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Keble
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« on: April 09, 2003, 08:18:54 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?"

Hypo-Ortho

I've split this off into a new topic because I foresee that the discussion of this is going to completely overwhelm that of the other point.

I am now about to give the Standard Mainline Protestant Response on this subject. I don't know that it is the official position of any church, but virtually any mainline theologian will defend this perspective.

The answer to question of "which came first?" is that it is the set-up for a post hoc fallacy. This is particularly clear from an examination of the question as applied to the gospels. These allegedly contain words spoken by Jesus. They assuredly were written after Pentecost, and so in a strictly chronological sense one might say that the church precedes the gospels. But there can be only the most limited causality implied in this admission. Most especially it cannot be said that the Church has any control over the words of Jesus. Indeed, the weaker assertion that the church may choose which words to include,and which to exclude, is even so a bit troublesome.

Catholic writers on the subject are prone to make assertions along the lines of claiming that the Church commissioned the Gospels to be written. This is ahistorical and indeed borders on Gnosticism if taken seriously. The ancient sources testify that the process of canon formation is not one of writing, but of acknowledging what had been written. A crucial test of the gospels is that they recount the words of Jesus because people did hear him speak these things, and that those who wrote the words down were able to do so because they had knowledge of these words passed down to them in the ordinary human fashion. (Indeed, that is exactly how Paul justifies recounting the Last Supper.)

As to the epistles, I am wary of a more direct comparison of views. But it is still clear that canon formation consisted of selection and not authorship.

For the Old Testament it is a moot point. OT canon is strictly a Protestant issue; Orthodox and Catholics alike receive the OT canon as a given.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2003, 08:56:05 PM »

Perhaps the more important question to ask is: which came first, the Bible, or truth? However, when that question is given its obvious answer, the vehicles for delivering that truth, and how they were delivered/formed, can be discussed. In that way, the Bible is not opposed to tradition, with one coming before the other, but both are simply manifestations of the truth of the one God, agreeing in everything.
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Linus7
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2003, 09:09:49 PM »

I don't think the issue here between Catholics (East and West) and Protestants is really about the words of Jesus.

The issues are the Bible and authority.

Does the Bible contain all the words of Jesus and all the teaching of the Apostles?

Is the Bible the sole authority in Christianity, which of course means: are the individual and his private take on the Bible the determiners of what Christianity is?

Of course the words of Jesus came before the Church and are its source.

But are the words of Jesus and the Bible the same thing?

Even the Bible itself does not seem to make that claim:

"And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen" (John 21:25).

Most Christian truth was passed down by word-of-mouth, especially in the earliest days of the Church.

"Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2).

Few of the Apostles wrote anything that we know of, even as Jesus wrote nothing except perhaps a few words in the Judean dust (John 8:Cool.

Jesus wrote nothing, but He did found a living, teaching Church, which He sent out into the world to preach, spread the Gospel, and baptize (Matt. 28:19-20).

From the beginning Christianity was a living faith, not a book religion like Islam or Judaism.

That is not to say there were no scriptures; there were.

But the Church and its leaders were living them out and writing them on the run.

The scriptures existed as an Old Testament of no certain, universally-recognized canon, and a rough collection of entirely separate letters and gospels.

The organization of these writings into one volume was the work of the Church and its tradition and took nearly 400 years.

The writings themselves contain no imperative to assemble such a volume, no instruction as to which writings to include in such a volume, no hint which writings were inspired and which were not.

All that was up to the Church to decide.

In this sense, the sense in which authority is the issue, the Church did absolutely precede the Bible.

The Bible is the product of the Church and not vice versa.

Yes, the history the Bible reports and the words the Bible records are what produced the Church, but the history and words chronicled in the Bible (certainly not a complete account) are not the same thing as the Bible itself.

The history and words are reported in the Bible, but they were lived out and preserved in the Church. The Church is that history and those words, the larger context in which the Bible was born.

Without the Church, there would be no Bible.

But without the Bible, there would still be the Church.

