Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More special pleading

Jacob Grail-seeker said...

Rho,
St John Damascus also thought his theology biblical. Okay, if I ask you why your theology is more correct than Damascene's, you will likely say because you are following the Bible, right?? Okay, for argument's sake, let's say that Damascene said the same thing--that he, too, is following the Bible. Who's correct now? Who arbitrates this discussion? Remember, you can't say "the bible" because that's the issue under discussion.

And I apologize for any misrepresentations. You say that a lot when we discuss these issues. I felt it easier to just apologize in advance.


Rhology said...

Hi Jacob,

Well, I try to only say it when it's true. Anyway...

Let's look at this from a different angle. Pope Benedict XVI thinks his theology is fully supported by the Fathers and Sacred Tradition. Okay, if I ask you why your theology is more in line with the Fathers than his, you will likely say because you are following the Fathers, right?? Okay, for argument's sake, let's say that Benedict said the same thing--that he, too, is following the Fathers. Who's correct now? Who arbitrates this discussion? Remember, you can't say "the Fathers" because that's the issue under discussion.

Let's look at this from another different angle. Old Calendarists think their theology is fully supported by the Fathers and Sacred Tradition. Okay, if I ask you why your theology is more in line with the Fathers than theirs, you will likely say because you are following the Fathers, right?? Okay, for argument's sake, let's say that they said the same thing--that they, too, are following the Fathers. Who's correct now? Who arbitrates this discussion? Remember, you can't say "the Fathers" because that's the issue under discussion.

This is precisely the kind of special pleading that makes me hold Sola Ecclesia as a position in such contempt.

Peace,
Rhology

31 comments:

John said...

Jacob makes the argument that the individual needs to submit to the church as a whole, and you make the comparison with another individual, Benedict XVI? That's a non-sequitur.

And the old calendarists, while not individuals are a tiny sect, who also need to submit their opinions to the many.

A total failure to grasp the point is what you have here Rhology.

Rhology said...

That's not what the argument was, and that's not my answer, John. Go back, read it again. Read the context if you have to.

And make the argument that the OCs are wrong and "need to submit" to the many.
(I thought you had unity in EOC.)

Edward Reiss said...

John,

The point is that you cannot give a good reason your church's teaching reflects "the Church as a whole" as opposed to the OCs or RCs without a lot of vigorous assertion that your particular church reflects said teachings. IOW, there is no empirical way to validate your church over another if we know truth only because we are in "the" One True Church. Thus we are left with an evaluation of theology, history, the Fathers, practices etc. which is not really different from how prots evaluate these things. A lot of churches say their church's teachings reflect the teachings of "the church as a whole" and have contradictory theologies, just like a lot of prots say they have the correct understanding of Scripture and have contradictory theologies. In fact, it is these contradictory prot theologies which EO and RC apologists use to invalidate Sola Scriptura. The problem is that you are subject to the same critique once the simple assumption that the EOC, RC, Copts etc. are the true church is challenged and not simply taken as a given. This is a typical flaw in an argument from authority, BTW.

John said...

"That's not what the argument was"

How so, when your little excerpt doesn't actually make the argument of how to "arbitrate the discussion". Since it looks like he is Orthodox, I presume his answer is the Orthodox one. If you're going to say "that's not the argument", you'd better quote what his actual argument is.

"And make the argument that the OCs are wrong and "need to submit" to the many. "

I thought you were talking about schismatic OCs. If you are talking about canonical OCs, there is no issue that needs submission.

John said...

"The point is that you cannot give a good reason your church's teaching reflects "the Church as a whole" as opposed to the OCs or RCs without a lot of vigorous assertion that your particular church reflects said teachings."

Err, I just gave at least one reason - when disputes arose, our church held to the catholic and widespread opinion in the tradition. Other churches did not.

"Thus we are left with an evaluation of theology, history, the Fathers, practices etc. which is not really different from how prots evaluate these things."

It's pretty different since no Prot holds to things that are even unanimous in the fathers and history.

"A lot of churches say their church's teachings reflect the teachings of "the church as a whole"

Like who? Let's see if they have a modicum of foundation for such a claim.

beowulf2k8 said...

