Thursday, July 24, 2008

Questions About Nicea: An Invitation To Dialog

According to Orthodox Christians, the Church's infallibility resides not in any single person or group, but primarily in the great ecumenical councils (of which there were seven). These councils made final and infallible decisions regarding (what would come to be) the orthodox position on the doctrines of the Incarnation, Trinity, and others.

For the purposes of this post I will assume my own ignorance. I admit that I do not fully understand the Orthodox teaching on church infallibility, and so I invite my Orthodox brothers to help me by interacting with my musings and perhaps answering my questions.

I have three primary concerns I wish to address here. (1) The manner in which the first ecumenical council (Nicea) was called and conducted, (2) the duplicity of many of the leaders who attended, and (3) the fact that only a short time after the council made its decisions, the majority of the Christian world sided with Arius.

(1) The Council of Nicea was called by the Emperor; the secular power, not the church. This seems odd to me. In fact, it seems entirely likely that had not Constantine wished to keep his Empire whole and secure, we might have seen fracturing in the church not unlike modern Protestant denominationalism today. The bishops of Christendom were quite content to argue amongst themselves, and there doesn't seem any reason to think that such a council would ever have been called had Constantine not stepped in. Moreover, Constantine made it clear that the council's decisions would be enforced, again by secular power. This also seems odd. If there was a clear understanding of church infallibility from the days of the Apostles, and indeed if the bishops at Nicea were also well aware of it, would such enforcement be necessary? I suppose it could have been merely precautionary. In any event, the fact that the whole affair was conducted, from start to finish, in such a stately, secular manner, casts some doubt on what I take to be the Orthodox understanding of the nature of church infallibility.

(2) The wording of the Nicean Creed was such that many of the bishops (perhaps more than half) were able to sign it, while still remaining fully Arian in their thinking. They affirmed the words, but not their orthodox spirit. And in a short time they were again preaching their Arianism. This leads to another important question: if the majority of the bishops at the ecumenical council didn't even truly agree with what was (later to become) the orthodox position of the church (and supposedly the council), where is infallibility located? Again, I am mostly speaking from ignorance here and I'm open to correction, but my understanding of the Orthodox position is that infallibility resides in ecumenical consensus. And yet, it seems that the true consensus of Nicea, at least at the time, favored Arianism. And it seems very strange that many of the bishops present at an ecumenical council, and responsible for its decision, would be so blatantly (and sinfully?) duplicitous in their actions. God can use sinful men, to be sure, but when it comes to the infallible descisions of the church, I assume the presumption is that He is using holy men.

(3) Many times I have heard from an Orthodox brother that such-and-such was the "majority" position of the early church (this is often used as a defense against the Augustinian doctrine of predestination, for example). But just a short time after Nicea, and especially after the death of Constantine, the vast majority of Christendom became Arian. There were times when it seemed as though Athanasius alone was the voice of orthodoxy, which is where we get the phrase "Athanasius contra mundum." It won't do to argue that the church was simply falling away from orthodoxy, for "orthodoxy" was still being established. Nicea was the first council called to deal with questions regarding Christ's deity, and in a sense, Nicea lead to an Arian church. And when Athanasius so vigorously defended Christ's full deity, he did so primarily by making arguments from Scripture, not by arguing over the meaning of the words of the Nicean creed.

Obviously none of this constitutes any sort of proof or knock-down argument against the Orthodox understanding of church infallibility. My only wish here is to offer a few observations and questions, and any response is both welcome and appreciated.

If this is your first time visiting this blog, I also invite you to read the other posts here. Some of them are very good, and they address many issues, ranging from the inclusion of the apocryphal books in Scripture to the possibility of belief in the Word of God being properly basic. Please look around and leave comments!

21 comments:

David Cox said...

1) The involvement of the emperor in religious matters isn't too hard to understand. After all, in the ancient world, religion, philosophy,politics, economy were all fused. The temple for the Jews was the vatican, white house, wall street etc. all roled into one.

