Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Francis Beckwith

Francis Beckwith has given an interview on his reversion to Roman Catholicism:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/mayweb-only/119-33.0.html

HT: Patrick Chan.

I’ll just comment on a few statements:

“The issue of justification was key for me. The Catholic Church frames the Christian life as one in which you must exercise virtue—not because virtue saves you, but because that's the way God's grace gets manifested. As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so. Now there's a kind of theological framework, and it doesn't say my salvation depends on me, but it says my virtue counts for something. It's important to allow the grace of God to be exercised through your actions. The evangelical emphasis on the moral life forms my Catholic practice with an added incentive. That was liberating to me.”

Notice what is missing from this statement. He doesn’t say: “I went back and reexamined Paul’s teaching on justification. I came to the conclusion that Trent has the better of the exegetical argument.”

Instead, he offers a subjective, impressionist, existential argument—if you can even call it an argument.

Continuing:

“Evangelicals kid themselves when they believe that they can re-invent the wheel with every generation, that you have to produce another spate of systematic theology textbooks to teach people the stuff that has already been articulated for generations.”

Given the number of years that Beckwith has been an evangelical, a well-connected evangelical, moving in a variety of evangelical circles, does he really think evangelicals believe that they need to reinvent the wheel each generation? Is that the issue?

No, the issue is that Christianity may be 2000 years old, but it’s new to each new generation, and it’s incumbent upon each new generation to double-check “the stuff that has already been articulated for generations.”

Continuing:

“Look, you're not going to come up with the Nicene Creed by just picking up the Bible.”

Why not? How did the Nicene fathers come up with the Nicene Creed, if not by picking up the Bible?

“Does the Bible contribute to our understanding? Absolutely it does; the Nicene Creed is consistent with Scripture. But you needed a church that had a self-understanding in order to articulate that in any clear way.”

And how did the church come to its self-understanding? From Scripture, or apart from Scripture? Is the church’s self-understanding consonant with the way the Bible understands the church?

“But we have to understand that the Reformation only makes sense against the backdrop of a tradition that was already there.”

No one denies this. But let’s also remember that it’s not as if there was a monolithic, pre-Reformation tradition. There was a lot of diversity. Trent narrowed and hardened tradition in reaction to the Reformation.

“Calvin and Luther did not go back and re-write Nicea. They took it for granted.”

To my knowledge, that’s inaccurate. Calvin rejected Nicene subordinationism in favor of the autotheos of each Person.

“Looking at tradition would also help evangelicals learn about Christian liturgical traditions, like Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, that evangelicals reject because they say liturgy is unbiblical.”

Do evangelicals reject liturgy per se as unbiblical? Or do they reject certain liturgical innovations as unbiblical? Or believe there’s a measure of freedom in our liturgical practice?

“It turns out many of them came to be very early on in church history when people were close historically to the apostles themselves. There must be something to these practices that the early Christians thought was perfectly consistent with what they had received from the apostles.”

Two or three obvious problems with this argument:

i) Apostolic practice is not automatically normative for the subapostolic church. For example, the apostles continued to attend the Temple services. Is that normative for Christians?

ii) Certain NT letters are already combating heresy in the NT church(es). Heresies were afoot during the apostolic era. So there’s no correlation between antiquity and orthodoxy.

iii) What about discontinuities between early church practice and the practice of the 21C Catholic church? Doesn’t the appeal to primitive tradition cut both ways? Does it undercut discontinuities between past and present?

“I think I underestimated the deep divisions that were still there, at least among lay evangelicals and Catholics more so than the academics who interact with each other more often.”

It’s true that elites tend to think alike. For example, the Episcopalian hierarchy is far more likely to agree with the secular elite on social issues than with the laity. Is that a good thing?

“Non-denominational Bible church folks are still reading stuff about Catholicism published in the 1950s.”

What is his evidence for this claim? No doubt it’s true in some cases, but does he have any statistical data to back up his sweeping generalization?

And why is it always that evangelicals don’t understand Catholics, but not vice versa? We live in the same country, you know.

