Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Polity and of Essence.

Following an earlier piece I wrote, about the alleged significance of an apparent, but false, agreement between the Two One True Churches concerning us (and our place in the Holy Catholic Church), it is time to question one of their biggest blind spots. And, as always, my purpose is to boost the confidence that Continuing Anglicans have in the teaching and tradition we have inherited.

Once again, I direct your attention to the writings of Richard Hooker, and his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity:

"The matters wherein Church polity is conversant are the public religious duties of the Church, as the administration of the word and sacraments, prayers, spiritual censures, and the like. To these the Church standeth always bound. Laws of polity, are laws which appoint in what manner these duties shall be performed." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

Books III and IV of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity present a defense of Anglicanism against the charges of Calvinists, Book IV defending the continuation of practices that the Calvinists deemed overly- "Romish." Hooker, along with the men who were working to clarify and produce for public use the Articles and other formularies, walked a tightrope trying to balance truth against the very real influences of Calvinists, Lutherans, Rome and the Anabaptists, all of which contradicted the straightforward Catholic-Protestantism (or Protestant-Catholicism) of the Church of England. In so doing his writings produced a system that is often misunderstood. The system requires that we give heed above all to Scripture, that we use Right Reason, and that we obediently receive the teaching of the Church (the latter called simply, Tradition). Unfortunately, this is described wrongly all too often as "the three legged stool," and is misused by revisionists to rule out the authority of both the Scriptures and the Tradition, as if these three things can be weighed against each other instead of taken together. About this error I have written before on this blog.

Nonetheless, what Hooker did give to us provides a hierarchy of authority within the reach of every informed Christian mind. Above all, because the voice of God is heard there loud and clear, we heed the inspired word of God, that is, the Scriptures. Our understanding of the Scriptures must be taught by the Tradition in which they were received. Finally, in areas where the Scriptures do not direct us one way or the other concerning how we carry out the things that God has commanded, we make use of Right Reason. Hooker saw this Right Reason as one and the same with the decrees of wisdom, the same wisdom to which the Scriptures give witness, especially in the Book of Proverbs. To some degree the resulting polity and rules of Right Reason carry the authority of the Church (Tradition), and are subject to change only if this is demanded by Right Reason to meet the needs of the Church in a given time and place, since history is not stagnant. Never does Right Reason lead to a change in the commandments of God, or in the teaching of the Church. It is limited only to matters in which the finite human mind may make rules for order, indeed, must make rules for order. An obvious example is rubrics, and other particular matters of liturgy as well, where we must use wisdom to find the most reasonable and useful way to obey such basic commands as "Do this in remembrance of me."

So too, certain matters of Church polity may require change in accordance with the fluidity of history to meet the needs of churches in various times and places. However, at no time is the Church allowed to meddle with the essential order that God has established. By "essential order" we mean those things that are bon esse- of the essence. For example, learned Anglicans know that the three orders of ministry are of the essence of the Church, and that this includes the unbroken Apostolic Succession of bishops. Indeed, Hooker himself, along with the men who defended the Church of England against "Calvin's Geneva Discipline" (at one point called "crazed" by Hooker), as well as other attempts to reinvent the ecclesiastical wheel, used barrels of ink and mountains of paper, and eventually some shed their blood, to preserve this essential order. The reason is simple: It was established by God with Apostolic witness, and as Hooker noted, nothing else had ever been established by God or practiced in the Church. The Canon Law of the Church of England has always preserved this order, except during the very brief "Protectorate" of Oliver Cromwell, which had no lasting effect whatsoever (having not had time) on the Church of England, but that of making Calvinism completely odious to the people.

Although most of what Hooker had to say in Books III and IV defended Anglicanism against Calvinism, the teaching about Right Reason and polity that we find there guides us in a Catholic evaluation of structures that do not have the witness of Scripture, were not established by the Apostles, but instead grew out of necessity and a proper use of Right Reason to meet the needs of the times. However, these have become confused as essential to the Church simply because of their relative antiquity. The question that Anglicans may ask is whether or not the entire structure of the Patriarchates is truly essential. Is it necessary? Is it permanent? Did we reach a point in history when this structure outlived its usefulness? Did we reach a point in history in which this one-time useful polity may have produced more harm than good, adding to the division rather than to the unity of the Church?

This is not to ask whether or not the Councils of Constantinople (I), Ephesus and Chalcedon were right in establishing an order among the Patriarchates. Rather, is that structure essential, or is the polity of it still demanded by Right Reason? Or, has the fluidity of history brought us to one of two possibilities? 1) If the Patriarchate structure no longer helps, but instead hinders the mission of the Church and our part in that mission, may we freely disregard it until it is truly and properly restored to the ideal condition? 2) Or, is this old structure and polity simply not essential at all, and in fact now a hindrance both to unity and to the mission of the Church; and, therefore, is a loss of the Patriarchates, as a structure, no real loss?

