Sunday, December 27, 2009

Byzantine intrigue


“Somehow I don’t think I’ll take you as an informative source for what the Orthodox teach on eschatology. For starters, you assume that Revelation is even part of Orthodox lectionaries. That’s a good reason to think that you aren’t a reliable source for Orthodox theology.”

I didn’t specify any particular liturgy of any particular church, whether Greek Orthodox or Coptic Orthodox or Roman Catholic. I simply used that example to illustrate a general principle. If a Catholic or Orthodox priest or bishop is preaching a homily on a book of the Bible which implicates the millennium, then he’ll have to teach his view of the millennium. But since he’s not infallible, since there’s more than one position, and since his church hasn’t taken an official position, then it’s quite possible that he will teach falsehood.

And, of course, I could illustrate the same principle using any number of other examples.

What you’re trying to do is deflect attention away from that problem since you yourself have no answer to the problem you pose for others.

“If we were moral legalists in terms of metaethics like Rome or Protestants by and large that worry might have some currency. Comparing us to Rome here just isn’t plausible. We don’t even subscribe to natural law theory.”

Which completely ducks the question of whether an Orthodox priest ever teaches falsehood when a parishioner comes to him for advice on some tricky moral decision. So, Perry, why don’t you “protest” this seedbed of error in the Orthodox church?

“Tell us the obvious doesn’t really move the ball down the argumentative field.”

To the contrary, it creates a direct parallel for what you allegedly find so objectionable in Protestantism. Since, however, you don’t find that objectionable in Orthodoxy, your complaint is duplicitous and disingenuous.

“It is so and when present shows that the person fails to take the term according to its established meaning.”

The important question is whether the worshipper conforms to the established meaning of Scripture.

“Now since the WCF and the LBC fix the meaning in those bodies for the creedal language one isn’t just putting aside the meaning of the Creed, but also that of the Confessions.”

No, they don’t fix the meaning. For the confessions are subject to the interpretation of the churches in question (e.g. the general assembly).

Take the recent debate, in the OPC and PCA over the days of Genesis in the Westminster Standards.

“Secondly, on Sola Scriptura, the original intent of uninspired writer doesn’t ultimately obligate the reader, but it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t obligate the reader at all in the context of their church’s teaching.”

Only insofar as their church’s teaching corresponds to the teaching of Scripture. We are never obligated to believe falsehood. Indeed, we’re obligated to disbelieve falsehood. We are only obligated to believe truth.

“Assuming a Protestant Ecclesiology that is true. Have Reformed Churches revised or redefined their Creeds and Confessions on the Filioque? No. So this is irrelevant and hand waving.”

To the contrary, it’s directly relevant to the way in which you chose to frame the issue. You made original intent the issue, then had a fit at the suggestion that Reformed churches could redefine Confessional usage. Now you’re shifting ground to the admission that, yes, they’re entitled to do so, but don’t. That’s a different objection. You’re not debating in good faith, Perry.

“If the authority of the Creeds and Confessions are derivative, then so is their ability to obligate.”

And how does that rebut what I said? It doesn’t.

“Moreover, dissenting from them in this case only concedes that Confessions are inconsistent since they violate their own principles regarding the doctrine of God.”

It “concedes” the fallibility of an uninspired creed. That was always in the cards.

“True, but I fail to see that it follows that it is dispensible on a whim either on that basis.”

“On a whim” is a malicious mischaracterization of what I said. Did I ever say or suggest that a worshipper is entitled to dissent from the creed (or confession) on a “whim”? No. I made Scripture the criterion. Once again, you’re not debating in good faith.

“The former remarks do not license dispensing with Confessional doctrines just on the basis of individual dissent.”

The authority of Scripture licenses Christians to dissent from anything contrary to Scripture. That’s a standing policy. We don’t need a special dispensation to do that.

“That is to say that the fact that such language is not sacrosanct or completely unrevisable doesn’t entail that dissenters are in a position to argue that the Confessions don’t have the meaning of their original intenders.”

You’re conflating distinct issues. Take, once again, the recent case regarding the days of Genesis.

It was admitted that the Westminster Divines probably meant calendar days. The general assembly then decided that their understanding isn’t binding on contemporary Presbyterians.