In 320 or 321 St. Alexander called a council where over 100 bishops from Egypt and Libya anathematized Arius. However, the debates continued to surface and there was much civil unrest. Constantine had just defeated Licinius to become sole emperor and was looking for peace. So he surely had a hand in convening the council. I don't think one can say for sure that the council was called by Constantine as Arianism was already a concern for the Church. Why would the secular power have to intervene? Think about it...if you and I were to meet and have our debate in person, the discussion may get heated at times. But what if one of us became so irate that a physical altercation broke out? It now becomes more than a theological problem...it is a civil problem. Civil authorities would have to intervene. In the 4th century, religious problems could start civil wars.

2) What is your source that says that the wording allowed the bishops to sign and remain Arian?

3) Same as above. "Most of Christendom was Arian"?
I believe your premise is false thereby cancelling your conclusion.

"...and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri]..."

How can a bishop sign a declaration that Christ is homoousious with the Father and still deny His divinity? The wording of the Creed is pretty straight forward.

As for infallibility, we have already taken this up...God doesn't require men to be Holy in order to work through them.

If you really look at what the Catholic or Orthodox Church teaches in regards to infallibility, it really is more tenable than believing that one can read scripture and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide the individual to all truth.

You keep looking at the people and not the doctrine when you argue against infallibility. People are fallible, doctrine isn't.

Aaron Snell said...

Hi David (Cox),

Hope your vacation's going well! I actually ahve a few minutes this afternoon to blog, so I hope you don't mind if I jump in.

"So he [Constantine] surely had a hand in convening the council. I don't think one can say for sure that the council was called by Constantine as Arianism was already a concern for the Church."

It was clearly more that a hand - not only can one say that the council was called by him, but historians do so all the time based on excellent documentation. I have several history books(church and otherwise) on the shelf next to me that claim Nicea was called by Constantine. Do you know of one that doesn't?

Moreover, there's a problem with the logic of your objection here. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like you're saying that because Arianism was a concern in the church, you cannot say for sure that Constantine called the Council of Nicea. This is clearly a non-sequitur. The one does not at all follow from the other. Actually, it's because Arianism was a concern in the church that Constantine called the council. This is from Kenneth Scott Latourette's A History of Chrisitanity (Harper & Brothers, 1953, p. 153):

"The conflict [of Arianism] was cheifly in the eastern part of the Empire and seriously threatened to divide the Catholic Church in that region. Then the Emperor Constantine stepped in. He had recently come over to the side of the Christians and, after a long, hard struggle had united the Empire politically under his rule. The dispute over Arius threatened the disruption of what, along with the Empire, was the strongest insitution in the Mediterranean world, the Catholic Church. Constantine had already intervened in the affairs of the Church over the Donatist controversy. He now felt impelled to act in this much more serious division. To that end he first wrote to Alexander and Arius, sending the letter by his adviser in church matters Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, calling on them to compose their differences and forgive each other. When this appeal did not succeed, Constantine had recourse to a council of the entire Catholic Church. He took the initiative, had the state pay the travel expenses of the bishops to the gathering, and, although only a catechumen, presided over its opening session, and was active in its deliberations."

"2) What is your source that says that the wording allowed the bishops to sign and remain Arian?"

I'm actually curious about this, too. It seems that, at Nicea, there was a small but vocal minority supporting Arius, and an equally small but determined minority supporting Alexander. The large majority had not yet taken a position, but were somewhere in the middle, though the fear of Sabellianism led some to lean towards Arianism.

"3) Same as above. "Most of Christendom was Arian"?
I believe your premise is false thereby cancelling your conclusion."


Well, David never said most of Christendom was Arian, exactly; he said, "But just a short time after Nicea, and especially after the death of Constantine, the vast majority of Christendom became Arian." Which is true, if "vast majority of Christendom" is understood as referring to the bishops in power and politically influential Arians, and happened largely through political action. Though the two statements appear to be saying the same thing, David's qualifications are important here.

Nathanael Taylor said...

