Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When the facts are on your side....

I see a pattern in how any critique of RCism is dealt with by RC apologists. Let's suppose I wave 1 Clement 32 under an apologist's nose:

"Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, "Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven." All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Well now, that seems pretty straight forward--we are saved by faith and not works--even our godliness and works done in purity of heart. So, Clement seems to have taught something like justification by faith alone, which is a torpedo amidships for accusations of Luther's "innovation".

Well, no, if you ask an RC apologist.

You see, Clement is RC, so he must agree with the current position of the RCC.

I think this is besides the point.

If I argued that Trent said justification by faith alone is the true doctrine of justification, RC apologists would not bother with "The writers of Trent are RC, so an RC interpretation is the correct one", they would argue from the words of Trent themselves. And they would be right, and it would be trivial to show I am wrong since justification by faith alone is explicitly condemned.

What I am getting to is this, there is an old lawyer saw that goes something like this:

"When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When neither is on your side, change the subject and question the motives of the opposition."

I submit that when an apologist, be he RC, EO, Lutheran or whatever, argues from generalities to make what is written mean something quite different from what seems to be the natural sense of what is written, he tacitly admits he does not have the facts on his side. I think something like this is going on with this Clement quote--the RCs have tacitly admitted the facts are on not their side, so they change the subject to "If Clement is RC he agrees with us..." This is a common tactic in my experience.

I also think pope St. Clement did teach something very like justification by faith alone.

18 comments:

William Weedon said...

Ed,

You mean the same thing in the East, sadly. No matter what you point out from St. John Chrysostom about "faith alone" (and he was quite explicit), "you misunderstand him." Why? Because the Church (i.e, the Orthodox) are the only matrix in which he can be truly understood.

William Weedon said...

Meet not mean.

Sorry!

Edward Reiss said...

Fr. Weedon,

It seems to me that this is the wrong way to "receive" the teachings of the Fathers. It is as if the Fathers receive latter developments from the Church instead of the Church receiving "what was handed down". I guess that is what bothers me about it.

Nathan said...

Ed,

Awesome post. Hope to see more from you in the future!

~Nathan

Jason said...

Nate,

When you say Clement (c.90) says some stuff that sounds 'Lutheran' I take this to mean the following (in no particular order):

+ Luther's (and the Lutheran confessions) understanding and exposition of the gospel fits in line with the scriptures (obvioulsy), and more importantly, with the Apostolic message passed on through the ages.
+ Hence, the Lutheran exposition of salvation (specifically faith alone) isn't a novelity, but rather a clarification (and polishing) of the true gospel message (delivered once and for all to the saints).
+ Hence, Lutherans are a part of the True Church, and carriers of the gospel to all the nations.

Would this be accurate?

If so, I offer the following for consideration (in no particular order):

+ The Lutheran exposition of salvation by grace, by faith, in Christ would not be disputed in EO (or the Ancient Church), as the East surely believes (and teaches) we are saved by grace and not works.
+ The 'inflamary' "alone" added by Luther (and Lutherans) is that which causes problems, and could be seen as the novelty, especially in light of how the Ancient Church has interpreted the Gospel up to this very day.
+ Salvation is not a one-time event, it's a process, at least in our lives and how we experience it. The gospel invites us, calls us into union with God. This union between God and man is anything but static, and certainly more than mere legal declaration that everything is OK and we are forgiven. The union with God is descriptive and dynamic and personal--it calls us to al relational journey that lives in faith, but a faith that informs our lives on how to live. This seems to be the faith of the Ancient Church, and the Lutherans--when they align themselves with the faith passed on down through the ages.
+ And last, not least, when Fr. Weedon (and Upstate Lutheran) quote the Church Fathers that focus on Christ's work or salvation by faith that seem to be in alignment with Luther (or I would say Luther is alignment with the Apostolic Witness), the same Church Fathers (CF) are never (or hardly) quoted when it comes to the life of a Christian and how we struggle against the flesh and do good works as a part of the salvation process. Thus, the same CFs that are quoted as supporting salvation by faith (and wouldn't be disputed by the East, or the Anicent Church, really) could be used to produce quotes that would scandelize most Lutherans and certainly not end up being quoted in Lutheran circles. In short, the Ancient Church would quote from both (those that speak of faith, and those that speak of works) while Lutherans seem to cherry-pick the quotes that fit their presumptive theological grid of how they understand salvation (i.e. faith alone).

