The Holy Scriptures fix our doctrine, not the dialectical reasoning of man.

“But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings. We must therefore neglect the Platonic chariot and the pair of horses of dissimilar forces yoked to it, and their driver, whereby the philosopher allegorizes these facts about the soul; we must neglect also all that is said by the philosopher who succeeded him and who followed out probabilities by rules of art (i.e. the syllogism), and diligently investigated the very question now before us, declaring that the soul was mortal  by reason of these two principles; we must neglect all before and since their time, whether they philosophized in prose or in verse, and we will adopt, as the guide of our reasoning, the Scripture, which lays it down as an axiom that there is no excellence in the soul which is not a property as well of the Divine nature.” –St. Gregory of Nyssa, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers II V. 5, p. 439.

69 Responses to The Holy Scriptures fix our doctrine, not the dialectical reasoning of man.

  1. Mr Jones,

    I’ve been away from home for the last week and will be for another few weeks; I may be able to write such a post later in the summer. In the meantime, my friend Lee Faber has provided a good bit of (mostly undigested) information on Scotus’ trinitarianism over the last month or two at his blog lyfaber.blogspot.com .

    I’m completely unsurprised that you’re getting negative bias on Scotus from your professors etc. Ever since the Thomistic Revival began at the end of the 19th century Scotus has become a whipping-boy for Thomists, and now for a lot of other people like the Radical Orthodoxy crowd, who actually know very little about him firsthand. But for a number of centuries Scotus enjoyed as much authority and far more influence than Thomas did in the Catholic Church, and it’s worth remembering that unlike Thomas not a single proposition or theory of Scotus’ has ever been condemned or abrogated by the Church.

  2. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    Agreed!

    DB

  3. Michael S,

    I’ll admit that I don’t know enough about Scotus beyond secondary text book reading and the somewhat bias [negative] opinion I’m taught (from folks on your side of the fence), but I’d be interested in seeing you do a blog post on John Scotus’ concept of divine person.

    Photios

  4. Perry,

    while I read your blog, I don’t stick my nose into discussions here much, but I thought I might as well remind you again that your understanding of Scotus is way off. Mark is right, Scotus is one of the most realist of all the scholastics, much more so than Thomas. He is in no way a conceptualist, a label much more justly applied to Ockham, and your talk of “real similarities” is Ockhamist talk as well, not Scotistic. Scotus in no way accepts a “real” distinction between essence and existence, and neither do many of his contemporaries.

    You need to do some more homework on the scholastics, sorry.

  5. Mark,

    I’m sure one day when we see the promise land, Pope St. Martin, that great bishop of Rome, will have many stories to tell us about the great St. Maximus.

    Photios

  6. Mark Downham says:

    Photios

    That is a great description of Maximus the Cofessor! Wow! Poetry! Excellent.

    Mark

  7. Perry,

    As far as the man of God is concerned, I don’t think this can be taken as an absolute to refer to the episcopal/priestly office. Normatively I think so, but St. Maximus the Confessor busts that argument wide open to some degree. I can’t think of another figure that did not hold an ecclesiastical office, yet debated patriarchs, demanded their repentance, held chair on a ecclesiastical council (649 Lateran which according to Balthasar is the initiative to the 6th Ecumenical and is wedded to it), penned canons at the council, and basically steamed rolled through just about every philosophical and theological interlocutor. No theologian in his day or retroactively in ecclesastical history had more authority then this layman monk (at least in the East and partially in the West up to Eriugena). From the heretical East’s point-of-view in his day, except for the Jerusalem See, he was a wild man protestant and reformer. Luther and Calvin could only drool over this man. 😉

    Photios

  8. Mark Downham says:

    Acolyte

    I read your response. The Pneumatology of Evangelical Christianity is Crucicentric Christology – we confess 1 Corinthians 2: 16b We have the mind of Christ. Our Christology is an ’embodied’ pneumatology expressed through the Incarnation – givewn they we believe in Trinitarian Perichoresis and coinherent Kenosis we would not support the contention of the assignation of revelatory disclosure to individual members of the Trinity as their sole province and operational purpose.

    The difference between the Laudians and the Puritans was the degree of “required” Ecclesiastical Reforamtion fo the Church. The Engliosh Reformation was a Conservative Reformantion which ONLY reformed the Offices of the Church – the Puritans wanted a more RADICAL Reforamtion which REDEFINED THE CHURCH and its OFFICES.

    The ‘Man of GOD’ Paul is addressing is NOT some Episcopal Superman BUT the man who is NOT corruptible:

    1Peter 3:4 the hidden man of the heart, … that which is not corruptible.

    What I have said that Trinitarain Intention and Pneumatological Revelation flow THROUGH the text – I have never said they are limited to the text or you wouldf not be able to understand what youare reading and Jesus would be unable to open your mind and heart to Revelation.

    Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

    John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

    Which is it easier for you to receive – having your mind opened or received the HOLY Spirt through Jesus BREATHING on YOU? If He breathes on YOU you receiving the Sacrament of the LIVING WORD for HIS is PROPHECY.

    If John Duns Scotus was simply a conceptualist that taking the Eucharist would be an act of “asosociative cannibalism” – if he does accept any form of Thomistic distinction between essence and being – it is in beholding and becoming – because the real substance of what is universal and eternal has not fled away merely the description – for was is truely Prophesied must be BOTH fulfilled and FILLED.

