Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Original Creed: Catholic Church and Saints' Communion

In the combox of my previous post, Jim and I discussed the original intent behind the terms "holy catholic church" and "communion of the saints" in the Apostles' Creed. In the course of researching this point, I came across a fabulous resource worth noting here.

GoogleBooks has Union Theological Seminary Prof. Arthur McGiffert's "The Apostles Creed: Its Origin, Its Purpose, and Its Historical Interpretation" (1902). In analyzing the "catholic" and "communion" terms of the Apostles' Creed, McGiffert notes the following:

1) At the time "Catholic" was added to the creed, the word had an exclusive meaning, a belief in the particular institution of Church, and not a "holy church universal". McGiffert says, "The common Protestant interpretation of the article in the creed, which makes it refer to the holy church universal, is therefore historically incorrect. (emphasis added)"

2) Prof. McGiffert notes the historical obscurity of the origin of the "communion" term. But he says, "It was used sometimes to denote participation in sacred things, that is the sacraments, sometimes to denote communion with departed saints. And one or the other of these meanings probably attaches to the article in the creed." Further, "There is no sign that the article was intended to express the communion or fellowship of believers with each other, or that it was meant as a closer definition of the word "church," as we so commonly interpret it to-day." Citing the first appearances of the term in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, McGiffert wraps up his thought:

"In which [of the above two senses "communion"] was understood when it was inserted in the creed we do not know; possibly in both [...], for the two meanings were closely associated and often appear together in the same writer. Whoever enjoys real participation in the sacraments enjoys also communion with the saints and vice versa.

"The interpretation which commonly attaches to the phrase to-day -- communion or fellowship of believers with each other -- cannot be regarded as correct, for if this were the meaning we should hardly expect sanctorum to the receive the emphasis which its position before communio gives it, and moreover this interpretation does not appear until much later, at any rate in that part of the world where the article was first added to the creed...

"And so the interpretation of the word communio as if it were a concrete noun and equivalent to congregatio [the Lutheran view] is also incorrect. (emphasis added; internal citations omitted)"

See the Wiki article on McGiffert for an interesting tale of his facing Presbyterian heresy charges for a book on church history he wrote five years earlier (I wrongly said in the previous combox that the charges were for the present book -- When McGiffert wrote this book, he had taken flight to the Congregational Church (though retaining his UTS professorship).

Assuming Prof. McGiffert is right, was the reformation right to commandeer the meaning of credal language to new uses? Why do it?

39 comments:

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I tried in vain to argue the same point (his first one) on a Protestant once. As for communion of saints, we Catholics know what it means and always have - arbitrary redefinition of words and or phrases are of little concern to us (or at least to me).

I'll only entertain a debate on words for so long when it's theologically motivated. They said what they said we can all read it plainly. At least Mormons and Muslims are honest in saying that the early Church quickly went astray and THAT is why they disagree with their doctrine as opposed to (some) Protestants who like to try and pretend certain words don't really mean what they mean.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

BTW - Excellent find - I'm gonna have to start using Google books more.

Joseph said...

The original Reformers and all of the abundant splinters that have emerged from them since have managed to redefine everything from ancient and traditional doctrine to minute individual definitions of Christian words. I'm not sure if it matters much that the creeds of the Early Church have suffered the same fate in their hands. I believe it was necessary for them to do so in order to, as best as they could, justify their positions.

I pray that one day all Protestants will come to understand this. I believe that if they were true to the Protestant Reformation, all reformed communities and their splinters would completely drop the creeds of the ancient Church. As I stated above, the only way to cling to claim the creeds as their own and still remain Protestant is to redefine the words and phrases, diminishing the their true meaning.

Sacred Scripture proves more than once that the Saints are alive and active in the God's presence. They still retain their own will, but it is completely attuned to God's. They continue to pray for all of us that we will join them in receiving the beatific vision, whether we believe it or not. Just like the Blessed Trinity is God of all, whether individual men and women believe it or not.

Please don't think I'm attempting to sound harsh. I'm just making a statement on what I believe is true and I honestly hope that the Church will be visibly one someday.

Canadian said...

So whether it is scripture or the creeds, we do not escape the necessary guiding interpretation of the church, it seems.

Jim said...

As I understand it, the "three pillars" of the Roman Catholic church are the Scriptures, tradition, and the magisterium.

Again, as I understand it, the latter is critical, because the RC church does not claim merely to represent the tradition of the Apostles, but to present it as it grows and evolves organically under the guidance of the Spirit as reflected in an infallible magisterium.

If my suppositions are correct -- and I assume I'll be corrected if they are wrong -- then the RC objection is not, and cannot really be, that understandings of given texts sometimes change in Protestant communions, but rather that those changes are unauthorized, since those developments, or changes, are not, and cannot be, instigated by the magisterium, being infallably guided by the Holy Spirit.

So the criticism cannot be that meanings sometimes evolve in Protestant communions -- since some things develop and evolve in the Roman communion as well -- but it invariably comes back to the question of authorization, i.e., whether one believes in an magisterium through which God infallably directs the church's development and evolution.

Jim said...

Hmm, another thought as well.

If McGiffert's claim is correct, that by the time that "Catholic" was added to the apostle's creed it was a proper name for churches in communion with the bishop of Rome, then Roman Catholics must object to Orthodox churches reciting the creed as well, since they, too, are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome (even if they maintain apostolic succession).

Somewhat interesting as well is McGiffert's argument that "Catholic" did originally mean what Protestants understand it to mean -- the universal church encompassing all of the faithful -- but that the meaning had effectively evolved into a proper name for the Roman Catholic church by the time "Catholic" was added to the text of the Apostle's creed.

Given the centuries-long evolution of the particular text of the Apostle's creed -- with things being slowly added over centuries, and with different forms affirmed at different times -- I'm unsure I understand entirely the objection to its use among Christians for whom the creed (arguably) continues to develop and evolve.

Gil Garza said...

I couldn't resist adding in a bit of St. Augustine:

We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church which is Catholic, and which is called Catholic not only by her own members, but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with stangers, willy-nilly (velint nolint), they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless by distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard. The True Religion 7,12

We believe also in the holy Church, that is the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. [...] Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church... Faith and the Creed 10,21

And at last, the very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church, alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called Catholic, when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house. Against the Letter of Mani Called 'The Foundation' 4,5

Jim said...

Sorry for the triple post (I'll shaddup after this). I just followed the link to Wiki entry on McGiffert. He denied "the reality of Jesus's life on earth."

Thos said...