To some degree the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and Alexandria had recognition in the era before Constantine and the Toleration. Nonetheless, they took on new power after the persecution was over, and much of their significance was imperial (so too, the later additions of Constantinople, and much later of Moscow). Clearly, the division among the Patriarchs, especially as it continued to develop after 1054, negates the idea that this polity is useful for promoting the unity of the Church. The exile of the original Patriarchate of Alexandria also makes the entire structure appear to be less than rock-solid and completely necessary; as does the freehand that Rome has taken in establishing "Patriarchates," such as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Whether or not the Patriarchates will all become unified once again, and take on some permanent place in an ideally restored Church is a question of the future, perhaps of eschatology. Apart from Divine promises we have no knowledge of the future, just as surely as the future teaches no lessons from which we may learn. Whether or not there is such a Divine promise we may only surmise, basing our various answers on the interpretation we have of Scripture. We do not know if they hold a permanent significance that cannot be seen from our side of history.

But, we can answer the other question in the negative: This structure is not essential. The Patriarchates are not "from the beginning" of the Church, and were not established by the Apostles. Their limited importance is recognized by Rome and Constantinople, at least in their new relations with Oriental churches. Anglicans have always been forced to live without a Patriarch, but this need not hinder us at all. We have the fullness of Catholic doctrine, the charismatic reality of the sacraments, and the clear sound of the Gospel. With all due respect to the Patriarchates, but with appreciation for the certainty that on their own each has erred at some time, we have no reason to end our mission and halt the life of our churches.

48 comments:

BillyHW said...

To which Scripture passages in particular are you referring when you claim that the episcopacy (Apostolic Succession of bishops) has the "witness of scripture"?

highchurchman said...

The Patriarchate is of such importance to Rome that the present Pope actually discussed abandoning the title of Patriarch of the West if it made acceptance of Infallibility and Papal Jurisdiction any easier to swallow by the Non Roman Catholics.

Anonymous said...

It is always hard for me to comment on an article with which I am in such firm and clear agreement. Try as I may, I find nothing here to cavil at.

At the risk of diverting discussion off-topic, I do have a question. When was Hooker's "Scripture, reason, tradition" formula first described as a three-legged stool?
In my vast ignorance and abysmal simplicity, I had never heard of such a thing until about twenty years ago, when I was serving as a guest lecturer at a local community college. A sophomore student asked me about this and I was forced to admit, to my mortification, that I had honestly never heard of such a thing before. I later learned that this was a current cliche popular with another type of Anglican. But who first summarized (falsely, I believe) Hooker's view as a three-legged stool? Perhaps I have lived too long.
LKW

rev'd up said...

Does the East hold onto the Partiarchate as fiercely as Rome does?

I agree with Fr. Hart's conclusion that the system serves no essential purpose; nevertheless, there are some benefits to having a central authority. It will take a event of Biblical proportions to remove the system. Most Roman Catholics elevate the Papacy to sacramental status; the sine qua non of the Church (no Pope, no Church). I have taken to calling it their Eighth Sacrament. Obviously, education in the Catholic Faith is essential to eliminating the "ties that blind."

Matthew Nelson said...

In substantive principles, I believe the Anglican Formularies say the same thing as the Orthodox do:

Scripture in Tradition is the authority in preserving the authentic, special, historical revelation of Christ Jesus.

Which is to say, Scripture as it has always been understood -- a la St. Vincent's Aphorism.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Billy HW:
I will direct you to an earlier piece I wrote, on the question you ask.

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/08/apostolic-succession-and-scripture.html

Rev'd up:
I agree with Fr. Hart's conclusion that the system serves no essential purpose...

Actually, it may serve a good purpose and may be necessary in certain churches. The problem is that some people treat it as essential to the Church, and this is why Anglicans are a target for some of them, and why the Catholic reality of Anglicanism is denied by the same people.

But who first summarized (falsely, I believe) Hooker's view as a three-legged stool?

I haven't got a clue. But, I would not be surprised if it was the same crowd who like to change Tradition into "experience," and who think that Right Reason, or as they tend to say, reason, is on a par with Scripture and Tradition. If so, it is the crowd who want to subject the real authority of God and his Church to their own whims and opinions, under the guise of something genuine. For Hooker, Right Reason was the use of wisdom to help us obey the commandments of God, which included the establishment of polity as well as forms for worship.

BillyHW said...

Fr. Hart,

The essay you link to quotes a few passages indicating a sort of succession, but does not elaborate very much on the nature of what is being handed on.

Is there any where in Scripture that I might find Christ establishing the episcopacy as some sort of essential authority or office in the church?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What we call the episcopacy is actually the apostolic ministry. Everything Christ established and commanded his Church to do requires this office. This is especially clear from the post resurrection appearances, such as in Matt. 28. It is reinforced by his call and commission to St. Paul. The New Testament does not give us any suggestion of the Church and its mission without this office.

Matthew Nelson said...

Because apostolic ministry is necessarily implied in Scripture regarding the visible Church militant -- I use this qualification because Christ expressly told the 12 to allow others healing in his name to do so even without any visible apostolic connection -- but the precise form is not -- either presbyterian or episcopal are allowed from the literal text -- Hooker refused to say the episcopacy was absolutely necessary, though he strongly defended it as the normative, traditional polity that ought to be employed except in case of necessity. Hooker was plainly saying something more than "bene esse," or "plene esse," but he would not say that the episcopacy was "esse" to the Church as it could not be clearly proved through scripture.

