Saturday, September 18, 2010

Protestant Patristics


I am Augustine, thy Father: Thou shalt have no other Fathers before me.

43 comments:

Wesley said...

haha That's pretty good =]

But it's not entirely true lol We Protestants also like, for example, the Letter to Diognetus on the atonement, 1 Clement on justification, and Ignatius on the full deity and true humanity of Christ, just to name three off the top of my head ;-)

Augustine is unarguably great, but there is some good stuff for Protestants before him too!

ψευδἸωάννης said...

Wait, shouldn't that be Luther? Or Calvin?

Although Wesley also makes a good point: picking and choosing is what's really going on. (Cherry-picking, proof-texting, call it what you like.)

Diognetus (Mathetes) atonement theory: Moral-Example, e.g., "violence has no place in the character of God," and "God, the Lord and Fashioner of all things... was always... is, and will ever be... free from wrath." Also Christus Victor: "God... did not regard us with hatred..., He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us..." (emphasis added)

Clement on justification: by works, not words. "Let us take as example Enoch, who, having been found just by reason of obedience..." "Let us cleave, therefore, to them to whom grace has been given from God. ...being... justified by our deeds, and not by our words. (emphases added)

Ikonophile said...

Although, Wesley, if you asked Ignatius about the common Protestant view of the Eucharist (i.e. merely symbolic) he'd most likely associate you with the docetists and would probably assume that by extension you too did not believe that Christ truly came in the flesh. The flesh of the Lord in the Eucharist is proof positive for Ignatius and other early Christians that Christ came in the flesh.

Wesley said...

To pseudoJohn:

If by "picking and choosing," "cherry-picking," and "proof-texting" you mean agreeing with some things a father says and disagreeing with other things, then sure--that's what is going on. But don't needlessly misrepresent the reality of it with rhetorical labels lol =]

(1) The first quotation from the Letter to Diognetus you gave does not militate against my Protestant theology at all. The passage reads, "When he sent him, he did so as one who saves by persuasion, not compulsion, for compulsion is no attribute of God" (7:4). Nothing here contrary to what I, as a Protestant, believe.

(2) As for the second quote, it depends on what "without anger" (8:8) means. If it means that there is no such thing as God's anger, or that God is incapable of wrath (or something like that), then we both disagree with him (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-9). But if he means (and this is more likely judging from the context and flow of thought in 8-9) that God deeply loves humanity and, rather than "imputing their trespasses to them," God is ready and willing to forgive sinners instead of condemning them, for "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2Cor. 5:19 NKJV), then I wholeheartedly say Amen.

(3) I affirm Christus Victor and the ransom aspect of the atonement, but I don't merely affirm Christus Victor. I, as a Protestant, believe in the "sweet exchange" (9:5) theory of the atonement exactly as "Mathetes" explains and describes it in 9:1-6.

(4) Briefly on your quuotations from 1 Cement: You know well, I am sure, of the passage in 32:3-4. Clement is very clear on justification by faith alone apart from works. So unless we are willing to say Clement totally contradicts himself within literally three paragraphs in a lengthy letter, we must seek to harmonize his statements.

Wesley said...

To Ikonophile:

You may be exactly right. Although, I am inclined to believe Ignatius didn't believe in the "real presence." I mean, I'm not (yet) fully convinced that he is affirming the "real presence" in his letters. He certainly could be, and if he is I think I would disagree with him. But, again, I am not totally convinced he believed in the "real presence."

Perhaps he meant that Docetists and other Gnostics abstained from the Eucharist because the bread and wine is the flesh and blood of Christ *in the ceremony*, not in metaphysical reality. They would abstain from the Eucharist, therefore, because they denied the reality of Christ's true corporeal flesh, which the bread and wine (at the very least) represented. I think that interpretation is at least a possibility, even if it is ultimately found to be false.

Don't you agree? Or no?

Lvka said...

Wesley,


for more patristic resources on justification by faith alone, see here.

for more patristic resources on the Eucharist, see here.


(1) So I’ll take it you’re not a Calvinist then.

(2) If it means that there is no such thing as God's anger, or that God is incapable of wrath (or something like that), then we both disagree with him (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-9).

Actually, we don’t.

(2) "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19 NKJV)

Yet the way in which you seem to understand this passage is as if the text would read: "God was in Christ reconciling Himself to the world" (2 Cor. 5:19 Wesley Version).

(3) Non idem est si duo dicunt idem: there’s absolutely nothing in Mathetes 9 that defines the word exchange in the manner in which you seem to understand it.

(4) We’re don’t believe in justification by works ALONE, nor do we deny justification by faith, so we’re not the ones having trouble harmonizing the two passages.

Wesley said...

Hi Lvka!

Thanks for your response! I will only offer some brief comments, seeing that the hour is late, keeping basically the same number system already developed.

(1) What makes you say that?