    Mark

  9. acolyte says:

    Jason,

    While the Laudians thought that Scripture was the supreme authority, they also thought that the judgments of the church were irreformable and that the church had an area of judgment beyond that which was explicitly stated in the text or what could be deduced from it. SS isn’t the claim that Scripture is superior to all other theological statements. It is the claim that only scripture is infallible and that each individual is the final arbiter of its meaning so that each individual is only bound by what he will assent to judging as in the text. In any case, even if my reading of the Laudians is wrong, it is still the case conceptually that SS requires more than the belief that Scripture is the supreme authority.

    As for the Lutherans and the imago dei, it is my understanding that they formally rejected the more negative view on the imago dei, but I could be mistaken.

  10. acolyte says:

    Mark,

    On the council of Jerusalem, I don’t think it affirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation. While I know it employed that term, the meaning is in the use. There are degrees of influence and use of terms is one of them but since meaning is in how one uses a term one would need to show that the use of that term denoted scholastic meaning. And I don’t think that can be shown.

    As to purgatory, if the council did affirm purgatory as articulated by Rome then it would contradict the agreements at Florence on the intermediate state. See Mark of Ephesus’ critique of the then current Roman teaching.

    As to inspiration, I have a problem with your designating inspiration as what appears to be the sole domain of the Spirit. The idea that the Spirit inspires in conjunction with human agency, with the one using the other as a tool is fairly common among Reformed writers, but it betrays a functional Christology. I think the Lutherans do a better job with inspiration truth be told. Inspiration is primarily Christological with the Spirit as coming through the Son. That is to say, the typical Reformed/Evangelical view of inspiration seems to place the Spirit as something alien to humanity and metaphysically external, rather than Christological.

    As to the Laudians, from my reading they thought that the decisions of the whole church were infallible even though all binding doctrine had to be grounded only in Scripture. Ascribing that kind of normativity to the Church was a big part of the debate since the Puritans disagreed.

    As to your invocation of 2 tim 3, who is “the man of God” in that passage? Who does Paul have in mind? He certainly doesn’t seem to have in mind the average layman does he? Secondly to say that inspiration is limited to the biblical text implies that all interpretations of the text, including all judgments concerning the canon of the text are revisable. That seems problematic since the faith is once for all delivered and not potentially delivered many times.

    As for Scotus, he is not usually designated as a realist but as a conceptualist. He thinks universals are constructed based on real similarities between objects to speak roughly. And Scotus surely does accept the distinction between essence and being.

  11. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Could someone please help me with St. Gregory of Nyssa’s rhetorical style? I’m reading his Life of Macrina, and have some reactions posted here: http://bloggingsbetter.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/st-gregorys-st-macrina/

    My kids took an online church history class last year from Daniel Larison who’s in Chicago but may have gotten his doctorate in philosophy by now, and he mentioned that the early Fathers used superfluous adjectives when lauding each other. I laughed however when I heard St. Gregory seemingly pop St. Basil’s balloon, and don’t know if it was meant to be funny or not, or appropriate that I did so. I have to regularly confess being too casual in regard to the Church.

    Thank you.

  12. Mark Downham says:

    I want to discuss the relationship between John Duns Scotus and eating the Honeycomb in seeing the Church. John Dunbs Scotus was a scholastic realist (as opposed to a nominalist) in that he treated universals as real, he did not accept the Thomistic distinction between existence and essence.

    So, what does this mean?

    It means that Scotism is a category of metaphysical realism, and a belief in and allegiance to a reality that exists independently of observers – so in the context of the CHurch, the UNBELIEVING, literally cannot “see” it, even though it is present UNLESS they experience the illuminating properties of eating the honeycomb, which is a form of sacramental engagement.

  13. Thank you Mark. That was well put.

    Photios

  14. Mark Downham says:

    Photios

    If the Church is to be Christ’s Incarnate Body and if the Church is revealed through the Work of the Cross in a Prophetic way – through his body broken for us as the LIVING Sacrament – HIS BLOOD shed for us on the Cross and our daily bread – then the Transforming Kerygma MUST be the Honey taken from the Lion’s Carcass because the BUible dsays this type of honey has “eye brightening” or illuminating properties:

    Judges 14:8b he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. 9 He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way.

    Jesus is the slain Lion of Judah and what of the bees ‘making’ the Honey – who would you say they are? Those men who wrote Scripture under the inspiration of the Spirt and formed the Church….

    1 Samuel 14:27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.

    To see the Church as the Incarnate Body of Jesus , you need to eat the Honey, which is the Message of hte Gospel – it literally is eye opening,

    Mark

  15. Mark,

    All true, and nothing there an Orthodox would disagree with. But we also need to pull in Eph, which from a Christological perspective, I believe make ontological claims about Christ and the Church that go beyond mere categories of thinned out relations of mere covenants scotistic or nominalism. The Church has a relation of origin to Christ’s Incarnate Body. Not saying you are doing that, as you seem to be a different breed (or I’ve just missed the boat on understanding certain parts of Protestantism).

    Photios

  16. Mark Downham says:

    Don

    The Church is summed up in this two verses:

    Mark 1:17a Come and follow me,” said Jesus

    Revelation 14:4b [the Church are] those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

    And are you following the Lamb?

    All things – all liturgy, alll doxology, all ecclesiology, all doctrine, all theology flow from following the Lamb – Jesus is perfect theology because he is the exact representation of the Father:

    Hebrews 1:3a The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being

    Mark

    Mark

  17. Mark Downham says:

    Db

    If you can only receive Grace through quickening Faith and the Bible says Faith is a Gift from God – “that NOT of yourselves”….then we have to redefine the instrinsic purpose of our ascetics and devotions or we are declaring the work fo the Cross to be cheap grace and to be of no efficacious effect in our sanctifiation or deification – so if salvation is to be a synergy, that synergy must be revealed in the ‘ascesis’ of taking up your Cross and responding to the words, “follow me” – your ability to hear and your ability to respond are the Gift of Faith BUT the decison that brought you “near to the Cross and in hearing distance of the Gospel” is that yearning to encounter the Desire of Nations and your abiltiy to recognise him is because HIS word has gone out into all the Earth:

    Romans 10:18 The voice of the messengers has gone out into the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.”