Personally, IMHO, regarding episcopal polity as the traditional normative tradition -- only to be disregarded in case of extreme necessity, which AFAIK has never actually arisen for any substantial period of time as the classical High-Church Anglican position. Its above the Evangelical position and just below the Anglo-Catholic position, which is to my mind largely academic as no situation has ever existed for a substantial period of time in which would necessitate a whole sale reliance on presbyterianism. I suppose if every valid Bishop on earth were called to a Council and untimely meteor struck . . . .

In sum, I see no practical difference between Hooker's High Churchmanship and Anglo-Catholicism on this issue, but the Puritans, Presbyterians, and Anglican Evangelicals hold a lower position that undervalues the weight of Tradition.

Christ's Peace

Albion Land said...

Highchurchman,

I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall that JPII actually renounced the title Patriarch of the West, though I can't recall what his reasoning was.

Canon Tallis said...

I am in the same boat with Father Wells in that I so agree with what is written that I find myself with little to say except a profound thank you for doing so. I am especially grateful in that you chose to make the argument from Anglican authority although in my opinion all of the earliest fathers fall into that category. But it is primarily scripture to which all who call or think themselves Christians must ultimately fall back upon and while the New Testament knows the office of bishop, it would seem plain that anything above that is an invention of mere men and little more.

Our problem as Anglicans is that we seem to have so little sense of ourselves, a product I believe of the Whig ascendency after the fall of James II, that with rare exception we try to take on a protective colouring from some other (and generally hostile) tradition to make up for our lack of knowledge and acceptance of what is our own. This makes me the more grateful for the series of recent articles posted here. Please keep up the excellent work.

BillyHW said...

Fr. Hart,

Would Matthew 18:18 be another good example where the essence of the episcopacy as an office of authority was established by Jesus Christ?

"And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
--Christ speaking to the Apostles, Matthew 18:17-18.

William Tighe said...

It was the present Pope Benedict XVI who renounced the title "Patriarch of the West" (to the deep disappointment of many Orthodox, notably David Hart), giving as one of his reasons that Rome had accepted late the title "Patriarch" and had never attributed much significance to it.

Historically, of course, Benedict was right, as it was only in 642 that Pope Theodore I (a Greek; pope from 642 to 649) who first used the title of "patriarch" in the form of "Patriarch of Rome." Previous popes who adverted at all to the matter took the line that the title "patriarch" and the division of the Church into "patriarchates" was at best an administrative convenience and at worst an Eastern affectation that, in any case, was irrelevant to itself and to its own notions about the nature and extent of its own authority. (The Anglican writer, Trrvor Jalland, was good on this; cf. his *The Church and the Papacy* [1944].)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Matthew Nelson wrote:

Hooker was plainly saying something more than "bene esse," or "plene esse," but he would not say that the episcopacy was "esse" to the Church as it could not be clearly proved through scripture.

Hooker did not use the word "esse" in his Laws. In his defense of the C of E against Calvin's Geneva discipline, he went so far as to say that episcopacy was the only polity known to the Church until Calvin came along, and that the alternatives to it, such as Calvin's "Church government" did not agree with the plain meaning of scripture. He especially singled out the whole idea of "lay elders" as a glaring and obvious example of how unscriptural the whole Calvinist system was.

From this it is only reasonable to conclude that to Hooker the very idea of a non-episcopal polity was simply wrong. Logic compels us to conclude that he meant at least this much: Apostolic episcopacy was established by God, and nothing else was.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Bill HW wrote:

Would Matthew 18:18 be another good example where the essence of the episcopacy as an office of authority was established by Jesus Christ?

The Church has always taught this very thing. So, yes.

Matthew Nelson said...

Echoing WT, many Orthodox scholars maintain that the Pentarchy was a practical administrative device, and as such is now moribund.

To wit: Constantinople has been Istanbul for about 500 years now; The Pope of Rome has renounced the title of Patriarch; the three of five or so competing Patriarchs of Antioch (three in communion with Rome) live in Damascus and none in Antioch; and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Alexandria have usually spent most of their time in Athens.

In short, some sort of mystical attachment to the Pentarchy smacks a bit of Dungeons-and-Dragons Christianity to me.

Matthew Nelson said...

But Father Hart, Hooker did not "unChurch" the Continental Protestants, so he couldn't have believed the Episcopacy to be essential to the Church.

But I agree that forcing the Latin Scholastic concepts back on to Hooker is anachronistic. But just as much so for those who say he did not believe that episcopal polity was essential (the vast majority of his expositors) as well as for those who try to argue that he did (such as Fr. Hart).

I am taking a middle position that Hooker firmly believed in the "shouldness" of episcopal polity due to Scripture and Tradition but not in an abstract absolute necessity for same, as believed that the Church was real, if deformed, in the Continental Protestant countries.

Perhaps, what I am saying is that Hooker agreed that episcopal polity is essential to catholicity (fullness), but non-Catholics (and Rome Catholics) could still be "Church."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

But Father Hart, Hooker did not "unChurch" the Continental Protestants, so he couldn't have believed the Episcopacy to be essential to the Church.

Well, yes, but here we need to be very careful not to read these old works through a modern lense. Please stay with me while I elaborate.