“That's what led me to read the Joint Declaration on Justification.”

Were the Catholic participants official representatives of the Vatican? Do they speak for Rome? Were they papal delegates? Did the Vatican codify this Declaration?

“Then I began reading some Catholic authors who did a very nice job with explaining the Catholic views of grace and faith.”

Which Catholic authors?

“I thought to myself, ‘How come every evangelical book that I've read on Catholicism didn't get this right’?”

Which evangelical books?

“They both accept the same premise that the Enlightenment view of reason is the correct view of reason.”

This gets to be tedious. It’s the sort of thing we’re used to hearing from Bishop Wright. But we make allowance for the fact that he’s a NT scholar rather than a philosopher. Yet Beckwith is a philosopher.

So what evangelical theologians operate with an Enlightenment view of reason? Does that include pre-Enlightenment theologians like Calvin and Beza?

And what about the role of reason in Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, Suarez, Arnauld, Maréchal, Maritain, Rahner, and so on?

“At some point, there has to be some connection between the church and its role and the phenomenon of Scripture. There are a lot of evangelicals who believe that and aren't Catholic. But if you accept that particularly narrow view of Sola Scriptura, then it becomes almost impossible to understand the Catholic view.”

i) Did Luther, a Catholic professor theology, not understand the Catholic view? Did Vermingli, by turns an abbot and prior, not understand the Catholic view?

ii) And assuming, for the sake of argument, that sola Scriptura precludes a proper understanding of the Catholic view, how does that validate the Catholic view?

iii) Conversely, does the Catholic view make it almost impossible to understand sola Scriptura?

"And I think it's a kind of axiomatic rationalism that doesn't really capture why people convert, and why people believe things."

Even if that were true, how does the psychology of conversion validate the process of conversion? After all, an individual can convert to anything.

"That is what you often find in real strong Calvinist views of God's moral nature, that things ought to be obeyed because God says so, not because he's good."

Can he quote any Reformed creed or major Reformed theologian who takes that position?

33 comments:

  1. Beckwith said:
    ---
    As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so.
    ---

    This sentence jumped out at me the first time I read Beckwith's statements, and once again when I re-read Steve's quote of Beckwith.

    Is it just me, or does Beckwith imply by this sentence that he wanted to do good (i.e. "practice it [sanctification]") but simply couldn't do it without "a good enough incentive to do so"? Does this not imply that Beckwith only does good when he has an incentive to do so, and not because it is the right thing to do?

    I'm not saying this to attack Beckwith, as I like him as a person. This statement just seems poorly written. Well, "expecially poorly written"--the rest of his "argumentation" is likewise not very good either, as Steve has already demonstrated :-(

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  2. I sincerely hope he fleshes out his arguments in a fuller fashion in the near future. For a man of such renown and accomplishment, it seems he really only began to raise issues of secondary importance while not requiring the full measure of Catholic de fide dogma to come under scrutiny. It seems to me the failure of one de fide dogma to stand the tests of Scripture, reason and history invalidates others and brings the edifice down.

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  3. Steve,

    Can you please explain what you are referring to by "Nicene subordinationism"?

    Thanks.

    Simon

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous, I can help with that.

    First, read the Nicene Creed.

    This bit: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

    and this bit:

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.

    have a subordinationist cast. That is, the Son and the Spirit derive their Personhood, as it were, from the Father, yet the Three share the same essence, but that of the other Two is derivative of the Father. He is the source, as it were, of the Son and the Spirit.

    The Reformed have generally been divided over this issue. Some accept that formula along with economic subordination (subordination of role), and all of us, as far as I can here recall, accept economic subordination anyway.

