17 May 2011

And speaking of Pr. Webber...

...I've only started on this paper, but it strikes me (so far) as very good.  I'd commend it to you - I've downloaded it for myself:  Reformations.

54 comments:

melxiopp said...

...the basic assumption
is that there would never be a need for a backtracking, or for a repudiation of a theological pathway
that had been followed by the church’s mainstream...


The monothelete and the iconoclastic controversies are two examples where the mainstream view adopted at 'ecumenical councils' was later repudiated. For that matter, subsequent to Nicea the semi-Arian party held mainstream control of the Church, and the Pneumatomachi and others who minimized the divinity of the Holy Spirit were the mainstream until the work of the Cappadocians. The fact that the Nicene Creed purposefully refuses to call the Holy Spirit homoousios with the Father and the Son is a relic of this mainstream view. In the East, the Photian Council of 879/880 repudiated earlier reasons for a break with Rome. In the West, later Popes backtracked on earlier Popes refusal to allow the interpolation of the filioque into the Nicene Creed.

melxiopp said...

Confessional Lutheranism, in its own way, does affirm that “the church cannot err.”4 But in
saying this it means something different from what Catholicism and Orthodoxy mean when they say
this. Lutherans affirm this principle in regard to “the true church,” and not in regard to any or every
manifestation of the empirical church in this world.


Eastern Orthodoxy, at least, acknowledges various erring "manifestations" of "the empirical church in this world" and has fought against them. St. Athanasius contra mundi (though not literally, of course) as well as St. Maximus (more literally), not to mention the iconoclastic controversy are all examples in which large swaths of "the empirical church in this world" erred and were called to repentance.

It is important to understand what all church bodies mean by 'the Church'. When Orthodoxy speaks of 'the Church' in this context, she is speaking of the entire church - local churches (both apostolic and not), bishops, clergy, monastics, laity. The Council of Florence is a prime example of one part of the Church (bishops of the Empire, minus St. Mark of Ephesus) compromising the Faith only to be called back by the rest of the Church (other bishops, monastics, laity). The Church did not speak until the laity 'received' the pronouncement of the bishops in council (or not, in this case). The Orthodox Church detailed this view in the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848; A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns".

There is a difference between reformation and repentance.

melxiopp said...

"Shortly after his ascension to the papal throne in 1846, Pope Pius IX wrote the Apostolic Letter In suprema Petri apostoli sede, On the Supreme Throne of Peter the Apostle (6 January 1848). While it was primarily intended for Eastern Catholics of the various Oriental Rites it also addressed Orthodox Christians, calling them back to unity with Rome."

In suprema Petri apostoli sede can be read here: http://fwd4.me/01ki.

This is the epistle the Eastern Patriarchs were responding to. Their better known response can be read here: http://fwd4.me/01kj

David Jay Webber said...

I'll point out that the quotation that "melxiopp" takes from my paper is a description of the basic assumption and attitude toward church history that I see as prodominating in the Catholic and Orthodox communions. Obviously I think that this assumption and this attitude do not line up with the actual facts of church history, where we do in fact see both the need for, and the appearance of, theological "reformations" at key points in time. Lutheran sacred historiography expects them, and is not troubled by them. But it seems to me that they are an embarrassment for Catholics and Orthodox, in view of the oft-heard rhetoric that the church has not erred, has always been preserved in the truth, has never gone astray, etc., etc.

melxiopp said...

This "assumption" is only "an embarrassment for Catholics and Orthodox" if one misunderstands Catholics and Orthodox ecclesiology. Or, do you assume Catholics and Orthodox never noticed Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophytism, Monotheletism, Iconoclasm, etc.?

David Jay Webber said...

Obviously the Orthodox and Catholics know about those heresies. But were the Arians really a part of the church? The Orthodox and Catholics do also recognize that there have been times of severe controversy, when many fell away from the faith, and when the church struggled to know, by God's guidance, which way to proceed forward out of the turmoil. But the fairly consistent polemic I get from my Orthodox and Catholic friends, over against the Lutheran claims for ecclesiastical legitimacy, is that something like the Lutheran Reformation is to be dismissed out of hand as a conceptual impossibility. Theological "reformations" conceptually don't happen in God's Church. Repudiations of new heresies? Yes. Greater precision in confessing an old truth when a time of conrroversy requires it? Yes. But Reformations, as the Lutherans define the concept (sort of like one step backward, two steps forward)? No.

melxiopp said...

I was merely addressing your contention that the Orthodox and Catholic churches assume "that there would never be a need for a backtracking, or for a repudiation of a theological pathway that had been followed by the church’s mainstream". The examples both you and I mention show that reformation is not the sole or primary way in which the church has backtracked or repudiated an erring mainstream in the Church.

(Arius was a priest of the Church of Egypt. At Ephesus, Nestorius was honored as the Patriarch of Constantinople right up until he was deposed, defrocked and anathematized for heresy. St Justinian was a defender of the Monothelete heresy. The mainstream of the Church at the time of Athanasius (Arianism) and Maximos (Monotheletism) and John of Damascus (Iconoclasm) held heretical beliefs that were later repudiated. These are examples of error from within the visible church, not outside of her.)

