Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ashley Null (a.k.a., "A. Null") on Cranmer:

"According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

"The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.

"Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation. Working through Scripture, the Holy Spirit first brings a conviction of sin in a believer’s heart, then he births a living faith by which the believer lays hold of the extrinsic righteousness of Christ."


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post---esp. because I finally learned the meaning of the word "concupiscence". Would you ever consider adding a glossary to your website for your "special needs" readers, of which I am one? I would love the JAZzy definition for all sorts of things : soteriology, 3 uses of the law, imputation, irresistible grace, and lots of other things that I'm going to go look for right now.

Anonymous said...

Ok..I found some more:
hermeneutics, eschatology, anti-nomianism, infusion (v. imputation?), sanctification (esp comp. to justification?), mimesis, anthropology (as used on your site). prevenient grace, "sotM"--
and this was just from one thread of one post!

I understand if it would not be practical to do this, and also assume if I keep reading long enough, I will pick up a lot of it in context (sort of like "mainstreaming" for slower students) but would love to see a "John Camp for Dummies" glossary. Thanks

Tim Galebach said...

I think that the existence and continued usage of all these terms is a severe problem. Also, I may get some of them wrong. Here goes.

Soteriology - how salvation works, the "economics" of salvation.

The Law:
1st use - Don't kill, or you'll go to jail.
2nd use - Ahhhhh!!!!! I can't do anything right, shit shit shit shit shit. What can I do?!
3rd use - Now that I am a Christian, I am better able to love my neighbor as myself. Time to buckle down and just do it.

Imputation - When God looks at me, he does not see dirtiness, he sees his son.

Irrestible grace - Your refusal cannot stop God from changing you.

Hermeneutics - assumptions that you bring to a problem that allow you to solve it faster. In the case of scriptural interpretation, a hermeneutic for interpreting Paul could be to accept as "gospel" any abstract theological statements that he makes, and disregard anything relating to a particular church (i.e. having women keep silent/wear veils).

Sanctification - sanctification is how you become a better person, better fufilling the law. I don't want to say anything more.

Mimesis - don't know

Anthropology - in the crypto-Lutheran context, this word means "one's view of human nature", i.e. its potentialities, tendencies, etc.

Prevenient grace - not sure exactly.

Tim Galebach said...

I think that the first paragraph of this post was the thesis of most early Seinfeld episodes.

bpzahl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bpzahl said...

Mimesis: our acquisition of likeness to something (someone else) else by copying or mimiking it.

Imputation vs. Infusion - read Simeon's initial article that John posted sometime in late December, Frank Curry's response, Simeon's response, and then Simeon's Response to Al Kimel in January.

Prevenient grace: Grace that comes before or precedes anything else (i.e. it is given before we deserve it, before we "seek" it, etc.)

Eschatology: the study of the second coming

Anthropology in the way we have been using it is a combination of psychology, sociology, even biology - basically, the combination of things that are descriptive of our state as human beings. To have a "low anthropology" means to have a low view of ourselves/ human nature.

Hermeneutics is basically a cognitive framework for explaining something, sort of like a lens that helps you filter, organize or make sense of information.

Sanctification and Justification: basically the process of being sanctified (made holy) and the process of being justified (made righteous). Discussion here often revolves around how these processes occur, namely, to what degree are we involved in these processes, and to what extent is God involved in these processes.

Tom Becker said...

Big Words of the Bible
As discussed on the 9/11/05 edition of The White Horse Inn

(Gk. meta-noia) Literally, the Greek
word underlying repentance means "change of mind." Another similar Greek word is meta-melomai, which is best translated change of feeling, or "regret." Thus the underlying word for repentance is somewhat distinct from feeling sorry, etc., but primarily has to do with a change of mind which results in new actions. For example, in Luke 3:3 Jesus says to "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance." This statement does not make sense if repentance is interepreted as "doing acts of penance," for why would one need to add good works to the act of doing good works? The sense of this passage then is to bear fruit in keeping with a new outlook, having been converted to God's way of seeing the world. Finally, as with faith, repentance is spoken of in the NT as being a gift of God. See for example Acts 11:18, "to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

(Gk. epistrophe). Turning, returning. From the New Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: "The noun (found in Acts 15:3) denotes both the act in which a man turns again to God and the Divine activity by virtue of which this takes place." See for example Jer. 31:18 "Turn thou me and I shall be turned."

