"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Branches or Schisms? Part II


UPDATE: See the updated version of this post by clicking here.

This is a follow-up of my previous post titled "Branches or Schisms?". In my paper "The Gnostic Roots of Heresy", I argued that what lies behind the notion that the Church per se is invisible [visible only in that embodied believers are visible], is a gnosticism that eschews matter and is in that way in conflict with Christ's incarnation. This gnosticism treats the Body of Christ as something in itself invisible/spiritual, having no unified organizational structure. (See my post titled "Christ founded a visible Church".) It eliminates unity as a mark of the Church, either by making unity only a '*contingent* mark of the Church', or by treating unity as a 'necessary but *invisible* mark of an *invisible* Church'.

Recently I saw a diagram that is based on this gnostic notion that the Church per se is invisible. I found it on the web site "request.org", which describes itself as "A free website for teaching about Christianity in Religious Education." The diagram can be found on request.org's page explaining denominations. Here is a small version of the diagram: (Click on the diagram to see a larger version.)

Diagram 1

I want to point out two things about the above diagram. First, notice that the 'trunk' of this 'tree' takes a strange bend to the right, in the lower-middle of the diagram. The person who made the diagram determined that there must be no 'branch' that is the continuation of the 'trunk'. He or she thus assumed that the Church has no principium unitatis (i.e. principle of unity) such that the Church necessarily retains her unity through every possible schism. The assumption that the Church has no principium unitatis is itself based on a deeper assumption, namely, that the Church per se is invisible/spiritual, and therefore that her essential unity is at an invisible/spiritual level. Her visible unity is not essential to her being. That idea is quite similar to claiming that the integrity of a living body is not essential to its being, as though a living body's being blown into thousands of pieces by a powerful bomb does not detract from the existence of that body. Only if the Church is itself invisible (i.e. spiritual, immaterial) would the Church continue to exist after the disintegration of her visible unity. Hence the diagram above presumes that the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church itself, is invisible/immaterial, and in that way the diagram is in conflict with the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ.

The second thing to notice about Diagram 1 is that it shows there to be a single 'trunk' at least up to 1054 (I say "at least" because it is drawn such that the 'trunk' appears to continue into the 16th century). But Diagram 1 does not show what the 'tree' looks like through the first millennium. And that hides the challenge to the gnostic assumption that went into the making of Diagram 1. During the first millennium, the 'tree' looks something like this: (click on the diagram below for a larger version)


Diagram 2

This raises serious questions about the veracity of Diagram 1. If all those sects of the first millennium were separations from the Church (and Diagram 1 clearly assumes that to be the case, since it shows the Church to be visibly *one* just prior to 1054), then why should we think that at some point (either following 1054 or during the 16th century) there is no continuing 'trunk', and that therefore these divisions of the second half of the second millennium are all equally authentic 'branchings within' the Church? What is it that makes separations of the first millennium *schisms* and *heresies*, but makes separations of the second millennium mere *branchings within* the Church? Whose determination about whether something is a mere "branch of the Church" or a "schism from the Church" is authoritative? Is it for each person to decide for himself? If so, then if the Ebionites were to construct a diagram of the Church they could begin the branching in 63 AD, and call themselves an authentic branch of the Church.

It looks like the person who made Diagram 1 simply decided that all the divisions of the first millennium were "separations from the Church", while the divisions of the second millennium were "separations within the Church". But on what basis did he or she make this decision? On the basis of some shared "mere Christianity" of the second millennium? Why then couldn't the extension of "mere Christianity" include all these sects of the first millennium? Who gets to determine the extension of "mere Christianity"? How is it not arbitrary that, for example, the Baptists, are thought to be included within "mere Christianity" while the Monophysites are not? The Pentecostals are, but the Montanists are not? And so on. The answer cannot be "Well the Baptists and Pentecostals share my general interpretation of Scripture", because any Monophysite could say the same thing about fellow Monophysites. It is naive to assume that heretics and schismatics don't appeal to Scripture to justify their positions: see here and here. What counts as "mere Christianity" therefore cannot be based on what people defend using Scripture. Unless the Protestant wishes to allow "mere Christianity" to extend to all these divisions of the first millennium, he will need some non-arbitrary, non-stipulative way of limiting the extension of "mere Christianity" to what Protestants have in common with Catholics and Orthodox. But it seems to me that that is precisely what he does not have.

Both the Catholics and the Orthodox agree that the trunk of this 'tree' did not end in 1054. (The Catholic Church claims it continues with her; the Orthodox claim it continues with them.) So the Protestant who wishes to conceive of all the Protestant denominations as branches of the Church, must either claim:

(1) That the separation of the Catholics and the Orthodox was the first "branching within" the Church, OR

(2) That the Church continued with the Orthodox, the Pope being in schism from the Church, OR

(3) The Church continued with the Pope, the Orthodox being in schism from the Church.