As to whether correction of error requires "reformation" or that Ecclesia semper reformanda est ("the church must always be reforming"), that's a different question.

melxiopp said...

"Something like the Lutheran Reformation is to be dismissed out of hand" not because correction of widespread error is an impossibility, as we have seen. It is to be "dismissed" because it dismisses the entirety of Church history ("against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail", the Body of Christ Himself indwelt by the Holy Spirit) in favor of what is by historic comparison an idiosyncratic reading of Scripture as the basis of its never previously attested to doctrine. An appeal to the Bible as such attestation, especially to certain parts of the Bible over others without reference to the common, public teaching of the various apostolic foundations (cf. Irenaeus), is a common feature, historically, in the many Christian groups that found themselves outside the orthodox, catholic Church. If that reading of the Bible is correct and it is the basis of the Church, then that reading must be attested to consistently in the historic record. It is not. We do not see Lutherans or proto-Lutherans in the history of the Church, except in the way Anabaptists see their spiritual antecedents in every heretical sect that popped up between John's Revelation and Wittenberg door.

David Jay Webber said...

The essential point of what the Lutheran reformers were contending for, over against the medival penitential system, is implicit in these words of the Creed: "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." Anyone in church history who has believed this, has believed in nascent form what the Lutherans were confessing when they taught that justification before God (i.e. the forgiveness of sins) is received by faith. In my mind, that is a substantial "attestation."

melxiopp said...

Given a particular understanding of that creedal phrase, you are right to see it as proof for your own position. There are more obvious ways to understand that article that are more consistent with history and the consensus patrum, however, but to each his own.

melxiopp said...

contending for, over against the medival penitential system

This reminds of that line from Chesterton: “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”

melxiopp said...

On "reform" in the RCC, the following quotations from Fr Martin Rhonheimer posted on the Sentire Cum Ecclesia blog:

"The warning was enthusiastically taken up by Catholics faithful to the Pope, with the opinion spreading that, in his speech, Benedict had opposed the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” with a “hermeneutic of continuity”. [...] This understanding, however, is unfounded. In the Pope’s address, there is no such opposition between a “hermeneutic of discontinuity” and a “hermeneutic of continuity”. Rather, as he explained: “In contrast with the hermeneutic of discontinuity is a hermeneutic of reform…” And in what lies the “nature of true reform”? According to the Holy Father, “in the interplay, on different levels, between continuity and discontinuity”."

Fr Rhonheimer points out:

"“Continuity”, therefore, is not the only hermeneutical category for understanding the Second Vatican Council. The category of “reform” is also necessary, a category which includes elements of both continuity and discontinuity. But as Benedict emphasized, the continuity and discontinuity are “on different levels”. It is important, therefore, to identify and distinguish these levels correctly."

He claims that a

"search for a false continuity that would ultimately distort a genuine continuity and, with it, the nature of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church."

- From "Complete this phrase: “The Hermeneutic of…”?" by David Schütz at http://scecclesia.com/?p=5525.

David Jay Webber said...

Nothing new here, really. In the first part of my essay I point out what kind of "reform" the church of Rome has actually always been willing to embrace, at least in principle. So, in the 16th century, the approved (or tolerated) "reformers" would have been people like Erasmus and Cajetan. But the Lutherans still would have objected to the confusion of law and Gospel that would have been present also in an Erasmian or Cajetanian church - although probably the Lutherans wouldn't have gotten kicked out quite so fast if the church of their time had been governed in the spirit of Erasmus or Cajetan, rather than in the spirit of the House of Medici.

William Weedon said...

Enjoying the exchange - you two keep it up!

melxiopp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
melxiopp said...

If terms are defined narrowly enough the sky isn't blue, either.

The issue here has nothing to do with 'reformations' and whether some churches accept them and others don't. It's been demonstrated that EO and RCs have, in fact, "backtracked" and "repudiated" their churches' "mainstreams" at various points in their common and divided histories.

The issue you raise is not about the "basic assumption" you attribute to the EO and RC churches, it's about what authority a church/believer uses to determine valid reform from invalid reform, or reform from innovation.

The problem with your article is the straw man hyperbole it uses in setting up the discussion of Lutheran theology. Your statement that "the basic assumption
is that there would never be a need for a backtracking, or for a repudiation of a theological pathway
that had been followed by the church’s mainstream" is simply wrong. And that is an issue distinct from whether the Lutheran church is right or wrong, theologically, vis a vis the EO and RC churches.

David Jay Webber said...