If you really look at what the Catholic or Orthodox Church teaches in regards to infallibility, it really is more tenable than believing that one can read scripture and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide the individual to all truth.

Response: Things are not looking so bright and rosy for the eastern or western view either. After you all you have to use your individual reason and sense organs to interpret the Pope and the councils. So you have a pretty private situation going on there as well. Secondly, you have to factor in the probability that the Catholic is the true church (that means your going to have to rule out Anglicanism and eastern orthodoxy) and the probability that you have the correct interpretation of a given romish proposition of doctrine. All in all things are not looking to hot in your little papist bed of uncertainty. It seems like a pretty private and internal affair to me...you know the assessment of all these probabilities and so on. At least Protestant's do not multiply a unnecessary church authority. We just need one authority to verify the Bible the Bible's own self-attestation through the spirit as a properly basic belief.

You keep looking at the people and not the doctrine when you argue against infallibility. People are fallible, doctrine isn't.

Response: You are fallible and you have to interpret doctrine therefore, your doctrine is not epistemologically fallible. Protestants, Catholics, and The east all think that Doctrine is infallible in *being*. But all of us our faced with fallibility in apprehending that doctrine. Protestants are just more honest about this.

NPT

David N said...

David, thanks for commenting.

You said: "2) What is your source that says that the wording allowed the bishops to sign and remain Arian?"

Sorry, it wasn't that the wording allowed for them to sign it, it was that they simply signed it despite the fact that they would immediately go out and continue teaching Arianism. Hence the "duplicity." (Archibald Robertson, editor of Athanasius' works in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers was my source for this. His exact phrase was "total duplicity." He also mentions that Eusebius of Nicodemia signed it with a "mental reservation.")

You said: "3) Same as above. "Most of Christendom was Arian"?
I believe your premise is false thereby cancelling your conclusion. "

I'm not sure on what grounds you're denying that the majority of Christendom at the time of Athanius was Arian. It wasn't said "Athanasius contra mundum" for nothing.

You said: "How can a bishop sign a declaration that Christ is homoousious with the Father and still deny His divinity? The wording of the Creed is pretty straight forward."

Interestingly, it was on the insistence of Constantine that the key phrase (homoousious) was added. I understand your point about the blending of church and state, but it isn't that simple. Constantine was not a bishop and should have had no real power over church decisions.

You said: "If you really look at what the Catholic or Orthodox Church teaches in regards to infallibility, it really is more tenable than believing that one can read scripture and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide the individual to all truth."

I assume you're merely stating your opinion here. I think Nathanael makes some good points to the contrary.

You said: "You keep looking at the people and not the doctrine when you argue against infallibility. People are fallible, doctrine isn't."

But what is the church if the not the people that make it up? And where was the Pope? Why didn't he speak to the issue as the vicar of Christ and clears things up right away? My point is that the manner in which things were conducted by the individuals doesn't seem to favor that idea that the early church believed in its own infallibility.

Nathanael Taylor said...

You are fallible and you have to interpret doctrine therefore, your doctrine is not epistemologically fallible.

Correction****

Therefore, your doctrine is not epistemologically ***infallible***

NPT

David Cox said...

To be honest, I don't know that I am qualified to truly convince anyone about the Council of Nicea; the way it was convened, Constantine's involvement or whether or not the bishops actually believed what they signed. What I do know is that Arius denied that Jesus is of the same substance (homoousious), consubstantial with the Father. Where do we stand today? Do we believe that God the Father and God the Son are One? We do...Protestants and Catholics alike. It seems to me that the council must have gotten it right and Arianism is regarded as heresy.

The thing that strikes me is this: If the Catholic Church has been wrong all these years, if the secular powers have acted as puppet master, if the church simply has incorporated pagan beliefs in order to gain more followers, if the pope and magisterium have not been given the authority to correctly interpret scripture, then why is the church still around? How could a heretical institution last 2000 years?