(2-1) I don't understand what you're saying. The post you linked to confused me; I mean, I don't know why you linked to it. Are you saying you believe there is no such thing as God's anger and/or that God is incapable of wrath? If so, you just completely deny the Scriptures point-blank on that issue. Since I highly doubt that is what you mean, you'll have to explain your point a little further for me.

(2-2) With respect to 2Cor. 5:19, I don't know why you would think that is what I am saying. What did I say that makes you think of the "Wesley Version"? lol =]

(3) First, I can't read the Latin lol Second, You don't know in what manner I seem to understand "exchange." I simply said I believe exactly what "Mathestes" wrote, and I do. On a side note, I use his language when talking about the atonement; do you shy away from talking the way he does? If not, awesome! If so, why do you think that is? Honest question.

(4) I don't believe in justification by works at all, and neither did Clement. And yes, we both have to reconcile the two passages: you do it by fusing them into justification by faith and works; I do it by interpreting the less clear passage by the clearer. The statement of justification in 32 is clearer in content and context, more detailed, better defined, and further developed than the more offhand statement in 30. Clement's position seems undeniably clear, and that makes reading the two passages in harmony anything but a problem or troublesome.

Ikonophile said...

"I simply said I believe exactly what 'Mathestes' wrote, and I do."

Of course, I don't agree.

Well, Wesley, "I simply said I believe exactly what Ignatius wrote, and I do". The early Christians believed that the flesh and blood of Christ was literally present in the Eucharist.

I've looked at quotation after quotation, in context, and I cannot help but come away with the fact that these early Christian authors of the first few centuries, if we take them at their word, believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I suppose we can assume this or that about metaphysical reality and "in the ceremony" or we can take them at their word and believe in the real presence as they do.

I'll let Lvka say more about wrath but just so you are aware, God does not "get angry". It is an anthropomorphism, just like saying God has hands, eyes, a nose, etc.

John
John

Wesley said...

Ikonophile,

Thanks for your follow-up response. I appreciate it.

"I simply said I believe exactly what 'Mathestes' wrote, and I do."

Of course, I don't agree.

Well, Wesley, "I simply said I believe exactly what Ignatius wrote, and I do".


Point well-made. We can affirm the words, but we all have to interpret them, which means we may comprehend those words in different ways. Understood. Thanks for the reminder. I'll be more careful.

Of course, the point you make goes for all the fathers' comments about the Eucharist. We can take them at their word, but that will only work if we rightly understand their word, as you demonstrated pointedly to me above.

Perhaps some believed in the "real presence," perhaps some didn't. I haven't reached a definitive conclusion for myself yet. I don't think the "real presence" is taught in Scripture, nor do I think it can be proved from the teaching of Scripture on the issue. If you hold at least to prima scriptura, that should mean something significant to you. Perhaps you don't hold to prima scriptura, in which case your above comments make perfect sense.

About God's getting angry being an anthropomorphism: you said it is the same as saying God has hands, eyes, etc. But anger is a different thing entirely from hands and eyes. If anything, God getting angry would be an anthropopathism. But is that true?

The Bible also says God rejoices, has pleasure, desires and delights, etc. Scripture also says God loves. Are these things also anthropopathisms? If not, why not? Why privilege God's more "acceptable" characteristics over his "less acceptable" ones?

Scripture affirms that God loves and hates, delights and despises, rejoices and is angry. If you're going to excuse the non-flattering characteristics, to be consistent you should also show the other characteristics the door as well.

Moreover, while anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms may not be literally true, they do point to a literal truth. They really do say something meaningful and accurate about God. They function as poetical, figurative, literary, or metaphorical signs, symbols, pointers, even parables that point beyond themselves to something real and true about who God is and what he is like, and what are his ways and works.

This means "God getting angry," if it really is an anthropopathism (something you will have to demonstrate), points to something really true about God. Which means God has an emotion, or at least the capacity for an emotion, that is best illustrated by or metaphorically described as anger, wrath, indignation, etc. So I really don't know how seeking refuge in anthropopathisms really helps you avoid God's actually getting angry or ever being wrathful.

Ikonophile said...

Wesley,

Prima scriptura? I think I understand the meaning though I assume just like sola scriptura, one can have a dozen or so spins on its meaning.

Of course, that would only hold some significance to me if I believed the Scriptures taught what you think they teach. Quite the opposite. I do believe the Scriptures emphatically teach the real presence in the Eucharist. The Scriptures are the foremost part of Holy Tradition, like a gem that is the centerpiece of a crown surrounded by other gems and jewels to form a seamless whole. We come again to words and interpretations.

I believe the links that Lvka gave you regarding the early Church's view on sacrifice and the real presence to be sufficient evidence for both. And even if one or two are being read out of context (which I don't believe they are, having skimmed both of Lvka's articles and being somewhat familiar with some early Patristic literature) the fact remains that the majority argued FOR the real presence and it was only the heretics who blatantly denied it. The Gnostics and their inherent platonic dualism was the reason many of them denied the real presence in the Eucharist.

