Monday, June 11, 2012

It’s not simply our word against theirs

I want to continue with my series on Michael Kruger’s Canon Revisited, and a subset of that series, “Kruger vs Ratzinger”, but first I’d like to put some definitions on the table.

Reformed Protestants are accustomed to thinking in terms of “Divine Revelation” in terms of “special revelation” (in Scripture, which encompasses both the Old Testament and the “apostolic witness” which occurred orally during the lives of the apostles and which was written down and accepted in the form of the New Testament canon), and “general revelation” (for example Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-20).

I’ll deal with the apostolic witness and also the acceptance of the New Testament canon as I continue to work through Canon Revisited”, but I also wanted to put this into some perspective (vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic system). To that end, I’m providing the complete treatment on “the transmission of Divine Revelation” from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, Sections 74-94.

Texts and comments in red are areas that we will certainly want to contest. And we certainly have the historical basis to do so. As well, I’ll deal with some of the more specific definitions moving forward.

* * *


74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”: that is, of Christ Jesus. Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:

God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.


75 ”Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”

In the apostolic preaching. . .

76 In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

- orally ”by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit”;

* * *

One point for discussion is that Reformed believers also hold that there was an “oral” tradition; as I’ve noted in a number of places, though, this “oral” testimony needed to be written down, among other reasons, because of a “moralism [noted in the writings of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’] which ignore[d] the notion of grace, and of the redemptive death of Christ”, and which was remedied by “the codification of the apostolic tradition in a canon [a ‘canonical core’], henceforward the superior norm of all tradition”.
* * *
- in writing ”by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”.

. . . continued in apostolic succession

77 ”In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”

78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” ”The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.”

* * *

What occurs above, for the most part, falls into the realm of what can be verified historically. I’ll be tracing the process of this more thoroughly through works like Ratzinger’s “Primacy, Episcopacy, and Successio Apostolica,” in the work “God’s Word: Scripture-Tradition-Office” (San Francisco: Ignatius Press ©2008; Libreria Editrice Vaticana edition ©2005), along with interactions with Kruger, Cullmann, Von Campenhausen, and others.

* * *
79 The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness.”


One common source. . .

80 ”Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age”.

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”

“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”

Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition [emphasis added].

Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium [emphasis added].

* * *

At some point, yes, theological and hermeneutical understandings will shape our view of history. But at some point, within the Roman Catholic hermeneutic, the historical record is stretched way too far, and far too much of what is current Roman dogma is reflected “back” into the history, that the history becomes evidence that the Roman hermeneutic itself is faulty.

It’s not simply our word against theirs. 

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