If you look at mainline protestantism today compared to the time of the reformation, you can barely recognize it. Wesley wouldn't recoginze the Methodists, Calvin the Presbyterians (heck they even call themselves the Split P's for all the divisions), nor Luther the Lutheran Church. And the Episcopalian church used to be called the "Republican party at prayer." Now it is more like the "National Organization for Women at prayer." I don't mean this to be offensive but to simply make the point that consistency of doctrine is impossible without the church (One Holy Catholic and Apostolic).

Did Constantine call the council? Perhaps. Was there duplicity amongst the bishops? Probably. (However, I recently read that there were over 300 bishops present at Nicea I and only 7 dissented) Does this prove that the church is fallible? Absolutely not. It only confirms the fact that when Jesus tells Peter that the "gates of Hell will not prevail," that he meant it. Why? Because they got it right! The Nicene Creed is beautiful. I would challenge anyone to explain Christianity in a clearer manner than that of the Creed.

Maybe it wasn't too bright of me to post to a blog entitled "By Whose Authority?" Mea culpa. But there is something in the fact that this blog even exists that tells me that you are truly seeking. You are questioning the foundations of our faith...in a good way. Maybe you are disenchanted with the fact that many churches go with the flow and end up being the thermometers that simply reflect the temperature of society instead of being the thermostat that changes it. You are looking for that rock on which you can stand. You think that rock is the bible. But the bible without a teaching authority is simply a pogo stick bouncing around in a venn diagram of doctrine. And when you find enough people who agree with where you are on the diagram, you start a church. If you take scripture along with tradition and the magisterium, you have a solid three legged stool that doesn't wobble. Brothers, the rock on which you are looking to stand is founded on Peter.

Nathanael Taylor said...

"You are looking for that rock on which you can stand. You think that rock is the bible. But the bible without a teaching authority is simply a pogo stick bouncing around in a venn diagram of doctrine. And when you find enough people who agree with where you are on the diagram, you start a church. If you take scripture along with tradition and the magisterium, you have a solid three legged stool that doesn't wobble. Brothers, the rock on which you are looking to stand is founded on Peter."

Response: You didn't even respond to my arguments once again. Furthermore, this whole section is already responded to in my previous response. Don't you understand? You have to interpret the teaching authority. You are no better position than a Protestant. Moreover, you have to rule out other church authorities that I have already mentioned. You are actually in worse world of hurt than a Protestant. At least we have an Ockham's razor to shave off the excess of needless church authority.

NPT

Catz206 said...

"How could a heretical institution last 2000 years?"

There are many pagan systems still around...the Catholic Church should definitely not be included as pagan, but if pagan institutions can endure the test of time, then why not a "heretical" one?

"But there is something in the fact that this blog even exists that tells me that you are truly seeking. You are questioning the foundations of our faith...in a good way."

Thank you. This is indeed why I started this blog. I have changed several posts, but the blog started out as a personal search that I have opened up. I am so glad that people like you have come to explore as well.

"Maybe you are disenchanted with the fact that many churches go with the flow and end up being the thermometers that simply reflect the temperature of society instead of being the thermostat that changes it."

I have been both disenchanted and grieved as well as inspired and hopeful in light of what I have seen. One thing is for sure, one day all will be set right when Jesus returns and we are united!

David Cox said...

Aaron
Vacation has been great. Four boys can keep you very busy... Thanks for the greeting. How is your vacation?

We need to get lunch some time.

David Cox said...

My question regarding a heretical institution lasting 2000 years was poorly stated. We know from scripture that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand and that we will know the true character of something by its fruit. Well the Catholic Church is here to stay...warts and all. The church is made up of people, but when I say that we must not look at people when we judge the church, by church I mean doctrine. When I was exploring the possibility of becoming Catholic, I had a good friend (an evangelical Christian) give some great advice...he told me that I need to base my decision on what comes out of Rome and not on what I see Catholics say and/or do. The fact is that the biggest enemy of the Catholic Church is Catholics.