If the early Christians really did not believe in the real presence, I wonder then if you could sometime in the future provide us with where exactly this false idea originally began and who ran with it? I'm sorry. After so much reading, I cannot come to any other conclusion than where I am at now.

If you haven't read the links, please do so. If need be you can access the CCEL (I'm sure you're already aware of it) in order to find the context of these quotes.

John

Ikonophile said...

I also wonder how clear one needs to be in order for Protestants to finally realize that the early Church believed in the real presence. Ignatius says:

"They [the heterodox] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again."

- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 7 (AD 107)

I can't see anyone saying any clearer that the flesh of the Lord is in the Eucharist. I think the early Christians went through great pains to clarify this and still someone comes to the table saying "Well, I really don't know... maybe he means such and such or metaphysically this and that..."

It boggles my mind.

John

Wesley said...

Ikonophile,

Part One

Thanks again for all your kind and levelheaded responses. I really do appreciate your time and attention.

I can't respond at length to everything you've said, so I'll have to be selective. But before I go forward, I would like to make it clear that I am not seeking or attempting to change yours or anyone else's views in these posts. I am simply trying to say that Protestants can appeal to church fathers that preceded Augustine.

(1) I guess prima scriptura can best be understood as the doctrine that sacred Scripture is the primary source of authority, or the primary rule of faith for the church and the individual believer. While Scripture is the church's primary rule of faith and the primary authority for faith and morals, the Scriptures are not ultimately the sole source of authority or the only ultimate basis for faith and morals (contra sola scriptura).

So if you hold to prima scriptura, it should be significant to you that Scripture does not and cannot support the doctrine of the "real presence." Since Scripture is primary, it has the authority, power, or jurisdiction to correct and overrule other subordinate sources of authority and other secondary rules of faith if a doctrine is found to be contrary or contradictory to Scripture.

JNorm has made the statement that the fathers definitely held to prima scriptura. Do you agree with JNorm? Do you hold to prima scriptura?


Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Ikonophile,

Part Two

(2) I have been following this blog for three or four months now, observing what is posted, following up many of the links and resources available, and thinking about where I stand in relation to all that I'm reading. I am deeply interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. I am eager to learn from this and (Lord willing) future exchanges on this blog (and perhaps other blogs as well!).

I have read Lvka's links more than once in the past. They provide very interesting evidence. But even if the majority of early Christian teachers believed in and taught the "real presence," that does not automatically mean they were correct, nor does a majority even approximate infallibility. Besides, what an early church author believed, or even a majority of early church authors believed, is not binding on my conscience as a necessary article of faith.

(3) Very briefly, in the whole context of Ignatius' letter to the Smyrnaeans, I am just not convinced the quoted passage above (6:2) obviously means what you think it means. It could quite possibly mean something besides the "real presence."

Jnorm said...

Wesley,

We believe the Scriptures to teach the Real Presence. If you read some of the Fathers, you will see how they interpreted certain passages in regards to this topic.

The gnostics, one 10th or 11th century christian naturalist, and the 16th century humanistic Zwingly and maybe John Calvin are the only ones I know of who didn't hold to the Real Presence view. All the Church Fathers and witnesses I know of most certainly did believe in the doctrine of the Real Presence.

Do you know of any Church father that didn't believe in it?

Jnorm said...

Also what I believe about Prima Scriptura can be seen here:
What do we mean by Tradition

I hope this helps!

Jnorm said...

Quotes from primary sources were already given. This is a good secondary source about the issue:
Eucharist as Sacrifice

Jnorm said...

Wesley,

What other view was there (in the Church) besides the one of the Real Presence? The Apostles had to pass a belief about this issue to the next generation. What was that belief?

Why would the church fathers go out of their way to make it seem as if it's really the Body and Blood if they didn't mean it?

And why would they say the stuff they did about the gnostics if they didn't mean it?

Lvka said...

Do you know of any Church father that didn't believe in it?

Yes, Jnorm, actually, I do: Saint Augustine :-) -- hence the title of post itself...

Lvka said...

If I were to tell you that Muhammad was a die-hard pro-choice feminist and liberal pacifist, fighting for women's rights & religious freedom with all his might for all his life, and that somehow all Muslims from his time onward have universally misinterpreted him, would you really believe me? -- And yet, Mohammed never promised his followers in the Qur'an that the Gates of Jahannam will never prevail against the Umma...

Lvka said...

If I were to tell you that Buddhism was actually all about loving life and carpe diem, and that the hedonistic teachings of the Buddha were universally misunderstood and corrupted by his followers from his time onward, through ascetic and altruistic practices that Siddharta Gautama not only did not teach, but was even adamantly against, would anyone here take me seriously? -- And yet, to my knowledge, not a single verse in the entire Pali Canon promises the endurance and preservation of the Buddhist faith-community...