If the Protestant claims that (1) is true, then he must explain why the Catholic-Orthodox split is a mere "branching within" (i.e.does not involve a schism from the Church) when every other split in the prior history of the Church involved a "schism from" the Church and the preservation of the unity of the Church. He will need to show the principled difference between a "branching within" and a "schism from", and the basis for determining, in any division, whether it is a 'branching within' or a 'schism from', and, if it is a 'schism from', which of the separating groups is the continuation of the Church Christ founded, and why. [Remember, both Orthodox and Catholics reject (1); accepting (1) is a modern Protestant notion.] But the Protestant cannot (while remaining Protestant) accept (2), because (2) implies that Protestantism is no better than a "branching within a schism from" the Church, and therefore that Protestants should become Orthodox in order to be reconciled to the Church. But if the Protestant accepts (3), then if the diagram doesn't include the Reformation it looks something like this: (click on the diagram for a larger version)

Diagram 3

But if the Protestant accepts Diagram 3, he is going to have a very difficult time justifying Diagram 1 over something like Diagram 4: (click on the diagram for a larger version)

Diagram 4

Nor will he likely wish to claim that some particular Protestant denomination is the 'trunk', i.e. the institution Christ founded. So there seem to be three choices for the Protestant: (1) a gnosticism that treats the Church itself as invisible, and thus allows all the divisions of the first two millennia (or any arbitrary subset of them) to be "branches within" the Church, (2) Orthodoxy, or (3) Catholicism.

20 comments:

Eric Telfer said...

Bryan,

The emphasis on the role and nature of the Church is fundamental. The Bible says that the Church (not the Bible) is the pillar and bullwark of truth. If so, where is it, what is it and can we get by without it? For how long, if at all? To what extent? Can we really preserve the Good News without the pillar and bullwark of truth helping us? How far can we really get by without the pillar and bullwark of truth? No doubt people have created church-transcending, non-pillar and bullwark of truth type religions that are very similar to what the Catholic Church has taught, at least on some of the chief points, i.e., Christ's divinity. But I am not sure that the original Gospel message and the Traditional Catholic Church interpretation of that message can be maintained forever without the resources provided by a pillar and bullwark of truth. So many times Evangelical Protestants, Evangelical JWs and Evangelical Mormons have focused so much on the soul and evangelizing so as to save the soul that they have neglected not only the body of the person, but also the Body of Christ, the Church, the pillar and bullwark of truth that Christ established to be with us throughout the ages.

And yet it was the Church that existed before the Bible, canonized the Bible, and handed us down a certain interpretation of the Bible and the events of Christ's life. The positive aspects of Evangelical Protestantism or any sort of Protestantism for that matter were taken from the Catholic Church's original interpretations and conclusions about the historical events of Christ's life, which were taken from the Apostles. Protestantism, in its positive aspect, is living off of Catholic capital. Look at the Fundamentals offered by the Fundamentalists. These were conclusions of the Catholic Church first. Look at the recent 'An Evangelical Manifesto'. All that is positive in that is and always was in the Catholic Church first. Look at how so many Protestant churches rely on the Nicene Creed, which was a product of the Catholic Church. These groups are living off of Catholic Church capital- Catholic Church traditions, while trying to deny the Catholic Church, with respect to its authority and other traditions. But how long can this last? Chesterton says that the world 'is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.' He says that the world 'is not starting fresh things that it can carry on far into the future. On the contrary, it is picking up old things that it cannot carry on at all.' Fundamentalism is a fight to preserve the Gospel and the Traditional interpretation (of at least part of it) without the Church, without the pillar and bullwark of truth. Evangelicalism is trying to do the same. One can see the struggle in the recent essay that Bryan posted called 'An Evangelical Manifesto'. The Evangelical Protestans are now also in need of reform. The Evangelical Protestants now admit that they are struggling in their attempts to carry the ball. All of these groups implicitly note the struggle they are in, and yet they all continue to try to carry things without the help of the pillar and bullwark of truth that the Bible points to. They are under-resourced to do the job they want to do. They are like a man trying to undo a nut without a wrench or a man trying to cut a tree without a saw. So, for example, they are even carrying the Bible and trying to protect the Bible, without the pillar and bullwark of truth. And then they are trying to protect this or that tradition- The Tradition of Monogomy, The Tradition of the Sanctity of Life, the Tradition of the Canon of Scripture, the Tradition of the Nicene Creed, the Tradition of the Trinity, the Tradition of the Divinity of Christ, the Tradition of the Incarnation, The Tradition of the Virgin Birth, the Tradition of the Resurrection, etc.- without reliance on the authority that Christ gave to help define, protect and defend all of these traditions- the Church, the pillar and bullwark of truth. Moreover, after reading Christ's call for unity, they seek to be united to Christ, but, again, without the pillar and bullwark of truth as an aspect of the union, as a source of union, as a focal point of unity, as a place of unity, as the family of God the Father. In the end, if we want unity and if we want to preserve the original Gospel, the original deposit of Faith, which includes an evaluative element concerning the historical events, i.e., judgments and conclusions about those events, we have to have the resources necessary to do the job. Protestant-ism not only lacks those resources, which are absolutely necessary, but it also consists of negative principles which are actually principles of division, disorganization, and disintegration. But, as Chesterton says, 'people do not know what they are doing because they do not know what they are undoing.' To know what we are doing, we must get back to the roots of Christendom, and we must understand the Catholic Church without misconceptions.