It seems to me that the whole question of "unchurching"-or for that matter "churching"-cannot be drawn out of his writings. Even today I am not sure what this expression means, in light of what we believe about baptism. Hooker firmly defended the polity of the Church of England as being both scriptural and as being the only thing ever known to the Church. Therefore, in the larger context of his writings, he was saying that episcopacy was taught by Scripture and Tradition-that is, in his usual choice of words, by "the Church with her authority." Therefore, he could only have meant that it is not subject to change, it is not under the category of Right Reason that makes polity, but rather of Divine institution. It is not possible to make sense of his writings otherwise.

He never "unchurched" anybody, including the Papists and the Church of Rome, if by that we mean denying that they are children of the Church by virtue of being Christians. But, he was not tolerant of "Calvin's Geneva Discipline," even though he understood the emergency that gave rise to it, and did not blame the first people who used it since they seemed to have no options. But, for his own Church and England, he would have none of it. Furthermore, the Church of England did not allow any man to function in the sacred ministry without episcopal ordination (despite the nonsense of some modern RC fiction writers). Hooker was solidly Church of England, and we must allow the polity he defended to inform our reading of his works.

There exists a whole school of blog-meisters out there that tries to interpret Hooker and his contemporaries, as well as the following generation (Andrewes, etc.), not in light of what they wrote, but in light of what they did not say, as if the Canons and practice of the Church of England shed no light on its doctrines. They eagerly fill in the blank spaces with their own Calvinist bias, and they do so against all the evidence to the contrary. For example, the "Reformed Catholicism" blog is in the hands of theological and historical illiterates.

BillyHW said...

Would Matthew 18:18 be another good example where the essence of the episcopacy as an office of authority was established by Jesus Christ?

The Church has always taught this very thing. So, yes.

Okay, but then what should one make of the similar passage just two chapters prior to that one:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed[d] in heaven.” Christ speaking to St. Peter, Matthew 16:17-19

Here Christ is speaking to St. Peter alone and gives him an additional authority, that of the rock upon which the church would be built, and also that of the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Is this of polity or essence?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Here Christ is speaking to St. Peter alone and gives him an additional authority...

That is not what the text says. Rather, in chapter 18 the other apostles are given the same authority that was given to Peter. This authority is of essence, and every bishop has his share of it.

Brian G. said...

I thought the "three-legged stool" was an outdated concept and that all truly liberated Episcopalians added "experience" as the forth leg.

Matthew Nelson said...

Thanks Fr. Hart. I should shut up lest I too join in the "Peculiar Readings of Hooker" Club too. Besides, he is but one man, even for we Anglicans!

William Tighe said...

I do not have Hooker at my fingertips, but I remember hearing a learned presentation on Hooker's ecclesiology (later published) by Margaret Sommerville, in which she concluded that for Hooker episcopacy was instituted either by Christ himself or by the apostles, and that it ought to be maintained as ancient, apostolic and best -- and yet, even so, that it could be altered or abolished in some circumstances, by the will of the prince or ruler, and yet the church would remain in being in those circumstances. She had a specific quotation from him giving Scotland as an example of a place where episcopacy was legitimately abolished at the Reformation.

I believe some years ago I gave Fr. Hart a copy of A. J. Mason's *The Church of England and Episcopacy* (1914). It is a book well worth reviewing, and especially the appendix on "The Plea of Necessity." Putting aside Hooker, it becomes clear that Andrewes, Overall, Buckeridge (the first, pre-Laudian, generation of high-churchmen) all managed to accept that the foreign Protestant churches that lacked true bishops (or any bishops at all) were true churches only on the basis of "the plea of necessity" -- the belief that these churches had to forgo bishops at the Reformation because no Catholic bishop would join them; and that the Reformers in these circumstances had preferred "purity of doctrine" to "the apostolic order of the church." (They were not wholly consistent: it was Overall who in 1619 instituted a minister ordained abroad by a Dutch presbytery to a Norfolk benefice carrying cure of souls without reordination.) That the "plea of necessity" was false rapidly became evident (4 or 5 French Catholic bishops became Calvinists in the 1560s, and about 8 to 12 became Lutherans in Germany between 1525 and 1565), and the first Anglican divine to draw the logical consequence that the "Reformed churches" were "no churches" was Richard Montague (1578-1642; Bishop of Chichester 1628-1642) in the 1630s, followed by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667; Bishop of Down, Dromore & Conor 1661-1667) shortly thereafter.

Curiously, Laud at one point seemed to imply that Swedish Lutheran bishops (who arguably, if to me doubtfully, have preserved the apostolic succession), Danish Lutheran bishops (who were consecrated by Luther's side-kick Bugenhagen, and thus disclaim any succession to the pre-Reformation bishops) and German Lutheran superintendents (who stood in no succession whatsoever) were all bishops, although "termed differently." Perhaps he was unaware of the varying histories, or perhaps he was simply trying to wrong-foot the advocates of presbyterianism.

BillyHW said...

That is not what the text says. Rather, in chapter 18 the other apostles are given the same authority that was given to Peter. This authority is of essence, and every bishop has his share of it.

Fr. Hart, my knowledge of Scripture must me lacking. Where in chapter 18 are the Apostles designated the rock upon which the church would be built, and where are they given the keys of the kingdom as a whole?

The text in chapter 16 reads that these two aspects of authority were unique to Peter.

