Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Revelation and consensus

It was while writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, that St. Paul told us of the balance we need to maintain:

"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Tim. 3:15)

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (II Tim. 3:15-17)

We all should know this by now, as articulated by Richard Hooker when explaining why we ought to heed the laws and teaching of our mother the Church in order to be obedient to God our Father. It has been given to the Church that she use her Right Reason to establish a Tradition of teaching (these two, Reason and Tradition, are one in Hooker, contrary to modern misunderstanding),1 as well as to exercise a practical and workable polity.

Was any of this new? Certainly not. To appreciate the full extent of this necessary balance, we may refer to portions of The Affirmation of St. Louis, as it expresses in simple terms a genuine guide to what we may truthfully call Universal Consensus, and does so in ways that are practical and useful.

Near its beginning, we find these words:

In the firm conviction that "we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," and that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," and acknowledging our duty to proclaim Christ's saving Truth to all peoples, nations and tongues, we declare our intention to hold fast the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith of God.

We acknowledge that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: "Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic."

Further on, we find this:

  • The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands -- a revelation valid for all men and all time...The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by "the ancient catholic bishops and doctors," and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

Putting this together, we must conclude that an interdependence has been established between Scripture and the Church, between the word of our Father and the teaching of our Mother. To try to find absolute consensus on every question and every theoretical proposition of the human mind, would be fruitless. All that we may know for sure, and all that we need to know with certainty of faith, are a matter of Divine priority. We need to know the things God has revealed, that Christ the λόγος (Word) has spoken.

Furthermore, the record of God's revelation has been entrusted to the Church in one and only one box, or treasure chest. For, though the Church has a thousand reliable teachers, from ancient to modern Catholic bishops and doctors who have faithfully spoken the same message (excluding all teachers of error, as the Affirmation has said so well: "...to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern"), it is the office of all teachers in the Church to interpret one and only one source of revelation: The Holy Scripture.

Even in matters where some universal consensus of thought or belief in the Church might be established, it is nothing but mere opinion unless its firm basis in Holy Scripture may be established. Only what God has revealed may be taught with authority as doctrine, any alleged consensus notwithstanding. Theoretically, even if some idea may have been "believed everywhere, always and by all," if the Church has not received the same by so ancient and authoritative a source that it was recorded in Holy Scripture, it is without authority. For, unless God has revealed it, it is merely human opinion; and if God has revealed it, it is recorded in Holy Scripture.

Read again the words of our Affirmation, and know that they are truly "what has been believed everywhere, always and by all":

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands -- a revelation valid for all men and all time.

The teaching office of the Church is simply to preserve, proclaim and teach the meaning of that revelation, and never to add or subtract so much as a word. "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." (Prov. 30:6) "...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28: 20)

Interpretation is a matter of faithfulness, not a matter of opinion, especially not of private opinion. An analogy may come from music. When I play any fugue by J.S. Bach on a piano, or organ, I try my best to interpret what we call the composer's intention. My purpose as a musician (whenever time affords me such an opportunity these days) is to play what I believe Bach to have intended. The same holds true for Mozart, Chopin, etc. Various performers will play pieces differently, but if they are disciplined enough to play correctly, they will be striving toward one goal: The composer's intention, not their own whims. The same applies to actors, when they interpret lines according to what is called "the reading." When Sir Laurence Olivier performed Hamlet, he intended to speak the words in such a way as to communicate Shakespeare's intention, not his own whims. "Composer's intention," and "the reading" are never a matter of any private interpretation. 2

What we see in the teaching of the Church, "especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils," is not merely consensus. That, if alone, would mean nothing. Rather, what we know from Scripture, as guided in our understanding by the teaching of the Church, is the truth of revelation, "valid for all men and all time." Consensus without revelation, even universal consensus without revelation (if such an animal exists), has no authority. The Church can teach only what God has entrusted by revelation; and apart from what is recorded in Scripture, we know of no revelation whatsoever.
___________

1. “Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after this the Church succeedeth that which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.” (Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.VIII.2)

“Is it a small office to despise the Church of God? ‘My son, keep thy father’s commandment,’ saith Solomon, ‘and forget not thy mother’s instruction: Bind them both always about thine heart.’ It doth not stand with the duty we owe to our heavenly Father, that to the ordinances of our mother the Church we should show ourselves disobedient. Let us not say we keep the commandments of the one, when we break the law of the other: for unless we observe both we obey neither.” (ibid, Book 3.IX.3:)

2. See II Peter. 1:20

38 comments:

David said...

I agree with you Father, but let me ask you this, how do I present a defense for Scripture. Don't we use the opinions of different fathers in determining what constitutes scripture. I am always asked to present a list from scripture with the declaration of what is and isn't scripture. I defer to the church (in my case the Orthodox church) which includes writings not found in other bibles.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Don't we use the opinions of different fathers in determining what constitutes scripture.

None of the Fathers created his own Canon. The Orthodox have the ancient Catholic Canon that includes the Apocrypha, as do we (not only in our Bibles, but in our Daily Office Lectionary). Nonetheless, everybody has at least the same 66 books recognized by all the Protestants. No one calls those books into question.