Jim,

I think you misread the Wiki article. It says McGiffert also published "The Apostle's Creed (1902), in which he attempted to prove that the old Roman creed was formulated as a protest against the dualism of Marcion and his denial of the reality of Jesus's life on earth."

It was not written very well, but I think the "his denial" refers to Marion and not McGiffert.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Jim said...

That's terrible! My reading, that is. Dust and ashes.

Joseph said...

Jim,

"...then Roman Catholics must object to Orthodox churches reciting the creed as well..."

I hope I'm not being too picky. I don't know where any Catholic has ever stated that they object to any reformed communities or the Orthodox Churches reciting the creed. We don't object to anyone reading the Sacred Scriptures whether or not they believe the Truth therein either.

I don't want to go on about this just in case it was an accidental and poor choice of words on your part. I make that mistake myself all of the time.

Jim said...

Joseph,

Correct. I did take this comment of your, "I believe that if they were true to the Protestant Reformation, all reformed communities and their splinters would completely drop the creeds of the ancient Church" to assert, as it were, a proprietary interest in the creed on the part of the RCC that would enjoin their use by others.

I understand now that you were instead arguing that you believe if Protestants were consistent with their beliefs that they wouldn't choose to use the creeds.

Thanks for the clarification.

Gil Garza said...

I can't resist adding this:

It is our desire that all the various nation which are subject to our clemency and moderation, should continue to the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. [...] We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict.
Theodosian Code XVI.1.2

You will recall that although Constantine legalized Christianity he did not give it any special status. Theodosius I (379-395) made Catholic Christianity the official religion of the land and imposed penalties on all others.

So, lots of folks may use the Nicean/Constantinopolitan Creed and bully for them! There is only one Catholic Church to which is referred.

Joseph said...

Jim,

Oh, it was me! It looks like you understood what I typed on the second pass, though. Thank you for the clarification.

Thos said...

Thank you all for a lively discussion, and thank you GFF for complimenting my find :<) (Google found it for me though).

In the discussion of whether Protestants should use the creed, I am inclined (now, and if I continue to take McGiffert's assertions as valid) toward a negative response. If we don't want to pack the punch that has been behind these terms since their inception, we should pick something else. We should say "We believe...in the church invisible and in the church visible" (as a suggestion). After all, what is the creed to my church but a faithful exposition of Scripture? And if it is only faithful to scripture when a few of the traditional terms are given a 15th century meaning, we should amend with words that better describe that faithful meaning. We can amend the Westminster Confession (theoretically, and I assume the Lutherans could amend the Augsburg too?). Why not amend the Creed? It too is subordinate to scripture.

But I think the answer to this question was in the minds of the Reformers. To change the creed is to accede that we have broken the continuity with the church at least as it was in the late 4th/early 5th century (when these terms were both present).

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

"But I think the answer to this question was in the minds of the Reformers. To change the creed is to accede that we have broken the continuity with the church at least as it was in the late 4th/early 5th century (when these terms were both present)."

I'm assuming that is your opinion? It would be interesting to find out what their reasons for continuing to recite the Nicene creed after they broke away from the Church. I don't like speculating when I simply do not know, but, based on what I have read perhaps I can come up with another possibility.

From what I understand, Luther, at first, did not want to completely abandon 'Tradition' and 'tradition'. The recitation of the Creed (either Apostles' or Nicene) was a daily practice for clergy (or suppose to be anyway; it was also a recommendation for laymen) during prayers and Sacred Liturgies. To completely stop using the Creed may have been too radical. To arbitrarily change it may seemed like sacriledge.

There are a few Protestant communities who have changed the creed to match their particular belief structure. However, those are relatively new developments.

I don't really know much about Calvin's initial reforms. From what I've read he seemed to be much more radical in abandoning 'Traditions' and 'traditions' than Luther. Perhaps you can enlighten me on that. It seems that if any one of the protestant reformers was best suited to alter the creed(s), it would have been Calvin.

Also, I don't think that either Luther or Calvin were concerned with appearing to be creating religions that were not continuious from the Church of the Apostles. Allegedly, they believed that the Catholic Church had already done that and that they were picking up the pieces, so to speak.

Anyhow, the complete alteration of ecclesiology and the new theology were clean breaks anyway. The Catholic Church had been wrong for centuries in their eyes. To them, they were the saviours of the Christian faith, though neither of them agreed with each other (nor did the many fragments that continued to break off until this day).

Is the Calvinism from Calvin's time even still existent? Let me know if I need correction on anything.

Thos said...

Joseph,

That was my opinion. Your observation seems valid to me, that the reasons were stronger or more ingrained/fundamental than my statement yields. The creed was a part of the Christian way of life - it was probably even unthinkable to drop it.

I did not know that some Protestant communities have altered the Creeds. I know there are many that do not use them altogether, probably viewing them as vestiges of Catholicism.

You noted 1) Calvin's greater willingness to break from tradition, and 2) his and Luther's lack of concern for breaking continuity since they believed the church was already so broken.

1) I wouldn't press too far Calvin's disregard for tradition (compared to Luther, at least). My understanding is that you are right that he was more willing to take a de novo (in legal terms) review of church doctrines to test their conformity to the bible. But he also considered the early church fathers, just not much past (I'm guessing) the 5th century.

2) I think Calvin saw a church that went astray earlier than Luther saw, based on his view of ecclesiology that not only must the church not conflict with Scripture (Luther) but that all it does must be permitted by Scripture. He had to go further back in church history (than Luther) to find a time where he could claim this was the prevailing view (he also had to deny the authenticity of the Ignatian Epistles). Interesting side note: Calvin believed there was still a preserved 'holy seed' within the church just as Israel had a preserved rod of Jesse leading up to Christ - in this way he did not have to say that Christ's promises to preserve the church were in vain.

So (as I humbly understand things) they were interested in being continuous, but with the church at the point at which they believed it became apostate. They were not interested in being continuous with the 15th century church, but in the discussion of Creed, since the creed generally predates their view of when the church was apostate, they would have felt compelled to continue its use.

Calvinism is still existent in a sense. It is his views to which conservative Reformed church seem to strive. It is the "pure" form of our view of "orthodox" Christian practice. It was the PCUSA's departure from this (and not, e.g., pro-homosexual developments) that led to fissure.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

Thank you.

Joseph said...

Thos,

One more question regarding the following statement:

"Interesting side note: Calvin believed there was still a preserved 'holy seed' within the church just as Israel had a preserved rod of Jesse leading up to Christ - in this way he did not have to say that Christ's promises to preserve the church were in vain."