I ask you again, are these unique aspects essence or polity?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

She had a specific quotation from him giving Scotland as an example of a place where episcopacy was legitimately abolished at the Reformation.

Bill, inasmuch as that would contradict Hooker's basic argument in Book II, I would like to know where she got it. He acknowledged that an emergency existed in Geneva, and that Calvin was "intelligent" (yet,in another place, "crazed"). That was the closest he ever came to her version.

Matthew Nelson:

The trick is to let the old writers speak for themselves, because too many modern writers are making cases and filing historical "briefs."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Billy Hw:
Where in chapter 18 are the Apostles designated the rock upon which the church would be built, and where are they given the keys of the kingdom as a whole?

They were given the power to bind and loose, no less than Peter, and that was in the very part you yourself quoted above. What was said previously to an individual was repeated to the other apostles as a group. The "rock" and the "keys" bit foretells the history we see early in the Book of Acts. Since the one man, Peter, opened all the doors, to Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles, the scripture interprets scripture, Luke telling how these words from Matthew were fulfilled.

At the time it was of the essence, and the apostolic ministry through apostolic succession remains essential.

Matthew Nelson said...

WT,

What you write accords with my recollection of the general understanding of Anglican History. The "plea of necessity" was accepted at first even by High Churchmen, but then faded as the plea lost its plausibility.

MDN

BillyHW said...

So we are agreed then, Fr. Hart, that Peter was given a special, unique and essential authority over and above that of the other Apostles (for no other Apostle could have opened the doors of the Church to the Samaritans and Gentiles the way Peter did).

Now the authority of the Apostles we are agreed was and is essential, having been passed down through the ages via Apostolic Succession.

Would it not be logical to conclude then that Peter's special, unique and essential authority, which you agree was given to him and him alone by the Lord God the Son, before the great cliffs of Caesarea Phillipi, after a special grace from God the Father, revealing to him the true identity of Jesus the Christ, was also passed down through the ages?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The "plea of necessity" was a theory that fit a general difference between Anglicanism and Rome concerning sacramental validity. Rome has been willing to determine a state of "absolutely null and utterly void" about all Protestant sacraments. Anglicanism has always been agnostic about whether or not, or to what degree, these sacraments impart grace to believers in those churches. However, this is not the same as affirmation, but rather a charitable hope. The Canon Laws that had always been a part of Anglicanism, and which we Continue to have, insist on the high standards of episcopal ordination, proper form, etc. This means that nothing else can be received with confidence, and therefore is not acceptable within our churches.

But, we don't presume to have all the answers about how God works with everybody else out there.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Billy HW wrote:

Would it not be logical to conclude then that Peter's special, unique and essential authority, which you agree was given to him and him alone by the Lord God the Son, before the great cliffs of Caesarea Phillipi, after a special grace from God the Father, revealing to him the true identity of Jesus the Christ, was also passed down through the ages?

No, that would not be logical;and even if it appears logical in method, it is not factual. Simply put, every argument for the papal position that is supposedly drawn from scripture, requires isogesis rather than exegesis. Therefore, such "Biblical interpretation" is always dependent upon reading into the text what is not revealed there, rather than drawing out what is revealed.

The Book of Acts shows Peter doing what Jesus commanded ("...and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Lk 22:31,32). It shows him in the spotlight, and exercising leadership. Confusing leadership with authority is a common mistake that people make all the time. Peter clearly leads the apostles, but nowhere is there any hint that he ruled over them, or presumed to be their boss. Instead, we see the Church as very charismatic, and in tune with the Holy Spirit's clear direction, and apostolic unanimity in mind and heart.

The ancient Church had no concept of Petrine succession, but only of Apostolic Succession. If some sort of Petrine Succession were essential, how would it be carried out, there being no sacrament to pass it on?

BillyHW said...

Okay Fr. Hart, I think I get it now. If I understand correctly from what you're telling me, the proper reading of Matthew 16 goes something like this:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are temporarily Peter, and on this provisional, makeshift rock I will merely begin to build My church for the time being, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it, at least not for a while. 19 And I will give you, no wait, loan you the keys of the kingdom of heaven until I ask for them back in the near future, and then forever more whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed[d] in heaven. But don't get a big head about it because in five minutes I'm going to give that power to all the other guys too. --Christ's true meaning when speaking to St. Peter, Matthew 16:17-19.

Do I have it now?

I think my problem is that I've been steeped in unnecessary papist polity for so long now that I'm not even aware of my isogetical tendencies.

Thanks for setting me straight Fr. Hart.

:)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Billy HW:

If I rejected your comment you would have objected, and said I was censoring you. I was thinking of rejecting it out of charity, to save you from embarrassment. Nothing in your comment has any relevance whatsoever to what I have said, not even a little.

My point is that all of the apostles were given the power to bind and loose, by implication, the keys. They were equals. What continues in the Church is Apostolic Succession of bishops, equal and valid succession from the entire apostolic company.

By the way, thank you for demonstrating the definition of isogesis.

Matthew Nelson said...

BillyHW,

The general patristic reading is that the "Rock" is both Peter and Peter's profession of Faith. Christ expressly gave "Authority" directly to Peter and directly to other 12 also (not through Peter), which made Peter the first among equals, a role acknowledge by the entire primitive Church.