liturgy said...

Greetings

You are right.
The simplistic diagram, like any diagram, is going to produce ridiculous conclusions when pressed in the way you are doing.
Your confusion of the whole church solely with the trunk
is a yearning for a barren uniformity which belies God's wonderful diversity held in unity - from the heart of the very nature of God.

Your tree would be solely a trunk. No branches. A barren, boring pole.

The tree image is salvageable as an image of the church with a proliferation of branches and even shoots from its rootstock.

Christianity and the church is not defined from Roman Catholic questions. Ask those, and yes, you will end up with Roman Catholic answers. It reminds me of those fundamentalists who find a hole in some evolutionary point - and then conclude that hence Genesis 1 must be a scientific account to be taken as describing the origins of the universe and life scientifically.

Ask different questions, or ask questions differently, or live the questions rather than seek to answer them solely in words - and we will all end up in quite a different place. Possibly, hopefully together.

Blessings

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Bosco,

You wrote:

Your confusion of the whole church solely with the trunk is a yearning for a barren uniformity which belies God's wonderful diversity held in unity - from the heart of the very nature of God.

One of the rules for posting here is that ad hominems are not to be used. But characterizing my argument as a "yearning" is an ad hominem, which is a fallacy.

Your tree would be solely a trunk. No branches. A barren, boring pole.

There are twenty-three particular Churches within the Catholic Church. That is diversity. But diversity is not the same thing as division. Division involves being in schism. We don't have to be in schism to have diversity in the Church.

Christianity and the church is not defined from Roman Catholic questions. Ask those, and yes, you will end up with Roman Catholic answers.

If anything I said in my post is false, please feel free to show that. In my opinion, we don't need to hide from (or suppress) any questions, whether they be "Roman Catholic questions" or any other sort of questions. Truth-seekers want the truth, even if that truth happens to be an answer to a "Roman Catholic question".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim A. Troutman said...

Liturgy, in addition to what Bryan said, I want to point out this fallacy:

Your tree would be solely a trunk. No branches. A barren, boring pole.

You seem to be associating objective truth with the very subjective quality of how interesting something is. By your logic, the Catholic Church could only be the true Church if it was interesting (to you, I might add).

Furthermore, like Bryan said, we can have diversity without division - we can be interesting without teaching heresy. We don't have to liberalize to have joy. As a matter of fact, all of those things end up being the profound opposite of what you apparently expect.

1. A unified Catholic Church is much more interesting and beautiful than the shattered and divided Protestant ecclesial community.

2. Orthodoxy is far more interesting than the alternative. Heresy is boring.

3. Liberalism doesn't lead to joy, it leads to sorrow.

liturgy said...

Greetings Bryan

It is interesting to me that in response to both my comments, when I politely disagree with you, you claim I argue “ad hominem” and equate that as a fallacy. But when Tim reduces my ecclesiology to “what is interesting to me” the critique of you as moderator is silent.

I continue to hold that the spiritual journey involves the whole person and the attempt to hermetically seal our reason from our other God-given dimensions is flawed. Attempts to reduce the spiritual journey to an argument in logic is claimed to be successful by a whole lot of contradicting positions – that itself should highlight its inadequacy.

In your response to me you want to redraw the tree as the 23 rites within Roman Catholicism: I would love to see you attempt that – complete with dates. In attempting that I think you will see the limitations of such a simplistic image which you attempt to press to your current denominational position.

In my responses I underscored your quoting of the catholic church being present where the bishop is. You brush over this eucharistic ecclesiology that the whole church is present in the eucharistic assembly gathered around the bishop in your attempt to press to the much later concept of an international universal church centered on the bishop of Rome.