The Anglican Article warns against establishing doctrine on the Apocrypha alone. Perhaps that is because those books, when analyzed, seem written to instruct, but not to contain major revelations about salvation.

Anonymous said...

Fr H: This is a balanced and nuanced statement which I can almost sign onto, but one statement troubles me. That is,
"we must conclude that an inter- dependence has been established between Scripture and the Church, between the word of our Father and the teaching of our Mother."

My cavil is with the word "interdependence." In what sense does Scripure "depend" on the Church? Surely I can think of none. I would accept "inter-relationship," or "coinherence," but not "interdependence."

Nice touch in pointing out the balance of 1 Tim 3:15 anf 2 Tim 3:15! But "pillar and ground of the truth" surely does not mean what RC exegetes sometimes make of it. The Church is not the source or even repository of truth, at least not from this text. "Pillar" (stylos) is an architectural support; "ground" (hedraiwma) means a thing made steadfast. The genitive "of the truth" is probably a subjective, not objective, genitive. The idea then is that the Church is the building (oikos theou) which the Truth supports and makes steadfast, not the agency which supports and defends the truth. I believe this works better with the context of preceding and following verses.

When this issue comes up, I always get nervous when it seems to be forgotten that there is soemething solid and objective behind the tradition which serves as its regulative norm. Agreement is not enough.
LKW

Canon Tallis said...

Absolutely spot on and yet so many of us as Anglicans, as Catholics fail to hear it, do not want to hear it. And that even when we most need to do so.

highchurchman said...

When I was at college I was taught as an Anglican,
"We believe that the Holy Scriptures are completed, explained and interpreted by Holy Tradition and that this is found in the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Consensus of the Greek fathers of the early centuries!"

The sooner we begin to teach this the better we will get on our collective feet again as Anglican Catholics.

By your favour!

David said...

Oh wow, I wasn't aware that Anglicans had it in the Daily Office Lectionary. In all my years in studying Orthodoxy I have yet to hear a verse from what is sometimes known as the Apocrypha in a bible study or homily.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

LKW:

I mean only the same thing the Affirmation of St. Louis means by invoking the Ecumenical Councils. If our understanding of Scripture pits us against the Church, as was the case with Arius, Nestorius, etc., we may know we are wrong in what we think Scripture to mean. Also, the old question applies: If a tree falls in the forest, but no ear hears it fall, does it make a sound? God spoke His word, and the Church received it, so it has been heard. The Church are those who have ears to hear.

David said...

Growing up LDS the mantra was always that Scripture is the word of God so long as interpreted correctly. I couldn't agree more, and going further I think I am in agreement with Fr. Robert in when I say it is the Word of God when in the context of the people of God. I have co-workers who will come to me with some scripture that they think will shake my faith as they see it as scandalous. When I explain the context and meaning of the scripture they are puzzled, I tell them that the church has been asked and answered those questions thousands of time. My liberal buddy read the entire bible at lunch through a year and a half. I went back over some portions to point out how the OT prefigures Christ. It was like a light bulb going off, further I took him to the Eunuch and St. Philip to illustrate how the bible is meant for the church.

Anonymous said...

"Consensus without revelation, even universal consensus without revelation (if such an animal exists), has no authority."

Quite right, but this animal has indeed existed. For how many centuries did the majority of the Christian world believe in 6/24 creation, an interpretation Scripture does not necessarily demand of us. Examples can be multiplied.

LKW

Anonymous said...

David says,

"Growing up LDS the mantra was always that Scripture is the word of God so long as interpreted correctly."

Of I hear you correctly, David, you are suggesting that Fr Hart's view of Scripture resembles that of the LDS Church. Is that really what you meant to say?

I believe the Chistian view is that Scripure IS the Word of God by virtue of its inspiration. Correct interpretation is our duty. I could go on and add automatically that we interpret most safely within the tradition of the Church. Burt I have just finished a splendid book by Alister McGrath, "The Intellectual Roots of he Reformation" (a delightful gift from Dr Bill Tighe). McGrath shows that "Scriptura sola" was in full tilt long before the Reformation. What happened was that the new scholarship brought about a new way of reading the Scriptures, a new hermeneutic. This was not heretics against the Church, because both the old hermenutic and new hermeneutic were "within the Church," Erasmus dying as a loyal RC. The consensus turned into jello and the Emperor has no clothes on. So how do we differ from the Mormons, really?
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So how do we differ from the Mormons, really?

Chiefly in every way.

Anonymous said...

"Also, the old question applies: If a tree falls in the forest, but no ear hears it fall, does it make a sound? God spoke His word, and the Church received it, so it has been heard."

Now I am starting to get worried! The proposition that God somehow needs the Church's assistance to reveal Himself
raises some serious questions about adjective "almighty." But if we are synergistic in our notion of salvation, synergism in revelation logically follows. I believe it was Warfield who said that if God is not sovereign in His self-revelation, then He is not sovereign at all. And that analogy of the noise of the tree falling in the forest, soundless when there is no one to hear, with the Church hearing the Word of God, also bothers me a lot. The Bible is full of examples of the revealed Word being mocked, rejected, ignored, misunderstood. But we have a sure promise, "My word will not return unto me void."