Calvinism is special pleading: "We teach God is the author of evil, but also that he isn't. And because we say we don't teach what we do teach, you can't accuse us of teaching what we really do teach."

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"Err, I just gave at least one reason - when disputes arose, our church held to the catholic and widespread opinion in the tradition. Other churches did not."

That cannot be because you are not "the" Church so your view was not the catholic and widely held view.

QED.

Just ask a RC about the pope, or a Copt about the nature of Christ.

Of course, you can adduce theological and historical reasons for believing what you do, but that is the point--that is what prots are accused of doing.

"It's pretty different since no Prot holds to things that are even unanimous in the fathers and history."

Lutherans are prots and we hold to Infant Baptism, the Real Presence and other things which are from the early Church. As before, you don't know enough to make the sweeping claims you do. It is yet more evidence that you have a cartoon version of prots rather than something with any nuance.

John said...

"That cannot be because you are not "the" Church so your view was not the catholic and widely held view. "

What? What does this have to do with what I just said?

If you trace out every schism, and the successors to those with the widely held view, EO is it. Starting from the premise that EO is not it, is a non-sequitur.

As to your statements about Lutheranism, perhaps I should be clearer in stating "all the things" unanimous in the early Church. Yes, all Protestants take bits and pieces, and Lutherans more than most. That is not the point.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"If you trace out every schism, and the successors to those with the widely held view, EO is it. "

Only if the EO is your reference point. It takes two to schism, and if someone is in another church it will appear the EOCs view was not the view held by the One Holy Catholic and Orthodox Church even if we count patriarchs and souls. BTW, St. Maximos the Confessor resisted the widely held view of the patriarchs (save the patriarch of Rome) of his day. Why didn't he submit to the widely held view of Monothelitism instead of clinging to his personal interpretation? In what sense can you claim "the" Church was EOdox when the Eastern patriarchs were in heresy?

And that is the issue, the whole "submit to the Church" argument depends on identifying the One True Church. Since you have no empirical way of showing someone not EO or not very sympathetic to the EO the whole argument of "submit to the Church" is rather meaningless. Were all the patriarchs except the patriarch of Rome wrong? If so hat does that do to "widespread tradition"? If that is your criteria then you would have no ammunition to use against the monothelites as they were the majority.

A good example of is your claim regarding "all things" in the early Church which yo uuse to exclude others. The RCC will claim that papal authority is part of "all things" in the early Church and they can exclude you from being fully church because the EOC lacks that piece of "all things". It all depends on the authority to which one submits--if the pope really is the vicar of Christ you are simply wrong to identify the EOC as "the" Church no matter how many patriarchs and arguments you can muster. (And from St. Maximos' standpoint, counting patriarchs didn't carry too much weight anyway as he was willing to stand alone against all the patriarchs if necessary...) IOW, the argument from authority--AKA we are "the" Church so submit--only works for those who accept the authority. And this is true no matter how many times you post as if the EOC as Church is an established empirical fact because it is not an established empirical fact.

John said...

"if someone is in another church it will appear the EOCs view was not the view held by the One Holy Catholic and Orthodox Church"

This is not a matter of appearance, it is a matter of rock solid fact. The EO church was by far the larger party during every single schism. You can waffle on all you like about what might have appeared to whoever, but that's the fact, the pure indisputable fact.

"BTW, St. Maximos the Confessor resisted the widely held view of the patriarchs (save the patriarch of Rome) of his day."

You say it was widely held, but when an ecumenical council was held, Monothelitism was unanimously condemned save for only two persons. So how widely held was it really? That a number of prominent people promoted something doesn't show that it was the catholic doctrine. And that applies to Patriarchs too. Patriarchs are not mini Popes, nor does you trying to characterise them as such have anything to do with the argument made.

And furthermore, that a particular controversy raged for a few years, and if per se it was not clear in those years who had the upper hand, it doesn't really have anything to do with the situation when the controversy is resolved. That would be like me railing on you about accepting Revelation or 2 Peter or Esther since their canonical status was so unclear in the early years. Are you willing to roll back to the clock to any arbitrary time, and reopen any and every controversy? If so, prove to me authoritatively that Revelation and 2 Peter and Esther are canonical scripture.

