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Offline platypus

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oral tradition in the early fathers
« on: October 08, 2019, 11:02:23 AM »
I've been reading some of Fr. Robert Hart's (ACC) posts on the Continuum blog, and there was an idea repeated a couple of times that caught my eye:

Quote from: Fr. Robert Hart
Some people have confusion about the place of Scripture, forgetting that in Ecumenical (if you prefer, Oecumencial) Council the Fathers used the Scriptures to prove or disprove doctrinal ideas. They saw in the Scriptures the mind of Christ by his Apostles recorded in a public record, and were certain that no essential doctrine was established that was not written in them and drawn from them.
from https://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2010/02/real-mccoy.html

Quote from: Fr. Robert Hart
For all the talk about the Church Fathers, it is the Book of Common Prayer that relies on the actual Patristic method for establishing doctrine, i.e. the Faith as received and set forth in the Bible. If you doubt that, then actually read the Fathers. You will be shocked, some of you, by how much they come across like Evangelicals--they even "proof text."
from https://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-of-consensus.html

For us Orthodox, tradition is the authority, and scripture is an obviously very important part of that tradition. From the Anglican perspective, scripture is the authority and we look to tradition specifically as a way to understand the scripture (hopefully I'm not misrepresenting them). Off the top of my head, I can't find a way to disagree with Fr. Hart. For example, I just finished up Confessions by St. Augustine, and it was a constant stream of quotations from the psalter and gospels. The same goes for most of the patristic writing I've seen, except maybe the Apostolic fathers - which are sort of quasi-scripture and would naturally have difficulty quoting the New Testament since they were being written around the same time.

Can anyone think of, especially in the second or third century AD, Church fathers who appealed to an oral tradition to establish a doctrine without using scripture (or books they considered to be scripture at the time) to back it up?
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Offline WPM

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2019, 05:55:31 PM »
The Orthodox priest vocally speaks from the Pulpit.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2019, 10:55:19 AM »
This chapter from Letters and Select Works of St. Basil makes the case for the authority of unwritten tradition, but I'm not sure that St. Basil would actually disagree with Fr. Hart. He mentions first and foremost the authority of unwritten tradition to establish practices like the sign of the cross, facing east in prayer, etc.

He does bring up the trinity as a doctrine not contained in Scripture, but as Fr. Hart points out the Council fathers who defined our belief in the triune God were using the scripture to prove it. All three persons of the Trinity are mentioned in scripture, even though the concept is not explained in a catechetical manner. So from the perspective of the scriptures as the source of doctrine and tradition as our understanding of it, the Trinity still makes sense.

The chapter leaves it unclear whether or not St. Basil would be on board with the idea of doctrine unmentioned by scripture.
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2019, 01:49:37 PM »
Can anyone think of, especially in the second or third century AD, Church fathers who appealed to an oral tradition to establish a doctrine without using scripture (or books they considered to be scripture at the time) to back it up?
The Easter controversy.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2019, 06:18:48 PM »
Can anyone think of, especially in the second or third century AD, Church fathers who appealed to an oral tradition to establish a doctrine without using scripture (or books they considered to be scripture at the time) to back it up?
The Easter controversy.

What doctrine was in question during the Easter controversy?
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2019, 12:16:58 AM »
Well, it's more about the Dathers arguing which tradition was older based solely on oral traditions.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2019, 12:17:14 AM by RaphaCam »
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2019, 08:02:12 PM »
This sermon from St. John Chrysostom seems to support the Anglican position:

Quote from: St. John Chrysostom
And how shall he walk the narrow way? Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer this to figures and calculation; but in calculating upon facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learnt what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things; which may we all obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
From: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.v.xiii.html


It's definitely not an Evancelical-type nuda scriptura position, but this commentary makes it seem that St. John Chrysostom saw scripture as the only legitimate source of doctrine.

I'm trying to figure out two questions at this point. Was this a common patrisic view? And if so, what's the practical effect?
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2019, 06:15:08 PM »
Okay, I read "The function of tradition in the Ancient Church" by Archpriest Archpriest George Florovsky, and it's caused me to think I may have been imagining the difference between the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox positions on tradition. He says, speaking of the Vincentine canon:
Quote from: Fr. George Florovsky
Tradition was not, according to St. Vincent, an independent instance, nor was it a complementary source of faith. "Ecclesiastical understanding" could not add anything to the Scripture. But it was the only means to ascertain and to disclose the true meaning of Scripture. Tradition was, in fact, the authentic interpretation of Scripture. And in this sense it was co-extensive with Scripture. Tradition was actually "Scripture rightly understood." And Scripture was for St. Vincent the only, primary and ultimate, canon of Christian truth (Commonitorium, cap. II, cf. cap. 28).

