Monday, August 23, 2010

Covenant, Canon, and the New Testament Church

Now that the fireworks of the last few days have subsided, I've wanted to get back to Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's (2010) "The Heresy of Orthodoxy" (Wheaton IL: Crossway).

As I noted in a previous post, while the stated topic of this work was to deal with what's known as the "Bauer/Ehrman" thesis, it also has extraordinary implications for Bryan Cross's unique and novel concept of "Ecclesial Deism". As he has noted:
Deism refers to a belief that God made the world, and then left it to run on its own. It is sometimes compared to “a clockmaker” winding up a clock and then “letting it run.” Deism is distinct from theism in that theism affirms not only that God created the world, but also that God continually sustains and governs all of creation.

Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy. Ecclesial deism is not the belief that individual members of the Magisterium could fall into heresy or apostasy. It is the belief that the Magisterium of the Church could lose or corrupt some essential of the deposit of faith, or add something to the deposit of faith.
There are a couple of things wrong with this definition. First, Bryan anachronistically reads the concept of "magisterium" back into the earliest church. He also misunderstands not only what "the church" is (or rather, he superimposes his own impressions back on it, but he also misunderstands (or mis-states) what's actually being promised to "the one true church" in John 16:13.

In reality, it was not a "magisterium" that the earliest church had, but the concept of "covenant", and while the title of this work deals with heresy and orthodoxy, it could, in fact, have been entitled "Canon and Covenant."

The authors not only identify core orthodox doctrines (and locate the church within the doctrines -- not vice versa), but they also describe how the concept of covenant always brought with it the requirement for a written copy of the covenant documents -- which not only were kept in holy shrines, but which were also to be "read publicly at regular intervals."

"The new covenant documents are no exception to this overall pattern," they write. "The religious world of Judaism had already anticipated the reality" not only of God's covenant in Israel, but a "New Covenant" sealed by Christ's blood. And they point to the "clear expectation that this new covenant, like the old covenant, would be accompanied by the appropriate written texts to testify to the terms of the new arrangement that Gd was establishing with his people." So, rather than being an after thought, "the canon is a concept that has been indelibly part of the life of God's people from the very state of the nation of Israel," and thus, they were a part of the thinking of the earliest communities of Christians.

This work is incredibly valuable, as well, in providing a Scripture-based account that's totally at odds with the "ecclesial deism" assumption.

Because this work is so helpful, my hope is to work through this book in a way that is a bit longer than one might expect in a simple review.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction: The Contemporary Battle to Recast the Origins of the New Testament and Early Christianity.

Part 1: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: Pluralism and the Origins of the New Testament

1. The Bauer-Ehrman Thesis: Its Origins and Influence

2. Unity and Plurality: How DIverse Was Early Christianity?

3. Heresy in the New Testament: How Early Was It?

Part 2: Picking the Books: Tracing the Development of the New Testament Canon

4. Starting in the Right Place: The Meaning of Canon in Early Christianity

5. Interpreting the Historical Evidence: The Emerging Canon in Early Christianity

6. Establishing the Boundaries: Apocryphal Books and the Limits of the Canon

Part 3: Changing the Story: Manuscripts, Scribes, and Textual Transmission

7. Keepers of the Text: How Were Texts Copied and Circulated in the Ancient World?

8. Tampering with the Text: Was The New Testament Text Changed Along the Way?

Concluding Appeal: The Heresy of Orthodoxy in a Topsy-Turvy World

Again, while the authors make these points in the context of interacting with the Bauer/Ehrman thesis, point-by-point, I found myself agreeing with them as point-by-point, they address what Roman Catholics continually represent as the key core weakness of Protestantism, "that 'Sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible.'"

The Reformers' doctrine of Scripture is not only incredibly biblical, but it is also the case that "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass," including the development of the canon as a means of guiding His one true church into all truth.

9 comments:

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of God, Peace be unto those who follow the guidance from their Lord.

John I have found your insights very helpful, and I say this not with any ill intent towards others on this blog; however I find you one more the cultured, enlightened and self restrained people who approach others who have a different world view than your own.

Thank you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi John,

There was a recent post at TeamPyro about the Bauer-Ehrman Hypothesis titled: Weekend Extra: The Heresy of Orthodoxy.

John Bugay said...

Hi GV19, I appreciate your comment, although I'm sure there are some Roman Catholics who visit this blog who might not agree with your assessment.

