25 March 2008

Das "Dritte Ding"

No, not in the sense that Luther meant it, rather in the sense that Pr. David Jay Webber expresses it:

There is that which MUST be believed, for it is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures as divinely true.

There is that which MUST NOT be believed, for it contradicts what is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures as divinely true.

There is that which MAY be believed, for it does NOT contradict what the Sacred Scriptures reveal as divinely true, but in fact harmonizes with that revelation, and has a long history of fellow Christians believing it across the centuries.

It strikes me that the third thing, the third point, is what St. Thomas Aquinas called "probable" but not "incontrovertible" as he said in the Summa:

Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8


I believe that the Orthodox use the term "theologoumena" for something akin to the third category, and by that term mean something stronger than merely what Lutherans mean when they tend to dismiss something as "just pious opinion." Thoughts on Pr. Webber's categories?

[I note Gerhard using the very category most reverently in his homily for Quasimodo on the question of whether the scars of our Lord remain visible in His holy body to this day. "Yet with this it should be noted that this actually should not be regarded as an article of faith, because there exists no express, clear testimony from Scripture about this. Rather, it is only a presumptive conclusion." And yet he goes on to speak of the matter with great reverence for the way the ancient teachers laid down their reasons for so concluding and clearly agrees with them and includes them in his sermon - Postilla I:364-366]

4 comments:

Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

So is what Dr. Webber getting at the difference between 1)Dogma, 2)heresy, and 3)Holy Tradition + human tradition?

This is somewhat of a problem I have in Lutheranism...distinguishing between dogma and doctrine, where both come from, etc. It seems that dogma is that which MUST be believed, and while its origins are in the Sacred Scriptures, they might very well be REASONED from Scripture (the Trinity is an example, or the two natures of Christ in the one person).

Then there is "adiaphora" (which from my understanding of the Confessions is really only aimed at practice, not belief) which seems like a possible SOURCE of doctrine, but with the realization of a Holy Tradition and human tradition mixture....I don't know...maybe I'm just really confused on this issue :-).

I am glad you brought this up though, because it seems like those groups which deny dogma are treated as non-Christians, while those who disagree with points of doctrine are Christians with whom we are not in full fellowship with. Thus there must be something within the realm of "pious opinion" which concretely separates us from other church bodies (the Orthodox's opinion on Original Sin which no ecumenical council has made a direct judgement seems to be this type of opinion that divides).

OR...could I be missing the whole point and Dr. Webber was distinguishing the idea that is currently held regarding Scripture as the sole source and norm (to quote Pieper and Koehler), or the only pure source and norma normans (to quote the Formula)?

Chris

William Weedon said...

Dear Christopher,

I would think that Holy Tradition, if by that we mean Scripture correctly interpreted, would be the first category.

TraditionS, which are not all even in weight or value, constitute the third category.

As for the source business, it always depends on how you mean the word. Certainly there are many "sources" for what the Church teaches, the living water is held in numerous vessels, but the water all comes ultimately from one place: from the Blessed Trinity who has given to His Church His Word as pure cistern of Israel.

Chris said...

Thank you Fr., that clarifies things a little better.

Chris

Matt said...

Fr. Weedon said :

I note Gerhard using the very category most reverently in his homily for Quasimodo on the question of whether the scars of our Lord remain visible in His holy body to this day. "Yet with this it should be noted that this actually should not be regarded as an article of faith, because there exists no express, clear testimony from Scripture about this.

I am not well versed on Gerhardt's words on this... nor other things related to this.. but I am curious.. as to why he says there exits no express, clear testimony from Scripture?

What do we do with :
Joh 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."

Or with this :
Luk 24:39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

While Luke is not as clear, both passages assume that in His Risen, Glorified and Incorruptible state, He still had visible wounds.

Are we to assume they "healed" over time? How does a perfect, incorruptible, glorified body "heal"?

Am I missing something?

Just idle curiosity : )

Thanks

Matt Bowers