(Gk. hilasmos). To turn aside wrath. To appease. The word is a close cousin of the adjective hilaron, meaning "cheerful" (the Greek root of our modern English word "hilarious"). From Webster: "The act of appeasing the wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person; the act of making propitious." There are six primary NT texts in which a the term is found (Luke 18:13, Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 9:5, 1John 2:2, and 4:10). In the Romans 3 passage, the form of the noun Paul uses is hilasterion, which is the term used in Greek translations of the OT to translate "mercy-seat," the place on which the blood of sacrifice was to be sprinkled (Lev. 16:12-17) in the inner shrine of the ancient Jewish temple. In fact the only other place this form of the word occurs in the NT is Heb. 9:5, where it is generally translated "mercy-seat." Most therefore see hilasmos as the "act of propitiation" and hilasterion as "the place of propitiation." Paul, then, in Rom. 3:25 appears to be suggesting that Christ is the ultimate mercy-seat, or place in which God's wrath has been turned aside from us. The verbal form hilaskomai is found in Heb. 2:17 and Luke 18:13. The Luke 18 passage is generally translated "God be merciful to me a sinner," but though the concepts of mercy and propitiation are closely related, a more accurate translation would be, "God, be propitious to me, a sinner." Some modern translations have unfortunately replaced the term propitiation with words such as "atonement" (NIV) to simply some of the Biblical terminology.

(Gk. katarismos). Purification or cleansing. See Hebrews 1:3b, "After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (ESV). From Webster's: "The act of making satisfaction or atonement for any crime or fault; the extinguishing of guilt by suffering or penalty." We get our modern word "catharsis / cathartic" from this Greek word underlying expiation. The RSV unfortunately uses expiation to translate hilosmos and hilasterion, but those terms would better be translated as propitiation, because it communicates more than purification, but also the appeasement of a wrathful God.

(Gk. apolutrosis). From BDAG: "Buying back a slave or captive, i.e. making free by payment of a ransom." From Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: "The central theme of redemption in Scripture is that God has taken the initiative to act compassionately on behalf of those who are powerless to help themselves. The NT makes clear that divine redemption includes God's identification with humanity in its plight, and the securing of liberation of humankind through the obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection of the incarnate Son." See Heb. 9:12 and 1Cor. 6:19-20.

(Gk. logizomai). To credit, think, account or reckon. Though Christ was personally sinless, God treated him "as if" he were a sinner during his time on the cross. Thus, our sin was imputed or credited to his account. In the same way, we are personally sinful and unclean, but God credits us with the active and passive obedience of Christ, and treats us "as if" we are totally righteous. The means by which we receive this credit or imputation is not works, but simple trust in the finished work of Christ, as Paul teaches in Rom. 4:5, "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Imputation then is the most crucial component of the doctrine of justification, which is itself the heart of the gospel.

(Gk. dikaiow). To declare or pronounce righteous. God declares a sinner to be righteous the moment the sinner, despairing of his own inherent righteousness, clings to the righteousness of Christ as sufficient for presenting him to God as holy and without blame. It is a declaration, and not a process; it occurs at the beginning of the Christian life, not at the end; it is merited by Christ, not in any sense by the believer; it is complete, not partial; it is declared on the basis of Christs righteousness, not the believers, and it is received by faith alone, not by faith and obedience. The believing sinner is changed and will continue to change, but such changes effected by God in the soul are in no way the basis for justification. From Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: "The verb translated 'to justify' clearly means 'to declare righteous.' It is used of God in a quotation, which the NIV renders 'So that you may be proved right when you speak' (Rom. 3:4); the NRSV has more exactly, 'So that you may be justified in your words.' Now God cannot be 'made righteous'; the expression obviously means 'shown to be righteous' and this helps us see that when the word is applied to believers it does not mean 'made righteous.'"

