Sunday, February 17, 2008

I wrote this on Catholicity Question's second post today, and thought enough of it to post here:

"[This follows from a conversation about whether Protestants would do well to look back to the first generation of the Church for lessons on Truth.] It strikes me that adhering to paleo-orthodoxy would be far more logically consistent for those of our stripe than is adhering to Reformed "fathers". Again, I see many problems with paleo-orthodoxy, but it still makes more sense than having Luther's or Calvin's works on your shelf next to scripture, and using [those] (effectively, even if you don't admit it) as the proper, authentic articulat[ion] of biblical systematic theology. The logical conclusion of asserting that the church fell into near-total apostasy leading up to the Reformation is, in my opinion, that the church is never trustworthy whenever viewed removed from it's primitive days. *Hence, primitivism seems more logical than fallible developmentalism.*"

I guess I like that little term that popped into my head, "fallible developmentalism" (maybe it's not even my term... who knows...). I suppose some prudent Reformational students will dog on me that I fail to understand the real essence of the Reformation. They're quite possibly right. But to my simple understanding, you either fully trust the Spirit's hand in doctrinal development, or you trust His involvement somewhat less than fully. If there is no reliable litmus test of what is "Spirit Approved", then primitivism is a safer haven.

2 comments:

David Kaiser said...

The Tradition of Ever-Virgin

In my spiritual journey I have come to the point where I have decided to sit down and read the Catholic Catechism, since the authors of Is the Reformation Over? had recommended it to Protestants as an eye opening read to find how much we can agree with it. I purposely took a blue highlighter to mark all the parts I would have problems with. As the authors of Is the Reformation Over stated there was much more that I could agree with than disagree. As predicted, I did highlight items about the papacy and about Mary but not much else. Before reading the Catholic Catechism, I finished reading The Evangelical and Tradition and the author has lead me to the point that as an early church revivalist like myself, besides the ante-Nicene era, I should also view the Classical Patristic era as also formative for the church’s doctrinal development. So looking at the blue highlighted passages in the CCC, I decided it is time to look at what the Classical Church Fathers had to say about Mary. To help me in this quest I am reading the work by Luigi Cambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church. At this point in my journey I could remove myself from my Protestant mind-set and try to keep an open mind to what Cambero is saying.

My Protestant side does an “Amen” to some of Cambero’s early introductory remarks.

“In the early church the church did not know any mariological doctrine separated from christological doctrine. Mary’s role is presented as being strictly tied to the person of her son.” [And that is true of early church art, it never pictured Mary other than holding the Christ babe. – my comments]

“Consequently, as the Sacred Scripture makes only rear and brief statements about the mother of Jesus, the same thing happens in Christian writings of the post-canonical period.”

“The name of Mary rarely appears in the writings of the early apostolic fathers.”

Much of how the early church looked at Mary I could as a Protestant have no problems with. Even the full implications of the theology of creation’s recapitulation in the Eve/Mary parallel can be looked at as a development of the Apostle Paul’s discussion of the Second Adam in Romans. As antitype, Mary is “the Mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20)– those renewed in the new creation of Christ.

One thought that struck home to me as Cambero was discussing the Protoevangelium of James. The main purpose of this fictional, poorly historically and culturally authenticated, apocryphal work of the second century was to promote the doctrine of perpetual virginity. Cambero does not argue this, but two thoughts came to mind on this idea of perpetual virginity.

(1) No historical document is found that the church leadership rose up against this seemingly docietic heresy in the second century or later. The church was quick to denounce any doctrine that was against scripture or tradition. Heresy hunting was a major emphasis in this second and third century period. But nothing was every written to denounce the idea of that perpetual virginity was a bad docietic idea. Maybe because it was an accepted part of church tradition?
(2) Why would the church purposely shoot itself in the foot by promoting perpetual virginity, which they began to do in the following centuries, when they are in battle against docietism. You would think that would be one questionable tradition that you would want to let quietly die, to not give any ammunition to the other side. Unless it was not a questionable tradition and it was a historical truth that was held by the church with great dearness and they were willing to sacrifice some credibility in their argument to be faithful to the faith once delivered.

While not convinced either way, I continue the quest.

Thos said...

Dear David,

I am very thankful that you came across my old post and took the time to share yout thoughts. I've been away from blogging while I finish up a particularly busy semester and attempt to do some careful discering about Catholicism via some other means. But I've been blessed by your comment.

I'm not sure if you saw any of the posts I did about Mary (at various times and moods of my own journey). I have also read Gambero's work, and found it most intruiging.

I've posted some of my thoughts on that book here, and here.

I would like to hear more about why you think that Mary's perpetual virginity would have been a shot in the Church's foot as it attempted to battle docetiesm (do you mean docetism?). I think the idea is to stress the supernatural (Divine) origin of Christ.

I would like to hear how you see yourself going about completing your quest -- becoming convinced one way or another. Put another way, what criterion do you plan to use to determine whether Catholisim is true?

Peace in Christ,
Tom