What I have in mind in my basic summary of the "assumptions" of Orthodoxy (and Catholicism) is reflected in sentiments such as these:

...we have never had a Reformation; our history goes back unbroken to the early Church.

http://www.nativityofchrist.org/about.html

The Orthodox Church did not experience a reformation or counter-reformation. ... We trust the Lord and we trust Scripture, that...the Church as a whole is led into all truth by the Holy Spirit and that it is in truth to be relied on as the pillar and ground of the truth to make sure that the way in which we interpret Scripture is indeed the tradition given by God and not the traditions of men... Therefore we hear the word of the Lord when it commands us: "Guard the deposit that was committed to your trust" so that we do not stray "concerning the Faith" (1 Tim 6.20). ... Thus through the witness of early historians, the Apostolic Fathers, and the other saints and church historians down through history, we see exactly how the Orthodox Church has preserved the same doctrine and same basic worship structure for 2000 years.

http://www.forgodiswithus.org/aboutorthodoxy.html

A few years ago Pastor Weedon and I were active on the Yahoo Group "Orthodox-Lutheran Dialogue." The summary in my paper was based sqaurely on what the Orthodox participants in that group said continually about the Orthodox Church having always preserved the truth since the time of the apostles, so that even a temporary slippage away from the full truth would be inconceivable. What you describe as Orthodox "reformations" they would describe simply as the church's battle against error, and not as the church's reappropriation of eglected or forgotten truths. They strenuously denied the possibility of "reformations" in the true church, because of the Lord's pledge that he would always abide with the church and always guide it into all truth. Pastor Weedon can verify that this was the constant refrain of the Orthodox on that group, over against my thesis that the church has always had reformations, and that someone like Athanasius was a reformer.

William Weedon said...

And the record is there for any to read over on Yahoo groups. Pr. Webber is dead on right in his characterization. I'd also inquire as to the meaning of the celebration of the first Sunday in Lent in Orthodoxy - it is more than the triumph of the iconodouls, no? It is the triumph of Orthodoxy - the last great battle that needed to be fought?

David Jay Webber said...

In response to my identification of the line in the Nicene Creed on "one baptism for the remission of sin" as a proto-confession of justification by faith, "melxiopp" wrote: "There are more obvious ways to understand that article that are more consistent with history and the consensus patrum."

I'd be interested to know what the Fathers consensually said about the meaning of God's forgiveness of our sins in Christ that would differ in some substantial way from what Lutherans teach about God's forgiveness. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Lutherans explicitly appropriate these words from St. Ambrose of Milan as a statement of their own belief and teaching:

The world...became subject to [God] through the Law, because all are brought to trial by the prescript of the Law, and no one is justified by the works of the Law; in other words, because the knowledge of sin comes from the Law, but guilt is not remitted, the Law, therefore, which has made all men sinners, seems to have caused harm. But, when the Lord Jesus came He forgave all men the sin they could not escape, and canceled the decree against us by shedding His Blood [cf. Col. 2:14]. This is what He says: "By the Law sin abounded, but grace abounded by Jesus" [cf. Rom. 5:20], since after the whole world became subject He took away the sins of the whole world, as John bears witness, saying: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" [John 1:29] Let no one glory, then, in his own works, since no one is justified by his deeds, but one who is just has received a gift, being justified by Baptism. It is faith, therefore, which sets us free by the blood of Christ, for he is blessed whose sin is forgiven and to whom pardon is granted [cf. Ps. 32:1]. (Epistle 73)

Does St. Ambrose depart from the consensus of the Fathers in what he says here?

melxiopp said...

The quotes given regarding Orthodoxy never having a Reformation do not refer to Orthodoxy never having fought mainstream error in the Church. Orthodox was never riven by the great divide that was the Reformation - especially if it is assumed that "reform" means "retrieval" or "rediscovery" of a faith long lost in any visible, institutional sense. The examples of Athanasius, Maximus, etc. are examples of the minority party in the visible Church fighting against the mainstream party that was in error. Athanasius and Maximus were not fighting to retrieve or rediscover a truth that had ceased to be confessed by any visible church body anywhere on the planet, for centuries. That is an important distinction.

Remember too that Church is understood as the fulness of the Church through time, not simply the mainstream or hierarchy of the Church at any given time. There were always bishops, clergy and laity that held to the true faith, even when most of the Church had fallen, e.g., Council of Florence in more modern times (1431-45). No one defender of the true faith was ever literally contra mundi.

It is not true that "even a temporary slippage away from the full truth would be inconceivable", as any Orthodox church history will show you, e.g., Nestorius. But the fact that even major portions of the visible Church might fall is not the same as the Church falling since the Church is more than the Patriarchs or leading figures within her. "Neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves." (1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs) Only out of an attempt to acknowledge some commonality do I admit the Orthodox have had "reformations", but only in the loosest, literal sense of the word. They did not have a Reformation as was seen in the western church. Orthodoxy and the early Church simply battled "against error" that was in the Church of that time, "and not as the church's reappropriation of neglected or forgotten truths." this is simply an acknowledgement that you believe the true faith to have gone unconfessed for centuries - execpt in the assumption that individuals who left no trace somehow believed aright. At some point, appeals to such Fathers fall flat when it is noticed how in error they were about the faith on multitudinous fronts. Quoting random, Lutheran sounding bits from Fathers is then really nothing more than sprusing up an undergrad paper with quotes lifted from a book of Great Quotations. To allow that the true faith went unconfessed even in a smallish, medieval version of the LCMS is, in fact, to deny "the Lord's pledge that he would always abide with the church and always guide [the Church] into all truth." There is no proof that any church anywhere taught the Lutheran understanding of Christianity in anything close to completeness until Luther - and the 'later Luther', at that, and he's not always right so refer to the Book of Concord.

melxiopp said...

