20 August 2007

Hunting for a Source

Martin Chemnitz in his Examination of the Council of Trent provides a stunning quote which he attributes to Chrysostom, but which is not in any writings of the good Father that I have been able to find. Chemnitz says that the quote is from a Homily on Matthew 24:15-16, Homily 49 (I assume from whatever collection he was citing).

"But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures." (Cited in Examen I:156)

I would dearly love to know the source of it. Any ideas?

P.S. I know that Chemnitz cited from the Glossa Ordinaria, but the question is WHO actually said what that Medieval commentary attributed to Chrysostom?

16 comments:

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William,
I once had a professor who claimed that Martin Chemnitz, specifically in the Examine, misrepresented the teachings of Trent, in other words, he served as a poor reporter. I cannot coroborate this claim, but I put it forth in order to raise the question, as I think you have, did Chrysostom acutally say this?

The same professor who made this claim, in a paper that he wrote about the JDDJ, also proved that the Confessions misquoted St. Augustine on justification. He traced the footnote to the original source and showed that Augustine did not say what the Confessions attributed to him. Maybe this is not news to anyone but once again it is stated simply to show that our 'ancient' sources were not always meticulous when it came to footnoting.

But in the end, the question I have about the quote is, What does it actually prove? Let's say that it was actually said by someone, at some point in the Church's history. Does it make sense? And if it does make sense, what is it saying?

To me it might be a good rule of thumb: the Holy Scriptures are the Spirit's witness to the truth revealed in Christ, the Word Incarnate. But I also think such a quote can be taken up by a fundamentalist and end up severing the Scriptures from the Church.

Bryce

Sch├╝tz said...

I agree with Bryce, in as much as I wonder why you find this quote "stunning". What are you trying to make it say? Do you see it as a prop for "Sola Scriptura"?

Aside from the question of "who said it" (on which lies the basis of and degree of its authority) is the question "In what context was it said?"

It could only be taken to support the thesis of "sola scriptura" if it was specifically said against the proposition of an authority other than scripture for a point of view that was (according to scripture) heretical.

And what was the specific "heresy" against which the claim was made? Was it a heresy which could be easily shown to be a heresy if one simply went to scripture? Was it a new heresy which had not yet been explicitly condemned by Sacred Tradition (Creeds, Councils, Bishops, liturgies etc)?

Without knowing this, the positive advice of the passage (who ever said it) is sound: in times of doubt and heresy, go to Scripture. Not just sometimes, but always.

However, this quote cannot be used negatively to denigrate the authority of other traditional authorities (bishops, councils, creeds, etc.) unless it is known that it was specifically spoken against such legitimate authorities in the Church other than scripture. This we do not know.

In other words, there is nothing remarkable about this at all. What you find taught in the Divine Scriptures is true Christianity. But this is not to apply the Reformation "sola Scriptura" doctrine against that of sound Church Tradition.

William Weedon said...

What I found stunning was the notion that whoever wrote this and whoever included it in the Glossa Ordinaria (pre-Reformation), is thereby clearly implying that there would come a time when the Church herself would be so overtaken by heresy that the Christian would not be forced to take refuge "in the mountains" - that is, as he explicates Matthew 24, in the Scriptures.

He basically makes the Abomination of Desolation a type of the great Apostacy at the end (and I'm not clear if he means it to also include moments before that or not).

Surveying the Christian world scene, well, as Poirot would say: "Gives one furiously to think."

William Weedon said...

Oh, about the citations, that's just the nature of documents from that era, Bryce. They were anything but precisely and scholarly citations with footnotes. I'd be curious if the citation that the Symbols misquote from St. Augustine (the verbum visible thing, isn't it?) were not cited in the form given in the glossa also?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William, the misquotation actually comes in the Apology concerning original sin and concupiscence. The professor that I alluded to in my first post was Richard Rex. He writes, "For in the Lutheran tradition, the definition of the concupiscence of the flesh after baptism as sin has been constantly and confidently attributed to Augustine, specifically to his treatise De nuptiis et concupiscentia, and this is demonstrably wrong." And so, in the Apology, defending Luther's view, Melanchthon writes, "Sin is forgiven in Baptism, not that it no longer is, but it is not imputed." (Rex uses Tappert and gives the page number 105). And so Rex says further, "So I went back to the Patrolgia Latina, which follows the Benedictine edition based on a wide range of Roman and French manuscripts, to find the following words: 'If somebody asks ... why, if this concupiscence of the flesh can remain in the baptised parent and not be sin, it can still be sin in the offspring: the answer is, that concupiscence of the flesh is remitted in baptism not so that it is not, but so that it is not accounted as sin.' (PL 44.430). And so Rex concludes, "If we take the trouble to verify this crucial citation, we find that it is the Catholic doctrine, not the Lutheran doctrine, that derives from Augustine. And since Augustine in effect invented the theological concept of original sin, I believe that we are perfectly justified in accepting his account of it rather than Luther's."

Maybe, once again, this is old news, but it is what I was referring to in my previous post.

Bryce

Eric Phillips said...