This far more recent concept in which local bishops are appointed by the bishop of Rome and responsible to him rather than of equality within the college of bishops is every bit as novel as the individualism of Protestantism – both seek authority in individualism rather than in community. The fantasy, as I highlighted, of a world-wide diocese with local bishops being assistant bishops appointed by the bishop of Rome is actualised by placing the parish priests who would have elected their local bishop in Rome as “cardinals” throughout the planet.

The supposed infallibility of the bishop of Rome would be nice for those who are uncomfortable with having flexibility and uncertainty in their lives and journey, unfortunately it is epistemologically impossible, as his fallible followers cannot agree on which of his statements are infallible and which are not. Individualism again and now crypto-protestantism.

When your logic arrives at a conclusion that does not fit reality, one needs to return to the foundational points and the questions one is asking.

Blessings

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Bosco,

It is interesting to me that in response to both my comments, when I politely disagree with you, you claim I argue "ad hominem" and equate that as a fallacy. But when Tim reduces my ecclesiology to "what is interesting to me" the critique of you as moderator is silent.

Tim constructed an argument based on the fact that you seemed to be evaluating the truth of an ecclesiological position by whether it was "boring". His argument took the form of a modus tollens. Evaluating the truth of Catholic ecclesiology by whether it is boring [to you] implies that Catholic ecclesiology would be true only if it were interesting [to you]. But clearly that conclusion is false. Therefore, your premise is falsified. In other words, it does not follow from Catholic ecclesiology being boring to you that it is false. If you're not clear about how I'm using the term 'ad hominem', I spelled that out last year in this post.


I continue to hold that the spiritual journey involves the whole person and the attempt to hermetically seal our reason from our other God-given dimensions is flawed. Attempts to reduce the spiritual journey to an argument in logic is claimed to be successful by a whole lot of contradicting positions – that itself should highlight its inadequacy.

I agree that the spiritual journey involves the whole person. I am not attempting to "hermetically seal our reason from our other God-given dimensions". If you think I am, please show me how you think I am doing so. Nor am I attempting to "reduce the spiritual journey to an argument in logic". I don't reduce faith to reason, though I think they do not conflict. (See Fides et Ratio.) Regarding your statement about "a whole lot of contradicting positions", if you think any of my positions are contradictory, please point out which ones, and how they contradict.

In your response to me you want to redraw the tree as the 23 rites within Roman Catholicism:

No, I never claimed I wanted to "redraw the tree". I was pointing out that there is much diversity within the Catholic Church, and that diversity is not the same is schism. We don't have to be in schism in order to have diversity.


In my responses I underscored your quoting of the catholic church being present where the bishop is. You brush over this eucharistic ecclesiology that the whole church is present in the eucharistic assembly gathered around the bishop in your attempt to press to the much later concept of an international universal church centered on the bishop of Rome.

I think you may have misunderstood why I was referring to that statement from St. Ignatius. I wasn't attempting to show anything about the bishop of Rome per se. I was in a dialogue with a Presbyterian (I presume you are familiar with their view of bishops), and the topic was about sacramental magisterial authority, and how that forms the organizational structure of the Church. Nothing I said in that paragraph, so far as I can tell, should be objectionable to Anglicans or Orthodox. As for your claim about an "international" Church, that was true of the Church from the day of its birth, when the Apostles spoke in different languages to people in Jerusalem from many different nations all over the world. The Church has been international (and thereby Catholic) from day one.


This far more recent concept in which local bishops are appointed by the bishop of Rome and responsible to him rather than of equality within the college of bishops is every bit as novel as the individualism of Protestantism – both seek authority in individualism rather than in community.

Catholics agree that in the early Church local bishops were not appointed by the bishop of Rome. We don't believe that the present Church must be identical in every respect to the practice of the early Church. We allow for developments in discipline and practice, and contingencies that take into account the context. So we recognize that there have been changes in the expression of the authority of the episcopal successor of Peter, but we believe that that authority has been present since Jesus changed Peter's name, and gave him the keys of the kingdom. As St. Ignatius said at the end of the first century, the Holy See (i.e. the See at Rome) "presides in love". And St. Irenaeus (200 AD) adds, "For it is a matter of necessity that every [particular] Church should agree with this [particular] Church [i.e. the Church at Rome], on account of its preeminent authority -- that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere." St. Clement, the third bishop of Rome, did not hesitate to exert his authority in resolving the dissension on Corinth [in Greece]. And Eusebius tells us how Origen appealed to the bishop of Rome in defense of his [Origen's] orthodoxy in 236. Why would he do that unless he believe that the bishop of Rome was a higher authority than the Alexandrian synod that had condemned him [Origen]?