Re St. Ambrose, I'm not interested in getting into a patristic pissing contest on a tangential comment.

Suffice it to say, the Lutheran doctrine of "justification by faith alone" as the "the chief doctrine upon which the church stands or falls" can be seen in the Fathers and Church History only by faith alone.

The reminds me of another quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." (Upton Sinclair)

William Weedon said...

The Biblical and patristic doctrine of justification by faith alone is so clearly present in Scripture and the fathers, that for one to pretend it isn't there can only be done by explaining that the Scriptures and fathers do not mean what they most plainly say. I will not attempt to psychologize the need of Orthodox converts to psychologize it away.

David Jay Webber said...

Dear Melxiopp,

You give evidence of being an Orthodox person who has indeed grappled with the facts of church history, and who has a realistic view of what has happened in church history. You look at history in the way I try to look at it! But this is not the common posture of Orthodoxy. One of the points of my paper is that the general rhetoric of Orthodoxy and Catholicism does not match up with the actual history, whereas the rhetoric of Lutheranism does. What you are demonstrating is that you understand the actual history. But you have not proven that my hearing of the typical Orthodox rhetoric over the years has been mistaken. I know what they say and write. And I have always gotten a huge critical reaction when I have suggested that St. Athanasius was not only a battler against heresy over against the Arians, but was also a "reformer" over against Logos Christology. The fact that you are able to see the history in this way is a good thing. It means that you and your Lutheran friends are able to have a meaningful dialogue about history, the continuity of the church, the basis of legitimate reform in the teaching and practice of the church, etc. But I have found your viewpoint to be an anomaly among the Orthodox, at least at the rhetorical level.

melxiopp said...

Well, there's rhetoric and there's rhetoric. Pop Orthodoxy with its pop history is common among ex-evangelical Orthodox types. It's far too popular, and I would argue it is part of the reason why explosion in convert numbers is matched only by explosions in convert apostasy at some point later. The EOC cult and other quickie conversions and ordinations (especially in the Antiochian Archdiocese) has had too strong an effect on American Orthodoxy.

"Reform" is a loaded word, too, which is why you use it. One needs to explain exactly what is meant and what is not meant. For instance, Athanasius was not a Reformer reappropriating "neglected or forgotten truths" - he was fighting an error that had grown up within the Church alongside the orthodox faith, and he was never alone in doing so. That's a very different thing than saying a given "reformer" has rediscovered the long lost, true teaching of Christianity as rediscovered in the Bible. In this latter sense, Athanasius is definitively not a "reformer" a la Luther, though he would be a reformer in the sense of calling his contemporary church to repentance for the recent errors introduced, which had never actually achieved dominance. The Church has never erred, only parts of the Church. As a famous Orthodox canonist would say of the opinions of various Patriarchs and theologians: "He is stupid. It is his opinion alone. He knows nothing." Even widespread theologoumena is not dogma - though truth is still truth, whether dogmatized or not. That explains a lot about both the orthodox and heterodox camps in the history of the Church, e.g., Nestorius thought he was the defender of the undogmatized truth to the end of his life (he was wrong, but...).

While I appreciate the tenacity and commitment, Pr. Weedon is simply wrong in seeing "Lutheranism" in the Fathers. At best, one can find language that can be taken in a Lutheran sense, but only by ignoring most of those saints' written corpus, their lives, their work and the context of the Church within which they lived, worshiped, prayed and theologized. More intellectually honest are those Protestants who say the truth was visibly lost except for in the hearts of Christians here and there who held on to the kernel of justification by faith alone by grace alone despite the innumerable errors and superstitions they also held to, and without ever publicly or fully enunciating that central doctrine.

While the Catalog of Testimonies and other patristic references are laudable as part of the way in which Lutherans saw themselves as merely cleansing and reforming the Western Church, it was still far from a broad view on the nature of the Church. That is, it was basically just a fight between Latin and Latin-received patristic manual citations (many of which were wrongly attributed anyway or forged) within a specifically Latin paradigm/schema. This is why Augustine and Ambrose and Jermoe figure so prominently (eastern Fathers are quoted in the same way Rome wrongly quotes them in support of papalism). The back and forth between Rome and the Reformers was a lot like the kind of back and forth argumentum infinitum that goes on between LCMS and WELS, or the confessionals and the ELCA, of Lutherans and Reformed, etc. Anything else was impossible because so many of the assumptions and so much of the dialectic were/are shared - you just get one side of the coin or the other.

William Weedon said...

If I may say so, melxiopp, so much hogwash - about it being more intellectually honest to say the Fathers got it all wrong.

I never said and do not believe that LutheranISM is found in the fathers; I said and do believe that the fathers actually represent an understanding of the Scriptures on the matter of justification that is the same faith as that of the Lutheran reformers. But since you're Orthodox, you obviously don't grant that. You can't.