Wesley said...

Jnorm,

Part One

Thank you very much for providing some more links for my consideration. I appreciate your time!

We believe the Scriptures to teach the Real Presence. If you read some of the Fathers, you will see how they interpreted certain passages in regards to this topic.

So far I have concentrated mainly in reading the Apostolic Fathers. I admit I have done very little reading elsewhere at this point (Melito of Sardis, some of Tertullian, a little bit of Irenaeus, Jerome and Rufinus, and some of Augustine). Now I'm sure you do believe Scripture teaches the "real presence" and that is most likely because some early fathers believed it too.

But their interpretation, no matter how ancient, is still just that--an interpretation. It is always subject to evaluation by a higher authority, and Scripture is certainly a higher authority than a church father. Scripture is theopneustos; a father's interpretation is not. So I feel free to disagree with any church father or ancient interpretation when I feel it is contrary or contradictory to Scripture.

Do you know of any Church father that didn't believe in it?

At this time I am unprepared and unable to demonstrate that anyone didn't believe in the "real presence." I am also unprepared and unable to say that everyone did believe it. I don't yet know. I'll have to keep reading and studying to answer your question more satisfactorily.

Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Jnorm,

Part Two

The link you provided for your understanding of prima scriptura was very helpful and informative. Thanks again for that. But since Scripture is primary, it ought to have the highest jurisdiction for what we believe. Scripture can correct creeds, councils, fathers, and everything else.

You want to say holy tradition is found primarily in Scripture, but not exclusively in Scripture. However, you also want to say the Scripture can only mean what the church has said it means. Furthermore, holy tradition consists of what the church says it consists of, and the proper interpretation of tradition is defined solely by the church. So then, the church ultimately defines what Scripture is, what Scripture means, what tradition is, and what tradition means.

So what is my highest or final authority in that system or perspective? Which authority is primary? The Scriptures or the church? The word of God or the word of the church? The answer seems clear to any honest reader. So what we actually have from your perspective is not prima scriptura, but prima ecclesia at best and sola ecclesia at worst. Let's not pretend it's anything else by applying to it a lable approbative of Scripture.

Very briefly, I would like to ask the question of the importance of the "real presence." What does it matter if the "real presence" is true or not? What would really change either way? And if the fathers found the Eucharist as a literal, bodily, non-bloody sacrifice prophesied in the Prophets, then they misinterpreted those texts. Does the Eastern Orthodox Church teach Transubstantiation or Consubstantiation or what? And is the early church view of the "real presence" the same as the later views of Tran- or Consubstantiation? Help me out here =]

Wesley said...

Lvka,

What? haha

I have no earthly idea what you're talking about or why you're talking about it. =]

Lvka said...

I have no earthly idea what you're talking about or why you're talking about it.

Nonsense; sure you do:

But their interpretation, no matter how ancient, is still just that--an interpretation. [...] So I feel free to disagree with any church father or ancient interpretation when I feel it is contrary or contradictory to Scripture.

---------------------------------------------
Not only that, but -to continue the thought-... there is no "contradiction" between Scripture & the Fathers, is it? (I mean, not unless you can show me how "this is My body, this is My blood" supposedly `contradicts` "that is His body, that is His blood"...) -- "Presenting an alternative" is NOT the same as "proving something wrong".

Further: -(the icing on the cake)-

So then, the church ultimately defines what Scripture is, what Scripture means, what tradition is, and what tradition means. So what is my highest or final authority in that system or perspective? Which authority is primary? The Scriptures or the church? The word of God or the word of the church? The answer seems clear to any honest reader. So what we actually have from your perspective is not prima scriptura, but prima ecclesia at best and sola ecclesia at worst. Let's not pretend it's anything else by applying to it a lable approbative of Scripture [like Prima Scriptura, for instance].

Man, this is rich! This should actually make it on one of my "Double Standard" series of posts:

So then, the individual ultimately defines what Scripture is, what Scripture means, what doctrine is, and what doctrine means. So what is my highest or final authority in that system or perspective? Which authority is primary? The Scriptures or the individual? The word of God or the word of the person? The answer seems clear to any honest reader. So what we actually have from your perspective is not prima scriptura, but prima individual at best and sola individual at worst. Let's not pretend it's anything else by applying to it a lable approbative of Scripture [like, say,... Sola Scriptura ?].

---------------------------------------------
What does it matter if the "real presence" is true or not?

Seriously? What's the difference between eating bread and wine as opposed to consuming Christ's flesh (in which He destroyed death and Hades) and drinking His life-giving blood? -- You're honestly asking me this? Are we even having this conversation?

Lvka said...

