02 November 2011

Patristic Quote of the Day

Every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 66.


Daniel Baker said...

Pastor Weedon,

I was looking up a citation in St. Basil's epistles (number 90 has some exceedingly great quotes for those troubled by the state of affairs in today's Church), so I decided to look up his book on the Spirit while I was at it to see the full context of some of your more recent Patristic Quotes of the Day. I was disappointed by his assertion that there are indispensible parts of the Gospel which are not contained in written Scripture. However, he makes an interesting argument regarding written and unwritten teaching. I was wondering if you would mind briefly opining on the distinction he makes in the following section:

"'Dogma' and 'Kerugma' are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence; the latter is proclaimed to all the world. One form of this silence is the obscurity employed in Scripture, which makes the meaning of 'dogmas' difficult to be understood for the very advantage of the reader" (par. 66).

Is this the proper definition of "dogma" in today's circles, or is his definition dated? Regardless of the terms he uses, is his point still valid on some level?

Thanks again for quoting the Fathers so often. Reading their works is unimaginably educational, if not edifying.

William Weedon said...


It is by far the favorite section in his writings for those who argue for a doctrinal basis wider than the Sacred Scriptures. What is sort of interesting is how lonely the passage is in his own writings! Consider from earlier in the same work:

"But we are not content because this is the tradition of the fathers. What is important is that the fathers followed the meaning of the Scripture, beginning with the evidence which I have just extracted from the Scriptures and presented to you." (par. 16)

Or again, his statement in On the Morals:

"What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

How does one hold the two together? Manifestly, he did. I believe his argument is essentially LITURGICAL - for he overwhelmingly cites the Church's liturgical practices as examples of this unwritten tradition. And his argument then is that if a person disregards these customs or treats them as unimportant, he ends up reducing the Gospel to mere words - instead of the very gift of a new life! Chemnitz says that he has exaggerated here in his putting forth the argument, but I do think that we in Lutheranism can SEE the force of what he was talking about: when the liturgy is dumped, invariably it seems the faith itself, the Gospel, is damaged. Invariably. I think he was wise on that.

Now, as to the kerygma and dogma, I think he's using the words differently than we would use them today; but his point is well taken. There are some matters to be disclosed within the community of faith; others we joyfully proclaim to one and all. How can we begin to discuss the Eucharist with an unbeliever??? The Church was wise to open up certain mysteries fully from within and to note that explaining them to those without is finally not truly possible. Or, to take another example, the joys of the Genus Maiestaticum are for those within; to those without we merely proclaim the facts (from which that conclusion is drawn within). That's my take, at any rate. Hope it is of some help!