    What if those messengers were the groaning of creation?

    Mark

  18. Mark Downham says:

    Don

    The answer is this:

    The TRUE Canon of Scripture will ALWAYS glorify, reveal and Testify to the LORD Jesus Christ – He is in HIS Words – if you read any book in the Bible which does NOT glorify, reveal and Testify to the LORD Jesus Christ in the quickening POWER of the HOLY Spirit – tear it out, BUT if you do not tear it out….then you will be ensnared, for what constant gardener leaves tares among the wheat?

    Mark

  19. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    “Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

    Indeed, a perfect verse to illustrate the Orthodox position: Salvation is a Gift of God, not of ourselves, but accepted and made efficacious to us through our faith (which is way more than mere mental or intellectual assent). In other words, salvation is a synergy in which God’s part is of infinitely more value, but he, being omnipotent and free to do anything, gives us the choice to reject the gift (otherwise its not “grace,” which is by definition a gift, but rather an imposition) or to accept it by an life-long act of faith (which is a kind of work or “working out” as St. Paul says). No monergism. No divine predeterminism to salvation or reprobation. That is a rationalist or dialectical conceit, not the Christian Revelation.

    DB

  20. Don Bradley says:

    Mark sayeth….

    “To say Christ and the Church have spoken simultaneously, for us would mean redefining what is the Church…..”

    Perceptive. Most of the debates boil down to eclesiology. In your mind when you hear the word “Church”…… do you circumscribe the “Church”….. set boundaries in your mind at all of what comprises it?

    I’d be interested to know if you circumscribe scripture to a particular list of books. If you do, by what means did you arrive at your particular list? Since you are an evangelical, this sounds like I’m baiting you. To be honest, I believe in an open canon. Maybe one of the brainiacs on this list can come up with some Council that circumscribes the canon for me, but that wouldn’t help YOU. If you reply, “The Holy Spirit circumscribes the canon” to whom did He reveal this and how…… and how would I know the recipient of such a revelation recieved it without error?

  21. Mark Downham says:

    Yes, I like Monk Patrick, I consider his presence to be a ministry.

  22. Mark Downham says:

    Photios

    I am intested in how Gregory Palamas deals with Platonic and Neo-Platonic categories and builds on the work of Symeon the new Theologian.

    Thanks.

    Mark

  23. Mark,

    Also, I am quite pleased and impressed that you have such an interest in St. Gregory Palamas. I wish more Protestants did.

    Photios

  24. Mark,

    I don’t wish to be presumptuous here, but my experience of ascesis is very narrow in scope. Your question is much more talored here for Monk Patrick, our residential monastic of this blog.

    Photios

  25. Mark Downham says:

    I find this statement interesting in deal with the Fathers and Scripture:

    In an article on St. Gregory Palamas, Daniel Rogich noted that “Gregory Palamas” defended the Faith of the [early Church] Fathers “not simply by repeating and parroting their ancient formulas and words, but by ‘incarnationally’ re-defining and reinterpreting their message” [see Daniel Rogich, “Homily 34 of Saint Gregory Palamas,” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 33(2), 135-156

  26. Mark Downham says:

    So Photios

    What did you think of the Life of Moses [by Gregory of Nyssa] as he was taken up through the Cloudline into increasing Revelatio and that immotal uncreated Hand reached down and inscribed Scripture on to stone tablets and his heart simultaneously?

    I understand you had a similar experience from this statement – can you speak about it?:

    “It is an experiencing God through our logos of being in the Holy Spirit, which is to conform us to these Writings.”

    Mark

  27. […] Have Died Prematurely, skipping down to the Text, again inspired by Energetic Procession, through this conversation in which Photios says, I’ve read all of Gregory’s (of Nyssa) writings and studied […]

  28. Mark Downham says:

    Db,

    “In Orthodoxy, reason IS used in ‘theology,’ but mainly as (1) an organizing tool to show inter-connections and interplay between empirical articles of faith, for example how Trinity and Incarnation fit hand in glove; (2) to refute false claims of empirical or non-empirical revelation; (3) for heuristic catechetical purposes, for instance the famous Trinitarian analogies (three-note musical chord, three-leaf clover, water as vapor-liquid-solid); and (4) for purely speculative, non-dogmatic ‘theologizing.’”

    In Evangelcial Christianity, dialectical and speculative expressions of Human Reason and Heuristics are ALL brought into submission to Scripture under the direction of the HOLY Spirit – this is our primary organising principle and this will NEVER change:

    2 Peter 1:20,21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    Mark

  29. Mark Downham says:

    DB,

    “the original asymmetrically synergistic view of the primitive Church”

    The Evangelcial view of the “original asymmetrical synergistic view of the Church” is summed up in this verse in the Bible:

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

    We consider anything that attempts to contradict this to be wrong.

    Mark

  30. Mark Downham says:

    Jason

    “A ‘living pneumatology’ in discrete operation from the Text? That sounds like Barthianism … Conservative Evangelicals have lost sight of their heritage simply because they have embraced Charismaticism.”

    No. This is NOT Barthian ‘dialectical’ theology because we believe as Evangelicals that the Pneumatology of the Church has to become visible and immanent NOT remain transcendental and invisible – it has to move from being a metaphysical, mystical entity to be an incarnational reality and increasingly substantial, healing and revelatory entity with real social IMPACT.