And it is not only heretics who have been "pitted against the Church." Athanasius, Francis of Assisi and Joan of Arc had that experience as well.
LKW

John A. Hollister said...

David wrote: "I wasn't aware that Anglicans had [the Deuterocanonial Books] in the Daily Office Lectionary."

My number may be off -- the eye tends to wander going up and down all those columns, page after page of them -- but in the 1943 Lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer (in the American BCP of 1928) I counted 97 choices of lesson from the Apocrypha for Sundays and weekdays, as well as 4 for special occasions and 9 for Red Letter Days.

And, of course, two of the 1928 BCP's choices for a Canticle at Morning Prayer come from those Deuterocanonical Books.

John A. Hollister+
"phipsysa"

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...if God is not sovereign in His self-revelation...

That is not the point. God spoke not from heaven, but from earth. He spoke through the apostles and prophets. Without those who had ears to hear, there would have been no Church. Without the Church, we would not have the Scriptures, nor anyone to teach their meaning. Because God is sovereign, He preordained that both those who spoke, and those who heard, would hand on the record of His revelation to the rest of us. Therefore, we need the Scriptures and we need the Church, or we would have neither. This is what He chose to do; this is how He chose to reveal Himself. We cannot choose one or the other, nor decide between them. Theoretically, he could have done otherwise. We must accept and obey Him as he has revealed Himself, which is the only way to accept His sovereignty.

And it is not only heretics who have been "pitted against the Church." Athanasius, Francis of Assisi and Joan of Arc had that experience as well.

I do not know what to make of Joan of Arc, since the whole story strikes me as weird (does it belong to hagiography, psychiatry or demonology? Rome's canonization is merely their opinion, and carries no weight that I recognize).

But, as for Athanasius, he was pitted against the Arian heretics, not against the Church, unless we give the same status to imperially backed heretics that we give to the Church of Nicene Faith. During his exiles, the Church was the underground movement he was building. I have long called him the first Continuing Church bishop.

St. Francis was accepted by the Church in his time after a time of trial locally. Never was he opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Faith; never did he deny the Incarnation, or the Trinity, or the Atonement, or the resurrection. His understanding was never pitted against the Church.

To have an understanding of doctrine that is in opposition to what the Church has received, and after receiving has defended, is always to stand in opposition to the meaning of Scripture. Anyone (including the Devil) may quote Scripture. That does not mean they have heard and believed what it reveals. The Mormons, mentioned above, or the Jehovah's Witnesses, are perfect examples of people who can quote the Bible all day long, but who reject the revelation it contains. They have not learned from the Church that teaches through its Creeds and doctrinal continuity.

Anonymous said...

"But, as for Athanasius, he was pitted against the Arian heretics, not against the Church, unless we give the same status to imperially backed heretics that we give to the Church of Nicene Faith. "

So how would the Vincentian Canon have "worked" during the lifetime of Athanasius? Would he or his opponents have been more likely to appeal to it?

"During his exiles, the Church was the underground movement he was building"

So is "the Church" then a nose of wax, which you define in various ways as convenient for your argument?

"I have long called him the first Continuing Church bishop"

So have I, but I got kicked off the blog for saying such things.

But I would like to know more about the the status of the doctrine of the Atonement, which you mention. Whereas the Church has managed to set forth coherent doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ (the latter of which the Oriental Orthodox Churches do not exactly accept, by the way), it has not, to my knowledge, put together anything like a doctrine of the Atonenent which enjoys Conciliar status. Some of us happen to believe that the doctrines of Satisfaction and Penal Substitution are essential to an accurate presentation of the Gospel. Others (who can say the Nicene Creed without any reservation at all) find such teachings abhorrent.

And where does original sin fit into the Ecumenical Consensus? Western Christianity (both Roman and Protestant) builds quite a superstructure on this doctrine, in very different ways, either with or without IC. EO, however, regards Adam and Eve as saints, be celebrated on Dec. 24.

To my way of thinking, the most profound question ever addressed in the history of Christian thought is the unresolved debate between Augustinians and semi-Pelagians over predestination and free-will, exactly how God and sinners "co-operate" in the whole process of salvation. (That really is the underlying issue in this discussion over Bible vis-a-vis Church.) Arguments can be made on both sides, difficulties and problems can still be pointed out. But the argument has never been resolved, and neither party can claim it is in exclusive possession of rthe truth.

Remember, Fr Hart, after I have carefully read your essay THREE times, all that stands between us is that word which frightens me, "co-dependence."

LKW

Anonymous said...

"For how many centuries did the majority of the Christian world believe in 6/24 creation, an interpretation Scripture does not necessarily demand of us."

Please to explain LKW.

This issue is the predominant issue most people take the Bible for complete myth. If Genesis is wrong than so is the rest of it.

