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November 26, 2006

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William Tighe

I've been waiting to see comments on this excerpt, without success so far, so I'll throw one in. If what Dix wrote is true, as I believe it most manifestly is, it is one good reason why I could never be a Protestant (or, to be precise, a "Solascripturalist") of any sort; since I think that one of its clear implications is that the nature of authority in that "Apostolic Church" of which the Nicene Creed makes mention may be summarized as "Sola Traditione" and not "Sola Scriptura" (even if the Scriptures are the "premier cru" of the Tradition); and that any pretense of substantially altering the liturgical or episcopal nature of the Church based on appeals to "Sola Scriptura" (whether one the basis of Reformed speculations or a Lutheran "satis est") has the effect of removing any body based on such an appeal from the ambit of that same "Apostolic Christianity."

Chris Jones

I'm a bit surprised not to see any comments on this one for so long; I'd have thought that my confessional friends would take the opportunity to go after Dix with guns blazing. My fault, no doubt, for posting so rarely.

I'm not a "solascripturalist" either, as you know. It wouldn't be unfair to describe my stance as "solatraditionalist" (although I would not use that term myself, for reasons that might fill up another post). "The Scriptures as the premier cru of the Tradition" is an apt and delightful phrase, but not strong enough to describe fully the true role of Scripture within the Tradition, in my view. The classic formulation which I was taught as an Orthodox is Scripture as the "pre-eminent and normative witness" to the Apostolic Tradition. Premier cru captures the "pre-eminent" part, but not the "normative". Any account of Tradition must set it forth as the context within which Scripture is used and understood; but any account which does not treat Scripture as meaningfully normative within that context is not right either.

As to "substantially altering the liturgical or episcopal nature of the Church," there are two different questions there: one of liturgy and another of polity. While I have my qualms about the liturgical changes introduced at the time of the Reformation, I do not believe that they amount to "changing the liturgical nature of the Church". The Church in Lutheran terms is just as fundamentally liturgical -- that is, the liturgy is constitutive of the Church -- as it is in the patristic view.

As to the episcopacy: well, you and I have been back and forth on that question many times, and I have little of substance to add. But I will add this small point: the Lutheran stance on episcopacy is not only "based on appeals to Sola Scriptura"; it is the result of a defective tradition handed down to them, a tradition represented not only by the opinions of St Jerome but also by the rare but significant practice of presbyteral ordination by Papal permission. You will, of course, reject the conclusions that the Reformers drew from these precedents. But the point is that their conclusions were based not just on Sola Scriptura, but on tradition as well (even though the representations of tradition that they used proved to be unreliable).

Michael Liccione

Well, for a Catholic it is hardly revolutionary. But I'm delighted to see a non-Catholic finding it "compelling." That it is.

Given that sola scriptura was not believed by the first few generations of the Church, for the very good reason that there was no NT canon to cite, the big question becomes: by what authority was the canon determined? I don't mean by what criteria: everybody will affirm it was by checking "apostolic" tradition. The big question is whether those who applied those criteria authoritatively, thus gradually settling the NT canon, inherited the authority of the Apostles to determine what was and was not "apostolic." If they did, there's no escaping the Magisterium any more than Tradition. For if the Magisterium is the office of those who hold the authority of the Apostles, one cannot say they lost that authority by not agreeing with this or that group's reading of Scripture or Tradition.


Chris Jones

Mike,

First of all, welcome! I'm honoured to have you read and comment on my weblog. I don't think you've commented here before.

I'm glad that you are delighted to see a non-Catholic finding it "compelling." But it was, after all, a non-Catholic (albeit "just barely") who wrote it. Evidently, Dom Gregory did not find your implications regarding the Magisterium to be quite as compelling, Anglo-Papalist though he was.

I am not so sure that I would agree that sola scriptura was not believed by the first few generations of the Church. I would agree that sola scriptura, in the a-Traditional manner held by most Protestants today, was not believed by the very early Church -- but then, I don't believe in it in that sense myself. But the fact that there was no NT canon to cite certainly does not mean that there were no Scriptures; and I would submit that the role of the OT in the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic Church was analogous to the role of the Bible as a whole (after the canonisation of the NT) in the later Church. That is, absolutely foundational, but always understood in the light of the Church's rule of faith, and always used and understood primarily in a liturgical context.