“Moreover, I find it not a bit amusing that you have to play the skeptical card about knowing what your Confessions teach in order to try to evade the criticism.”

Once again, I’m just answering you on your own grounds and, once again, you’re not debating in good faith.

You raised general issues regarding the relationship between meaning and intent, as well as the specific interpretation of Confessional language on double procession.

It isn’t “playing the sceptical card” for me to point out that the “meaning of meaning” is a very complicated issue in hermeneutics and philosophy of language. Unqualified appeal to “original intent” is simplistic.

“Is the Filioque language functioning different now in the way the WCF and LBC is taught and believed than centuries ago? No. This is a diversion.”

From what I can tell it’s functioning differently now since there are contemporary Reformed theologians who only defend economic procession.

For you to call that a “diversion” reflects your evident ignorant of the current theological landscape.

“Nor have you established that there has been such an alteration.”

I just did. However, I don’t have to establish an alteration since this is your hobbyhorse, not mine.

“But it is also true that they are pen-ultimately obligated by their Confessions on pain of Sola Scriptura reducing to ‘Solo” Scriptura’.”

Now you’re revisiting the issue of Mathison’s paradigm, which you debated over at Green Baggins.

I don’t operate with Mathison’s paradigm. And I responded at length to your comments at Green Baggins. So you’re barking up the wrong tree.

“A supreme authority doesn’t render all subsidiary authorities void as you well know.”

It’s subsidiary because it’s conditional. The obligation is contingent on its correspondence with revealed truth.

“What is to the point is whether you made your elders aware before your admission to membership and they permitted it or after your admission supposing your view changed some time in the past. If you haven’t done so, then the fact that you haven’t made a secret about this view isn’t really to the point.”

Once again, you’re assuming facts not in evidence.

“What it means or what he takes it to mean?”

In terms of what a worshipper mentally affirms in his profession of the creed, his understanding controls the affirmation.

“Perhaps if I bring something up again it s because your replies were unclear and I am seeking clarification rather than calling you stupid or asking you fallacious complex questions. Or perhaps I wasn’t persuaded that your reply actually addressed the issue and I wish to revisit it to highlight how utterly lame and hobbled it was. That too is possible.”

When you demand answers, and I give you detailed answers, then a few months later you pose the same questions all over again with no acknowledgement of the answers, then you’re not entitled to the benefit of the doubt. If you think my answers were unsatisfactory, then it’s up to you to spell out in what way they were deficient or unresponsive to your questions.

Instead, you simply repeat the same accusatorial questions to reinforce a false impression.

“If I made a mistake its not necessarily due to some deliberate attempt to deceive. It would be helpful to refrain from making personal attacks in this way and just point out a mistake.”

Try leading by example.

“Second, I’ll give you a chance to clarify in the interests of communication. Is it your position that the eternal hypostatic generation taught in the WCF and the LBF is either not in fact taught in those documents, or if it is, that it is in fact justifiable and derivable from Scripture alone?”

i) The framers probably meant to teach hypostatic procession. Having said that, I’d add that it’s a rather perfunctory, pro forma repetition of traditional Latin theology.

ii) IMO, it’s not justifiable/derivable from Scripture.

iii) However, you’re also trying to skew the question as if the really important issue is one of internal consistency. Wrong!

Every theological tradition is obligated to be scriptural, whether or not it acknowledges that obligation.

“If so, what principled difference on that point is there between your position and ‘Solo’ Scriptura?”

“Solo scriptura” is Mathison’s polemical caricature.

i) A Christian should take the history of interpretation into consideration when he interprets the Bible. He should give various representatives of various traditions a fair hearing.

ii) Ultimately, though, he should go with whoever has the best argument to support his interpretation (unless our Christian has an even better interpretation of his own, which is sometimes possible).

The appeal to authority, confessional or otherwise, is illegitimate to constrain our interpretation of Scripture. The only interpretations which enjoy that right-of-way are cases in which one Bible writer interprets another.

iii) A creed or minister has the authority of truth. If what he/it says is true, that’s authoritative by virtue of the truth. If what he/it says is false, then it has no authority.

iv) The clergy are not in a class apart from the laity. The clergy have, at most, the authority of an expert witness. I could say more, but I’ve already said more at other times, and I don’t care to repeat myself.