« Last Edit: April 09, 2003, 09:13:56 PM by Linus7 » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2003, 09:33:36 PM »

Perhaps the more important question to ask is: which came first, the Bible, or truth? However, when that question is given its obvious answer, the vehicles for delivering that truth, and how they were delivered/formed, can be discussed. In that way, the Bible is not opposed to tradition, with one coming before the other, but both are simply manifestations of the truth of the one God, agreeing in everything.

As Pilate did, I must ask, "what is 'Truth'?" but I will wait for an answer.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2003, 09:48:55 PM »

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what is truth?

Wrong question to ask, as I discuss briefly on the front page of my site. What is truth can only be answered after we know WHO truth is. The second question is not even "WHAT is truth?" but "WHERE can we find truth?"  You are asking the third question before you know the first two! Smiley Please stop following the lead of Pilate for your questions, ok? Wink
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Keble
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2003, 10:51:36 PM »

I don't think the issue here between Catholics (East and West) and Protestants is really about the words of Jesus.

The issues are the Bible and authority.

Does the Bible contain all the words of Jesus and all the teaching of the Apostles?

Where in the ante-Nicene fathers are words of Jesus recounted where they are not quoting from wha we recognize as scripture?

And as far as the apostles are concerned, we're back up against the ecclesiological stumbling block of drawing boxes around the True Church and walling it off from the false. What's the basis for this? Even church fathers whom everyone recognizes as such say things, from time to time, that are not Truth.

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Is the Bible the sole authority in Christianity, which of course means: are the individual and his private take on the Bible the determiners of what Christianity is?


What's your response when I say "No"?

As an Anglican my whole take on Authority is totally unlike that which you espouse here. I might admit to Scripture being the sole absolute authority in Christianity, but it doesn't mean that, on the one hand, I do not ascribe some degree of authority to (for instance) tradition. And on the other hand, I have no problem at all testing tradition against scripture. ("Using reason!" my wife says.)

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Of course the words of Jesus came before the Church and are its source.

But are the words of Jesus and the Bible the same thing?

This would be a moot point when the fathers say things which they do not represent as the words of Jesus per se. We are back to a point where trouble began before: the Fathers do not just make statements, they argue for them (and do in fact justify them from scripture at times).

And this is where the radical Protestants come riding in with their objections, and where the recorded words of Jesus do count. Let's take a simple case. Jesus is recorded, in scripture, as saying, "Call no man Father." Radical Protestants (and for that matter, lots of mainliners as well) object to title being applied to priests, and argue this directly from this passage. I don't think you would presume to say that the church may simply overrule Jesus. But then someone has a lot of exegesis to get from somewhere to the understanding that Jesus did not mean to be understood in this manner. And exegesis is argument, and argument is bound by rules, objective rules, and in arguing, the church does submit to those rules.

Again, please do not confuse my (Anglican) position with that of the radical Protestants. To a great degree, Orthodoxy does theology and recognizes that it does theology as Anglicanism believes theology should be done. The big issue, from an Anglican viewpoint, is that Orthodoxy tends to grant a degree of authority to its theological tradition that we don't feel should be accepted. We don't feel it should be accepted because we feel it shouldn't need to be accepted, and also because Catholicism is making the same claim for a conflicting theological tradition. Two infallible traditions requires an act of judgement between them, or against them both; this judgement pretty obviously cannot take either claim as a premise.

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Yes, the history the Bible reports and the words the Bible records are what produced the Church, but the history and words chronicled in the Bible (certainly not a complete account) are not the same thing as the Bible itself.

This is certainly true, but at the same time it produces the canon problem in a different form. The gospel of Thomas claims to be such an account as well, yet it is not scripture (and indeed is regarded as heretical). Again, judgement is being executed; there is true tradition, but there is also false tradition, and there is also some which mixes the two. It is clear that division over these sorts of issues go back as far into church history as there is record; Paul's insistence on correct traditions presupposes the parallel transmission of false traditions. I don't know how you rely on the Church to discern these matters without falling into circular arguments. It seems to me that there must be some degree of objective evaluation that can be brought to bear on this, and that, if the present Orthodox Churches be all that they claim to be, that an individual should be able to evaluate the evidence on its own merits and come to the same conclusion. Othewise, faith in Jesus can only be grounded in faith in the Church, which seems backwards to me.

