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

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Stone Caster

"Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery"
Rembrandt, 1644

In my opinion, the Donatistic conception of ecclesial authority is one of the primary factors hindering ecclesial unity. According to this conception, ecclesial authority is contingent upon one's own determination of the moral or theological qualifications of the individual holding some ecclesial office; and if one determines that the particular ecclesial authority does not meet those qualifications, one may justifiably 'rebel'. (I discuss Donatism, along with Montanism and Novatianism in "The Gnostic Roots of Heresy".) This Donatistic conception fails to recognize the sacramental nature of ordination, instead treating ecclesial authority as if this authority is derived democratically, from the bottom-up.

Last month I mentioned in passing the way David treated Saul, and what Jesus says about the "seat of Moses". Recently I read Jonathan Deane's post titled "The Stone Caster". He brings out very well the implications of Christ's words about the Pharisees in the "seat of Moses" for a Donatistic conception of ecclesial authority. Here's the link.


R. E. Aguirre. said...

Bryan, this is a fascinating observation about the Donatistic way people think about their church. It is indeed very common in American "Evangelicalism". But not just the moderns have a penchant for this type of thinking as St. Augustine records for us, the battles he had in his time contra the Donatists.

On a related note, I once heard of an entire congregation that split off from the OPC Protestant denomination over the interpretation of the "24 hour literalness" of the creation days in the Genesis account. In a way this is hyper-Donatism gone wild and is a tragic commentary on the (a)historicity in the minds of Christians today.

R.E Aguirre
- regulafide.blogspot.com

Bryan Cross said...

Thanks R.E.

Insofar as Donatism fails to recognize the *sacramentality* of ordination, and insofar as my argument is correct that there is no principled middle position between sacramental magisterial authority on the one hand, and individualism on the other hand, Donatism must eventually collapse into individualism.

Thanks for your comments.

In the peace of Christ on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,

- Bryan