(Gk. hagiazein). To make holy. With justification, we are declared righteous by God, not on the basis of what we have done, but because we are linked to the righteousness Christ by faith. But sanctification is the process in which we improve in holiness here and now. The former is the basis of our standing before God in heaven, the latter is earthly and always imperfect. A clear passage making this distinction is Hebrews 10:14: "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." From A.A. Hodge: "Sanctification is the work of God's grace by which those who believe in Christ are freed from sin and built up in holiness. In Protestant theology it is distinguished from justification and regeneration, both of which lie at its root, and from neither of which is it separable in fact...both regeneration and justification are momentary acts, and acts of God in which the sinner is passive; sanctification, on the other hand, is a progressive work of God, in which the sinner co-operates."

(Gk. pro-oridzow). To decide in advance. From the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: "Divine predestination means that God has a purpose that is determined long before it is brought to pass. It implies that God is infinitely capable of planning and then bringing about what he has planned, and Scripture speaks of him as doing this (Isa 14:24-27; 22:11; 37:26; 44:7-8; 46:8-10). Prophecy in its predictive mode is to be understood accordingly. God plans and makes his plans known, as he chooses, to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). God's purpose is one of love and grace (Deut 7:6-8; Isa 41:8-9), above all because in love he predestined what should come to pass in his plan to save and to restore sinful humanity through Christ (Eph 1:5). Colossians 1:26 speaks of this purpose as 'the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but now is disclosed.' This implies that all that is in God's good purpose for us, individually or as part of the people of God, is by God's initiative and thus is a work of grace, something that we could never instigate or deserve (Deut 9:4-6; 2 Tim 1:9)." See also Acts 13:48, Rom 8:29 - 9:24, and Eph 1:1-11.

From A.A. Hodge: "A theological term used to express the initial stage of the change experienced by one who enters upon the Christian life. It is derived from the New Testament, where the "new birth" (1 Pet. 1:3, 23; Titus 3:5; John 3:3-21) is the beginning of that "renewal" which produces the "new creature." See also Acts 16:14: "One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

(Gk. euangelion). A proclamation of good news (Rom. 1:15-16). The greek root of gospel is the source of the words evangelism (the spreading of good news) and evangelical (one who is gospel centered). It is important to bear in mind here that the word clearly indicates that actual historical events are at the core of the Christian faith. The original disciples were proclaiming good news and were reporting events that actually happened, not eternal principles or mystical speculations (see 2Pet 1:16, 1John 1-3, 1Cor. 15:1-17). From Louw & Nida: "In a number of languages the expression ‘the gospel’ or ‘the good news’ must be rendered by a phrase, for example, ‘news that makes one happy’ or ‘information that causes one joy’ or ‘words that bring smiles’ or ‘a message that causes the heart to be sweet.’"

cjdm said...

cranmer's thoughts on the heart are the single most helpful thing that i have ever come across for sorting out what's going on inside. it helps prayer, conversation, evangelism, and pretty much everything else. it is truthful. its on a post-it note on my monitor at work.

way to go, JZ.


Anonymous said...

John--This WAS a great Valentines' post, before we got off on "Etymolgy for a thousand, Alex..."
I do very much appreciate the glossary, and am printing it out to keep close at hand. Some complex things were certainly made clearer.
Bonnie--re: hermeneutics: is it personal? So could it be faulty? Like if the lens through which I filter the world is cloudy or wrong, is it still hermeneutics, or does "hermeneutics" mean the "right" way to view the world?

bpzahl said...

Yes, hermeneutics can be biased and personal. It is a lens for interpretation of scriptural meaning.

The classic hermeneutic tradition sought to find out what the text says and means objectively (like what you said, the "right" way to view the world), but lots of evidence shows that it is not really possible to find the "right" way or the totally objective way to read scripture.

Constructivism simply rejects the idea that there is one single, objective meaning to the Bible because it rejects that the idea of some objective "reality" as experienced by the person. Particularly, in psychology we know that our emotions, unique experiences, social relationships, cultures, thought patterns, etc. shape how we perceive and interpret information. For example, if you had an abusive father, you will probably have a totally different understanding of the concept of God as Father, compared to someone who grew up in a happy, healthy family. Another example is how different Christian groups can have the same text (the Bible) but reach totally different conclusions, place different emphases on the text, etc. A Christian feminist will see every mention of women and submission as an attack on the female gender and try to focus on the parts that affirmed womanhood. So on and so forth.