And St. Cyprian (250 AD), bishop of Carthage, writes, "On [Peter] [Christ] builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. ... If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" St. Cyprian also tells us, "With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church, in which sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching of the Apostle, and among whom it is not possible for perfidy to have entrance." Why did the heretics and schismatics sail to Rome? Because they knew they had to receive the approval of the "principal Church", the one with whom everyone had to be in agreement, just as Paul had gone up to Jerusalem to see Peter, to make sure that the gospel that Paul preached was in agreement with Peter. (Galatians 1:16-19) Here and in other places St. Cyprian makes it very clear that in order to be in communion with the whole Catholic Church, one needed to be in communion with the bishop of Rome, the one sitting in Peter's chair. He also makes it clear that he believes the Pope had the authority to excommunicate other bishops and appoint replacements for them. (See his letter to Pope Stephen concerning Marcianus of Arles.) He also says, "There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever gathers elsewhere is scattering."

But, regarding what you say about individualism, we [Catholics] do not believe that individualism is "novel"; we believe it goes back to the Garden of Eden. It expresses itself in rebellion against God's appointed authority, and setting up one's own replacement for that authority.


The fantasy, as I highlighted, of a world-wide diocese with local bishops being assistant bishops appointed by the bishop of Rome is actualised by placing the parish priests who would have elected their local bishop in Rome as “cardinals” throughout the planet.

If the universal Church *does not* need a head bishop, then why does your local diocese need a head bishop? But if the universal Church *does* need a head bishop, then will you come into communion with him on your terms or his?


The supposed infallibility of the bishop of Rome would be nice for those who are uncomfortable with having flexibility and uncertainty in their lives and journey,

This again is an ad hominem. It is the equivalent of what people like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris are saying to theists in general. "You believe it because it makes you feel good" or "You believe it because you can't handle x". It fails to address adequately (or seek out) the stated reasons why adherents of a belief hold that belief, and uncharitably assumes an ulterior reason behind the one(s) given. One of the reasons that an ad hominem is a fallacy is that your interlocutor can do the same thing back to you (i.e. You reject Catholicism because you can't handle ...), but not only would that not be charitable to you, we would then be no closer to determining the truth about Catholicism. Ad hominems do not advance us toward unity in truth; they are in that respect, anti-ecumenical.

I'm more than willing to dialogue with you, but you will have to set aside the ad hominems.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

liturgy said...

Greetings Bryan

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am presuming you are translating "προκαθημένη τῆς ἀγάπης" in the letter of Ignatius as "the Holy See (i.e. the See at Rome) "presides in love"(sic.)"

This is a good example of your need to twist the historical data to fit your tidy theory.

Unfortunately for you, the text makes to reference to either the bishop of Rome at this point but is rather referring to the Christian community at Rome, and even translations provided for Roman Catholics translate this as "presides over love"
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0107.htm

Your relegating of bishops being chosen by their own diocese as anachronistically "the practice of the early Church" ignores the historical reality that the bishop of Rome's taking this responsibility to himself in all cases dates from only recent centuries.

The contradictions I point to are not within your own position, but between people of different positions as I said, of people who attempt a A therefore B therefore C therefore "gotcha" approach to the spiritual journey.

It is the areas of my points that you do not respond to that are more interesting than the areas that you do.

I have no need to have you change your position, but expect that, having held such a variety of positions previously, you are well aware of the ambiguity of the material you are presenting and the ability to intelligently and with integrity read them in a quite different way.

Blessings

Kim said...

Bryan, thank you so much for taking the time to explain all of this stuff in this conversation. You are helping me more than you'll ever know.

Do you have an email address I can get? Mine is on my blog sidebar if you'd like to respond that way.

Again, thanks!

Tim A. Troutman said...

Litrugy, I can't add much to what Bryan said and I don't need to but your argument was simultaneously an ad hominem attack (if somewhat mild - believe me, Bryan knows what kind of ad hominem attacks I am shamelessly capable of as he witnessed yesterday on my blog and kindly advised me to re-think my wording!) and an argument that doesn't fully work. My response was a supplement to Bryan's. I wasn't saying "Bryan is getting it completely wrong, here is why you're wrong". In fact, I agreed with everything he said. I wanted to point out a few things that I thought could also help shed light on where our differences were. You said:

Your confusion of the whole church solely with the trunk
is a yearning for a barren uniformity which belies God's wonderful diversity held in unity - from the heart of the very nature of God.