    However, in Calvin's day, there were folks running around trying to revive Arianism and using the Nicene Creed in the process. On the one hand, it is true the Reformed tradition did not do too much to meddle with the Trinitarian formulas, so what Beckwith says has a grain of truth to it, but it is by no means accurate (Is he totally unfamiliar with Richard Muller's work? Has he not read Robert Reymond's section on Calvin and the Trinity in the section of his Systematic Theology on the creeds? You'd think as president of ETS he'd be familiar with those works, or at least more aware of the material). On the other, ontological questions were reexamined in the light of Scripture and new apologetic needs. Calvin favored "autotheos" over subordination. That is, each Person is God of God in and of Himself, and does not derive its Personhood or essence from the Father. The standard criticism is that this results in Tritheism if pressed too far. The response to those holding to autotheos is that the doctrine of impenetration of the Persons keeps you from that error, for they are interlocked in essence, so to speak, as well as "autotheos" on their own. This is also true economically, in that while it is true that certain activities are the primary focus of one particular Person, it is also true that when One of Them acts, the Others are also acting in some manner. You can't isolate One of Them from the Other. On the other hand, if you go in a subordinationist cast as in Nicea, you get into subordinationism and Arianism. There are responses to that as well.

    Since the Reformation, you'll find theologians in the Reformed tradition who opt for one or the other formulation. Bruce McCormack has advocated a solution derived from Barth, at least with respect to the relation to the way the Trinity is expressed in the atonement. (See his article in The Glory of the Atonement, IVP, 2004, p. 346-366).

    For a truly in depth look at the Trinity in the Reformation era and High Orthodox era, I'd point you to Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3. This issue (and more) is covered in depth.

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  5. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 12:42 AM

    Wouldn't you say that the remark cited by Peter, namely:

    As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so.

    Is an indication of where Dr. Beckwith's heart is really at? I mean, as an evangelical Protestant he wanted to do good, but there was no merit in it. As a Catholic, however, he's earning bonus points with God, piling up heavenly rewards--there's the incentive. You know, I thought evangelical incentive was love to God? Heavenly rewards aren't absent from Protestant theology either. So what gives? Does the good doctor want to make God his debtor?

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  6. Yes but isn't love for God also meritorious?

    If I do 10 good things and you do 5 good things and we both do them out of love for God do I merit more than you?

    This is a topic worth clarifying.

    In Eph 2, isn't God the ordainer of our works? And if so, if we will walk in these works without the possibility that we won't walk in these works that he has foreordained, then naturally some of us will have more work or greater work than others and likewise greater rewards.

    This reasoning seems to lead to the conclusion that Paul wasn't better than a "lesser" Christian because he was Paul qua Paul, but because God chose to ordain him to a greater work and consequently to a greater reward ("The places reserved next to the Father have been prepared by the Father"). Paul doesn't earn it as though he's derived ability within himself, but only walked in the life that was before him, and reaped the rewards that were prepared for him. Works and rewards are all foreordained by God.

    Thoughts on these thoughts?

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  7. Anonymous asked:
    ---
    Yes but isn't love for God also meritorious?
    ---

    How is it meritorious to do what you ought to do in the first place? In other words: is it meritorious for me to obey the speed limit? No, it's what I should be doing anyway.

    We ought to love God. Our loving God cannot force God into a quid pro quo relationship, which is nothing more than Him buying our love.

    God loves us and chooses to reward us for His own reasons. He does not reward us for loving Him (indeed, we only love Him because He first loved us).

    Anonymous said:
    ---
    In Eph 2, isn't God the ordainer of our works? And if so, if we will walk in these works without the possibility that we won't walk in these works that he has foreordained, then naturally some of us will have more work or greater work than others and likewise greater rewards.
    ---

    What of the parable of workers that Jesus taught? Some workers worked for a full day, some for an hour. They each got the same reward. Those who worked longer grumbled and complained, and the landowner said, "Did I not give you what I said I would give you?"

    Secondly, the reason your above use of Ephesians 2 is flawed is because you are assuming more works = more rewards; but that is the very point that is up for discussion. In other words, classic question begging :-)

    Anyway, you concluded:
    ---
    Works and rewards are all foreordained by God.
    ---

    This is true, but further clarification is needed. Works and rewards are foreordained by God without a necessary relation between the two.

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  8. >How did the Nicene fathers come up with the
    >Nicene Creed, if not by picking up the Bible?