As you know, I don't buy the inference of "if there is Tradition, there must be a Magisterium," and I don't buy it any more in this context than I have done in any other. The inference depends on understandings of both the concept of Tradition and the concept of Magisterium that I find to be without foundation. In my view, Tradition is not a Newmanesque process of "development" nor is the Magisterium to be simply identified with the hierarchy. Not that I want to re-hash the disagreements you and I have had so often on other fora, but only to explain why raising the issue of who settled the NT canon is not, for me, the show-stopper you think it is.

For what it is worth, my answer to by what authority was the canon determined? is, by the authority of the bishops -- but not, as is usually supposed, by bishops in council issuing formal decrees (and certainly not by the Pope, who played little or no formal role in the process). Rather, it was determined, local Church by local Church in piecemeal fashion, by the bishops' jus liturgicum. I have recently argued on another weblog that "permissible to be read in the Church's public worship" and "canonical Scripture" are all but synonymous. If a piece of writing is read liturgically as part of the Church's ministry of the Word, it is (almost by definition) canonical. The process of "canonisation" of the New Testament was the process of individual bishops recognizing the Apostolic character of the NT books and the conformity of their teachings with the Tradition that they had received, and signalling that recognition by using those writings liturgically in the ministry of the Word. The conciliar, institutional recognition of the canon was but the formal reception of that organic, "grass-roots" if you will, process of canonisation by liturgical usage.

At least, that is what Fr Golitzin taught me. This model of the canonisation process, if true, takes away much of the force of your inference that "if there is Tradition, their must be a Magisterium".

Eric Phillips

I don't really see anything revolutionary in that quotation. The older source is not always the most authoritative or important, and that goes double and quadruple when the older source wasn't written down until centuries after the younger source was.

What implications are you thinking of, Chris?

Chris Jones

Eric,

Allow me to highlight what I regard as one of the "revolutionary" things that Dix says:

I am only trying to point out that there is available another source of information on the original and authentic Apostolic interpretation of Christianity, which the Scriptures presuppose and which must be used in the interpretation of the Scriptures.

By positing the liturgical tradition as another source ... which must be used in the interpretation of the Scriptures, Dix is significantly compromising the principle of Sola Scriptura, to which he was confessionally bound.**

The key point, to me, is the notion that origin (and, by implication, the nature and authority) of the liturgy is independent of the Scripture, depending instead on its own directly Apostolic origin. This puts the Reformed "Regulative Principle" totally out of court; but it also makes suspect the way Lutherans (some of them, anyway) judge what in the liturgy is, and is not, adiaphora.

I should also say that I attach less importance than you do to whether and when something is written down.



**At least, I think he was. At some point, I think, English clergy were no longer required to subscribe to the Articles; but I think Dix would have had to do so when he was ordained in the early twentieth century. Bill, do you know?

William Tighe

Chris,

The requirement of clergy (and ordinands) to subscribe to the Artlcles was modified around 1865 so as to require only a "general assent" to them thereafter; but even before that subscription was often, if not usually, interpreted as meaning that those so subscribing would not publicly inpuign or controvert anything taught by, or contained in, them. The "Royal Declaration" of Charles I, issued in 1630 and prefixed to the Articles in the 1662 BCP, required the Articles to be interpreted in their "literal and grammatical" sense; this seems unexceptionable, but it was intended to relativize the authority of the Reformed interpretations of the Articles that had dominated the field since the 1570s.

I can't remember which Anglo-Catholic controversialist it was that a hundred or so years ago explained his "assent" to the articles as being tantamount to his "assent" to the existence of mildew and dry rot in the walls of his Vicarage: he "assented" to their existence, in the sense that he had no particular intention of taking any action against them, not that he "approved of" them.

Dix, who was ordained around 1924, would have been required to give no more than a general assent to the Articles.

CPA

Ah, Chris, you do know why it's been so long, don't you? Because everyone has stopped checking back on your blog, because you never post. Got that? 8^)

Let's take a look from where this comes: "The Theology of Confirmation in relation to Baptism". If it's the one I'm thinking of, one of the main points it makes is that in the medieval period, confirmation/chrismation was radically transformed, from something that always took place after baptism, and was indeed the most important part of baptism, the part that gave the Holy Spirit, to something that pretty much never took place after baptism, and was NOT seen as giving the Holy Spirit (although what it actually did was, as I remember Dix showing, incredibly confused among Latin medieval theologians, with the vast majority giving answers that Dix found patently inadequate). On the other hand, at least it (whatever IT was) was still being done by bishops.