Later in the article:
Quote from: Fr. George Florovsky
The Apostolic Tradition of faith was the indispensable guide in the understanding of Scripture and the ultimate warrant of right interpretation. The Church was not an external authority, which had to judge over the Scripture, but rather the keeper and guardian of that Divine truth which was stored and deposited in the Holy Writ
Source: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/church_tradition_florovsky.htm

The above understanding falls right in line with Fr. Robert Hart argues for: Scripture is the revelation, and tradition is our historic understanding of it. Fr. George Florovsky even goes on to reference "On the Authority of Oral Tradition" by St. Basil that I posted above, explaining how it fits into this understanding. I have previously been taught a somewhat different view of scripture and tradition: namely, that our doctrine is the tradition handed down by the Apostles, and that only part of that tradition is contained in the scripture. I can't remember if this was during my convert classes or in one of the modern Orthodox books I've read, perhaps something by Archbishop Kallistos Ware. Off the top of my head, the only doctrine I've been taught as an Orthodox that I don't think has a scriptural basis is Toll Houses, which judging by this forum are not accepted by many anyway.

It seems classical Anglicanism is far more similiar to Eastern Orthodoxy than I realized.

I welcome any feedback on these musings; it's very possible I've gone off the deep end and sanity checks are always useful.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2019, 06:17:27 PM by platypus »
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2019, 04:21:27 PM »
This came up in the Orthodox/RC discussion board, and I realized it was relevant here. I've mixed feelings about St. Thomas Aquinas; his scientific approach to theology seems quite different from that of the early Fathers, although that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. Whatever the case, it's intriguing to see him weigh in on the subject:

Quote from: St. Thomas Aquinas
Nevertheless, sacred doctrine... 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.
From Summa Theologica, Treatise on Sacred Doctrine, Article 8

He is even clearer in his commentary on the Gospel of John:

Quote from: St. Thomas Aquinas
"If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:9). The reason for this is that only the canonical scriptures are the standard of faith. The others have set forth this truth but in such a way that they do not want to be believed except in those things in which they say what is true.
From Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapter 21
From
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2019, 04:36:38 PM »
Of course the "canon of Scripture" doesn't have a Table of Contents, so you have to rely on an external source for defining it in the first place ;)
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2019, 05:08:46 PM »
Of course the "canon of Scripture" doesn't have a Table of Contents, so you have to rely on an external source for defining it in the first place ;)

Right, but would the inspired scriptures need an inspired list of books in order to be the final word on matters of doctrine?

From what I understand at this point, the source of doctrinal authority is the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. In the early Church, some of these doctrines were challenged. The obvious way to fact check different teachings was to compare them to what the Apostles wrote. The bishops made a list of these Apostolic books and letters so that they could determine orthodoxy from heterodoxy when there were any conflicts in teaching. Through God's providence, the writings of the Apostles touched on all their doctrines.

I might be mistaken, and I've got a lot more to learn. But so far doesn't seem that the Fathers saw a contradiction between believing scripture to be the only authoritative source of doctrine*, and the fact that the Bible doesn't have an inspired index.

*That's not to say that the scriptures are the only thing we need to read, or that they're completely self-explanatory, or that we can't trust the creeds. Merely that all the doctrines are in the scriptures, and we have to keep understanding them in the traditional manner; hence the fact that we look to the Fathers for guidance.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2019, 05:12:44 PM »
Can anyone think of, especially in the second or third century AD, Church fathers who appealed to an oral tradition to establish a doctrine without using scripture (or books they considered to be scripture at the time) to back it up?
Typically what they are going to do is cite some oral tradition, and then in another place, if it's an important doctrine that they want to establish, they will cite Scripture.