    >To my knowledge, that’s inaccurate. Calvin rejected
    >Nicene subordinationism in favor of the autotheos
    >of each Person.

    Is it just me who sees the irony here? The Bible is enough, yet with bible alone Calvin comes to different conclusions that Nicea?

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  9. >Calvin favored "autotheos" over subordination. That
    >is, each Person is God of God in and of Himself, and
    >does not derive its Personhood or essence from the
    >Father.

    This is a big time heresy.

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  10. :it’s incumbent upon each new generation to double-check “the stuff that has already been articulated for generations.”:

    But isn't this exactly "reinventing the wheel"? How are you refuting Beckwith's critique? It seems to me that you are agreeing with it.

    In all fairness, I agree with many Protestant commentators that Beckwith's reasons seem insufficiently thought through. I suspect that we "cradle Protestants" who have spent a lot of time examining the claims of Rome (whether sympathetically or antagonistically) are inevitably going to have a very different perspective from a cradle Catholic like Beckwith, who quite reasonably doesn't need the same degree of rigorous proof in order to return to the Church in which he received baptism. All he needed, it seems, was reason to think that the RCC could be given the benefit of the doubt. Given his background, I think that was legitimate. It was not enough for me, because in contrast to Beckwith I would have been rejecting my upbringing and heritage in order to become CAtholic.

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  11. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 10:41 AM

    "Is it just me who sees the irony here? The Bible is enough, yet with bible alone Calvin comes to different conclusions that Nicea?"

    So, God is unable to communicate His truth without the EOC? Hmmm. Calvin disagreeing with Nicea proves that. All hail the EOC, keeper of the true meaning of God's Word!

    ">Calvin favored "autotheos" over subordination. That
    >is, each Person is God of God in and of Himself, and
    >does not derive its Personhood or essence from the
    >Father.

    "This is a big time heresy."

    Let's get that heretic Calvin...

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  12. Contarini said:
    :it’s incumbent upon each new generation to double-check “the stuff that has already been articulated for generations.”:

    But isn't this exactly "reinventing the wheel"? How are you refuting Beckwith's critique? It seems to me that you are agreeing with it.

    *************************

    No, we don't have to do everything from scratch, for there's a preexisting body of literature from various viewpoints (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox, liberal, evangelical). So we can compare and contrast the extant arguments. Different sides have already presented their case. So who got the better of the argument?

    Now, if you're dissatisfied with the available answers, then it's also possible to go back to the drawing board. But we don't have to act as if we're coming to this issue for the first time, in the sense that no one has ever discussed it before.

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  13. orthodox said...

    "Is it just me who sees the irony here? The Bible is enough, yet with bible alone Calvin comes to different conclusions that Nicea?"

    Yes, it's just you since you are assuming, w/o benefit of argument, that Nicene subordination is identical with Biblical Christology.

    Coming up with a different conclusion than Nicene subordination is not in tension with sola scriptura.

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  14. AnnoyedPinoy5/10/2007 12:33 PM

    Beckwith said:

    As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so.


    I'm AMAZED that someone of his theological standing could make such a statement. Since, historically many of the Reformers and their theological children affirmed the Biblical truth that our faithfulness to Christ on earth will result in greater rewards in heaven (and even possibly in this world too). While not all Protestant theologians believed this or emphasized it, there's a long line of Protestants who did and do.


    1. The late John Gerstner, that great scholar of Jonathan Edwards' works, referred to Protestant "super-erogatory" works.
    Justification by Faith Alone (The Nature of Justifying Faith) http://www.the-highway.com/Justification-Gerstner.html



    2. John Piper ably defends what he calls "Conditional Unmerited Grace" in his book _Future Grace_



    3. Even Melanchton said:


    We teach that good works are meritorious-not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, nor justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come, as Paul says (1 Cor 3:8), "Each shall receive his wages according to his labor." Therefore there will be different rewards for different labours...There will be distinctions in the glory of the saints."


    Quoted in Iosif Ton "Suffering, Martyrdom and Rewards in Heaven" (Th.D. diss., Evangelische Theologische Facultiet, Haverlee/Leuven, Belgie, 1996), 477.