If you have another explanation for Creation let's hear it.

Perhaps you are in the "Cosmos" camp "in the beginning was the Cosmos and all there ever will be is the Cosmos" or some such nonsense from Carl Sagan and the Naturalist crowd.


Anon Anon Anon.

Anonymous said...

As I review the various posts on this thread and the one which it emerged from, it seems to me we have improperly blended two slightly different issues and talked past each other. These are (1) how much of an Ecumenical Consensus really exists, and (2) how Scripure and Church work together in a sound theological method. Neither of which really deals with the issues raised in Bp Robinson's fine essay, which deserved better treatment!
Please forgive me for my share in this confusion, and my share is surely the greater part. But I do not retract a thing I said.
LKW

Fr. John said...

The mystery of election. Think about that.

Fr. John said...

"If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve."
Calvin Coolidge on exercising free will.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

LKW wrote:

So have I, but I got kicked off the blog for saying such things.

What blog would that be? Certainly not this one. I assume you mean SF. We have never kicked anybody off. Furthermore, for the record, I was calling St. Athanasius the first Continuing Church bishop long before this blog existed.

"co-dependence."

Not co-dependence, but interdependence. That is because the reality that faces us is not simply the power and sovereignty of God, but the fact that he has already spoken and acted, and made known His will. What God has done, rather than His infinite power to do all things according to His own will, presents each human being with the terms of surrender. He has revealed His word, and has done so with and through His Church. Therefore, we must respond not to what He can do, but to what he has done.

Whereas the Church has managed to set forth coherent doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ (the latter of which the Oriental Orthodox Churches do not exactly accept, by the way), it has not, to my knowledge, put together anything like a doctrine of the Atonement which enjoys Conciliar status.

By "Oriental Orthodox" you must be referring to the Copts. The modern argument is not that they reject the same doctrine, but that they reject the Ecumenical Status of Chalcedon, and that this is due to one important fact: During the Council, no effort was made to overcome a failure of communication over the word ὑπόστασις. The Copts argue that their fathers took it to mean the same thing as φύσις.

Rome accepts that argument, and so might some of the "Eastern" Patriarchates (does someone know the answer?). It may be accurate, or it may not. But, it does show that they object only to ratification of the Council without their consent rather than to what it teaches.

Atonement was never exactly defined in an Ecumenical Council because, as it appears, no heresy attacked it during the first Millennium of Christianity. The argument I have made before, however, is that the best theology of the English Reformation was a defense of the Biblical teaching defended at Chalcedon. My brother, David Bentley Hart, has argued that Anselm's actual teaching is in accord with the Greek Fathers, especially Gregory of Nyssa.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, when I said, "The argument I have made before, however, is that the best theology of the English Reformation was a defense of the Biblical teaching defended at Chalcedon," I was speaking about this essay.

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. John wrote: "'If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.' Calvin Coolidge on exercising free will."

Surely a slip of the keyboard. Upon maturer reflection, I think he will find that was said by someone who should be remembered by anyone from Atlanta: the poster boy for urban renewal, William Tecumseh Sherman.

"Silent Cal", who in truth never turned down an opportunity for office, would more likely have said "No."

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

"The modern argument is not that they reject the same doctrine, but that they reject the Ecumenical Status of Chalcedon, and that this is due to one important fact: During the Council, no effort was made to overcome a failure of communication over the word ὑπόστασις. The Copts argue that their fathers took it to mean the same thing as φύσις."

A creative spin, which is probably correct in itself. But in 1054, had anyone thought of it? My history is a trifle vague on the point, but I believe that for many centuries after Chalcedon, the Monophysites were condemned as heretics. So modern attempts cannot create an "ancient undivided Church" retroactively. Good try, though.

And did not some of the ancident Monophysites speak Greek? The language-barrier excuse will not work for them

"Rome accepts that argument, and so might some of the "Eastern" Patriarchates (does someone know the answer?). It may be accurate, or it may not. But, it does show that they object only to ratification of the Council without their consent rather than to what it teaches."

Good question you are asking: Does anybody know anthing for sure about the Eastern Patriachates? I gather that some of them have been open to some sort of reconciliation with the Orientals, whereas others have not.

Like Marley's Ghost, this notion of a great Ecumenical consensus turns out to be a dream whuich shrivels into Scrooge's bedpost. In the end, we have nothing solid to hang onto but our Bible, since it along it truly Ecumenical.

LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Then we have questions to answer:

Who established the Church?

Answer: Matt. 16:18-It is Christ.

Does the Apostolic Church have authority to teach?

Answer: According to Matt. 28:19 ("Go ye therefore, and teach all nations") the answer must be yes.

The point of my essay is that the consensus of the Church has authority only when consensus is based on revelation.

LKW wrote:

In the end, we have nothing solid to hang onto but our Bible, since it alone is truly Ecumenical.

This is why the bishops in the ecumenical councils believed they had the authority to anathematize all contrary teaching; because they knew their agreement was in accord with the Apostle's teaching as it had been handed down from the beginning and preserved in Scripture.

