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Monday, October 08, 2007

A Continuation

One of the greatest blessings I’ve found here online is in having the ability to witness and even enter into discussion and debate with some of God’s most brilliant servants. Occasionally these discussions stray a bit far from the article that provoked them and I consider such the case with some discussions I joined on one of Rose’s excellent post. GoodnightSafeAtHome was gracious enough to continue with me on his group blog and Exist~Dissolve has kindly agreed to continue here on this site. The following is his most recent reply. My comments, which he quoted, are from my previous reply and are italicized.

Correction 10/09/07: I failed to clearly distinguish my comments in my original post. This has been corrected and I apologize for any confusion and for having credited my comments to E~D.


E~D I very much appreciate your attitude in discussion and the abilities God has blessed you with.

I have enjoyed the conversation as well--thanks!

I may have been unclear on what you intend by the term, “historic” Church. Are you referring to the early Church or the Church throughout history? If your reference were to the early Church then I would likely agree concerning their authority in that the apostles were endowed with divine knowledge from Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand if you are referring to the development of the institutions that purport to be the Church or the various theologies found within Christianity over history then I will likely continue to argue. ;-)

When I speak of the "historic church", I am referring to the ecumenical body of the early centuries which defined the Canon and articulated the parameters of orthodoxy, Christian belief.

I would find the authority to interpret the scripture belongs to God alone and is administered to us through Christ, our head, by the Holy Spirit and not by the Church. The authority and responsibility of the Church to teach does not extend to usurping the authority of Christ as our head or to governing the function of the Holy Spirit.

I don't really see this as a satisfactory solution to your objections, for does this not ultimately dissolve the authority of interpretation down to the individual subjectivities of the private interpreter? For example, as no one knows the heart of another but God, upon what basis could one disavow someone else's interpretation if that same person appealed to the "inspiration of the Spirit" as the source of their interpretation? Upon what basis could the ecumenical Church denounce the heresies of Arius? While they certainly did themselves appeal to Scripture, the straw the broke the back of Arius' argument was its complete incongruence with the accepted orthodoxy of the church which had been preserved within the apostolic tradition of which the councils who condemned the ancient heresies were a part.

The implication I read into this is that the scripture was given to men by the Church and not by God. If you would refer to the canon as an act of the Church I would say it was an act of God through the Church but that it in no way conveys any authority to the Church outside that previously granted by Christ.

It is undeniable that the church wrote (per the apostles) and codified (per the councils) the form and content of the Christian Scriptures. As the tradition which produced and later codified the Scriptures is one and the same (i.e., the apostolic tradition), would it not stand to reason that there exists within that stream of tradition an inherent measure of authority by which to adjudicate those things which are in keeping with said tradition? Again, if Arius appealed to Scripture in his defense of his "creature-Christ," upon what basis could the early church have overcome his exegesis and declare it to be heretical? If they did not perceive themselves to have a measure of authority over the interpretation of Scripture and the analysis of interpretation in comparison with the content of the apostolic tradition, their only recourse could have been to the amassing of proof-texts and an eventual stalemate, or, alternatively, a denunciation of Arius on the basis of pure political fiat.

The trust I have developed in the scripture is based on its truths as evidenced in my life. What of it that I can prove to myself, I do, and what of it I cannot prove to myself has never proved to be wrong or untrue. This is unique in all my experience and has led me to conclude that the scripture is true. My faith in Christ is by virtue of the Holy Spirit testimony and my faith in the scripture is by virtue of my own experience. I do not propose that the Church be stripped of any authority but I do propose that Christ granted and defined Church authority and that authority did not extend to governing our relationship with God in Christ.

I agree that any authority inherent to the church has been granted by Christ. However, I think if you were to look closely at your hermenuetical methodology, you will find that it is rooted quite strongly in the personal subjectivities of the your own conscience. While this is inevitable for the act of interpretation to a certain extent, I do not see that it provides an answer to the question of how one could adjudicate proper exegesis from one interpretation to another.

I hope my position is a bit clearer. I will try to expound. Christ is the head of the man and He alone possesses the power and authority to govern the relationship of the man with God. The Holy Spirit guides and enlightens us through Christ and not through the Church.

I do not see that the enlightenment of the Spirit need be mutually exclusive with the authority of the church. For example, where did you learn of the dogma of the Trinity? Was it derived from your own isolated, private interpretation of Scripture? Or did you learn it from others? And what of your understanding of the hypostatic union of Christ? Did you infer this on your own, or was it taught to you by another? You see, while it is the Spirit who brings illumination, I would argue that this illumination is not something that happens in individual, isolated circumstances, but that rather the Spirit of God works through the church which Christ commissioned to raise up into theological soundness those who have been joined to Christ in faith.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Kc said...

E~D I think I can save time by stating unequivocally that I believe each of us are individually responsible for understanding the scripture and further that we can only understand it through the illumination (interpretation?) of the Holy Spirit. If the scripture is of divine origin then it stands to reason that only the Divine is authoritative with regard to its meaning.

Given our individual shortcomings and failures I would think it unreasonable to expect the whole Church to agree in anything or for any man to hold a perfect interpretation of the scripture but I do think it quite reasonable to expect the whole Church to patiently strive for agreement in everything. I do not consider that effort can end prior to Christ’ return. If one faction of the Church were allowed to dictate its beliefs as being “orthodox” then all factions would have equal authority to do so therefore we cannot hope to propose an “orthodox” interpretation. We can only agree that the teachings of Christ and the Apostles “are” orthodox and strive together to learn and to do them. Wouldn’t we then all be of one mind? ;-)

While I learned the dogma of the Trinity early on, my understanding of the Trinity was a long time coming and to be honest continues to develop.

I think Arius is an one example of the Churches inconsistency and inability to establish or uphold an orthodox theology. The Council at Nicaea failed to squelch his influence altogether and only gave rise to further dissention. If Arius was an heretic then the Church surely embraced heresy when he was fully restored unrepentant. If the teaching of Christ and the Apostles are considered orthodox then heresy is defined as teaching any doctrine that denies or rejects the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. To prove heresy would require proof of that denial. This being the case, through examination, an erring brother could be won when clearly shown his contradiction while an arrogant and self-willed rebel, if unrepentant, would isolate himself with his denial and be shunned in the hope he repent. Which of us could claim we were neither erring nor rebellious at or on some point? Would we say we were an heretic? ;-)

“I would argue that this illumination is not something that happens in individual, isolated circumstances, but that rather the Spirit of God works through the church which Christ commissioned to raise up into theological soundness those who have been joined to Christ in faith.”

I would totally agree with this statement but it seems we disagree in either our perception of the Church or/and our understanding of the administration of the Holy Spirit. I perceive the Church as its collective members and I understand the Holy Spirit to illuminate each member and not a chosen few.

10/08/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

Kc,
Hopefully, without slighting anyone else in the discussion, I'd like to tell you how I found your comments at Roses post very constructive and, clear and, well...time well spent.

Admirably, Todd

10/16/2007 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Todd thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words and I assure you the feelings are mutual. I have always been blessed in reading your thoughts around the blogsphere.

I really appreciate the opportunity, and it is such a great blessing, to be able to discuss these things with men like E~D and Colin and a great many of the others that frequent the discussions at Rose’s place. ;-)

10/17/2007 04:22:00 AM  

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