Steve--__Quinisext ratifies the following disciplinary canons: __1. Canons of the Council of Laodicea_2. Canons of the Council of Carthage_3. The 85th Apostolic Canon_4. The Canons of Athanasius_5. The Canons of St. Gregory the Theologian_6. The Canons of Saint Amphilochius of Ikonion__Each of these contain different but non-conflicting lists of books to be included in the biblical canon.
1.So what is your method? To simply add up the individual lists by combining the overlapping books with the non-overlapping books in order to create a sum total?
2.What makes you think these individual churchmen and local councils were all pointing in the direction of the same canon, rather than decreeing alternative canons?
“The last one states the list of divinely inspired books, which is the equivalent of the Protestant Old and New Testaments.”
It’s fine with me if the Orthodox canon of inspired books corresponds to the Protestant canon.
“Thus the Quinisext publicly promulgates and establishes the biblical canon.”
How? On the assumption that you simply collate and tally the preexisting lists? Is that what you mean?
“(i) This may be a problem for an individual national church itself in the sense that it isn’t keeping up after the exact manner of canon law. However, I don’t think its actually a problem for (1) the ability of the Church to have consensus on the biblical canon, or (2) our ability to recognize the contents of the canon.”
i) How do you identify the Church? What are the boundaries? Do only Orthodox believers count as members of the Church? What about other Christians? Do only Orthodox believers have the spiritual discernment to recognize the contents of the canon? Which Orthodox believers? All Orthodox believers? Individually or collectively? At all times, or only some of the time? Everywhere or onlyy somewhere?
ii) Are you suggesting that consensus is a gradual affair, in time and place? What’s your criterion for when consensus achieves critical mass? Where and when does it begin and end?
iii) What’s the relation between an individual national church and the Church? Who speaks for the Church? The Church can’t speak all at once. If the national Orthodox churches don’t’ speak with one voice, then how do you hear the voice of the Church, over and above the conflicting voices of the various national churches that collectively comprise the Church? How does the Church have the ability to recognize the canon, but not the subset of national churches which compose the Church?
“The reasons are as follows:__First of all, I believe that Quinisext lays out a specific biblical canon.”
Why don’t you spell out your process. Is your process the same as Quinisext? Does Quinisext actually splice together the various canons of these local councils and individual churchmen? Or are you simply assuming that you should cut-and-paste together a specific biblical canon on the basis of the preexisting material it ratifies?
“However, the actual nature of that biblical canon is different from what Protestants normally mean when they say “canon”. Not all of the canon is divinely inspired; some of it is just “respectable” or “holy”.”
i) So you’re saying the Orthodox believe in a two-tier canon or canon within a canon, consisting of:
a) An inner canon of inspired books, and
b) An outer canon of uninspired, even apocryphal, but edifying literature.
Is that what you mean?
ii) Other issues aside, this introduces an equivocation into your comparison. You were apparently dissatisfied with Evangelical methods of identifying the canon. But you also indicate that Orthodox canonics differ both in process and product. The Orthodox define the canon differently. Since they’re disanalogous, you’re no longer comparing two different examples in kind, but two different kinds. So how does Orthodoxy fix the perceived deficiency in Evangelical canonics if it’s not even talking about the same thing? It’s shifted the terms of debate.
It isn’t solving the same problem. It’s a solution to a different problem because it redefines the problem. So if there really was a problem, then it leaves the original problem unresolved.
“Second of all, if the council didn’t actually state the canon or there were other problems, I could still say the following: the fact that the canons of two parts of the church don’t agree on one or two books just means that there isn’t implicit ecumenical consensus about one or two books. Thus they aren’t part of the canon that is mandatory for all parts of the church to possess.”
How does that differ from Jason’s position that it would be possible to have a functional canon without a complete canon?
“The rest of the books, however, have been received by the entirety of the Church understood as canon, and have implicit ecumenical consensus.”
How do you define and identify the “entirely” of the Church? Are you polling all of the Orthodox believers who ever lived?
This is not a facetious question. Are you including the laity? How do you survey their opinion, past and present?
“Hence, those books that all the parts of the Church agree on constitute the canon of the Church.”
So you have a core canon. How does that differ from Jason’s principle of a core canon?
“Individual parts of the church may still be anticipating a time when they can add those books to the canon (by getting everyone to be in consensus); but for now they can just be included with the Bibles of those who choose to include them, without other parts of the church being required to do so (cuz they aren’t part of the official canon of the whole Church).”
We’re talking 2000 years down the pike and counting. How does such a glacially evolving, incomplete, and open-ended rule of faith mark an improvement over a low-church Protestant ecclesiology?