Shaughn said...

In the interest of humoring the one who has decided to call himself Anon, Anon, Anon,

You will note that Fr. Wells did not call Genesis "wrong." He merely suggested that the text itself does not demand a literal translation.

It's also very hard to do, given that there are two creation accounts in Genesis. Which do you want? Likewise, which flood narrative do you want? Two of everything, or more of animals that are clean? (And how did Noah know what a clean animal was prior to the Law defining the cleanliness code?) These are answerable questions, naturally, but usually render a strictly literal reading a bit difficult.

In point of fact, some in the early church in perfectly good standing, like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, loved to interpret most of the Genesis creation account allegorically. Origin himself liked to interpret the two creation accounts in Genesis in a peculiar sequential order, with spiritual souls receiving a covering of flesh as a result of the fall. (He fell into trouble posthumously for the idea of souls prior to creation, among other ideas, poor sod.)

Incidentally, the Apostle Paul also liked to interpret bits of Genesis allegorically. See Galatians 4:22ff.

David said...

If we have just the bible to rely on we are in big trouble. It has been used as a weapon aside from a spiritual one for centuries. The one with the correct interpretation owns the faith, and can say with authority to know THE truth. You can see that attitude demonstrated in the arguments in these comments.

For the record I do believe that the Church of the Holy Spirit does have the true word of God, not just a book of stories. Not a how to manual. People ask about the time before the bible and to that I say that church of the Holy Spirit has always been the pillar of truth. It produced the bible, it maintains its orthodoxy through the Holy Spirit. It did not become the pillar of truth once it was handed a bound group of inspired religious writings. It is the only way it makes sense. How can you have faith in a book if you don't have equal faith in the church which produced it through the inspiration of the God referenced in that book.

Anonymous said...

Shaun are you saying Genesis has conflicting accounts?

AAA

Shaughn said...

AAA,

I don't think the accounts are in conflict. But then, I don't follow a strictly literal interpretation, either. If you follow a strictly literal interpretation, then it should come as no surprise to you that fourteen does not equal two, and therefore they are in conflict.

As a bit of a tangent, it's very amusing to see biblical literalists also deny the Real Presence, or even a material presence, in the Eucharist. AAA may well not be one. But I wonder: Why go to the mat over a literal reading how we came into being (because, regardless of how we got here, at the end of the day, we are here, we sin, and we need redemption), but then deny the true efficacy of a sacrament designed to bring us closer to our redeemer?

Anonymous said...

"As a bit of a tangent, it's very amusing to see biblical literalists also deny the Real Presence, or even a material presence, in the Eucharist."
I note you did not give an unqualified answer. I presume you are an Episcopalian since you presume I do not believe in the Real Presence. I have no qualms to state I believe the Bible is true, and John 6 convinces me of the RP. You cite Paul but tell me where Christ says any book of the Torah or the Prophets is negotiable or untrue.

"Why go to the mat over a literal reading how we came into being (because, regardless of how we got here, at the end of the day, we are here, we sin, and we need redemption), but then deny the true efficacy of a sacrament designed to bring us closer to our redeemer?"

If you had some age on you you would know the single largest baseball bat proponents of Naturalism and Secularism use to bash the Faith out of HS and college kids is Genesis. That you have no apologetic for the Bible is apparent and appalling considering your bio. There is no Redemption if the Bible is false. If it is false in Genesis it is false elsewhere. Adam prefigures Christ I suppose you have issues with Adam and Eve as well?

Genesis is Canon.
It is true and it is not up for negotiation or personal interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

Perhaps you should reconsider your vocation. The last thing the Church needs is another Broad Church cleric who makes excuses for the Bible based on German literary deconstruction.

Veri :trophydr

AAA

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So, AAA, are you saying that in order to believe in Jesus Christ a person has to regard Gen. 1-2 as a document of historical accuracy? If so, when did Christ begin to use parables? That is, when did the One who never changes, change?

What if the story makes use of parables because the most plain way to tell it is above and beyond our comprehension, having fallen from a glorious state of perfect creation? Surely, we would be looking too directly at heavenly things, and could not understand the details of the glorious liberty of the children of God, which we have yet to see.

The reason that some college professors, and "new atheists", can overturn the faith of certain kinds of Fundamentalists, but not the faith of catholic Anglicans, is because those Fundamentalists believe the Bible in a domino fashion. Knock over something like the 6/24 creation, and there goes their whole faith. The system is too fragile. It is not faith at all.

I do not know how much of the early chapters of Genesis are a parable, and how much is literal. I know only that it is God's revelation, and to be believed. Whether or not I am a sinner because of a man named Adam, or because I am in Adam as the race called Man, begs the question of the use of language in Scripture. For what the language implies is evident.

Shaughn said...

