Sunday, August 24, 2008

Authority, Authority, Authority, Part III

Mr. Merrick relieving Capt. Queeg, The Caine Mutiny (1954)

In my previous two posts, here and here, I discussed two difficulties I have with the confessional Reformed view of sola Scriptura: that it inherently requires subjective interpretation of Scripture, and that it is uses post hoc rationalizations in defense of its tenets about the Bible. In this post I will address a third problem, more to the root of the Reformation. While I put it third, I believe the thoughts in this post have been the most influential to me as I have reflected on the Protest, on Catholicism and on Orthodoxy.

3) Reformational ecclesial acts require authority from God, the "Principle".

Even if there is a principled distinction between the Biblicist and the confessional Reformed positions, and even if the reformational tenets about the Bible do not require post hoc rationalizations, the confessional Reformed system still seems deficient for want of proper authority. In other words, I am not certain that the confessional Reformed system has God’s authority to be at all.

I cannot overstate how fundamental to a discussion of the Reformation is our understanding of Authority. Caveat: I have been schooled by civilian seafarers, by military men, and most recently by professors of law, all of whom heavily stress matters of authority. Therefore, the possibility does not escape me that I might have an inflated view of authority in any system -- I pray that I remain open to correction and truth. However, I do believe that the principles of authority are universally true; because we see them reflected in places like the (secular) law does not mean that they derive from the (secular) law.

Black's Law Dictionary defines authority as "The right or permission to act legally on another's behalf...; the power delegated by a principal to an agent". At law, then, when I act on another’s account, I must have authority in order for that action to be valid. This is the purpose of the “power of attorney”; it is a legal document which authorizes another to act on one’s own account. If someone seeks to act in my name by writing a check from my bank account, but they do not have my authority, their conduct is invalid. If they do have my authority, then I have to honor the check they wrote, even if I disagree with their decision to write it. In the law’s eyes, it is as if I wrote the check myself.

Likewise, when we perform acts as the Christian Church, unless we believe these acts flow from our individual capacities, we need authority from God (because we act as agents of His capacity). Could anyone act in God’s name without authority? Could someone baptize their children in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in the bathtub one quiet afternoon because they want to do so? I believe that would be analogous to someone writing a check on my account without my proper authority, without a power of attorney.

The Protestant, then, must maintain that his acts are authorized by God based on the authority to act that God granted through the Bible itself. He must maintain that Luther and his followers were authorized to reject the authorities of their time, and to establish their own authorities, based on the Bible’s authority (for the sake of the Gospel).

But does the Bible authorize us to overthrow our authorities (which we know are all established by God, be they good or bad (Rom. 13:1)) and set up our own authorities? It seems, rather, that we are to submit to authorities (Rom. 13:1-5, Titus 3:1), and to pray for their righteousness (1 Tim. 2:1-3). God the Son did not usurp the Jewish authorities of His earthly time on account of their being in doctrinal or practical error, but He articulated the authority He had been given to teach the New Covenant ("All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me..." (Matt. 28:18b)). He delegates or transmits that authority to his Apostles ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (id., v. 19-20b; cf. 2 Cor. 10:7-8, 13:10, 1 Thes. 4:1-2)).

This is a befuddling problem for us in reformational churches. The Apostles were given authority for acts such as conducting baptisms immediately by Christ (who Himself said He had authority from the Father). What happened to that authority? We certainly can agree that it did not die with the Apostles, or else there would be no authorized baptisms after the first century, upon John's death. Therefore, either the authority was given to all, or to a finite group of Christians. But it is obvious that it was not given to all, because I am not authorized to baptize anyone (see WCOF ch. XXVII, sec. 4)).

So the Apostles must have passed on their own delegated authority from Christ to a finite group of individuals within the early Christian community. Who were they? I tend to think Timothy was one, for Paul tells us that Timothy received the "gift of God" through Paul's laying on of hands (2 Tim. 1:6). Titus was, as well, who had “all authority” to speak, exhort, and reprove (Titus 2:15). So we know there was some delegation or transmission of authority from the Apostles on.

Clement was one also, and he gave an interesting discussion of authority matching what I have said above:

The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labors], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe (Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 42).
The Clementine (and Catholic) derivative authority scheme for the Church thus looks like this: God > His Son > the Eleven (Apostles) > those they appointed subsequently. Apart from this, no act is properly authorized, be it discipling the nations, baptizing, etc. But the Reformational derivative authority scheme for the Church is like this: God > His Son > the Eleven > those they appointed until they fell into some degree of apostasy, and then to an educated disciple approved by the faithful. Some problems I can see with that scheme are: 1) that it requires a reliable body to articulate when the appointees of the Apostles (who had real authority from Heaven) fell into the requisite degree of apostasy; 2) that its rule allowing for self-assumption of authority is not found anywhere in Scripture, but arguably the opposite rule is (see supra); 3) that it places the authority to make new authorities in the subjective hands of the faithful, and 4) that it is indistinguishable in structural form from the various Christological, Trinitarian, and other heresies of the early Church.

I mean no disrespect or challenge to my elders (teaching or ruling) with this post, but mean the inquiry in a more academic manner. I believe my pastor is devoted to God, and that God uses him for His glory. But I must ask these questions because my conscience compels me to be assured that I am properly submitted to the proper authorities of His Church.

51 comments:

Kim said...

I've also had these thoughts running through my head about authority, albeit in a simpler sense. I appreciate you hashing this out, Thos. So helpful of you to do this.

liturgy said...

Greetings Thos & Kim

1)"Could someone baptize their children in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in the bathtub one quiet afternoon because they want to do so? I believe that would be analogous to someone writing a check on my account without my proper authority, without a power of attorney."
Under (Roman Catholic) sacramental theology - such a baptism would be valid.

2) "The Clementine (and Catholic) derivative authority scheme for the Church thus looks like this: God > His Son > the Eleven (Apostles) > those they appointed subsequently. Apart from this, no act is properly authorized"
St Paul, then, who put a lot of energy into arguing that he too was an apostle, would not fit in to this (too) tidy scheme.

Could either of you clarify/explain more your thinking on these?

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Bosco,

1) I believe it is erroneous to say that "Under (Roman Catholic) sacramental theology - [a parent's quiet afternoon bathtub baptism (because they want to)] would be valid."

The Catholics permit, as well as I understand it, for baptism to be conducted by an "extraordinary minister" on the ocassion of "necessity". This is the case, and perhaps is only the case, when an unbaptized person (often an infant) is at risk of immediate death, and there is no time to bring in a bishop or priest. But the key to my previous two sentences vis-a-vis authority to baptize is that the "Catholics permit". I believe the Catholic Church would say that it has the authority to permit it, and the authority to set the conditions (i.e., how "necessary" it must be) of a layman's baptizing. I've been reading that Tertullian taught laymen could baptize on account of necessity, and he also says that priests may baptize if no bishop is available, "yet not without the bishop's authority."

My view is that authority is preserved even in the extraordinary baptism, even where a "heretic" or "infidel" conducts the baptism, because that person is baptizing with the Catholic Church. I just read that for this to be valid, that person (as the Church has authoritatively set the rules) must intend to perform what the Church performs when administering the sacrament. They must must have their church's intent as their own, and not act in an individual capacity. So there is no action apart from the Catholic Church's alleged authority.