“(ii) I think what was stated above can help resolve this issue. There would never be a need to do this because there’s no problem with some parts of the Church including different books in addition to the canon that is established by ecumenical consensus.”
What if they’re including books that are simply false, viz. pious fraud?
“That’s interesting that you’ve interacted with Perry before. Could you point me to some specific posts? (I’d like to see the arguments on both sides).”
If you mouse over to the sidebar, click on my topical index, and scroll down to “smells & bells,” you’ll find some material, although the index hasn’t been updating in a while.
“I’m not sure that what you’re saying about me using an aprioristic method invalidates my argument. Your criticism sounds like an expression of dislike; but what about the argument I’ve made is bad? After all, sometimes we come across an argument for our position by assuming our position is true and looking around us to see what validates or invalidates it. That seems to be at the root of a lot of apologetics; the apologist assumes Christianity is true, then tries to look for what might support that. The actual way that I came to believe in the validity of the canon argument is by being convinced by an Orthodox person. It was one of the things that urged me to move from Protestantism to Orthodoxy; so at the very least it isn’t something that I did to validate a position I already believed in at the time. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your criticism (in which case I apologize); would you care to explain it a little bit more?”
History is not something you can know by deduction. History is not an axiomatic system. History can only be known by observation, after the fact.
You need to study the way in which God has actually governed his people in the past (in OT times and NT times), rather than claiming that something (e.g. the Protestant rule of faith) can’t be true because it would have unacceptable consequences, and instead stipulate your preferred historical result, then reverse engineer a process which will generate your resultant postulate. That’s an artificial and fictitious way of determining historical questions.
“What sweeping historical overgeneralizations are you referring to exactly?”
You said “The canon of Scripture was recognized and made binding and authoritative by the Church.”
This glosses over quite a bit of chronological and geographical diversity. How do you identify and verify the Church (as you define it)? How do you abstract the one true church from the many regional and rival churches back then?
“I’m saying that the Church makes the canon authoritative through an infallible ecumenical consensus of the hierarchy to recognize the books of the Old and New Testaments as being the literature that expresses the content of the Christian revelation.”
i) Earlier you appealed to the “entirety” of the Church in the recognition of the canon. Now, however, you’re radically downshifting to the “hierarchy.” So you arbitrarily oscillate between populist appeals and elitist appeals. Which is it?
ii) Are you alluding to the ecumenical councils? If so, then what’s your criterion for ecumenical conciliarity? For example, why doesn’t Ferrara-Florence qualify?
“The Bible was inspired (true and carrying divine authority) prior to the approval of the canon by the Church; however, the Church was the mechanism by which God revealed the inspiration and authority of the Bible.”
Where are you coming up with these abstractions? For example, the gospel of Luke was addressed to an individual—Theophilus (Luke’s patron). Most of the NT letters, along with Revelation, were addressed to local churches. After that they circulated more widely as private copies were made and distributed.
What universal entity which you deem the Church was mechanism by which God revealed the inspiration and authority of these NT documents? What timeframe are you talking about?
“This would be similar to how Israel was the means by which God revealed his will (enshrined in the Mosaic law) to the nations. The disanalogy is that the Mosaic law was directly revealed by God and so it was part of public revelation even prior to Israel’s acceptance of it and proclamation of it. (and I’m also not sure Israel can meaningfully be spoken of as “infallible”) However, the New Testament isn’t part of public divine revelation until the Church accepts it. It seems like it would only be private until then.”
i) In what sense is the Mosaic law (what about the rest of the OT?) “directly revealed,” but the NT is not “directly revealed”?
ii) How do you define “public revelation”? Although various NT documents were addressed *to* local churches, they were written *for* the benefit of the church at large.
iii) To take one example, if John writes a Gospel, does its status as public revelation depend on the authorization of the Church, or on his own, apostolic authority?
This is one of the perennial problems I have with high-church ecclesiology. Instead of looking at the concrete situation in terms of who wrote what where and when, to whom, and for whom, we are instead treated to these ahistorical abstractions about “The Church’s” relation to “The Bible.”
“I would say that the Church’s authority seems to be grounded in the fact that the Jesus publicly entrusted the Church with the truth.”
i) When and where did he do this? Or is this one of those fuzzy, elusive, postbox generalities that has no physical address in the NT text?
ii) And what do you mean by “the Church.” Is this a bait-and-switch where, whenever you say “the Church,” that’s really code language for the Orthodox hierarchy?
“And declared that the Church would be led into all truth.”
When and where did he do this? You seem to be alluding to Jn 14-16. But this is a promise to the apostolate, not to the Church.
“At least this seems to be what grounds the Church’s authority (maybe another suggestion could be offered).”
Yes, what about exegeting a text in context.