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Author Topic: The Old Testament Canon  (Read 7965 times) Average Rating: 0
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Linus7
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« on: April 04, 2003, 10:01:41 PM »

Okay. I accept the Deuterocanon as inspired Scripture.

But what of the differences in the various national Orthodox churches regarding what they recognize as canonical?

What are the reasons for these differences?

Why hasn't a council of the Church addressed the OT canon and standardized it?

To my mind these differences are not of great consequence. I believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I am not creating this thread to give her detractors a platform for their errors.

But I would seriously like some answers.

In ICXC,
Linus7
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2003, 02:16:28 AM »

Is anything standardized in Orthodoxy besides dogmas? Cheesy
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2003, 01:52:13 AM »

Is anything standardized in Orthodoxy besides dogmas? Cheesy

Well, the New Testament canon is, anyway.

I was hoping someone could give me a way to get a handle on this issue.

I have an idea forming in my pea-brain that has to do with the nature of the Church, her authority, and the Apostolic Tradition, but I wanted to see what others more knowledgeable than I have to say about it.

Why the apparent differences in the OT canon?

Can anyone recommend some good books that deal with the development of the canon?

Come on, Monkey! I know you know something about this. You were the resident guru of the biblical canon over at CBBS before they banned you.  Grin

I need your wisdom on this issue.
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2003, 01:06:11 PM »

Linus7

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Okay. I accept the Deuterocanon as inspired Scripture.

So do I Smiley

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But what of the differences in the various national Orthodox churches regarding what they recognize as canonical?What are the reasons for these differences?

The same reason there were differences in the early Church: some doubt the authenticity. What most people don't realise is that even those saints who don't include the apocrypha in the canon still quote it. Athanasius, for instance, excludes the Apocrypha, but still quotes it multiple times in his writings (not by name, however). There has never been a definition BY the entire Church, FOR the entire Church, on this issue. Various councils have dealt with the issue, of course, but the directives of these councils were not always accepted by everyone. Heck, we has a SAINT (John of Damascus) giving a different NEW TESTAMENT canon hundreds of years after it was supposedly fixed (cf the fourth book of his Exact Exposition... it's Ch. 17 I think, though I don't have it in front of me presently)

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Why hasn't a council of the Church addressed the OT canon and standardized it?

Because it doesn't have to. Orthodoxy doesn't "standardize" anything; when it does come out and say something, it's usually  only to make some thing more explicit as a guard against heresy, or to make a moral belief more visible to guard against bad praxis. There has never been a NEED to finalize the canon (we never had something akin to the Protestant Reformation, for example), so we've never done so. Some might ask whether the Orthodox should now "finalize" it for various reasons, but I would answer no. The Protestants of today are a different multiplicity of groupings than they were about 400 years ago. There is really no more need to finalize the canon now than there was 1000 years ago for the Orthodox. When Orthodox epistemology is understood (how we get our information and know it's validity), the importance of finalizing the canon melts away. Smiley

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I am not creating this thread to give her detractors a platform for their errors.

Whose errors? Smiley Lol. It's ok, we don't hold the Protestant/Catholic insistence on a fixed canon against them; that's what economia is for! They may someday soon return to their roots and trust more in that which they cannot see, and less in that which they can see Wink

Justin

PS. Though it spends very little time on the actual discussion of the development of the canon, Archbishop Chrysostomos' book Scripture and Tradition is the best work on this subject currently in English. He briefly goes over the question about different jurisdictions having different views as well. I've read books on the canon by other Orthodox authors (e.g., Theodore Stylianopoulos, John Breck, etc.), but the only other book I'd recommend would be Georges Florovsky's hard-to-find Bible, Church, Tradition.
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2003, 04:37:18 PM »

Come on, Monkey! I know you know something about this. You were the resident guru of the biblical canon over at CBBS before they banned you.  Grin

I'm just gathering up my notes. This is off the top of my head, so I may need to make some "clarifications".

Quick question: Is the canon of the NT closed? That is, is there a statment by the Church that says, "these books are the New Testament, and no other books are."? By my understanding, it is not so, but I may be wrong. I think the NT canon contains certain books that are accepted. Certain books are definitely eliminated. On other books, I believe the Church is silent. For example, if some archaeologists were to uncover the long lost Epistle of St Paul to the ....., how would it be received? Could it be added to the Canon or not?

As for the OT canon, I think the Church has largely remained silent on the matter because there has been no need to speak on it. In the West, the Protestants removed the Deuterocanon. This forced the RCC to take an official position on it.

In the East, it does not seem to be an issue. If one the jurisdictions were to separated itself from the others based on a passage from the Deuterocanon or some other book, then the Church as a whole would need to know if that particular book is indeed Scripture.

As I've looked at the history of the canon, it seems to come up only when a group of heretics puts forth its own canon. This happened with the followers of Marcion and Mani and others as well. Under "normal" circumstances, the Church does not seem to be to concerned with formal definitions of which books are Scripture and which are not. After all, the Faith is preserved by the Church. When a heretical groups presented books containing false revelations as "scripture", the Church was forced to deny these books to prevent people from being led astray. When other groups tried to confuse the faithful by denying the inspiration of some of the Gospels, the Church was forced to protect the truth. Perhaps the time is coming, especially with the spead of Evangelical Protestantism into Eastern Europe, for the Church to speak again.

To my knowledge, there are no doctrinal errors in Enoch or Jubilees or 4 Maccabees. No one is threatening to separate themselves from the Church based on these books. So, the Church has had no reason to accept or reject them. So long as these books are read in the Light of the Church, there is no problem.
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2003, 05:33:33 PM »

Some "Protestants" don't use the Deutero-canonical books.  The King James Version was published with them originally.  There are readings from them in the cycle of scripture readings for Sundays in the Episcopal/Anglican Churches, possibly in others.

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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2003, 07:23:36 PM »

Thanks to everyone for your input.

You have helped me clarify the answer that was already forming in my small brain.

I think it comes down to all the things you have said and winds up in the court of authority.