“Do you mean to say that it is not your view that you don’t bear some responsibility and your church likewise to protest false doctrines about God within it?”

i) To begin with, I don’t automatically view the church down the street as “my church” while the church up the street is not “my church.” I’m not that sectarian or partisan in my view of what constitutes the church or Christian fellowship.

ii) Apropos (i) I think the true church is distributed in a number of denominations, local churches, and independent churches.

iii) Likewise, I don’t confine the notion of Christian fellowship to a particular denomination or doctrinal unanimity.

iv) Finally, I never thought you had to be in total agreement with the theological posture of a denomination (to take one example) to belong to a church. That’s not a reasonable or realistic expectation.

It’s a very naïve or chauvinistic Christian who imagines that his church or denomination can do no wrong. Christians who labor under that childish misconception need to be disabused.

Belonging to a church does not, or should not, carry with it the assumption or expectation that their eyes and ears will be shielded from all possibility of error. We always need to be vigilant. We are not entitled to subcontract our Christian duties to the hired help, so that we can coast.

I’d add that a Christian’s duty varies with his aptitude and opportunities.

“If you dissent from your own Confession, were you received into that body with knowledge of the dissenting views and permission to be said member and to dissent?”

i) You’re assuming that, because I’m a Calvinist, I’d only consider affiliating with a Calvinist church. That’s a false assumption.

ii) You’re also making assumptions about my position on formal church membership.

iii) The Westminster Confession is not “my own Confession.” It’s not like a marriage certificate with my signature.

I’m a Calvinist because I’m a Biblicist–not vice versa.

“Even if this were true of all Reformed bodies as Gene wishes to inform me, it doesn’t follow that they aren’t a condition of ordination or membership, so more hand waving here.”

You’re equivocating. Strict subscription to the Confession (e.g. WCF, LBCF) is not a condition of membership. Not even a condition of ordination (to my knowledge).

“Perhaps I am forgetful. Perhaps not, but I fail to see how that licenses more insulting and rude remarks. Why are you so rude and disrespectful Steve?”

i) You make very presumptuous statements about Calvinism without, apparently, informing yourself.

ii) For years now, you’ve been doing your best to undermine Christian faith in the sufficiency and authority of God’s word so that Christians will put their faith in your denomination. That’s a very heinous thing to do.

“Now let’s take Helm. Did you show that Helm rejects the Filioque?”

He discusses the issue in Calvin’s Ideas as well as Calvin: A Guide for the Perplexed. This includes an exposition of Calvin’s position as well as Helm’s personal evaluation.

“Did you show that it isn’t just something he wrote as part of a philosophical discussion of a matter but was instead something that he brought up before his elders prior to or after his admission as a member or elder of his church? Not that I remember.”

I brought it up in the context of Reformed theology’s internal development and capacity for self-criticism. I didn’t bring in up in the context of church membership, which is your hobbyhorse, not mine.

“Perhaps if you did, you can copy paste it for me. The same goes for Kelly.”

i) No, I’m not going to manually transcribe pages of material. I have other responsibilities. And you’d reject anything out of hand that doesn’t play into your preconceived agenda.

ii) Kelly’s primary discussion is in the appendix to chap. 9 of his Systematic Theology, vol. 1.

“You admit then that the doctrine is inconsistent with Scripture itself.”

I also “admit” that the Orthodox alternative is inconsistent with Scripture itself. However, that’s an irreformable error whereas there are Reformed theologians who are making the necessary adjustments to our own position.

“My aim in pointing out that it can’t be derived from Scripture Alone was to first point out that it is inconsistent with a claim of Sola Scriptura and that both ideas are taught in the Confessions.”

No. Your aim was to suggest that lack of conformity to sola Scriptura discredits Calvinism while leaving Orthodoxy untouched.

“By the same reasoning, the Confessional upholding of Sola Scriptura and the Filioque makes the Confessions and their subscribers inconsistent and culpable.”

Inculpating the Westminster Divines on one arcane issue does nothing to exculpate Orthodoxy on a whole raft of other issues. It’s like the difference between a flesh wound and a mortal wound.