Was there Scriptural reinforcement for this belief? The Catholic Church primarily (in my opinion) identifies all of the Kingdom of Heaven parables with Christ Himself (He is the Kingdom of Heaven), the seed as a metaphor for Christ. Just as the seed has to die before it can grow into a plant, so the Church grew forth from Christ after His death on the Cross (the birth of the Church; the water and blood from His side). Since then the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the plant that has bloomed from the seed, has been growing by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does that conflict with Calvin's belief at all? Perhaps I read your statement incorrectly. Does it mean that Calvin believed there was a "seed" that had not yet bloomed into a plant until his reformation? Or that the plant became diseased, ceased growing, and ceased producing fruit until his reformation (which was separated from Luther by a generation, I believe. By that time Luther's reformation had already begun to fragment)?

I'm just trying to understand.

Thos said...

Joseph,

Good question, thanks for pressing the point. I feel the urge to reiterate that I'm no scholar, only some Joe (or Thos.) whose read a good bit of Calvin and spent my life in a Calvinist environment. That said...

Let me double-check the source of my quote you mentioned - I read it two days ago in the Institutes, but don't have it handy presently, and don't want to talk out of turn. Specifically, he may have not used the term "holy seed". The idea was that a remnant of True Faithful remained until the time of the Reformation - the world was not devoid of saved people for centuries, but was under the shadow of an apostate church barely able to be a storehouse of salvation for even just those few.

I used to think more about this than now, but you raise the issue of repeating testaments... Is it fair to read the Old Testament and think it has and will continue to repeat in times since Christ (but to God's mystical vice biological people)? My humble impression is that much anti-Catholicism is based on this view (you know, the Israelites became apostate, gave up the written law until it was rediscovered a few times, asked for a King instead of the provided Judges against God's better judgment, etc. -- and that behavior was bound to repeat in the church age as well)... But then Catholic thought (particularly archetypal theology) makes this OT/NT analogy too (you know, the priests made sacrificial intercession, we now have the Real Bread of the Presence, Old Eve/New Eve, etc.).

I used to give the Repeating Testaments view more credence, but now realize that the new order heralded by Christ is completely new to the point where the testamental analogy is strained. We have Christ as a mediator and not the angels, we have [(or have had?)] the real pure sacrifice, we have been given the Holy Spirit, and we have Christ himself promising that the church will prevail and that He will be with us until the end of the age -- these are promises the OT people of God were sorely lacking.

So more to come when I can check my sources. Thanks.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

Sorry, one more. I have heard so many different opinions on what Calvin actually believed that I am horribly confused. I trust that you'll be able to give me some answers.

"I wouldn't press too far Calvin's disregard for tradition (compared to Luther, at least). My understanding is that you are right that he was more willing to take a de novo (in legal terms) review of church doctrines to test their conformity to the bible."

I always understood that Calvinism rejects the Sacraments (except for Baptism and Marriage, though their view of the efficacy of these Sacraments is not based on the grace provided by them, rather everything is based on predestination and faith??). As you have probably found out, there are Catholic apologetics on the Sacraments in Scripture. So, would that mean that Calvin's understanding of the Sacraments was more or less based on his own interpretation of Scripture and not on what the Scriptures say themselves?

I also thought that Calvin adhered to Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as well. My Presbyterian family members seem to have a strong belief in these two doctrines. I have yet to find in Scripture where Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are taught. So, once again, is Calvinism built on Calvin's interpretation of Scripture? If so, wouldn't he be failing to follow Sola Scriptura? If Sola Scriptura were true, is Luther wrong and Calvin right? Or what about any of the other Protestant denominations? Someone would have to have the right interpretation of Scripture, no?

These are very basic questions that have been asked a million times, but I always enter into this infinite loop when I try to make sense of Protestantism. Basically, were Calvin's teachings completely in conformity with the Sacred Scriptures? He also did alot of parsing in his readings of the Early Fathers in order to tie his teachings into tradition, no? He couldn't base his teaching on Predestination on St. Augustine alone without parsing the portions that did not fit into his worldview. Anyhow, with Sola Scriptura as a foundation (I'm not sure if Calvin completely subscribed to Sola Scripture so forgive me if I'm wrong) why would it be necessary for him to even use the Catholic Church's deposit of faith in part to support his view? If he did use Fathers from the 5th century or earlier, surely he would have found that his worldview would have been almost completely rejected (I don't want to use unanimously because I'm sure that he found parts that he could use to justify his positions). Also, he would be basing his studies off of the Protestant Bible, no? Wouldn't that lack seven books, several chapters, and have several verses in difference to the Catholic Sacred Scriptures, which were the Christian Scriptures until the Reformation? How could he assume that his worldview was not defective if he based it on the Bible and his Bible lacked several canonical books? Did he think that it was important to use the Jewish canon over the Septuagint, which was used by the Earliest Christians? Can Sola Scriptura be valid for a Bible that lacks part of the canon? For Sola Scriptura to be consistent, shouldn't all creeds, all Christian traditions, all sacred images, even the Cross, be done away with? Isn't that the logical end? Creeds neither add, nor take away from the Scriptures, so why have them? Why is it necessary to redefine words in the creeds? They should mean nothing, right?

Basically, it is possible that Calvin and Luther didn't rid their religions of the creeds for the sake of Christian tradition. They were aware of the importance of the creeds, potentially. But, Sola Scriptura was relatively new then. Carried to its logical end, and combined with Sola Fide, it means iconoclasm, leaving the creeds behind, never seeking the wisdom of the Early Fathers, personal interpretation of the Scriptures, dropping all forms of Christian asceticism, etc. does it not? Following Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide to their logical ends creates Protestant Evangelism, rampant relativism, and perpetual schism, no?

Joseph said...

Thos,

Sorry to bombard you.

"I used to give the Repeating Testaments view more credence, but now realize that the new order heralded by Christ is completely new to the point where the testamental analogy is strained. We have Christ as a mediator and not the angels, we have [(or have had?)] the real pure sacrifice, we have been given the Holy Spirit, and we have Christ himself promising that the church will prevail and that He will be with us until the end of the age -- these are promises the OT people of God were sorely lacking.
"


Right. I was contemplating this the other day. The Cross is the center of the cosmos. Everything points to it. It is the remeption and salvation of mankind. We are freed from ultimate death by the Lamb of God, the Pascal Lamb. Death will now Passover us if we believe and carry our own crosses. That was the fulfillment of the Passover.