2) If my scheme is too tidy, I would benefit from being shown in what way that is so. Paul can fit into my scheme in two ways. He was authorized immediately by Christ on the Damascus Road (so he's added to Apostles, to the 11). Also, he sought approval from Peter and the Apostles for his ministry, lest his teaching be in vain.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Gil Garza said...

The authorization of the teacher by the students requires the students (as you are demonstrating aptly) to be expert in all matters. This is akin to requiring the Christian kindergartener to get his degree so that he may approve of his teacher before he sits down to learn his ABC's. The disadvantages of such a system are obvious (in addition to turning Scripture on its ear).

In the Catholic Church, the teacher has authority given by Christ, through apostolic succession and communion with Peter rather than given by the students.

Thos said...

Gil,

Thank you for the classroom analogy. It supports my opinion that general principles on authority are inherently true (thus reflected as interwoven throughout our lives), and not something man-made that I am attempting to impose upon the Church. But I do need to remain careful about the latter possibility, especially if I apply more particular rules on authority, and not the general, widespread (jus cogens type) principles.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Thos said...

Gil,

Also, you've demonstrated yourself as adept at Catholic doctrine. Could you address with more force or accuracy than I was able, the comments that Bosco shared about lay baptisms and Paul's authority?

Peace in Christ,
Tom

liturgy said...

With respect, Tom, you are confusing “licit” and “valid” a distinction central to understanding (Roman Catholic) sacramental theology and discipline. Lefebvre's ordinations, for example, were regarded by the Vatican as valid but illicit. Your bathtub scenario would be regarded as valid but illicit – or inappropriate.

Your schema “God > His Son > the Eleven (Apostles) > those they appointed subsequently” does not fit Paul who again and again and again argues that he did not receive his apostleship from others (Gal 1:1,11,12 etc). He was not “added to the 11” as Luke (Paul’s disciple) has been quite explicit that only those who accompanied Jesus during his earthly life would be able to be added to that group.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Bosco,

I am not so sure I am confusing licit and valid. I was not invoking the Canon Laws of the Catholic Church, but stating general principles that I believed were at play. I hope Gil or another Catholic can offer a better perspective than mine. I seriously doubt the bathtub baptizer would have the requisite intent for either canon law or true validity. This all seems beside the point, at any rate, if I could establish that the Catholic Church sees itself as authorizing extraordinary lay ministers of baptism, as opposed to seeing that authorization is not needed to baptize. I don't believe I've established this yet, so fear not.

I used "the Eleven" in my scheme because I was dealing directly with the passage of the great commission, where Christ confers his authority on "the Eleven" to make disciples of all nations, baptizing, &c. I used it to tie that passage in with my paradigm of transmission or delegation of authority. Forget I said it though, if it's a hang-up. Let's say that it goes Father > Son > those appointed by the Son > those these appointees themselves later appoint to act for the Church. I think that says the same thing without using "the Eleven", our hang-up, and allows for Christ's immediate grant of authority to Paul on the Damascus Road (as I said in my previous post, in addition to noting that he later received validation from Peter et al.).

This turn of historical events validates the same general principle, that one cannot *assume* the authority to act for one's self, but must be granted the authority to act (as an agent) by the principle. I believe Paul was given this authority, and that if he had merely assumed it, he would have been acting without authority ('nulla auctoritas').

Finally, I'm not sure about Paul not being added to the 11. I understand that there is reasonable theological debate on this point, and 1 Cor 9:1 is invoked by the side that says he is a full-fledged Apostle ("Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?"). In my opinion, this text demonstrates Paul's own assertion that he had valid appointment from Christ.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Gil Garza said...

Baptism may be validly administered by anyone (even a non-Christian) provided that they observe the proper form AND have the intention of doing what the Church does. In order to have the proper intention it is not necessary to profess the Church's teaching regarding salvation only the firm purpose of doing what the Church does in baptism. Mormon baptisms, for example, are not considered valid by the Catholic Church because although they observe the proper form, valid intention is lacking.

St. Paul, as everybody knows, was sent by Christ to the Church after his conversion(Acts 9:6). His solo ministry apart from the Church was completely fruitless and the source of "complete confusion" (9:22) until he was set apart by the Holy Spirit and ordained by the laying on of hands (13:2-3). Paul's case demonstrates the proper relationship between the Church and her teachers.

Thos said...

Gil,

Please help me understand your interpretation of Acts 9:22. My read is that he was confounding the Jews once he started teaching the Gospel of Christ. That is, they could not refute his teaching with their view of the old covenant. I do not see where we learn that Paul's ministry was fruitless until his ordination in Acts 13.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Joseph said...

I believe Paul was given this authority, and that if he had merely assumed it, he would have been acting without authority ('nulla auctoritas').

Paul states this again and again and again.

liturgy said...

Greetings Tom

Gil is giving the correct official Roman Catholic understanding of baptism whilst yours in confused I’m afraid. The Roman Catholic church recognises what baptisms are valid and which ones are not. It would balk at your suggestion that it has authority to alter what has passed on to it, and that it can alter which baptisms are valid and which are not.
Clergy in many denominations are not recognised as validly ordained by the Roman Catholic church, but there is no question that the baptisms are valid.
Your image of a family baptising its own children, doing so in the name of the Trinity with water and not “playing” but with the intent of thereby baptising their children would be recognised as valid by the Roman Catholic church and any priest that gave them a second (unconditional) baptism would be committing a sacrilege.

The suggestion that Paul was ordained at Acts 13:3 goes completely against Paul’s understanding of himself as having received his apostleship directly from God through the Risen Christ. It would mean that Paul is not an apostle and is solely a bishop by having been ordained such by an apostle (who was the apostle that ordained Paul a bishop?) The laying on of hands is used in prayer for many situations, not solely ordination. To read Acts 13:3 as Paul’s ordination does IMO great damage to the understanding of Paul’s ministry.

An examination of the Episcopal lists of a diocese will help in understanding authority better. It is more about “bums on seats” than “hands on heads”.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Bosco,

Thank you for challenging me. I believe that I stated what Gil stated, that the Catholics requires a certain intent. I stated that even "infidels" can baptize validly, because I read that in the Catholic Encyclopedia. So when you tell me that non-Catholic clergy can validly baptize in the Catholic Church's eyes, you are not telling me anything new, and I fail to see how this corrects anything I said.

If I am correct, you are trying to point out that my claim that the Catholics can authorize this or that "valid" baptism is wrong. If so, let me assure you that that is not what I am saying. Sometimes a party can be authorized to do X of a series of choices, but X is the only thing he can *really* choose to do. Then when he does X, it was still done by his authority, though that's all there was to do. Think of the duty of care a medical doctor owes to you. He has been entrusted to treat you when you come in with a condition. He has the authority to diagnose your condition and prescribe the remedy. This does not mean that he has the authority to declare you have small pox when you have a broken leg. You rely on his acting under his authority as a doctor, but also rely on his conducting himself within the duty of care he owes to you. Likewise, if the Catholic claim is right that they are preserved from error in doctrine, then they can have the authority to define which baptisms are valid and which are invalid, and to set conditions of practice on who may and may not be a minister of baptism, and at the same time they may never go against the boundaries set by tradition, by what was always received, and most importantly, by what is truly right in God's eyes. It is false to say that they either act with (discretionary) authority, or they lack authority because there is only course to follow in this instance. They can be acting with authority, and authorizing, even where there is no other (discretionary) course.