But, Scripture also indicates that Peter did not exercise his chrism of primacy in the manner of universal ordinary jurisdiction. For example, James pronounced the verdict of the Apostolic Counsel in Acts.

Also, must thoroughly understand the Tradtion of Petrine Primacy as regarding the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, for many centuries, the East considered the Church of Rome to be the Petrine See because of the mystical grace of the proximate relics of Peter (a cooperating grace or charism) that helped Rome to generally be and exemplar of catholicism and orthodoxy; not due to any sort of juridical, tactile, or irresistible grace theory. Thus, when the Church of Rome "went of the chain" (as we say in the South), and no longer cooperated with Peter's geographical proximate grace (due to his relics), then the attribution of Petrine Primacy to the See of Rome was withdrawn.

Hence, both Scripture and Tradition hold (1) that all bishops exercise Apostolic Authority bestowed directly by Christ and passed down in Succession, and (2) that the position of first among equals -- Petrine Primacy -- falls to the Bishop of the local church that, in the consensus judgment of the Church, best cooperates or represents with the Apostolic Faith to the Church catholic and the broader world also. It is not an inherently fixed, institutional office, but rather a charismatic office.

* * * * *

Today, Roman Catholics formally adhere to B16's Petrine claims for juridical reason, though I acknowledge that his leadership makes the best case in a very long time for that the Bishop of Rome is again worthy of the distinction of Ecumenical Primacy because he seems IMHO to be mystically cooperating with the grace of Peter's relics in a way that his predecessors have not (though, in charity, I should say that I beleive that JPII tried awfully hard, often at B16 urging). But such formalism is never going to fly with Anglicans and Orthodox, because they adhere to the two (2) points I explicated above.

Now, I do think B16 is so doing as much as he can, within pre-existing RC institutional shackles, to exhibit and embody Petrine Primacy. But, I also believe that instutional shackles of Rome, developed and dogmatized during the long period of separation between the West and East, are the only barriers to Anglicans and Orthodox giving him the honor of primacy that Roman Bishops once exhibited -- and it is something exhibit, shown, or embodied, not legalistically received, held, by possessed.

Today, in the East, the Patriarch of Istanbul tries to assert a claim Petrine Primacy (first among equals) also along legalistic lines -- by reference to canon law, but very few Orthodox are buying it, mainly because Bart just ain't embodying the Petrine Charism -- he's seems to conflate Hellenism with Orthodoxy. The Patriarch of Moscow is the main alternative candidate on the Christian East if for no other reason than he represents in terms of numbers the most faithful, orthodox souls of any bishop or primate in the world.

As for Anglicans, at least since Theodore or Tarsus was ABC, we have historically regarded the Archbishop of Canterbury as the automatic, de-jure first-among-equals (again, along fomalistic lines). But, the Wooly Welshman, who presently occupies the See, has not inspired much confidence. Personally, I suspect B16 would probably get the nod among devout Anglicans, not by any claim of juridical, Scriptural, or Traditional right, but charismatically, like Gregory the Great of yore.

Chrsit's Peace,

MDN

BillyHW said...

If I rejected your comment you would have objected, and said I was censoring you. I was thinking of rejecting it out of charity, to save you from embarrassment.

The post was meant to be humourous. Theological and apologetical discussions do always need to be 100% serious. I put a smiley face, even though I detest having to do so, to ensure you understood it as such.

Without a good sense of humour, how would you Anglicans make it through the day?

:)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The post was meant to be humourous.

That's a comforting thought.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

BillyHW,

The Biblical evidence for Apostolic-Episcopal Succession: http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2007/02/protestant-orders.html

Also, please note that Peter's rock-like foundation-function is in fact ascribed to all the Apostles in Ephesians 2.20 and Revelation 21.14 and the "keys" power of opening and shutting seems equivalent to the Apostolic power of binding and loosing in the verse quoted. Therefore Petrine preeminence in these areas is defensible but uniqueness as an adjective seems inappropriate.

poetreader said...

BillyHW,

If it had been on my watch (which it would have been of it had been this weekend), I would probably have rejected your comment, not out of a censorship of ideas, nor out of a lack of perception that it was intended to be humor, but simply out of the feeling that it would inject a perplexity and possibly a contentiousness into a rather good dialog. Fr. Hart was right in noting that it was an excellent example of eisegesis, of precisely how I've seen the sacred text handles so many times (how, in fact, I was expected to handle it in my Pentecostal days). Perhaps it was right that it should stand.

In the meantime, I want to observe something I've had pointed out many times, and have, I believe, read somewhere in the Fathers (alas, I'm not enough of a scholar to keep track of where my references are), that the Petrine passage does not hang on a single word for "rock", but on two slightly different words. Peter is named "petros", the masculine, which tends to mean a specific stone, while the roch on which the Church is built is called "petra", the feminine, which tends, to signify something more like bedrock. Is the pun supposed, perhaps, to be expressing a difference, rather than an identity between Peter and the rock on which the Church stands? Some scholars (not all Protestant) have thought so.

ed

Diane said...

Regarding the petra/petro stuff:
Those are greek words. Jesus surely spoke aramaic...kepha being the word for 'rock'. Simply put, His statement would have been "....thou art kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.." Only when the Gospel of Matthew was translated into greek did the issue of petra/petro (feminine-masculine) come into play...it would have been odd to refer to Peter as petra, so petros was used...but this in no way detracts from the meaning of the statement in aramaic, or english.