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Without the Church, there would be no Bible.

This fudges the sense of the word "to be". It presupposes that writing the gospels is founded in Orthodox faith on the part of the authors, and there are plenty of instances in scripture where it doesn't work that way.

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But without the Bible, there would still be the Church.

I don't disagree, but such a church would not necessarily have the same character as the Orthodox Church has.
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Linus7
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2003, 07:44:55 PM »

Keble -

I understand what you are saying, but remember, we are speaking of religion here, not metaphysical philosophy.

Reason takes one so far, then faith must take over.

My faith is in Jesus.

But how do I learn about Him?

From the Bible, yes; but where did the Bible come from?

Again we are driven to the historical Church and her tradition.

It is true that a reasonable Christian must make a choice between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Of course, the arguments regarding that choice are beyond the scope of this topic.

But there was a time before such choices, when the Church was indisputably one. It is that Church which decided what the biblical canon would be. It is that Church that wrote the New Testament that conveys to us most of what we know of our Savior.

Although the Fathers quoted Scripture, so did the heretics. Ultimately it was the Church that held the authority and chose between the arguments. The Church decided what was orthodox, what was catholic, and what was not.

Her leaders made such choices with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and by consulting the deposit of faith, the word-of-mouth tradition, that had been handed down intact from Jesus and the Apostles, not from Scripture alone.

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Keble
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2003, 07:50:38 AM »

Quote
what is truth?

Wrong question to ask, as I discuss briefly on the front page of my site. What is truth can only be answered after we know WHO truth is. The second question is not even "WHAT is truth?" but "WHERE can we find truth?"  You are asking the third question before you know the first two! Smiley Please stop following the lead of Pilate for your questions, ok? Wink

Well, no, as everyone knows, the third question is "Where shall we have lunch?"  Wink Wink Wink Wink (Hitchhiker's Guide)

The answer to to "What is truth?" is answered by "Who is truth?" They are not necessarily distinct questions as you imply-- indeed, if you can answer "Who?" at all, you have answered "What?" already. None of this does anything for Orthodoxy; at least in my case. I know the Word as the Truth, and I do not need the posited infallibility of the earthly Orthodox Church. Indeed, this perfection has to stop somewhere, and it has to stop short of the utterings of individual Orthodox believers-- even Orthodoxy itself admits this, as I am given to understand.

The problem here seems to be that you feel that these extreme assertions need to be taken. I personally do not need these assurances, and as a rule, neither do other Anglicans, and I feel that this alone is sufficient proof that an error is occuring here.
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Keble
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2003, 08:33:59 AM »

Keble -

I understand what you are saying, but remember, we are speaking of religion here, not metaphysical philosophy.

Reason takes one so far, then faith must take over.

My faith is in Jesus.

But how do I learn about Him?

From the Bible, yes; but where did the Bible come from?

Again we are driven to the historical Church and her tradition.

You can't escape from philosophy by TALKING!!!!!!!!!!!

There are at least three different senses of "come from" that are being confounded here. May be more, when you consider the OT versus the NT (and not forgetting that different parts of each were written in quite different circumstances).

As to the actual authoring of the words, the answer is most certainly not "the historical church" in the sense of being written under the direction of a council of bishops. That is in contradiction to that very tradition, and to the works themselves; and in the case of the Gospels, such an origin would devalue them. One hopes that Paul did in fact write his own letters-- not a committee.

With the OT the answers are even more absolute. The works of the OT do not come from the Church; they come from the Jews, and the Church has exactly the authority to receive them and acknowledge them-- nothing more. The notion that it has some sort of authority over them cannot be tolerated, and I refuse to believe that Orthodoxy teaches anything so preposterous without a lot of documentation.

We do not have a lot of assurances of the personal Orthodoxy of the NT authors; indeed, with regard to certain critical points the question is nonsensical because the positions to which they would have had to subscribe had not yet been formalized. And by the same token, the question is irrelevant. It is what they wrote that matters.