AAA,

Respectfully, I have to support my view a great many folks who do not, particularly, agree with a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis. They include, but are not limited to:

1) St. Augustine, who wrote,

"The sacred writer was able to separate in the time of his narrative what God did not separate in time in His creative act." And further, "But in the beginning He created all things together and completed the whole in six days, when six times he brought the 'day' which he made before the things which He made, not in a succession of periods of time but in a plan made known according to causes." (Hat tip to Alice Linsley)

2) St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote, in support of St. Augustine, "Therefore just as Augustine distinguishes six days according to the presentation of spiritual light, which is said to be made on the first day, by the six kinds of things, so according to the presentation of bodily light the six kinds of things can in a certain way be distinguished into six days without the distinction of time. And because the period of each bodily thing is prefigured according to the influence of light between two terms, since each bodily power is finite, therefore those terms beyond which the power of the thing does not extend are called morning and evening." (Right around: II Sent., dist. 12, q. 3, a. 1.)

And also: St. Athanasius, Alcuin, (And, for fun, Abelard, and Origen). Miracle of miracles, none of these gentlemen are German, and most of them would probably feel moderately insulted at the implication. They also all pre-date the Reformation, and in particular, the rise of German Biblical scholarship, by centuries.

As it happens, numerous Jewish philosophers in the early church felt much the same way, to include Philo of Alexandria.

Prior to 19th century American Protestantism, it was, put simply, neither an heretical nor a particularly controversial view that a) Genesis is correct, and b) Creation needn't be six discrete 24 hour periods. How many sources from perfectly orthodox theologians who don't agree with you do you want?

I haven't a rebuttal for your uncharitable personal attacks on my character, age, and vocation, beyond wondering why you persist in hiding behind anonymity.

Are you so bold as to question the character and sense of Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, two of the most important learned doctors of the Western Church? Do you know more than St. Athanasius, one of the greatest minds and learned Doctors of the Eastern Church? I will stand with the AAA of Augustine, T. Aquinas, and Athanasius before I stand with you, sir, whoever you are.

Your authority to judge the opinions of others, AAA, doesn't seem to be Scripture, or the Fathers who interpreted it, but yourself, which is hardly appropriate.

Veriword before my session expired: dativ. (Maybe I'll get it again. Is it too much to hope for a double dativ?)

Anonymous said...

"The reason that some college professors, and "new atheists", can overturn the faith of certain kinds of Fundamentalists, but not the faith of catholic Anglicans,... the 6/24 creation, and there goes their whole faith."

Fr. Hart,

Genesis speaks of God as God revealed has His actions in Creation to us. Surely we can agree on that.

God created the world. Christ is God. The Spirit (that moved across the waters) is God. If God did not create the world as He says then can Christ be God? Was there a Spirit? If so what did they do? Did they evolve over millions of years as well? Can we trust Him not to have spoken as allegory regarding the Cross?

If Genesis (whether 1-2 or all of it) can be explained away as allegory than so can the rest of Scripture. If Christ be part of the Godhead then what happens in the beginning in Genesis is just as important as the Prologue to John- IF one falls the other does not? How can that be?
Is Scripture not to be interpreted first by Scripture? How can you claim Scripture is not interconnected? I say the allegory argument is a ‘panic button’ for the ashamed.

If it is implausible (according to science) that God can affect supernatural events then it is fair to ask if there is even a God at all! If Genesis is false then indeed everything falls like dominoes the nature of God and the fallen man are myth.

Perhaps... just perhaps we have all been brain washed by modernism and Darwinism into ignoring the many, many examples of "problimatica" that our children should be aware of in order to defend their faith.

There are two distinct worldviews at war in our country in this age- Biblical and Naturalistic.

Naturalism is why the church is losing a generation(s). The reason Naturalism is winning and taking sheep from the shepherds is that they use Genesis to debunk the Bible.

You're in NC, go visit Chapel Hill and ask random college students why they don't buy Christianity. Heck even care bears are being used to say “all there ever was and is, is the Cosmos,” Most college kids will say you can't trust the Bible- it's full of myths and stories. They hear it every day on campus. If you cannot trust the Bible you cannot be sure of God. It's not rocket science.

I have done some evaluation on the 'young earth' theories and 'intelligent design' and I believe they have many compelling arguments based on scientific evidence that support both the Creation story and the Flood as well as debunking much of what passes for 'fact' as science in text books. Before you dismiss the ‘fundies’ perhaps you should investigate what they and many scientists are taking note of. If clergy are not looking for fresh ways to present a defense of the Faith, including Genesis, you are setting up the young people in your parishes to be scandalized by secularists and Naturalists when they start taking "Science" classes. Having personally observed several college kids come back with a damaged faith to my Anglo Catholic parish I take personal issue with your claim that “catholic Anglicans” are unaffected.

As a fellow Continuer I know, generally speaking, how many parishes in the ACC, APCK, and even the ACA are aging past a median of 50-60. Where are the young people? Summer camp enrollment for the ACC is down this year so don't go on about your church doing fine it's not.

As to fundamentalists consider Christ's words in Rev 3:16 and what is acceptable to God.

I don't want to go completely off tangent here but the claim Genesis is merely allegory, while not a matter of doctrine, is indeed a matter of credibility it is the foundation of the Biblical story. The Evangelical and Fundamentalist on the street and campus understand this issue better than the insular Anglo Catholic who does no evangelism.