My view is that our experiences and our histories shape and colour the "lens". We each have some hermeneutic - whether we're aware of it or not - and our hermeneutic is informed and shaped by our lives - so that there isn't ONE objective, true way of reading the Bible. You may read the Bible and interpret it in the framework of Imputation, or you may read it and interpret it in the framework of Infusion. There are some classic theological hermeneutics that I don't know about (one of you theology folks fill in here), but that's the basic gist of it.

My interest in hermeneutics is focused towards the psychological side of it, like cognitive biases, selective attention, personal construct theory, schemas, etc. and I have plenty to say about that!

cjdm said...

for what its worth, my favorite hermeneutical explorations center around the way that the people in the new testament interpret the old. it is pretty amazing...see especially the way that the OT is "quoted" in acts in support of the present situation. makes you want to get all pneumatic! yeah! because you sure can't figure out how to make it make sense any other way.

this is of course pretty scary for the establishment of any sort of dogma, orthodoxy, or magisterium...all of which i am totally about (in varying degrees). it seems like the New Testament model of hermeneutics is to be led by the Spirit to understand particular texts to have particular historical significance for your contemporary situation.

feel the power. honestly.

deut. 23:1. PZ, please use this text in a sermon...does it apply to anything contemporary?

love and rockets,


Tim Galebach said...

The wisdom of the law is revealed through the law itself.

Cate West said...

“He [Luther] says that if we are to use the term ‘free will’ at all, we should limit it to our everyday freedom in those things that are below us but not attempt to extend it to those things that are above us.” - Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross

Anonymous said...

A) I can't believe so many people read your blog (13 comments on this topic already) Zahl. When your blog is not borderline racist/ableist camp, it's like Thomas Aquinas times 1,000. Sorry to be mean, but it's the nature of our relationship. I'm like the Judah to your Joseph. Ed Carson would be Reuben. (Genesis 37:20-30)

B) Thanks for publishing my cartoon. It will inspire me to make more. Is your email address still the same? Mine is.

C) Go to http://www.hotornotchurchsites.com/ to rate the best church homepages. It's awesome!

Your partner in Christ,


Anonymous said...

Fernandez-- It's sort of hard to figure out that website---I found myself unintentionally "rating" churches just in an attempt to look at some of them. What gives?

Eric Cadin said...

Bonnie, I don't think I, or for that matter any Christian who ever picks up the Bible and really believes this book to contain the true revelation of God, can possible agree with your statement:

"so that there isn't ONE objective, true way of reading the Bible."

The Church, and more specifically with the Church, the Magisterium, does in fact do that very thing. From whose authority, God Himself. More concretely, let me ask you this. Why is the Gospel of John canonical and the Gospel of Thomas not? Long answer, it contradicts sacra doctrina, the deposit of Faith, short answer, The CHURCH, by this I mean CATHOLIC, judged it so.

Tim Galebach said...

Objectivity is a false god.

bpzahl said...

Hi Eric: I don't mean to imply that the Bible isn't the divine, true Word of God. I just mean that we are never fully able to know what is "objectively" true.

The only sacred text that claims to be the _direct_ words of God is the Qu'ran, and the language in which God spoke was Arabic. It is intratextual; nothing from the outside can inform your interpretation of it. It is to be received in that original form, comprehended literally.

The Bible already has so many translations - which tells me the Bible was never meant to be objectively exact. There is room for interpretation. If there is room for "interpretation" then there is room for subjectivity. Unless you take the Bible to be intratextual, the _exact_ Word of God, you will have to allow room for subjective interpretation. That's why it is the LIVING word of God; the Spirit moves where it wills, and He leads us to interpret it as He wills. That does not mean we don't get it wrong. The Bible is bound in language, which is a function in part of our cultural heritage, our cognition, our sense-making. Some words exist in Greek or Hebrew that we will never be able to translate. How can that be the way "objective truth" is revealed to us? My take is that "objective truth" exists only in God, apart from us. Apart from our interpretation, knowledge, even experiences. The day I say "I know the objective truth" is the day I see Jesus face to face.

I have a lower view of human knowledge than you do, because I see the Fall as the acquisition of a certain kind of knowledge (of good and evil), and it is the pursuit of that knowledge that separated us from God.

bpzahl said...