Rev. Weedon,

Apparently there's an incomplete commentary on Matthew by "Pseudo Chrysostom," which can be found in PG 56. That's probably what you're looking for.

Of course, even if that's the correct answer, it just means we don't know who wrote the text you're asking about.

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

That is very interesting, but I am not following how the Confessors missed what Augustine said. Granted, they simplified the quote, but it seems essentially to say the same thing. This doctrine seems even affirmed by some of the Orthodox - I think Schmemann in his work on Baptism said:

"In Baptism sin is forgiven, it is not removed; it introduces the sword of Christ into our life." Or some such - I'm doing what Melanchthon likely did, and citing from memory. But it's pretty darned close.

So, Augustine asserted that parents still propogate their children in such a way that they pass on original sin, even though in their own case the sin has been "not counted" against them. How does that conflict? What am I missing here?

William Weedon said...

Here's the whole quote from Schaff's translation:

Wherefore, although even in persons whose natural birth is followed by regeneration through grace, there exists this carnal concupiscence which contends against the law of the mind, yet, seeing that it is remitted in the remission of sins, it is no longer accounted to them as sin, nor is it in any degree hurtful, unless consent is yielded to its motions for unlawful deeds. Their offspring, however, being begotten not of spiritual concupiscence, but of carnal, like a wild olive of our race from the good olive, derives guilt from them by natural birth to such a degree that it cannot be liberated from that pest except by being born again. How is it, then, that this man affirms that we ascribe holiness to those who are born, and guilt to their parents? when the truth rather shows that even if there has been holiness in the parents, original sin is inherent in their children, which is abolished in them only if they are born again.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William,
Augustine stated that in the baptised, concupiscence of the flesh is no longer "accounted as sin". Luther would write, that "To deny that what remains in the child after baptism is sin is to trample on both Paul and Christ"?

Once again to Rex, "The Catholic problem with the Lutheran teaching on sin and baptism resides firstly in the unvarying tradition of the Church that baptism takes away all sin. Luther challenged this at a very early stage, (see the quote above). What remains, as all agreed in following Augustine, was the concupiscence of the flesh. But until and unless the Lutherans are prepared to concede that, while concupiscence of the flesh in the baptised can be called sin, it is not sin in the proper sense there is no prospect of 'consensus on basic truths'. And in every official and unoffical Lutheran statement from Melanchthon's Apology for the Confession of Augusburg onwards, the assertion that concupiscence of the flesh is still, after baptism, sin in the proper sense is confidently proposed..."

Bryce

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

Doesn't the actual citation from St. Augustine confess that concupiscence remains as sin, but precisely as sin that is not accounted against the baptized, for if it were not actually present, his point is that it couldn't be transmitted to the offspring. Sin present, but remitted, not accounted, except for when it is embraced and acted upon?

Eric Phillips said...

Bryce,

Melanchthon, as you've quoted him, says that sin remains but "is not imputed." Augustine says that concupiscence (which he certainly considers a sin) remains, but is not "accounted as sin." What's the difference?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Admittedly, I am getting a little lost in the disinction as well.

First of all, please keep in mind that I have simply been giving a running commentary of a paper that I read in seminary.

Secondly, I think the rub comes when we consider what it means for the baptized Christian that concupiscence is either not accounted or not imputed to them. If I am reading correctly, Luther wants to conclude that this is still sin in the "proper" sense, hence still worthy of death and condemnation.

Rex, as a Roman Catholic, wants to read Augustine in the traditional, RC sense, that if concupiscence is not imputed or accounted to the baptized then it is not sin in the "proper" sense and hence not worthy of death and condemnation. Baptism takes away ALL sin and hence all punishment for that sin.

I think that is what is at stake in the application of the Augustine quote.

I apologize for sending the conversation so far adrift.

Bryce

Eric Phillips said...

"In the proper sense" seems a woefully inadequate term for Rex to base his argument on. "In the proper sense" as opposed to what? A sin that did not deserve death and hell would not be a sin at all.

This seems like a place where the Real-Forensic opposition would be useful. If a fault that would normally be my sin is _not_ my sin simply because God is not accounting it as my sin, then the sense in which it is not my sin is forensic. It doesn't lead to death and hell, but that's not because it's essentially different from the things that DO lead to death and hell in other men. In itself it is still evil.

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

No need to apologize, my friend. I'm not at all a believer that blog threads should be anything different from conversations - and they can go anywhere the participants want them to go. I would still like to find out more about this citation (and see if Eric is write about Pseudo-Chrysostom being the source - next time I'm in St. louis, God willing). But I've enjoyed the conversation in the direction you've led it. Wishing you every good thing in Jesus!

William Weedon said...

"Is write" - goodness sakes! I really have only had less than half a beer since I got home this afternoon!

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Will,

For me the quote is instructive. I remember that at the time of the Arians and Athanasius, majority of pastors in the Church were of the same opinion with the former than the latter. The majority seems not to be always right.

I would even grant for the sake of the argument that both groups Arian and orthodox may have appealed to Scripture, but that is the point, Scripture is the authority that the quote seems to me promote.

Lito