Quote

It is true that a reasonable Christian must make a choice between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Of course, the arguments regarding that choice are beyond the scope of this topic.

But there was a time before such choices, when the Church was indisputably one.

You say that, but as I said before, the issue of heresy traces back as far as we have record-- into scripture itself. If everyone simply defines everyone who disagrees with them out of the church, then all we have is a bunch of competing sects of greater or lesser extent. Somewhere along the line the actual merit of what each teaches has to take precedence. Gnosticism must be rejected not because it isn't what Orthodoxy teaches, but because Gnosticism is worng on its own merits. Indeed, Paul's teaching to reject these other traditions is implicitly backed up in this quite ordinary manner-- he has been instructed directly from the disciples, and these other people are just making it up!

The line of argument you are pushing leads directly to the secular criticism of Orthodoxy that it is "The Church" simply because it had imperial backing at Nicea, and not because it actually has the right answers.

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It is that Church which decided what the biblical canon would be. It is that Church that wrote the New Testament that conveys to us most of what we know of our Savior.

Again, the only literally correct answer is that Paul wrote his epistles, that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels.... To say that the church wrote them is to engage in metaphysics!

And at the end of this you are slipping again into arguing against fundamentalism. Please. I am getting frustrated at having to explain over and over again that I'm not a fundamentalist, and that I don't agree either with their ecclesiology or their theological method.
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Linus7
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2003, 08:27:55 PM »

The Church wrote the New Testament in the sense that its authors were all part of the Church and operated within her fold. Their authority comes from the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church. They did not act as isolated individual gurus, seeking the truth for themselves, separate from the community of Christians.

St. Paul was an apostle, but he was not an apostle of tent makers; he was an apostle of the Church.

It is also a mistake to divorce Old Testament Israel from the Church and act as if the Church sprang out of nowhere and nothing, subject to the Old Testament.

The Church is the straight-line continuation of Israel, the True Israel of God, the heir to the authority and traditions of the Jews.

The Church is Israel.

How is Gnosticism "wrong on its own merits?"

It is wrong because it is a perversion of authentic Christianity, not because it was not a system that reasonable people could believe in.

It is wrong precisely because it runs counter to Orthodox Christianity, just as every other religion is wrong for the same reason.

The Orthodox Church is the Church because Jesus founded her, and the Apostles built her. Nicea is right because the Church is right, not vice versa.

These are matters of faith, not logic.

Into what religion can logic fully bring one?

I do not believe you are a Fundamentalist, so excuse me if I have slipped into a mode of argument to which I am accustomed.

In order to avoid this problem in the future, why not tell us what you actually believe rather than quoting my posts at length and commenting on them?

I mean no offense by that. I am just curious as to what it is you actually believe about the Bible, tradition, the Church, etc.

Let's have your views instead of a critique of mine.  Smiley

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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2003, 10:36:30 PM »

The Church wrote the New Testament in the sense that its authors were all part of the Church and operated within her fold. Their authority comes from the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church. They did not act as isolated individual gurus, seeking the truth for themselves, separate from the community of Christians.

St. Paul was an apostle, but he was not an apostle of tent makers; he was an apostle of the Church.

I'm not sure that I quite understand the last remark, but again, you are casting yourself in opposition to another opinion. It is a false dichotomy. For all of your criticism of the multiplicity of Protestants, you seem to have missed the reality that they do in fact represent a spectrum of viewpoints. The issue again here is not individuals versus communities, but some degree communities against each other, and to some degree the ways in which these communities function.

Consider the general scholarly community. It seeks truth, of the ordinary secular kind. At least it is supposed to, but in fact it is led astray by any number of human frailties, limitations, and out-and-out sin. And the way in which it functions takes this into account, so that there is no absolute authority, and yet in most disciplines it cannot be credibly denied that the state of knowledge has advanced.

The issue in the church is how Christian bodies (and here I don't know how to avoid some very pejorative language-- my apology for the strength of what I am about to say) have arrogated to themselves an absolute authority which runs counter to human nature as it is described at length in scripture. These claims conflict, and these churches have chosen division in attempting to preserve the appearance of unity which is essential to their claims. Heretics are expelled where political power permits, or simply separated from where it does not. That is the history of Orthodoxy, and it is the history of Catholicism.

