Before I respond to some specific comments, I’ll make a general observation. It shouldn’t be necessary to point this out, but some people habitually ignore the obvious.
God hasn’t seen fit to ensure that representatives of his church invariably teach the truth. Even if you inhabit the charmed cuckooland of Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, those bodies, despite their affectations to sporadic infallibility in some official pronouncement or another, don’t claim to offer an infallible blueprint for everything the faithful are taught in church.
Take the millennium. To my knowledge, neither the Orthodox church nor the Catholic church has staked out an official position on the millennium (e.g. amil, premil, postmil). If a priest or bishop preaches a homily on some passage from the lectionary which implicates the millennium, then he will have to interpret the passage accordingly. And his interpretation will either be right or wrong. There is more than one available interpretation. And they can’t all be right.
Or take all the borderline cases in ethics. There is no infallible blueprint that gives the answer for every conceivable contingency. So if you go to your priest for advice, then there are times when he will give you bad advice. Just consider the different schools of casuistry in Roman Catholicism. And Orthodoxy would be confronted with the same issues.
So even if you’re Catholic or Orthodox, it’s still the case, on your own ecclesiology, that your priest or bishop teaches falsehood from time to time. They are not infallible. They make mistakes. They misinterpret Scripture–or tradition. Or, in many cases, there is not received answer to give you.
Error is part and parcel of living in a fallen world. But in every generation you have some perfectionists to presume to be more pious than God. They are scandalized by God’s administration of the world.
“Do words have meaning?”
They have assigned meanings.
“Do they have a history?”
Yes. And by the same token, their meanings can evolve over time.
“And is there such a thing as original intent?”
See my post:
“If it’s a term of art then the words pick out a certain meaning and so the words can’t be employed apart from that meaning in that text without ignorance.”
But ignorance is quite germane to what somebody mentally affirms when he recites a creed.
“Or a deliberate putting aside of the original intent.”
i) There’s nothing inherently wrong with setting aside original intent. While original intent is important to the historical meaning of a text, the original intent of an uninspired writer doesn’t obligate the reader. An uninspired writer doesn’t have that unilateral authority over the reader.
ii) If churches produce creeds, then churches can revise or redefine creeds.
This is not the Bible. The authority of a creed is, at best, derivative. It derives whatever authority it enjoys from its conformity to Scripture.
There is nothing sacrosanct about the original intent of a creed–not to mention of the ambiguities of original intent in reference to composite authorship.
Original intent is an important element in telling you what it meant at the time it was written. But how it functions in the life of the church centuries later may be different.
“Moreover, I don’t have to appeal to the Creed, I can appeal to plenty of Reformed Confessions.”
Fine. Of course, that’s shifting the discussion from the original point of reference (the Nicene Creed). I was discussing the public recitation of the filioque. In every church service I’ve ever attended in my far-flung experience, the Nicene creed is the vehicle by which the filioque is recited in public worship.
“Moreover, the ignorance of a reader isn’t relevant.”
It’s relevant to what the reader mentally affirms and thereby professes.
“Nor is whether a reader could reconstruct the doctrine from the words alone.”
It is in reference to the document I was discussing from the get go.
“So its reductionistic to take a documents’ usage of terms in the way its authors intended?”
For reasons I’ve given, that’s simplistic:
And you’ve offered no counterargument. You merely huff and puff.
Actually, I’m little surprised that somebody with Perry’s level of education is so naïve about hermeneutics and philosophy of language.
“So the average church member is bound only by what he knows phrases stand for in Reformed Confessions?”
Properly speaking, Christians are obligated by Scripture alone. They are only bound by a creed insofar as that creed faithfully reproduces the teaching of Scripture.
“And is he unconsciously substituting one meaning for the other?”
What it means to him depends on his level of knowledge.
“And do you consciously substitute one for the other…”
I’ve already discussed my own practice. Why are you so chronically forgetful? Do you drink too much? Is that it? Do you suffer from blackouts? Does that account for your chronic inability to remember what I’ve said?
“Since you admit that the Reformed Confessions teach a doctrine not found in or derivable from Scripture alone?”
Which is not what I’ve said. That manages to combine a gross oversimplification of what I actually said along with your bait-and-switch.