You said A = B or in this case B causes A. A = (Bryan's ecclesiological confusion)
B = yearning for barren uniformity that belies God's wonderful diversity etc...

If B therefore A we can usually say (at least in this argument) not B would equal not A.

If Bryan didn't yearn for barren uniformity, if he didn't belie God's wonderful diversity, he wouldn't be confused on what the Church is.

Well Bryan doesn't come out looking too good in all this does he? That's why it's an ad hominem. The "A therefore B" part is sound logic by itself, but only if its individual assumptions are valid.

"Every time I drink coffee I get smarter". "I drank coffee, therefore I'm smarter". Well the logic is solid but only if the assumptions are true. Does coffee really make you smarter?

This is the part of the argument which I intended to refute. Bryan had already mentioned the ad hominem, I had no need to. I was attempting to show that coffee doesn't actually make you smarter or rather... Bryan's (supposed) ecclesiological confusion isn't caused by his yearning for barren uniformity.

In fact, I also attempted to show (as did Bryan) that we Catholics do not "yearn for barren uniformity". There is as much "diversity" depending on how you use the word in the Catholic Church than there is in the various Protestant ecclesial communities - but there is a marked singularity of doctrine and a unity of authority which exists only in very small sects among the Protestants.

I also want to point out that both Bryan and I have responded directly to your arguments. You haven't responded to ours.

liturgy said...

Thanks Tim for attempting to teach me deductive logic.

I have degrees in science, philosophy focusing on logic and epistemology, and theology.
You write “If B therefore A we can usually say (at least in this argument) not B would equal not A.”
This may count as logic in your country, but on the rest of the planet this is the fallacy of denying the antecedent ☺

You are right, I have visited your blog, and you make extraordinary straw-man arguments. And Bryan accuses me of being like Dawkins ☺
There are two ways of dealing with our past when we make a major change of direction – we can incorporate the best from our past and let it enrich our present, or we can “kick our mother”, rejecting all we previously held and vigorously arguing against those who still hold it in our mistaken need and belief that proving others wrong somehow demonstrates that we are right (see fallacy of denying the antecedent in previous paragraph).

You seem to have missed my points in your accusation that I did not respond to Bryan and you (is this a tag team?). I have highlighted the paradigm of the universal church as one diocese with the bishop of Rome as its bishop and all other bishops as merely his assistants is a relatively new ecclesiology. Furthermore, I indicated that one misreads and even mistranslates early texts through such lenses. I offered a eucharistic ecclesiology, which sees the full universal church as present in the eucharistic community around the bishop – with the church not being the sum of smaller parts, but such communities being united in communion following the paradigm of the Trinity. In your exploration of ecclesiology I would have thought the writings of John Zizioulas, Laurent Cleenewerck, and others would spring quickly to mind. If not, I would hope you would explore them first before further suggesting that I was not responding adequately.

Blessings on this feast of Corpus Christi

Principium unitatis said...

Bosco,

"Presides in love" or "presiding in love" is not a mistranslation. That is a standard translation. The Holy See is not presiding "over love"; that doesn't even make sense. St. Ignatius is referring to St. John 21:15, where Peter loves Christ "more than these [other Apostles], and therefore presides in love.

If you read the comment requirements right above the comment box, you will see that I am asking anyone who wishes to comment here to do so in a spirit of openness and humility. That is not the spirit you are exemplifying here Bosco. Your comments continue to contain ad hominems. I am willing to dialogue with you, but not in this kind of spirit. It is neither profitable nor Christ-honoring for us to do so.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

liturgy said...

Greetings Bryan

You write: “"Presides in love" or "presiding in love" is not a mistranslation. That is a standard translation. The Holy See is not presiding "over love"; that doesn't even make sense.”

I provided the original Greek, and the translation into English, and provided the URL of a Roman Catholic site, for the benefit of you and your readers, to the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans. Ancient texts are often unclear and ambiguous. If it doesn’t make sense it is not up to us to rework them to fit our own viewpoints and force them to make sense. I have highlighted the importance of this previously. The spirit of openness and humility to ancient texts requires us to acknowledge the possibility of different interpretations.

All you have provided is your assertion that yours is “a standard translation”. Please provide us with your source – and a URL where we, your readers, can check your translation. Furthermore can you give us the point where St. Ignatius refers to “the Holy See” (sic), as, once again, I suspect this is an anachronistic gloss added by you to buttress your position.

Blessings

Tim A. Troutman said...

Liturgy,

You again continue with the Ad Hominem attacks. You said my logic isn't correct but failed to show how. You just inserted an ad hominem attack.