But I'd just invite anyone to read their writings (I have done so for many years, and continue to find delight in them) and above all their commentaries or homilies on Romans or Galatians, and see whether or not it lines up with what the Lutheran Symbols teach regarding the same sections.

The assumption of many Orthodox seems to be this: "We are the same Church as the fathers, therefore the fathers HAVE to mean how we understand and teach about X doctrine." And whenever the fathers don't line up nicely the tactic is to accuse those who point up those passages of 1) not being intellectually honest; 2) ignoring the context; 3) and so cherry picking. It's grown more than a bit tedious over the years, and I'm surprised that folks still resort to it.

David Jay Webber said...

Athanasius was not a Reformer reappropriating "neglected or forgotten truths" - he was fighting an error that had grown up within the Church alongside the orthodox faith, and he was never alone in doing so.

As far as we know, was anyone in Alexandria not teaching Logos Christology during the generation of Athanasius's predecessor Alexander? Or at any point after the rise of Clement and Origen?

That's a very different thing than saying a given "reformer" has rediscovered the long lost, true teaching of Christianity as rediscovered in the Bible. In this latter sense, Athanasius is definitively not a "reformer" a la Luther.

I think you're confusing Luther with Joseph Smith, and Lutheranism with Mormonism. This is not how we define a legitimate "reformer." And this is not how Luther saw himself, as far as his office of teacher in the church was concerned. In response to the anabaptists and fanatics (who would have defined themselves as "reformers" according to your understanding of the term), Luther wrote:

"It is our confession that in the papacy there are the right Holy Scriptures, the right Baptism, the right Sacrament of the Altar, the right keys for forgiveness of sins, the right preaching office, the right catechism - such as the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed. ... Now if Christianity exists under the pope, it must be Christ's true body and members. If it is His body, then it has the right Spirit, Gospel, Creed, Baptism, Sacrament, keys, preaching office, prayer, Holy Scriptures, and everything that Christianity should have. Therefore we do not rave like the 'enthusiasts' that we reject everything in the papacy."

melxiopp said...

Re Luther as reformer rediscovering the long lost truth, I was referring primarily to the specifically Lutheran enunciation of "justification by faith alone", "the chief doctrine upon which the church stands or falls".

Since that is the "Gospel", I'm sure he means simply that the evangelists' accounts and the unrecognized "Gospel message" as found in the rest of the NT are there. That is, Rome had the Bible, though not the actual Gospel (the chief article). I'm also not sure if one can honestly claim Rome retained prayer, when that prayer was so thoroughly infused with prayer to the Mother of God and the saints. Luther inherited the interpolated Nicene Creed, so not the original Creed, and he wrongly assumed the Athanasian and Apostles' Creeds were universal rather than purely local (and forged, in the case of the former).

This seems to be just another example of Luther's hyperbole (taking advantage of nuanced definitions of terms), only this time defending similarities with Rome rather than excoriating Rome's errors in light of his own discovery.

melxiopp said...

Well, when the shoe fits, Pr Weedon. The fact that you one would recommend "above all their commentaries or homilies on Romans or Galatians" points to the fact that Lutheranism is unduly dependent on a particular reading of those particular books. Like many past defenders of error in the Church, certain books or passages are chosen over others. Deference to the Homologoumena/Antilogomena distinction is itself disingenuous as it is essentially unknown in the early Church having been taken from the isolated witness of a limited number of Fathers – Eusebius of Caeserea and Jerome. And they were not claiming it as true, but brought it up as the position of certain dissenters and regarding past questions on canonicity. However, one cannot simply skip over the later, universal acceptance of the full New Testament canon without such distinctions. This is the definition of patristic cherry-picking.

As to whether I "can't" believe anything but the Orthodox line, I have a history of choosing truth over family and job. That isn't proof I have chosen Truth, but it's proof that I am not beholden to wife, children, father, job, standing, culture, inertia, etc. when discussing such things. I would refrain from that line of critique as it is more easily pointed at one whose household happiness and "salary depends on his not understanding" (cf. Upton Sinclair) - which is itself not necessarily proof you have chosen Error, either. In short, it's a useless line of commentary that would only ever tend to at most tilt in the direction of one who has converted on the basis of conviction alone.

David Jay Webber said...

It is very uncharitable to say that the Quicunque vult was "forged." It was mistakenly attributed, not deliberately and deceptively invented.

William Weedon said...

As I said, you HAVE to take that line. It makes sense from the perspective you've chosen by an exercise of your personal judgment regarding where truth is to be found. And I commend you for any suffering you have endured for the sake of what you hold to be truth - it is a noble thing, whether or not you chose rightly or wrongly.

My own choice is my own and I am not ashamed of it one bit. Whether it was an easier or more difficult path is not for anyone to know but the one who walked it. But neither will I defend myself against your not so subtle accusations. It makes me always glad when I read such that I did NOT take the path you trod.

But laying aside the personal swipe and back to the matter at hand, you provide a prime example of what I am referring to when you discount the witness of both Eusebius and Jerome (and let's throw in the canon witnessed by Nazanzus!) - and, pity sake, did not the Glossa Ordinaria teach the distinction prior to the Reformation itself, so that the Reformers learned it from their teachers in the faith? At least I believe that is so.