    Quote taken from Erwin Lutzer's book _Your Eternal Reward_ (I enjoy his preaching, though I think he's a Dispensational [heh] 4 point Calvinist who probably sides with Non-Lordship Salvation theology)


    4. The White Horse Inn crowd have often ridiculed the John Wesley's (the Arminian) teaching that we should be motivated to do good works 1. out of fear of hell and 2. desire for rewards in heaven. They have often said that we should be motivated (soley?) out of gratitude. But while it's true that we shoudl primarily be motivated to perform good works out of love for God, His glory, the rightness of His ways, and out of gratitude for God for a perfect justification; there is nothing incongruous (no pun intended or allusion to Aquinas' distinction between congruous and condign merit) with the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide and rewards for faithfulness.

    It's even more true from a Calvinistic perspective when Augustine said (words to the effect) that God's rewarding the faithfulness of His saints as "God crowning HIS OWN gifts".
    And all this for God's greatest glory and our collective (i.e. the elect's) ultimate good.

    This pulls out many of the argumentative teeth in many Roman Catholic apologetical works like Robert Sungenis' book _Not By Faith Alone_

    James (AnnoyedPinoy)

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  15. Orthodox said: This is a big time heresy.

    A. Based upon what? Scripture? Nicea? You have elsewhere argued that you don't need councils or popes to arbitrate doctrine, so its not as if you can appeal to Nicea. You have also said that to appeal to Scripture relies to heavily on individual interpretation, so which is it?

    B. Do you even know what "autotheos" means as articulated by Calvin? How did Calvin arrive at his conclusion, and how is it unbiblical? Are you saying Calvin was ignorant of the Fathers? Where does Scripture show Nicene subordinationism? I know the arguments for both and I can answer these questions, do you/can you? Have you ever bothered to read Volume 3 of Muller? If not, then why not for once actually open a book and read it?

    C. Notice how, once again, Orthodox makes a claim and simply does not elaborate on it. How is it a heresy? Tritheism? Was Calvin a tritheist? Did he deny the impenetration of the Members of the Trinity?

    Orthodox said: Is it just me who sees the irony here? The Bible is enough, yet with bible alone Calvin comes to different conclusions that Nicea?

    How did they arrive at their conclusions @ Nicea, Orthodox? What does the historical record say? Did they merely report tradition, or did they exegete Scripture? What did Athanasius say about what happened there?

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  16. I think we might have to wait a while for Beckwith to provide a more clearly thought out, technical explanation before we as Evangelicals will have the opportunity to critique his reasoning. That should be coming soon enough. But I can't forsee his reasons adding anything new to the already existing conversation between Protestants and Catholics.

    Neiswonger

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  17. Oh boy. This is hardly the place and time for a thorough-going defence of the historical doctrine of the trinity. I just point out again briefly that historically it is a major heresy to deny that the Spirit and the Son derive their esssence from the Father. I can go all the way back to Justin Martyr, or the councils, or discuss the meaning of the Sprit "proceeding from the Father", or the implications of "Son" in regards to Father etc.

    But the issue at hand is someone in this blog criticised Beckwith for implying that you won't easily get Nicea from Scripture. After criticising Beckwith on this score he went on to claim Calvin came to different conclusions. So which is it? Scripture leads inevitibly to Nicea or not? Beckwith was right or not? In trying to refute Beckwith, he stepped in it and proved him right.

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  18. Orthodox said:

    I just point out again briefly that historically it is a major heresy to deny that the Spirit and the Son derive their esssence from the Father.

    Except THAT ISN'T WHAT YOU SAID. You said, "That's a big time heresy." Are you now claiming that it is "speaking from history" heresy to deny Nicene subordinationism? That would require the ecumenical council to be infallible, but elsewhere you deny that councils are necessary for doctrine. Which is it to be? Pick a position and stick to it.

    >>. I can go all the way back to Justin Martyr,

    Really, did Justin Martyr have a Nicene view of the Trinity? Nobody denies he used trintarian language, but did he believe in Nicene subordinationism itself? That's a blatant example of anachronistic reading.