Did the early church believe in her own infallibility? Absolutely. Otherwise, why convene a council? Don't look at the way a council was called, or who attended...look at the fruit of the council.

Did Constantine insist on homoousious? I have never heard that. I am curious as to where that came from. Did Constantine attend the council? I am sure he did. What is wrong with that? The blending of church and state was a reality of the time. Would that fly in 21st century America? Probably not.

The thing I would ask you all to do is this: Look really hard at the biases that you bring to the table. Is SS really a doctrine that you came upon by your own rationale, or is it a premise that you begin with and base all of your conclusions accordingly? Do you find the Catholic Church wrong doctrinally based on your own research and conclusion, or is this another prejudice that you bring to the table?

I know for myself, I was very anti Catholic...but I began to honestly ask the questions, which seems to be the case here on this blog. Otherwise why would you question "By Whose Authority?"

David N said...

David,

You said: "To be honest, I don't know that I am qualified to truly convince anyone about the Council of Nicea; the way it was convened, Constantine's involvement or whether or not the bishops actually believed what they signed."

Nor am I, really. And the last thing I want is for this to become a debate over the biases of history books or scholars we've read. I think I'd better just drop most of what I said in this post, as it's too vague and too broad a subject to be very helpful. I can see that now.

"How could a heretical institution last 2000 years? "

Two things: 1) I'm sorry, but Catholics and the Orthodox have an irritating habit of assuming that the church existed exactly as is does today right from the moment Christ ascended. This simply isn't the case. The first 400-500 years of church history are precisely what is in dispute, especially where this blog is concerned, and so it cannot simply be taken for granted that there were no significant changes, developments or evolutions in the church before Martin Luther. This is a gross overstatement.

2) The Eastern Church is still going strong, and they rejected the vicar of Christ 1000 years ago. And Protestantism, 500 years after breaking from the church, is spreading throughout Africa and Asia in force.

The problem is that I'm not claiming that all Catholics are damnable heretics, nor that the Catholic church cannot be, by and large, a force of good and an instrument of God in this world.

You said: "But there is something in the fact that this blog even exists that tells me that you are truly seeking. You are questioning the foundations of our faith...in a good way."

I'm glad you recognize that. And I look forward to future fruitful discussions here.

David N said...

David,

You said: "Did the early church believe in her own infallibility? Absolutely. Otherwise, why convene a council? "

I'm afraid that doesn't follow. Protestants call councils (or Synods, or Assemblies, etc.) too. The presupposition may well have been that a large group of godly men in positions of church authority could come together and with the help of the Holy Spirit make the correct decision, but that doesn't mean that thought themselves (or their decision) infallible.

David Cox said...

I think that we need to truly nail down what is meant by infallible. We also need to come to a common understanding of what is meant by church authority. You and I have gone about this for a good part of the summer. I think I understand you a bit better and, hopefully, you understand me better.

Maybe we should start with what infallibility doesn't mean. Infallibility is a negative protection. It doesn't mean that the church has all the answers. It doesn't mean that we can and should look to the church "as mindless robots" for how we make daily decisions or for proof that 1+1=2. If I told you that I was infallible on a math test, that doesn't mean that I got all the problems correct, it just means that I didn't get any wrong. This is what the church means when she claims infallibility.

Authority simply means that the Church can, with confidence, to claim the correct interpretation of scripture.

How did the early church know if the teaching was from Jesus or from Simon Magus (gnostics)? The answer to the question always came back to "these men were with Jesus." Now how did this work in the second generation? "These men were taught by men who were with Jesus." And so on. The unbroken line of apostolic succession is what I can claim. Does that mean that each individual bishop in the line never was in error? No. But that does mean that the bishops as a group (magisterium) can claim correct teaching. A good example of this would be Nicea I. If you claim that most of the bishops went back to being Arian, which I think is a tough claim to make, that does nothing to hurt the claim of infallibility. It goes to show that even if individuals may be in error, the magisterium isn't in error. Again I would ask, what was the fruit of the council? Do we believe that the Father and the Son are consubstantial or not?