For us the authority is the living, teaching Church, not a collection of books interpreted by individual "enlightened ones."
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2003, 09:16:46 PM »


I think it comes down to all the things you have said and winds up in the court of authority.


Isn't that always the case?
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2003, 09:19:28 PM »


I think it comes down to all the things you have said and winds up in the court of authority.


Isn't that always the case?


True, oh truest friend and beloved brother!  Cool

True!  Grin
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2003, 10:09:11 PM »

Have you guys ever looked a list of "missing books" mentioned in the Bible? I think many of them are not missing, just known by another name. Anyway, I sometimes wonder what was written in them.

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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2003, 10:13:43 PM »

Like Paul's lost Epistle to the Laodiceans?

Have you seen that book, The Lost Books of the Bible?

I browsed through it one day. Had some interesting stuff, but some of it was Gnostic.
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2003, 10:18:13 PM »

Like Paul's lost Epistle to the Laodiceans?

Yep. Ever wonder what's in that? I sometimes think wouldn't it be great if some one found that. Then I think, it would be even better if someone found it and it had a verse like "How many times do I have to tell you silly Laodiceans? When Christ said, 'This is my body', He wasn't joking."

I think I counted about twenty books mentioned, but not appearing, in the Bible at one point.

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Have you seen that book, The Lost Books of the Bible?

I've looked through it. I agree, most of it is Gnostic. I wouldn't some much call those books "lost" as "fake".

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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2003, 12:33:42 AM »

I have nothing meaningful to add to this thread, I just wanted to give a big thumbs up to Paradosis for one of the best posts I've ever seen.   Cool
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2003, 08:50:13 AM »

I think it should be pointed out that prior to the late first/early second century, the Jews did not have an idea of a closed canon. There were certainly books that were included and some that were excluded. However, to the best of my knowledge, no one ever said, "This is all of Scripture, and nothing else is Scripture."

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« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2003, 12:41:15 PM »

I guess the advantage to a closed canon is that no one can come along with some spurious book and use it to deceive the faithful.

It is an interesting thought that you brought up earlier, Monkey: what if some archaeologist were to dicover Paul's lost Epistle to the Laodiceans, for example?

The Sola Scriptura crowd would be forced to deny its authenticity, would they not?

The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is free to evaluate such a find and either accept it or reject it based on its value as inspired scripture.

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« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2003, 08:47:40 PM »

Orthodoxy doesn't "standardize" anything; when it does come out and say something, it's usually  only to make some thing more explicit as a guard against heresy, or to make a moral belief more visible to guard against bad praxis.

Hmmmm..... I think this is a bit problematic.

Anglicanism has historically more epitomized the "what's a standard?" approach; even the 39 articles which are supposed to represent a standard of Anglican belief do not in fact do so anymore. Even so, the typical approach of Anglican theologians to such formulae as the Creed and the Chalcedonian statement on the natures of Jesus is that they are standards, but of a negative sort. That is, they specifically exclude certain statements, definitively and permanently. For instance, the Creed specifically denies Arianism.

Likewise, the Anglican view on Scripture is that present canon thereof bars works (of which we are aware) from being treated in the manner that scripture is treated unless they are already listed in the canon. How this attitude would translate into an Orthodox milieu is unclear to me. Anglicans certainly treat patristic writings in general as being more distinct from NT epistles than the Orthodox do. I think in the matter of works claiming to be gospels, the attitude translates exactly. In spite of certain secular efforts to do so, neither Anglicans nor Orthodox are ever going to accord the "Gospel of Thomas" the respect that the four canonical gospels receive.

As far as the OT is concerned, do not the materials of the DSS already pose this problem, to all? As best I can tell, Orthodox have utterly ignored these-- indeed, I have been fed "KJV-only"-like arguments about the Septuagint by Orthodox detractors of modern translations (e.g. the RSV and NRSV, both of which start from the Masoretic text as their OT basis, though they do also translate the Apocrypha from the LXXII).
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« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2003, 09:01:07 PM »

I guess the advantage to a closed canon is that no one can come along with some spurious book and use it to deceive the faithful.

It is an interesting thought that you brought up earlier, Monkey: what if some archaeologist were to dicover Paul's lost Epistle to the Laodiceans, for example?

The Sola Scriptura crowd would be forced to deny its authenticity, would they not?

The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is free to evaluate such a find and either accept it or reject it based on its value as inspired scripture.


Hmmmm...... I dunno.

It would depend a lot on whether the new text said anything controversial. If it didn't, then the Anglicans would almost certainly take a "we don't care either way" attitude. It doesn't make so much of a difference for us. I can't say with confidence how it might be handled by other groups. Certainly some radicals would attack it on principle, regardless of which tradition they come out of; no doubt some Orthodox would question a lack of references in the Fathers or make other responses basically asserting that the canon is closed.

Now if it said something controversial.... Without a doubt, whoever felt themselves to be the target of the new document's statements would attack its credibility at great length. If it plainly advocated some Protestant position, then I would bet that Orthodox groups, in general, would reject it as spurious, because of this contradiction with their established tradition. If it advocated an Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican position, the radical Protestants would certainly attack it, though the Orthodox form of the refutation (as I suppose it) would have to be avoided. The Anglicans? It's hard to say. It could conceivably cause a fracture or a mass defection to another body.
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« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2003, 09:21:23 PM »

Another thought occurred to me. In a sense, we are already faced with the canonical revision problem, as we have all these textual critics would maintain (for instance) that most of the Pauline letters are not in fact authentic. I am not competent to evaluate their claims, but they could be interepreted as challenging whether certain epistles do belong in scripture.

The Anglican answer, for the moment, looks like what I surmise the Orthodox response might be. Which is to say, the ancient reference to these works as scripture is a stronger reason for their retention in the canon than any quibbles about their authorship would amount to. Some liberals, of course, do use these quibbles as an escape clause from the dicta of scripture, but it's not a position I particularly respect. A lot of them seem to be liberals first and textual critics second.
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« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2003, 09:24:26 PM »

Keble

Greetings!