    “Hooker wasn’t cutting into the supreme authority of Scripture in the first place. ”

    He thought he was.

    “The Church establishes dogma not by fresh revelation but by the continuous guidance of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the teachings of Scripture. Charismaticism destroys the consensus fidelium …

    Evangelicals cannot be summed up as simply a post-Charismatic tendencey in our advocacy of the Gospel as the Apostolic Doctrine we are the true expression of the “consensus fidelium” in Scripture NOT in specualtive conjecture about Scripture and the meaning of the Church.”

    However, I like THIS very much: “The Church establishes dogma not by fresh revelation but by the continuous guidance of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the teachings of Scripture” – for US Revelation is evr’unfolding ‘ – so we do NOT see it as NEW as in “developmental theology ” bUT as in Prophetically revealed, declared and applied.

    Mark

  31. Death Bredon says:

    Jason,

    Have I used the worng term? What I mean to invoke is the fallacy of turning a question that has three or more possible answer (for example: left, right, in-between) into an either-or question (left or right only), thereby falsely overlooking legitimate answers. Should I have used “false dichotomy?”

    IMHO, Calvinism sets up a false dichotomy of divine monergism = divine omnipotence and non-monergism = non-omnipotence. Under that false choice, rational folks pick the former, of course. But once we understand that assymetrical divine-human synergism really is no threat to divine omniotence, then the revealed nature of the truth of synergism is easier to swallow.

    But the greater point is that faithfulness to the empirical divine revelation includes faithfulness to one of its component (synergism) even if it were a complete mystery to reason and monergism seemed to make more rational sense. The difference between ultimate trust Christian Revelation and Christianesque Reasoning (i.e., Scholaticisms, Protestant and Catholic) is, in the final analysis, the difference between Faith in God and Idolatry.

    DB

  32. Jason Loh says:

    DB, the law of the excluded middle is a fallacy??

  33. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    One more note on Article 13 and Orthodoxy. Bicknell notes that the object of the Article is rebut the medieval Germanic Christian development of the doctrine of “congruous merit,” and no more. In this reading, Orthodoxy is undoubtedly in agreement, as the entire Latin-Germanic edifice of merits-works-indulgences-and purgation is a “dialectical” or rational construction, not part of the special, empirical Christian Revelation.

    The difficulty Orthodoxy, and also many Anglican divines, find in the wording of the Article is (1) that it is patient of a reading condemning the ‘virtuous’ heathen that has never heard the Gospel preached as “evil” even in his noble acts; and (2) that it is patient of a reading opposing synergistic soteriology, expounding only Augustinian/Calvinistic monergism.

    I have read two Anglican solutions to the first difficulty caused by the “unfortunate, even calamitous expression” of Article 13. First, one idea is that pagans and heathens have access to natural revelation and therefore, by anticipation or promise, they can receive the “grace of Christ” even before the historical event of the Incarnation of the Word or their personal justication (indeed, Grace can temporally precede Justification and Salvation–simultaneousness is not required or even normative). Second, another idea is to read “pleasant to God” as meaning “salvic,” not as the opposite of evil. This reading avoids the fallacy of the excluded middle in which the set of works are only pleasing and slavic or unpleasing and damning. Thus, even a virtuous act of a heathen or pagan would still be considered objectively good by Christians, though the work is still of “the nature of sin,” that is the work is still separated from God and not part of salvation (Good works must spring from true faith — Art. 12). In short, good works before grace are still good in their effects, not evil, though they are dead in motivation because they are not of faith though of grace.

    As to the second difficulty, Arminian Anglicans simply plead the Articles as a whole, which require Good Works as a part of a lively and saving Faith (Art. 12). Hence, the specific Christian Revelation in history is the imparting of preventing grace to all persons (living contemporary, subsequent, and prior to the Revelation — as God desire the salvation of all and his desire cannot, by definition be vain or a priori impossible). Thus, as good works that are part and parcel to a saving faith and cannot precede grace of Christian Revelation by definition, the Article is seen as inoffensive to Orthodox/Arminian/Molinist synergism — indeed, it was never intended to be. (And neither was Article 17 for that matter — see Browne, Bicknell, etc.)

    DB

  34. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    re: the “dialectical issue.”

    Generally, in my understanding, when the Christian East opposes “dialectic,” “philosophy,” “Greek wisdom,” “philosophy,” “rationalism,” etc., what is meant is the use of pure human thought to arrive at dogma, ultimate truth, or revelation. In Orthodox, reason IS used in ‘theology,’ but mainly as (1) an organizing tool to show inter-connections and interplay between empirical articles of faith, for example how Trinity and Incarnation fit hand in glove; (2) to refute false claims of empirical or non-empirical revelation; (3) for heuristic catechetical purposes, for instance the famous Trinitarian analogies (three-note musical chord, three-leaf clover, water as vapor-liquid-solid); and (4) for purely speculative, non-dogmatic ‘theologizing.’

    Our knock on the Latin Schoolmen and even Jean Chauvin and his progeny and co-methodologists is their claim to decipher/discover/deduce (or whatever you want to call it) dogmas/revelations that the Church had never known before (or supposedly lost very shortly after the Ascension and before the Church even had denominated which written books accurately reflected the Special Revelation it had received in Christ in Earth). This is how we see Calvinism reading of Scripture — as all too often superimposing a rational reading on it when in fact it is meant to memorialize astounding mysteries beyond full human comprehension or understanding (e.g., Jesus is both fully God and fully man at the same time!)