The comment I made about my blog was concerning a post that is no longer there (so you wouldn't know about it) and I said "ad hominem" attack not straw man. I am not aware of any straw man fallacies on my blog but if there is one, I'm happy to hear about it.

While you accuse me of straw man attacks (for some unknown argument) you yourself make a glaring one about the Pope and his role in the Catholic Church as if all other priests and bishops are merely his assistant. That's not even close to what the Church teaches. Yes that is a novel teaching - very novel - you just made it up.

And I will point out again that you have failed to address either of our initial arguments and are moving the argument away from the topic. Now you seem to be arguing as if Bryan considers the Ignatian epistle to the Church at Rome solely sufficient as evidence for the modern papacy. Who is making straw man arguments?

Straw man arguments are more tolerable than ad hominem though. I don't have much patience for that kind of argument so if thats all you want to do, have fun but I won't waste my time with it.

I'll leave Bryan to address your other arguments.

Principium unitatis said...

Bosco,

Harnack, Thiele, Ehrhard, and Hamell translate it this way. Jurgens translates it: "holding the presidency of love". (I don't have URLs.)

Even the Orthodox don't contest this translation. (See here.)

In this case the genitive need not be understood to mean that love is the object of the presiding (though it could if 'agape' is referring to the Eucharist), but rather that love is the mode of presiding, i.e. a presiding [with respect to] "love", and in that sense, a presiding "in love". The point is that St. Ignatius says that the Church of Rome "presides", whether in love, or over the Eucharist. Either way, St. Ignatius gives presidence to the Church at Rome. The early Church clearly recognized that Peter's episcopal successor had the primacy, as the fathers clearly testify, and even the Ecumenical Councils affirmed Rome's primacy.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

liturgy said...

Greetings

Tim you wrote and I quoted:

““If B therefore A we can usually say (at least in this argument) not B would equal not A.””

This is the fallacy of “denying the antecedent”.

Are you actually reading my comments? If you don’t understand the fallacy of denying the antecedent in deductive logic look it up ☺

Please point to where I suggest priests are the pope’s assistants. My point was that the ecclesiological model being suggested in this thread was of a papal primacy as currently exercised in the Roman Catholic denomination. In this the bishop of Rome effectively acts as bishop over the whole church and appoints all bishops in the Roman Catholic church. In this the universal international church appears akin to a single diocese where local bishops act more as assistants to the bishop of Rome than having authority by virtue of being bishops. I highlighted this, that whereas originally, as in all places, the local diocese decided on their bishop – and the diocese of Rome would have decided on the bishop of Rome – now those who elect the bishop of Rome are spread throughout the planet, but to keep within the earlier concepts, the fiction is that the cardinals are actually parish priests in the diocese of Rome.

As to your translation and interpretation, Bryan, of the Ignatian text, I have looked closely at the Greek and a variety of translations on my bookshelf and online and continue to think you are stretching a clearly difficult phrase and anachronistically reading it through the lenses of later development.

As to the website you point to, Bryan, it is a Roman Catholic apologetics site – not, as you suggest, an Eastern Orthodox one.

I do believe there may be a way forward ecumenically, even structurally, although it is certainly not where I would place my primary energy, but it will lie in acknowledging that the current manner of exercising primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not all of the essence of that ministry, whereas all I have been reading here gives me the impression that that ministry and the exact way it is currently exercised is of the essence of any future structural union.

But I might be wrong.
And suspect I will again hear the refrain of this blog: "ad hominem" which I think Harnack, Thiele, Ehrhard, Hamell, and Jurgens translated as "I disagree with you" :-)

Blessings

Principium unitatis said...

Bosco,

Thanks for your comments.

As to your translation and interpretation, Bryan, of the Ignatian text ...

What do you think the phrase means? How does this usage of προκαθημένη differ from the other places St. Ignatius uses it (e.g. earlier in the same sentence, and in his Epistle to the Magnesians, where it clearly has reference to authority? Given what the other fathers (whom I already quoted in this thread, and to which I already referred), said about the primacy of the Holy See, how is it not surprising that St. Ignatius is recognizing and affirming the primacy of the Church at Rome by saying that she is "presiding in love"?

As to the website you point to, Bryan, it is a Roman Catholic apologetics site – not, as you suggest, an Eastern Orthodox one.

I didn't suggest it was an Orthodox site. It is a site that shows that the Orthodox (or least significant Orthdox scholars) concede this translation of the Ignatian text.

I do believe there may be a way forward ecumenically, even structurally, although it is certainly not where I would place my primary energy, but it will lie in acknowledging that the current manner of exercising primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not all of the essence of that ministry ....

On what basis do you determine which General Councils are authoritative?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim A. Troutman said...