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Likewise, the Anglican view on Scripture is that present canon thereof bars works (of which we are aware) from being treated in the manner that scripture is treated unless they are already listed in the canon. How this attitude would translate into an Orthodox milieu is unclear to me.

Well, but that gets back to the discussion about which "list" we are talking about. Also consider that Orthodox writers can treat even non-canonical works with the utmost respect, quoting them as though they were "Gospel truth" (so to speak). Thus Fathers could reject the apocrypha and still quote it in even the most important theological discussions. Of course, at the same time, we would lean towards what you are saying, in a way. We venerate the Gospels, glory be to them; we certainly would never do that with the Shepherd of Hermas or 1 Enoch (though some early Fathers might have, and some Christians today might in Africa and other areas might)

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As best I can tell, Orthodox have utterly ignored these-- indeed, I have been fed "KJV-only"-like arguments about the Septuagint by Orthodox detractors of modern translations (e.g. the RSV and NRSV, both of which start from the Masoretic text as their OT basis, though they do also translate the Apocrypha from the LXXII).

The Orthodox polemical literature can indeed get a bit... defensive. In it's defense (no pun intended), though, the Orthodox in the west feel somewhat angered sometimes by the claims that the Hebrew text was superior, but that the Fathers were ignorant of this, and so it was a historical fluke that they used the Greek text. This touches on much more than ones choice of texts, it goes to the very heart of Orthodox epistemology, authority, and a number of other areas. The Orthodox--from the NT on--always generally (though not exclusively, of course) used the LXX instead of the the Hebrew. After the Masoretes were done with their "editing" (what Christians charged as a corrupting of the text, from Justin Martyr on), usage of the LXX became all that much more important. How the Dead Sea Scrolls factor into this, I'm unsure; I've heard both sides of the argument claim that the DSS justifies their position. I'm afraid I just don't know enough about Greek or Hebrew to know much about that sort of stuff (the best I can do is grapple with the historical and theological issues not requiring a knowledge of the language)
 
Justin
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« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2003, 09:32:46 PM »

Regarding the authenticity of certain NT texts... I dunno, tricky subject. On the one hand, many times in Orthodoxy correctly identifying the author is unimportant (otherwise "pseudo-Dionysius" would be suspect for theological purposes in Orthodoxy, but it's not). It doesn't matter whether they were sure which James actually wrote James. It wasn't important who wrote Wisdom of Solomon--or most of the Psalms for that matter.

On the other hand, great attempts were made at linking the apostles to certain texts. How many rejected Revelation, even through the 6th century, with one of it's main strong points keeping it from total rejection by some it's being attributed to Saint John the Theologian. How many tried to attack Saint Paul to Hebrews (and rightfully so, IMO)?

When modern scholars question the authenticity of certain NT writings (or question who wrote them, when historical christianity seem pleased with an answer), I usually cringe. It is, to me, one of the "tip offs" as to what mindset an author is coming from. I think many of the reasons used in textual criticism for the speculations they make are bogus. Someone uses a different style and all of a sudden it's a different author. Someone uses different words, or speaks in different theological terminology. I sometimes wonder if these scholars have ever went back and read some of their own work from decades ago. I'd bet money--if I were a betting man--that they'd see the same patterns of evolution and change in their own writing.
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« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2003, 10:12:43 PM »


Well, but that gets back to the discussion about which "list" we are talking about.

For the record, Anglicans accept all the scriptures tha the RCs do, but there are restrictions on how the Apocrypha may be used (they are read in church, but doctrinal statements cannot be justified from them in the same way that they are justified from other scripture).

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Also consider that Orthodox writers can treat even non-canonical works with the utmost respect, quoting them as though they were "Gospel truth" (so to speak). Thus Fathers could reject the apocrypha and still quote it in even the most important theological discussions. Of course, at the same time, we would lean towards what you are saying, in a way. We venerate the Gospels, glory be to them; we certainly would never do that with the Shepherd of Hermas or 1 Enoch (though some early Fathers might have, and some Christians today might in Africa and other areas might)

There is a definite similarity here, in that tradition as a whole has an advisory function in Anglicanism that it does not have among more radical Protestants. Again, the use of tradition is subject to limitations. Only what scripture attests to may be taught as doctrine, though in practice much tradition is also basically inarguable (unless you are a radical bishop ala Spong  Angry ).

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In it's defense (no pun intended), though, the Orthodox in the west feel somewhat angered sometimes by the claims that the Hebrew text was superior, but that the Fathers were ignorant of this, and so it was a historical fluke that they used the Greek text.

It is interesting the role that the DSS have played in this regard. I do not want to go into the issues of OT translation in depth, but in a number of cases the DSS have ratified suspicions that, in places, the LXXII shows a more primitive (and likely more accurate) rendering of the text than the MT. On the other hand, it seems to me that the biggest problems revolve around passages where the LXXII seems to mistranslate the Hebrew. The most controversial, of course, involves the word "parthenos" in Isaiah. The Anglican view is not to use the LXXII as definitive instruction on how to translate the Hebrew. In this particular case we feel it doesn't matter anyway; Matthew clearly points out how it is to be interpreted. I'm not sure whether there are other passages in which there is a more definite problem. Responsible modern translations own up to these textual issues anyway, and in fact they all refer to the targums and even the Samaritan Pentateuch as aids to working outh the numerous problems with the Hebrew,as well as consulting the LXXII. It's an issue that, I think, is made much more of than is generally warranted; in most modern translations the bigger problem is the English in which they render their translations, which often is pretty bad.
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« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2003, 03:37:32 AM »

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the so called biblical "scholarship" that is prelevant nowadays, stems from a need to publish in order to make a name for yourself. After all, you need to write a paper on something to get your doctorate and be able to put those letters after your name.

The problem is finding a subject that hasn't already been done to death, which is next to impossible in such a saturated field. The solution? Choose something controversial that goes against the views of traditional biblical scholarship. Suddenly a whole wealth of opportunities to publish open up before you and with them a guarantee of making a name for yourself.