    By way of contrast, in Orthodoxy, the Councils or other dogmatic texts have exclude errors by using definitions that simply reiterate/restate the substance of received, empirical revelation in a new idiom or exterior package. Thus, reason or logic does not control articles of faith (indeed what is reasonable about Trinity or Incarnation, both of which entail logical contradiction. Yet we know they are true by the testimony of the witnesses, confirmed to we literal non-witnesses, but virtual witnesses, by the power of the Spirit working in our lives through the mysteries (sacraments and sacramentals) of the Church militant. Of course, some Orthodox texts, have portions that do betray this perennial approach, but they are exceptions that prove the rule and caused the progenitors of the revival of the Orthodoxy in recent centuries to bemoan “western captivity.”

    In sum, what Orthodox opposes is any use of human reason as the ultimate criteria for discerning or ascertaining ontological or ultimate truths, not the widespread and vigorous use of human reason, even in theology.

    DB

  35. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    re: the “dialectical issue.”

    Generally, in my understanding, when the Christian East opposes “dialectic,” “philosophy,” “Greek wisdom,” “philosophy,” “rationalism,” etc., what is meant is the use of pure human thought to arrive at dogma, ultimate truth, or revelation. In Orthodox, reason IS used in ‘theology,’ but mainly as (1) an organizing tool to show inter-connections and interplay between empirical articles of faith, for example how Trinity and Incarnation fit hand in glove; (2) to refute false claims of empirical or non-empirical revelation; (3) for heuristic catechetical purposes, for instance the famous Trinitarian analogies (three-note musical chord, three-leaf clover, water as vapor-liquid-solid); and (4) for purely speculative, non-dogmatic ‘theologizing.’

    Our knock on the Latin Schoolmen and even Jean Chauvin and his progeny and co-methodologists is their claim to decipher/discover/deduce (or whatever you want to call it) dogmas/revelations that the Church had never known before (or supposedly lost very shortly after the Ascension and before the Church even had denominated which written books accurately reflected the Special Revelation it had received in Christ in Earth). This is how we see Calvinism reading of Scripture — as all too often superimposing a rational reading on it when in fact it is meant to memorialize astounding mysteries beyond full human comprehension or understanding (e.g., Jesus is both fully God and fully man at the same time!)

    By way of contrast, in Orthodoxy, the Councils or other dogmatic texts have exclude errors by using definitions that simply reiterate/restate the substance of received, empirical revelation in a new idiom or exterior package. Thus, reason or logic does not control articles of faith (indeed what is reasonable about Trinity or Incarnation, both of which entail logical contradiction. Yet we know they are true by the testimony of the witnesses, confirmed to we literal non-witnesses, but virtual witnesses, by the power of the Spirit working in our lives through the mysteries (sacraments and sacramentals) of the Church militant. Of course, some Orthodox texts, have portions that do betray this perennial approach, but they are exceptions that prove the rule and caused the progenitors of the revival of the Orthodoxy in recent centuries to bemoan “western captivity.”

    In sum, what Orthodox opposes is any use of human reason as the ultimate criteria for discerning or ascertaining ontological or ultimate truths, not the widespread and vigorous use of human reason, even in theology.

  36. Death Bredon says:

    Mark,

    Article 13, even when read as congruent with Orange’s moderated-Augustinianism and not will whole-hog divine predeterminism to reporbation, is probably the most problematic one from an Orthodox point of view (given its asymmetrically synergistic view of grace), as Bishop Ware indicates in his famous little book. Not surprisingly, St. Vincent of Lerins (who held the original asymmetrically synergistic view of the primitive Church) coined a famous aphorism regarding catholicism precisely to combat both the speculative, rationalistic, dialectical or idealistic — which ever term you prefer — innovations of pure Augustinianism (and its Reformed/Calvinism progeny) and the less offensive Orangism (and its Thomist progeny), which was an equally innovative “compromise” between orthodoxy and Augustinian’s inventions. And, it was not until Arminius and Molina that Vincent (and St. John Cassian) were partially vindicated in the Protestant/Catholic (i.e., Germanic) West.

    DB

  37. Jason Loh says:

    Mark,

    I can assure you that total depravity means total depravity, no buts or ifs … Calvin, the Gnesio-Lutherans like Flacius held that image of God in man is lost … man is still capable of bearing the image but he’s lost it and now bears thei mage of the devil. Total depravity means nothing good comes out of man … like Augustine who commented on the ‘good deeds’ of the unregenerate, they are splendid vices …

    Article 13 says in typical Augustinian fashion that, ‘Works done before receiving the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit are not pleasing to God. This is because they do not spring out of faith in Jesus Christ. Nor do they make people fit to receive grace or (as the schoolmen say) to deserve grace of congruity. On the contrary, because they are not done as God has willed and commanded that they should be done, it is undoubtedly the case that they have the nature of sin.’ No common grace there … the Council of Orange says that same thing too though not as explicit …

  38. Jason Loh says:

    Mark,

    A ‘living pneumatology’ in discrete operation from the Text? That sounds like Barthianism … Conservative Evangelicals have lost sight of their heritage simply because they have embraced Charismaticism. The quote from Hooker does not negate what I believe and what I believe Hooker to believe simply because Hooker wasn’t cutting into the supreme authority of Scripture in the first place. It is precisely the quote you gave which establishes what Hooker, the Laudians and Classical Anglicans believe to wit that Scripture contains everything either explicitly or by good and necessary consequence. The Church establishes dogma not by fresh revelation but by the continuous guidance of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the teachings of Scripture. Charismaticism destroys the consensus fidelium …

  39. Well I wouldn’t agree with that title either because the point of my post is about doctrine (and the starting points to even have doctrine), what I’m conscience bound to believe. Dogma. And that’s the Scriptures. The art of dialectic: that science that can speak about everything in a reason and orderly way by means of knowing things that are opposite (Plotinus, Enneads, e.g., One–many, being–not-being, etc.), may not only be false because of its assumptions and premises but can’t bind the conscience because it is not God’s teaching.