“So are you suggesting that the intent of the framer of the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession fail to obligate the worshiper when they teach an eternal hypostatic generation?”
Framers don’t obligate readers. Only God has that prerogative.
“If your foremost obligation is to God, isn’t this all the more reason to protest false doctrines about God in your own church? And does your church expect you to abide by the teaching?”
My view of the church is not that proprietary or parochial.
“Did you object to it when you went through the procedures for membership?”
You’re making breeze assumptions without a foundation in fact.
“Are the Confessions a condition for ordination or membership?”
Not in terms of strict subscription. How can you say you used to be a Calvinist and not know these things? For how long were you a Calvinist? Two weeks?
“As for the rest, again, do you know or can you give any significant examples where the Reformed have permitted widespread difference on the Filioqueist construal of the Trinity?”
You have a forgetful habit of repeating questions I’ve already answered in the past. Why is that, Perry? Why do you have such a poor memory?
To take one example, compare Douglas Kelly’s position with Paul Helm’s.
“If you say that the Filioque isn’t justifiable in light of Sola Scriptura but you are able to dissent, then this just admits the internal inconsistency-the Reformed teach Sola Scriptura and doctrines which are not derivable from Scripture alone. So the point has been conceded.”
You’re trying to recast the issue. The fundamental issue isn’t lack of consistency with sola Scriptura, but lack of consistency with Scripture itself.
The issue is the degree to which any theological tradition is fully compliant with the teaching of Scripture, not the degree to which it’s fully compliant with the tenet of sola Scriptura.
For example, both Catholicism and Orthodoxy deny sola Scriptura, but their denial of that tenet, while culpable in its own right, hardly excuses their lack of conformity to Scripture itself.
It is wrong to be inconsistent with sola Scriptura, but it’s equally wrong to be consistent with a position which denies sola Scriptura. And it’s equally wrong to be inconsistent with Scripture itself.
A wrongful consistency is no better than a wrongful inconsistency. Indeed, it’s far worse. For a wrongful consistency is systematically false.
Even if the historic Reformed tradition shares an error in common with Catholicism and Orthodox on this particular issue (i.e. the Father as the fons deitas), they lack any of the compensatory benefits. In that case, it would be wrong on one of the same things they are wrong on without either of them being right on all the other things it got right.
“So if it functions like a contract, are people pen-ultimately bound by Confessions they profess adherence to when they teach the Filioque?”
There’s not much point answering a purely hypothetical question unless you think it corresponds to a typical, real life situation.
“And even if not, do you admit that the WCF and the LBC teach a doctrine concerning the very nature of God that is extra-biblical?”
I’d say that in this particular respect they default to an unscriptural paradigm which is common to both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
“The primary importance is if the Filioque doctrine as professed in the WCF and the LBC is derivable from Scripture alone or not.”
No, that’s not the issue of primary importance. Because you’re a man-pleaser who belongs to a theological tradition which deifies man-made traditions, you make internal consistency with one’s theological tradition the primary issue. But that’s symptomatic of your ecclesiolatrous orientation.
The primary issue is not whether a theological tradition is faithful to its own principles, but whether it’s faithful to the word of God.
Any theological tradition, regardless of its formal acceptance or rejection of sola scriptura is culpable in case one or more of its doctrines is inconsistent with Scripture. If a theological tradition rejects sola Scriptura, then that’s just one more strike against it. A theological tradition which is internally consistent with its repudiation of sola Scriptura is more culpable, not less so, than a theological tradition which rightly affirms sola Scriptura, but fails to consistently implement that rule of faith.
“Arian wording is scripturally justifiable too. Jesus is the “firstborn of creation” and the like. Does that imply it is acceptable? Obviously not.”
It’s unacceptable because it defines the phrase contrary to Pauline usage, and Pauline usage is normative since Pauline usage is inspired usage.
“Hence it fails to map the biblical teaching.”
True. And at that point the worshipper has both the right and the obligation to mentally affirm what the Bible teaches–regardless of creedal intent.
“Again, the target is the Reformed Confessions, so switching to the Nicene Creed is no help.”
I was alluding to the Nicene creed all along, so I didn’t suddenly switch to that frame of reference.
“The question is about what Reformed bodies teach, not whether the papally approved language inserted into the Nicene Creed is acceptable on its face. You’ve mistakenly substituted one question for the other.”