A classic example is the kind of stuff published by Barbara Thiering, finding hidden meanings in the Gospels by using her "pesher method". Here is a quote from Fr Daniel J. Harrington regarding her work:
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Barbara Thiering, an Australian scholar, used what she called the "peskier" method to assert that Jesus was part of the royal priestly line of the Qumran sect, was born out of wedlock, performed no miracles, did not die on the cross but was drugged and later revived in a burial cave, married twice and fathered three children! The "evidence" for these claims is set out in great detail, but in the last analysis the evidence is worthless and indeed nonexistent.

I also though this statement of his was pertinent to the topic.
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The biblical manuscripts from Qumran provide an eloquent witness to the variety of Hebrew textual traditions in Jesus' time. This textual diversity should not be exaggerated to the point of imagining radically different books of Genesis, Exodus, or whatever. But the Qumran manuscripts make clear that there was no uniform or official version of the Hebrew Scriptures such as the Masoretic Version came to be in Judaism; there is a significant amount of textual variation in the Qumran biblical scrolls. What once had been attributed to the free or poor translation techniques of those who produced the Greek Septuagint or other ancient versions in many cases turned out to be accurate renderings of different Hebrew originals.

Interesting stuff.

John.
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« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2003, 07:21:35 AM »

Regarding the authenticity of certain NT texts... I dunno, tricky subject


I'd say that the "classical" Anglican viewpoint on the issues of dating and authorship is essentially the same as what you outline here. It is possible we are a bit touchier about the Gospels, but on the other hand my personal opinion is that the late date arguments for the Gospels are falling apart and that indeed, better analysis is pushing the dates earlier, and not later.
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« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2003, 12:30:44 PM »

I guess the advantage to a closed canon is that no one can come along with some spurious book and use it to deceive the faithful.

It is an interesting thought that you brought up earlier, Monkey: what if some archaeologist were to dicover Paul's lost Epistle to the Laodiceans, for example?

The Sola Scriptura crowd would be forced to deny its authenticity, would they not?

The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is free to evaluate such a find and either accept it or reject it based on its value as inspired scripture.


Hmmmm...... I dunno.

It would depend a lot on whether the new text said anything controversial. If it didn't, then the Anglicans would almost certainly take a "we don't care either way" attitude. It doesn't make so much of a difference for us. I can't say with confidence how it might be handled by other groups. Certainly some radicals would attack it on principle, regardless of which tradition they come out of; no doubt some Orthodox would question a lack of references in the Fathers or make other responses basically asserting that the canon is closed.

Now if it said something controversial.... Without a doubt, whoever felt themselves to be the target of the new document's statements would attack its credibility at great length. If it plainly advocated some Protestant position, then I would bet that Orthodox groups, in general, would reject it as spurious, because of this contradiction with their established tradition. If it advocated an Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican position, the radical Protestants would certainly attack it, though the Orthodox form of the refutation (as I suppose it) would have to be avoided. The Anglicans? It's hard to say. It could conceivably cause a fracture or a mass defection to another body.


Certainly good points. I especially like the part about the lack of references from the Fathers. That would definitely be an important thing to consider.

Wasn't there a reference somewhere (outside the New Testament) to Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans? Did Clement or Ignatius mention it? I seem to remember one of them having done so, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, of course it is all speculation, but I do not think we have to worry about an authentic letter of Paul's supporting one of the distinctive doctrines of radical Protestantism. Nevertheless, the absence of actual support in the Bible for their doctrines has not stopped Fundamentalists from finding it there anyway.

What about Enoch? St. Jude quotes it in his letter. The Ethiopians include it in their OT canon.

Are there any good reasons to reject it?
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« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2003, 02:06:20 PM »

Certainly good points. I especially like the part about the lack of references from the Fathers. That would definitely be an important thing to consider.

It may simplely indicate that the Epsitle was not widely shared. It may even be the case that it never made it to the intended recipients.

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Wasn't there a reference somewhere (outside the New Testament) to Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans? Did Clement or Ignatius mention it? I seem to remember one of them having done so, but I could be wrong.

Don't know. I think I remember Ignatius mentioning it. I'll have to read some.

Do you know that there is a faked Epistle?

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Anyway, of course it is all speculation, but I do not think we have to worry about an authentic letter of Paul's supporting one of the distinctive doctrines of radical Protestantism. Nevertheless, the absence of actual support in the Bible for their doctrines has not stopped Fundamentalists from finding it there anyway.

Indeed. They are likely to treat just as they treat the Deuterocanon: It does not agree with our interpretations, so it can not be Scripture.

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What about Enoch? St. Jude quotes it in his letter. The Ethiopians include it in their OT canon.
Are there any good reasons to reject it?

Been I while since I read it. I think I remember that if you accept  Enoch, you can not have a literal interpreation of Genesis 1 and 2. (Maybe that is Jubilees, not Enoch.) Anyway, if that does not bother you, then there is not problem.
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« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2003, 02:15:38 PM »

Oddly enough (though relevant to some of the discussion) I just posted a bit about the question Is Orthodox Anthropology Built on “Shaky Exegetical Ground”? this morning. If anyone has a critique, I'd be more than happy to hear your comments.
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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2003, 11:27:57 PM »


Anyway, of course it is all speculation, but I do not think we have to worry about an authentic letter of Paul's supporting one of the distinctive doctrines of radical Protestantism. Nevertheless, the absence of actual support in the Bible for their doctrines has not stopped Fundamentalists from finding it there anyway.

Please don't expect me to defend the fundamentalists. They clearly have major problems dealing with the notion of tradition.

On the other hand, there are plenty of tenets in Orthodoxy which enjoy no direct scriptural support (e.g., lots of Mariology). It is conceivable that a document-- say, a lost Pauline letter-- could come to light and contradict or at least cast serious doubt on one of these. And it is also possible that such a text could ratify Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican practice.

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What about Enoch? St. Jude quotes it in his letter. The Ethiopians include it in their OT canon.

Are there any good reasons to reject it?

My memory about this text turns out to have been confused, so I will have to beg off offering an opinion. From a strict Anglican interpretation we probably would put it in the same class as other Apocrypha. We don't have the same "if it's not scripture we don't pay it any atenion" theory hat the radical Protestants do.
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« Reply #27 on: April 09, 2003, 12:07:35 PM »

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On the other hand, there are plenty of tenets in Orthodoxy which enjoy no direct scriptural support (e.g., lots of Mariology). It is conceivable that a document-- say, a lost Pauline letter-- could come to light and contradict or at least cast serious doubt on one of these. And it is also possible that such a text could ratify Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican practice.

For us it is inconceivable that any authentic Pauline letter could contradict or cast doubt on an Orthodox doctrine or practice. That is a matter of faith.

Naturally, one who is not Orthodox might conceive of such a possibility, but those who are not Orthodox conceive of all sorts of things with which we do not agree.

I would say that much that is Christian lacks direct scriptural support, regardless of which Christian group one is discussing.

The Bible was never meant to be the "cookbook" of Christian doctrine and practice. Many Christian "recipes" were handed down by word-of-mouth (tradition) and some of them must be inferred from the scriptural record.

The lack of direct scriptural support for a particular doctrine or practice is only a problem for those who claim the Bible is the sole authority in Christianity.

Of course, it is impossible for the Bible to be the sole authority. For one thing, the Bible does not even say what books should be included in it. The very canon of the Bible itself is a product of Church tradition.
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« Reply #28 on: April 09, 2003, 12:47:00 PM »

Linus 7<<Of course, it is impossible for the Bible to be the sole authority. For one thing, the Bible does not even say what books should be included in it. The very canon of the Bible itself is a product of Church tradition.>>

Which brings us to the question to which every Orthodox Christian ought to know the answer: "Which came first, the Bible or the Church?"

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« Reply #29 on: April 09, 2003, 07:56:03 PM »

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On the other hand, there are plenty of tenets in Orthodoxy which enjoy no direct scriptural support (e.g., lots of Mariology). It is conceivable that a document-- say, a lost Pauline letter-- could come to light and contradict or at least cast serious doubt on one of these. And it is also possible that such a text could ratify Orthodox or Catholic or Anglican practice.

For us it is inconceivable that any authentic Pauline letter could contradict or cast doubt on an Orthodox doctrine or practice. That is a matter of faith.

I think this ia a bit overstated-- it's turning into the "anything that Orthodox do is good" argument which I have to contend is UnOrthodox. Let's leave "practice" out of this for the moment, because Orthodox authorities do recognize that some practices are more "fixed" than others.

As far as doctrine is concerned, your "inconceivable" actually translates to "the existence of such a document contradicts the views I hold (views which the Orthodox Church taught me) and therefore I cannot admit that such a document could exist." I have thought at length about how to address this, and I have concluded in the end that the topic does not admit of further discussion, because it fails the requisite of any shared presuppositions.

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I would say that much that is Christian lacks direct scriptural support, regardless of which Christian group one is discussing.

I would say that is true, and often perhaps even indirect support. But that's not the issue here, but rather what difference this support (or lack thereof) makes.
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« Reply #30 on: April 09, 2003, 08:29:42 PM »

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From Keble: I have thought at length about how to address this, and I have concluded in the end that the topic does not admit of further discussion, because it fails the requisite of any shared presuppositions.

I think you are absolutely right there.

It is inconceivable to Orthodox Christians that an authentic Pauline epistle could contradict or cast doubt upon Orthodox doctrine or practice precisely because of our faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and that the Orthodox Church is that Church.

We do not begin with the Bible and regard Christianity as its product. Rather we begin with Christ and His Church and regard the Bible as their product.

The Bible is simply a part of the Church's Apostolic Tradition. It can only be properly understood and interpreted within that context.

Any document purporting to be a Pauline epistle would immediately be suspect if it contradicted the rest of the Apostolic Tradition or any part of it.

In fact, if it truly did contradict the Apostolic Tradition, that would be conclusive evidence that it could not be a genuine Pauline epistle.


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« Reply #31 on: April 10, 2003, 07:22:43 AM »

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From Keble: I have thought at length about how to address this, and I have concluded in the end that the topic does not admit of further discussion, because it fails the requisite of any shared presuppositions.

I think you are absolutely right there.

It is inconceivable to Orthodox Christians that an authentic Pauline epistle could contradict or cast doubt upon Orthodox doctrine or practice precisely because of our faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and that the Orthodox Church is that Church.

We do not begin with the Bible and regard Christianity as its product. Rather we begin with Christ and His Church and regard the Bible as their product.

The Bible is simply a part of the Church's Apostolic Tradition. It can only be properly understood and interpreted within that context.

Any document purporting to be a Pauline epistle would immediately be suspect if it contradicted the rest of the Apostolic Tradition or any part of it.

In fact, if it truly did contradict the Apostolic Tradition, that would be conclusive evidence that it could not be a genuine Pauline epistle.


My first attempt at replying to this got out of hand; let me make another try.

I don't wish to discuss the canon formation aspects of this (that's why I forked that line of discussion off). But I think you make a number of statements here that are too strong.

In ordinary discourse, a purported Pauline epistle which contradicted the other Pauline epistles would surely be suspect (especially if that contradiction were to things said in Romans or 1st Corinthians). But we have already passed into an area of dispute here, because identifying such a contradiction is already the outcome of a process of interpretation. And in ordinary discourse the nature and elaboration of that interpretation would be weighed against it.

If the contradiction were to some other epistle (non-Pauline) the issue of interpretation starts to dominate the argument. At that point it becomes less important as to whether the document is genuine, because there starts to be enough room for maneuvering that each may have it say what is congenial to their own theology. In ordinary discourse a great scholarly battle then ensues and is never finally resolved.