“If Scripture teaches Sola Scriptura, then doesn’t it follow that to be inconsistent with Sola Scriptura is to be inconsistent with Scripture?”

To be inconsistent with Scripture is bad however you arrive at your inconsistency.

“In any case the Confessional adherence to the filioque is inconsistent with the adherence to Sola Scriptura. Consequently the Confessions and their subscribers are in the wrong.”

You don’t make yourself look good by trying to make the other guy look bad. The Orthodox are also wrong on the filioque, but just in a different way. What is more, they are wrong on just about everything the WCF got right. So that’s a sorry consolation for you to clasp to your breast.

“True enough, but we already know that you think I fall into probably the latter and I don’t. Not very informative and not really relevant.”

You tried to skew the issues. I’m righting the scales.

“This is rather evasive.”

When you indulge in a hypothetical fishing-expedition, I refuse to take the bait.

“I’ve already shown that this isn’t a common default position between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.”

A failed attempt, as I demonstrated.

“Only God obligates you, but apparently not to reform your own Confession’s false doctrines about the divine nature.”

i) I’m flattered by your boundless confidence in my authority to unilaterally revise the Confession, but your confidence is misplaced.

ii) Moreover, something can simply become a dead letter through neglect.

“Moreover, your insults do not over turn what I claimed what is of primary importance. They fail to act as an argument demonstrating that the primary importance is something other than internal consistency with one’s theological tradition.”

i) You didn’t argue for your claim. You merely asserted that to be the case. Therefore, I don’t need to present a counterargument.

ii) And, in any case, I’ve argued for the authority of Scripture on numerous occasions. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel for your benefit.

“Furthermore, this concedes that the issue has not been consistency with Scripture, but within the Confessions and between their teachings Sola Scriptura and the Filioque.”

No, it corrects your attempt to skew the issue in a way that exempts Orthodoxy.

“Thirdly, certainly the primary issue isn’t less than the consistency of the Confessions.”

Now you’re equivocating.

“Secondly, if its principles are in fact that it is to be faithful to the word of God and also not faithful to it, then it becomes a primary issue.”

Once again, you’re reducing theology to a language game where the “primary issue” is to play by the rules–and the cardinal sin is to break the rule.

But, no, that’s not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether or not we play by God’s rules.

“This assumes that Sola Scripture can’t be rejected instead of rejecting the other doctrine that it is inconsistent with.”

Sola Scriptura isn’t just another doctrine. Rather, it represents the source and standard of doctrine. You’re committing a level-confusion.

“But that would seem to make the Confessions non-revisable and rather infallible with regard to SS.”

No. The proper comparison is not between sola Scriptura and other doctrines, but between one rule of faith and another rule of faith.

That is a preliminary question of theological method (or prolegomena). Once that is settled, other things flow from that principium.

“Right, and the Creedal and Confessional usage is unacceptable because its usage is contrary to Johanine usage. So saying that the language is justifiable was really hand waving…”

No it wasn’t “really hand-waving” since you and I had different referents. I was talking about the Nicene Creed whereas you were talking about the WCF or LBCF. Try to keep track of the argument. You keep imputing your own referents to me, then generating a specious inconsistency.

“You knew this as well as I did. For some reason it took you about 40-50 pages of text to say as much.”

You still have your wires crossed. I was talking about the recitation of the filioque in public worship. In my experience, that always takes the form of the Nicene Creed.

You then brought up the WCF in the context of candidacy for membership, as if strict subscription is a condition for membership. If anyone’s guilty of hand-waving, that would be you.

“As you instructed me, please do not apply your faulty theological assumptions to my own view. So I simply dismiss your claim about fallible Orthodox Creeds.”

Naturally you don’t accept that. But since you like to keep your thumb on the scales, I’ll continue to correct the imbalance.

“Now suppose we just eliminate the Filioque.”

And while we’re at it, suppose we just eliminate the Orthodox church.