Regarding the 'rock' referring to Peter's confession of faith (instead of referring to Peter himself):
Rock would describe the noun closest to it (Peter), not a phrase that comes several verses earlier.
It is amazing the grammatical gymastics that are used to avoid what is clear from a straight forward reading of the passage in question: that Jesus made Peter the foundation of His Church.

Regarding the keys:
That the apostles as a group held the charism of the keys 'by implication' is way off...the keys are something given specifically to Peter and are distinct from 'binding and loosing'. As you all should know, keys in Scripture illustrate authority (Isiah and Rev.).

Regarding the council of Jerusalem:
James merely pronounced what Peter made clear, that the old law had no hold on Christians...Peter has the vision and makes the specific determinatin, regardless of who 'announces' it.

All of this shows how your group's idea of 'right reason' is just a matter of personal interpretation.

In the end, you can have your version of scripture, the interpretations of the church fathers, the councils, etc. and I can have mine. The difference is that in my 'system' I can go back to a final arbitur and others outside of the Catholic Church cannot...which shows why Jesus left a final arbitur to begin with.

I've read of people on this blog having their 'own' bottom line that must be met before conversion, etc...yes, this points to the ultimate authority within your group....yourselves.

poetreader said...

Diane,
I had to force myself to go ahead and publish this stuff, but, in spite of the dismissive and deliberately insulting tone, I have, and will try to answer some of what you've said. That by the way is not guaranteeing how far my patience will run when it's my turn to do this.

Regarding the petra/petro stuff:

You can disagree, but you could be a bit more respectful of the scholars you are disagreeing with. You don't convince people by telling them what they said is not worth considering, and it would show that you had read what is in front of you if you could at least quote it correctly. It's 'petros'.

Those are greek words. Jesus surely spoke aramaic...

Indeed he probably did. Does that negate the fact that the Evangelist wrote in down in Greek, or do you think that the Evangelist was not writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? His choice of words for a translation surely has some authority.

kepha being the word for 'rock'. Simply put, His statement would have been "....thou art kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.." Only when the Gospel of Matthew was translated into greek did the issue of petra/petro (feminine-masculine) come into play...it would have been odd to refer to Peter as petra, so petros was used...,

Then why did he not say the church was built on the "petros"? That would not have been 'odd', and would have carried the meaning you think was intended.

Regarding the 'rock' referring to Peter's confession of faith (instead of referring to Peter himself):
Rock would describe the noun closest to it (Peter), not a phrase that comes several verses earlier.


I am glad you can so infallibly speak to such a grammatical issue when you have probably violated that "rule" in writing or speech yourself, as I most certainly have. Get over it. That kind of construction is common. I could picture very easily the Lord pointing his finger at the man to say, "You're Peter" and then at Himself to say, "and on THIS Rock..." at least one patristic source describes just that thought. I said I can envision it. Can I say for sure -- no I can't, nor can you.

It is amazing the grammatical gymastics that are used to avoid what is clear from a straight forward reading of the passage in question: that Jesus made Peter the foundation of His Church.

Precisely my thought in reading your comments. Please discuss issues and avoid gratuitous insults.

Regarding the council of Jerusalem:
James merely pronounced what Peter made clear, that the old law had no hold on Christians...Peter has the vision and makes the specific determinatin, regardless of who 'announces' it.


Well, you may look at it that way. If you are accepting the nineteenth century definition at Vatican I, you probably have to, but the text simply doesn't say that.

All of this shows how your group's idea of 'right reason' is just a matter of personal interpretation.

In the end, you can have your version of scripture, the interpretations of the church fathers, the councils, etc. and I can have mine. The difference is that in my 'system' I can go back to a final arbitur and others outside of the Catholic Church cannot...which shows why Jesus left a final arbitur to begin with.


The whole issue here is whether that 'final arbiter' is indeed right, or whether he has merely assumed a position that is not his to assume. If you are correct in your assumption, well, that settles the case. I am convinced that it is not so, that the Bishop of Rome has no right to be that final arbiter, and that therefore it would be wrong, seriously wrong, to consider him as such.

I'm sorry, Diane, I don't want to be too hard on you, but you are out of your league in discussions of this nature.

There are other RC apologists appearing on this blog who have been doing a much better job than you have. You'd do your side a much better service by leaving it to them.

ed

Matthew Nelson said...

Diane,

You are greatly mistaken. All the constructions of Scripture that you criticize were neither concocted by "this group" nor even the English Reformation. They come directly from the consensus of the Early Fathers of the Church -- Latin and Greek alike.

By way of telling example, both St Augustine of Hippo and Gregory the Great, who was Bishop of Rome from 590-604, disagree with you on all your novel interpretations of Scripture. Both saw the "Rock" as both Peter himself and his profession of Faith; both saw the "keys of the kingdom" as an universal apostolic charism; and neither saw Peter as having any sort of jurisdictional authority in the Apostolic Council in Acts -- in fact Gregory the Great expressly denied and denounced any notion of peculiar Petrine juridical supremacy.