To give one example, in his reply to the Encratites, Clement of Alexandria, who treats some non-canonical books with major respect, tries to argue that the Gospel of the Egyptians, which is not in the Bible, actually means the opposite of the anti-sex teachings of the Encratites. So he uses quotes from this apocryphal book and makes observations from that book to counter the Encratites, who themselves were using the Gospel of the Egyptians. And in some passages he was not citing scripture, even though certainly overall at a later point he might cite scripture to argue for the same idea.

I go through different non-Biblical 1st century or early such writings in my thread below, and you can see how at times the Church fathers used these books with respect:
List of 1st century writings by or about Christians
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,67356.315.html

But typically what they did was to use these books as added support in addition to Scripture.

Typically, since the Bible is so important, what the Fathers will do is cite some part of the Bible, even if it is not right on topic, and then maybe cite from the non-Biblical sources, like those that you can find in my link above.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2019, 05:16:58 PM »
Of course the "canon of Scripture" doesn't have a Table of Contents, so you have to rely on an external source for defining it in the first place ;)

Right, but would the inspired scriptures need an inspired list of books in order to be the final word on matters of doctrine?
No, but if you didn't have a list of the books, how would people realistically know which ones were in the canonical Bible? They wouldn't realistically independently come to the same conclusion if we were talking about a randomly unorganized scattering of books that different people may or may not have in their possession. This is where the Church comes in to ascertain which books are in the Bible as an organization.

You are basically de facto relying on the judgment of the early Christian Church as an institution to decide which books are in and which ones aren't. Sure, you can say that you are guided by the Holy Spirit to make the right judgment, but De Facto you wouldn't realistically get a consensus that way without an organization verifying it.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 05:18:19 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2019, 09:13:01 PM »
Quote from: rakovsky
No, but if you didn't have a list of the books, how would people realistically know which ones were in the canonical Bible? They wouldn't realistically independently come to the same conclusion if we were talking about a randomly unorganized scattering of books that different people may or may not have in their possession. This is where the Church comes in to ascertain which books are in the Bible as an organization.

You are basically de facto relying on the judgment of the early Christian Church as an institution to decide which books are in and which ones aren't. Sure, you can say that you are guided by the Holy Spirit to make the right judgment, but De Facto you wouldn't realistically get a consensus that way without an organization verifying it.


On this point, I think you, I, and the theologians quotes above are all in agreement. The Church is the guardian and keeper of Holy Writ, as Fr. George Florovsky wrote in the article I linked above. And it is in the Church that the proper tradition of interpretation is maintained.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2019, 09:16:10 PM »
I found where I got my initial (mis?)understanding of scripture and tradition:

Quote from: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture; and it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority.

From The Orthodox Church by Met. Kallistos Ware

While I can assent wholeheartedly to what His Grace says after the semicolon, the first part is beginning to seem problematic. After all, it was not ecclesiastical approval that made the scriptures inspired. The New Testament works were authoritative from the time they were written; it’s not as if nobody knew Matthew’s gospel was inspired, then when the Quinisext Council approved the NT canon it became valid scripture.

I think the New Testament canon was created to rule out uninspired books, not to grant authority to God’s word. Again, I’m still learning. But this seems like the most likely explanation. As Rakovsky pointed out above, the pre-Nicene Fathers quote scripture left and right in a manner that suggests they recognized its authority long before the canon became official.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2019, 09:17:37 PM »
Fr. Patrick Reardon’s take in the book Christ in the Psalms seems to be in line with what I’ve found so far:
Quote from: Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon
The Christian faith recognizes two ways in which God has made His revelation to us: through nature and through grace. “Through Creation and through Holy Scripture” is another way of saying the same thing. These are the two means God has given us through which to know him.

Although he mentions creation as a source of revelation, his writing does not leave me with the impression that he looks to creation as a source for doctrines unmentioned in scripture.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2019, 09:19:25 PM »
I found where I got my initial (mis?)understanding of scripture and tradition:

Quote from: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture; and it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority.