“On the Reformed Confessional view, the persons are distinguished by real relations of opposition. The Father is ingenerate, the Son begotten and the Spirit proceeds. What then is the difference between being begotten and procession? How will the two persons be distinguished without the Filioqueist relation of opposition? I’d suggest that the only way out is to further reject the notion enshrined in the Confessions that the persons are distinguished by relations of opposition. So that’s another part of the Trinitarian theology that can’t be supported by Scripture Alone not to mention becomes irrational and arbitrary. So a rejection of the Filioque for this and other reasons I will eventually bring to bear isn’t as innocuous and easy to do as you suggest.”

i) We don’t need to postulate a principle of individuation. We can just accept the Trinity as a revealed truth.

ii) Moreover, these aren’t real principles of individuation. Terms like “paternity,” “filiation,” and “spiration” aren’t truly principles of individuation. Rather, they merely paraphrase the names of the three Trinitarian persons. Linguistic tautologies or disguised descriptions.

Likewise, terms such as “generation” and “procession” are metaphors. “Generation” is a sexual metaphor while “procession” is a locomotive metaphor. And ingenerate is just a negation of the sexual metaphor.

“As for playing dumb, blame Socrates. And no, the language is not Scriptural for the Scriptures never say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. It isn’t a paraphrase. It’s a philosophical doctrine that went looking for a few biblical terms. The scripture says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and that the Son in the history of the world sends the Spirit. So I am not willing to concede that the language is scriptural.”

Jn 14:26 says the Father “sends” the Spirit. Jn 15:26 says the Son “sends” the Spirit while the Spirit “proceeds” (KJV) from the Father. So “sending” and “proceeding” are treated as synonymous actions.

In the Latinate diction of the KJV, “proceed” is simply an English derivative of the Latin word for “sent forth.”

This isn’t philosophical jargon. It’s ordinary language. And metaphorical language at that. Picturesque metaphors which depict the passage from one place to another.

“Now, if the meaning is the issue, then the wording doesn’t matter. Bringing it up is a red herring.”

You’ve made a big deal about the wording of Reformed confessions. If that’s a red herring, then you’re the fisherman.

“If the meaning is the issue then with respect to a reader it isn’t context dependent and variable relative to that reader. It has a meaning fixed regardless of how the reader takes it.”

Thanks for illustrating your crude, unscholarly grasp of the issues.

“And by protest I mean something along the lines of sitting down with your elders and arguing that it should be dropped from the Confessions, going to requisite meetings where such legislation can be drafted and proposed for a vote and then argue for it.”

Don’t be silly. Such piecemeal change would be next to worthless. To make a real difference, it would need to be top-down, not local.

“I didn’t know that your stated positions here amounted to the proper channels and contexts within your own church for airing such things.”

“Proper channels?” There is no divinely mandated process or procedure to follow. Hence, it’s not incumbent on me to follow “proper channels,” since that’s an imaginary construct on your part.

“Moreover, when you say “amen” at the end of the Creed it implies your belief in the statements made in the creed and a measure of loyalty to the teachings those statements express.”

That’s not a blank check.

“Confessing that one holds to the Creeds carries with it the implicit idea that one holds to the meanings given to those words at the formulation so it strikes me as a bit disingenuous to say that ‘Our church holds to the Creeds’ when in fact they hold to a new interpretation of the Creeds at various points.”

Since you’re putting words in my mouth which I’ve never used, I’ll just point out that the ventriloquist does a lousy job of lip-synching.

“If the ordinand has to state disagreements with the WCF then it seems that the WCF is a standard and requires some significant measure of subscription and obligation in order for ordination.”

i) It doesn’t require strict subscription.

ii) And there’s an obvious difference between voluntarily assuming an obligation, and having an obligation imposed on one unilaterally. In a contract, both parties voluntarily assume a mutual obligation.

“Actually this is false.”

Actually this is true.

“Actually this is false. It is false for a few reasons. First, generation on the Latin model is applied to both Son and Spirit, of which begotten and spiration are types. This is not so on the Orthodox model where each is sui generis. Second, its not so since on the Latin (Catholic and Protestant) the persons are distinguished by relations of opposition. This is not so on the Orthodox model. Third, the Latin model, (Catholic and Protestant) assume God is self subsisting being, which the Orthodox deny since God is huper ousia.”