We cannot underestimate the importance of succession. In todays world we look at CV's to determine a scholar's academic pedigree. Who was their teacher? The more prestigious, the school or professor, the more credible the student. That was exactly how things were looked at in the early church. Why do you think scripture mentions that Paul was a student of Gamaliel? Gamaliel was the top Rabbii and Paul his prized student. Imagine the surprise when Paul begins evangelizing the Gentiles. What were the Jews to think? But Paul's pedigree proves his being a "Pharisee of Pharisees."
I can agree that the claims that we catholics or EO make about church authority can seem circular and I will do my best to be more clear in my arguments.

However, it is equally frustrating when a non catholic simply dismisses our belief in church authority as "cultish" or "mindless." Many claims are made on your (a collective you) part regarding how "Rome got it wrong." I would be interested in looking at what specific ways "Rome got it wrong" and discussing that. I don't know if you want to do that on this blog, but maybe I will start doing it on mine and we can start some discussions over there. What do you think?

David N said...

David,

I absolutely agree, defining terms is extremely important for any discussion. We don't want to talk past each other. Your comments regarding infallibility and authority are very helpful.

I understand what you mean by apostolic succession, but I just don't see how that can plausibly be claimed for everything Rome teaches. The Pope himself is a perfect example. The very fact that the Pope's belief in his own preeminence and special authority was a primary cause of the great schism shows me that the bishop of Rome was not considered the vicar of Christ from Peter onwards. And consider the use of images. I have no problem believing that the church's use of images could have arisen gradually and mostly unopposed until it became so widespread that some began to have theological concerns. And what could the church then say? "Well, this is how we've done it for centuries, and the church doesn't teach error." But at that point there can hardly be a genuine claim to Apostolic succession. Did the Apostles use images, or explicitly teach that it was ok? If not (and I see no evidence to suggest that they did), then the church's later teachings about the use of images doesn't exactly qualify as being from an unbroken line of teaching from the Apostles. It just seems implausible to claim that every single teaching of Rome today was also taught by the Apostles (birth control?).

Furthermore, when you say that reading the letters of Clement or the Didache will show that the early church was "Catholic", what do you mean? I have read them, and found little or nothing that I could not agree with.

You said: "However, it is equally frustrating when a non catholic simply dismisses our belief in church authority as "cultish" or "mindless." "

I agree, and I will endeavor not to do so.

You said: "I would be interested in looking at what specific ways "Rome got it wrong" and discussing that."

I may devote an entire post to the Papacy in the near future, so keep checking back for that. You should also look through the archives. There are several posts on the Apocryphal books, and arguments against their canonicity. That might be a good issue to start with.

David Cox said...

David
This is another example of why I love talking to you...

You bring up three issues: 1) Papacy and the preeminence of the office 2) The use of images and 3)Other extra apostolic teachings (eg. birth control)

1. The Papacy
I should probably do a post on my blog on this, and probably will at some point. Maybe I will do a counter post to yours. I will try to keep it short. The papacy can be traced back to the prime minister of the Davidic Kingdom. When the king was away, the prime minister had the authority of the king. The PM was given the "keys to the kingdom" (cf. Matt 16, Is 22)He was given authority to "open and shut" or to "bind and loose."(Matt 16 and Matt 18) What do you think Jesus meant when he gave Peter that authority. "That which you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, that which you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." That is a pretty hefty responsibility Jesus gives Peter. Is it really a far stretch to think that these quotes by Jesus imply that the church that he founds will not teach error? If this said church isn't the Catholic church, then where is it today? If the Catholic Church teaches error, then it cannot be the church that Jesus founded on Peter and the apostles. So where is this church that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would "guide into all truth?" Where is the church against which the "gates of Hell will not prevail?"