    The councils? See how Orthodox changes the goalposts. Do I need to quote you where you specifically stated that you don't need a majority of the Church or a council or a pope to arbitrate doctrine for you, Orthodox? An appeal to a council doesn't cut it, since, BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION, the councils are not necessary for you to hold your doctrine.

    See also how I pointed Orthodox to a rather large volume on the issue of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics that is devoted to the Trinity. Has he bothered to read it? No.

    Also, Orthodox did not bother to answer my question about Athanasius and Nicea? On what did they base their formulation at Nicea, Orthodox? Did they merely report "tradition" or did they exegete Scripture. What does the historical record say?

    What I stated was that Calvin came to different conclusions, because Trinitarian heretics found a way to circumvent Nicea and, in fact, appeal to it. Did Calvin not bother with the Fathers? Who has stated that? Is that what the historical record shows? Orthodox continues to belabor the definition of Sola Scriptura by confusing it with Solo Scriptura.

    Notice too how Orthodox does not tell us how Nicene subordination is even exegetically valid or how "autotheos" is invalid. He simply puts down the gavel of "heresy" without bothering to interact with what he calls "heresy." Further, he does not tell us how "autotheos" would be heretical, if it is, indeed heretical.

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  19. >Except THAT ISN'T WHAT YOU SAID. You said,
    >"That's a big time heresy." Are you now claiming
    >that it is "speaking from history" heresy to deny
    >Nicene subordinationism? That would require the
    >ecumenical council to be infallible, but elsewhere
    >you deny that councils are necessary for doctrine.
    >Which is it to be? Pick a position and stick to it.

    ???? Huh ????

    * Councils are part of history
    * Councils are part of Tradition.
    * Tradition doesn't require councils.

    Does that help?

    >Really, did Justin Martyr have a Nicene view of
    >the Trinity? Nobody denies he used trintarian
    >language, but did he believe in Nicene
    >subordinationism itself? That's a blatant example
    >of anachronistic reading.

    Justin was very clear that the substance of the Son is derived from the Father, which is what someone claimed Calvin denied.

    "For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word [which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled." Diaglogue with Trypho LXI

    >Do I need to quote you where you specifically
    >stated that you don't need a majority of the
    >Church or a council or a pope to arbitrate
    >doctrine for you, Orthodox? An appeal to a
    >council doesn't cut it, since, BY YOUR OWN
    >ADMISSION, the councils are not necessary for
    >you to hold your doctrine.

    What are you on about now?

    >See also how I pointed Orthodox to a rather large
    >volume on the issue of Post-Reformation
    >Reformed Dogmatics that is devoted to the
    >Trinity. Has he bothered to read it? No

    That's rich from someone too scared to actually turn up at an orthodox church and find out what we're all about.

    >Also, Orthodox did not bother to answer my
    >question about Athanasius and Nicea? On what
    >did they base their formulation at Nicea,
    >Orthodox? Did they merely report "tradition" or
    >did they exegete Scripture. What does the
    >historical record say?

    The historical record says they did both. Athanasius commenting on Nicea says: "or, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers".

    >Did Calvin not bother with the Fathers? Who has
    >stated that?

    Did he bother with the fathers? Oh yes he bothered, picking and choosing what councils he would accept and which he would reject.

    >Notice too how Orthodox does not tell us how
    >Nicene subordination is even exegetically valid
    >or how "autotheos" is invalid. He simply puts
    >down the gavel of "heresy" without bothering to
    >interact with what he calls "heresy." Further, he
    >does not tell us how "autotheos" would be
    >heretical, if it is, indeed heretical.

    Why should I continually come on this blog and rehash 2000 years of Christian history, always starting from square one? There's ton's of material from Justin Martyr on down discussing these matters. Whether you want to accept them or take an heretical position, you can't say the orthodox position hasn't been adequately addressed in history.