Now, let me ask: what are the implications of this passage for the validity of post-Carolingian Latin confirmations, and the receiving or not receiving of the Holy Ghost by Latin Christians? If a rite depends on anything like a proper understanding among the doers thereof, they seem to me to be pretty serious. In fact, on the issue of confirmation, the real implication of this passage is: all Latins are heretics because they distorted the apostolic heritage, and only the Eastern Orthodox have the Holy Spirit -- because after all, only the Eastern Orthodox have maintained the apostolic sacrament that gives the Holy Spirit in anything like its original form.

I'm only being partly tongue in cheek here. The reality is: all Latins have made major changes in the traditions of sacraments and theology -- where they differ is in justifying these changes ultimately by Scripture or else by the papacy. All that you can get out of that Dix quote goes) is primitivism, and next to the Copts and the Assyrians, the EO's are the only real players on that field. I might point out also that Dix himself recognized that it was this primitivism which resulted in works like Hippolytus, and the Syriac Apostolic Constitutions, and it was that primitivism, which he says Rome (rightly in his opinion) rejected in favor of liturgical and theological evolution.

OK, evolution -- normed by what? Asking the church before AD 250 that question is absurd, because they wouldn't recognize the premise, that evolution is necessary. In this way the medievals were right: the early church legacy is "do everything and say everything exactly the way the apostles did." (That they were wrong about what the apostles did on lots of things of debatable importance is a different issue). It is the open recognition, that we don't and we're not going to, and we still believe we're Christians, which puts Evangelicals and Catholics in a whole different ball game, meta-doctrinally.

Michael Liccione

Chris:

At least, that is what Fr Golitzin taught me. This model of the canonisation process, if true, takes away much of the force of your inference that "if there is Tradition, their must be a Magisterium".

It does nothing of the kind. The ordinary magisterium, an exercise of which you've described, is actually the ordinary means of exercising teaching authority. It could hardly be otherwise, since the extraordinary magisterium takes as its subject matter what is given by the ordinary. Hence Nicaea's decree on the canon of Scripture.

I can't really fault you for overlooking that. After all, a lot of Catholics overlook it too. That's why they think they're free to dissent on women's ordination and contraception.

Best,
Mike

Eric Phillips

Chris Jones,

Does it compromise _sola Scriptura_ to recognize that the Bible needs to be interpreted in light of its cultural and historical context? If not (and I don't think so), how does it compromise _sola Scriptura_ to include what we know about the early development of the liturgy as one of those contextual considerations?

The importance of something being written down is that it doesn't evolve. Liturgy continued to evolve, and so we're very limited when it comes to identifying liturgical elements that date back to the time of the Apostles. The fact that the Church of AD 200 generally believed some doctrine to be Apostolic does not constitute proof that it actually was.

Eric Phillips

Mike,

All you did just now is convert Chris Jones' term "the Bishops" into your own term, "the ordinary magisterium." That's purely semantics. Chris was obviously talking about what you are calling the "extraordinary magisterium."

Michael Liccione

CPA:

The reality is: all Latins have made major changes in the traditions of sacraments and theology -- where they differ is in justifying these changes ultimately by Scripture or else by the papacy.

That Western development of doctrine and practices constitute "major changes" is a matter of opinion, both historical and theological. But that doesn't matter. For one thing, and as I've been at pains to show at Pontifications and my own blog, there has been significant development in both East and West. You can't tell me with a straight face that the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is the liturgy celebrated "exactly as the Apostles did"; you can't tell me with a straight face that the essence/energies distinction is exactly what the Apostles taught; you can't even tell me with any plausibility that infant baptism-and-confirmation is mandated by apostolic tradition. You might say that none of that matters either, since each is equivalent to what the Apostles did or taught in substance, if not in form. But of course, that's exactly what the Latins thought about their own developments. So the only question worth exploring is: how is such a judgment to be made and justified?

OK, evolution -- normed by what? Asking the church before AD 250 that question is absurd, because they wouldn't recognize the premise, that evolution is necessary. In this way the medievals were right: the early church legacy is "do everything and say everything exactly the way the apostles did." (That they were wrong about what the apostles did on lots of things of debatable importance is a different issue). It is the open recognition, that we don't and we're not going to, and we still believe we're Christians, which puts Evangelicals and Catholics in a whole different ball game, meta-doctrinally.