Orthodoxy does believe in an invisible church as well as a visible one. If you want to disagree, I cannot accept anything less than an array of patristic sources on this point. The big issue is not the unity of the church, but the unity of the visible church. It is simply too close to Holy Week to enter into an extended discussion of the arguments for or against it, but I feel you must at least acknowledge that the difference of opinions lies here and not in simply a contrast between Baptists and the Orthodox.

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It is also a mistake to divorce Old Testament Israel from the Church and act as if the Church sprung out of nowhere and nothing, subject to the Old Testament.

The Church is the straight-line continuation of Israel, the True Israel of God, the heir to the authority and traditions of the Jews.

Now that is a heresy I'm never going to accept-- at least, not in the way that you seem to be trying to take it. We have the Old Testament from the Jews not as an inheritance, but as a grace. (At least, I'm assuming you are a Gentile.) The entire Acts makes this abundantly clear. The OT is what it is, and any claims of control over it are a flagrant abuse of authority.

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The Church is Israel.

I don't know what you mean by "is" here, but if you mean "identical to", that is still a heresy. It is joined to Israel, by grace and through baptism, but it is not identical to Israel.

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How is Gnosticism "wrong on its own merits?"

This is too big a question to tackle in a single posting (although I'll take care of Islam in a moment). Let it suffice to say that, using the ordinary methods of scholarly inquiry and without appealing to revelation from heaven, I see Gnosticism as creating a mystery religion out of the materials it has pulled from orthodox (small-o) Christianity, combining them with elements of other contemporary mystery religions. It makes statements about the nature of the material which evidence to me suggests are incorrect. I don't regard this sort of derivation as a legitimate path of religious inquiry.

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It is wrong because it is a perversion of authentic Christianity, not because it was not a system that reasonable people could believe in.

But it is precisely that word "perversion" that is crucial. Gnosticism does not appear (to me at any rate) to connect back to Jesus in the way that the orthodox (small-o) tradition does. I believe it is unreasonable to assert that Gnosticism understands Jesus better than orthodoxy (or Orthodoxy, for that matter) does-- not just because it disagrees with the orthodox tradition, but it is also derivative of it and tries to use it in a way that is intellectually not only invalid but perhaps even dishonest.

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It is wrong precisely because it runs counter to Orthodox Christianity, just as every other religion is wrong for the same reason.

Again, I think you are overcompensating. On a metaphysical level, Gnosticism is wrong because it disagrees with the truth; Orthodoxy is right (at least on the important matters Smiley ) because it teaches the truth. And part of the reason it teaches the truth-- a crucial part-- is because historically and organizationally it is closer to the origin of that truth than Gnosticism is; conversely, part of the wrongness of of Gnosticism is that it stands a further remove from that origin and indeed specifically seems to have misconstrued what it received through Orthodoxy. Even if Orthodoxy were wrong, it would not make Gnosticism correct.

All of this is distinct from the issue of determining which is right and which is wrong. Towards the end I hinted at the ways in which one is related to the other. I think you are slipping here into asserting a relationship which is improper and even untrue. The truth about Jesus is the Truth is and foremost and to ages of ages because it is true. No person, no church, nothing below the Godhead Itself can change that. Jesus is God Incarnate because the Spirit made it so, not because the church declared it so. The church's authority is limited to repeating that truth; it cannot make it, and it cannot change it. Indeed, Orthodox theologians make this argument about other issues (see especially ordination of women).

Liekwise, Nicea is "right" (and when you start talking about the formulae of the councils, "right" starts to be a dangerous word for reasons that are too subtle to go into here) because God really "is" as the Nicene formula describes Him. That's the criterion that matters, because again the church doesn't control the nature of God and could not have made Him "different" by choosing a different formula. Fundamentally the JWs are wrong because what they say about God isn't true, not because it happens to disagree with what the church teaches. Islam is wrong here for the same reason, and moreover demonstrates this wrongness by making claims about what Christianity holds which aren't true and by making statements from scripture and about scripture which do not withstand rational scrutiny.