    An easy contrast here is to think of Rome’s views that they have dogmatized based on “natural theology,” which is neither “natural” nor “theology,” the filioque (persons are distinguihsed by relations of opposition) and absolute divine simplicity.

    Photios

  40. David says:

    Photios:
    __
    Want to understand the rational principles of human nature? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand predestination? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand free-will? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand Person and Nature? Let’s look at Christ.
    __

    yes, and well said.

    ___
    We can understand all sorts of things about the World and it’s present condition by looking at Creation. Ain’t none of’em dogma though.
    __

    right again.

    __

    Gregory is the most philosophical and speculative of the Cappadocians.
    ___

    Yup.

    How about this as a summary of the quote: “The Holy Scriptures guide our reasoning, not Plato”? That’ll have to do for me until I figure out what you mean by ‘the dialectical reasoning of man’.

  41. Mark Downham says:

    Photios

    How does your practice of “Christological Centering” express itself in your Devotions and Ascetics?

    Mark

  42. 1) Never ensenuated that we don’t use our brains or reason. It’s just that it is christologically centered and oriented. Want to understand the rational principles of human nature? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand predestination? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand free-will? Let’s look at Christ. Want to understand Person and Nature? Let’s look at Christ.

    2) We can understand all sorts of things about the World and it’s present condition by looking at Creation. Ain’t none of’em dogma though.

    3) I’ve read all of Gregory’s writings and studied much of them under Fr. Balas, and Gregory is the most philosophical and speculative of the Cappadocians. No surprise there.

    Photios

  43. Mark Downham says:

    David

    Are you saying Gregory concludes this exercise as an “empirical optimist” in ‘On the Soul and the Resurrection’?

  44. Mark Downham says:

    David

    Surely Calvin is saying our minds have no way to conform to the perfect image of GOD NOT that there is no remaining trace of the image?

    Surely, our depravity is total NOT in that we are totally depraved BUT the condition of total Depravity as in a fallen condition is an absolute condition?

  45. Mark Downham says:

    David

    What if it is the reasoning and preaching of the HOLY Spirit in and to the Human Spirit in our act of reading the text, which is in itself a living pneumatological instrument, in a spiritual way?

  46. David says:

    oops… that should be ‘Let’s not fall into a Calvinist intellectual depravity thesis according to which our minds have no trace left of the image of God.

  47. David says:

    I think the quote doesn’t match the title very well: ‘not the dialectical reasoning of man’.

    Nyssa is saying that Plato and Aristotle hold no authority with him, that in investigating the nature of the soul, we don’t reason FROM their premises; but this doesn’t mean we don’t reason. We do reason– the guide of OUR reasoning is the Scripture. (And whose reasoning is this if not man’s reasoning? Let’s not fall into a Calvinist intellectual depravity thesis according to which our minds have no )

    As for ‘dialectical’, I think that term gets bandied about far too often without being carefully defined. (And it’s not a definition to say ‘it’s a something-is-this-and-not-that mentality’.)

    One simply has to read Gregory’s ‘On the Soul and the Resurrection” to see that he has hardly given up on our capacity to reason philosophically– in fact that text explicitly adopts the methodology of not taking the authority of Scripture for granted, just to see what can be established by looking at Creation, etc. And Gregory hardly concludes the exercise as an epistemological pessimist.

  48. Mark Downham says:

    Photios

    Are you saying that the positions adopted by the Alexandrians and the Antiochians at the Council of Chalcedon was a Kantian Dialcetic – an “and” Dialectic, and NOT a Hegelian Dialectic – an “or” Dialectic – how would you explain the “imposed” formula at Chalcedon if they were simply in a state of Kantian dialectical tension?

    Actually, I am interested in how you engage Tradition – it is very similar to 18th and 19th Century Evangelical Hymnology.

    We would say that Tradition flows from Scripture NOT as text BUT as a LIVING TEXTUAL expression of the Real Incarnate Presecne of Jesus as revealed in Pneumatological-Cognitive Encounter with the Holy Spirit.

  49. Mark,

    I don’t see how there can be tension or opposition between Tradition and the pneumatological cognition and encounter with the Holy Spirit in our liturgical worship as we understand scripture, since that just IS Tradition.

    Seconldy, we need to distinguish between dialectic and dialectic of opposition. If you read some Orthodox hymnography (or heck the Council of Chalcedon) it very is dialectical, that is a both/and dialectic, but not a dialectical opposition that implies that something is this and not that (its opposite) mentality.

    Photios

  50. Mark Downham says:

    Tradition is what is passed down in our liturgical worship that tells us the intention of the Sacred Authors.

    It is an experiencing God through our logos of being in the Holy Spirit, which is to conform us to these Writings.

    We read the Scriptures with this mindset – Photios Jones.

    This seems very dialectical ‘mindset’.

    We would perceive a dialectical tension between the paradosis of Tradition and the pneumatological cognition of what the HOLY Spirt is saying in and through Scripture in our conformation to the Living WORD.

  51. Mark Downham says:

    Jason

    Richard Hooker said this:

    “What Scripture doth plainly deliver, [Scripture] to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; [Reason] after these the voice of the Church succeedeth [Tradition]. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14).