Blessings,

Jason

Edward Reiss said...

Jason,

First welcome, and I mean that sincerely.

Second, thank you for a crystal clear example of exactly what I was blogging about!

You didn't bother exegeting Clement's words, or give context from his writings to make his meaning clearer, or in any way interact with Clement or my argument. All you did was describe what the RC/EO position on salvation is, and why it isn't Lutheran. Well, we already know you think we are wrong, just like we think you are wrong. In other words, you basically claimed "Clement is RC, so we have to read him in a RC manner...." (Substitute EO of you wish, it doesn't change my point) I don't think that is a valid argument at all. In fact, it is non responsive, you are using "...[w]hen neither is on your side, change the subject..".

Perhaps my characterization of your argumentation could be wrong. You could show it if you would simply state Clement is wrong here. Will you? Or will you just argue from antiquity?

So, given that pope St. Clement states that works done in purity of heart (!!!!) do not justify us, and Luther (as well as other Fathers) says pretty much the same, how can you or anyone else say he innovated, or it is not patristic doctrine?

Unless you just say Clement is wrong here.

Jason said...

Edward,

Thanks for the welcome, and sorry for the confusion in my post. I posted what I did at the request of a personal email exchange I had with my good friend Nathan (who posts here too). He said if I didn’t post what I wrote, he would. Apparently he wants to offer a rebuttal in public since he knows he’s a much better debater than I. :)

In regards to your comments, a few things…

+ I am Orthodox, but I don’t speak for Orthodoxy, nor am I an expert in Orthodoxy. I was a nominal Lutheran (ELCA) for the first 22 years of my life, had a conversion experience in 1988 and spent the next 19 years as a various-striped Evangelical, and was received into the Orthodox Church (with my wife) on Pascha 2007.
+ Though Orthodox, I do appreciate Luther’s theology, and think much of it catholic in nature. While you are Lutheran with catholic leanings, I am Orthodox with Lutheran tendencies and appreciation.
+ Your comments regarding I Clement 32 as needing to be either Lutheran or Ancient are inaccurate in my opinion. I Clement 32 says we are saved by faith—this is something that NO Orthodox (or RC) disputes. When Clement speaks of salvation by faith, he is simply passing on the truth of gospel as given by Jesus, and then the apostles, and then the early Church . The Orthodox agree, we are saved by faith. Or perhaps it would be better said that the Lutherans agree we are saved by faith since the Ancient Faith existed 1500 years before Lutheranism hit the scene.
+ I Clement 32 states we are saved by faith, and I Clement 33 goes on to say, “…Shall we idly abstain from doing good, and forsake love? May the Master never allow this to happen, at least to us; but let us hasten with earnestness and zeal to accomplish every good work…(7) We have seen that all the righteous have been adorned with good works…(8) So since we have this pattern, let us unhesitatingly conform ourselves to his will; ***let us with all our strength do the work of righteousness***” (emphasis added).
+ This last quote from I Clement 33 would be an example of what I stated in my last post: “when Fr. Weedon (and Upstate Lutheran) quote the Church Fathers that focus on Christ's work or salvation by faith that seem to be in alignment with Luther (or I would say Luther is alignment with the Apostolic Witness), the same Church Fathers (CF) are never (or hardly) quoted when it comes to the life of a Christian and how we struggle against the flesh and do good works as a part of the salvation process. Thus, the same CFs that are quoted as supporting salvation by faith (and wouldn't be disputed by the East, or the Ancient Church, really) could be used to produce quotes that would scandalize most Lutherans and certainly not end up being quoted in Lutheran circles. In short, the Ancient Church would quote from both (those that speak of faith, and those that speak of works) while Lutherans seem to cherry-pick the quotes that fit their presumptive theological grid of how they understand salvation (i.e. faith alone).”
+ I realize that proof texting from the Scriptures and quotes from the Church Fathers really get us no where since we do bring our own assumptions to the texts. ALL history is interpretive, so it’s simply a matter of who’s interpretation you’re going to use to govern your understanding. I agree with Fr. Weedon about the Ancient Church matrix, but of course the exact same thing can be said regarding how you and he are understanding these texts: you’re understanding them through a Lutheran or Reformational matrix.
+ Finally, when someone uses Luther’s last words, “we are all just beggars” or the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” as a prayer of their heart, I believe, at their core, they are saying the same thing: salvation comes from outside ourselves and is accomplished by the mercy of God.

Blessings,

Jason

Edward Reiss said...

Jason,

For what it is worth, I thought you confused me with Nathan.

Anyway, I think I detect a problem in your citation of 1 Clement 33. Regarding 1 Clement 33, the Lutheran confessions state that good works, or works of love, if you will , are necessary for salvation, but they do not justify us or make us more righteous. So, when something like this is quoted, we will not see "we are also justified by our works" but "faith without works is dead". or possibly "of course those in Christ do good works! How could they not" This is in large part because we believe in baptismal regeneration. Living things do things, but they do not become living things by doing, but they do because they are living things.

You say that RCs and EOs believe we are saved by faith. Maybe they do, but it is so qualified that it does not resemble "saved by grace through faith". Allow me to illustrate:

The RCC teaches that when we are baptized, original sin is washed away and grace is infused into us as an accident of our nature. Over time, we become more and more justified by cooperating with the infused grace we received in our baptism. This causes habitual goodness which makes us "actually righteous". So, in effect the RCC teaches we are justified by grace+faith+works, with grace being pre-eminent.

The EOs I have interacted with typically do not speak in terms of "saved by faith", but rather, y striving to subdue our passions and cooperating with God's grace, we participate more and more in his energies and become more godlike, though never becoming God. So, I am not sure I agree with your assessment of EO theology, but I am open to correction.


In both cases, there is more justifying to be done after we are baptized.

Lutherans believe we are justified by grace through faith for the sake of Christ. We do good works to help our neighbor, not to earn anything or bring ourselves closer to God. In my opinion, that is closer to the natural sense of St. Clement's words.

Regarding all of us bringing our presuppositions to any text. I agree, but that is not how the Fathers are typically quoted to my by EO and RC apologists. WHen they are quoted to me, any interpretation which differs form the "official" interpretation is immediately ruled out of court. Not to harp on it, but your first post was an example of this.

Nathan said...

Jason,

You got it - I wanted to defeat you in public. Hah! : )

Edward,

I thought Jason should post his comments to me here (I forwarded the link to your post to him), because I thought it was quite a thoughtful post.

A few things.

First of all, I think the Lutheran Confessions only say "good works are necessary", not "for salvation". Luther said something like "good works are necessary to salvation" (meaning that they are a part of salvation in the wide sense), but it was determined during the Reformation, for reasons that were largely pastoral, that the phrase "good works are necessary for salvation" should not be used.

Second, in a sense, I think there is more justifying to be done after we are baptized in that the Christian life is one of continual repentance, and hence absolution. You can say that this brings assurance to those already baptized and forgiven, but there is also a sense in which we really are given the forgiveness of sin and justification every time we get it - and that we really do need it continually if we are to remain strong in the faith (though we would not say we become "more and more justified" before God).

Third, I think "faith alone" probably does need to stand, as "apart from works of law" seems to me to mean not only the ceremonical laws, but the law as a whole (see Romans 7, and evidently St. Ephraim in his spiritual Psalter agonizes over this passage and comes out understanding it in a very Lutheran way, per Pastor Weedon). Not only this - but this must hold true simply for pastoral reasons. When we are broken in sin, we need to have the certainty of faith delivered to us again through our brothers - and to receive it like children, who are helpless, and don't *do* much of anything as they receive God's free grace. This is not to say that we are not to grow in good works as we mature, but that when it comes to receiving God's mercy, we must constantly become like little children - infants - again. Hence faith alone!

Many of the early church fathers use the phrase "faith alone" including the Golden-Mouthed one. That they may at other times talk in Romans 2:13 fashion should not detract from the times they felt it was important to add the "alone". Lutherans to sometimes speak in Romans 2:13 fashion as well, for there indeed will be a last day when the doers of the law will be justified before the eyes of all the sheep and goats.

But with God, we live "in the secret" (end of Romans 2)

Finally, I do think being more conscious of our own assumptions/presuppostions is a very good thing. And I do think that what Ed says about taking texts seriously is important. Would that we could all be more up front about the texts that make us squirm - because their meaning seems all too clear.

~Nathan

Jason said...

@Nathan: IMHO, everything you just wrote is very catholic and would not be disputed, at its core, by Orthodoxy. Or let me rephrase that: should not be disputed by Orthodoxy. I just purchased the book "Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tubingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession" which looks extremely interesting, and relevant to my interest of exploring if Lutherans and Orthodoxy are really as different as people make them out to be. Perhaps there's more that unites us, rather than divides us, and we would make more progress focusing on such things.

Jason said...

@Nathan: A few things.

+ I have no problems with Lutherans referencing the Church Fathers to connect Luther's teaching to the Apstolic deposit (or Apstolic matrix, to use Fr. Freeman's example...more about that here, http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/the-orthodox-reading-of-scripture/).
+ When Basil or The Golden Mouth or Clement, etc. speak of being saved by faith, the Ancient Church agrees! Luther is not bringing anything 'new' to the scene when he speaks of faith. I would agree that he helps clarify the meaning of faith, and this to me is his true value--it is not that somehow after the apostles the meaning of faith was misunderstood or misrepresented until the time of Luther.
+ The same Basil or Golden Mouth or Clement that speak of salvation by faith, also speak of the need for works--not in a sense that it's a merit before God or has some kind of earning power, but rather in the sense that effort is a part of the salvation process: salvation is both gift and task, and this message is much more unified and embraced in Orthodoxy, and the Anicent Church in general, than it is in Lutheranism. It's in this sense, in how Lutherans react or try to re-work 'works' in the salvation paradigm that they could be criticised for departing from the faith--not necessarily to apostacy, but in a deviation from how the message of the Gospel was understood and passed on down through the ages.

+ The Ancients and Lutherans do differ on their understanding and role of the will. This is the crux of the issue in my mind. And when you look at Church Fathers as a whole, it seems there's more in common, harmony with how Orthodoxy (or the Ancient Church) understands and defines the role (and terms) of faith and works, then how Lutherans try and define them. In other words, when a Lutheran speak of the role of works it sounds much more Lutheran than simply letting Basil, the Golden Mouth or Clement speak on their own terms--and at face value.

Edward Reiss said...

Jason,

Thank you for your input.

I have a couple of comments, of course. :-) You wrote "the Ancients and Lutherans do differ on their understanding and role of the will. This is the crux of the issue in my mind. And when you look at Church Fathers as a whole, it seems there's more in common, harmony with how Orthodoxy (or the Ancient Church) understands and defines the role (and terms) of faith and works, then how Lutherans try and define them."

The ancients also agreed on Chiliasm, there was a general consensus that Chiliasm is true for at least a couple hundred years. Later, this idea was anathematized. So, why was that particular ancient idea wrong?

Basically, this is why I do not automatically accept the "consensus of the Fathers" on a given issue--because at times the "consensus" was wrong. St. Maximos the Confessor is an example of this.

To your point, we believe we cannot choose God because that is what Scripture says--St. Paul says the natural man cannot understand the things of God, while the spiritual man can. The scriptures say we are dead in trespasses and sins. There are may other such passages. Now, maybe our interpretation is wrong, but it seems to me that when a Scripture passage disagrees with RCism or EO teachings, it is simply re-interpreted to fit into the matrix no matter what the words actually say. So, if we are wrong we expect to be shown we are wrong from the text or plain, unassailable reason (enlightened by the Holy Spirit of course), not have church Fathers statements which seem, on their face, to change the natural meaning of the text into something else. One reason is that this implicitly staes the writings of Church fathers--which everyone accepts can contain errors--more reliable than the Scriptures enspired by the Holy Spirit and accepted by the Church--e.g. St. Irenaeus--as the Apostolic Tradition in written form.

This is what happened with the Clement quote I cited above. Clement was simply re-interpreted to be in line with EO or RC teaching. If a Church Father--an Apostolic Father to boot so he is more "ancient" than later EO fathers--says our godliness and works done in purity of heart do not justify us, well, that looks like it raises some significant issues about RC and EO doctrine since it would seem to exclude all works we can do to please God. I guess my point is that the e.g. EOs don't by any means have a monopoly on the "ancients", they say things inconvenient for all communions.

Regarding the ancients, don't you risk falling into the "it is old and popular, therefore it is true" fallacy by accepting what ancient peoples said uncritically? IOW, it is not enough just to cite a consensus of the ancients. Who corrects the ancients, and by what authority can they do so?

Jason said...

@ Ed: Regarding your example of a mixed Church Father (CF) consensus (which could be multiplied many times over) on the topic of chiliasm as compared to the human will (and it's freedom and lack thereof), I don't believe that any of the first seven ecumenical councils made a concrete decision about chiliasm. I also don't know if there was any official teaching regarding the human will in man, though I know the first seven councils focus on the Holy Trinity, and the dual nature of Christ, which has implications for human anthropology. And I guess this would be my point: the understanding and exposition of the human will by the CF seems more in alignment with what finds in Orthodoxy than what you find in Lutheranism. Or stated another way, when Lutherans speak of the human will, it seems to deviate from the Ancient Tradition--which would be considered a part of the Gospel message passed on down through the ages.

As for your question on how we can know for sure whether the first seven ecumenical councils got everything right, I don't believe we can. I think we take this on faith (to a certain degree), that God guided Jesus, the apostles, and then the early CF through the process of history and that the ecumenical councils were an expression of the will of God on how to understand the Scriptures. Orthodoxy speaks of it's liturgy, it's hymns, and prayers as an embodiment and expression of the Scriptures. In short, it's an interpretation. However, this is absolutely NO different than the Lutherans looking at the Scriptures and offering an interpretation. The trouble, or challenge, is that the Lutheran understanding of scriptures is one of hundreds as the each Protestant body offers their version of the truth. Thus, to say we need to get back to the Scriptures ends up becoming a circular argument--the question, really, is whose tradition are you going to use to understand the Scriptures and the Apstolic Deposit of the faith? NO ONE can get around this. Period.

My decision to accept and submit myself to the Ancient Tradition's understanding of Scripture and the Christian faith is quite simplistic: Orthodoxy (i.e. the Ancient Church) existed before Luther and Lutheranism. To be honest, I wish it was the other way around, but it's not, thus I'll continue to be an Orthodox with Lutheran leanings.

Lastly, from an Orthodox Lenten hymn: “O Christ our God, of Thine own will Thou has accepted Crucifixion, that all mankind might be restored to life. Taking the quill of the Cross, out of love for man in the red ink of royalty with bloody fingers Thou has signed our absolution.” This certainly sounds "Lutheran" but the reality is it speaks the truth of the Ancient Church, which speaks the language of Scripture as passed on through the Apostolic Church.

Blessings,

Jason

Edward Reiss said...

Jason,

We are getting down to arguments about authority:

"..the understanding and exposition of the human will by the CF seems more in alignment with what finds in Orthodoxy than what you find in Lutheranism. Or stated another way, when Lutherans speak of the human will, it seems to deviate from the Ancient Tradition--which would be considered a part of the Gospel message passed on down through the ages."

I don't think "human will" or "free will" is the center of theology, or even all that important. What is important is what God has revealed to us. I believe the Scriptures are explicit that we cannot by our own will choose to follow God, and I think the Orthodox use philosophy to make them fit into their theological framework. From a psychological standpoint (and I am not trained in psochology), I don;t think we choose to believe anything at all. for instance, I don't choose to believe the sky is blue, or that my car is in the driveway. But we do have free will to perform particular acts. for instance, I can type 7 capital Xs in a row:

XXXXXXX

See? ;-)

Now, you say that what we read in the Fathers is more congruent with with Orthodoxy regarding free will. OK, but why should we assume they got it right? You say faith, but then why should one person's faith count more than another's?

For what it is worth, I do not deny that Lutherans interpret things. I just think the range of reasonable interpretations of e.g. Clement's statement above and the Scriptures tends to support the Lutheran view.

Regarding the hundreds of Protestant bodies. You will have a difficult time trying to link the various Protestant denominations to Lutheranism, i.e. they are not schisms from Lutheranism. There are a couple which split from Lutheranism, but they are in the single digits as far as I can see. For instance, the Anabaptists are not derived from Lutheranism, and the Reformed did not split from Lutheranism but had their origins with Huldyrich Zwingli and John Calvin.

And, if churches splitting of a single church is a criteria for discounting its teachings, Orthodoxy fails that test, too. There have been quite a few schisms from the canonical Orthodox churches, and there continue to be schisms today.

"Thus, to say we need to get back to the Scriptures ends up becoming a circular argument--the question, really, is whose tradition are you going to use to understand the Scriptures and the Apstolic Deposit of the faith? NO ONE can get around this. Period."

This assumes that the scriptures are a sort of fiddle anyone cam make play any tune he wishes. I don;t think that is true. It i snot circular to appeal to what St. Basil called the "Umpire" to decide between competing traditions. Nor is it circular to appeal to what St. Irenaeus said is the Apostolic tradition written down--the Scriptures.

"Orthodoxy (i.e. the Ancient Church) existed before Luther and Lutheranism. To be honest, I wish it was the other way around, but it's not, thus I'll continue to be an Orthodox with Lutheran leanings."