Anyways,... that was NOT the message of my post: the Real Presence, I mean... My idea was simple: how on earth can anyone even talk of "Protestant Patristics" in any meaningful manner, when we have this sort of priceless gems coming from Protestants themselves:


But their [the Fathers'] interpretation, no matter how ancient [and universal, may I add], is still just that--an interpretation. [...] So I feel free to disagree with any church father or ancient interpretation when I feel it is contrary or contradictory to Scripture.

Barnabas said...

Wesley,

"But their interpretation, no matter how ancient, is still just that--an interpretation. [...] So I feel free to disagree with any church father or ancient interpretation when I feel it is contrary or contradictory to Scripture."

Wow. 1900 years after the writing of the NT, Wesley can interpret Scripture better than the Fathers who lived in the culture, spoke the language and eventually determined the books that went into the NT. Of course, he "feels" he is right...who could argue.

Sorry to be so blunt, but this is dangerous stuff Wesley. As a result, Protestantism continues to descend into chaos and will continue until it is completely irrelevant. For example, I have a Calvinist friend who uses the exact approach to Scripture that you do but he thinks the Scriptures clearly teach Sabellianism, that water baptism is completely irrelevant (even as a symbol) and other heresies. Who's right? You or him? To be honest, you have your feet planted firmly in the mid-air.

Please reconsider your approach. There is a reason why Orthodox Tradition has survived basically unchanged for nearly two millenia.

Scripture + Tradition + Liturgy + the Holy Spirit = Safety.

Scripture Alone = chaos.

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part One

Nonsense; sure you do

Actually no, I didn't know what you were talking about until you made it more clear in your followup response lol You were rambling on about Muslims and Buddhists; how am I supposed to know what you're getting at? lol Well I see what you were getting at now. Thanks for clarifying =]

Not only that, but -to continue the thought-... there is no "contradiction" between Scripture & the Fathers, is it? (I mean, not unless you can show me how "this is My body, this is My blood" supposedly `contradicts` "that is His body, that is His blood"...)

This whole sections is very jumbled. I'm really not sure where to start. I think there may be some contradictions between Scripture and some of the fathers on some issues. Why is that so bad? We can look at where they got it right and agree, and we can look at where they got it wrong and disagree--just like we do with anyone else we read.

When Jesus said, "This is my body" etc, he couldn't have meant he was holding his own body, obviously. It's an abuse of the passage. That some of the fathers didn't understand that is unfortunate. They didn't always have the best hermeneutics.

"Presenting an alternative" is NOT the same as "proving something wrong".

But don't you see that if there is a logical, reasonable, and plausible alternative to your interpretation that is readily available in the text within its context, then what we have are two more or less probable alternatives, neither of which disprove the other. It cuts both ways. One alternative doesn't disprove the other.

Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part Two

Man, this is rich! This should actually make it on one of my "Double Standard" series of posts

So what you're saying is that I'm right. You clearly take issue with my last sentence in that section, but you neither denied nor refuted my argument. Father Andrew Damick, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, actually said on Ancient Faith Radio, "There is no Pope above the church; there is no Bible above the church." Do you deny it or am I right?--because it looks like he would agree with my argument.

Now concerning your reformulation of my argument to point out an alleged double standard:

God determines what Scripture is by inspiration, and the church has the hard task of recognizing and determining (in the sense of discerning) what those inspired books are. Do I believe they got it right? Yes, I do. The Scripture's meaning is determined by the original author and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, and it's up to interpreters to discern that meaning by rightly handling the text through a due use of sound hermeneutics. The Scriptures rightly interpreted is the primary, ultimate, and highest and final authority for the individual and the church as a whole.

Scripture sufficiently fixes the rule for our doctrine, and it alone ultimately determines the essence of our faith and morals. Of course Scripture has to be interpreted, and that by individuals, whether those individuals are church fathers or modern scholars individually or in a group. How do we know whose interpretation is the correct one? We look to Scripture itself to see for ourselves which is true (Acts 17:11-12), and when we cannot see for ourselves, it is right and good to trust the word of faithful teachers in the church and to look to the past for help, accepting only that interpretation which is in harmony with the whole counsel of God.

Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part Three

About the "real presence":

So I guess the Eastern Orthodox Church has a sacramental view of salvation? That's why the "real presence" is so important to you then, isn't it? So yes, I was actually asking you because I didn't know.

But I think that whole view is based on a misinterpretation of John 6. Jesus clearly intends a spiritual, rather than an overly literal, sense in the passage. We eat and drink spiritually by faith, a reality which the Supper symbolizes and reenacts and proclaims etc.

It is valuable to be able to look to the early church to see what was taught and believed by our fathers in the faith, but what they said was not theopneustos, an all-important portion of my argument everyone has been leaving out when quoting that section! We must always evaluate our doctrine, no matter how ancient and universal, in the light of the Scriptures, the only infallible rule of faith for the church. We can do Patristics as Protestants, but we feel no necessity to bow in subjection to what we find there unless it be found in harmony with the Scriptures.