I mean the whole non-Chalcedonian Church argument works just as well against you as against us, since they held to a different canon of scripture. If you want to reject the idea of the catholic consensus by appealing to various small schismatic groups, then your own canon is now jettisoned. And where exactly does that leave you?

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"This is not a matter of appearance, it is a matter of rock solid fact. The EO church was by far the larger party during every single schism. "

No, it is not--and since when does the study of history have authority over the Church? And since when are controversies decided by perpetual plebiscite?

There is no promise that the majority will always be right--St. Maximos is a good counter example to your claim. You have not dealt with him--if the majority of the Church shows what the Church teaches, he was a bit uppity, wasn't he? (He wasn't even a priest!) Instead of taking his confessional stance that he doesn't care if he is the only one who believes the truth he should have said "if over time the Monothelite view is in the majority, I will recant. Until then, I will not". IOW, the way of deciding things you describe was not St. Maximos' situation, but is a later tradition you are reading into early Church history.

"You say it was widely held, but when an ecumenical council was held, Monothelitism was unanimously condemned save for only two persons."

OK, name the orthodox patriarchs in the East in 638. Hint: there were none.

Is that "widely held" enough for you?

The East was Monothelite and the West was not. So, in what way can the Eastern patriarchs be said to be Orthodox if they teach heresy and persecute the ones teaching orthodoxy? This is where your argument (and Cyprian ASfor the EOC, at least for a time) falls apart. That things were settled at a later council is beside the point, as there is no promise an ecumenical council is orthodox--e.g. the council of Florence. There are just far too many exceptions and nuances to accept your authority system at face value. That along with other claimants leaves you in a rather "prot"

I don't care what authority structure you *claim*, you have to show it is the authority structure received from the Apostles. You cannot do that without appealing to your own authority structure.

John said...

"No, it is not"

"Nyah is not", is not the most compelling rebuttal I've ever seen.

"since when does the study of history have authority over the Church?"

That's a rather odd attitude. What method do you propose to oh say, decide the OT canon of scripture? Any history involved there per chance?

"And since when are controversies decided by perpetual plebiscite?"

Apparently since you became a Lutheran and accepted the most widespread NT canon, instead of the less well accepted and smaller non-Chalcedonian canon, or the larger Ethiopian canon.

And since when, since at least the council of Jerusalem when everyone gathered together to find out what the Spirit was doing in all their jurisdictions.

"There is no promise that the majority will always be right--St. Maximos is a good counter example to your claim."

St Maximos is only a good counter example that the top of the hierarchy is always right. It has nothing to do with majorities, until you demonstrate what the majority of Christians and/or bishops were teaching. I'm warming my hands on your burning straw men.

"he should have said "if over time the Monothelite view is in the majority, I will recant. Until then, I will not""

Maxumus' point was that the Monothelite heresy contradicted already settled concilliar decisions. To contradict what is already settled makes you a heretic and you don't get counted, which is precisely why they didn't figure into Maximus' thinking. Your argument is about as rational as arguing Orthodoxy requires I become a Protestant should they outnumber us. If you think you know better what Maximus' rule of faith was, then you'd better tell us, because what I see is his appeal to settled concilliar decisions which is exactly the catholic consensus that I argue for.

"OK, name the orthodox patriarchs in the East in 638. Hint: there were none."

What for? Did I ever suggesting doing a head count of patriarchs? No? I continue to warm myself on your straw men.

"So, in what way can the Eastern patriarchs be said to be Orthodox?"

They can't! Glad you've figured out that conundrum.

"That things were settled at a later council is beside the point,"

But it wasn't Maximus' point. He appealed to previous councils. " "Soon the novelties proposed in that document were followed by others, overturning the definitions of holy councils" - Maximos.

" There are just far too many exceptions and nuances to accept your authority system at face value. "

Really. For all the nuances, you accept our NT canon though, without the need to go wandering off to see what the non-Chalcedonians or Ethiopians have to say. Inconsistency is an odd thing.