Actually, the real question concerns our obligation to cohere with the teaching of Scripture. That’s a question for Calvinists, and no less a question for Catholics or Orthodox.
“If the Reformed Confession is fallible and in error about the doctrine of God, don’t you think it should be reformed…”
Creeds should be updated, as necessary, to align or realign them with Scripture. That applies to fallible Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox creeds as well.
Or course, Catholic and Orthodox sources (e.g. Trent, Vatican II, 2nd Nicea, The Confession of Dositheus) may be so error-ridden that it’s better to start from scratch.
“Isn’t the question not what they currently think, but what the Confessions teach?”
To a great extent it’s a question of emphasis. The filioque is hardly central to Reformed identity. And that’s reflected in seminary education.
“The language is scriptural?”
Don’t play dumb. It’s an English translation of a Latin paraphrase of Johannine passages like Jn 14:26 & 15:26.
“And retaining the wording is tantamount to retention of the unscriptural doctrine…”
Not if the wording is a paraphrase of Scripture.
“So the answer to the question of whether the Reformed Confessions teach a doctrine which is justifiable from Scripture alone is person variable and context dependent? What amazing documents these must be!”
Are you trying to be dense? You posed a general question about whether the “wording is the issue or the meaning.”
That’s not a simple issue in hermeneutics and philosophy of language.
“You should agree that you should protest it.”
You keep using the word “protest” as if I should picket every church whose creedal standards codify some unscriptural position or another. But even if I had powers of bicolation, I’d be spread pretty thin.
“Perhaps not, but you are complicit by your silence aren’t you, concerning what your Confessions teaching, teaching false things about the nature of God?”
I didn’t know my stated positions on Triablogue amounted to silence. Was Triablogue converted to an invitation-only forum when I wasn’t looking? Did you crash the party? Should I summon the bouncers to have you removed?
Our site meter has 2,376,352 hits and counting the last time I checked. So my silence must be pretty penetrating despite the soundproofing.
“All the more reason then that it is relevant what the original intent of the authors of the WCF and the LBC…”
What is ultimately relevant is the divine intent committed to paper by the authors of Scripture.
We are obligated to affirm our belief in God by affirming God’s self-revelation. Affirming our faith in the framers is not our duty. At best, their role is purely instrumental. This is not a question of loyalty to the framers, but loyalty to God. That’s where are allegiance lies. The creed is not, “I believe in the framers” or “I believe in their original intent.”
The point is not to affirm or reaffirm their faith. The point, rather, is to affirm revealed theology.
“Do you mean to tell me that you couldn’t talk to your pastor and/or other church representatives to move them to remove it?”
At present I’m a Christian blogger. I blog on a wide range of issues. Readers can agree or disagree. What they do with it is between them and God. I’m not their priest.
“Has he done that for the Filioque? And if Waters or others have already argued publically against the Federal Vision do you refrain from arguing against it publically too?”
According to my records, I’ve been blogging on the filioque since 3/17/06.
“Sure not lying to God, just to fellow church members and church authorities.”
“So since the WCF and the LBC are used in membership or ordination, then mutual understanding is necessary in the case of the Filioque?”
To my knowledge, someone doesn’t have to affirm the WCF to join the OPC or PCA. And, to my knowledge, strict subscription is not a requirement for ordination.
What is required is for the ordinand to state what disagreements, if any, he has with the WCF. It’s then up to the presbytery to determine if his deviation is permissible. And that, in turn, can be appealed to the general assembly. Or so I understand. I’m not a canon lawyer.
“How about adherence to a Confession faith? How do the corporate entities that subscribe to the WCF or the LBC for example use it? Oh to teach the Filioque.”
Why assume there’s a uniform answer to that question? This is an Orthodox obsession, not a Reformed obsession. It’s a defining feature of your own theological identity, as you define yourself in opposition to Roman Catholicism.
“Moreover, this would come as quite a surprise to major Reformed theologians-Turretin, Hodge, Warfield, Gill, Bavink, et al.”
I believe that Warfield rejected the eternal generation of the Son. And that would have logical implications for his position on hypostatic procession. Likewise, Warfield’s lead on eternal generation has been followed by some other Reformed theologians. Not to mention the filioque.