Even if the medieval Latins had thought they did and taught "exactly" as the Apostles did, which is debatable, that too is as much a matter of their opinion as of yours. The questions are not whether there's been "evolution," but rather which evolutions, in both East and West, are justified, and by what criteria? Newman's seven "notes" of authentic development as opposed to corruptions are very helpful heuristically, but of course they do not by themselves settle the questions I just raised. The only way to settle it normatively is by authority, which adds the question what the necessary authority is. As you know, I've addressed that question at length at Pontifications. I'd be interested in your response to that. Perhaps you might give it at your own blog.

Best,
Mike


Michael Liccione

Eric:

The "ordinary magisterium" just is the ordinary teaching authority of "the Bishops." What makes Chris' citation of the bishops' piecemeal canonization of Scripture relevant is precisely that said process is an exercise of the ordinary magisterium. If the question of the canon so formed had just been a matter of opinion, then it would not have been normative for the whole Church, which it was.

Best,
Mike

Chris Jones

Wow! This thread took a while to get going, but it sure is lively now. I've no time at the moment to reply substantively to any of these comments, but given the excellence of everyone's contributions, there is no need for me at the moment.

I am delighted to note that I am the only person commenting on this thread without a PhD. I think I'll just sit back and watch the post-doctoral version of one of my favourite games: "Let's You and Him Fight".

No doubt I will be back during my lunch hour to set all of you straight.

Eric Phillips

Mike,

My point is, I can't see what _your_ point is. By your current definition, the "ordinary magisterium" isn't something Chris or I would take issue with. In your initial post, though, you were describing the magisterium as "the office of those who hold the authority of the Apostles," not simply "the ordinary teaching authority of the Bishops." You might mean the same thing by these two descriptions, but we don't.

Michael Liccione

You might mean the same thing by these two descriptions, but we don't.

Ah, what do we mean? That's always three-fourths of the battle.

The two descriptions don't "mean the same thing" even in the Catholic book, but in that book they are closely related. Whoever has "the office of those who hold the authority of the Apostles" is a bishop, and the bishops both collectively and individually have the specifically teaching authority of the Apostles. The "ordinary" teaching authority (i.e., ordinary magisterium) is simply teaching authority as ordinarily exercised. That's what the bishops were exercising when they formed the canon de facto as Chris described.

Continuing in the vein of Catholic doctrine: when exercised collectively under certain conditions, the ordinary magisterium is infallible. The formation of the canon was an instance of that. When, however, it's unclear to believers exactly what the ordinary magisterium thus exercised requires them to believe, the extraordinary magisterium can and often should step in. That magisterium is also infallible under certain conditions.

Best,
Mike

Eric Phillips

Mike,

Good post. A few points:

1) With such a wide-based process as canon formation, we really can't distinguish historically between your model (the bishops performing this function with directly inherited Apostolic authority--Church as a particular Organization) and my model (the Church performing this function via its teachers, the bishops--Church as the Body of Believers). You say, "The Church required the guidance of the Apostles' heirs." I say, "The Church recognized the teachings that gave it birth."

2) If a body is infallible _sometimes_, it's not infallible. It doesn't help me a whit to know that a source is right on the money _sometimes_. The whole point of infallibility is that you can have confidence that a source is right on the money _every_ time. That goes for both the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium.

A question: is an Ecumenical Council extraordinary, or just an occasional exercise of the ordinary magisterium? Is papal authority extraordinary, or only papal statements _ex cathedra_?

CPA

Mike,
I essence then, you've conceded that the Dix quotation is irrelevant to the ecclesiastical debates in the Latin world. Because again, what he's pointing out is the prevalence in what we can call primitivist traditionalism.

Your points about even the EO's not being able to sustain primitivist traditionalism are not entirely off base, but I don't think you can deny that in liturgy, sacraments, etc., the EO's are qualitatively slower to change than the Latins. If you were to say that is yoked to developments which are quite innovative in other respects (Hesychism, essence/energies) etc., I might agree -- but then I probably don't know enough about those aspects of Orthodoxy to have my opinion matter much.

Again, I am not saying that the liturgy of St. Chrysostom is apostolic, but I am saying that when people named liturgies the liturgy of St. James, or Adai (Thaddaeus) and Mari, this was meant seriously. Ditto when the Syriac scribes of the third century wrote things called Apostolic Constitutions -- they really thought this was the exact liturgy handed down by the Apostles. Ditto when medievals said that Apostle's Creed has 12 articles each added by one apostle, etc., etc. I mean we're talking about bishops and clerics who seriously thought St. Andrew went to Scotland and St. James died in Spain. These legends were largely exploded by the very process of Reformation and Counter-Reformation which provoked each side to dig up the MSS (like digging up the dirt, only not so fun) on the other side, and in so doing created modern church history. (The recent bio of Matthias Flacius makes the point).