"I don't care what authority structure you *claim*, you have to show it is the authority structure received from the Apostles. You cannot do that without appealing to your own authority structure. "

I appeal to nothing more than the exact same authority structure that witnesses to you the canon of scripture. If you doubt that structure, doubt your scripture.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

You have no way of establishing the EOC as "the" Church without assuming the EOC is "the" Church in the first place (circular reasoning) OR by using arbitrary criteria not received from Christ, the Apostles and the Prophets--e.g. majority is right, councils etc.

You can appeal to anything you like, but ultimately because you argue from authority it doesn't matter what "systems" you can create to establish your authority--you don't have a word from the Apostles.

"I appeal to nothing more than the exact same authority structure that witnesses to you the canon of scripture. If you doubt that structure, doubt your scripture."

This is rather silly. Do you maintain that there was no Scripture until the canon was finalized? Was it an open question whether or not Christ was a creature before Nicea? This is why you leave your self open to the charge of "Sola Ecclesia"--nothing is sure until the Church speaks, notwithstanding references to Scripture and the divinity of Christ before both were "finalized". In effect you believe the Church *creates* truth.

When we add to that that your criteria for establishing your particular authority are either arbitrary or hopelessly question begging, we can discard the "argument from authority" used against Sola Scriptura, because you are in the same boat.

Rhology said...

Edward Reiss said:
without assuming the EOC is "the" Church in the first place (circular reasoning)

John, hopefully you won't dispute this, since your buddy DavidW said precisely that yesterday.

Peace,
Rhology

John said...

"Do you maintain that there was no Scripture until the canon was finalized?"

Did I say that? No I didn't say that. The straw men are now a veritable bonfire.

What I said is that you have no final canon of scripture because you rely on the exact same authority I do to establish it. If you want to reject that and be consistent, then you will doubt scripture, or what you think might be scripture. So whatever argument you might wish to put forward about the canon is "either arbitrary or hopelessly question begging", since it is the exact same authority justified on the exact same supposedly question begging criteria. If you disagree, prove your canon of scripture is correct over and above that of other Christian communions without begging the question.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

You have no way of establishing the EOC as "the" Church without assuming the EOC is "the" Church in the first place (circular reasoning) OR by using arbitrary criteria not received from Christ, the Apostles and the Prophets--e.g. majority is right, councils etc. (Pasted from before)

As you can see, my argument is against your claims about the EOC, not that the Church does not have authority.

I do not reject the authority of the Church, I reject the claim that the *EOC* is "the" Church and that therefore what the EOC has become is binding on all who would be Christian. This is the claim you use to filter out non EO doctrines and claims, and I simply reject the contention because it is a mere assertion. There is no reaosn for me to accept this claim over and against others.

So, it is possible, and logically consistent, to accept the canon from *the* Church without saying that the EOC or RCC church is "the" Church. It depends on how one views the Church--it is an institution with sacraments, or a sacrament with institutions? You seem to hold the former view, while Lutherans hold the latter.

John said...

Edward, you keep saying this and thereby undermining your own position.

Ok, I'm hypothetically a member of the Ethiopian Church, and I'm telling you your doctrine is all wrong because your New Testament lacks Sirate, Tsion, Tizaz, Gitsew, Abtilis, I book of Dominos, II book of Dominos, The book of Clement and Didascalia.

What have you got to say?

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"Edward, you keep saying this and thereby undermining your own position."

No, it doesn't. I don't have to have an all-or-none approach to ecclesial claims or canonical lists of books. Nor is the canon theown wide open just because we don't have an "official" list. If the Church (not to be understood as only the EOC) used a book and stated it is Apostolic, we can use it. If the Church had doubts about it, it has less authority. If it is used by a single communion that raises its own issues. IOW, this is only an issue if an infallible institution is required to sort everything out.

However, this can be an issue for you because of the kinds of claims you make for the EOC as well as the way you use those claims. I suppose you would just say to the Ethiopian "Since we are the Church and you are not, your list is wrong..." But that just begs the question as to whether or not your Church is the Church or if the Ethiopian Church is the church. And you cannot empirically show your church is the real deal.