Indeed, AS A MATTER OF INDISPUTABLE FACT, all your constructions are first found in the recorded record of public discourse quite late in Church history. Moreover, I don't believe they even reflected the perennial, prevailing Roman Catholic teaching at any time -- though some ultramontagne polemicists have gone overboard. AFAIK, it is an uncontroversial among Roman Catholic scholars and hierarchs that the most authoritative expositors in their Communion have always acknowledged that the "Rock" is both Peter and Peter's profession of Faith; likewise, it has always acknowledged the "Keys" are a common possession of the College of Bishops.


Christ's Peace,

MDN

P.S.,

And, of course, close friends of "The Continuum" blog are likely to have a common bottom line -- but we trust that it is formed not by private judgment but by the judgment of Church catholic as can be historically proved. If we are wrong on the Roman Claims, then so has been the entire Christian East, which greatly outnumber Western Christians at the time of the Schism (and only become less numerous due to venal, Western treachery and abandonment).

Sandra McColl said...

I'm with Ed (although quite incapable of having devised for myself his learned reply). Mine is much shorter:

Diane--why do you bother with us?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I did not expect to get to a computer this weekend. It seems that I can afford a little time off, because others have done such a good job of answering, and without my usual grumpy disposition.

I am left with only two ideas to add.

1. I want to ask Diane about this little quotation:

All of this shows how your group's idea of 'right reason' is just a matter of personal interpretation.

(Right Reason is a very old philosophic term employed throughout Church history from the earliest centuries) Just what does our "group" mean by the term Right Reason? And, does it have anything at all to do with interpretation and doctrine? Before answering I strongly suggest you read what I have said in the above article, and in an earlier post (which you seem to have ignored before).

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/05/right-reason.html

(Oh, what the hell? I'll cheat and give you the answer to the second question. It's no. Somehow it seems that you will never get it any other way.)

2. And, I want to ask Diane two questions about this:

Those are greek words. Jesus surely spoke aramaic...kepha being the word for 'rock'. Simply put, His statement would have been "....thou art kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.." Only when the Gospel of Matthew was translated into greek...

Why did Jesus "surely" say this in Aramaic? Greek was the Lingua Franca of the Roman Empire. Are you claiming to have the "original Hebrew" version of Matthew's Gospel, concerning which Eusebius wrote?

poetreader said...

I didn't go into that, but, though Jesus, having grown up Jewish in Nazareth of Gallilee, "surely" grew up speaking a Galilean-accented Aramaic, but it is quite inconceivable that he did not know Greek. St. Jospeph was a 'carpenter', which many would think better translated as "builder", and would probably have found employment in the building of nearby Sephoris, a Greek city. Galilee was an ethnically mixed region, and in such regions it is unusual and impractical for people to be ignorant of one another's mother-tongues. One thus has to assume that He knew Greek. We know a few occasions on which He did indeed speak Aramaic, "Ephphata, Eloi, Eloi ..." and the like, but most of the time we are given no indication of what language he actually used. If he wanted the subtle difference between "petros" and "petra", as translations of Simon's nickname, what would have been more appropriate than to select a language they both knew that had such a feature in it? I don't know that He did that, but I do know that the passage can be and sometimes has been interpreted in that way.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

While are at it, Aramaic was simply Hebrew as it evolved over centuries. Jesus may have said, "Thou art 'Eben (אבן ) and upon this tsuwr (צור -or maybe Cela- סלע ) I will build my Church..." giving Matthew a reason to use words appropriate to suggest both the similarity and difference between a rock and a stone.

Nonetheless, Diane assumes that Matthew chose to use different words for no valid reason, or a reason we should ignore. Matthew may have quoted Jesus directly in Greek, or he may have translated the Lord's words. Either way, he chose words that show similarity between two different things, a large rock and a smaller one.

Sandra McColl said...

Jesus could've said a million things, in a million different languages. The fact is, the earliest quote we have is in Greek, and from the little I know of the situation, the liberals have always thought they had more to gain from Babelfishing from Greek to Aramaic to English than the triumphalist RCs, who, from what I've read of them, don't believe there to be any point in venturing behind the Vulgate.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,

I'm probably one of the few Anglicans that think petros warrants the translation of "rock" due to the gender constraints -- but I have to wonder, if Matthew's intent was to communicate that Peter was the Rock, what in your estimation would have been the best way in Greek to do so? I'm obviously no Greek scholar, so please excuse my dire ignorance.

Blessings.

St. Worm

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Modern English readers may confuse gender with a clear implication of one being male (Petros, Πέτρος ) and the other female (Petra, πέτρα), rather than understanding the masculine and feminine as grammar (in almost every other language). The masculine and feminine are not as significant as the fact that rock or petra means a cliff or ledge. It is large, whereas the stone, the petros, can be smaller, a rock or stone. So, these are related words that come from a common root, not two forms of the same word. They are as different as prophet and professor, which share the same Latin root, but are not two forms of one word either.

Therefore, if I understand your question, the best way to make the two refer clearly to the same thing would be to have used Petra as a name. To use a feminine noun as a man's name would not have violated the grammar at all-but the reverse would have made the difference. Merely use Petros twice. That one is quite large, a cliff, and the other smaller, seems to be the significance of the difference.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,

Thank you for your patient and enlightening explanation. I'd be interested in further reading on this matter.

Happy Advent.

St. Worm