That’s just a case of tweaking the same basic paradigm. Since you seem unable to recognize the paradigm, here it is:

One divine person originates another divine person.

Both the Greek church and the Latin church operate within that framework. Their respective positions represent minor variants on the same chassis. Thanks for proving my point.

“If Calvin made a correction, then its strange that Calvin teaches the Filioque or so it seems to me.”

Let’s compare your pseudoresponse with what I actually said. I said:

“I think Calvin made a significant midcourse correction with his insight on the autotheistic character of the Trinitarian persons, and I agree with subsequent Reformed theologians like Warfield, Frame, and Helm who’ve been developing a more thoroughgoing formulation of Calvin’s corrective.”

Notice my follow-up statement about other Reformed theologians developing a more thoroughgoing formulation of his corrective. Didn’t you read that far? Or is this another memory lapse on your part?

By implication, Calvin didn’t carry it through in a thoroughgoing fashion. But he redirected the discussion (as in “midcourse correction”). Others have followed his lead, and taken it a step further.

“The paradigm as you gloss it also would include Protestantism.”

So what? Protestant theology is not above correction. The difference is that Catholic/Orthodox traditions involve irreformable errors, whereas residual errors in Protestant theology are reformable.

“Second, the relative terms mean substantially different things between models. You’d need to show that they carry the same meaning between both, which you haven’t and can’t.”

Except that I can, and do so quite easily (see below).

“Latin model-One person acts to generate two others where generation can be applied to both subsequent others. Orthodox model-One person acts to generate another person and the first person processes a third person. There is no common notion of generation between the two on the Orthodox model. Your usage of ‘originates’ presupposes the Latin usage of procedit.”

Wrong. I’ve used several different synonyms. What both models have in common is the generic principle that one person is the source or cause of another person. Terms like ‘generation’ and ‘procession’ are metaphorical ways to gloss or narrow the generic notion of production, causality or source of origin.

And “originate” doesn’t presuppose the Latin “procedit.” Just study the range of usage.

“First, it is interesting that you have to appeal doctrinal development rather than straight up exegesis.”

i) That’s because we’re discussing historical theology rather than exegetical theology. Creeds and confessions. So, yes, historical theology is subject to development.

ii) And I didn’t “appeal” to doctrinal development to justify said development, now did I? You’re the one who wants to talk about historical Reformed theology in reference to the filioque. So, given how you cast the terms of the debate, then it’s relevant to compare past and present views on the filioque. Try to follow your own argument.

iii) Moreover, it’s quite possible for Protestant doctrinal development to converge on exegesis. Indeed, there’s nothing surprising or shocking about the idea that, as time goes on, Protestant theology refines its theological formulations to prune away any residual, unscriptural traditions which it may have inherited from the ancient or medieval church.

You know that, but pretend not to so that you can act surprised and scandalized at the fact.

“If so, then its an implication you have yet to present. If so, its an implication that not only Calvin, but plenty of past and present Reformed theologians have missed. That’s possible, but without a demonstration of how we get from the ascription of autotheos to a denial of the Filioque it seems to be merely an assertion.”

i) I don’t know what modern and/or contemporary Reformed theologians you have read. And there doesn’t need to be consensus on the issue to prove my point since I didn’t claim consensus. One rarely has consensus on anything in theology, as you yourself recently admitted.

ii) Moreover, since you yourself deny the filioque, why do you think it’s incumbent on me to disprove it?

iii) I don’t have to make a case one way or the other. That isn’t my cause in life. I’m simply responding to you. That doesn’t mean you set the agenda.

“As for your insults, again it strikes me that you simply can’t write without insulting others.”

No. It depends on the conduct of the disputant.

“Do you think this advances your argument in some way?”

You have no interest in advancing the argument. Your only interest is to advance your agenda.

So even though I specifically and explicitly qualified my statement, your comment ignored my qualifications so that you could play to the galleries.

“Do you prefer to be spoken to in an insulting manner rather than a civil and respectful way?”

You’re not a respectful opponent. You’re only looking for a gotcha moment.

“There is no generic notion of causality to be had here.”

i) Your distinction between procession and generation does nothing to salvage your argument since these are hairsplitting attempts to distinguish between different kinds of production, causation or origination (pick your synonym).

ii) Moreover, the fact that you use different words doesn’t amount to a conceptual difference. It’s just a rhetorical disguise.