Latitude and Longitude form a cross over the world. The way the earth spins on its axis versus the movement of the stars as we see in the sky creates an "X". The ancient Israelites marked a Thau upon their foreheads which saved them from death (Ezekiel 9). St. Jerome took this to mean the Hebrew letter which is in the form of a cross (Israelites signing themselves with the cross before Christ?). There are many other prefigurements of the Cross in the OT, but I won't go into them here.

On the Cross is the very contradiction of Christianity. One pole rises to heaven perpendicular from the earth (symbolizing God's condescension to us and then His ascension back to the Father; the connection of Heaven and earth broken by it for the first time, the Father now being made accessible; also the two-fold nature of Christ, True God at the top, True man at the bottom), one crosses it parallel to the horizon (His Sacred arms outstretched over all of Creation; this line can be followed infintely to encompass all of the cosmos). One could follow both lines into eternity. At the Cross we meet God. The two meet, Heaven and Earth. No longer are they separated by the enemy (this leads into the communion of Saints, but I won't get into it here). God condescends to us. Before that moment, God was completely transendent (to the Jews). At that moment, God showed through His Son the ultimate form of condescendence. God not only condescended to become one of us in the Flesh, He made the ultimate Sacrifice for us. This is unlike any pagan god. Christianity is unlike any other religion. It is a contradiction that is unmistakeably perfect and holds together at the Cross. We met and finally realized Jesus Christ was God on the Cross. From His side came the Blood and Water, witnessed by St. John. The Blood of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which He promised to give us to eat and drink until He comes again, and the Water of the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the requirement to become a member of that Body that hung on the Cross.

And our crosses? Why are they crosses? They are contradictions as well. How do we attain happiness, by mourning our sinfulness (not despairing of course), by becoming the lowest and most humble, by becoming meek, etc. How do we become free? By giving ourselves to God and detatching ourselves, by His grace, from worldly attachements and pleasures. We suffer to live in happiness. We lose to gain.

I'm am totally rambling and have decided to stop. I apologize.

Joseph said...

In my earlier post I meant to say "Protestant Evangelicalism".

Joseph said...

I meant to add something about the Cross too. The greatest contradiction of all was that Our Lord Himself, God of the Universe, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity Incarnate, He whom through all things were created, hung from it for His creation, because we betrayed Him in the beginning.

Joseph said...

Thos,

You'll have to forgive me for posting so much on your blog!

"Is it fair to read the Old Testament and think it has and will continue to repeat in times since Christ (but to God's mystical vice biological people)?"

I personally don't think it is possible to do so. The Triune God had not been revealed to the Israelites. The Church, which would be the fruition of the people of Israel and the carrier of the New Covenant, had not yet been established. The Son had not yet become Incarnate and had not yet died on the Cross in His Humanity. The gates of Heaven were still locked. There was no access for the dead into Heaven, into the beatific vision until the moment of Jesus Christ's death, when the veil of the Temple had been ripped and the earth quaked.

The New Covenant is the new wineskins and the new wine. It is embodied in the Church, in Christ. The days of the blind leading the blind had come to an end. With Christ came the new and final age. With the coming of the Paraclete, the Church's mission took hold and will never stop until Christ comes again to judge to world.

So, unless one is reading the OT like a history book and not like a constant reference to Christ and His Church (typology), it isn't possible to believe that the Church would suffer the same fate as Israel, since Israel was perfected in Christ and His Body, the Church. But we aren't Jews. We don't read the Torah in the same way the Jews read it. In it we see Christ and His Church clearly. Of course, that is just my opinion.

Is it fair? I don't know. I can't help how a Christian outside the Catholic Church reads the Sacred Scriptures. I guess anything is fair on the outside. Where I would have difficulty with it is if a fellow Catholic was reading the OT in such a manner.

This probably also goes back to the definition of "church". If it is an invisible body, then Christ's promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against her take on a different meaning than how the Catholics or Orthodox interpret it. Also, if the Church is the Body of Christ, how can one say that it is invisible without admitting that they fail to believe fully in the Incarnation (I think Bryan commented on this in a previous post)?

If the Church is a visible Body, then the promises Christ made to the Church could only mean that the fate of the Israelites would not apply. However, that is not to say that the members of the Body would remain sinless. Our free will was not taken from us and neither was our concupiscence. We must bear our crosses until the end.

The Israelites also did not have the Sacraments. Though the Church may suffer from sick parts throughout Her history, She will never suffer from the destruction and diaspora of the Iraelites. She will remain until the end, despite persecution after persecution and sickness after sickness. She is still here after 2000 years, isn't She? Her teachings are still intact.

Thos said...

Joseph,

Did I mention I’m also not a Calvinist apologist? You, friend and brother, have read enough of my posts to know that my own skepticism makes me a poor Calvinist advocate. For the intellectual merit though, I will do my best to describe *my understanding* of Calvinist views.

“I always understood that Calvinism rejects the Sacraments (except for Baptism and Marriage,… So, would that mean that Calvin's understanding of the Sacraments was more or less based on his own interpretation of Scripture…”

Calvinism defines Sacrament differently, and also (for the two we have in common) views the transmission of grace differently. The difference, technically, is not as dramatic as imagined or as in practice. The Calvinist view of Sacraments does not hold that all sacred or grace-filled acts in Scripture are sacraments (so we’re not saying there were only two such acts), but rather that the church is only to practice those sacred rights which Christ personally and immediately instituted. Yes, James records the anointing of oil, but since Christ didn’t institute it, it’s not a sacrament (side note: I guess this tends to prefer some portions [i.e., those in red letters in some Bibles] of Scripture over others…). Calvinism formally believes in an actual transmission of grace in the elements, but contingent on the recipients faith (so the mouse eating a crumb of the bread doesn’t partake of the grace given by Christ’s flesh having been broken (past tense) on Calvary. Re: Calvin’s interpretation, the criticism is more poignant when pointed at the constructed rule (i.e., that which Christ himself instituted is a sacrament), rather than the way he applied it.

“I also thought that Calvin adhered to Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide… I have yet to find in Scripture where Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are taught… Someone would have to have the right interpretation of Scripture, no?”

Calvinists do, of course, adhere to these two doctrines, though I understand the traditional Calvinist belief to be that Scripture must not only tolerate, but actually authorize a given doctrine or practice (I have seen this point hotly disputed in Reformed churches – it’s a hard rule to apply even if you buy it), and so differ from Lutheranism and others. Also, Calvinism differs from others in its application of sola fida (a ready example is the different view from Arminians, who are somewhat similar to Catholics in their view of faith-works justification). Does someone have to have the right interpretation? No. The Calvinist view is that all churches contain some admixture of error, some more and some less, but that the Scriptures are sufficiently clear to lead unto salvation (so the admixture of error is on points that won’t get you to hell). Don’t press me on this – it stinks.