If you can tell me where my understanding of the Catholic view differs from Gil's expression, I would appreciate that. Also, Gil, if you can tell me if I am in error in my understanding of the Catholic position, that would be great. Thank you!

Regarding the family in the bath, it is very hard to debate the intent of fictitious people in a hypothetical I constructed. I had a real example in mind, and it was a baptistic baptism of a young teen because the parent became convicted that the child's infant baptism had been invalid. But that's all beside the point. I think one can be devoid of any intent other than parroting what they read in the Bible ("baptize in the name of..."), having no idea what they are doing, or what is being done, and this would be a deficient intent. If not, the rule seems to exclude few or no baptisms where the trinitarian name is invoked. In other words, the form requirement would swallow the intent one.

I am genuinely confused over what you seek to assert about Paul. You said that seeing him as being ordained by the laying on of hands in Acts 13 "goes completely against Paul’s understanding of himself as having received his apostleship directly from God through the Risen Christ". Before, you said "He was not “added to the 11” as Luke (Paul’s disciple) has been quite explicit that only those who accompanied Jesus during his earthly life would be able to be added to that group." From the former (later in time) statement, I gather you believe he was a real Apostle, equal to the others, but not of the 11 (which seems to me to be a distinction without a difference). But I'm left thinking you mean to strongly show that he was not added later to the 11 by the 11, but received his authority immediately by Christ. I have stated twice that I believe that's what happened, but I don't see why we have to discount the significance of his later going to Peter and the apostles to have his ministry validated (and have the laying on of hands, which I assume they didn't do for the heck of it). Since I keep thinking I agree with you about his authority deriving immediately from Christ on the Damascus Road, but you rebutt, I must be missing something. Thanks for any clarification.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Gil Garza said...

Paul was successful only in throwing the Jews of Damascus into disorder and confusion as vs 22 indicates. He brought none to Christ. He bore no fruit. He is rescued from certain assassination by the Church. Barnabas was given the task of watching over Paul and keeping him out of trouble. Paul made his way to Jerusalem, starting more arguments with the Hellenist Jews (vs 29). He caused so much distress that after Paul is sent away, the Churches “were left in peace” (vs 31).

This stands in stark contrast to what happens after Paul spends time learning from the apostles. It was during Liturgical worship (which required fasting) that Paul was set apart by the Holy Spirit (13:2). The Church Fathers (ie Chrystostom and Leo) taught that Paul was ordained by the laying on of hands in vs 3. This understanding is carried forward by the Catholic Church that references the ordination of Paul in the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism. Notice that Paul is now filled with the Holy Spirit and his ministry is filled with His power from this point on. Immediately, Paul sets sail for Cyprus where he pronounces judgment on the magician Elymas and converts the proconsul. Paul now has a ministry. He is sent by the Holy Spirit and by the Church. His ministry is fruitful and abundant. Indeed the rest of Acts from this point forward is tells of Paul’s ministry.

Joseph said...

The suggestion that Paul was ordained at Acts 13:3 goes completely against Paul’s understanding of himself as having received his apostleship directly from God through the Risen Christ. It would mean that Paul is not an apostle and is solely a bishop by having been ordained such by an apostle (who was the apostle that ordained Paul a bishop?) The laying on of hands is used in prayer for many situations, not solely ordination. To read Acts 13:3 as Paul’s ordination does IMO great damage to the understanding of Paul’s ministry.

Bosco, this is your interpretation of Scripture. There are others, you know... whose is the authoritative interpretation is the question. If it's yours, then kudos. The Catholic Church would not think that reading Acts in such a way does damage to the understanding of Paul's ministry.

Thos,
I have a practical example. As far as I know, Irish Catholics have baptised their infants using the Trinitarian formula for centuries. Obviously, it has always been recognized as valid by the Church. However, Irish families didn't go about willy-nilly baptising all of their children, ignoring the fact that it should be done by a priest or deacon. They only did so if 1) they had reason to believe or they had a genuine fear that their child may die before a priest is able to baptise him or 2) there was simply no priest available for a lengthy amount of time and they didn't want to "risk" the death of their child without being baptised.

They never did it to pretend that they had a right to confer the sacrament, it was always a dire necessity, perceived or real.

liturgy said...

Greetings Tom

You wrote “The Catholics permit, as well as I understand it, for baptism to be conducted by an "extraordinary minister" on the ocassion of "necessity". This is the case, and perhaps is only the case, when an unbaptized person (often an infant) is at risk of immediate death, and there is no time to bring in a bishop or priest.” My point and Gil’s echo was that your comment focused on the licitness of baptism. The validity of baptism is that water is used, the Trinitarian formula is invoked, and the intention is to baptise. The level of understanding of the minister of baptism is not part of Roman Catholic requirement – contrary to what you imply.

Furthermore, your contention about Roman Catholic baptismal understanding is not historically correct. In the early church baptism was not by a Trinitarian formula (look at the early liturgies) and hence early church baptisms would today be declared invalid by the Roman Catholic church.

This highlights again my earlier point – that the spiritual journey, including communally, is not reducible to simplifications. The concept of the 12 (the 11) is a Lukan concept. Apostleship is another concept. All of the 11 (12) we refer to as apostles – but not all of the apostles were members of the 11 (12). I do not see why this is a difficult idea. Apostles receive their apostleship directly from God through Christ. The idea that Paul was ordained by other apostles would go totally contrary to that. That at times in his life he was prayed with including the laying on of hands by others seems natural, and it would surprise me if that had not occurred.

I would hence be helped, Gil, to receive from you the references in Vatican II documents and the Catechism that Paul was ordained by others by the laying on of hands.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Gil Garza said...

Regarding Acts 13:3 referenced in the Catechism, see:

#1573ff; #699

Also see Pius XII, Sacramentum Ordinis

Also see Vatican 2: Ad Gentes, #5

Regarding baptism, it must be made clear that the Catholic Church requires not the intention to baptize but rather the intention of doing what the Church does in baptism. Thus, Mormons who intend to baptize do so invalidly according to the Catholic Church because their purpose is different than what the Church does in baptism. A non-Christian of good faith may baptize validly if that person does so intending to accomplish whatever the Church does in baptism even if such a purpose is not understood well or at all.

Regarding the form of baptism, the Catholic Church has always understood the Trinitarian formula as binding. The earliest Christian catechism, The Didache (7) which dates to the early 2nd century is clear in this regard.

liturgy said...