I guess what I was trying to say is that "objective truth" loses its objectivity the moment it is perceived by subjective beings, i.e. humans. There are far too many automatic cognitive responses in us when we read Scripture, listen to a sermon, etc. We (automatically) selectively choose what information to remember and what to filter out, simply because we would be overloaded with information otherwise. We are biased towards information that affirms our worldview and biased against information that disrupts our sense of coherence. That's how humans deal with the world.

I make no claims about whether or not objective truth exists (for the record, I do believe it does - just outside of ourselves).

Eric Cadin said...

Bonnie, I understand what you are saying and in no way am I implying that the Bible is like the Quran. But you do seem to be ignoring the Huge Elephant in the room. Your analysis gives the best argument, thank you very much, for a MAGISTERIUM, which in fact subsists in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church does not claim this authority for herself, rather, as given by God, exactly for your reasons, to serve His Body. When we all can "interpret" as we subjectively feel, we no longer are one, (see the limitless fracturing of the Protestest Churches) and we all, whether we admit it or not, become our own little magisteriums

bpzahl said...

My main objection to the Magisterium is papal infallibility, as if his interpretation isn't *his* interpretation of what God has said. The Catechism says: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."

That, to me, denies a) the basic human psychology of the Pope, as if he were able to somehow be objective or as if his subjectivity is really the true teaching, and b) makes the Pope's teaching just as intratextual and self-authenticating, which I do not agree with at all.

simeon zahl said...

Eric, question: does "magisterium" in the Catholic sense refer primarily to _doctrine_ or also to _hermeneutics_? It seems to me that if, as you say, there is only a single hermeneutic and that texts therefore never have any meaning that is not already acounted for by the magisterium, then there is no real point to personal scripture study. If whatever I bring to the table by myself when I read scripture is never valid unless it precisely conforms to the interpretation of the magisterium, then why read scripture in a personal context at all? Why not just read the commentary of the magisterium, which is where the real content, safeguarded from my subjectivity, is to be found? Alternatively, why not restrict scripture reading to church contexts only, where the liturgy and homily, etc., interpret it for us?

What I'm asking is, if what you say about the magisterium is true, which it may well be, would it not be a _bad_ thing for a lay individual to read scripture without the teaching of the magisterium alongside at all times? Is there any room for personal scripture reading by a lay person in a magisterium hermeneutic?

It seems to me that this problem would be less acute if the magisterium idea refers more to doctrine than simply and absolutely to scripture-- so which is it?

simeon zahl said...

Perhaps another way of putting the same question in broader terms would be: Can the Spirit move/ speak/ interpret for us apart from the mediation of the magisterium?

Is the Spirit tied absolutely and in all cases directly to the activity of the Church?

simeon zahl said...

A final addendum: I suspect that the picture is not quite as absolute as I have painted it, and that the RCC would of course encourage personal Bible study, but I do not see how that follows from what Eric has said, especially in the context of the hermeneutics question. Do explain!

Eric Cadin said...

Of course. I did make it more absolute than necessary in order to emphasize the importance and necessity of the Magisterium.

Thus to begin to answer your question Simeon, I will quote St. Augustine: “But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the Authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.”

We can begin with # 84 of the catechism:

The heritage of faith entrusted to the whole of the Church

The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."

Additionally we see:

The Magisterium of the Church

"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

Zahls, note here the distinctions of the fullness of its exercise:

The dogmas of the faith

The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

Finally, I regards to quotations:

Growth in understanding the faith

Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

- "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts"; it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth".

- "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience", the sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."

- "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".

"It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."

So, where does all this leave us. The “job” of the magisterium is to safeguard the deposit of faith. Does that mean we should keep the Bible out of people’s hands (well, for centuries this was in effect the policy, and perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to say it was terrible), no we shouldn’t. Does it exclude “private” revelation? No. For the working of the Holy Spirit brings to life the living Word for each individual believer. For proof of this one need only see the importance of lectio divina in the lives of Catholic men and women, especially priests. BUT, as St. Thomas champions, the sacra doctrine is the truth God knows about Himself which, by his free gift, he COMMUNICATES to US. So, keep reading the Scriptures as an individual and scholar. But if you reach some conclusion that is antithetical to the Deposit of Faith, well in humility and grace you’d better run back to the truth, else you get swept up in… well pick a heresy. But don’t see this as a warning against devotion to Scripture, for the work of individuals for themselves and the Church is indispensable.