Of course, other matters might also intrude. The lack of ancient attestation to it would certainly be counted against it, and if it took a decidedly Gnostic tack, it would be unlikely to be endorsed by any trinitarian church. (On the other hand, I would have to expect such gnosticism to produce a definite contradiction with the canonical Pauline epistles.)

It's the last sentence that gives me pause. There are other, stronger reasons I have for objecting to it, but I would observe for the nonce that this statement effectively denies the point of having a canon of scripture. If it is all effecively the same, then why say that some of it is different? After all, most if not all of the works mentioned as scriptural but not eventually included in the canon are works which even Anglicans admit as important testimony to the theology of the early church.
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« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2003, 12:48:27 PM »

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It's the last sentence that gives me pause. There are other, stronger reasons I have for objecting to it, but I would observe for the nonce that this statement effectively denies the point of having a canon of scripture. If it is all effecively the same, then why say that some of it is different? After all, most if not all of the works mentioned as scriptural but not eventually included in the canon are works which even Anglicans admit as important testimony to the theology of the early church.

I am not sure I follow you here.

The Bible is a part of the Apostolic Tradition, but the Apostolic Tradition is not limited to the Bible. It includes the Creeds and Canons of the Church, the Patristic Consensus, the liturgy and art of the Church, and the word-of-mouth teaching that has been handed down, intact, from the Apostles.

The Bible is of course the most important and authoritative part of the Tradition, but not all there is to it.

A documentary find that merely purported to be an authentic Pauline epistle would not automatically have the status of canonical scripture.

If it was found by the Church to contradict or cast doubt upon the rest of the Apostolic Tradition, that would be conclusive evidence that it was not authentic.

The faith of the Church is not up for grabs based upon the latest archaeological research. It is firmly established.

Archaeological finds are judged in the light of the Apostolic Tradition and not vice versa.
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« Reply #33 on: April 10, 2003, 01:21:37 PM »

Linus 7<<The faith of the Church is not up for grabs based upon the latest archaeological research. It is firmly established.

Archaeological finds are judged in the light of the Apostolic Tradition and not vice versa. >>

True, Linus.  Even if every Bible in the world was systematically burned or destroyed in some other way, the Church would still go on--indeed, it could possibly reconstruct a good part of Holy Scripture intact in that many pious monastics and laymen have committed many parts of Scripture to memory.  

I was awestruck when, on her deathbed, my beloved mother (Memory Eternal!) could recite aloud the long Johannine Gospel from Holy Week *BY HEART* along with the priest who was reading it before giving her Holy Communion!!! I shall never forget that overpowering experience of God's loving presence.

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« Reply #34 on: April 11, 2003, 09:05:11 AM »

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It's the last sentence that gives me pause. There are other, stronger reasons I have for objecting to it, but I would observe for the nonce that this statement effectively denies the point of having a canon of scripture. If it is all effecively the same, then why say that some of it is different? After all, most if not all of the works mentioned as scriptural but not eventually included in the canon are works which even Anglicans admit as important testimony to the theology of the early church.

I am not sure I follow you here.

The Bible is a part of the Apostolic Tradition, but the Apostolic Tradition is not limited to the Bible. It includes the Creeds and Canons of the Church, the Patristic Consensus, the liturgy and art of the Church, and the word-of-mouth teaching that has been handed down, intact, from the Apostles.

The Bible is of course the most important and authoritative part of the Tradition, but not all there is to it.

But you have, in effect, said that it is not the "most authoritative part", because you've asserted that it all has the same authority: absolute authority. That scripture is more authoritative is the Anglican/Protestant position that you have been arguing against the whole time! It is nonsense to say that one part has more authority than another unless that which has less authority can be overturned by comparison with that which has more. You are saying that the Protestant practice of criticizing other tradition on he basis of scripture is invalid, and this implies that you do accept all of it with equal authority.

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A documentary find that merely purported to be an authentic Pauline epistle would not automatically have the status of canonical scripture.

You are, by implication, ascribing an argument to me which I have denied at length. "Automatically" is your word, not mine, and I have already spoken about how the content of such a document would affect its evaluation-- even in a totally secular context.

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If it was found by the Church to contradict or cast doubt upon the rest of the Apostolic Tradition, that would be conclusive evidence that it was not authentic.

You say that, but that is a declaration of faith in the church, not an argument. If it argued strongly against the rest of scripture, that would tend to be an evaluation which would be generally accepted within Christianity as a whole. But if if argued against relatively late practices (e.g. the iconostasis as an opaque barrier), the Anglicans would not consider this a bar to its acceptance per se. And indeed, some clever Orthodox exegete might well find a way to accept the text and nullify this criticism. But to do so is to risk devaluing exegesis in the first place, and risk reducing it to mere rationalization.
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« Reply #35 on: April 11, 2003, 07:56:55 PM »

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But you have, in effect, said that it is not the "most authoritative part", because you've asserted that it all has the same authority: absolute authority. That scripture is more authoritative is the Anglican/Protestant position that you have been arguing against the whole time! It is nonsense to say that one part has more authority than another unless that which has less authority can be overturned by comparison with that which has more. You are saying that the Protestant practice of criticizing other tradition on he basis of scripture is invalid, and this implies that you do accept all of it with equal authority.

It is the Apostolic Tradition as a whole that has absolute authority, not any one of its parts.

The Bible is the most authoritative part, but it is actually dangerous in the hands of most Protestants, who divorce it from its context and are thus liable to find practically anything within its pages.

It is not nonsense to assert that one part of the Apostolic Tradition has more authority than another part. Although it is not a precise science but a matter of faith, it is clear, for example, that the words of Holy Scripture are certainly given more weight than the writings of any one individual Church Father.

Where all or the vast majority of Fathers agree on an interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture, however, that is regarded as a patristic consensus on that passage and is authoritative. Such a consensus is not divorced from the Scripture itself but rather rests upon it.

It is not the practice of criticizing various traditions in the light of Scripture that is invalid.