Greetings

Next time Gil that you reference RC teachings - could you please be so kind as to quote them and give the URL
I do not have time to pursue them again
as when I do so I find that these texts you point to do NOT even suggest "Paul was ordained by others by the laying on of hands"

Joseph, if you can point to RC binding teaching that Paul was ordained by others, I would be obliged if you can give the reference; and with a quote and URL for busy people please.

Gil, you keep bringing up Mormons. They do not believe in the Trinity. And it is into the Trinity that the Didache highlights one is being baptised.

Please look at the early baptismal liturgies before commenting further. This is all well covered on my site.

Blessings

Bosco+
https://www.liturgy.co.nz
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Bosco,

“My point and Gil’s echo was that your comment focused on the licitness of baptism.”

I do not believe I had that “focus”, nor that Gil echoed your critique of my summary.

“The validity of baptism is that water is used, the Trinitarian formula is invoked, and the intention is to baptise.” I’ve said nothing to the contrary. What you quoted of me was addressing (in qualified agreement) what you had said about my post, that all Christians can baptize according to the Catholic Church. Validity and licitness were not on my mind when I was focused on acknowledging that in a qualified way, lay Catholics may baptize (and indeed, even infidels).

“The level of understanding of the minister of baptism is not part of Roman Catholic requirement – contrary to what you imply.” You are critiquing my implications and focuses, but I hope that you could begin to critique my substance. My substance involved the intent requirement of the Catholic view of baptism. I said that one devoid of any intent but to parrot what they read in the Bible would have deficient intent. If I parroted the Last Supper scene because I read it in the Bible, would I have the intent to consecrate the Eucharist? Level of understanding was not my substance, but an aspect of my parroting-texts hypothetical. Maybe you can come up with a hypothetical where someone lacks the intent but does the form, but I’m really not certain why you and I are in this business. I don’t know why my bathtub hypothetical is so central toy our critique that one must have authority to act on account of the principle.

“your contention about Roman Catholic baptismal understanding is not historically correct. In the early church baptism was not by a Trinitarian formula” I want to be careful to speak in love here, and admit that I feel frustrated right now. I do not know what this statement is about; I have not brought formula into the discussion. I did not discuss the Trinitarian formula, and have not used discussed water to this point. What of the early church not using the Trinitarian formula? How does that relate to the substance of my argument on authority? You tell me that a statement I made is not correct, and I’m not even sure what I’ve stated. I feel that a brother should be given a chance to validate or amend his statements when he is criticized.

“This highlights again my earlier point – that the spiritual journey, including communally, is not reducible to simplifications.” You have not made this point about our spiritual journeys. You said that my posited authority-flow scheme was “(too) tidy”. These are two different statements.

“All of the 11 (12) we refer to as apostles – but not all of the apostles were members of the 11 (12). I do not see why this is a difficult idea.” This is not a difficult idea to me, and I’ve been meaning at each bend to be in agreement with you. But you continue to assert that I am not in agreement with you, and I am sincerely puzzled as to where my misunderstanding lies.

“Apostles receive their apostleship directly from God through Christ.” Yes! But why could Paul not have received his authority from Christ, and later his validation from the other Apostles (since he was, by all accounts, a latercomer)? The former does not abrogate the need for the latter. This is no slight to Christ. Even He, the Son of God, submitted himself to the ceremonial requirements of the law, to the priesthood, etc. The people were mistrustful of Paul – not confident to receive him. A validation by the existing apostles seems completely logical.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Joseph said...

Joseph, if you can point to RC binding teaching that Paul was ordained by others, I would be obliged if you can give the reference; and with a quote and URL for busy people please.

Binding? Who said anything about "binding"? I don't think that the Church's common and generally accepted interpretation of the Scriptures in question is dogma or even doctrine. It's a matter of exegesis from the Fathers to modern day. As far as giving you the links, what's the point? You disagree with that interpretation and adhere to your own. It would be an exercise in futility. I, a busy person, am not going to spend my time collecting links for another busy person who really doesn't care what the Church's "common and accepted" interpretation of those Scriptures are anyway.

So, I think we can drop the issue of the interpretation of any of the chapters of the Acts. You prefer yours and not the collective Church's.

Joseph said...

Bosco,

As a preemptive strike, before you say, "Aha! So, the interpretation of the Acts isn't binding! It isn't authoritative! Therefore, I have as much authority to interpret it in my own way and my interpretation is just as valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church!", I'll let you know what my retort is in advance. It is the following:

"Didn't you read any of Tom's post(s)?"

Then you'll have to say, "I'll get you Gadget! Next time!"

Gil Garza said...

Rev Bosco,

Teaching documents of the Catholic Church such as the ones I referenced assert that laying on of hands is an essential part of the Sacrament of Ordination. Many do indeed refer to Acts 13:3 as an example of this. This is a rather common and uncontroversial interpretation of the passage and one consonant with history and the Church fathers, as I suggested earlier. Quite frankly, I have never heard of any other interpretation of this verse. If Paul is not being ordained in Acts 13:3 then what is the proposed alternative action taking place?

I brought up Mormons and baptism because, as everybody knows, they use the correct matter and form, that is they use water immersion and the correct invocation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They, however, lack the proper intention (as has been discussed earlier). Their henotheism or lack of belief in the Trinity is not the issue because even a devout Hindu who worships many gods may baptize validly IF her intention in so doing is to do whatever the Catholic Church (or at least what Christians do) does in baptism. Clearly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a quite different intention when they baptize.

Conversely, many devout Christians cast their baptisms in doubt in the view of the Catholic Church when they use alternative matter (such as milk or flower petals) or form (such as not using the Trinitarian invocation). Clearly, they have the correct intention, however right matter, form and intention are required for the sacrament in Catholic teaching.

Thos said...

Joseph,

Um, Bosco is from New Zealand, so I would be very much surprised if he understands your reference to the 80's American cartoon "Inspector Gadget". I used to live in Scotland, so I am sympathetic to those who might miss such cultural references. And I never learned my state capitals either :-(.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Joseph said...

Thos,

Oops. Well, here is the Wikipedia link to Inspector Gadget if Bosco is interested. It actually outlines the plot line and explains Dr. Claw's concluding threat.

liturgy said...

Greetings

I am in a rush with a very busy day, so only a brief comment, conscious, as is clear, what a poor medium this is for discussion.

Two minor points & then my main one:

Baptism as required by the Vatican using the name of the Trinity as a “formula” invalidates early church baptisms which understood “in the name of” as “on behalf of” and “into the nature of” rather than as a verbal formula. All early church liturgies have it so. The first (disputed) mention possibly of a baptismal Trinitarian verbal formula is in the mid 3rd century show-down between Cyprian of Carthage and Stephen of Rome (†258 & 256 respectively) in Firmilian’s letter to Cyprian against Stephen. Secondly, the Vatican requirement of the Last Supper story for consecration is contradicted in the Vatican’s acceptance of the the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari as consecrating. This of course does not include the Last Supper story. My point is – even the Vatican’s attempts at tidying up the complexity of faith falls into constant caveats.

Now my main point. I had never encountered the concept that Paul was ordained by others which Gil now says “is a rather common and uncontroversial interpretation” and Joseph contends is “the collective Church's.” I genuinely asked “to receive from you the references in Vatican II documents and the Catechism that Paul was ordained by others by the laying on of hands.” And I was given a whole series of references which I took the time to check. Not one of them even suggested "Paul was ordained by others by the laying on of hands."