2. Images
You see use of images all throughout the Old Testament. God commands that Israel make them. (cf. Ex 25:18-20, 1 Chr. 28:18–19, Ezekiel 41:17–18, Num. 21:8–9)
Catholics use statues, paintings and other things (icons) to simply tell a story. This was very helpful in evangelizing the illiterate. A protestant may use pictures to tell a story in Sunday School, or a nativity scene at Christmas. The computer world uses the term icon for the same reason...they take you somewhere. An icon is intended to help us delve deeper into our faith. Let me be clear: Catholics do not worhsip statues! Any claim that one can make against the Catholic or Orthodox church regarding icons better do the same to themselves if they carry a picture of their family or set up a nativity at Christmas.

3. Extra apostolic teaching
You specifically mentioned birth control, so I will deal with that. Interestingly enough, this teaching is what opened the door for me to become Catholic. Let me start with this: "be fruitful and multiply." God doesn't say, "plan on having as many children as you can afford" or "make sure that you only use your portion of the Earth's resources." Onan was struck dead when he spilled his seed. In fact early forms of birth control were called Onanism. Let's look at this another way...We know from scripture that God is love. What is love? Jesus makes it very clear that love is one giving himself completely for another...holding nothing back. God makes us in His image and likeness. But notice that Genesis says "God created man in His own image: male and female he created them." It takes male and female together to image God. That is why Eve is called Adam's "help meet." The Church's teaching on dual procession can be boiled down to this: The Father eternally loves the Son and the Son eternally returns this love to the Father. The love they share is so real the we call it the third person of the Holy Trinity. Similarly, a husband loves his wife (holding nothing back), and the wife returns this self donating love to the husband and the love is so real that in 9 months you give it a name. This is how we image God. I have a post on this topic that I would truly appreciate your comments on.(http://protoevangelium.blogspot.com/2008/07/should-we-be-surprised-updated.html)

C.S. Lewis deals with this in Mere Christianity as well. He compares birth control to spiritual bulemia. There are two aspects to eating: nutrition and pleasure. Bulemia takes the pleasure and throws out the nutrition. Sex has two aspects: the unitive(pleasurable) and the procreative. Birth control accepts the pleasure and denies the procreative, which is the natural end of the act to begin with. Did the apostles have to teach on bulemia for us to see that it is wrong?

What about the Didache or the early Fathers tells me that it is the Catholic Church? #1 Their church was liturgical.#2 They believed in the Real presence That means that we can go with Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Anglican. I don't count the Lutheran church because it wouldn't even be recognized by Luther today. Anglicans have disqualified themselves if you look at the error they are in today. Many anglicans are looking to re unite with Rome as we speak. So now we have RC and EO. Which came first? RC did... and my money would be on the fact that the EO comes back into communion with Rome (possibly in our lifetime). I realize that this answer may not satisfy your question and we may have to go deeper at another time.

PS
I recently posted regarding our discussions on this blog (http://protoevangelium.blogspot.com)

David N said...

David,

1. That's an interesting Biblical argument for the Papacy, but it doesn't address my point about the history of the doctrine. Where was the Pope for the first few centuries of church history? He seems to have been pretty lax about using those keys. :)

3. "Did the apostles have to teach on bulemia for us to see that it is wrong?"

Not at all. But now we're not really talking about apostolic succession anymore. If the church's current teaching on bulemia is simply a logical inference made from actual apostolic teaching, then strictly speaking it is not itself apostolic. This is a minor distinction, but an important one, I think. It means that a simple appeal to apostolic succession won't work for all church teachings, and so cannot by itself be used as a defense of the church's infallibility.

You said: "#1 Their church was liturgical."

So are many Protestant churches. And in fact all churches have liturgy, whether they admit it or not.

"#2 They believed in the Real presence "

That's debatable, but I suppose this isn't the best time/place to debate it.

" So now we have RC and EO. Which came first? RC did."

Just curious how you're basing your claim that Catholicism was prior to Orthodoxy (you made it so lightly, as if it was merely obvious, and yet I know many EO brothers who would strongly disagree).

Aaron Snell said...