So, if hermeneutic is refined to mean solely how the Scriptures, as led by the Holy Spirit move and transform me, then of course we all have our own. But if it means the lens through which we move beyond “personal” interpretation and universalize the particular, then that belongs solely to the Magisterium.

Why is it that we would, or should, all agree that a reading of the Scriptures which denies the trinity would be anathema. Why do we have certainty that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man? Any glimpse of Church history would show that these points were not always unanimously agreed upon. Well, we have certainty because THE CHURCH JUDGED. Go back to the example of the Bible itself. WHERE DID IT COME FROM if not from the CHURCH? Perhaps I am missing something, but Bonnie, when you want to hastily subjectify the Pontiff, I ask you, did, as I often think a lot of people imagine, the Bible full and complete simply fall out of the Sky and land in Martin Luther’s lap on fine afternoon. It seems, as hard as this may be, that we MUST admit, everytime we open the Scriptures, that we believe the Authority, the Magesterial authority, of the Church.

bpzahl said...

"It seems, as hard as this may be, that we MUST admit, everytime we open the Scriptures, that we believe the Authority, the Magesterial authority, of the Church."

I don't know about that. If all who opened the Bible believed the magesterial authority of the Church, then we wouldn't have all the theological discussions and disagreements that we have had. We have had disagreements primarily on doctrinal issues, so I would not say that all who read the Bible must admit to believing the magesterial authority of the Church.

bpzahl said...

Perhaps I am too unsympathetic though. Jeff Dean, what do you think?

Eric Cadin said...

Bonnie, a point I make in writing such a statement is precisely, on what Authority, if not the CHURCH's, do we trust that the Bible is the word of God? Again, a problem, as I see it, is that most protestants imagine (of course one would never say this, but it is implied in their acceptence of the Bible)that the Bible simply fell out of the sky into Luther's lap, and then of course he ripped out a few books he didn't particularly like.

Bonnie, simply asked, why do you trust that the Bible is the word of God?

I am oversimplifying I know, but there has to be some common gorund on which to begin discussion. Everything is NOT subjective.

Tom Becker said...

Eric - I agree that everything is not total subjective, though I think the authority of the chruch discussion really hits at the differnce between the visibile & invisible church - ie. the holy catholic (small c) church. I for one could never subscribe to the infaliablity of the Catholic (big C) church since there are some clear (to me) scriptural problems w/their doctrine.

Tim Galebach said...

Eric, obviously EVERYTHING is not subjective. And I do believe that there is non-subjective Truth with a capital T.

But, as pertains to human beings, saying that everything is not sujective is an untenable position. We are subjects, who each have a different way of perceiving the world. Appealing to the Magesterium changes nothing. Everyone will have their own way of perceiving what the Magesterium has said, and everyone will have to go through their own process to decide whether or not to accept that.

Even the very process of speaking is subjective, words are inherently an abstraction.

None of this is to say that Truth doesn't exist, but as human beings, we will always be subjects with lots of different verbs at our disposal, and adjectives applied to us.

bpzahl said...

Hi Eric: two answers to your question.

1. I believe it is the true Word of God because I don't think there is a better alternative. Either I believe it or my beliefs crumble, and like I said to John earlier, better to have a monster to deal with than to have nothing at all. Probably not an answer that satisfies you, but it is one that satisfies me, particularly now having read a bit more comparative religion.

2. Not to deflect, but I think we have moved beyond the subject of "interpretation", which was the original topic (hermeneutics, ie frames of interpretation), not the issue of the Bible's historical authenticity per se. I have no doubt that John, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Paul, Timothy, etc. wrote those epistles, and they really reflected Truth. I have no issues with the Bible itself, but I do have doubts about claims of infallibility of interpretation (i.e. sacraments are the means to, not symbols of, grace) and extra-biblical teaching (i.e. immaculate conception).

bpzahl said...

ding ding ding, Tim totally said it. That's what I've been trying to say, too.

Jeff Dean said...

Dear Bonnie,

How special do I feel that you singled me out for comment? I find unspeakable pleasure in imaging that you and Simeon are somewhat sympathetic to my Romish sympathies.

Bonnie, you agree with Eric that an objectively true interpreation of the Bible exists. Together with Tim, you have maintained that, though this interpretation does exist, our subjectivity limits our access to it.