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  20. ORTHODOX SAID:

    “But the issue at hand is someone in this blog criticised Beckwith for implying that you won't easily get Nicea from Scripture. After criticising Beckwith on this score he went on to claim Calvin came to different conclusions. So which is it? Scripture leads inevitibly to Nicea or not? Beckwith was right or not? In trying to refute Beckwith, he stepped in it and proved him right.”

    Orthodox operates at the reading level of a third-grader. Well, at least a third-grader who attends public school. Homeschoolers are more literate.

    This is what Beckwith said:

    “Look, you're not going to come up with the Nicene Creed by just picking up the Bible.”

    And this is what I said in response:

    “Why not? How did the Nicene fathers come up with the Nicene Creed, if not by picking up the Bible?”

    Notice that my response didn’t commit me to any position on the Nicene Creed. I was merely answering Beckwith on his own level. Does he or does he not deem the Nicene Creed to be scriptural? Does he think the Nicene Fathers got their theology from Scripture? If yes, then why couldn’t someone else come up with the same theology by picking up a Bible?

    If no, then he’s admitting that the Nicene Creed is unscriptural.

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  21. So you're not committed to any position. Greeaaat.

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  22. orthodox said:

    "So you're not committed to any position. Greeaaat."

    Orthodox continues to exhibit his third-grade reading skills. Greeaaat!

    I didn't say I as noncommittal. I didn't state my own opinion. Rather, I was responding to an interview given by Beckwith. I was answering him on his own terms.

    Speaking for myself, the only examples we have of intra-Trinitarian subordination in Scripture involve the economic Trinity. To infer intra-Trinitarian subordination for the immanent Trinity is, at best, underdetermined by revelation.

    In addition, prooftexts for Nicene subordination make the further mistake of taking anthropomorphic language about generation and procession literally, which is rather childish.

    Finally, Nicene subordination is implicitly unitarian. It’s a reductionistic way of harmonizing the Trinitarian passages with the monotheistic passages.

    So, yes, I reject Nicene subordination. I’m a Trinitarian, not a closet unitarian.

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  23. No Steve, you're not a trinitarian, you're a heretic.

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  24. orthodox said:

    "No Steve, you're not a trinitarian, you're a heretic."

    No Orthodox, you're not a trinitarian, you're a unitarian.

    To say that "the Spirit and the Son derive their esssence from the Father" is simply Neoplatonic emanationism, which isn't surprising given the philosophical debts of the Greek Fathers. The Neoplatonic priority of the one over the many. So it's implicitly unitarian.

    But that reduces the Spirit and the Son to a secondary grade of divinity.

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  25. How did the Nicene fathers come up with the Nicene Creed, if not by picking up the Bible?

    The Arians came up with their own symbols/creeds by picking up the Bible. The Nicene fathers also had access to the rule of faith, which was examined by the convening of all those 300+ Eastern bishops. The "rule of faith" (as it was called by those early Christians) is known today by the term "Apostolic Tradition."

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  26. Carson Weber said:

    "The Arians came up with their own symbols/creeds by picking up the Bible. The Nicene fathers also had access to the rule of faith, which was examined by the convening of all those 300+ Eastern bishops. The "rule of faith" (as it was called by those early Christians) is known today by the term "Apostolic Tradition."

    ***********

    So, are you saying the Arians had the better of the argument as far as Scripture is concerned? That Scripture teaches Arian Christology? And that Scripture needs to be negated by Tradition to come up with an orthodox formula?

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  27. >To say that "the Spirit and the Son derive their
    >esssence from the Father" is simply Neoplatonic
    >emanationism, which isn't surprising given the
    >philosophical debts of the Greek Fathers. The
    >Neoplatonic priority of the one over the many. So
    >it's implicitly unitarian.

    What a lot of nonsense.

    You obviously havn't even sat down and thought about the implications of the words Father and Son. Without a doctrine of the Father being the source of all divinity, there is no Father and Son, all there is, is God-Person "A", God-Person "B" and God-Person "C".

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  28. orthodox said...

    You obviously havn't even sat down and thought about the implications of the words Father and Son. Without a doctrine of the Father being the source of all divinity, there is no Father and Son, all there is, is God-Person "A", God-Person "B" and God-Person "C".