One final thing: why do you both with a pseudonym?

William Weedon said...

that was supposed to be bother

melxiopp said...

You are correct that Luther, the Book of Concord and many Western Christians prior mistakenly attributed the Quicunque vult to Athanasius. However, it was purposefully and mistakenly attributed to Athanasius by someone. Whether its misattribution was purposeful or not, it is nonetheless a forgery.

William Weedon said...

Hey, speaking of Quinqunque - I'm going to be doing a four part series on that in honor of the Feast of the Holy Trinity for Issues, Etc. To call it a forgery is a hoot - that just made it into the show!!! By the way, since it was part of the Lex Orandi of the West prior to the schism (Prime on Sundays)... what's your beef with it? Or don't you believe in the inviolable lex orandi after all???

melxiopp said...

Well, one doesn't HAVE to remain anything. Simply making a decision at one point in time does not mean a different decision will not be made later.

As I have discussed with others lately, while it may not be clear which church is the "true church" in perfect continuity with the apostles and fathers, it is clear which churches are not: the Protestant churches. to see their teachings in Church History is just so quaint, and odd. It's like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding proving the Greek derivation of any word.

The other option is to accept the Anglican branch theory (inherited from the Orient, really, mixed with realpolitik) whereby all denominations and faiths are the same or complementary. Then what the Fathers said doesn't really matter and there is no such thing as continuity and no need to prove one's biblical or patristic pedigree.

Come on, simple allusions like this are nothing compared to what Lutherans harangued you with prior to your decision - or with what the same did to those who left. Let's no pretend one side is "nice" and the other not. All involved are correct to question motivation, their own and others, and whether they chose correctly for reasons good or ill. Choosing correctly for the wrong reasons is better than choosing badly for the right reasons.

I'm a fan of Kierkegaard.

David Jay Webber said...

Even if someone deliberately misattributed the Quicunque vult to St. Athanasius at some point after it had been written, knowing that he did not write it, that wouldn't make it a forgery. It would be a forgery only if the person who actually wrote it intended from the beginning to deceive people into thinking that St. Athanasius had written it.

melxiopp said...

As simply the Quicunque vult, it is not a forgery; as the Quicunque vult by St. Athanasius or as the Athanasian Creed, it is a forgery. That isn't to say it is not thus wrong, but it is not by the author it has always been reputed to have been written by - and whose authority the Quicunque vult was based on.

Yes, it sounds like the cartoon version of Orthodox lex orandi will fit in nicely with your presentation.

As you are well aware, any practice or teaching with provenance pre-1054 in the Church is not automatically Orthodox. Iconoclasm was widely accepted prior to the iconoclastic controversy, but it wasn't condemned until it became a controversy in the Church. Same with Arianism and semi-Arianism, pneomatomachism, adoptionism, modalism, chiliasm, Donatism, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, etc. They were deemed heretical fully and finally only when the Church declared regarding them. In the words, "conceded as late as 380", of Nazianzus regarding the divinity of the Holy Spirit: "To be only slightly in error was to be orthodox." (Quoted in Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, p. 213). Not every error that arose needed to be anathematized; they simply went away on their own in due time or the truth came out. The Quicunque vult cannot be defended as Athanasian on the basis the Church did not universally proclaim it to be otherwise. The Ecumenical Councils hadn't gotten around to saying anything about papal claims, for instance, because those claims hadn't yet become hardened or well-known outside of the West - the claims were still wrong, even though they were part of the Western tradition. Similarly, not all eastern practices were accepted, even though they were a part of the venerable lex orandi in one part of the East, e.g., Protopaschites (and the West, i.e., the Celtic Church).

melxiopp said...

Forgery is not only "the act of reproducing something for a deceitful or fraudulent purpose", a forgery is also "something forged, such as a work of art or an antique". That is, intent is not the only sense of the word "forgery".

I am sure we cannot know for certain who wrote the Quicunque vult for certain; we can also likely not ascertain for certain who attributed the Quicunque vult to Athanasius as its literal author (rather than it simply being "Athanasian" in doctrine). If intent alone is the determiner, then we cannot say the Quicunque vult is a forgery. However, as it has come down to us, it can definitely be referred to as a forgery in that its attribution is forged. At the least its authorship is spurious.

However, the primary reason it was deemed authoritative was not that it was Athanasian in doctrine, but that it was by Athanasius himself.

An interesting question is whether such care is also taken when discussing the Donation of Constantine and the Isidorian Decretals. Can we be sure the author's intent was to create a forgery, or did he merely misattribute these documents. This is where context and motivation rightly play a part. Cui bono?

The more important point is that the Quicunque vult is not "ecumenical", it is the definition of a local creed. Again, doesn't mean it is wrong, but at a certain point the errors surrounding its reception and import would seem to set it to the side.

William Weedon said...

Can you demonstrate from the historical documents that the reason the Qv won acceptance and universal use in the West as a Creed was because of its attribution to St. Athanasius rather than because it was held to express exactly the Scriptural faith regarding the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of our Lord?

melxiopp said...