What is invalid is divorcing Scripture from its context within the Apostolic Tradition, subjecting it to a multitude of private interpreters, and then using it to criticize others who may have even more authority for what they believe than the critic does.

What is invalid is elevating oneself and one's private take on the Bible above the Church, the authority Jesus Christ Himself set up to transmit the deposit of faith and act as the final interpreter of the Bible and the rest of the Apostolic Tradition.
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« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2003, 11:29:43 PM »

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But you have, in effect, said that it is not the "most authoritative part", because you've asserted that it all has the same authority: absolute authority. That scripture is more authoritative is the Anglican/Protestant position that you have been arguing against the whole time! It is nonsense to say that one part has more authority than another unless that which has less authority can be overturned by comparison with that which has more. You are saying that the Protestant practice of criticizing other tradition on he basis of scripture is invalid, and this implies that you do accept all of it with equal authority.

It is the Apostolic Tradition as a whole that has absolute authority, not any one of its parts.

But that is precisely what I said that you said!

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The Bible is the most authoritative part, but it is actually dangerous in the hands of most Protestants, who divorce it from its context and are thus liable to find practically anything within its pages.

Enough with the potshots at Protestants who aren't even here. We both agree that taking things out of context is bad; it's not the only possible error, and maybe not even the most common error.

A little later you say "weight" instead of "authority", but that simply substitutes a metaphor whose meaning you neither define nor explore for a term which you neither define nor explore. But then you say this:

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Although it is not a precise science but a matter of faith, it is clear, for example, that the words of Holy Scripture are certainly given more weight than the writings of any one individual Church Father.

It is clear, but the reason it is clear is that everyone agrees that human fallibility makes any individual too poor an authority in his own right. That reason is ordinary, not theological. The interesting question is not why the individual theologian/father is devalued, but why scripture is more valued. Absolutely valued, in fact.

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Where all or the vast majority of Fathers agree on an interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture, however, that is regarded as a patristic consensus on that passage and is authoritative. Such a consensus is not divorced from the Scripture itself but rather rests upon it.

But the problem again is that there are ordinary reasons for demanding a consensus-- the same ones that devalue the individual father-- but not only that, those ordinary reasons demand a much higher standard of consensus! Ordinarily, this consensus has to extend across time as well as across the community in one time; moreover, the consensus is subject to being broken and reformed around a different position if faults are later found in the original consensus position.

On some doctrinal points the consensus has remained extremely durable. The Nicene formula has persisted in spite of divisions and shows no sign of being successfully challenged. Chalcedon has a somewhat poorer track record, but as I understand it the primary problem isn't so much what it is trying to say as it is the accusation that the specifics of the formula are contrived to produce a division with the Orientals whether one is warranted or not. Consensus about collegiality is dead as a herring, since at least 1054. Consensus about ecclesiastical infallibility has been dead for 500 years.

And again, consensus doesn't address the relative authority issue at all. If the consensus of the Orthodox Church runs against what scripture teaches a person, what then? Ordinarily consensus is thought better than individual opinion, but ordinarily it is no guarantee. And I do not think that the fathers disagree-- indeed, saints throughout the patristic period found themselves on the wrong side of consensus.

Indeed, Catholic casuistry teaches that, in such a position, you are obligated to follow your own conscience.

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What is invalid is divorcing Scripture from its context within the Apostolic Tradition, subjecting it to a multitude of private interpreters, and then using it to criticize others who may have even more authority for what they believe than the critic does.

.... which is an Anglican position, but....

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What is invalid is elevating oneself and one's private take on the Bible above the Church<.>

... at this point the Anglicans all jump up and complain that the Orthodox Church does precisely this, by choosing division from the other churches over limiting itself to asserting consensus opinions. Your version of Orthodoxy refuses to be instructed by Catholicism, refuses to be instructed by Anglicanism, or by any other Protestant community. Instead, as you propose, it ignores dissent and simply establishes a private take on the bible above all the rest of the church. Private, that is, to the Orthodox community. Ironically Anglican theologians are simultaneously consulting not just Anglicans, but the church fathers, Orthodox, Catholics, anyone in Christendom. That is the fullness of consensus; what you propose is the epitome of sectarianism.

To be fair to Orthodoxy itself, I do not believe that I teaches such an extreme viewpoint. If I am wrong about that, I am certainly subject to correction, but it also pretty much puts the nail in the coffin of me joining an Orthodox church. It puts me in the position of having to reject my faith in order to gain Orthodoxy, and if I reject my faith, I no longer have any reason to join any church, Orthodox or no.
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« Reply #37 on: April 12, 2003, 10:50:04 AM »

Pardon me for saying it, but why would the Church founded by Jesus Himself seek instruction from a church that exists because Henry VIII wanted a divorce?

Why would she seek instruction from a church that ordains women and practicing homosexuals to the priesthood?

Why would she seek instruction from a church that ordains to the episcopate men who are apparently not even Christians?

Anglican theologians are "free" to do a lot of things that Orthodox Christians are not free to do.

Why seek "consensus" outside the Church?

Why would we seek consensus with those whose opinions we do not accept?

The teachings of the Orthodox Church do not run counter to Scripture. They may run counter to someone's private interpretation of the Bible, but in that case that person is simply wrong.

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« Reply #38 on: April 12, 2003, 02:46:17 PM »

This is hopeless. Cheap shots at my church and bald assertions are not persuasive.
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« Reply #39 on: April 13, 2003, 07:21:56 PM »

This is hopeless. Cheap shots at my church and bald assertions are not persuasive.


I don't feel they were cheap shots.

When one suggests that consensus with the Anglicans and others outside the Orthodox Church is a desirable thing, and that the Orthodox can learn from the Anglican Church, then he must expect that the most obvious difficulties with Anglicanism (including its origins) will come up.

The only "bald assertion" I made in my last post was that the doctrines of the Orthodox Church do not contradict Holy Scripture. Such a statement must of necessity be an assertion until someone brings up a specific instance in which it is alledged that an Orthodox doctrine contradicts Scripture. Then that specific instance can be handled with the appropriate proofs.