John Bugay said...

Truth -- this was a tremendous work. I got the impression, while reading it, that I was reading a statement of the same order as Machen's "Liberalism and Christianity."

In a nutshell, it's a statement of the authority of the apostles, the orthodoxy of the New Testament church, and how and why "orthodox doctrine" was written down for later generations.

The authors argue that "the canon" was a genuinely early development. You may have seen me argue to the effect that Paul's letters were possibly collected during his lifetime; they make that argument a fortiori, and then some.

It is the ideal rejoinder not only to Bauer/Ehrman, but also to Bryan Cross and "Ecclesial Deism," to "the canon question," and also, evidently, to BioLogos.

David Waltz said...

Hi GV19,

Longtime no chat! Hope that your month of fasting (Ramadan) is strengthening you spiritually…

I concur with most of the following that you posted:

>>John I have found your insights very helpful, and I say this not with any ill intent towards others on this blog; however I find you one more the cultured, enlightened and self restrained people who approach others who have a different world view than your own.>>

Me: Though John is certainly one of the more charitable and self-restrained anti-Roman Catholics I have encountered online, I still cannot help but suspect that his anti-Roman Catholic bias has some negative ramifications on his research and beliefs. For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe. Do not wish to digress here, but it does remind me a bit of James White’s charge/s leveled against Muslim apologists who quote “liberal”, critical Christian scholars in their debates, whilst James allows himself to use “liberal” and critical Islamic scholars.

To make a very long story short, I sincerely hope and pray that a bit more consistency among epologists emerges in the near future—but forgive me if I do not hold my breath…


Grace and peace,

David

Matthew D. Schultz said...

David Waltz writes:

For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe.

How does it follow that this is inconsistent? Since you yourself have given the qualification of "some," it doesn't seem reasonable to suggest that John can't recommend both Lampe and Kostenberger/Kruger. Unless they were completely contradictory (in both methods and conclusions), it seems perfectly reasonable to draw on and recommend those aspects of these works he finds helpful and accurate.

Do not wish to digress here,

Then I have to ask why you brought up this charge of inconsistency at all. Are you hoping that it will stand uncontested if you couch it in noncommittal language?

Charges of intellectual inconsistency are serious. It would be best to either make them with an intent to discuss them or not to make them at all.

but it does remind me a bit of James White’s charge/s leveled against Muslim apologists who quote “liberal”, critical Christian scholars in their debates, whilst James allows himself to use “liberal” and critical Islamic scholars.

That comparison assumes White's methods are inconsistent.

However, it's appropriate (even obligatory) to argue that the conclusions of liberal scholars (quoted by Muslims against traditional Christianity) are faulty while, at the same time, demonstrating the merits of liberal scholarship with respect to critiques of Islam. Since White deals with liberal scholarship on a regular basis, I don't see how this approach is inconsistent on any level.

And you are comparing the use of liberal and conservative scholarship across two different religious traditions. Not only do you require a symmetrical relationship where none should exist, but your comparison of John Bugay's methods with White's is disanalogous.

David Waltz said...

Hello Matthew,

Thanks for responding to my musings; you posted:

>>David Waltz writes:

For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe.

How does it follow that this is inconsistent? Since you yourself have given the qualification of "some," it doesn't seem reasonable to suggest that John can't recommend both Lampe and Kostenberger/Kruger. Unless they were completely contradictory (in both methods and conclusions), it seems perfectly reasonable to draw on and recommend those aspects of these works he finds helpful and accurate.>>

Me: Perhaps you do not understand the key issues between critical scholarship and conservative scholarship (maybe you do, but choose to sweep these issues under the carpet for now). Lampe's critical methodology permeates his scholarly work--the inconsistency of John lies in his willingness to accept Lampe's critical methodology in a very narrow venue—i.e. wherein he undermines certain Roman Catholic claims—but then rejects Lampe's critical methodology when it works against his worldview.

>>Do not wish to digress here,

Then I have to ask why you brought up this charge of inconsistency at all. Are you hoping that it will stand uncontested if you couch it in noncommittal language?>>

Me: No.

>>Charges of intellectual inconsistency are serious. It would be best to either make them with an intent to discuss them or not to make them at all.>>

Me: I am willing to do so.

>>but it does remind me a bit of James White’s charge/s leveled against Muslim apologists who quote “liberal”, critical Christian scholars in their debates, whilst James allows himself to use “liberal” and critical Islamic scholars.