From The Orthodox Church by Met. Kallistos Ware

While I can assent wholeheartedly to what His Grace says after the semicolon, the first part is beginning to seem problematic. After all, it was not ecclesiastical approval that made the scriptures inspired. The New Testament works were authoritative from the time they were written; it’s not as if nobody knew Matthew’s gospel was inspired, then when the Quinisext Council approved the NT canon it became valid scripture.
I don't think he is saying that. He could add that the Church itself, of which the apostles were leading figures, both wrote the books and decided on their lists, so the Bible gets its authority from its authors, the apostles, and through them ultimately from God.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2019, 09:26:53 PM »
it’s not as if nobody knew Matthew’s gospel was inspired, then when the Quinisext Council approved the NT canon it became valid scripture.
I don't think he is saying that. He could add that the Church itself, of which the apostles were leading figures, both wrote the books and decided on their lists, so the Bible gets its authority from its authors, the apostles, and through them ultimately from God.

Thank you, Rakovsky! That definitely makes more sense than how I understood him.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2019, 09:49:36 PM »
it’s not as if nobody knew Matthew’s gospel was inspired, then when the Quinisext Council approved the NT canon it became valid scripture.
I don't think he is saying that. He could add that the Church itself, of which the apostles were leading figures, both wrote the books and decided on their lists, so the Bible gets its authority from its authors, the apostles, and through them ultimately from God.

Thank you, Rakovsky! That definitely makes more sense than how I understood him.
Yeah. He was not saying that the Bible was not inspired until medieval times, but to address your concern he could add that the apostles were part of the Church, etc. like I mentioned.

Right now I am reading the First Century writings and there were debates at the time between the apostles and the gnostics, who had their own versions of the Bible and of Jesus' story. The apostles at that point were the leaders of the Church, whereas the gnostics were in opposition. So the books of the Bible were authored as part of the Church, not as part of independent writers.

I could try to better explain his statement:
Quote
It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture
He is not saying that the medieval church was the source of the book's divine inspiration, but it gets its authority from the Church because they were its compilers. The book in its current form with its current Table of Contents gets its authority to be "the Bible" from the authority of the compilers. It didn't drop out of the air, but rather the different books were selected and agreed on by a group of believers, church leaders and theologians.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2019, 08:30:24 PM »
The book in its current form with its current Table of Contents gets its authority to be "the Bible" from the authority of the compilers.

I'm in full agreement with all you said except for this bit. And I suspect my disagreement lies in the ambiguity of the statement, not in what you actually meant. From what I understand thus far, the books of the Bible are authoritative because they are inspired by God, and it is the Church that recognized this inspiration and upheld the correct index of books. Those who compiled it had the authority to do so from God, and they were preserving what the Church had always taught. 

This is the same reason I think I got the wrong impression from Metropolitan Kallistos' book; because he says the Bible ultimately gets it's authority from the Church. He may have just been throwing in ultimately as a nice sounding adjective, but ultimately the scripture's authority comes from God. Just as the Church ultimately gets its authority from God. You could correctly say that the Church gets it's authority from the Apostles, but ultimately it gets authority from God.

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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2019, 08:47:32 PM »
I think that you get the general idea.

People who believe that the Bible is the holiest book implicitly would take the book's compilers to be inspired and authoritative in their work of compiling the Bible. Otherwise, how for instance do they assert that the Church's version is correct and not, say, the Vhurvh's version minus 10 books? Defacto they imply that the Church was right in its work. By respecting the Bible they respect the Church.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2020, 08:11:47 PM »
Today I came across this gem:

Quote from: St. Cyril of Jerusalem
For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech.  Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures.  For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.
From his Catechetical Lectures 4:17 here
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2020, 01:52:52 AM »
People who believe that the Bible is the holiest book implicitly would take the book's compilers to be inspired and authoritative in their work of compiling the Bible. Otherwise, how for instance do they assert that the Church's version is correct and not, say, the Church's version minus 10 books? De facto they imply that the Church was right in its work. By respecting the Bible they respect the Church.
I fixed my typo above.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2020, 01:53:04 AM by rakovsky »
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2020, 05:32:58 PM »
This is a response to reply #3 in the Sources of Roman Catholic Dogma thread

In the EO Church, the only authority that might be considered infallible are the Ecumenical Councils and the Bible. But there are opposing opinions among EO theologians on whether the Ecumenical Councils and the Bible are infallible.
Which Orthodox theologians claim scriptures are not infallible? I'm surprised to hear this.

In the thread that you linked, it wasn't clear to me that the Church fathers commonly considered provability from scripture to be the most common idea among Church fathers. For instance, St. John Chrysostom talks about the importance of using scripture, but he doesn't say that it's necessary to prove a doctrine to rely on scripture.