There are several ideas that can be appealed to within our canon: total depravity and structuralism being my two favorites.

Eric maintains, on the other hand, that the existence of the Church is God's answer to this problem. The Church is ontologically difference from the remainder of humanity, such that the Church's interpretation of scripture is not limited by sin, depravity, or any such matter.

To fully "hear" Eric, it is important to note that the CHURCH and the Church are not *entirely* the same entities. For the most part, the Church militant of one generation is precisely the same as the eventual Church triumphant. (That is, the Roman Catholic Church's authority is exercised as God intends in real time). VEHEMENT Church apologists will maintain that the actions of the Church on earth are ALWAYS the actions God desires. Most Catholics, on the other hand, will maintain that the CHURCH is infallible, while the Christians who make up the Church (the Pope included) are indeed fallible.

(It's important to note that the Pope is NOT considered to be infallible as a PERSON. Joseph Ratzinger can still sin. The Successor to Saint Peter, however, cannot sin when speaking according to that given authority: his judgments are perfect and his decisions unquestionable.)

Eric or Mattie (or the Pontificator, if you are still around!), please correct me where I have erred.

My problem with this view is that I believe it to be a cop-out. It makes the Church a supernatural entity that only touches reality at those points that correspond with the view of a given apologist.

But the working out of God's will as history, in time, on earth has been essential to faith in the God of Abraham since at least the Exodus. If you say what good things have happened are attributable to God's Holy Church, but what bad things have happened are attributable to man's sinful church, then you dilute meaning from God's power in order to maintain authority for men.

That's really what's at stake here: who has authority on earth? Radical Protestants (Presbyterians, Calvinists, etc.) say that Bible itself has authority. Peter J. Gomes is right to point out, however, that the Bible is a deaf and dumb book--it can be made to said most anything. Case in point: the American Civil War. Both the North and South claimed that the Bible supported their position.

The Catholic Church, at precisely the same historical moment that the American Presbyterians were declaring Biblical Inerrancy, proclaimed Papal Infallibility. (They'll swear up and down the idea was long standing, but it didn't become dogma until the 1870s). Thus, for Roman Catholics, the Church, and specifically the Pope, has authority.

Thus, fundamentalist Protestants say no interpretation is necessary. Roman Catholics say interpretation IS necessary and the Pope has the ultimate authority to intepret.

Personally, I'm fairly sympathetic to this claim. Who doesn't want someone who can be the final judge of right and wrong?

Gerhard Forde makes an important point, however, in his book A More Radical Gospel: What is authority?

He notes that authority comes from the same root as "author", and both reflect the source of Creative power.

Luther, then, points out that the Creative Power on earth belongs to the Holy Spirit alone. Here's where Barth's interpretation becomes so important: His principle statement is "Proclamation must ever more becomes proclamation".

That's a tough idea, but it means something simple: Just as the Holy Spirit was required to open hearts when Jesus was preaching in first-century Palestine, so is the Holy Spirit required to open hearts today. Just as the Gospel was announced for the first time then, so must it be announced for the "first time" now. The Gospel cannot be recorded. It cannot be conveyed. Focus on the Gospel--whether in preaching, in teaching, or in the sacraments--merely directs the heart to believe what the Holy Spirit is saying.

The Roman Catholics will add an important caveate at this point. They believe Barth is completely and totally correct to maintain that only the Spirit has authority on earth. On the other hand, however, Jesus has given authority to the Church to call upon the Spirit. (That's why the "wrong" Pope can never be elected--the Spirit is invoked before the vote, and the Church has the power to call the Spirit, so the Spirit directs the vote of the Church).

The problem with this position is two-fold. One, it creates a logical circle, putting the Church back in authority. More importantly for Protestants, though, it directly violates Scripture: The Spirit moves where it will! (John 3)

Who has authority on earth to interpret? The Holy Spirit alone. The Spirit meets us in our subjectivity and is the deposit of God's objectivity.

How then should correct dogma be decided? By Church Councils, as it was during the first five hundred years of the Church. None of the earliest Christians recognized the primacy of the Roman bishop. The Roman bishop didn't even recongize himself as prime! The Papacy is a developed doctrine that places human ambition and human need over the work of the Spirit. We overlook this because we've had a string of Christian popes, but a quick survey of history will show that the Roman Catholic understanding of papacy cannot be squared with the reality of the popes themselves without distorting the meaning of "reality" beyond all recognition.