“…He couldn't base his teaching on Predestination on St. Augustine alone without parsing the portions that did not fit into his worldview. Anyhow, with Sola Scriptura as a foundation… why would it be necessary for him to even use the Catholic Church's deposit of faith in part to support his view?”

In short, my hunch is that Calvin appealed to the fathers to validate his interpretation of Scriptures, but since they (like everything but Scripture) are fallible, he would have been free to “develop” Augustinian predestination views to what he felt were their (the views’) natural conclusion. The fathers were used as evidence and not as a mandatory (binding) authority (only Scripture is binding).

“Also, he would be basing his studies off of the Protestant Bible, no? Wouldn't that lack seven books… Can Sola Scriptura be valid for a Bible that lacks part of the canon? For Sola Scriptura to be consistent, shouldn't all creeds, all Christian traditions, all sacred images, even the Cross, be done away with?” …Creeds neither add, nor take away from the Scriptures, so why have them?”

As Calvinists use rational judgment to decide that the sovereignty of God’s predestinated will as reflected in Romans 9 should be read over the text of James 2:24, they are using rational judgment to decide that the Palestinian Codex and the strongly leaned-upon prefatory words of Jerome’s Vulgate are evidence enough to justify the use of the Palestinian canon for O.T. purposes (since there is no dispute on N.T. canon, I won’t go there). Any deficiency in this view of canon is no stronger than the deficiency exposed by the inquest into whether or not sola scriptura is extra-biblical (though, there too Protestants have verses that assure them that their judgment is ultimately correct). Creeds and traditions didn’t have to be done away with, but Reformed to fit the new view that all must be subject to the ultimate judgment of Scripture. Images is another story, and many were, of course, defaced and removed in the sweep of the Reformation. Creeds and confessions are retained because they articulate a prevailing view within a body, and allow for unity within that body.

“Following Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide to their logical ends creates Protestant Evangelism, rampant relativism, and perpetual schism, no?”

No, if you follow Calvin’s teachings, which is why Calvinists are critical of these other problems. Calvin was no dummy. He insisted that all must submit their personal judgment to that of their church governance so long as 1) the church preached the Scriptures, and 2) attended to the sacraments. As long as one agreed on what the Scriptures and Sacraments were going into the deal, one was to remain where they were under their churches authority – they reformed X amount, but were to have no more than that. Indeed, Calvin spoke of schismaticism as damnable!

Now re: Repeating Testaments:

“…one crosses it parallel to the horizon (His Sacred arms outstretched…”

(Side note: the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the cross had no cross-member, that Christ was only crucified on a vertical structure!)

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

I'm no Catholic apologist either. I wasn't expecting you to give me an apologists answer to every question. I won't press any further either. I definitely don't think that Calvin was an idiot. In fact, out of all Protestant religions, from what I know, I believe that Calvinism is the most well thought out. I think that most people would agree with me. Whereas (from what I've read) Luther was very passionate, Calvin was very thoughtful and made sure he had all of his ducks in a row, so to speak. But, what do I know?

About the Jehovah's Witnesses. I guess they have their opinions and beliefs, just like us all. I wonder how they have come to understand that Our Lord was crucified on a pole? Well, it doesn't really matter, I guess.

Anyway, thanks for the responses. I learned something.

Jim said...

Thos,

Of some interest might be that the RC catechism seems to me to understand "catholic" and "communion of saints" in ways ruled out by McGiffert's points 1 & 2 in your post, i.e., [1] "which makes it refer to the holy church universal, is therefore historically incorrect" and [2] "There is no sign that the article was intended to express the communion or fellowship of believers with each other, or that it was meant as a closer definition of the word "church," as we so commonly interpret it to-day."

In Part I, article 8, III dealing with the creed, the catechism asks "What does 'catholic' mean?"

It answers: "The word 'catholic' means 'universal' or 'in keeping with the whole.' The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. ... The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost. . . . Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race ..."

I ellipse only for brevity. I assume that you have a copy of the Catechism and can read the entire passage.

Now, to be sure, in the next sections dealing with "Each particular Church is 'catholic," the catechism provides that "Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome . . ."

But note that that is not in the section dealing with the definition of "catholic."

Entirely absent is McGiffert's claim that that "catholic" in the creed is simply the proper name for the Roman Catholic church. So the catechism instructs Roman Catholics to confess their belief in the "Catholic" church because of its universality of membership and mission -- which McGiffert says is not the original intention of those who added the text to the creed.

So, too, the catechism seems to affirm precisely what McGiffert denies regarding the communion of saints.

First, in section 946, the catechism introduces its discussion with this: "After confessing 'the holy catholic Church,' the Apostels' Creed adds, 'the communion of saints.' In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: 'What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints.?' The communion of saints is the Church."

McGiffert of course denies that claim entirely.

Further, the catechism states in paragram 948 that "The term 'communion of saints' therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)' and 'among holy persons (sancti).'"

Paragraphs 949 through 953 discuss "communion in spiritual goods," including several that discuss the communion or fellowship that believers have with one another. Specifically, in 952, "Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else." and Paragraph 953, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

To be sure, the next part then discusses the "communion of the church of heaven and earth." But it seems to me that if words must be understood strictly in accord with "original intent," and if McGiffert's historical claims are correct, then your post indicts not only Protestant churches for playing with the creed, but indicts the Roman Catholic church as well as represented in its official catechism.

Joseph said...

Jim,

First, might I suggest reading the Catechism objectively without trying to find something to refute? You seem to be reading it, not prayerfully in an attempt to understand or learn anything, but as an adversary, attempting to find snippets of information that fit your perspective. That is how many Protestants are approaching the Early Fathers today and that is why they cannot understand them fully.

Second, the Church is called "Catholic", not "Roman Catholic". Roman Catholic was a name given to it by the Anglicans. It is a Protestant nickname that has stuck. The Church does not refer to Herself as Roman Catholic. Try reading the entire Catechism with these two things in mind and see if you come to different conclusions.

I'm being sincere and not sarcastic.

Joseph said...

Jim,

Also, take into account the differences in definitions between the Protestant religions and the Catholic Church. That may help you understand the Catechism a bit more as well.

Jim said...