"The great name of 'the father of orthodoxy' secured for it an almost œcumenical authority." (In The Creeds of Christendom, With a History and Critical Notes by Philip Schaeff, http://fwd4.me/026h).

I should think this goes without saying, otherwise a far less esteemed name would have been attached, e.g., the name of the author. The thing about expert forgers is that they and their works are as good as the original artist's on their own merits - except that their work is simply not by the "original artist" named.

Like I said, as the Quicunque vult alone, as a local creed of Southern Gaul and the West, it is not a forgery. As the Athanasian Creed by St. Athanasius 'the father of orthodoxy' and an oecumenical, catholic touchstone it is a forgery for it is being passed off as the work of one who did not write it. Perhaps, the Creed "in the style of" or "inspired by" Athanasius would be better more fitting names.

But that wouldn't give it the same kind of authority, which is why everyone still calls it The Athanasian Creed.

William Weedon said...

Well, I may be quite off in my history here, but it is my understanding that the name of Athanasius was first attached to the Creed in the medieval period, and that this was several centuries after it had already secured widespread liturgical use in the West as the Quinqunque Vult. I believe that it is quite parallel to the Te Deum as the "Symbol of Sts. Ambrose and Augustine" - a medieval title that was affixed to Te Deum Laudamus long after it was in regular use.

melxiopp said...

I'm not arguing that the Quicunque vult had no authority in the West prior to Athanasius' name being attributed to it. It's just that "The great name of 'the father of orthodoxy' secured for it an almost œcumenical authority" - and that is the basis for its more widespread authority in the West up to the Reformation (and until its authorship was demonstrated to be other than Athanasius).

In fact, the use of it at the beginning of the Book of Concord is meant to underline the "ecumenical" pedigree of the Lutheran teaching. Were it not, a word other than ecumenical would have been used - or would be used now since learning it is in fact not an ecumenical or Athanasian creed. The value of "The great name of 'the father of orthodoxy'" and the "almost œcumenical authority" his name grants is too much to part from, however.

David Jay Webber said...

The Donation of Constantine internally claims to have come from Constantine. But it didn't. Therefore it is a forgery. The Quicunque vult does not claim internally to have come from St. Athanasius. Therefore it is not a forgery. If I now erroneously state that Barack Obama actually wrote everything that "melxiopp" has posted online for the past two years, does that make all your online posts forgeries? You are operating with an odd definition of "forgery" that I have never heard of before, if an otherwise innocent document, centuries after it is written, can all of a sudden become a "forgery" just because someone mistakenly begins to say that it was written by a person other than the person who actrually did write it.

melxiopp said...

OK, then stop using it as an ecumenical creed. Use it alongside any other the other ancient baptismal creeds as nothing more than a good summary of Christian faith. You can't have it Athanasian and not a forgery at the same time. At a certain point, the forgery is the insistence in calling it Athanasian or ecumenical.

This creed is often described as a forgery. I'm not sure why it's a surprise to you. Would a more nuanced adjective be better, sure. The point in any term you might prefer, though, is to note that this Creed does not have the authority it was once assumed to have given its authorship. It may still be a good summary of trinitarian faith from southern Gaul.

melxiopp said...

Gibbon, for instance, notes that the Athanasian creed, a forgery dated a century after the death of Athanasius, so astounded Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople, that he dismissed it as the work of a drunk.

Using the term 'forgery' may be imprecise, but so too is the insistent use of the terms 'Athanasian' and 'ecumenical'. I admit all sides to be in error and will gladly refer to it only ever as 'misattributed' if you agree to never refer to it as 'Athanasian' or 'ecumenical'. perhaps a note to CPH regarding the error in their editions of the Book of Concord would be called for.

How are such things handled by a quia subscription, BTW, does one only need to be such on matters of doctrine or those areas where the Bible speaks? :)

William Weedon said...

That would be the same Gibbon who openly mocked the whole structure of the faith, no? Calling it "Athanasian" doesn't make it ecumenical. Shoot, are you telling me you believe the canon of Scripture than Athanasius provided in his Easter letter is ecumenical??? It's called ecumenical because it was AND IS accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Church as a Creed of the Church.

David Jay Webber said...

I've actually never heard anyone call the Quicunque vult a forgery. I find the very notion ridiculous, in view of the fact that the document internally does not claim to be anything other than what it obviously is: a confession of the Trinity and of the incarnation (stated in Latin/Gallic categories).

I agree as a matter of history that the term "ecumenical creed" most properly belongs only to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Symbol. But the Quicunque vult does have general authority in the west because of its general ecclesial acceptance in the west. The west knew of many writings of Athanasius, but those writings were not all declared to be ecumenical creeds. So, if it were learned that Athanasius did not actually write the Quicunque vult, I doubt that all of a sudden the western church would have repudiated it as an ecumenical creed. It was and remains an authoritive creed fundamentally because of its content. One writer has commented that "Athanasius' name seems to have become attached to the creed as a sign of its strong declaration of Trinitarian faith." In other words, the name of Athanasius came to be associated with the creed because of the creed's Trinitarian orthodoxy. The creed's Trinitarian orthodoxy was not discerned because Athanasius's name was attached to it.