Commenting on the verse most commonly used by RCs (possibly by some Orthodox too, I’m not sure) in defense of unwritten tradition, St. John Chrysostom announces that “we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws” and so we should “disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things.” This appears to rule out the idea that it’s unnecessary to rely on scripture to prove doctrine.


You quoted the Anglican pastor Robert Hart to this effect, but it would be better to give instance of Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and numerous others saying exactly what Fr. Robert Hart claimed.

So far we have St. John Chrysostom, St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. George Florovsky, and St. Cyril of Jerusalem all arguing far more explicitly than Fr. Robert Hart that scripture contains all our dogmatic revelation. In addition, I’ve yet to see a patristic defense of Orthodox dogma that did not rely on the scriptures.

I am open to the idea that the above theologians represent a minority opinion, and this is why I prefaced my comments in the other thread with “It seems...” It’s possible that there were Church Fathers who believed in non-scriptural dogma, or defended dogma without the use of scripture. If you can find examples to support that position, I would love to see.

In practice, the RC and EO position appears correct.

I agree that the Orthodox position is correct.

The RCs and EOs could agree with material sufficiency, as if there are enough building blocks in scripture to make the case for a doctrine, but not necessarily that scripture is "perspicacious" and always clear and easily understood on all faith teachings.
 
That is the hypothesis I’m suggesting, in accordance with the teachings of the above theologians.

Take the example of infant baptism. There is evidence in the Bible in favor of it, but it is not explicitly state or rejected in the Bible. As a result, Protestants are divided among themselves on the topic of infant baptism. The Protestants make arguments on why infant baptism is valid or why it is not. They don't have a consensus because the Bible is not explicit on the question.

The articles by Fr. Florovsky and St. Basil that I linked above explain this much better than I can, but I’ll try anyway. Infant baptism falls under what Basil called “unwritten habits” or dogmata, as opposed to what we’d today call dogma (kerygmata in Basil’s terminology).

Fr. Florovsky helps explain Basil’s distinction a bit better in English. It’s from the scriptures that we get dogma, the “formal and authoritative teaching and ruling in the matters of faith, the open or public teaching” and from unwritten (at least in Basil’s time) tradition that we get our praxis, “the whole structure of liturgical and sacramental life”

Infant baptism as a practice is also quite defensible from scripture, although that’s outside the scope of this thread.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2020, 08:22:09 PM »
In the EO Church, the only authority that might be considered infallible are the Ecumenical Councils and the Bible. But there are opposing opinions among EO theologians on whether the Ecumenical Councils and the Bible are infallible.
Which Orthodox theologians claim scriptures are not infallible? I'm surprised to hear this.
It came up in this thread:
"Ezekiel 29, failed Biblical prophecy?"
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,72477.msg1487824.html#msg1487824

Fr. Hopko and Fr. Whiteford had opposite positions on this topic. One of them may have directly addressed the other's writings.

St. Augustine took the view that the Bible was infallible, and that specifically he explained that this meant that the intended meaning of the particular Biblical writer was infallible.

St. Augustine's view creates a potential problem. To give an example, suppose that Bible writers envisioned the earth as a flat "disc", as opposed to a spherical "globe",and then intended to incorporate this "flat earth" view into his expression about the world. This could happen in Isaiah 40:22:
Quote
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
Some ancient people apparently viewed the earth as a flat disc and the heavens as a "firmament", a "firm layer."

In that case, you are stuck arguing, either:
A) Isaiah didn't intentionally mean that the earth was literally a flat disc, he only was using metaphors and figures of speech.
B) The words of the verse in the Hebrew don't mean that the earth was flat, just that it was circular or round.
C) The Bible is right and modern science is wrong. The earth is flat.
D) Isaiah is wrong and the Bible, per the meaning intended by its particular writers, is fallible.
E) Isaiah's intended meaning about a flat earth is wrong, but the Bible is a spiritual book, not a science book. The spiritual messages that God intended to convey in it are true. God was using the common ideas of the time, like the earth being flat, to communicate His spiritual messages to people. God is prompting Isaiah to create a poetic image and spiritual message about God being in a place above the earth, as opposed to, say, teaching man a scientifically correct but perhaps more eschatologically confusing global geography that puts the earth in a global sphere and would make God be on all sides of the sphere at once.