As for the sequence of baptism-chrismation-communion being the "apostolic tradition" (if by tradition you mean any practice which can be seen as being generally practiced by early Christians before 250 or so, which is how Dix is using it in his quotation), yes I can say it with a straight face (I can assure you my face is straight right now). :) The only way a Catholic or Lutheran can get around it, is the same way a Baptist gets around infant baptism -- by appealing to periods earliest enough that we don't have any evidence. What we do theologically with that, is a different matter.

The problem I see with the confessional Catholic approach you defend is that you simultaneous make the semper eadem argument and the development of doctrine normed by the Magisterium argument. It may look consistent to you, but it doesn't to me. And as I said, historically, the second approach is a distinctly post-Reformation approach, a response to the tremendous advance in church history made by duelling Protestant and Catholic scholars, and the failure of both sides to prove their point. All of which is to say again, that the Dix quotation seems to be either irrelevant to all Christians (the option you implicitly present), or at least irrelevant to all Latins (the option I sort of argued for).

And besides, what Eric said.

CPA

Let me try to rephrase the debate:

Dix contrasts two things: 1) the New Testament scriptures and 2) the authoritative 'Apostolic Tradition' of practice

He says when we look at baptism, confirmation etc. in the apostolic era we need to use both 1 and 2.

No. 1 is in the form of a book -- sets of words on pages. No.2, though is a living tradition, he implies.

But how does he know what the contents of no.2 actually are? Does he go ask very traditional Christians (Copts or popes, or even Coptic popes) "How do you baptize and confirm" or watch them at it? Of course not. He goes to documents. (And if remember right to occasional pictorial representations). So in fact, the only way his no. 2 -- his authoritative 'Apostolic Tradition' of practice -- can influence how we think about baptism and confirmation, is by being treated as a second set of books alongside set no. 1.

In other words, what he is doing in his quote is arguing that a bigger set of texts (but one by no means unlimited) ought to be consulted as our norm at least on certain designated issues. To my mind, that's not arguing for tradition, that's arguing for expanding the canon with a set of New Testament Deuterocanonical works.

Josh S

I wish I'd read this back when the debate was still relevant. If I may add my own thoughts this late in the game, I'll add that Dix is saying nothing objectionable to confessional Lutheranism. He is in essence arguing that the liturgy of the early church is in fact quite important to understanding the historical context of the Scriptures. This is in essence no different from Chemnitz appealing to Greek classics for understanding what the word "dikaiosoune" means in the New Testament.

In fact, similar things were already being said by Chemnitz in his Lord's Supper. Namely, he argues that the liturgical formula already existed and was being used by the Church a good while before any of the New Testament documents, and that Paul and the synoptic Evangelists were reconfirming and explaining the formula by their inclusion of it in their writings. This is in response to the Roman claim (at the time) that all their peculiar doctrines and practices had been instituted and handed down by the apostles. For neither conservative party was it remotely conscienable for the Church to institute new doctrines or authoritative traditions.

Dix is most certainly not saying that the church has the authority to change the liturgy and later on base new dogmas on the changed liturgy, which is pretty much what the modern Latin argument depends on in the wake of 17th-C historical scholarship. It sounds like he's pretty much just arguing that the historical context of the Scriptures includes early Christian worship, which any Lutheran can and should agree with. Dix seems to assume additionally that 2nd century worship is virtually unchanged from 1st century worship (which is also assumed to be universally similar throughout the Empire), which is contestable, but the fundamental premise is perfectly in line with Sola Scriptura.

The only (possible--because what I am saying could be wrong) substantial difference I see between Dix and Chemnitz here is that Chemnitz also argues that the apostles wrote down all the tradition and doctrine that they wanted to be normative in the Church, arguing this from internal textual evidence as well as the Fathers, while Dix doesn't really go there. For example, I think Dix would read the NT assuming chrismation was going on since Christ trained the apostles, while Chemnitz would see the complete lack of references to chrismation (esp in Matthew and Acts) as sufficient evidence that it was a later tradition lacking Christ's institution, but having rich symbolical value.

Josh S

Ack. The other thing I thought about when I was sleeping is that Dix seems to assume that there was a much more detailed apostolic liturgical law than Chemnitz did. Dix appears to be lacking that healthy dose of "Christian freedom" that characterizes Lutheran theology.

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