That comparison assumes White's methods are inconsistent.>>

Me: Not an assumption (IMO).

>>However, it's appropriate (even obligatory) to argue that the conclusions of liberal scholars (quoted by Muslims against traditional Christianity) are faulty while, at the same time, demonstrating the merits of liberal scholarship with respect to critiques of Islam.>>

Me: This is the 'problem' Matthew: you, and so many others, are willing to use a double-edged sword (i.e. liberal, critical scholarship) against your opponents whilst crying 'foul' when they attempt to do the same!!!

>>Since White deals with liberal scholarship on a regular basis, I don't see how this approach is inconsistent on any level.>>

Me: Sigh...

>>And you are comparing the use of liberal and conservative scholarship across two different religious traditions. Not only do you require a symmetrical relationship where none should exist, but your comparison of John Bugay's methods with White's is disanalogous.>>

Me: I disagree Matthew; the fact that John, James White, and many other epologists are willing to solicit liberal, critical scholarship ONLY when it furthers their aggenda/s, whilst denying the same method to their opponents, is an all too common practice—that you do not discern commonality and/or inconsistency here is a bit troubling...


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. I tried posint the above twice last night, but some reason it disappeared both times...

David Waltz said...

Hello Matthew,

Thanks for responding to my musings; you posted:

>>David Waltz writes:

For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe.

How does it follow that this is inconsistent? Since you yourself have given the qualification of "some," it doesn't seem reasonable to suggest that John can't recommend both Lampe and Kostenberger/Kruger. Unless they were completely contradictory (in both methods and conclusions), it seems perfectly reasonable to draw on and recommend those aspects of these works he finds helpful and accurate.>>

Me: Perhaps you do not understand the key issues between critical scholarship and conservative scholarship (maybe you do, but choose to sweep these issues under the carpet for now). Lampe's critical methodology permeates his scholarly work--the inconsistency of John lies in his willingness to accept Lampe's critical methodology in a very narrow venue—i.e. wherein he undermines certain Roman Catholic claims—but then rejects Lampe's critical methodology when it works against his worldview.

>>Do not wish to digress here,

Then I have to ask why you brought up this charge of inconsistency at all. Are you hoping that it will stand uncontested if you couch it in noncommittal language?>>

Me: No.

>>Charges of intellectual inconsistency are serious. It would be best to either make them with an intent to discuss them or not to make them at all.>>

Me: I am willing to do so.

>>but it does remind me a bit of James White’s charge/s leveled against Muslim apologists who quote “liberal”, critical Christian scholars in their debates, whilst James allows himself to use “liberal” and critical Islamic scholars.

That comparison assumes White's methods are inconsistent.>>

Me: Not an assumption (IMO).

>>However, it's appropriate (even obligatory) to argue that the conclusions of liberal scholars (quoted by Muslims against traditional Christianity) are faulty while, at the same time, demonstrating the merits of liberal scholarship with respect to critiques of Islam.>>

Me: This is the 'problem' Matthew: you, and so many others, are willing to use a double-edged sword (i.e. liberal, critical scholarship) against your opponents whilst crying 'foul' when they attempt to do the same!!!

>>Since White deals with liberal scholarship on a regular basis, I don't see how this approach is inconsistent on any level.>>

Me: Sigh...

>>And you are comparing the use of liberal and conservative scholarship across two different religious traditions. Not only do you require a symmetrical relationship where none should exist, but your comparison of John Bugay's methods with White's is disanalogous.>>

Me: I disagree Matthew; the fact that John, James White, and many other epologists are willing to solicit liberal, critical scholarship ONLY when it furthers their aggenda/s, whilst denying the same method to their opponents, is an all too common practice—that you do not discern commonality and/or inconsistency here is a bit troubling...


Grace and peace,

David

natamllc said...

MS,

while the whole is brilliant, I have to say this last thrust is salient and fast!

MS wrote DW, this:

Not only do you require a symmetrical relationship where none should exist, but your comparison of John Bugay's methods with White's is disanalogous.

The confusion or inconsistency that is now emerging by further inquiry of David seems to become clearer and makes those words of yours even more poignant seeing in other places and at his own blog, suspicions are abounding as to whether or not he is grounded in the Faith once delivered to the Saints, rooted and grounded in love and filled with living hoping abounding in joy and peace in believing as our Dear Brother Paul wrote:

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.