus, the disciples or any believer prayed or kneeled in a worshipful manner that was correct or that they prayed to those who had died or asked those who had died to pray for them? If not it does seem curious that you claim this as somehow biblically normal and accepted.

I never said that the biblical literature explicitly mentioned these practices (although reverence for the "saints of God" is clearly evident in the text). What I said is that these practices have been normative from the earliest centuries of Christianity and would therefore appear to be based upon an accepted and apostolic tradition that existed alongside the very limited subjects contained within the canon of Scripture (which, as has already been noted, was not fully formed until late in the 4th century--there had to have been another guiding influence in the interim). You should read about what the very earliest Christians (early 2nd century) did at the tombs of the dead.

Again, you don't have total of 2000 years for the particular doctrines that I have brought up. Apostolic tradition should be what is written in the Scriptures, not what is supposedly oral, but not written.

That is your opinion about what apostolic tradition should be, but the incontrovertible fact is that the earliest Christians simply would not agree with you. Rather, they recognized a living and authoritative tradition that lived alongside of the nascent canon of Scripture, a tradition from which they defended the orthodox faith from people who formulated doctrine along the lines of the same presuppositional framework that you use to establish "authority."

Now I ask this. Where does true Christian thought come from? Is it not from the Scriptures alone?

If the councils of the ecumenical church that dealt with the heresies spawned from "sola Scriptura" groups are any indication, the earliest church's answer would be a unified and resounding "no." While all traditions were understood to be in keeping with Scripture, it was recognized very early that, in Tertullian's words, "arguments about Scripture will only make for headaches and stomach aches," for there must be a larger and unified tradition which guides the interpretation lest the argument devolve into useless squabbling over individual interpretations of proof-texts.

ven from your perspective, where did those early believers get their theology? From the Scriptures.

Partly, yes. However, unlike you, they understood the Scriptures to be part of the larger inheritance of the apostolic teaching, the tradition of the apostles preserved in the Scriptures as well as the teaching and tradition communicated in the apostles' missional and ecclesial heirs, the bishops of the ecumenical church. Moreover, unlike you, they did not see a significant difference between the authority of these, for they understood them to function as one entity and one tradition, the teachings of the blessed apostles.

You said, "In this regard, Ireneus' ideas about the age of Christ at his death is completely irrelevant, and was certainly not an issue of importance for the early church, regardless of how you may attempt to spin it."

Not so fast. For the point being made may seem trivial, but if one is to take seriously the prophecy found in Daniel 9, then one would not come to understand that Christ could be both 50 years old at His death and still fulfill the prophecy. That is hardly trivial.


Whatever you say. No matter how you look at this, there are no canons of Christian orthodoxy that bother themselves with the age of Christ at his death, for this is of no theological importance to the early church.

I do understand what you are saying about a collective voice, and that was the point I was making about dispensationalism in this country. How do we know that those collective voices were not completely wrong on the issue of baptism and especially infant baptism? The only way I know to check is to go to the source.

The source which they gave you...if they understood their practices to be askance of the biblical tradition, why would they go ahead and codify the Scriptures as authoritative anyway? That would absurd! Therefore, the bottom line is that not only did they believe their practice to be fully in line with Scripture, but moreover they had the witness and tradition of the apostles to confirm this interpretation and praxis. The main problem with your approach is that you have only the particularities of your subjective interpretive methodology--you cannot appeal beyond the vagrancies of this.

As to the matter of dispensationalism in America, this is also not material to the conversation, for this theological "fight" does not exist within the ecumenical church; rather, it is petty theological squabbling within a fractured tradition that has no claim (per its outright rejection of the very history and tradition upon which it is founded) to the historical or theological authority of the ecumenical church.

Yep, just trying to read the text ends up being my own persona subjectivities. You are just absolutely right. I just have to apply those in anything and everything I read:)

Now you are starting to get it.

I believe the Scriptures damn the particulars I mentioned.

Believe me, I do not doubt that you "believe" this. My point is that you have no authority beyond that which you have manufactured out of the subjectivites of your own person and cast onto the Scriptures from which you might make such a determination. Moreover, given that you are a priori indebted to the very historical tradition which you seek to condemn by virtue of them delivering unto the Scriptures by which you anathematize them, you find yourself in a very curious position in which you would accept the authority of the anathametized when they codify the canon of Scripture, but will not extend this same authority to their other ecumenical enactments. Yours is a case of selective historical authoritarianism.

Are you going t side with Rome on the whole dulia-latria controversy? I am curious to know.

What "controversy?"

So are you saying that someone could be sheltered from society and history and that if they had a copy of the Scripures and they studied them, that there is no way that they could possibly come the conclusion that Christ is deity and yet man? and that there is no way would could grasp the concept of the Trinity apart from something that came from the fathers? I truly beg to differ there. While they may not end up with the same terminology, it seems clear to me that they could see those concepts.

You say this, but you have yet to explain the reason for all the ancient heresies. Heretics, by definition, are simply evil people who wish to distort the truth. Rather, they are quite fervently convinced of the truth of their position. So then, we are not just talking about the ignorant coming to knowledge of "concepts"--more importantly, what of the learned who cannot agree? Given that the entire history of Christian heresy can almost without question be reduced to disagreements in interpretation of the Scriptures, it is painfully obvious that the act of interpretation--and its orthodox results--are not nearly as straightforward as you would lead one to imagine. As I have noted to a now-nauseating extent, one of the primary functions of the apostolic tradition within the early church was the adjudication of interpretation so that the orthodox teaching of the apostles (by nom means limited to that which was written and preserved) might be preserved over and against the improper interpretation of the same within the texts of Scripture.

As to your last statement, thanks for clarifying that, though I must confess that sounds much more biblical than "man becomes God". Maybe you should change the slogan, since us poor interpreters might mistake what you mean by that:)

Actually, I think the phrase summarizes the main point very nicely. That is, I suspect, why it has survived and thrived now for over 1600 years.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Actually, one last thing.

The quote from St. Athanasius is a perfect illustration of the role of apostolic tradition in re: the interpretation of Scripture.

Let's pretend just for a second that the phrase, "God became human so that humans might become God" is a passage of Scripture. Let's say you approach this text as you would Scripture, that is, "sola" (alone), without any (presumably) external, mediating sources of information and authority.

I suspect that your reaction would be in keeping with your initial one--you balked at it, thinking that it was saying that humans would become God because of the Incarnation.

However, as I explained the tradition behind it, it became obvious that your interpretation Athanasius was not correct, that he was actually advocating something that is entirely orthodox and entirely antithetical to any form of idolatry, etc.

But see what the deciding factor was? It was the underlying tradition behind Athansius' words that made the difference. If you and I had argued on the level of etymology of words, sentence structure, etc., we would have arrived at probably different conclusions, each of which may or may not have been in keeping with the actual intention of the author.

This is what I believe apostolic tradition to be. It is the context and environment in which the meaning of Scripture and the teachings of the apostles is mediated to subsequent generations without being completely ravaged by the misunderstandings and vagrancies of interpretive methodologies of every individual reader.

Hank said...

Tim
I didn’t read all of the dialogue above, but I agree with your initial post. The New Covenant is better as it is exclusive only to believers. With that said, I really think neither side has it right on, albeit the Baptist view seems closer by way of the above statement. While I think the ‘who’ and the ‘when’ aspect of believers baptism in relation to the covenant are correct, I think the ‘why’ as related to the covenant structure within the ANE which, is the authority structure of the Bible, is missed, or at least diminished.
I pray the Lord is directing your paths straight.

May Lord bless you and your family

Hank