Hi Joseph,

I'm not trying to refute anything in the Catechism -- and I mean that in an entirely sincere way as well. If anything, I'm favorably disposed. I purchased the catechism soon after it was published, and have been edified and challenged by much of what it teaches.

The single, narrow point I seek to raise for Thos regards the consistency of what the Catechism seems to me plainly to teach with what McGiffert teaches is the "original intent" of the word/phrase we're discussing in the creed ("catholic" and "the communion of saints," respectively).

At the end of his post, Thos asks, "Assuming Prof. McGiffert is right, was the reformation right to commandeer the meaning of credal language to new uses? Why do it?"

On what I believe is a fair reading of the catechism, and assuming the accuracy of McGiffert's historical claims, then the catechism deploys "catholic" and "the communion of saints" in "new ways," as well -- new with respect to what McGiffert says were their original meanings.

While that might be an issue for a person who believes that modern use of ancient texts must rigorously comport to the original intent of those who wrote them (or who added the words), I wouldn't think it's much of a problem for Catholics, because, as I understand it, Catholics understand that their doctrines can evolve and develop organically from, as it were, the seed form found in the ancients. So that the tree does not look like the seed is not a problem for Catholics, since the growth is of a single, continuous process.

But "original intent" views of construing texts rule out definitional development, however those development's occur. The entire point of an originalist hermeneutic, as I understand it, is to tie textual interpretation to what the author originally intended to write, and so it disciplines the reader to seek the authorial understanding.

And, in all honesty, I have no desire to provide a tendentious reading of the passages I quoted from the Catechism. I freely concede that I have much to learn about the catechism. I believe that the passages I quoted and pointed in the catechism to regarding "catholic" and the "communion of saints" are plainly inconsistent with McGiffert's claims about the original understanding of those texts in the creed.

If you think that the catechism's teaching is entirely consistent with McGiffert's conclusions, then I'm more than willing to listen.

Finally, I understand that Roman Catholics call their church "Catholic." I sought to provide no disrespect by calling her the "Roman Catholic church." I simply mean to designate those catholic churches that are in full communion with the bishop of Rome, given that part of the discussion pertains to Orthodox and Protestant affirmations that they are catholic churches, too, albeit, not catholic churches in full communion with the bishop of Rome.

Thos said...

Jim,

I’m not sure that I entirely follow.

Re: CHURCH, I took McGiffert as saying that it refers to a definite entity – (as I put it in my post), “a belief in a particular institution”, such that the “common Protestant interpretation” of referring to “holy church universal” is historically inaccurate.

Keeping in mind that he was criticizing the “common Protestant” notion of “holy church universal”, even if the Catholic church uses “holy church universal” in its articulation of its own meaning of the CHURCH clause, your critique would not strictly follow. You said, “Entirely absent is McGiffert's claim that that "catholic" in the creed is simply the proper name for the Roman Catholic church.” That is not my understanding of McGiffert’s claim – he said that the insertion of catholic to holy church was to refer to a particular institution. He did not say that the “original intent” was to equate the term to “Roman Catholic Church” as you said, but rather to equate the term to a particular (i.e., “visible”) institution. It seemed clear to me in reading his book on Google Books (it was around pages 30 and 200) that he was merely juxtaposing the original intent view that the church was a particular institution with the common Protestant view that it is an invisible universal church.

Your exposition on the creed focused on their definition of “catholic” alone. I agree that in their Catechism they use the term to mean much more than a simple assertion of being a particular institution. But the Catechism is not a strict exposition on the Creed (I will get into that more below). Consider this “IN BRIEF” entry:

“870 "The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, . . . subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines"(LG 8).”

I believe these “visible confines” are still a part of the Catholic understanding when they recite the CHURCH clause of the Creed. That “catholic” was inserted to set apart visible from purely mystical does not strictly mean that the Catholics are inconsistent by giving it a fuller (and not inconsistent) definition in their Catechism.

Re; COMMUNION, McGiffert says it could be either (or both) of: participation in sacred things (primarily the communion itself), and communion with departed saints.

You quoted the Catholic Catechism, “The term 'communion of saints' therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)' and 'among holy persons (sancti).'"”

I do not see these in conflict. Rather, I see them in conformity with one another, so long as the sancti includes those departed.

Here is the Catholic Cathechism’s helpful (since I don’t have time to re-read these whole chapters now, unfortunately) IN BRIEF on this portion:

“960 The Church is a "communion of saints": this expression refers first to the "holy things" (sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which "the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about" (LG 3). [This tracks with McGiffert’s description of the first possible meaning of the COMMUNION clause.]

“961 The term "communion of saints" refers also to the communion of "holy persons" (sancti) in Christ who "died for all," so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.

“962 "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI, CPG # 30).” [This tracks very closely with McGiffert’s language of the clause being an inclusion of the departed along with the living].

McGiffert does say there is no sign that the article was intended to express communion with each other, or that it was a closer definition of church. Re: his former claim, though, his qualifications make clear to me that he finds improper the interpretation holing some invisible communion of believers. Rather, the notion was originally in a sacramental communion (hence his discussion of the positioning of the word sanctorum). He also finds improper the Lutheran interpretation that transforms (in his opinion) communion to congregatio. Re: his latter claim I agree that he did not think the COMMUNION clause was originally meant as a qualification of the CHURCH clause.

I saw when I was writing the post that the Catholics too use it as a qualification of CHURCH, but that is not (like my church’s use) their exclusive use of it. I don’t believe the Catholic Church’s Catechism was written to be a strict articulation of the Creed. I think, rather, they used the Creed to provide an overarching framework (as they did with the portion that uses the Lord’s Prayer as a framework). So, that they give some kind of richer discussion under the heading of CATHOLIC or COMMUNION, it does not follow that they are not being true to the original intent of the Creed when they recite it before baptisms. If they had abandoned both of the two possibilities McGiffert noted, I would agree with you that they were not holding to the original intent. But I believe it’s clear even from their Catechism that they believe both in the notion of sacramental participation and communion, AND communion with all the saints, dead and alive.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Jim,

I'm sure you didn't mean any disrespect by calling the Catholic Church "Roman". I even do it sometimes when I'm having conversations with my Protestant friends. I was merely trying to point out that the language in the Catechism, when talking about the Catholic Church, is referring only to the Catholic Church that is mistakingly called "Roman". It makes it difficult to understand Catholic writing when the word "Roman" gets in the way. Catholic with a capital "C" denotes the actual Church; spelled with a lower case "c" it denotes an attribute. I'll get to that later.