In fact I cannot find a single reputable Roman Catholic commentary or Roman Catholic biblical footnoting that suggests this “collective Church's” interpretation. They all corroborate what I have been posting here.

The Roman Catholic New Jerome Biblical Commentary, which holds a Nihil obstat and imprimatur, the Roman Catholic official declaration that it is free of doctrinal error, comments on Acts 13:3 that this describes “at most a blessing by peers, certainly not an ordination rite”

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Joseph said...

The Roman Catholic New Jerome Biblical Commentary, which holds a Nihil obstat and imprimatur, the Roman Catholic official declaration that it is free of doctrinal error, comments on Acts 13:3 that this describes “at most a blessing by peers, certainly not an ordination rite”

One more time, the interpretation of the Scriptures on this particular verse is not a matter of doctrine or dogma... sheesh. Secondly, not saying that there is anything wrong with the Bible commentary of your choosing, but you would do well to acknowledge that not everything that has an imprimatur or nihil obstat is perfectly in line with Catholic teaching. Raymond Brown had connections and could readily get those stamps on his books, yet his books have caused more than enough controversy. Also, the NAB had an imprimatur and nihil obstat, yet it's commentary (and translations) have had to be corrected several times.

Why grasp at modern commentary? Why not go with what the Fathers thought?

In fact I cannot find a single reputable Roman Catholic commentary or Roman Catholic biblical footnoting that suggests this “collective Church's” interpretation. They all corroborate what I have been posting here.

Ahem...
Here is commentary from the Douay Rheims Haydock:

"Ver. 2. As they were ministering to the Lord.[1] Mr. N. and some others translate, offering up sacrifice. There are indeed good grounds to take this to be the true sense, as the Rhemish translators observed, who notwithstanding only put ministering, lest, (said they) we should seem to turn it in favour of our own cause, since neither the Latin nor Greek word signifies of itself to sacrifice, but any public ministry in the service of God; so the St. Chrysostom says, when they were preaching. (Witham) --- Separate me. Though Paul and Barnabas are here chosen by the Holy Ghost for the ministry, yet they were to be ordained, consecrated, and admitted by men; which loudly condemns all those modish and disordered spirits, that challenge and usurp the office of preaching, and other sacred and ecclesiastical functions, without any appointment from the Church. (Bristow) --- Consider, says St. Chrysostom, by whom they are ordained: by Lucius, of Cyrene, and Manahen, rather than by the Spirit. The less honourable these persons are, the more signal is the grace of God."

Ver. 3. Fasting and prayer, imposing their hands upon them. By which is clearly expressed, the manner in which the ministers of God were, and are still ordained bishops, priests, deacons in the Church. (Witham) --- Interpreters are much divided in opinion, whether this imposition of hands be a mere deputation to a certain employment, or the sacramental ceremony, by which orders are conferred. Sts. Chrysostom, Leo, &c. are of the latter opinion; nor does it any where appear that St. Paul was bishop before this. Arator, sub-deacon of the Church of Rome, who dedicated in the year 544 his version of the Acts of the Apostles into heroic verse to Pope Virgilius, attributes this imposition of hands to St. Peter:

----------Quem mox sacravit euntem

Imposita Petrus ille manu, cui sermo magistri

Omnia posse dedit.----------

--- See his printed poems in 4to. Venice, an. 1502. Arator was sent in quality of ambassador from Athalaric to the emperor Justinian. --- Following the practice of the apostles, the Church of God ordains a solemn and general fast on the four public times for ordination, the ember days, as a necessary preparation for so great a work, and this St. Leo calls also an apostolical tradition. See St. Leo, serm. ix. de jejun. and ep. lxxxi. chap. 1. and serm. iii. and iv. de jejun. 7. mensis.--- Nor was this fasting a fasting from sin, as some ridiculously affirm, for such fasting was a universal obligatin: nor was it left to each one's discretion, as certain heretics maintained. See St. Augustine, hæres. iii."

Not a single reputable source? St. Chrysostom, St. Leo?

If they aren't reputable, then who is?

Joseph said...

Here are the two homilies of St. Chrysostom regarding the ordination of St. Paul.

I'll try to find the ones by St. Leo sometime.

I hope he's reputable enough.

Joseph said...

By the way, if it's OK with you Tom, I'd like to end my part here. I get this grating feeling that if we hang up on the interpretation of Acts (which isn't binding on anyone) we'll lose focus of your series. I don't want to appear as if I'm running from Bosco. I don't want to continue this banter, however, and obscure the brunt of your point. Hopefully, though I doubt it, my last comment will be enough to put an end to this wild branch that sprouted. Sorry for my part in it.

Gil Garza said...

Rev. Bosco

Thank you for a fascinating discussion. I’m sure that we’re chasing rabbits but I personally enjoy our exchange.

Regarding the baptismal formula, the earliest evidence outside of the New Testament is to be found in The Didache and is (as mentioned earlier) extremely clear. The form is explicit as well as the matter and dates from the early 2nd century. “Concerning baptism, baptise thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, "baptise, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," in running water; but if thou hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head "in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Chapter 7)" Cold water refers to fresh, running water and warm water refers to standing water.

Certainly, we can all agree that The Didache is extremely early and extremely clear regarding baptism.

Regarding the Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari, A. Gelston, The Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari, Oxford, 1992 acknowledges the possibility that the anaphora originally contained an Institution Narrative that was subsequently lost (pg. 72-76). The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued guidelines regarding the admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Treating the issue of the Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari the Pontifical Council and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says: “So the words of the Institution are not absent in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, but explicitly mentioned in a dispersed way, from the beginning to the end, in the most important passages of the Anaphora. It is also clear that the passages cited above express the full conviction of commemorating the Lord’s paschal mystery, in the strong sense of making it present; that is, the intention to carry out in practice precisely what Christ established by his words and actions in instituting the Eucharist (Article 2).”