John said...

Ok, so you don't have an issue with possibly having completely wrong doctrine because your canon is wrong, and you have zero and zippo to say to an Ethiopian who tells you so. Interesting.

Ok, my hypothetical Ethiopian says you are going to hell. I don't expect to hear back since you have no response.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"Ok, so you don't have an issue with possibly having completely wrong doctrine because your canon is wrong, and you have zero and zippo to say to an Ethiopian who tells you so. Interesting."

You have to show the possibility is real, not just assert it as a possibility because one church has a different canon than another. In any case, there is no more reason to accept the Ethiopian church as having the final say than to accept the EOC having the final say. IOW, the central flaw in your argument is still in play-YOU have no reason to deny the Ethiopian books other than assuming the EOC is "the" Church via circular reasoning or arbitrarily choosing criteria so the EOC comes out on top. You are still looking for an infallible interpreter to decide issues like this, but if that is required YOU would in effect have no Scriptures until a canon is finalized. In this way, your over reliance on authority undoes e.g. Irenaeus, who was obviously too dim to realize he should not use the Scriptures to refute gnostics because the Church had no spoken yet regarding a list of books.

IOW, I think the premise of this argument by you has fatal flaws.

John said...

"You have to show the possibility is real, not just assert it as a possibility because one church has a different canon than another."

Okay, let me ask you this: are you confident that the following quote is in accordance with Lutheran theology?

"The Scripture, then, has shown clearly that if there be found a righteous man with an ungodly, he shall not perish with him, but every man shall be saved by his righteousness: and if he is hindered, it is by his own sins that he is hindered." - Didascalia

If there is the least doubt in your mind, then clearly the canon can affect your doctrine, unless you perhaps want to say the doctrine is not an important one. You tell me.

"the central flaw in your argument is still in play-YOU have no reason to deny the Ethiopian books"

I already told you a reason, that when there was a dispute in the churches, the apostles and presbyters from the churches all came together to decide. That principle indicates to me that the catholic consensus is decisive in church matters. SInce the Ethiopian church split off from the rest of Christendom as a small minority, they clearly weren't following the Jerusalem council principle of coming together to resolve disputes. You don't seem to be able to distinguish between "no reason", and a reason you don't happen to subscribe to. I have a reason, and it comes from the bible.

"In this way, your over reliance on authority undoes e.g. Irenaeus, who was obviously too dim to realize he should not use the Scriptures to refute gnostics because the Church had no spoken yet regarding a list of books."

But Irenaeus is not relying on scripture alone since he appeals to the doctrine of the apostolic sees. He can appeal to anything he likes, and it doesn't matter so long as it agrees with the Church's doctrine. The Church throughout history has never limited itself to appealing to scripture.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"If there is the least doubt in your mind, then clearly the canon can affect your doctrine, unless you perhaps want to say the doctrine is not an important one. You tell me."

ISTM that you have a sort of aversion to nuance, diversity and distinction in epistemology, and thus you try and reduce this canonical complexity to a simple assertion of One True Church, which happens to be yours, to decide everything. I think this is an error, as the world is simply not that tidy, nor is church history or the history of the canon. Simply choosing an authorty and then using that to reduce diversity and distinction is not a good way to go about things. Lutherans accept the diversity in the canon--the authorty of a book does not depend on a bunch of guys in robes taking votes, but on what the Church has used, and whether the book comports with the rest of the books used. Also, books spoken against (antilegomena) have less authorty than books not spoken against (prolegomena), and cannot be used to "correct" the prolegomena. Thus, the list of canonical books is well defined but not absolutly defined for Lutherans. Put simply, we don't have an official list of books--just like Irenaeus and the Church throughout most of its history!

If the Ethiopian church wants to say these books are in the canon, we will do what the Church has done in history: Is the book written by an Apostle or was its writing suprvised by an Apostle? Does it conform to the rest of Scripture? Is it used by the church, and if so how widely is it used? etc.