I think Thos answered you well enough. The only thing I have to add is below:

If you read Section II, Chapter III, Article IX in its entirety you should be able to notice that the word "Church", first of all, is used to describe the Catholic Church. That first must be understood before anything else in this section can be.

Now, the attribute of "catholic".

750 To believe that the Church is "holy" and "catholic," and that she is "one" and "apostolic" (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Apostles' Creed we profess "one Holy Church" (Credo . . . Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God's goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.

811 "This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

812 Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the "Church herself, with her marvelous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission."

The attribute "catholic" cannot be separated from the attributes "one", "holy", and apostolic"; especially "apostolic". What does that mean? Without recognized apostolic succession, a community is not a "church" in this context and is not "catholic" because it does not have the "apostolic" attribute and due to its separation from the Church, it does not have the "one" attribute either. Then are the Eastern Orthodox churches "catholic"? They can be called "churches" because they do have recognized apostolic succession but they are not "one" because they are not in communion with the Successor of St. Peter. This makes them defective and, because the attribute "catholic" implies unity, I don't think the it can apply to even the Orthodox.

However, we are all united as baptized Christians and we are to work towards Catholic unity. The Orthodox are a bit closer to that unity than are the Protestants because they maintain apostolic succession and the Sacraments.

Thos said...

Real quick, sticking with "original intent" behind "catholic" in "holy catholic church" of the creed, at least as McGiffert indicates, the term could be used equally well by [Roman] Catholics as by Orthodox. I'm not arguing the validity of the Catechism's exposition on the fullness of the term holy catholic church. Rather, I see that the Orthodox and the Catholics can equally state "I believe in... the holy catholic church", each equally meaning nothing less than what was originally meant by the term (i.e., a visible actual organization, and not a notional invisible one). Where there are differences between the two churches, they are not expressed in the Apostles' Creed. Put another way, the Creed is not the place to go to debate the differences between the two (I mean ecclesiology here, not filioque, of course!).

Obviously, by the Catechism's nature, it gives the Catholic Church's full definition of church in these parts. That doesn't mean that everyone reciting the Creed should believe these (holy catholic church) simple words implicitly contain that full meaning - just that it indicates a particular institution.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

You are right. From the Orthodox perspective, they can recite the Nicene Creed based on the original meaning and intent of the words. How I explained the view of the Orthodox from the Catholic perspective is how the Orthodox view the Catholic Church from their perspective.

They are definitely "apostolic", in their eyes they are the "one" true Church, and therefore they view themselves as "catholic" (and obviously "holy"). I wasn't trying to show that they cannot recite the creed in good faith. They can in their perspective, just like Catholics can in ours. The thread ended up in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, which is the only reason why the "four marks of the Church" were discussed from a Catholic perspective.

So, back to the discussion. I assume that your conclusion is that only the Orthodox and Catholic Churches can recite the creed being faithful to the original intent of its authors? Or that Protestant communities can only recite it after subjugating the original intent of the authors to their own interpretation?

Thos said...

Joseph,

I understand you. My response was to make clear that I wasn't claiming more than necessary about the "original intent" of the creed and its implications. You ended, "I assume that your conclusion is that only the Orthodox and Catholic Churches can recite the creed being faithful to the original intent of its authors? Or that Protestant communities can only recite it after subjugating the original intent of the authors to their own interpretation?" That's about right, me thinks, and I don't want to claim any more than this. My discontent with my church's use (to be specific) is not that we do "more" with the original meaning of the language, but we use a meaning altogether different. If the Catholics and the Orthodox seek to enrich the meaning of the original creed, I think that's okay, but they have to (and I think do) use the terms of the creed first with the original meaning in mind.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Jim said...

Hi Thos,

Let me posit just a few overall points:

[1] As someone who has taught statutory interpretation and constitutional law, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what you meant by invoking "original intent." To be sure, I'm a textualist rather than an originalist, but I believe I understand what originalism is, and think through an argument based on originalist premises.

That being said, I know of no theory of originalism that embraces what it seemed to me that you argued in your comment: that as long as the "original" meaning of the text is understood, then the reading of a text may be permissibly freighted with new meanings.

Originalism as a hermeneutical theory was developed precisely to avoid readings contrary to the original intention of a text and readings beyond the original intention of the authors. After all, originalism spread particularly in response to the Court finding non-textual rights (such as privacy/abortion) in the Fourteenth Amendment, i.e., rights "beyond" that the amendment's authors could not have intended.

[2] "I think, rather, they used the Creed to provide an overarching framework (as they did with the portion that uses the Lord’s Prayer as a framework). So, that they give some kind of richer discussion under the heading of CATHOLIC or COMMUNION, it does not follow that they are not being true to the original intent of the Creed when they recite it before baptisms."

I agree with you respecting all of the other sections of the catechism that discuss catholicism (and which you quoted).

But the section of the catechism from which I quoted expressly dealt with the "definition" of "catholic."

Allowing the words their meaning, that's the section in the catechism that deal with the "definition" of catholic, the other sections that you quoted dealt with implications of being catholic. And since the definition of "catholic" is specifically what you posted on, specifically what you quoted McGiffert on, I do think it's quite pertinent to your post that the Cathechism's definition of "catholic" manifestly does not square with McGiffert's "originalist" definitions.

[3] McGiffert's argument is that for a church to be "catholic" it must be in communion with Rome. I quote from page 32:

“The adjective ‘catholic’ in the article on the church appears in the creed as early as the fourth century and was very common from the fifth century on. The addition of the word was very natural, as the phrase ‘Holy catholic church” was a current phrase. At the time when it was inserted in the creed it had already acquired an EXCLUSIVE MEANING and it was that meaning therefore which attached to it in the creed; belief being expressed NOT IN THE HOLY CHURCH UNIVERSAL, but in the particular institution which was known as the Catholic Church and was distinguished from all schismatic and heretical bodies, the orthodox catholic church WHICH WAS IN COMMUNION WITH THE CHURCH OF ROME” (p. 32, emphasis added).

Again, giving McGiffert's claim what I believe is their natural reading, in order to be "catholic" a church must be "in communion with the church of Rome." Because Orthodox churches are not in communion with Rome, if McGiffert's historical claims are correct, then Orthodox churches cannot recite the creed in a way consistent with its orignal meaning thinking that it includes their churches.

[4] Finally, we might note that McGiffert's conclusions about what "catholic" means rules out understanding the word to mean the "universal church." So McGiffert rules out a definition that the Catechism experssly affirms as a "definition" of the word. Again, I know of no theory of originalism that holds that a reader is reading a text consistent with its original intent while imputing definitions to the words that the authors did not mean.