Liturgy, first of all, no you will not hear the accusation of "ad hominem" in reply because you didn't make any ad hominem attacks this time and I appreciate it.

Now on the logic issue, I understand what you're saying and I anticipated this response. Thats why, if you'll notice, I paid close attention to qualify my statement and carefully avoid the fallacy of denying the antecedent. That's why I said "at least in this argument" and "usually" those are qualifiers. It means that if b therefore a (in this case, (as in, not in every case)) not b = not a and I stand by what I said.

You said:
"Your confusion of the whole church solely with the trunk is a yearning for a barren uniformity which belies God's wonderful diversity held in unity - from the heart of the very nature of God."

This implies, like I said, if he didn't have yearning for barren uniformity etc.. he wouldn't be confused and thereby I was confirming that he was justified in calling out your ad hominem and I was justified in pointing out that the Church doesn't need "diversity" in doctrine to be This is as simple as it gets and if we don't agree here, we might as well drop the conversation because we shouldn't be talking about complex subjects like the papacy if we cant agree on simple ones like this.

Put another way, "Joe's confusion on the Church is a blindness to reality". This is parallel to your statement and again we can see that it implies that if Joe didn't have blindness to reality, he wouldn't be confused about the Church.

B = blindness
A = confusion

B therefore A and again (in this case) Not B would (implicitly) equal Not A. No, not in every case, just in this case, otherwise I would have had no need to say "in this case".

Now on the issue of the pope - I retract my statement about having priests as assistants - you only said bishops. Still this is a bit of a caricature of the Catholic Church. Sometimes, I actually wish it was that way so that certain things get done. But we must understand about Rome, while yes the Pope appoints bishops now you are certainly right in saying that was not always the case.

First, the bishops do not derive their authority from the pope even if he does appoint them. He does not delegate his authority to the bishops, their authority is derived from their apostolic office. They themselves have the authority of the apostles.

The office of the papacy has developed throughout Church history - no Catholic denies this. So have deacons, priests and even bishops themselves. The Church by necessity has developed and will continue to do so. The papacy even has the possibility of changing in a way to accommodate the reunion of the Eastern Churches which the pope himself has stated.

But in short, the Pope is not the dictator of the Catholic Church, he is "the servant of God's servants". He is not the king of the Church either, he is visible head and the icon of hierarchal unity. It is loyalty to his see, not employee like obedience, that qualifies one as a member of the Catholic Church.

This is a good article explaining some of the misconceptions about the papacy. I think you'll find it useful.

liturgy said...

Greetings Tim

Thanks for the more irenic tone. I appreciate your acknowledgement that the papacy has evolved, and can and possibly ought to change.

It is this evolution of church structures that makes IMO the tree picture as I’ve attempted to indicate, an oversimplification. A “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” approach that whatever one answers one gets caught in an approach of A therefore B therefore C therefore “gotcha” which does no justice to the complexity of history, humanity, and our spiritual journey.

The attempt to tie it all neatly into clear clean theories may be the need of some/many (I know, I know - ad hominem ☺) but just does not fit the complexity of the reality. Let’s take eucharistic consecration as another example. The RC church teaches it happens when the priest says “this is my body” etc. Yet even within the RC church as mentioned in this thread there is an authorised eucharistic prayer in which there is no Last Supper story, no “this is my body” etc. And the RC church acknowledges the validity of this consecration even though it doesn’t fit the nice theory, because of the complexity of the evolution of the eucharistic prayer in our history actually doesn’t fit with the later-developed theory of consecration.

The site you point to highlights that divisions are often strongest within a denomination. Agreement, unity, support, and encouragement may often come across denominational boundaries. I happen to find mine amongst those who have a passion for spirituality, contemplation, monasticism, justice, liturgy, the eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, etc. whatever denominational allegiance those people are placed.

I think my contribution to this thread has run its course. Bryan’s argument is a well-worn track, well-known and understood in the West. Eucharistic ecclesiology that I have tried to bring as a quite different way of approaching this in my experience is little known and less understood. But I hope here it has finally been heard.

Blessings on your ongoing journey
Let us pray for each other

Bosco+
Liturgy

Tim A. Troutman said...

Glad to end on a peaceful note.

Yes let's pray - for unity.

CD-Host said...

I just discovered your blog today and I love it. I've been reading posts and I'm thinking this blog deserves a full article response on my blog. But before doing anything deep I thought I'd bring to your attention a point of interest.

There is a terrific baptist book, which expresses a view which has gone out of favor in the last century of an entirely different view of your tree. Which essentially looks at many of these various "heresies" schisms as forming a tree of their own.
John T Christian's A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS