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April 23, 2008


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It is great to see you posting again, Chris. I missed your insightful posts such as this one. I don't have a lot to add to what you said re: St. Irenaeus above except that I see an intimate connection between this issue and your recent post "Lex Orandi Lex Est Credendi." I would argue that this canon of truth is to be found in the liturgy of the Church. The Creed serves primarily a liturgical function, does it not? The same could be said of the Sciptures I think. The Bible is, first and foremost, a liturgical book. Therefore, I would argue that modern Protestants don't [properly] understand the Scriptures because they've lost most, if not all, of their liturgical "context." Instead, the Bible has become for them a source from which to "derive doctrines."


This is why I took the handle Irenaeus, if it's not obvious.

I think my original point with the post was that I was simply having a very a-rational existential encounter with something I know rationally: sola Scriptura doesn't work, because the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture (its necessary corollary) has been blown to smithereens by several centuries of historical-critical and theological work. I know about 10 dead languages, several modern research languages, have many degrees and etc., and I still can't make heads or tails of what I should believe based on Scripture alone. How should the good people of First Community Independent Christian Community? ("Their understanding of the faith comes not from Scripture directly but is mediated through various Protestant traditions and magisteria" is right on, isn't it?) One option seems to be to blame me for being to smart, and making too complex what is actually simple...*sigh*

Which is why we need a fundamental rule of faith, canon of truth, whatever. Scripture functions well to DO things when the doctrine is already set, right? If we know what we believe already (from tradition and magisterium) then Scripture is free to be used as an instrument in the context of the life of the church, to encourage, warn, challenge, condemn, save, exhort, etc. Loosing Scripture from the need for it to be the source of all doctrine and truth lets it really come alive. So ChrisG is (as it is said) "right on the money."

So anyway, I agree with you, I think.

Chris Jones


Thank you for your kind words.

I would argue that this canon of truth is to be found in the liturgy of the Church.

Now you have blown my cover! That, of course, is precisely where I was going with this. It is, after all, what Lex orandi lex est credendi literally means. However, even though the canon of truth is to be found in the liturgy, it's no trivial task actually to find it there. It's not that every word of the liturgical texts is like Holy Writ. The Church can, and often has, changed those texts at will. And if we are to look at the liturgy as a rule of faith, which liturgy shall we use: the Byzantine? the Latin? the Lutheran? the Reformed? If we look to specific rites and rubrics, "liturgy as rule of faith" is just a cover for the same old denominational/confessional conflicts, to which there is no answer.

No, there is an unchanging core of the Church's liturgy which underlies all of the legitimate developments of the liturgical tradition, and it is only that which could possibly serve as the lex credendi. I don't know how to identify and characterize that, but that is the goal of this series of posts.

Chris Jones


This is why I took the handle Irenaeus, if it's not obvious.

I had more than a suspicion ...

I would not say that the canon of Truth is itself the "source of doctrine" and reduce Scripture to a utilitarian role (as your comment Scripture ... to be used as an instrument seems to suggest). Scripture remains pre-eminent and normative among the various witnesses to the Tradition. As I wrote in an earlier post to this weblog:

But the Holy Scriptures are not just one form of Tradition among many. Scripture, preaching, catechesis, liturgy, and sacraments are all forms of Tradition, methods by which the Gospel is transmitted; but they are not all equal. The Holy Scriptures are uniquely authoritative. Only the Scriptures are directly of Apostolic origin, and only the Scriptures have always been venerated and honored by the Church as inspired. Everything that we do in the Church to express and transmit the Gospel is measured by the Holy Scriptures.

No, the Apostolic and Prophetic Scriptures are a "source" of doctrine, and remain the primary source. But the way that source is used is not as an academic or propositional text in isolation; it is used liturgically, to proclaim the Gospel in the liturgical assembly.

Finally, I should hesitate to use, as you do, the pairing "tradition and magisterium." Because while I remain a Lutheran I do so as more of a crypto-Orthodox than a crypto-Papist. I hesitate to "institutionalize" the Apostolic Tradition as the Romans have done, because it tends to equate the pronouncements of the institutional magisterium with the authentic witness to the Apostolic Tradition. I simply do not believe that that equation always and automatically holds. That is why I have been an Orthodox, but could never be a Roman Catholic.

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