So does RCism, the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Assyrians etc. Being ancient only moves the question back a level. Who vouchsafes Orthodoxy's orthodoxy? If you use your "private judgment", isn't that a Protestant way to decide things? And if you do not use your private judgment, what is your authority for choosing Orthodoxy over other ancient churches, and who vouchsafes for that authority?

"Taking the quill of the Cross, out of love for man in the red ink of royalty with bloody fingers Thou has signed our absolution.” This certainly sounds "Lutheran" but the reality is it speaks the truth of the Ancient Church, which speaks the language of Scripture as passed on through the Apostolic Church."

I don't think your Lutheran leanings will last long, as Orthodoxy has a different theological center from Lutheranism in particular, and Western christianity in general.

Why isn't the RCC the Apostolic Church? (A rhetorical question)

Jason said...

Ed,

In your first sentence (in your last post) [“I don't think "human will" or "free will" is the center of theology, or even all that important”] you already betray the very catholic spirit you seek to embrace—and illustrate just how Lutheran, not catholic, your matrix really is. To say that ‘freewill’ wasn’t important to the early Church Fathers (CF) is to deny an important component of their understanding of human anthropology, and thus how they understood the salvation process. You can’t have one without the other.

You seem to concede that the CF understanding of freewill is much more in line with the Ancient Church than with how the Lutherans understand it. It’s much more consistent, and honest, for Lutherans to acknowledge that they depart from the Ancient understanding of scripture regarding the topic of freewill (which of course has ramifications for understanding soteriology).

If this is the case, I simply wonder when Lutherans attempt to quote from the CF to support “faith alone” (like you seem to be doing with this quote from Clement) if they’re not hi-jacking quotes to support a Lutheran theological agenda that’s not there in the original CF quotes. For example, to say that Clement and John Chrysostom and other CFs teach salvation by faith IS NOT in dispute from the Ancient Church. What would be disputed is when you place the “alone” at the end of it and understand it in a Lutheran manner, thus to say that Clement supports the “Lutheran view” is a stretch, to say the very least.

I’ll leave let you have the last word, as this will be my last post on this thread. Thanks for the dialogue. Oh, and to the (rhetorical) question of why isn’t the RCC the Apostolic Church? Quite simply, because Christianity originated in the East. :)

Blessings,

Jason

Edward Reiss said...

Jason,

I did not say "free will is unimportant" to the ECFs, I said it is not the center of theology.

The cross is the center of theology, not human will. And this is why I consider Lutheranism to be the most catholic--we "focus" on the right things.

Regarding my alleged "concession", I do not concede--it depends on the particular Father being read. I also think we should let the Fathers speak for themselves, rather than try and anachronistically force them into later theological categories.

Your whole argument boils down to "we are old so we are right", and ISTM that the EOC does not deal with statements by ECFs which disagree with their theology--they just re-interpret them or ignore them. A case in point is that our deeds done in holiness of heart do not justify us. Well, I still have not seen an explanation from you as to how that does not cause serious problems for the orthodoxy of Clement's writings. In stead, true to form, you argue from EO generalities to re-interpret a clear statement by Clement. I don;t think you are taking Clement seriously as a theologian.

"Quite simply, because Christianity originated in the East. :)"

I noticed the smiley, but it is still a pertinent question. Geography does not determine Orthodoxy, and the RCC claims the "East" as being in full communion with Rome until the Great Schism. So, it seems your reasoning is arbitrary.

Nathan said...

Great conversation - really enjoying the points you guys are bringing out.

Jason - when I do try to understand EO, and feel ready to give a little bit, stuff like this gets a little bit discouraging:

http://frgregory.blogspot.com/2009/08/on-consensus-claimed-and-actual.html

I guess in the East, persons are just confident of thier identity and and don't don't feel like they need to or should imitate Peter and Paul (in Acts - see my string of 4 posts in the middle of this discussion) anymore. They might think its hopeless to bring people to faith this way, but Lutherans sure as heck don't. : )

Will keep trying. : )

~Nathan

Edward Reiss said...

Nathan,

I perused the thread, and the EO argument seems to boil down to "any questions about history is an appeal to out-of-bounds scholasticism and Western style rationalism, therefore discussion is fruitless."

Though not an precise example of avoiding dealing with what e.g. the Fathers actually say in places, it is quite similar. Basically, it is an appeal to trust the EOC, and later everything will work itself out.

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