Friday, June 04, 2010

The Roman Catholic Hermeneutic

Tim Prussic, whose name I've seen in various comments, and who seems to be a fan of Richard Muller's "Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics," is commenting on his own blog on a very long "Called to Communion" posting by Tim Troutman on the topic of "Holy Orders and the Sacramental Priesthood." So far he has done Part 1 and Part 2 of his analysis, and he promises more.

About half way through part two of Tim Prussic's analysis, he comes to this conclusion:
[Tim Troutman's] stated purpose, as it comes to the text of God’s Word, is simply to “demonstrate that the concept of Holy Orders is consistent with the biblical evidence.” Passing by Tim [Troutman]’s lack of definition of the phrase “Holy Orders,” and consequential lack of clarity as to the consistency of it with the biblical evidence, the statement itself is telling. Tim spends some time on the text of Scripture, but it appears that his interests really lay elsewhere. Mere consistency is his aim. Discovering and obeying what God’s Word teaches and requires regarding the government of Christ’s church is not Tim’s aim.
In the process, Tim Prussic comes to an understanding of Tim Troutman's hermeneutic (at least in Part 2) which makes some sense:
Not only has Tim [Troutman] not proved that the Apostles had the power to confer their same authority upon other, but it would appear he didn’t even try to prove it. When it comes to handling the biblical data, Tim’s article (thus far) is full of “proof texts,” but does not interact with the text or even really seek to understand it. It appears that he’s far more eager to move onto what the church has to say. I suspect that a great deal of our disagreement really stems from this: my authority is the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture and Tim’s is something different. I will not presume to speak for him, to specify his authority, but I think he’d agree that our concepts of authority differ. Because our authorities differ, our doctrine differs. (Emphasis added).
Tim Prussic really is very kind not to try to say what that different authority is. But we do need to know what it is and where it comes from. I've described some of that here:
With regard to the Catholic Church, [their hermeneutic] is a blatant form of revisionism. This is evidenced by Pius IX’s method articulated in his Letter, “Gravissimas inter,” to the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Dec. 11, 1862, reiterated in Pius XII’s statement in Humani Generis, “theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.”

This is further explained in a variety of sources. One Roman Catholic theologian wrote, “We think first of developed forms for which we need to find historical justification. The developed forms come first and the historical justification comes second.” (“Ways of Validating Ministry,” Kilian McDonnell, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (7), pg. 213, cited in Carlos Alfredo Steger, “Apostolic Succession in the Writings of Yves Congar and Oscar Cullmann, pg. 322.) Steger calls this type of historical revisionism “highly questionable if not inadmissible.”

Aiden Nichols, “The Shape of Catholic Theology” (253) notes that for the last several hundred years, according to these popes, “the theologian’s highest task lies in proving the present teachings of the magisterium from the evidence of the ancient sources.” One internet writer called this method “Dogma Appreciation 101” (related in a discussion of his studies in a Catholic seminary.) Nichols calls this, “the so-called regressive method,” and notes that Walter Kasper (now a Cardinal) has traced the origins of this method to the 18th century.

Prior to Newman’s “theory of development,” it was the practice of Catholic apologists (see Bossuet) to argue that the church had never changed: “semper eadem.” But in the course of further historical research, it became necessary for someone like Newman to explain the huge scope and number of the changes that Rome had effected on the church over the centuries.

In the Orwell novel, 1984, it was the job of the main character, Winston Smith, “to rewrite historical documents so they match the constantly changing current party line. This involves revising newspaper articles and doctoring photographs — mostly to remove ‘unpersons,’ people who have fallen foul of the party.”

To find precedence for this practice, Orwell had to travel no further than the Roman Catholic Church, which had made this its practice for centuries. In describing how we have come to know about the genuine teachings of Nestorius, Friedrich Loofs wrote, “The church of the ancient Roman Empire did not punish its heretics merely by deposition, condemnation, banishment and various deprivation of rights, but, with the purpose of shielding its believers against poisonous influence, it destroyed all heretical writings ... a similar fortune was prepared for Nestorius.” (Loofs, “Nestorius,” 2-11).

Of course, according to Orwell, “If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that even, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.” (Book 1, Chapter 3)

This is precisely what the Catholic Church, at an official level, to a greater or lesser degree, has been doing for centuries, and it is the type of thing that its modern apologists continue to do today. (Especially adherents to Newman’s “theory of development.”)


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The Roman Catholic Hermeneutic"

A Roman Catholic hermeneutic to interpret oftentimes unclear Magisterial documents,


a Roman Catholic hermeneutic which is used to interpret the Bible?

"It appears that he’s far more eager to move onto what the church has to say."

That one statement really says quite a bit.

John Bugay said...

Hi Truth. My intention is to describe the Catholic approach to Scripture -- as a place to seek "proof texts," rather than as a place to learn the truth.

And yes, it definitely puts one in a different place.

Viisaus said...

In his book "Vicars of Christ", Peter de Rosa wrote that the 11th century Vatican forgers practised cold-blooded Orwellian rewriting of history.

Hildebrandian papal reform was empowered by a re-imagining of Christian past that the "Donation of Constantine" and False Decretals are only the best known parts of.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Viisaus. There really is a lot of fiction that needs to be sorted out from the fact. As I'm getting into this, there is way too much to present in an easy, summary format.

Tim Prussic said...

James, thanks for linking to the post. I'm happy to see it get a little more attention. Let's stay in touch; I appreciate your efforts.

-Tim Prussic

John Bugay said...

Tim Prussic -- It's me, John Bugay, who posted your links!!

Tim Prussic said...

James, thanks for nothing!!
John, you da man!! :)

John Bugay said...

Hey Tim, thanks. But James really is "da man." He's even from North Jersey. I just get to stand his shoulders once in a while :-)

Tim Prussic said...

Part 3A - on the Jewish origins of church polity. Next post will be on the NT data itself.