"I already told you a reason, that when there was a dispute in the churches, the apostles and presbyters from the churches all came together to decide. That principle indicates to me that the catholic consensus is decisive in church matters. "

And this criteria by you is arbitrary. There is no guarantee what a majority of bishops will come to the right decision--it is simply asserted as a fact. Florence was duely voted upon by bishops, and yet rejected by the laity and priests. There was also a council which affirmed Pelagius, and was later rejected with Pelagius condemned as a heretic. The council of Antioch (actually, several councils) in the 3rd century forbade the term homoousios, which was later dogmatized at Nicea. Now, you may have further criteria, but they will have exceptions, too--i.e. nuance, diversity and distinction.

"But Irenaeus is not relying on scripture alone since he appeals to the doctrine of the apostolic sees."

Irenaeus states explicitly that the "doctrine of the Apostolic Sees" is written down in the Scriptures. What is written *is* the Tradition, and this Tradition sounds a lot like the Apostles' creed. So, when he refers to Apostolic Tradition he refers to Scripture. Also, his work "Against Heresies" is chock full of exegetical arguments. Please see Against Heresies III 1-2. The Apostles preached orally and then wrote down what they preached.

John said...

Well you're forcing me to learn more about Lutheranism, which perhaps is a bit of a blind spot in my knowledge, seeing as in my part of the world there don't seem to be large numbers of them. If Lutheranism is still what the Augsburg confession says it is, I don't see why Eastern Orthodox and Lutherans can't see themselves in substantial agreement on at least the things it speaks to.

However, while there is much to agree with in the Augsburg confession, one thing I think it lacks is sufficient underpinnings for anyone to care about it.

For example, the Augsburg confession speaks about confession and absolution. And Orthodox people would say Amen. But the only defence of the practice is reference to the power of the Keys which is an interpretation continually under attack from other Protestant sects. From our point of view, we have the tradition of confession and we have the tradition of interpreting the power of the keys, so this teaching is settled. From your own epistemology this is all highly contentious. Which I think why, even though Lutheranism in its original form looks like the catholic consensus in many ways, but the children which this reformation brought forth, who now dominate the landscape of Protestantism, look like no such thing. Lutheranism saved the house, but demolished the foundation.

And this is ironic to me, since you speak about the antilegomena and prolegomena, but an awful lot of Lutheranism is prolegomena in terms of its exegesis and doctrine compared to the rest of Protestantism. So if the idea of antilegomena = optional or disposable, why be Lutheran when it dogmatises antilegomena doctrines and interpretations?

John said...

Back to the canon, I'm not aware of any "guys in robes" voting on the canon, so you're ascribing to me something I'm not advocating.

The problem I see with your antilegomena theory, is not the theory itself, but the problem you are going to have applying it without a more solid ecclesiology.

For example, how are you to factor Marcion into your equations without either firming up your ecclesiology, or else resorting to arbitrary criteria? Since Marcion only accepted Luke into his canon, so by that criteria Matthew, Mark and John are antilegomena.

You might say that Marcion was not part of mainstream Christianity, but if that is your response, that is exactly my point. There's a whole range of sects, schisms and opinions flying around, some of them more far out than others. Are you going to appeal to the succession in the catholic churches to rebut Marcion? What are you going to appeal to?


Apparently you are willing to give the Ethiopians at least some credence in your canonical thinking, but why? Why them more than Marcionites, various pseudo-gnostic groups?

And why does the typical Lutheran carry around the antilegomena of James, Peter and Revelation, but not the antilegomena of Ethiopia or Roman Catholicism, or Eastern Orthodoxy?

If you appeal to the Church Fathers, without the proper ecclesiology you just assume what you want to prove, since the Church Fathers are just our forefathers who we preserved because they agree with us. And I say "us" because what held them together as one identifiable church, distinguishable from all the other sects is the very idea of one visible holy apostolic church with apostolic succession, all in communion together, which is a doctrine that you reject. If their distinctives and unity is not held by you, then you can't claim to be their successors and make special appeal to them without taking into account other views like Marcion.

And if you come back to me with some criteria or other for rejecting Marcion and other from my point of view heretical groups, why shouldn't I label your criteria arbitrary?