    What is interesting is that he is actually articulating a similsar pneumatological-cogniitve encounter to Scripture to the one advocated by Photoios Jones above and then suggesting that this should be capable of verification and establishment by the “eccesiastical authority” of the Church.

  52. Mark Downham says:

    Jason

    Conservative Evangelicals DO hold to the illuminating role of the HOLY Spirit in relation to foundation and application of Scripture BECAUSE:

    Ephesians 6:17b the sword of the Spirit, [which] is the WORD of God

    What we do however, is interrogate the implications of that ‘Hypostatic Union’ and tilt it towards a “living pneumatology in the text” in line with Revelation 19:10 and NOT a union of Spirit and Text BUT an expression of Trinitartian Intentionality through how the HOLY Spirit reveals the text in pointing to Jesus in a kenotic way.

  53. Jason Loh says:

    Sorry Mark, are you saying that you understand Hooker to beholding to a 3-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason? He didn’t, not in the way that the moderns have interpreted him, e.g. McAdoo. If you can get a copy, William Goode’s catena patrum of sola Scriptura is avaialable 2 vols. from the Evangelical Library, London: The Divine Rule of Faith. Tradition is subordinated to Scripture in the way that the Reformers conceived. This is what I believe too as were the Laudians before me …
    And yes, William Goode also wrote on Cessationism. The voice of the Holy Spirit is mediated in the collective wisdom of the Church as expressed in the Councils and received by the Church. In other words, the Holy Spirit is inseparably joined to Scripture in a ‘hypostatic union’. Now this principle is no longer held by many ‘Conservative Evangelicals’.

  54. Mark Downham says:

    Photios Jones – I really love the name – So, Photios:

    We would disagree with the statemet “where thChurch speaks formally Christ has spoken” because we would see this as a confusion between the Apostolic Doctrine of the Gospel and the Prophetic Witness to the Apostolic Doctrine expressed in and through Ecclesiology and Ecclesiastical Foramtion.

    To say Christ and the Church have spoken simultaneously, for us would mean redefining what is the Church – we would not really see “a point of origin flowing out towards the radii, through the spokes of the Prophets and Apostles” – for us the Church is the Conservation of Revelation BUT in away which is transcendental in content BUT immanent in context.

  55. ochlophobist says:

    Photius,
    Sorry for the delay – limited time this week. I will respond to this shortly. Thanks.

  56. Mark,

    I disagree with your comment above regarding Scripture as Christ’s living Word, the scriptures, vis-a-vis Ecclesiastical Formation. There cannot be a dialectic here: The Church is continuous and “is” Christ’s Incarnate body, as a point of origin is to its radii. Where the Church speaks formally, Christ has spoken, not as new revelation or new dogma, but coterminous with its Source.

    Photios

  57. Mark,

    That council holds no weight with me, precisely because the adherents to it were “Latinized” in their thinking and theology, and refuted Cyril Lukaris from this framework, instead of drawing from our Orthodox Fathers. It is at the height of Byzantine Scholasticism. It’s confessions were not received by the Russian Church en toto and has not found a continuity (especially in the re-birth of Palamism) with the Church before and after. I do not find the content of its confessions catholic and orthodox.

    Photios

  58. Mark Downham says:

    No. Surely Hooker was slightly different with his triadic approach to Scripture, Tradition, Reason which informs the way Anglicanism presently constructs itself:

    I quite like this observation by Death Bredon:

    “Thus, any “development of doctrine” that is Revelation + Reason = New Dogma is pure conceit and idolatry.”

    One of the problems with Liberal Anglican Theology is the ‘full tilt’ towards human reason at the expense of Scripture and Traditon.

    I am a Conseravtive Evangelical BUT this comment by Jason Loh is absolutely outstanding and very perspicacious:

    “Sola Scriptura never meant Scripture alone to the total and absolute exclusion of Tradition as a secondary-derivative-relative authority …”

    Jason, how would you say the Reformers treated human reason? I aware of the debate between Luther and Erasmus – but I am more interested in your views.

  59. Jason Loh says:

    Perry,

    The Laudians never denied sola Scriptura. In fact, their position as was Hooker before them was pretty much the same as the Continental Reformers who valued tradition as a supporting and confirming source of evidence, i.e. in subordination to Scripture. Sola Scriptura never meant Scripture alone to the total and absolute exclusion of Tradition as a secondary-derivative-relative authority … the sola Scriptura as understood by many modern-day conservative evangelicals of course betrays their lack of appreciation of the Reformer’s intentions and perspective.

  60. Mark Downham says:

    For the Staretz the life of the Church meant life in the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Tradition the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit in her. Sacred Tradition, as the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, lies at the very root of her being, and so encompasses her life that even the very Scriptures come to be but one of its forms. Thus, were the Church to be deprived of Tradition, she would cease to be what she is, for the ministry of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stones, but in the fleshly table of the heart.’ (II Cor.iii:3).

    “Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the Holy Fathers, of all service books – what would happen? Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps – the verbal form might be different – but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’ (Jude verse 3)

    “The Scriptures are not more profound, not more important than Holy Tradition but, as said above, they are one of its forms – the most precious form, both because they are preserved and convenient to make use of. But removed from the stream of Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood through any scientific research.’” (p. 87-88)

    St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony

    Where we disagree with Sergei Sakharov [Archimandrite Sophrony] and he knows my views on this form my Encounters with him, is that as Evangelicals we hold that Jesus is ‘in’ HIS Words as the LIVING Word, the Transforming Kerygma and NOT in Tradition as Didache or Teachings, which are hermenutical readings of the WORD in terms of Ecclesiastical formation, expression and purpose and NOT the LIVING WORD itself, FOR:

    2 Timothy 3:16,17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    Sacred Tradition is incapable of reconfiguring the WORD because Jesus is HIS LIVING WORD and he is the AUTHOR AND SUSTAINER of HIS own Testament – the Gospel of Christ.