In the common piety and faith of western European Christians, over the centuries, it became axiomatic that there were three creeds that expressed everyone's catholic faith. During the time of th "great schism" in the west, when no one really knew who the pope was or even if there was a legitimate pope, everyone's sense of their still being a part of catholic Christendom was sustained in part by these three creeds, which were over the papacy in authority, and which gave the people of western Europe the feeling that the church was still there even when the papacy was effectively not.

melxiopp said...

That would be the same Gibbon who openly mocked the whole structure of the faith, no?

Thus proving the credibility and reliability of the author - whether purported or not - are important factors in assessing testimony. Be that pastor, historian or saint.

I agree that most who refer to the Athanasian Creed as a "forgery" are anti-religious voices in the West where the standing of the Athanasian Creed is high. As one in the East, the standing of the Creed is not such that I feel the need to tap dance around the fact that its authority as Athanasian is false thus demoting it to just another local creed speaking in a local voice, regardless of its import in the local Western church. I would still argue that the import of the three ecumenical creeds in the West - especially among Popes and Anti-Popes - is based on their authorship: Apostolic, Nicene (conciliar), Athanasian (patristic).

melxiopp said...

...are you telling me you believe the canon of Scripture than Athanasius provided in his Easter letter is ecumenical???

The point was that "The great name of 'the father of orthodoxy' secured for it an almost œcumenical authority." Next to Scripture, universal tradition, and a decree from an EC, authorship by an undisputed champion of Orthodoxy such as Athanasius would grant "almost œcumenical authority". Of course, the precedence noted there would overrule Athanasius should another EC define the canon of Scripture somewhat differently - as one did.

It's called ecumenical because it was AND IS accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Church as a Creed of the Church.

For most of the Church's history, including when this creed was first written by whomever and then attributed to Athanasisus, the West was a decided minority in the Church. It is still a minority of apostolic foundations (cf. Irenaeus).

Be careful of picking up the nearest argument at hand to win a fight. Arguing for anything because it is "accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Church" is an ironic argument for a minority voice in the LCMS, which is a minority voice within Lutheranism, which is a minority voice within Christendom. Then again, if Church is only defined as those who agree (even secretly, without knowing it) with me, then I guess the numbers game works out as "proof".

melxiopp said...

The Local Creed of Lérin just doesn't carry the same weight as The Athanasian Creed. It's easy to see why people have been attracted to it, quite in addition to its actual content. The personal testament of St. Athanasius!

I would admit holding it in much higher esteem were its author definitively shown to be St. Vincent of Lérin. However, it would still simply be another local creed, just like the various and sundry local baptismal creeds of the various apostolic foundations and Church centers in the East.

William Weedon said...

Review the beginning of the SA, my friend. You used to know them by heart. These are the sublime articles of the divine majesty about which we have no quarrel with Rome. The faith expressed in the Quinqunque Vult is "ecumenical" in the sense that it is held by Christians around the world, no? I know it is not accepted in the East; I know you think the Church is limited to the East (even though you will profess not to know where it isn't); but the numbers here matter because the name "ecumenical" simply means "world wide." And sure enough, what do we find? Christians around the world confess this Creed. It is confessed on every inhabited continent; and it is confessed by the overwhelming majority of Christians given its use by Rome, the Anglican communion, and its symbolic authority for Lutherans.

melxiopp said...

The fact those who purposefully or ignorantly attributed the name of Athanasius to the Quicumque vult did so because of "the creed's Trinitarian orthodoxy" is quite beside the point. Once the attribution stuck, its trinitarian and patristic authority was dramatically heightened "because Athanasius's name was attached to it." Over time, not originally, "the creed's Trinitarian orthodoxy was discerned because Athanasius's name was attached to it" - and unquestionably so. This is simply part of the nature of reception over time.

William Weedon said...

I would think that the name Athanasius came to be connected with the Creed because Christians recognized in it a strong anti-Arian stance and his is the name most closely associated with that battle. They recognized in it the faith of Athanasius just like we can recognize the faith of the Apostles in the Creed by that name. But be that as it may - I'm not going to spend more time arguing with you. It's not spiritually healthy for you or for me. As ever, I wish you well and commend you to the mercy of God.

melxiopp said...

Au contraire, the Church was ecumenical when it was alone in the Upper Room. Geographical extent is no proof of Orthodoxy. Again, a dangerous argument for a Lutheran minority within a Lutheran minority within a Christian minority to ascribe to.

Besides, you are correct. There are Orthodox churches on every continent - including two on Antarctica. (There is a church of the Church of Norway in South Georgia in the South Atlantic, which is near Antarctica.)

I never knew the SA by heart.

melxiopp said...

They recognized in it the faith of Athanasius just like we can recognize the faith of the Apostles in the Creed by that name.

Can the same be said of wrongly attributed books of the Bible or other "Pseudo-" authors in the patristic corpus?