I don't think anything is hopeless.
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« Reply #40 on: April 13, 2003, 07:45:03 PM »

I don't see the Orthodox self-sufficiency criticized by Keble as arrogance, but rather as confidence that there is a one true church that tells the truth.

I'm a little curious about that moniker - did John Keble represent the kind of Anglicanism represented by our Keble or was he more like the Orthodox and the Catholics in his belief in non-negotiable truths and one church (though he may have seen it as three branches, Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican, which of course is not what Orthodoxy or Catholicism teach)? JK was part of the early-1800s Tractarian movement or Oxford Movement generally credited with starting Anglo-Catholicism.
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« Reply #41 on: April 14, 2003, 08:04:54 AM »

This is hopeless. Cheap shots at my church and bald assertions are not persuasive.


I don't feel they were cheap shots.

When one suggests that consensus with the Anglicans and others outside the Orthodox Church is a desirable thing, and that the Orthodox can learn from the Anglican Church, then he must expect that the most obvious difficulties with Anglicanism (including its origins) will come up.

That's exactly what makes them cheap shots. Henry VIII is hardly one of the great admirable figures in history (great, perhaps, but hardly admirable), but you seem unaware of the full circumstances of his "divorce"; you seem to be just seizing on things so as to dismiss Anglicanism without actually having to take it seriously.
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« Reply #42 on: April 14, 2003, 08:52:26 AM »

I don't see the Orthodox self-sufficiency criticized by Keble as arrogance, but rather as confidence that there is a one true church that tells the truth.

Well, in my Anglican way I must distinguish between confidence and absolute confidence.  Smiley

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I'm a little curious about that moniker - did John Keble represent the kind of Anglicanism represented by our Keble or was he more like the Orthodox and the Catholics in his belief in non-negotiable truths and one church (though he may have seen it as three branches, Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican, which of course is not what Orthodoxy or Catholicism teach)?

The original Keble was, after all, the one who started it all; it was he who preached the "National Apostacy" sermon. And yet, unlike Newman, he never drove himself ou of Anglicanism. Keble is remembered most of all not for his theological writings, but for his pastoring. In the latter I consider him someone to emulate (and whose model I fear I cannot match).

Keble's position represented, to some degree, the position I find myself in as an Episcopalian. It does seem to me that the Anglican churches do need to seize upon some points and impose some degree of theological discipline on its bishops. I am unable to say anything about the real Keble's views concerning the Orthodox Churches, but in any case he certainly didn't face the situation I find myself in. The USA is generally religious, but at the same time offers a smorgasbord of religious choice little fettered by social penalty. Now, joining the JWs will cost you social status points, and Pentecostals are looked upon with distaste in the "right" pats of Cambridge and Manhattan, but on the other hand Orthodoxy is (at least from the outside) pleasantly exotic and decorative. Hyperprotestants will frown, but then, that's what they do, and they are oft ridiculed for doing so. All of this is far, far away from Victorian England.
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« Reply #43 on: April 14, 2003, 10:55:05 AM »

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you seem to be just seizing on things so as to dismiss Anglicanism without actually having to take it seriously

It's as orthodox or not as the rest of classical Protestantism, but as a stand-alone system, Anglicanism is self-refuting. See what I wrote on my Anglo-Catholicism page about the English 'Reformation'.

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It does seem to me that the Anglican churches do need to seize upon some points and impose some degree of theological discipline on its bishops.

Whence comes the standard for this discipline? A consensus from tradition (pretty much the Eastern Orthodox position)? A living magisterium or teaching office (Catholicism's view, which boils down to the Pope)? Or some arbitrary picking and choosing from these sources in the name of 'reason', like Lancelot Andrewes' arbitrarily choosing the first five centuries and first four dogmatic councils of the Church? (Really in the name of political expediency - the Trinity and episcopacy didn't threaten the king's hold on England, but icons are too much a part of 'popery'.)

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Keble's position represented, to some degree, the position I find myself in as an Episcopalian.

He and the other Oxford dons of the early 1800s would be put down as 'fundamentalists' today. And what would Keble have thought of gays going to communion, being ordained and even getting 'married' in his church? Or lady bishops and lady priests? Or Charles Bennison's shifting-ground dogma (a perversion of the Orthodox and Catholic view): 'The Church wrote scripture; it can change scripture and has done so many times'?

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The USA is generally religious, but at the same time offers a smorgasbord of religious choice little fettered by social penalty. Now, joining the JWs will cost you social status points, and Pentecostals are looked upon with distaste in the "right" parts of Cambridge and Manhattan, but on the other hand Orthodoxy is (at least from the outside) pleasantly exotic and decorative. Hyperprotestants will frown, but then, that's what they do, and they are oft ridiculed for doing so. All of this is far, far away from Victorian England.

That's a pretty accurate view of the religious-social landscape of America, including the perception of Eastern Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #44 on: April 14, 2003, 12:54:42 PM »

This is hopeless. Cheap shots at my church and bald assertions are not persuasive.


I don't feel they were cheap shots.

When one suggests that consensus with the Anglicans and others outside the Orthodox Church is a desirable thing, and that the Orthodox can learn from the Anglican Church, then he must expect that the most obvious difficulties with Anglicanism (including its origins) will come up.

That's exactly what makes them cheap shots. Henry VIII is hardly one of the great admirable figures in history (great, perhaps, but hardly admirable), but you seem unaware of the full circumstances of his "divorce"; you seem to be just seizing on things so as to dismiss Anglicanism without actually having to take it seriously.


What makes them "cheap shots" is your perception of them as such.

And I am aware of the historical circumstances of HVIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

I hardly think taking note of the fact that Anglican churches ordain women and homosexuals to the priesthood, and unbelievers to the episcopate, is "just seizing on things" so as not to have to Anglicanism seriously.
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The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers.
- Pope St. Hormisdas
Tags: Canon of scriptures 
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