“This true Christian church being a particular visible organized institution, distinguishable from other institutions claiming the name of Christian and more or less similar to it in character, the phrase [catholic church] acquired the force of a MERE TITLE OR PROPER NAME, and so might be used, as it was after the third century, WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT OF THE ORIGINAL MEANING OF THE WORD CATHOLIC. . . . [T]here is no reason to think that the word ‘catholic’ was added to the creed in order to express a belief in the universality of the church, or in any other of its attributes, but simply as a part of the common and familiar name by which the church was known. Nothing more was meant by [holy catholic church] than by [holy church] alone. To read into the word [catholic] in the creed there a special meaning of its own is not historically justified. It is simply part of a title, just as to-day “The Catholic Church” is the popular title of the Roman communion” (199-200).

[5] A final note. Recall McGiffert writes that "Nothing more was meant by [holy catholic church] than by [holy church] alone."

This is relevant to your original post, Thos, because here McGiffert essentially says that the original intention of adding "catholic" to the creed was redundancy -- that "holy catholic church" means nothing more than "holy church" by itself.

So the original intention of this affirmation in the Creed, if McGiffert is correct, intentionally violated the interpretive canon that motivated your post in the first place.

[6] On "communion of saints." The only new point (other than repeating that "originalist readings" cannot add definitions to original definitions) is that the catechism expressly affirms that non-Roman Catholic Christians are in communion, albeit imperfect communion, with the Catholic church.

Given the absence of visible unity, I don't know how to take that except to understand that there is some invisible ("mystical" in the catechism) communion between all Christians.

Gil Garza said...

When referring to "the Orthodox" one must be clear about terms.

The Assyrian Church of the East refers to herself as "Orthodox" and recites the Creed.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches (6 independent Sees) also refer to themselves as "Orthodox" and recite the Creed.

Additionally, there are Orthodox Churches with canonically irregular (from the view of Constantinople) status which have impaired communion with the rest of Orthodoxy. These Churches also refer to themselves as "Orthodox" and recite the Creed.

Obviously, all of these Churches have preserved elements of the apostolic tradition. The very existence of these sister Churches which do not share communion with one another AND which all claim the Catholic mantle in some way serves to beg the question.

Which one of these Churches is Catholic? Which (if any) is the Catholic Church referred to in the Creed? Do any of these Churches fully conform to the ancient criteria to be called Catholic?

Thos said...

Prof. Jim,

You are a scholar, and I a mere over-aged student. I'm afraid I've allowed myself to get derailed with the recent comments. You raise criticisms of the Catholic definition of a credal word in their catechism which was originally inserted (says McGiffert) to establish (or further) a different meaning. Your criticism is strong, and not easily met. Who am I to argue? Defending the Catholic Catechism is neither my place nor within my abilities (particularly since I am "uncatechized").

But, even if this is granted, it does not come at the expense of the point I am trying to make about my church's use of the creed. To further this point, I will need to dabble into waters that look like I'm defending the Catholic use, but I don't mean to do that. Please bear with me.

I'm no advocate, and am bad with syllogisms, rhetoric, and the like, but let me take a stab at it to save us all time. If I've left a gaping hole, it'll be easy to spot and to discuss. With my original post, I think this was set out (and I've switched Protestantism to PCA to stay within my lane of competency):

- The PCA believes the Creed, Cr, is an accurate expression of Truth.

- The PCA applies meaning R (Reformation) to Cr.

- McGiffert sees the Cr as originally having meaning M.

- The PCA recites Cr to show ties to the ancient church.

- If Cr actually meant M in the ancient church, and PCA recites it as meaning R, the PCA is making a disingenuous expression of a tie to the ancient church.

This led me to my view that we shouldn't recite it if we don't mean what it has been taken to mean since its origin. It was for this purpose that I looked to original intent (to find out what it was taken to mean at its origin). If I am wrong that we recite it to show a tie to the ancient church, then the rest of my analysis is irrelevant.

But we do also (often) recite other expressions of what we believe to be the truth. This analogy could be helpful. We recite Q&A's from our (Westminster) Longer Catechism, or from the Heidelberg Catechism. I believe we hold our Confession and Catechisms to mean what they meant originally (original intent). So when an elder decides whether he needs to admit that he takes an "exception" to a point of doctrine, he does not decide if he can stretch the words of the Confession to fit his view, but rather measures his view against what the words have always meant. Original intent seems to be the norm.

It's possible that the PCA could use credal and confessional words with an updated meaning. When the denomination formed, it adopted the WCOF almost whole (just two deletions). At that point, I presume it (or any new denomination) could state in its constitution, "we adopt the WCOF and take the word "sabbath" [to mean something else than it meant originally]."

Likewise, we could do that with the Creed, so that my problem is only a problem if our aim is to give the appearance of being tied to the ancient church.

I believe that in prohibiting any later or "fuller" meaning to the words of the creed than was meant when the words were inserted (strict original intent, which I'm all for), you are treating the creed as if it is a binding authoritative text (like, say, the Bible or our Constitution). If it had that control, I'd agree fully. If I KNEW Paul originally meant that women-wear-hats rule to be in effect throughout all cultures and times, I would say no church has the power to alter his (or, rather, the Holy Spirit's) fundamental, binding authority in writing Scripture. But the Creed serves a different purpose than a Constitution. By its nature it is very short, just short enough to prevent any heretic from secreting his way into the Church.

The Catholic Magisterium, it would seem, claims for itself the plenary power to develop (organically?) their doctrines day in and day out. In that sense, it seems like a strict application of the legal notion of original intent to their use of the creed, or to their articulation of the creed in their catechism, would be a bit off. Congress and the President cannot by statute change the meaning of the Suspension clause. They have to go through the amendment process or live within the original meaning of the document (at least that is your and my hope!). Do you see the different nature of the Creed and the Constitution as having some bearing on the application of "original intent" notions?

The purpose behind the insertion of the word catholic (to show a particular institution over a notional one) does not forbid the plain meaning of the word. Catholic does mean what the Catholic Catechism states - the "holic" bit is rooted with holistic, or whole, or universal... Would you agree that they can define the word in an etymologically correct way while simultaneously holding to the meaning (i.e., motivation) of the original intent of its assertion?

Your thoughts were much better formed than my own, and I regret that I don't have the discipline or brainpower to give to this discussion that you have display. Thank you.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.