Moreover, “A long and careful study was undertaken of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, from a theological, liturgical and historical perspective, at the end of which the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on January 17th, 2001 concluded that this Anaphora can be considered valid. Pope John Paul II subsequently approved this decision.”
Further, “Indeed, the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East, assembled in 1978 in Baghdad, offered ministers in the Assyrian Church the option of reciting the words of the Institution in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari. Although this option does not affect the validity of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, it might have a particular relevance from a liturgical, as well as an ecumenical viewpoint. From a liturgical viewpoint, this might be an appropriate means to bring the present use of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari into line with the general usage in every Eucharistic Prayer both in the Christian East and in the Christian West. From an ecumenical viewpoint, it might be an appropriate expression of fraternal respect for members of other Churches who receive Holy Communion in the Assyrian Church of the East and who are used, according to the theological and canonical tradition of their proper Church, to hear the recitation of the words of the Institution in every Eucharistic Prayer (Article 3).”
You will be interested to note that the Anglican Urmia edition of the prayer book published in 1890 included the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari (as did the Chaldean, Syro-Malabar and Syrian Orthodox versions of the last century).
Regarding Acts 13:3, you might have missed my point that many Catholic documents refer to this passage as an example of ordination by the laying on of hands. The small numbers at the bottom of the page are what I was aiming at rather than the big words on the page.
The notes to the New American Bible (1 Tim 4 note 8), the International Bible Commentary (see Acts), the Navarre Bible (see Acts), the Textual Concordance of the Holy Scriptures (see Orders) and the Haydock Commentary (all approved Catholic commentaries to be sure, though admittedly not comprehensive) affirm the traditional interpretation. Interestingly, I did find one book on my shelf that suggested another interpretation of the passage. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture did suggest a fraternal blessing as an alternative view.
I am sure that the Catholic Church does not hold that Paul was ordained in Acts 13:3 to be a matter of doctrine. Imprimaturs can be confusing in this regard. If the New Jerome Biblical Commentary held that Paul’s temperature was being taken in Acts 13:3 to make sure that he wasn’t ill before he was sent abroad, I’m quite certain that the Imprimatur would yet have held.

liturgy said...

Greetings

Thank you Joseph (if you are still reading this thread though promising no longer to contribute) for the interesting John Chrysostom quote. Very helpful. My questions were out of genuine interest.

I am saddened that Joseph filters my comments with such a heavy dose of sarcasm and emotionalism. I hence would not dare to venture that John Chrysostom is as much claimed by Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, and Anglicans as by Roman Catholics in case the anonymous Joseph who has now said he has quit this thread reappear with further emotional put down of my interest.

Tom, I'm not sure why you keep returning to the Didache as being "extremely early and extremely clear regarding" using the Trinity as a verbal baptismal formula. Its wording is no different to the earlier Matthew 28:19. My point, which you appear to continue to miss, is that in every actual early liturgy "in the name of" was understood to be baptism was on behalf of the Trinity and into the nature of the Trinity. There is no evidence of using it as a verbal baptismal formula as I indicated until the even-then disputable third century text. You are reading back into the Didache something that is actually not there.

As to Addai and Mari you are helpfully reinforcing my point with excellent quotes. Whilst on the one hand the Vatican would have "this is my body" as being the moment of consecration, Addai and Mari lacks these words and yet is also accepted by the Vatican as consecrating (rightly IMO).

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Rev. Bosco,

That you might benefit from his (greater) credibility, the comments on the words of institution and on the trinitarian formula were from Gil, not me. That is all outside of my league.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Rene'e said...

Thos,

Over at Jason's blog you said
" said that “My understanding is that [eisegesis] is subjective interpretation, whereas [exegesis] is interpretation according to some objective standard.” .....

I think you are 100 % correct. How would anyone ever get beyond that.

Is it even possible for people that are firmly grounded in their "Faith".

BTW: If your still around Bosco, Hi.

Kim said...

Thos, I wanted to agree with Renee about your quote over there. Excellent point. I hope it's not wasted on its hearers.

Thos said...

Kim and Renee,

Thank you for the encouragement. I will share with you that I enjoy using my mental faculties to sort through these divisions, but struggle with tempering my pride. Pray for me, please.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Kim said...

Certainly will, Thos. Keep up the great work. The Lord be with you.

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

Dr. May has an article about authority titled "Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church". It is not exactly about what you are saying here, but it is a presentation of the Catholic view of ecclesial authority, and so it might be helpful.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

liturgy said...

Greetings
(especially back Rene'e - I do not know what Jason's blog refers to but sounds interesting)

Bryan and his article highlights a philosophical problem with infallibility. There is dispute even amongst Roman Catholic theologians which teachings are infallible and which are not. I have yet to find a Roman Catholic who can give a definitive list of infallible teachings - and even should they do so, that list will be a fallible one, disputed by others.

Individual teachings will have strong proponents for and against their infallibility. Fallible proponents on both sides.

Therein lies the philosophical conundrum as Bryan's article so well illustrates. Thanks for pointing it out to me. Very useful.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Rev. Bosco,

Thanks for checking back. I wonder what ever came of our previous conversation with Gil, in your opinion?

Regarding your current comment, it would be good to note that the reference in question is not “Bryan’s article”, but, as he said, Dr. May’s.

I am not certain what philosophical problem on infallibility you see. Is it simply that something has to be infallibly defined before we can trust that it is infallible in substance (making any “infallible” Catholic teaching open to questioning)? This would be an interesting point to consider; when I wrote about sola Scriptura a few posts back I was pondering in my mind whether “infallibility” isn’t a bit of a red herring in some contexts.

But before I go on, I want to make sure that I have the philosophical problem that you see correct. Thank you.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Bosco,

So far as I can tell, your argument looks like this:

(1) There is dispute among Catholic theologians about which teachings are infallible.

Therefore,

(2) There is a "philosophical problem" with the Church's teaching on infallibility.

That conclusion does not follow, unless by definition a sufficient condition for "problem with Catholic doctrine x" is "there is a dispute among Catholic theologians about the application of doctrine x".

Dispute among various persons about doctrine x does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with x, or that x is false. It may mean that some people do not sufficiently understand x. There are a number of other Catholic doctrines about which Catholic theologians dispute, e.g. the immorality of artificial birth control. But that doesn't show that there is a problem with the doctrine.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

liturgy said...

Greetings Tom

Yes I understood that Bryan's article is written by Dr May, not by Bryan.

Thank you for asking for clarification of my point.

Bryan's latest comment can be used to illustrate the philosophical issue.

Some would say (myself included) the "immorality of artificial birth control" has been infallibly declared by the pope.
Others would say that this has not been infallibly declared and is open to further debate.

Therein lies the philosophical issue: I and others are fallible.
When we fallible persons declare what has been infallibly defined - we may be wrong.

In other words each of us lists what we think to have been infallibly declared. But each of us, being fallible, has no ultimate assurance that our list of infallible statements is the correct one.

This, philosophically, epistemologically, is an Achilles heal of the infallibility theory.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Gil Garza said...

Rev Bosco

I’ve been thinking about your posts for some time.

It seems that regarding the Sacrament of Baptism, you perceive that the Catholic Church holds a standard regarding the form of the sacrament that the early Church would fail. I suggest that the current requirements of form are the same today in the Catholic Church as they were in the 1st century as outlined in The Didache. I see continuity in the form as outlined in the 1st century and as outlined today.

Likewise, you perceive that the Catholic Church holds a standard regarding the form of the Eucharist that the early Church would fail. An evidence of this for you seems to be the Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari. The prayer lacks an institution narrative similar to those found in other anaphorae. The Catholic Church affirms the “Word of Christ” and “the action of the Holy Spirit” bring about the conversion of the elements (CCC 1375). Therefore, Catholic Church has accepted this ancient anaphora. I see this acceptance as continuity with the ancient Church.

Additionally, you seem to think that there is a dispute among Catholic theologians regarding which teachings are infallible and which are not. Whether or not this is true is entirely dependent on which theologians one reads. Regardless, as everyone knows, theologians are not part of the teaching ministry of the Catholic Church. I would kindly suggest to anyone that is unclear about this issue that he read the teaching documents of the Catholic Church instead of unclear theologians.

liturgy said...