Perhaps it would be a good exercise for you to take up the subject in a different post. What have you to loose?

Luke 9:26 TMB


AAA

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If God did not create the world as He says then can Christ be God? Was there a Spirit?

Irrelevant. That has nothing to do with anything anybody has said here.

Can we trust Him not to have spoken as allegory regarding the Cross?

If the nations of the earth will not be separated literally as sheep and goats, may we trust Him to be speaking literally about the cross? If the five foolish virgins did not take oil with them, literally...We can go with these examples.

If Genesis (whether 1-2 or all of it) can be explained away as allegory than so can the rest of Scripture.

I see you need a course not on the Bible, but on the subject of literature. You need to learn how to read.

If Christ be part of the Godhead then what happens in the beginning in Genesis is just as important as the Prologue to John- IF one falls the other does not? How can that be?

You have created false criteria. Neither "falls." The creation narrative reveals God as creator, and implies the Trinity. John, meanwhile, speaks of God in a manner beyond our full comprehension. The second word in Genesis is borah, telling us that the primary meaning is God's work. Not so in John, where God is the whole subject.

If it is implausible (according to science) that God can affect supernatural events ...

None of which is relevant to our conversation at all in any way whatsoever.

There are two distinct worldviews at war in our country in this age- Biblical and Naturalistic...

No, there are many more than that. There is Islam, Hinduism, modern "spiritual" concepts, etc. The distinction that matters is between those who are in Christ and those who are not.

You're in NC, go visit Chapel Hill and ask random college students why they don't buy Christianity...

First, I would have to ask the ones who don't buy Christianity, since many are believers. But, if you think a literal 6/24 is a going to win over the skeptics instead of closing their minds, you can't possibly evangelize in that setting. It is better not to insult their intelligence if you hope to win them over.

And, as a Touchstone editor, I cannot accept the idea that "Intelligent Design" equals 6/24 Creationism. It does not.

If clergy are not looking for fresh ways to present a defense of the Faith, including Genesis, you are setting up the young people in your parishes to be scandalized by secularists and Naturalists when they start taking "Science" classes.

Insisting on literal 6/24 Creationism (which is merely an interpretation of Genesis, not Genesis itself) is one sure way to take away any defense they could have in a genuine intellectual setting.

Where are the young people?

Drop in here sometime. I will introduce you to a few.

As to fundamentalists consider Christ's words in Rev 3:16 and what is acceptable to God.

How about Rev. 3:20 instead? If Christ is not talking about literally knocking on a literal door, can we trust Him not to have spoken as allegory regarding the Cross?

...but the claim Genesis is merely allegory...

Actually, no one has made any such claim.

...it is the foundation of the Biblical story.

What it teaches is the foundation.

The Evangelical and Fundamentalist on the street and campus understand this issue...

If that is what they dwell on, they can't expect to convert college students.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, about the line, "If it is implausible (according to science) that God can affect supernatural events ..." more should be said.

Science is not one uniform creed, but a search for knowledge. The subject of God's supernatural power is beyond the competence of science. Intelligent Design, in the hands of those who know what it is, infers from what is observed. So did Einstein, who spoke openly about God quite often, clearly a believer in God as Creator of all things.

Anonymous said...

My opening remarks were not meant to infer this (“nothing to do with anything… said here”) but rather the objections/ perceptions I run into regularly from the 'missing generation'.

"You have created false criteria...,"

They most certainly do fall in common conversation among people who think they know science disproves the Bible. It matters little if the criteria is false in your estimation if the ‘thorn’ preventing belief cannot be removed. I’m sorry Fr., I hear it constantly, I know such people- you are missing the point. Again, a unchurched person who does not believe Genesis will generally not get past that obstacle to believe the message of Salvation; the Episcopal Church is full of these people! The biggest problems I run into contending for the faith are 1) dealing with the Science vs OT issues with potential believers and 2) dealing with the fact many clergy hold to evolution as fact making it difficult to untangle disbelief.

"Insisting on literal 6/24 … is one sure way to take away any defense they could have in a genuine intellectual setting."

I never insisted that, I said/meant in looking into them I find the proponents of a literal view of Creation have worthwhile and compelling points that support rapid deposition, etc., I also find that these points undermine slow deposition theories as well as other theories- they cannot prove 6/24 as much as they demonstrate the inconsistencies of Evolution and the “Billions of years” theories as well as offering an opportunity to place doubt back on the Naturalist worldview- in that they have much more value than claiming the stories are simply allegory!! Many of the scientists holding to slow deposition are abandoning uniform rates of deposition in favor of extreme events. The other fascinating topic in this mix is irreducible complexity such as Cilia cells in the womb. As to “intellectual settings” sorry Fr. Wwe don’t always get a perfect circumstance in which to evangelize. You should really try it sometime.

Islam has not emptied churches like naturalism in this country so it is irrelevant here as a worldview.