Concerning Irenaeus, there is no contradiction between making exegetical arguments and holding to tradition. And I don't believe he ever said that all the doctrine is written down in scripture. He does at one point say the Gospel is written down, but that's not the same thing.

In any case, the important thing is that Irenaeus is a great critic of the idea that scripture can be interpreted outside of the context of the Church.

"Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy Priests" - (AH, book 5)

"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the Apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the Tradition of the truth. " - AH, 3, 4, 1

To have a concept of the truth "lodged in her [the Church's] hands" and that "all others are thieves and robbers", you have to have to have a strong idea of which is which. And you're not going to be able to show which is which without appealing to arbitrary criteria that you decry.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

What this boils down to (and your last post shows it) is that you have a problem with nuance and diversity. Unless everything is battened down there is so much instability that your epistemology falls apart. Interestingly enough, that is the topic of the thread.

So, YOU have the same problem, and arbitrarily creating criteria or using circular reasoning does not get you out of the ditch. We don't have the problem because we are not wed to a single "church" which is supposed to take care of these issues. The fact you do is why you constantly have to reinterpret data, as you did with Irenaeus:

"In any case, the important thing is that Irenaeus is a great critic of the idea that scripture can be interpreted outside of the context of the Church. "

I suggest you read the work through. Ireneaus does not argue as you do, in fact he states it is the Gnostics who believe we need a secret "key" to understand the Scriptures, as for his interpretation, he is rather prosaic and "historical grammatical".

Also, you will just arbitrarily or circularly determine your church is "the" Church within which the Scriptures need to be interpreted, which is the special pleading this thread is about. I keep coming back to that because it is the central hole in your approach: There is no external way to choose between competing "churches" or traditions, if you will.

John said...

So I accuse you of having an epistemology that can't select between Lutheranism, Marcionism and Gnosticism, and your big rebuttal is how sad I am because I want stuff battened down?

Yep, I do want stuff battened down, and frankly, so did the catholics, Marcionites and Gnostics.

And if using the concilliar criteria that the apostles used in Acts 16 is "arbitrary", then call me arbitrary for following the apostles.

And if Irenaeus was a sola scriptura kind of guy, he wouldn't have had to point people to the apostolic sees saying that all churches need to agree with them.

You think Ireaeus is a strict historical grammatical exegetical guy? Other people have thought it more complex, commenting that he is "concerned to stay within the Church's tradition", and his interpretation "joins with instances of the oral tradition", and "by following a tradition he heard from an elder, Irenaeus believes God did not curse Adam"

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"So I accuse you of having an epistemology that can't select between Lutheranism, Marcionism and Gnosticism, and your big rebuttal is how sad I am because I want stuff battened down?"

Accuse away. The brute fact, which you choose to ignore, is that YOUR whole system is based on circular reasoning (as your own blog buddy stated)or upon arbitrary criteria--you arbitrarily exclude come councils a and not others. Fo rthat reason alone your "argument" is not at all convincing.

Mine is not circular because I admit I start from certain precepts--precepts which BTW the EOC at least nominally agrees with. One is that the Scriptures are inspired writings, another is Nicea and other councils are expositions of the Scriptures. If you disagree with that, OK, but at least I admit am am making choices and not pretending I am just following "the" Church (which I arbitrarily chose). IOW, whe I talk about these things they are the product of prayerfully considering the options and not a simplistic assertion of my POV. You don't admit that--you pretend that it is quite obvious that the EOC is the Church and has followed Apostolic Teaching therefore all other churches are out--just look at the councils the EOC chose to follow as opposed to the ones they have not chosen to follow. Which means when you refer to "councils" you mean "councils approved by the EOC" and not "councils", making even that circular and hence useless.

Sorry, but such circular reasoning is not at all convincing, no matter how many times you try and act like it is.

Regarding Irenaeus, I suggest you read him instead of making vague claims based on the authority structure founded on your circular argument. I also note you just arbitrarily chose another authority for your reading of Irenaeus which is supposed to settle the issue. Do you have any other way to justify your beliefs besides an appeal to authority, or can you give actual reasons for what you believe.

I suspect it is the former and not the latter.

John said...