    **************************************************

    Evidently, Orthodox is a closet Mormon who takes the "implications" of "generation" quite literally. Of course, the Mormons are a bit more consistent with the implications of this heathen hermeneutic by requiring a divine Mother as well as a divine Father to be the joint source of a divine Son.

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  29. As opposed to Steve who not only doesn't take them literally, he ignores them altogether, making the persons of the trinity to be simply eternal person "A", eternal person "B" and eternal person "C".

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi,

    I am a Catholic.

    I think that many Evangelicals who read the history of the early church encounter the following situation: heresies that they would like to reject were often supported by a strong appeal to scripture. The opponents of these heresies called themselves "Catholic," and appealed to scripture, tradition, and the authority of the successors to the apostles.

    During the intellectual and spiritual battles that ensued, it became apparent that men of good will, who ardently desired to know the truth, could become confused by scripture alone. Those who kept the faith and rejected heresies such as Arianism did use scripture -- but they did not use scripture alone. They appealed to the authority that had selected the true books of scripture out of the larger set of writings that claimed to be Christian. They appealed to the authority that had taught people the faith before Scripture had even been written.

    And it was natural for them to do so. Even the most brilliant and faithful Christians, such as St. Augustine, spent time in heretical beliefs (St. Augustine was for nine years a Manichee). And how does St. Augustine explain his Catholic beliefs to his former Manichean brethren?

    He explains as follows: "I am held by the consent of people and nations; by that authority which began in miracles, was nourished in hope, was increased by charity, and made steadfast by age; by that succession of priests from the chair of the Apostle Peter, to whose feeding the Lord after His resurrection commended His sheep, even to the present episcopate; lastly, by the very title of Catholic, which, not without cause, hath this Church alone, amid so many heresies, obtained in such sort, that, whereas all heretics wish to be called Catholics, nevertheless to any stranger, who asked where to find the 'Catholic' Church, none of them would dare to point to his own basilica or home. These dearest bonds, then, of the Christian Name, so many and such, rightly hold a man in belief in the Catholic Church, even though, by reason of the slowness of our understanding or our deserts, truth doth not yet show herself in her clearest tokens. But among you, who have none of these reasons to invite and detain me, I hear but the loud sound of a promise of the truth; which truth, verily, if it be so manifestly displayed among you that there can be no mistake about it, is to be preferred to all those things by which I am held in the Catholic Church; but if it is promised alone, and not exhibited, no one shall move me from that faith which by so many and great ties binds my mind to the Christian religion."

    In the earliest Church, there were relatively few writings; in later years there were more writings, but many were heretical; in still later years, there were many writings, and the inspired were declared as such to help distinguish truth from error. But in all these times, heretics appealed to such writings -- both inspired and uninspired -- to support their heresies. Catholics both appealed to Christian scriptures and to the apostolic succession and the Tradition of the Church to counter the heretics. And the beliefs the early Catholics held in opposition to the heretics -- defended on grounds that Evangelicals denounce -- are often some of the very beliefs that Evangelicals hold today.

    This is one of many aspects of Church history which make Evangelicals doubt their doubts about the Catholic Church. If St. Augustine and others could use both scripture and other sources of authority in their quest to become free from slavery to heresy, why can't good Christians do the same today? If the beliefs that you denounce (for instance, that Jesus was not God) were supported by those who agreed with you on what evidence can be allowed in theological argument (only scripture), and were attacked by those who had a more expansive view of what could be allowed in theological argument, how can you today denounce those who make use of the more expansive view?

    Finally, I think Francis Beckwith was not making a careful argument, but rather giving his general impressions. It does not make sense to question each line of his general impressions. Do you have a reason to believe that he is incapable of expressing himself more clearly, or of answering the somewhat rude questions you have made of him? He is an intelligent man, and if he wishes to make a more detailed argument, I am sure he is capable of doing so -- at which point you have every right to respond in detail. As it stands, you are pretending that his explanation of his general impressions is something that it is not, which is just silly.

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