Lvka said...

unless it be found in harmony with the Scriptures.

But it is found to be in harmony with Scripture, yet you still "feel no necessity to bow in subjection" -- that's the problem.

You know what the cause of ancient and universal agreement is? The "sending" of the Holy Apostles to preach the Christian faith into the whole wide world: that's what the word Apostle means. Why else do you think that the entire Christian world agreed universally from its very beginning on something? To say that you accept the text of the books of the Apostles, while simultaneously denying the very meaning of their written words, that the Apostles left to the Church (since they teached and preached at least every Sunday for the rest of their earthly lives) is outrageous.


When Jesus said, "This is my body" etc, he couldn't have meant he was holding his own body, obviously. It's an abuse of the passage.

Go and donate blood. After the doctor or nurse draws your blood into a seringe or plastic-bag, hold it in your hand and say "this is my blood". Then go and found a religion denying your own statement on the grounds that there's no way you could have hold your own blood in your own hands when it was obviously still flowing through your veins... -- Again: I can't believe we're even having this conversation.

Lvka said...

We can do Patristics as Protestants, but we feel no necessity to bow in subjection to what we find there unless it be found in harmony with the Scriptures.

In other words, Protestants studying Patristics is like Orthodox studying the Hindu Vedas and Catholics studying the Holy Qur'an or Buddhists reading the Jewish Talmud. -- Cool. That's just awesome, now, isn't it?

Ikonophile said...

"When Jesus said, "This is my body" etc, he couldn't have meant he was holding his own body, obviously. It's an abuse of the passage. That some of the fathers didn't understand that is unfortunate. They didn't always have the best hermeneutics."

And when Jesus said "I and the Father are one", he just couldn't have meant he was one with God. Or so the Jew might say. I ask, why not? Is this something God is unable to do? I once knew an Orthodox Jew who asked himself, "what if God really wanted to become incarnate? He's God, so what's stopping him?" This question made him explore Christianity and led him to Orthodoxy.

Saying "he just couldn't have meant it because that would mean he was holding his own body" is ridiculous. He's God. Of course He could. You are just like the men in John chapter 6 who said "this is a hard saying, who can bear it?" Their minds were so concerned with earthly bread and sustenance (remember the context is after the feeding of the five thousand) and therefore they could not raise their minds to spiritual truths and believe the words of Christ as he said them. Many left him because of those words. Notice, also, that Jesus didn't say "Hey, I was only being symbolic!" He didn't try to correct their understanding by appealing to symbolism. He said they had to drink his blood and eat his flesh for eternal life, straight up. They couldn't fathom how such a thing could be true and so many left him.

John

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part One

You seem to get agitated, perhaps impatient, maybe even a bit sarcastic as discussion progresses. Not sure why that is, but I am enjoying the exchange nonetheless. You know what you believe and why you believe it, and you're willing to defend it, tenaciously if need be. I admire that. So thank you for taking the time for this interaction. I appreciate it.

Now then, on to business:

(1) But it is found to be in harmony with Scripture, yet you still "feel no necessity to bow in subjection" -- that's the problem.

I assume you are referring to the "real presence." If so, I obviously disagree with your assertion. You'll have to show me some exegesis of the relevant passages of Scripture. I could be wrong, of course; I'm no more infallible than Irenaeus or anyone else. Although, I obviously do not believe I am wrong; otherwise, I would change my position. I am completely open to changing my position, but I'll need to see good exegetical reason for doing so.

(2) To say that you accept the text of the books of the Apostles, while simultaneously denying the very meaning of their written words, that the Apostles left to the Church (since they teached [sic] and preached at least every Sunday for the rest of their earthly lives) is outrageous.

What specifically are we talking about here? Are you still talking about the "real presence"? Obviously, I don't think I'm denying "the very meaning" of the Apostolic writings on that issue. We can look at Scripture and see for ourselves. Isn't it at least possible that a doctrine of the "real presence" developed theologically rather than exegetically, and then texts were appealed to in order to support the already established view? Are you going to deny the logical possibility of such a scenario?

Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part Two

(3) Again: I can't believe we're even having this conversation.

Are you seriously suggesting that Jesus holding up a piece of bread and saying "this is my body" in a highly symbolic meal (the Passover) is even remotely related to a person donating blood?? I mean, really?? That argument is absolutely absurd on its face.

A much better illustration would be to imagine me holding up a picture of my spouse and saying, "This is my wife." Is what I am holding up literally my wife? Well, in one very important sense it obviously is not literally my wife. I am holding up a photograph, a piece of paper, not the physical person who is my wife, whom I kiss and talk to and sleep with. What I'm holding up is not my wife, but a picture of my wife. And it really is my wife in the picture; she is truly represented in the photograph, and her likeness is literally present in the picture; yet it is not the person herself, only a likeness and representation.