I'm still seeing a lot of hypocrisy at work here.

When I point out you have no certain canon of scripture, you say oh well it doesn't matter, there is prolegomena and antilegomena, so it doesn't matter, we can paper over the fuzziness.

But then if there are councils which EOC do not follow, and everything isn't all nailed down to your satisfaction, then the whole system is considered to have collapsed.

Nevermind that the councils we do consider important has the exact same criteria as the books you consider important - catholic acceptance.

Nicea and other councils are expositions of scripture? Not that many of the canons and definitions of the councils appeal to scripture. Most simply say that such and such is the "tradition of the apostles and the Fathers". So at least one of your presuppositions is doubtful from the get go.

You are not circular because you admit you start from precepts? That sounds like that by admitting you are circular, you escape the accusation of being circular. But it isn't so easy. I can start from the precept that EOC is the Church, and thereby avoid circularity? If I'd known it was that easy, I would have done so. Instead I appealed to the practice of the Church in the Jerusalem council which is distinctly NOT circular. But you've all but admitted your criteria IS circular.

And claiming to be the only one who "prayerfully considered the options" instead of "simplistically assertions of a POV" won't cut it either. If I was simply asserting a POV, I could have been out of here after first post. And by referring to the drawbacks of your POV, I am considering the options. Claiming you have some higher moral ground of contemplation is nothing more than self-justification.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"But then if there are councils which EOC do not follow, and everything isn't all nailed down to your satisfaction, then the whole system is considered to have collapsed."

There is no hypocrisy because you argue from authority, while I do not. It was you, not I, who tried to use councils as an authority to determine where the Church stood over time when even councils disagree with each other. That is the difference. It is you, not I, who argue as if it is an established fact that your church is "the" Church, and merely assert it to be so. There is not a single reason you have advanced as to why your church is the real deal and that it therefore all others are not.

Regarding my precepts, I will put them up against the circular argument you and your blog buddy put out any day--I simply admit I am making choices while you act like you do not because you are only following authority.

The thing is, it really seems all you can do is argue from authority.

And you are still wrong on Irenaeus. :-)

Will you admit you cannot establish the EOC as "the" Church on a rational basis? Will you admit it is something you believe for a variety of reasons? Will you admit that the reasons you believe thus are not necessarily convincing?

I have no problem with your believing the EOC is "the" Church, but arguing with others with that assumption as your foundation is bogus.

Rhology said...

Will you admit you cannot establish the EOC as "the" Church on a rational basis? Will you admit it is something you believe for a variety of reasons?

And don't be afraid. DavidW has already done so. You have a chance to demonstrate some fo'-real unity.

John said...

Come now. Everything you've said so far is an argument from authority. Arguments from scripture are arguments from authority.

When I mentioned the non-Chalcedonian canon, you make an argument from authority about the status of the prolegomena - because it is not disputed, it is of higher authority. As soon as you uttered "prolegomena" you made an argument from authority.

When I mentioned the Marcionite canon, you were silent, because you ran clean out of arguments from authority.

Now how come I can advance reasons why it is the "real deal" as you call it, and then you say there is "not a single reason you have advanced"? You continue to confound "no reason" with "reason I do not agree with".

You'll put your circular arguments up against my supposed circular arguments any day? Wonderful. You'll pit one logical fallacy up against supposedly another one. What a winner.

Choices? I never claimed I do not make choices. What I claim is that given the Church is a group of people, and not simply a disassociated set of individuals, rules of faith can only function when the group is part of the decision making process. That's why Luther started a landslide of groups that are distinct doctrinally, and yet none of them ever seem to reform to one another. They all stem from individual interpretation, and then gained adherents, but none are actually reformed by the word of God. In short the whole system is dysfunctional.

This is not convincing to you? Where did I ever claim everyone would be convinced. Clearly not everyone is convinced, and therefore they remain part of the dysfunctional rag tag group of Protestantism, never able to come to any conclusions with one another.

And I can quote Irenaeus promoting rules of faith other than scripture, and quote experts about his appeals to oral tradition, and you are right? Yet again, assuming what you want to prove. Good luck with that.