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Into what religion can logic fully bring one?

Again, this is not my position. A rational person would conclude that, given the variety of religions and religious argument, that reason and ordinary human inquiry on their own are not enough to answer religious questions with confidence. (Atheism, for instance, is clearly a position of faith, not one of reason.) But at the same time, if you are going to argue, you have asserted that reason has some position in the development of religion. (Not all religions do-- see Zen Buddhism as a counter-example.) The teaching of the faith is then (as indeed it must be in Christianity) something that is not irrational, nor entirely rational either, but (if examined) more subtle and complex.

After Holy Week I may attempt a summary of Anglican thought. In Holy Week I cannot do it, and in any case I would prefer to make one organized presentation. I will not attempt to defend it against all comers; I don't have the time, and this is not the place.

As for the reason behind my critique, I believe my private message should have made it apparent. If not, then a private exchange is the proper medium for discussion of that, not this forum.
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2003, 11:56:16 AM »

Quote
It is also a mistake to divorce Old Testament Israel from the Church and act as if the Church sprung out of nowhere and nothing, subject to the Old Testament.

The Church is the straight-line continuation of Israel, the True Israel of God, the heir to the authority and traditions of the Jews.

Response from Keble:

Now that is a heresy I'm never going to accept-- at least, not in the way that you seem to be trying to take it. We have the Old Testament from the Jews not as an inheritance, but as a grace. (At least, I'm assuming you are a Gentile.) The entire Acts makes this abundantly clear. The OT is what it is, and any claims of control over it are a flagrant abuse of authority.


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The Church is Israel.
Response from Keble:
I don't know what you mean by "is" here, but if you mean "identical to", that is still a heresy. It is joined to Israel, by grace and through baptism, but it is not identical to Israel.


Reply from Linus7:

Excuse me, but how is what I wrote "heresy?"

The Church is the true Israel of God. God has but one kingdom and one people, not two.

The Church began as the faithful remnant of believing Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

Gentile believers have been grafted onto the ONE Olive Tree, not onto a separate tree that is independent of the Old Testament people of God.

Jesus has broken down the middle wall of partition and made of the two (Jew and Gentile) ONE.

Whatever gave you the idea that this teaching is "heresy?"

The Old Testament is an inheritance of the ONE people of God, the true Israel.

That is why the Church is the authority over the entire Bible and not just the New Testament, because she is built on the foundation of the Apostles AND Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.











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« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2003, 08:54:10 AM »

You are slipping from the graft theory into a sort of supersessionism, which is a radical Protestant idea (particularly among dispensationalists).
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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2003, 09:56:34 AM »

I am reluctent to say that the Church is identical to (OT) Israel. I think it is better to say that the Church is the  fulfillment of (OT) Israel.

St. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho seems to stress this point.
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2003, 04:07:42 PM »

I did NOT say that the Church is identical to Old Testament Israel; that would be absurd. That would be like saying that a son was identical to his father. The son carries on the family, but he is not the same person his father was.

I said the Church is Israel, but she is the Israel of the period since her foundation by Christ. She is not the Old Testament people of God, although she is the heiress of those people and joined with them as one, occupying her proper place in time.

The Church is the people of God, the kingdom of priests in the New Covenant age. As such, she is the continuation of the true Israel.

The Old Testament period is over. The people of God are found only in Christ's Church now, as they were found only in OT Israel under the Old Covenant.

Keble -

Of what type of Dispensationalism are you speaking?

As I understand the classic Darbyite, Plymouth Brethren type of Dispensationalism, a radical divide is posited between the Church and Israel, and the "two kingdoms theory" advanced.

A Dispensationalist would never equate the Church with Israel.

Is the Church not the New Covenant Israel, then?

Does God have two separate kingdoms and two separate peoples?

It is not "supersessionism" to recognize that the Church is the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:16).

I did not say the Church replaced Israel. I said the Church is Israel. She was begun by believing Jews who formed the faithful remnant. Onto this faithful remnant were grafted believing Gentiles to form ONE people, ONE Olive Tree, ONE kingdom.

It is a mistake to regard the Church as a purely Gentile organization or community somehow separate and distinct from Israel.

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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2003, 04:23:31 PM »

I am reluctent to say that the Church is identical to (OT) Israel. I think it is better to say that the Church is the  fulfillment of (OT) Israel.

St. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho seems to stress this point.

Once again, I never said the Church is identical to OT Israel (see my post above). She is the Israel of her time, just as OT Israel was the people of God, the covenant community, of her time.

The Fathers I have read (for example, Irenaeus) identify the Church as New Covenant Israel.
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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2003, 11:02:33 PM »


She is the Israel of her time, just as OT Israel was the people of God, the covenant community, of her time.

The Fathers I have read (for example, Irenaeus) identify the Church as New Covenant Israel.

With this I agree completely.
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2003, 09:17:20 AM »

The problem is that you seem to be slipping into saying that the Church replaces Israel, which is dispensational supersessionism in spades.
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2003, 12:05:33 PM »

The problem is that you seem to be slipping into saying that the Church replaces Israel, which is dispensational supersessionism in spades.


It may seem that way, but that is definitely NOT the case.

When did I say the Church replaced Israel?

There has always been only ONE people of God, ONE Israel, and now the Church is she.

Perhaps you are speaking of some new form of Dispensationalism about which I have never heard, but the classical, original Darbyite form of Dispensationalism, as reflected in modern Evangelicalism, knows nothing of "supersessionism."

Dispensationalism teaches that God has two kingdoms, one heavenly (the Church), and one earthly (literal, Jewish Israel). A true Dispensationalist would argue that the Church is NOT Israel.

In fact, Dispensationalists accuse Amillenialists of "replacement theology," i.e., of replacing Israel with the Church, which is just what you are accusing me of doing.

I do not say the Church has replaced Israel; I say the Church is Israel, the only true Israel of the New Covenant, the heiress of all the OT promises and of the OT itself.
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2003, 09:15:25 AM »


I do not say the Church has replaced Israel; I say the Church is Israel, the only true Israel of the New Covenant, the heiress of all the OT promises and of the OT itself.

I think we are stumbling here over this notion of "inheritance". In one sense I would accept the notion, but in several others I wouldn't.

Ordinary inheritance in the law tends to be thought of as a right (though that's not entirely accurate). If one thinks instead of a windfall bequest (e.g. the USA gets the bequest from Smithson) I think we are in a more accurate model. As gentiles, we don't have the OT as something we deserve by right; we have gotten it by grace, because God, in his grace, has grafted us to the Old Israel in baptism and through Christ.

The other sense where we have a problem is the legal notion that ownership equals control. I don't see how he church gets to edit/modify the OT without essentially engaging in an act of falsification. The issue of deciding exactly which text of it of use and what to do about spots of apparent damage isn't quite the same as this.

In practice I think the same approach was taken with the NT. There are only three important variations in the NT text: the ending of Mark, the Pericope of the Adultress, and the trinitarian insertion in the letters John. The first is a hopeless mess that isn't going to be resolved unless we have some really early manuscript discoveries, and it doesn't have much in the way of doctrinal import anyway; it's mostly of interest to detractors to Christianity in general. The second seems to be more a problem of location than content, and in any case everyone accepts that it represents Jesus accurately. The last appears, on the bsis of textual evidence, to be a late insertion, but again nobody thinks that Trinitarianism rests on that single verse.

All of this points to the same answer: canon is formed by selection, not by authoring nor by editing.
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2003, 03:33:38 PM »

Keble -

I think it is a fundamental error to assume the Church is a community of Gentiles. The Church is the Church. She is the people of God and as such stands in direct historical continuity with ancient Israel. The Church is Israel.

Gentiles are grafted into the Church as individuals, but they do not alter what the Church is as a whole, as a community, as the Body of Christ. God, through her, alters them and makes them part of His peculiar people, true Jews, members of the one true Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament persons who were not of the progeny of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were brought into the covenant community known as Israel. They and their descendants became Jews. Some of them figure in the genealogy of Jesus Himself.

God can make descendants of Abraham of the very stones if He so wishes. All those who have faith in Jesus Christ are the children of Abraham, regardless of their natural descent.

The Church is the authority over both the Old and New Testaments. That does not mean she is free to toy with them arbitrarily; but it does mean she has the gift of the Holy Spirit and has the ability to determine the entire biblical canon and the correct interpretation of all of Scripture.
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« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2003, 08:44:33 AM »

Keble -

I think it is a fundamental error to assume the Church is a community of Gentiles. The Church is the Church. She is the people of God and as such stands in direct historical continuity with ancient Israel. The Church is Israel.

Well, I work for an Orthodox Jew, which has some peculiar advantages (like getting yesterday and today off) and some less obvious disadvantages (desserts for corporate functions are always made with shortening, never with butter-- tip: always choose whatever's chocolate). I've been through koshering parts of my kitchen and pots and pans to make preserves for some of my co-workers. The fact that I'm a goy is inescapable. Now some of this is clearly inherited from the Pharisees; amplifying the part about not boiling a kid in its mother's milk into having to do some extreme cleaning to make an all-vegetable product would tend to strike the casual observer as excessive. But at the same time, it is easy enough to read from the Torah that the owner does have to send everyone home early in the winter because they cannot work for him past sunset on Friday.

What I'm saying is that the language referring to the church as "Israel" can easily get out of hand. All through the NT the distinction between Jews and gentiles continues to be maintained, even within the church. Being Israel is never taken to the extent of binding gentiles to the obligations of the Torah-- indeed, whenever the topic comes up it explicitly decided that this will not be done. So there are limits to what saying that "we are Israel" implies.

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God can make descendants of Abraham of the very stones if He so wishes. All those who have faith in Jesus Christ are the children of Abraham, regardless of their natural descent.

No argument there, though continuing with the same line of thought, he can also make churchmen out of the same rocks.

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The Church is the authority over both the Old and New Testaments. That does not mean she is free to toy with them arbitrarily; but it does mean she has the gift of the Holy Spirit and has the ability to determine the entire biblical canon and the correct interpretation of all of Scripture.

Hmmmmmmmm.......... On the one hand I agree with this (modulo, of course, the usual disputes of ecclesiology). But I think there's some qualification required here. Quibbling about OT canon is based in the inprefection of its transmission; if the LXX and the MT and the DSS and the various targums were all pretty much alike, there wouldn't be much of an issue. And for the Anglicans, there's no issue; our take on the LXX/MT differences is expressed entirely in terms of interpretational differences. By the same token, if the church were to have rejected, say, Leviticus, its claim to have inherited these works from the Old Israel would be seriously impaired; it would tend to stand as a disproof of inspiration.
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« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2003, 12:11:01 PM »

Quote
What I'm saying is that the language referring to the church as "Israel" can easily get out of hand. All through the NT the distinction between Jews and gentiles continues to be maintained, even within the church. Being Israel is never taken to the extent of binding gentiles to the obligations of the Torah-- indeed, whenever the topic comes up it explicitly decided that this will not be done. So there are limits to what saying that "we are Israel" implies.

The distinction between Jews and Gentiles is made about individuals and never about the Church, which is referred to as the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:16), Zion (Heb. 12:22-24), and Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 4:21-31; Rev. 21:2, 9-14).

The distinction made between Jews and Gentiles is a concession to worldly, ethnic conditions, rather than a reflection of spiritual or ecclesiastical realities.

I do not think the distinction was maintained in the Church, nor was it supposed to be (see St. Paul's rebuke of St. Peter for making such a distinction, Gal. 2:11-21).

The Church is the One Olive Tree (Rom. 11:17-27), the One People of God (Eph. 2:11-22).

Christians are the seed of Abraham (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 4:21-31), the true Jews (Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:2-3).

There are no limits to the Church's status as the New Covenant Israel, but that does not imply a duty to adhere to all the strictures of the Mosaic Law. That issue was settled at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).
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