Davic C,

Isaiah 22 speaks of the key of David, which represents the authority or rule of the king, being taken from Shebna as steward over the kings household and given to Eliakim. (Shebna stays in service to Hezekiah as a scribe, see 2 Kings 18.)

You seem to want to see the "key" as being metaphorical, which I think is totally legitimate. Who would you say holds the key of David now?

David Cox said...

"Where was the Pope for the first few centuries of church history? He seems to have been pretty lax about using those keys. :)"

Can you elaborate on that for me?

"If the church's current teaching on bulemia is simply a logical inference made from actual apostolic teaching, then strictly speaking it is not itself apostolic. This is a minor distinction, but an important one, I think. It means that a simple appeal to apostolic succession won't work for all church teachings, and so cannot by itself be used as a defense of the church's infallibility."

The teachings may not be explicitly apostolic, but doctrine develops. The doctrine of the trinity isn't an explicit apostolic doctrine, but we all accept it. Apostolic succession gives the church the authority to define dogma. Dogma is simply the Church's infallible interpretation of scripture.

We can't just appeal to "right reasoning" because "right reasoning" has created multiple interpretations of scripture. (see my post on this)

You are absolutely correct regarding my argument for the RC church coming prior to the EO. I thought that as soon as I posted...just hoping you would give me a pass.:)

Actually the schism is believed to have taken place in 1054(I believe) but that isn't completely accurate. There were many short lived reconciliations and the final split occured about 60 years before Luther's reformation. The reconciliations were the EO coming back into communion with Rome, not vice versa. Combine that with Peter being in Rome and I conclude that the RC church is prior.


Aaron
I wouldn't say that the keys are metaphorical as much as I would say typological. Jesus is the new David; the true Davidic King. If David's kingdom had a prime minister, then so would the fulfillment. Afterall, the new cannot be less than the old; ie. Any characteristics of the original kingdom must be fulfilled in the new.

Based on Jesus giving the keys to Peter, and the fact that the apostles found it necessary to choose a successor to Judas, Peter's seat would then be filled after he died. Therefore, the keys now belong to Pope Benedict XVI.

Aaron Snell said...

David C,

No, that's not what I asked. There's some equivocation going on here. I didn't ask about keys (plural) of the kingdom. I asked about the key of David.

Did you know the Bible actually tells us who currently holds the key of David? Check out Revelation 3:7 (hint: it's not the Pope). You cited Isaiah 22 as support for your notion of the Papacy going back to the steward of the Davidic kingdom. I'm saying that breaks down in light of Rev 3:7. The One who opens and shuts (as prophetically foreshadowed in Isaiah 22) is not Peter or Benedict XVI.

Jesus is the new David; the true Davidic King.

Amen.

If David's kingdom had a prime minister, then so would the fulfillment. Afterall, the new cannot be less than the old; ie. Any characteristics of the original kingdom must be fulfilled in the new.

Why would Jesus fulfilling any need for a steward in Himself be less than having another as steward?

Any characteristics of the original kingdom must be fulfilled in the new.

Are you sure you want to hold to that?

David Cox said...

Aaron
Rev. 3:7 simply confirms that Jesus is the new David. That was what I said. However, when the king was away, he entrusted the kingdom to his prime minister. That is easily verifiable.

Why would Jesus then use the language of the keys to Peter specifically and opening and shutting or binding and loosing to the apostles in general if He wasn't trying to draw them back to Is. 22? I think it takes some exegetical gymnastics to overlook that connection.

Why wouldn't the characteristics of the old kingdom be fulfilled in the new?

You have to keep in mind that the primary audience of the apostles were first century Jews. If Christ of the apostles made a reference to an OT passage there would most certainly come with that an immediate context and connection for the listener. It would be like me saying, "buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks..." and you would immediately begin to think baseball.

We don't have that luxury as we aren't 1st century Jews, we are 21st century Americans.

BTW, we really need to get lunch sometime. This would be much easier in person.:)

MG said...

David N--

I will be posting a response to this post on my blog today; take a look and tell me what you think.