If you accept St. Augustine's POV, you are stuck arguing in favor of points A-C above. Points D and E would contradict Augustine's idea of the way in which scripture is infallible. The argument that I see as most defensible is something like E.

Luther by the was was an Augustinian Monk before becoming Protestant. It shouldn't be a surprise that Augustine's views have become so foundational for so much of Protestantism and Catholicism.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 08:23:54 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2020, 08:32:37 PM »
Commenting on the verse most commonly used by RCs in defense of unwritten tradition, St. John Chrysostom announces that “we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws” and so we should “disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things.”

This appears to rule out the idea that it’s unnecessary to rely on scripture to prove doctrine.
You quoted St. John Chrysostom as saying that the declaration of the divine laws is a rule for all tings.
He says that we should disagree what some people think about some things and inquire from the scripture about the things.

Saying that we should inquire from the Bible about certain (or even all) things is not the same the same as saying that we need to rely on scripture to prove doctrine. For instance, there is a known doctrine about the Assumption or Dormition of Mary. It is a Feast in our Church. So we should inquire in the scripture about it. Let's say that we don't find it in Scripture. Does that mean that we failed our alleged need to prove this from scripture?

A need to inquire from scripture is not the same as a need to prove from scripture.
IMO, the Assumption can be based on scripture, but not proven perspicaciously or with easy unambiguity from the Bible.
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Offline platypus

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2020, 09:49:38 PM »
You quoted St. John Chrysostom as saying that the declaration of the divine laws is a rule for all tings.
He says that we should disagree what some people think about some things and inquire from the scripture about the things.

For him to announce that we have the exact rule and measure of faith, then immediately switch topics mid paragraph and talk about something else in the exact spot where you might expect him to say where we can find such a measure, does not square with my experience of St. John Chrysostom or normal human behaviour.  I'm not sure how he could make himself more clear.

Saying that we should inquire from the Bible about certain (or even all) things is not the same the same as saying that we need to rely on scripture to prove doctrine.

That is correct. But St. John Chrysostom, and the other theologians quoted above, go quite a bit further than just saying we should inquire about things in the Bible.

For instance, there is a known doctrine about the Assumption or Dormition of Mary. It is a Feast in our Church. So we should inquire in the scripture about it. Let's say that we don't find it in Scripture. Does that mean that we failed our alleged need to prove this from scripture?

If it were dogmatized, in light of the teachings of the above Fathers then there would be cause for concern.

I am also not sure why you consider it to be a doctrine. Mere historical reality is not enough to make something a doctrine, and I'm not sure that having a feast in the calendar is either. After all, we have a feast for the second finding of the head of John the Baptist, but our celebrating this fact is different than the event being a doctrine. We celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy, but I don't know that anyone would call the existance of the seventh Council a doctrine. I could be wrong; perhaps one of the clergy can clarify this for us.


A need to inquire from scripture is not the same as a need to prove from scripture.
Correct, but the above Fathers are saying a lot more than just that we should inquire from the scriptures about things.

« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 09:50:05 PM by platypus »
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2020, 03:05:47 AM »
1. Many Evangelicals have an idea that the Bible alone is very clear and easy to understand on the teachings needed for salvation.

2. Some Evangelicals have an idea somewhere along the lines that if a doctrine or teaching isn't easily or clearly provable using the Bible alone, then it doesn't count, and it's just a teaching of men. I see you as suggesting something along these lines.

I see you as taking a few sentences from St. John Chrysostom and interpreting him as saying something along the lines of 2. above. However, as I stated before, I don't interpret St. John Chrysostom that way.

You quoted St. John Chrysostom as saying, “we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws”, and that we should inquire into the Bible about doctrines, ie. teachings. Sure, the declaration of divine laws could be an exact balance and we should inquire into the Bible for teachings, but this rule doesn't necessarily mean that if after our inquiry about things using the Bible alone there is still ambiguity that the teaching doesn't count.

For instance, maybe you can read the Bible to endorse the teachings about the Assumption of Mary and ikons. The church teaches using ikons. You should inquire into the Bible about it. The Bible can give an exact balance. But those questions are not so clear that the answer is obvious to everyone. The Bible can be an exact balance for all things, but St John Chrysostom didn't mean that literally everything in the world can be judged easily using the Bible alone. You can't easily prove that the earth is spherical or what century St John Chrysostom lived in or that Mary was Assumed or that we need infant baptism using the Bible alone. That is not what St. John Chrysostom means. He did not say the Bible alone without guidance is easily read by everyone as an exact balance for everything. Instead, the Bible should be read in accordance with Tradition, and it is considered part of Tradition.