Check out the first six councils of the Church, and you'll find that Justificatio propter Christo solo gratia, sola fides is the historic faith of Christianity. THAT'S the rubric to interpret the Bible, and THAT's the rubric for the Christian life.

The Holy Spirit is alive and well on planet earth.

Tim Galebach said...

Jeff, you're in danger of becoming "that guy":
"No, I have nothing against Catholics! Some of my deepest inner leanings are Catholic!"

Good post though.

bpzahl said...

Thanks for such a clear explanation. Two questions/thoughts:

What does one do with the stuff that have come up in the latter 1500 years of church history? (e.g. papal infallibility, etc.)

Second, I hear what you say about CHURCH (you meant the Body of Christians, right?) - but wouldn't you say that churches (Catholic and Protestant) are so fragmented that some of them would not recognize the other as "CHURCH"? What to do about that?

You said, "The Successor to Saint Peter, however, cannot sin when speaking according to that given authority: his judgments are perfect and his decisions unquestionable." Isn't the pope of apostolic succession (whatever that word is)?

Lastly, you also said "It makes the Church a supernatural entity that only touches reality at those points that correspond with the view of a given apologist." If I remember correctly from the church history class that we took together, almost every instance I have read seemed to be about an abuse of power for political, economic, or geographic acquisitions, "in the name of God", for their own power trip. I am sympathetic to my college roommate's atheism based on such a poor history. we are no better today - our fragmentations, the variety of gospels being preached (prosperity gospel, eugh!), etc. is just a sad, sad thing. I just don't see how any group of people, even groups of Christians, can be entirely immune to all the failures of our psychology, our desire for power and control, our great need to maintain a cohesive schema to deal with the world, etc. There is always something *else* to criticize with every generation. Mega churches are in, liturgy is out. Liturgy is in, modern worship is out. I'm glad (I hope!) that doesn't happen too often with doctrine.

But thanks once again for your insight, jddean! now we are off to bed. happy weekend!

David said...

Late to the discussion, but interested. Jonathan Edwards says (if I'm reading him right) that the will is captive to the mind and the mind is bound.

What does everyone think the ramifications are of that over and against Cranmer's argument?

Dave Zahl said...

Apparently Freud once said, "Das Ich ist nicht Herr in eigenem Haus" or "The Ego is not master in its own house". Which, especially if you understand the Ego as synonomous with the Will/Executive, squares pretty fully with Cranmer.

David said...

So, is the Ego not master because it is bound by the mind (i.e. in its own house) or is it not master because it is bound by original sin?

It one were to take the former like Edwards, would that change any of the theology we understand as the proper expression of Christianity?

Clifford Swartz said...

To cdjm,

You asked about the contemporary relevance of Dt 23.1, "No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD." This text came up in a Bible study of FOCUS staff in Hartford recently (for reference, Dave Zahl is one of us, but was not present for that particular study). Dt 23.1 is a good example of interpreting the Old Testament through the lens of the Cross.

That was just what the Ethiopian eunuch seems to have been doing in Acts 8. He was returning from Jerusalem, where presumably he was denied access to Temple worship (based on Dt 23.1). The eunuch's interest in Isaiah 53 when Philip came to him may well have been his wondering what was behind the prophecy in Isaiah 56 that says:

3Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
"The LORD will surely separate me from his people";
and let not the eunuch say,
"Behold, I am a dry tree."
4For thus says the LORD:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

Philip was able to identify the source of the eunuch's hope (Acts 8.35). In other words (and Drake Richey pointed out the relavence of the eunuch reading this particular passage), he was reading Is 53 wondering how he, a eunuch, could be welcomed by God. Who is this one who "in humilition...who can speak of his descendents"?

The welcome of the eunuchs following the achievement of the Suffering Servant is an indication of our hope in Christ. The eunuch has utterly no hope of acceptance. He lacks even the possibility of a misguided hope of being accepted following moral reform, given his physical state. He along with many others (lepers, gentiles, sinners!) needs the holiness of another to be welcomed by God. And so the Gospel to the eunuch is the Gospel to us: of ourselves, rejection; in Christ, a fresh word of grace!