That is a far better illustration of what Jesus is doing at the Last Supper. He is taking the already existing, rich symbolism of the Passover and radically redefining it around himself and the significance of his sacrifice of himself as our true Passover Lamb. So he takes bread that already represents something to the Jews in the ceremony, and he now says, "This bread doesn't represent what it used to anymore; now this is my body."

Jesus holds up the bread as the "picture" of himself, a representation and likeness of himself in the renewed/redefined ceremony. This would have had massive significance to the Jewish disciples, but they certainly wouldn't have understood Jesus in that context to mean the loaf in his hand was literally at that moment his own complete physical person somehow in the bread while he simultaneously continued to sit in front of them eating of the very same bread about which he was speaking.

Continued . . .

Wesley said...

Lvka,

Part Three

(4) In other words, Protestants studying Patristics is like Orthodox studying the Hindu Vedas and Catholics studying the Holy Qur'an or Buddhists reading the Jewish Talmud. -- Cool. That's just awesome, now, isn't it?

No, not at all. It's actually exactly like studying any set of scholars, theologians, or other authors within Christianity today or from any other period of church history. We look at what a Christian writer says, and we accept those things we find to be true and reject those things we find to be false. You and I do it anytime we read something. No need to cast something in an overstated bad light unnecessarily just to defend your position lol =]

(5) I think you do agree with Damick that there is no Pope and no Bible above the church. You know what that means?: sola ecclesia. Yes, believe it because the church tells you to believe it, regardless of what Scripture might say to the contrary.

Yet my position is not a double standard as you alleged. I actually mean it when I affirm, "The rule of Theological Verity is not two-fold, one Primary and the other Secondary; but it is one and simple, the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are the rule of all Divine Verity, from themselves, in themselves, and through themselves" (James Arminius, Works 2:706).

Of course sola scriptura doesn't deny the fact that the Bible must be interpreted, but that does not mean that I pledge my ultimate allegiance to my own wisdom, understanding and interpretation as my ultimate authority. I pledge that highest allegiance to God and his inspired Scriptures alone, and I always test my beliefs in light of Scripture in order to receive correction when and where it's needed.

The church is a wonderfully helpful, valuable and essential part of this process, with authority to preach, teach, reprove, rebuke, and correct invested in qualified, approved, faithful, stable and taught local pastors/elders/overseers, but she is not above the God-breathed Scriptures. She herself always submits to the humbling correction of Scripture when and where she needs it. Thus she is semper reformanda in the light of God's word.

Wesley said...

Ikonophile,

Thanks again for your response. A couple comments in response.

Saying "he just couldn't have meant it because that would mean he was holding his own body" is ridiculous.

Please see my treatment of this issue above in Part Two of my most recent response to Lvka.

He's God. Of course He could.

No one is denying what God could do.

Notice, also, that Jesus didn't say "Hey, I was only being symbolic!" He didn't try to correct their understanding by appealing to symbolism.

But the whole thing was symbolism to begin with.

He said they had to drink his blood and eat his flesh for eternal life, straight up.

Yes, and long before that he straight up said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35; a clear parallel between "coming" and "believing"). Also, "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (6:40). And again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (6:47).

Nothing in those preceding passages about the Eucharist. Jesus says we must come to him, which is synonymous with believing in him, and we shall have eternal life according to the will of the Father. Coming to the bread of life from heaven satisfies spiritual hunger, and, parallel to that, believing in the bread of life from heaven satisfies spiritual thirst.

Jesus certainly presses the metaphor, but the whole thing is about eating the bread of life spiritually by faith. Eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood is synonymous with and parallel to coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus. It's an eating and drinking spiritually by faith. That is what leads to eternal life, not partaking of a sacrament. It's all too easy to snatch a few verses out of context to substantiate bad theology.

Ikonophile said...

Wesley,

The passover was not "symbolism". The Jews did not celebrate the passover with the mindset of "wow, wasn't that a great thing that God did for us back then?"

The word that Christ uses, "remembrance" is a terrible translation of the Greek word underlying it. Remembrance is too "intellectual" in the sense that it is confined to a mere memory rather than an active participation in the event. Christ, during the passover, uses a Greek word concerning the Eucharist that defines the Jewish view of the Passover, one of active participation, not one of mere remembrance. The Passover was not mere symbolism, nor was the Eucharist.

It's also way to easy to ignore the context of the entire chapter in St. John's gospel like his statements about his flesh and blood: "He who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood has eternal life in him" and "And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

John

Lvka said...