So okay the Bible is an exact balance for many topics directly addressed in it, and you should inquire into the Bible about those things, but it doesn't follow that only things directly and easily provable by the Bible alone would be teachings or beliefs or doctrines or traditions of the Church.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2020, 03:10:17 AM by rakovsky »
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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2020, 02:45:11 PM »
Rakovsky, I think there has been a miscommunication. We are in full agreement that the Bible is less than clear, and that there exists many true things that are not part of our divinely inspired faith.

I am not very good at explaining myself, so I will once again recommend the essay  “On Church and Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View” by Archpriest George Florovsky, which explains in detail the position I am investigating.

I will try to sum it up, but again, I lack the skill of Fr. Florovsky or the moral credibility of the Fathers, so their explanations are much better:
- Scripture is the written record of divine revelation, and by God’s grace the canon is complete: there’s no extra revelation from other sources that we’re supposed to adhere to.
- Since scripture is God’s revelation, it is imperative that we understand it properly: in the manner in which it has always been understood in the Church which God established to proclaim his message.

Therefore we can safely discount the ideas of:
- Those who invent new meanings for scripture, in contradiction to the unchanging tradition of the Church. Arius, Zwingli, Marcion, etc.
- Those who claim additional divine revelation other than what the Church preserved in the scriptures: Muhammed, Joseph Smith, Anna Catherine Emmerich, etc.

As you point out, there are many true things that we do not learn from the Bible, such as various historical events and scientific theories. I suppose you might say all of creation is divinely revealed, but it’s in a different sense than how God inspired the prophets or the apostles to write down religious truth. For us to understand most history and science properly does not seem to be a matter affecting salvation. Our adherence to religious truth, on the other hand – what we believe about God and salvation, which was miraculously revealed to God’s people -  is clearly a matter which affects salvation, since the Church anathemizes those who dissent from her dogmatic teaching.

Again, Fr. Florovsky makes the case for this view of scripture much more clearly and convincingly than I do. If this view is incorrect, and there exists extra divine revelation that the Church needs to dogmatize, or if you think what we have dogmatized is not taught in scripture, then I would be happy to see examples. But it's likely that I misunderstand your position.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: oral tradition in the early fathers
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2020, 08:16:55 PM »
One of the potential sources of confusion are terms like dogma and "supposed to believe".

Dogma is an infallible teaching, an infallible doctrine. The RC church is more dogmatic than the EO one. There are only two sources that are arguably infallible for EOs, the Bible and the 7 Councils. I have read that the Councils don't create new dogmas, they only clarify issues of Christian faith.

It seems like a potentially confusing issue. Take for instance Christ having two natures. I believe that this view is substantially Biblical. Having both divinity and humanity, two natures, it can be said that he has two natures. Yet the formula and perhaps full mental conceptualization is not explicit in the Bible. Did Paul, knowing that Christ has divinity and humanity, conceive this as "two natures"? Christ having "two natures" was expounded by the 4th Council, but it seems tautological or abstract to argue that a specific concept that Paul may not have openly and specifically understood expounded in our remaining records a few centuries later is not a new teaching. Substantially it is not new in my view, because I would consider it substantively Biblical. But the OOs might consider it a substantially new doctrine.

So it would seem more accurate to say that the Councils don't create substantively new infallible doctrines in the eyes of the Church. To just say that the Church doesn't get new postbiblical teachings or "things we should believe" sounds too ambiguous.

AFAIK, the Dormition is a teaching or doctrine of the Church, but it's not easily provable in the Bible alone, nor is it an infallible dogma approved by an ecumenical Council. So I take it that it is not considered required for salvation, but whether you call it "something supposed to be believed" seems rather ambiguous. It seems like the answer is that Yes, the Church thinks you are supposed to believe in the Dormition, like you are "supposed" to believe that St. Mstislav is a saint or that plenty of other canonized persons are saints, or like you are supposed to follow the fasting rules. But these things also seem flexible to an extent, not dogmatic requirements.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20