  61. Mark Downham says:

    Even the primacy of Scripture doesn’t amount to Sola Scriptura as the Laudians admitted as much against the Puritans and the Catholics. To get to the essence of Sola Scriptura, you need more than Scripture holds primacy – Perry Robinson.

    Perry

    As you know, Arch-Bishop William Laud focused on Ritual and liturgy , as he believed they gave form and beauty to the act of worship and he treated them in a sacramental way in engaging the numinous, the Spiritual.

    The Puritans really opposed him on the grounds of idolatry NOT on his view of Scripture in and of itself BUT on his “accretions” to Scripture.

    The Evangelical view of the Reformation is that it must be the sole governing hermeneutic under the INSPIRATION AN DIRECTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT and we will not recognise the “mediation of Laudian accretions” in this pneumatological-cognitive Encounter:

    I really like this statement from Photios Jones [and I love the name Photios Jones]:

    “It is an experiencing God through our logos of being in the Holy Spirit, which is to conform us to these Writings. We read the Scriptures with this mindset.” – Photios Jones

  62. Mark Downham says:

    Tradition is what is passed down in our liturgical worship that tells us the intention of the Sacred Authors. It is an experiencing God through our logos of being in the Holy Spirit, which is to conform us to these Writings. We read the Scriptures with this mindset. – Photios Jones

    If this is the Truth and it is appealing to a form of Pneumatologically inspired Cognition and Conviction in the HOLY Spirit – which is the ‘Evangelical Mindset’ – the Evangelical transcends denominations – THEN it would come into alignment with this:

    2 Corinthians 4:13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,

    So, are you in alignment with 2 Corinthians 4:13?

  63. Mark Downham says:

    The problem with the debates on sola scriptura, with the hopes of an engagement with Eastern Orthodoxy, is that they are incased within the dialectical “scripture vs. tradition” arguments and polemics against Rome, where Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t draw such a dialectic. – Photios Jones

    BUT it does:

    The Council of the Eastern Orthodox church in 1672 was convened by Dosítheos, patriarch of Jerusalem, in order to reject the Confession of Orthodox Faith (1629), by Cyril Lucaris, which professed most of the major Calvinist doctrines. The synod rejected unconditional predestination (the doctrine that God has eternally chosen those whom he intends to save) and justification by faith alone, while it affirmed the essentially Roman doctrines of transubstantiation (the change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the mass) and of purgatory. Against Rome, however, it continued to affirm that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. The synod also decreed that the church and Scripture are equally infallible.

  64. Mark,

    Even the primacy of Scripture doesn’t amount to Sola Scriptura as the Laudians admitted as much against the Puritans and the Catholics. To get to the essence of Sola Scriptura, you need more than Scripture holds primacy.

  65. Don Bradley says:

    “For the Staretz the life of the Church meant life in the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Tradition the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit in her. Sacred Tradition, as the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, lies at the very root of her being, and so encompasses her life that even the very Scriptures come to be but one of its forms. Thus, were the Church to be deprived of Tradition, she would cease to be what she is, for the ministry of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stones, but in the fleshly table of the heart.’ (II Cor.iii:3).

    “Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the Holy Fathers, of all service books – what would happen? Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps – the verbal form might be different – but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’ (Jude verse 3)

    “The Scriptures are not more profound, not more important than Holy Tradition but, as said above, they are one of its forms – the most precious form, both because they are preserved and convenient to make use of. But removed from the stream of Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood through any scientific research.'” (p. 87-88)

    St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony

  66. Death Bredon says:

    “The Holy Scriptures fix our doctrine, not the dialectical reasoning of man.”

    Of course–Holy Scripture as the memorialization of the Church’s reception of empirical, Divine Revelation in Christ. Ultimately, Christianity is empirical and particular, and therefore light years removed from Platonic or Cartesian or any other kind of Idealism. Thus, any “development of doctrine” that is Revelation + Reason = New Dogma is pure conceit and idolatry.

  67. Owen, Ochlophobist, I did this post for you….I’d like to hear your comments on Gregory of Nyssa’s view of Scripture here and how it relates to Orthodoxy’s view of the Scriptures, and how you think this might relate to the RC and Protestant views of scripture.

    I have the suspicion we are of the same mind here.

    Photios

  68. The problem with the debates on sola scriptura, with the hopes of an engagement with Eastern Orthodoxy, is that they are incased within the dialectical “scripture vs. tradition” arguments and polemics against Rome, where Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t draw such a dialectic. Tradition is what is passed down in our liturgical worship that tells us the intention of the Sacred Authors. It is an experiencing God through our logos of being in the Holy Spirit, which is to conform us to these Writings. We read the Scriptures with this mindset. The Saint’s authority can be thought of as a relation of origin to that source: Scripture. Same with the Coucils. The Triadological and Christological dogmas are based on Scripture and not elsewhere: either extra-biblical or the reasoning of man. Our liturgical worship as Tradition transitions our minds as a corrective, anti-gnostic style, to what the scriptures mean and what those authors meant.

    Photios

  69. Mark Downham says:

    The real essence of Sola Scriptura is NOT Scripture alone to the exclusion of all other forms of Spiritual Cognition and Revelation BUT the primacy and governing authority of Scripture in those pneumatological-cognitive encounters.

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