Greetings

Thanks Gil for seeking clarification.

1) On the baptismal verbal formula which you contend has been present since the earliest church:

Hippolytus describes baptism in his third century church. Hippolytus clearly knows nothing of a baptismal formula in the sense that we use it:

“9When the elder (presbyter/priest) takes hold of each of them who are to receive baptism, he shall tell each of them to renounce, saying, "I renounce you Satan, all your servicea, and all your works." 10After he has said this, he shall anoint each with the Oil of Exorcism, saying, "Let every evil spirit depart from you." 11Then, after these things, the bishop passes each of them on nude to the elder who stands at the water. They shall stand in the water naked. A deacon, likewise, will go down with them into the water. 12When each of them to be baptized has gone down into the water, the one baptizing shall lay hands on each of them, asking, "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?" 13And the one being baptized shall answer, "I believe." 14He shall then baptize each of them once, laying his hand upon each of their heads. 15Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?" 16When each has answered, "I believe," he shall baptize a second time. 17Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?" 18Then each being baptized shall answer, "I believe." And thus let him baptize the third time.
19Afterward, when they have come up out of the water, they shall be anointed by the elder with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying, "I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ." 20Then, drying themselves, they shall dress and afterwards gather in the church.”
The Apostolic Tradition Chapter 21 [A.D. 215].

Do you regard baptism administered according to this and all other early church liturgies (there are no exceptions) valid?

2) Thank you for clarifying that the Roman Catholic Church does not hold that the bread is transubstantiated at the words "this is my body" and that these words it regards as the form of the sacrament. That is very helpful.

3) Your response to the infallibility conundrum illustrates the issue again more clearly as your recourse to the "teaching documents of the Catholic Church" leads, once again, to the realisation that not all those teaching documents are infallible and, hence, like your "unclear theologians" might be wrong.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Rev. Bosco,

I knew that you understood who authored that article. I said it would be good to note that author, vice saying that it is "Bryan's article". The latter connotes authorship, which is something more intimate to a proffered position than is recommending it.

When I asked for clarification of the philosophical problem you see, I asked "Is it simply that something has to be infallibly defined before we can trust that it is infallible in substance?"

You replied "When we fallible persons declare what has been infallibly defined - we may be wrong."

I see no distinction between your critique of infallible Catholic teachings and our (Protestant and Anglican) teaching on the canon of infallible books of the Bible (if you still hold to this, I'm not certain). In other words, your logic would seem to pull the planking right of the 'Authority hull' of the Reformation. "When we fallible persons declare what has been infallibly defined - we may be wrong." Indeed, without the work of the Holy Spirit to preserve us, I have no doubt that our labor will spoil (given our state of sin).

Consider the substance of this post for a moment: "when I act on another’s account, I must have authority in order for that action to be valid". It seems odd, then, to critique Catholicism based on its academic teachers, and not its magisterium (it's "teaching authority"). These academicians do not have the authority I am discussing, and neither do you (at least as the Catholics see it) or I. Therefore, our susceptibility to error is not in question, and does not detract from the authority allegedly given the magisterium.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Gil Garza said...

Rev Bosco,

The baptismal formula given in The Didache is the same used in the Catholic Church. You seem to believe that the words given in The Didache for baptism aren’t supposed to be used for this purpose and that other words not given in the text are actually used. This interpretation of the text seems to be a bit complicated and inelegant and presupposes an intention not mentioned by the text at all.

The formula in question is the prescribed lawful formula for baptism in the Catholic Church. Of course, for validity, the Trinity of persons expressed by distinct expression and also by proper names should be used (among other things required). The text of the Apostolic Tradition has the catechumen recite the Apostles Creed, which is a very distinct expression of the Trinity in which proper names are used. Jungman notes that very early opinions (1693 & 1724) held that the interrogations containing express mention of the three divine Persons took the place of the baptismal formula in these early baptismal liturgies (The Early Liturgy, pg 82). The method, as described in the Apostolic Tradition, certainly goes beyond what is lawful and is most certainly valid.

I will add that the Apostolic Tradition is most certainly not a work by Hippolytus, not Roman and perhaps not earlier than the 4th century (Bradshaw, P., Johnson, M., & Phillips, L. The Apostolic Tradition. A Commentary. Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 2002. pg 14). The document is a collection of texts from many different regions and from many different periods.

You mention in your last post the moment of transubstantiation. I didn’t think that we were discussing the actual moment but rather what is necessary for the sacrament. The Catholic Church teaches that the Words of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit are necessary. Since both are present in the anaphora of Addai and Mari, no dilemma toward validity presents itself.

You seem to have trouble believing in infallible truth. The Catholic Church has ministries which can teach infallible truth. The Bible is, of course, a product of the action of these ministries. An ecumenical council and the bishop of Rome can teach infallibly. This simply means that under certain circumstances, the Catholic Church is protected from being wrong. This gift of the Catholic Church does not protect the Church from stupidity or idiocy (alas). This gift is necessary to ensure that the deposit of faith is preserved and indeed, deepened.

You also question the ability to know when the Catholic Church has defined a matter solemnly. Unfortunately, the Church doesn’t publish infallible statements in red ink, all caps or by underlining them (I personally favor all caps and in red). The Catholic Church, however, does indicate when such matters have been defined solemnly (such as the case recently with question of the ordination of women).

There are, of course, theological grades of certainty in the Catholic Church. This might be helpful for other so I thought I’d post them (taken from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, L Ott, pgs 9-10).

1. Divinely revealed truths: belief in these truths is based upon the authority of God revealing them. If the Catholic Church vouches for this fact then one’s certainty is also based on the infallible teaching authority of the Church. These truths may be defined by a solemn definition from the bishop of Rome or an ecumenical council.
2. Doctrines or truths on which the infallible teaching authority of the Catholic Church has finally decided are accepted based solely on the authority of the Catholic Church.
3. Teachings or doctrines proximate to the faith are those regarded as true but which have not been defined such by the Church.
4. Teachings pertaining to the faith are those doctrines which haven’t been defined but whose truth is guaranteed by the intrinsic connection with the doctrine of revelation.
5. Common teachings are doctrines which belong to the field of free opinions but accepted generally.
6. Theological opinions of lesser grades are called probable, more probable and well founded. Those in agreement with the faithful are called pious opinions. Those of least certainty are called tolerated opinions.

liturgy said...

Greetings

In brief.

Gil: the danger with dealing with ancient texts is that we approach them anachronistically – reading into them what is not actually there, and reading them through the lenses of our contemporary experience. “In the name of” is still used in the sense of “on behalf of”. All early baptismal liturgies extant did not use the current Trinitarian formula as a verbal baptismal formula. You are even incorrect to state “The text of the Apostolic Tradition has the catechumen recite the Apostles Creed” which highlights you are not reading the text closely. Your pushing this liturgy into the fourth century underscores my contention that there is no evidence of using the Trinitarian formula as a verbal baptismal formula until an even then disputed third century text which I have cited.

Which “Words of Christ” in the anaphora of Addai and Mari are you referring to that consecrate?