“Sure, its possible, but its also quite possible for Protestant doctrinal development not to converge on exegesis, which is why I asked for an exegetical basis.”

I don’t have to provide an exegetical basis for something I’m not defending in the first place.

This is the silly game you play. You pretend that you’re maneuvering your opponent into a “shocking” admission. Then, when he makes the “shocking” admission, you claim victory.

But I was never playing by your rules in the first place. You’re just using other people as a mirror to see your own reflection.

“And given that the Protestant bodies are fallible, its quite possible that the “refining process” is actually an apostasy process.”

Yes, it’s possible for Protestant denominations to commit apostasy. Another one of the truisms you repackage as if that’s a shocking admission.

And the Orthodox church is hardly exempt from the same process. Indeed, it’s pretty far down the downward spiral.

God saves people, not denominations.

“As for pruning away residual unscriptural traditions which they inherited from the ancient or medieval church, lets take the Filioque. Its been five hundred years and no pruning from the Confessions.”

As for pruning away central unscriptural traditions which they inherited from the ancient or medieval church, lets take iconolatry. It’s been twelve hundred years since 2nd Nicea, and no pruning from the Orthodox gardener.

What’s worse, there’s not even progress in that direction.

“Moreover when I ask you or others what you’re doing about it, you just pass the buck with remarks to the effect that you’re not an elder…”

This is your last-ditch demagoguery, which you keep harping on. It’s not a principled argument.

Rather, it’s just an ad hominem attack, a veiled charge of hypocrisy–despite the fact that you fake adhorrence at ad hominem attacks.

It also reflects a your deficient grasp of ethics and ecclesiology alike.

i) Every prima facie obligation isn’t equally obligatory. There are more prima facie duties than it’s humanly possible for an individual to discharge. So we have to prioritize. In case of conflict, higher duties supersede lower obligations.

ii) Apropos (i), there’s a distinction between individual duties and corporate duties.

iii) Apropos (ii), the church has many different members. They don’t have interchangeable obligations (e.g. 1 Cor 12).

“I didn’t argue that you needed consensus but on any given issues there is usually in a given tradition a small number of theologians that dissent. They then have their followers over time, and often it never amounts to anything more than a handful of dissenters whereas the tradition as a whole remains unchanged.”

I’m not talking about Hans Küng-style dissenters. I’m talking about mainstream diversity among representative theologians.

“So you are saying that it isn’t incumbent upon you to disprove and argue against doctrines professed by other Christians that you belief are unscriptural?”

I guess I need to explain the obvious to you. By definition, someone who identifies with one theological tradition finds far less to object to in his own tradition than alternative traditions. By definition, a Calvinist will have far less (if anything) to criticize in Reformed theology than others traditions which are opposed to Reformed theology in one respect or another.

So you’re trying to trump up an absurd dilemma. If, on the one hand, a Calvinist is in lockstep with every jot and tittle of, say, the Westminster Confession, then you’ll accuse him of being a blind partisan. If, on the other hand, a Calvinist expresses any whiff of disagreement, then you act as though he’s leading a double life.

So you’re not attempting to debate in good faith. Rather, it’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition.

“I would think that doing so in your own backyard would be even more paramount.”

In the nature of the case, I’m pretty satisfied with my own backyard. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be my own backyard. If I wasn’t fairly content with my theological backyard, I’d adopt a theological tradition with a more agreeable backyard. Thanks for the tautology.

“But given your dodginess and apparent recalcitrance to do so...”

You’re just frustrated because I refuse to step into your silly little trap.

“If you don’t have to make a case one way or the other, then I suppose you think that members of the priesthood of all believers is somehow stratified.”

Doesn’t have to be stratified for different believers to have different duties according to their time and talents.

“Your pattern of dealing with people seems fairly consistent in being demeaning, belittling and insulting.”

Due to the kind of people I generally have to deal with.

“Perhaps it is the one type of argument I use. It has proven quite effective.”

Quite effective with unsophisticated opponents. This time you miscalculated.

“Let’s suppose you’re right for the moment…”

You’re making progress! By all means, continue in the same direction!

“Fine, it is still the case that Calvinists are practically inconsistent.”

That’s true of every Christian who ever lived. So your objection either proves too much or too little.

“Now if we carry through with the moral analogy it seems to be not a practical problem, but a moral problem since your churches are now morally culpable for teaching a false view of the Trinity.”

False teaching is morally culpable. And there’s no major theological tradition which comes close to avoiding its occurrence. At most, some traditions claim to restrict its occurrence in a few special cases (e.g. ecumenical councils).

And theological traditions which make infallibilist claims for themselves are morally culpable, not only for all their other errors, but for the error of their infallibilist claims.

“Further, the Confessions as putting forth a system of doctrine are inconsistent at the level of the system that they advance. The inclusion of the Filioque is as a conceptual matter inconsistent with another part of the system. In so far as the system says explicitly that all doctrines have to be justified on the basis of Scripture alone and also implicitly teaches that not all doctrines need to be, there is a logical problem.”

Sola Scriptura isn’t just another doctrine. It’s a rule of faith. It represents the source and standard of doctrine. You’re committing a level confusion.

As I said before, lack of consistency with a standard or criterion is not the same thing as internal consistency. No more so than ethical inconsistency in general. If an ethicist is personally inconsistent, does that mean his system of ethics is internally (i.e. logically) inconsistent? Hardly.

“So Protestants will need to pick between their traditional doctrine of God and the formal principle of the Reformation.”

i) That scarcely presents a dire dilemma for Protestants. Since our doctrine of God was always subject to Scripture, there’s not tension between these two commitments. If some aspect of our traditional formulation is defective, then it’s not a big deal to reformulate it accordingly.

ii) Keep in mind that the traditional formulation in Calvinism is already far more accurate than the Orthodox formulation.

“So even if everything Steve said was true regarding the one criteria I discussed for a council to be ecumenical I think his position is in far worse shape. At least I don’t have to admit that my Church teaches a false doctrine of the Trinity.”

i) So what if Perry doesn’t admit that his church teaches a false doctrine of the Trinity? Does the LDS church admit that it teaches a false doctrine of the Trinity?

ii) In fact, its far worse to have a defective doctrine of not, and not admit it, than have the freedom to admit a problem, if there is one, so that you can take steps to correct it.


  1. Steve Hays: "You’re just frustrated because I refuse to step into your silly little trap."

    Heh, heh. I Love It!!

    Folks have also tried to get me to step into their "silly little traps" and when I outsmarted them, they then became frustrated and resorted to ad hominem name-calling to the bellicose jeers from their gallery of sychophants.

  2. This recent post about the Eastern Orthodox Church also has the phrase "Byzantine intrigue" in it, and is written by someone who's been a member of the EOC for 5 years.

    Here's an excerpt (do read it all):

    "This is not a unified body of believers that contains the “fullness of the faith”. This is a fractured denomination split along national and ethnic lines. It is rife with “Byzantine intrigues” and power politics. Maintaining the status quo and acquiring political power and influence are the hallmarks of the EOC, particularly in former communist states.

    The EOC in North Americas is comprised of many jurisdictions and is primarily a Church for immigrants. Most “converts” are dissatisfied Protestants not new believers. The EOC in North America does not like to proselytize, it is close-knit and clannish. The Church is obsessed with maintaining the cultural and ethnic heritage of it’s immigrant members not spreading the Gospel.

    Unlike Protestant Churches who instruct Christians to apply the teachings of our Lord in their daily lives; the Orthodox Christian’s life revolves around participation in the liturgy which is highly ritualistic and filled with mysticism. Consequently, most Orthodox do not have a clear understanding of the scriptures or of the full meaning of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Many can quote chapter and verse from the teachings of the Early Church Fathers, or from the lives of various of “saints” however, if you ask them to back up these teachings with Scripture they are hard pressed."

  3. When this happened:

    "[T]hey then became frustrated and resorted to ad hominem name-calling to the bellicose jeers from their gallery of sychophants."

    That was ROFLOL!

  4. "suppose we just eliminate the Orthodox church".

    I suppose there would be less iconolatry then?