That's precisely the problem, Wesley: the very LAST thing Orthodoxy lacks are holy icons and sacred symbols. Our church-walls are filled top-to-bottom with sacred images, and our prayer books are richly adorned with symbols and icons. Even the three doors in the iconostasis (the one in the middle is a double-door) are full of meaning, representing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, of which the middle or second one (the Son) has a double nature, being both human AND divine. There's NO such thing in our faith as JUST icons or MERE symbols. We believe God's grace works in and through them. There would be NO preconceived reason or motive WHATSOEVER for us to deny that the Holy Eucharist is a symbol or icon of Christ were this to have actually been the case. IF having a strictly-symbolic view of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist were to have been THE Jewish thing to do, how come that EVERY single Christian Church of *Semitic* heritage & background "missed" that: the Church of Jerusalem, the Copts, the Ethiopians, the Syriacs, and the Assyrians: NONE of them has EVER entertained such a view. -- And you can't say that they had no idea what the Passover meal was all about. How come that every single church that the Apostles founded -Semitic or otherwise- had the same teaching on the Holy Eucharist, and this doctrine was NOT the one you think was the `Jewish` one? Are you and Calvin more Jewish than all of Christ's Apostles, and more Jewish than Syriacs, Ethiopians, Copts, and Assyrians? [Syriacs and Assyrians still speak Aramaic until this day, and the Ethiopians were Mozaics long before they were Christians: the Fallashas still exist until this day, and so do the Ethiopian Orthodox: they even abstain from pork & practice circumcision].

Wesley said...

Lvka and Ikonophile,

Gentlemen, I have done my best to interact intelligently and thoughtfully with your position and your arguments. I feel like I have held my own, but I also realize that I do not yet know nearly enough about Eastern Orthodoxy as an integrated whole, nor do I yet know enough about what the early church fathers specifically and individually said about a particular issue.

At this point, Lvka, everything you said in your last post about the different sorts of Semitic Christian groups and what early Semitic Christians believed is an unknown area for me. I can neither confirm nor deny what you are asserting. All I have to go on is your word, and that is insufficient.

So I think I will let this discussion end here. It certainly isn't because I can't think of anything to say in response, for I definitely could; rather, it's mainly because I'm getting tired and a bit too distracted from some of my responsibilities by this delightfully interesting discussion!

Like I said, I am deeply interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. And I would love to learn a lot more about your church and your faith. As I continue to learn and seek and study, I will continue to keep up with this blog and sometimes comment with questions, disagreements, arguments, etc.

At this point, I am a deeply convinced, convicted, and committed Evangelical Protestant. But I have to say, based on what I have learned so far, if I were converting right now and had to choose between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, I would choose Eastern Orthodoxy without hesitation, remorse, or regret! I have seriously considered becoming Roman Catholic in the past, and I can tell you that Orthodoxy is much more appealing to me based on what little I currently know about it.

So to conclude, I just want to say once again that I truly do appreciate every one of you guys taking the time to interact with me. It's been a pleasure, and I do hope and trust we can do it again sometime.

Grace to you and peace,

Wesley

Lvka said...

Afro-Asiatic

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afroasiatic_languages
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_language
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_language
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ge'ez_language
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Babylonian_Aramaic#Classification_and_type
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syriac_language

Oriental Orthodox

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oriental_Orthodoxy

Alexandria, Egypt

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Egypt#Ptolemaic_and_Roman_.28400_BC_to_641_AD.29
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_Orthodox_Church_of_Alexandria

Antioch, Syria & Assyria

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Jews
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Iran
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Syria#Post_Second_Temple
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syriac_Christianity
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syriac_Orthodox_Church
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_East
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud#Talmud_Bavli_.28Babylonian_Talmud.29
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmudic_Academies_in_Babylonia

Ethiopia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Israel
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Orthodox_Tewahedo_Church

Nicholas said...

A note from my perspective:

You say that the Orthodox follow Prima Ecclesia, Wesley, and that you follow Prima Scriptura. However, this is not true.

Tell me if the following assertion is correct:
*Everyone* follows Prima Lectio; Lectio being "reading", or interpretation. You follow Prima Lectio Singularis, "Primary Interpretation of the Individual"; your personal interpretation of the scriptures (and of the fathers, for that matter) is ultimately what counts.

The Orthodox follow Prima Lectio Abbas; Prima Lectio Ecclesia, or Prima Lectio Institutio, depending on how you put it.

The Fathers, the Church, the Tradition. They do not stand alone.

Jnorm said...

Wesley,

Nicholas makes a good point. If you feel that our view ultimately leads to the church as having the final authority then you will have to say that your view will ultimately lead to you as an individual as having the final authority.

Fr. Andrew said...

Wesley above quotes me as saying, "There is no Pope above the church; there is no Bible above the church."

I'm pretty sure I didn't say that, but even if I did, it's really out of context and doesn't mean what he claims it to mean. If you're interested in what I actually think about the relationship between Scripture and the Church, you can hear it in some detail here and here.

POPULAR POSTS

TOPICS

FOLLOWERS

There was an error in this gadget

THUS SAITH THE LORD

Christian Gifts


LORD JESUS CHRIST,
SON OF GOD,
HAVE MERCY ON US,
THE SINNERS.

MONTHLY ARCHIVE

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...