As to the “few” young people you have in your chapel I have a question for you: were they members when you showed up or did you recruit/convince them from the college? Are they new to the faith or are they the children of believing parents being in community? I bet for every family you have with devoted high school/college age children you have 2-3 families whose children do not attend any church… sadly, it is easily demonstrated in most churches.

"If that is what they dwell on, they can't expect to convert college students."

In fact they are converting students, I have seen people go from “atheist” to “agnostic” in their own words, a few minutes, by challenging Naturalism’s assumptions and that is a seed planted.

"Science is not one uniform creed, but a search for knowledge…So did Einstein, who spoke openly about God quite often, clearly a believer in God as Creator of all things."

Your putting words in my mouth, I never said or even implied science was “a uniform creed”- the issue is how science is presented, not what it is or is not. Perception is everything! Surely you are not suggesting Einstein was a theist? Can you offer evidence at the same standard you are demanding from me in my interpretation of Shaughn and Fr well’s remarks on allegory and 6/24?

I agree "God is beyond science's comprehension" but evidence that the standard evolution theories and time theories are flawed is observable through honest science. Polystrate trees without root systems attached in coal strata seem a legitimate challenge to slow deposition theories.

… AAA

Anonymous said...

Cont...

Genesis is merely allegory... "Actually, no one has made any such claim".

This sure sounds like it to me.
" For how many centuries did the majority of the Christian world believe in 6/24 creation, an interpretation Scripture does not necessarily demand of us."
“How many centuries” indeed! Such a primitive view held by the superstitious up till Darwin claimed cells were simple little blobs!

Rather than press the panic button for allegory how about challenging the philosophies that pass for science (not true science) whose primary purpose it to derail young people from their faith.
The “Fundies” are at least doing something about it. And by the way, much of the academic community regards proponents of even conversation regarding Intelligent Design as akin to fundamentalism.


AAA

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...an unchurched person who does not believe Genesis...

Are we talking about believing or not believing Genesis, or are we talking about confusing that belief with insistence on a literal interpretation of each and every passage?

The biggest problems I run into contending for the faith are 1) dealing with the Science vs OT issues with potential believers and 2) dealing with the fact many clergy hold to evolution as fact making it difficult to untangle disbelief.

These details instead of the Gospel? No wonder you have such a pessimistic outlook.

...they cannot prove 6/24 as much as they demonstrate the inconsistencies of Evolution and the “Billions of years” theories as well as offering an opportunity to place doubt back on the Naturalist worldview...

Inconsistencies of evolution or of Darwinism? Billions of years theories? You can waste time on these subjects, or you can evangelize. You can't do both.

As to “intellectual settings” sorry Fr. Wwe don’t always get a perfect circumstance in which to evangelize. You should really try it sometime.

I suggest instead dealing with reality as it you find it, and discussing the Gospel rather than insisting on your own interpretation of Genesis. For every person who listens, scores will turn away thinking Christianity is anti-intellectual.

Islam has not emptied churches like naturalism in this country so it is irrelevant here as a worldview.

Neither has emptied churches as much as "6/24" literalism in an educated world.

I bet for every family you have with devoted high school/college age children you have 2-3 families whose children do not attend any church… sadly, it is easily demonstrated in most churches.

No, that is not the case. The parents bring their children, as we should all expect them to. The college students we have attend church where they are, and come here when they are home.

I have seen people go from “atheist” to “agnostic” in their own words, a few minutes, by challenging Naturalism’s assumptions and that is a seed planted.

Challenging it with what? And, please define "Naturalism," as I have no idea what you are talking about. Do you mean atheism? Do you mean agnosticism? What does this word, naturalism, mean? Are the alleged assumptions of "Naturalism" atheistic?

The only seed worth planting is the Gospel.

Surely you are not suggesting Einstein was a theist?

"I refuse to believe that God is playing dice with the cosmos." -Albert Einstein

"I studied physics because I wanted to know the mind of God."
-Albert Einstein

The theory of Relativity is, in Einstein's words, about aesthetics. Of course he believed in God, and never hid the fact. The atheists want to claim him, but they can't have him.

...evidence that the standard evolution theories and time theories are flawed is observable through honest science...

The best evidence for relevant flaws is the standard and genuine works on Intelligent Design. But, the authors do not offer, and never have offered, their work as an argument for 6/24. Pat Robertson may spin it that way, but it is not the case.

Polystrate trees without root systems attached in coal strata seem a legitimate challenge to slow deposition theories.

That is true. But, that does not give you any right to insist that people accept only one view of how to interpret the early chapters of Genesis. Your interpretation may be correct. But, those who think allegory or parable a better interpretation are no less committed to a high view of Scripture, that it is the word of God, than you are.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The “Fundies” are at least doing something about it.

Yes. Some of them seem to go out of their way to make all Christians look like quasi-medieval ignoramuses. Some of them tell people that unless they believe in 6/24, and a literal interpretation of Gen. 2, right down to the literal talking snake, that they can't believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose on the third day, as eyewitnesses testified. So, some people don't believe in Christ. What an accomplishment.

I ask, whose side are they on?