Tom: you are getting to the nub of what I am (poorly, obviously) attempting to explain. We need the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Catholic church to specify which teachings are infallible. Roman Catholics rightly distinguish between teachings that are now clearly abandoned, seen to have been incorrect, rejected – those, they say, were not “infallible”. Some are clearly, undisputedly infallible: the Immaculate Conception, and the Glorious Assumption of Mary. Others in my opinion are infallible (I have agreed that the contraception ruling, and agree with Gil that the women’s ordination is one). But therein lies the rub. Other Roman Catholics will claim either one of those or both is actually not infallible. They do not, according to them, satisfy all the requirements. I am not infallible. Gil is not infallible. Hence our listing of what is infallible may be wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not infallible. In fact the pope himself could be wrong in stating that a past teaching was infallible – unless in that statement he was clearly making an infallible statement at the level of the Immaculate Conception, and the Glorious Assumption of Mary.

Hope that moves my attempts at clarification forward?

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Thos said...

Dear Rev. Bosco,

Thanks for sticking with this discussion. You say I'm getting close to what you mean to convey. You said "We need [implied: for Catholicism to be true,] the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Catholic church to specify which teachings are infallible." I have to repeat my point from before though. If infallible teachings are only worthwhile if infallibly identified by an infallible authority, what good is our [protestant/Anglican] Bible? Do you believe that the Bible contains the complete corpus of infallible revealed texts?

I think infallibility can be a bit of a red herring, taken to this level, because, as you note, we are all fallible when we go about deciding what we trust and do not trust as infallible. This is why my confidence is shifting to the principles of authority and trustworthy witnessing. A little over a year ago I wrote a post on witnesses (http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/08/witness.html), that discusses how we trust those who went before us, whose words have rung true over time. We trust Scripture not because it informs us it is infallible (and we gullibly listen), but because the witnesses of the faith who have gone before us trusted it, and weren't led astray. Their testimony bore fruit, and we know a tree by its fruit. I believe Christ walked the earth because fruit-bearing witnesses to this event passed on the Good News. I don't need to be infallible for this conclusion, and I shouldn't be afraid to concede the logical possibility that I could be in error.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

liturgy said...

Greetings Tom

Infallibility is, IMO, a central distinguishing feature of Roman Catholicism. That and the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, IMO, are the distinguishing features of Roman Catholicism as distinct, say, from Eastern Orthodoxy, Old Catholics, and Anglicans/Episcopalians.

Universal jurisdiction - for example that currently the Bishop of Rome chooses all the bishops of Roman Catholicism, and authorises all the liturgies in Roman Catholicism - has not always been thus, and hence, possibly may not be thus in the future. That is a question of discipline, like whether or not clergy can marry.

In the area of doctrine, however, infallibility is not a distraction IMO when discussing Roman Catholicism - it is a central, possibly unalterable difference with other episcopally led denominations.

Once one concedes the philosophical difficulties of the position as I have outlined, yes then one might go on to examine other epistemological options - but to do so at this stage in this thread IMO distracts from honing in on this issue. & certainly your suggestion that there might be people who accept the scriptures because the scriptures say that one aught to is clearly so circular as to be no way forward at all.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Gil Garza said...

Rev Bosco

I won’t push this point regarding baptism too much further because I’m afraid that it is getting tedious for our readers (although I personally enjoy it). The Didache states: “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (7:1).” This command mirrors exactly the New Testament imperative (Matt 28:19). The Catholic Church teaches that these words are all that is verbally required for a valid baptism.

The testimony of the Apostolic Tradition, Tertullian, Ambrose and the Gelasian Sacramentary confirms that the baptismal candidates affirmed the Creed during the rite of baptism. These sources demonstrate that the early baptismal liturgies go well beyond what is strictly necessary for validity of the sacrament of baptism.

I would urge readers who are interested in the date of the Apostolic Tradition to begin reading more up to date commentaries on the text such as the one I referenced in an earlier post.

Regarding the anaphora of Addai and Mari rather than recapitulating an earlier post I would warmly recommend a visit to the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20011025_chiesa-caldea-assira_en.html.

Regarding the issue of infallibility, I suspect that your issue isn’t whether the Catholic Church is able to teach the truth protected from error but whether any rational person is able to know it with certainty. If that is the case then you have a major epistemological problem of the highest order. Indeed, Quid est veritas? What is truth? How do we know it? I know what is the pillar and support of truth. It is the Church of the living God (1 Tim 3:15).

liturgy said...

Greetings Gil

I’m pleased you are enjoying our discussion on baptism.
I see no poll on readers of this thread – so cannot ascertain their level of finding this discussion tedious. It’s the internet. If they don’t find this thread helpful, click to the next thread ;-)

You are absolutely correct “The Didache states: “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (7:1).” This command mirrors exactly the New Testament imperative (Matt 28:19).” And by this these texts mean “baptise on behalf of the Trinity and into the nature and acts of the Trinity”. They did not mean “verbally recite these words: “in the name of the Father, and of,…” as one baptises”. Every early baptismal liturgy bears out my interpretation and not yours.

It is only partially correct to state “The Catholic Church teaches that these words are all that is verbally required for a valid baptism.” The Roman Catholic Church, as far as I know, in fact requires that these words be recited as the person is baptised. Which no early liturgies has. The only “solution” that the canon lawyers I have checked this with have come up with is that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the requirements for baptism have changed.

Interested readers will by now have checked up the scholarly fine details of this on my website.

As to infallibility: either I am clearly not expressing myself well or you are not reading my comments carefully if all I am highlighting is merely our own inability to be certain. Let me try from a slightly different direction: papal infallibility is little use if there are only two occasions when people agree the pope was making an infallible statement (Immaculate Conception and Glorious Assumption of Mary). I think on women’s ordination that the pope was making an infallible statement – and that all the requirements were satisfied. The Tablet, however (as just one example), a very significant Roman Catholic journal, continues to discuss women’s ordination even in the last month, highlighting that the issue is far from settled. Similarly on contraception. If there are disputes then, within Roman Catholicism, which proclamations are infallible and which are not – infallible as a theory sounds nice – but in practice, as there is no infallible list of infallible statements, it is epistemologically of far less use than one might wish.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Gil Garza said...

Rev Bosco

I would warmly recommend to you and to readers, "The Sacraments and Their Celebration," by N Halligan OP STD, Alba House, 1986. The requirements for a valid baptism (and the other sacraments) are clear on pg 28 (which I quoted in an earlier post).

I laughed out loud when you mentioned The Tablet and women's ordination. I would suggest perhaps L'Osservatore Romano for your evening reading.

Regarding the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, it is important to know that he only chooses the bishops of the Roman Church and authorizes the liturgies of the Roman Church. He does not manage the affairs of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches notify the bishop of Rome of new Eastern Catholic bishops and new Eastern Catholic bishops immediately request communion from the bishop of Rome upon enthronement.

liturgy said...

Thanks Gil

You make the Catholic Church sound almost Anglican ;-)

I think I've come to the end of my energy for this thread.

Please pray for me as I do for you.

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz