Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Marriage and Theonomy

1) Marriage is for both believers and unbelievers.

2) Marriage is not a sacrament, although marriage does provide a spiritual illustration.

3) In Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, the civil magistrate is given jurisdiction for policing marriage including criminal prosecution of adultery.

4) The general equity of the OT civil law on marriage is at least that the civil magistrate has authority and duty to regulate marriage.

5) Jesus himself makes a distinction between moral principles around marriage and civil law rules. For example, Jesus explains that the moral principles around divorce are more strict than the OT civil law.

6) We Christians have to obey both the moral rules and the civil law rules (unless doing the latter comes into conflict with the former). So, even if we live in an "easy divorce" location, we should not treat marriage lightly.

7) If you're a copy-and-paste theonomist who thinks the only legitimate civil laws are those of the Torah, keep in mind that you are going to have a very different set of laws. There was, for example, no prohibition on bigamy by men.

8) Assuming you're not a copy-and-paste theonomist, then we are not stuck with the OT civil law found in the Torah.

9) In that case, the civil law (whether American or Texan or Mexican or whatever place one finds oneself) matters. Since the general equity of the OT civil law on marriage is that the civil magistrate has a duty to police it, then it follows that the civil law of one's current residence matters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Thoughts on Blogging at Alpha and Omega Ministries

Apparently as far back as 2004, I was blogging at Alpha and Omega Ministries' team blog. I really don't recall it being before 2006 or 2007, but that's what the time stamps seem to say. For around a decade (give or take), I was a fairly active contributor to the blog. In 2016, after the first quarter, I basically didn't blog. Then in 2017, 2018, and 2019, I think I had about one post per year. I hadn't posted anything new this year either. I'm not a contributor to that blog any longer. Nevertheless, I wish them all the best. I have no idea whether they plan to keep my articles up or take them down (link to articles here). I think I have a mirror copy of most of the articles here, although perhaps not all.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Kenneth M. Wilson's "Augustine's Conversion from Traditional Free Choice to 'Non-Free Free Will'" - Calvinism Discussion

Since one vocal contra-Calvinist has been relying on Dr. Wilson's materials to bash Calvinism, it makes sense to discuss every single place that Dr. Wilson mentions John Calvin in his book.

Based on a text search for "Calvin" within the book, there is exactly one hit:
Kolakowski argues that the Church's repeated anathemas on the teachings by Luther, Calvin, and the Jansenists also condemned Augustine's novel teachings on 'double predestination,' total incapacity of 'the will' for good, irresistible grace, "non-free free will," and limited atonement.[12]
[fn 12: Kolakowski (1995), 3-33.]
Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009) was a Polish anti-Marxist philosopher. Kolakowski's "God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism," is evidently the work Wilson was citing. He apparently refers to Kolakowski's work a couple more times.

Kolakowski's book begins with part one, "Why did the Catholic Church Condemn the Teaching of Saint Augustine?" (pp. 3-112) The sub-section boldly titled, "What Was Wrong with Augustine?" begins at page 30.

I couldn't figure out from looking at Kolakowski's material what Wilson's quotation mark convention meant. It feels like the single marks are non-adoptive quotations of individual words or phrases (aka scare quotes) and double quotations are Wilson's own paraphrase. In any event, the usage is - at best - distracting.

At page 5, Kolakowski fires this salvo:

This is an odd paradox for the "provisionalist" crowd, who don't want to be considered Pelagian, but nevertheless don't want to accept Augustine.

From what I can tell, Kolakowski does not opine on whether Augustine was the originator of the doctrines he taught. Kolakowski, at page 4, explains:

All of these, per Kolakowski, "defined their doctrinal stance first by giving their own interpretation of the canonical texts, in particular Paul's letter to the Romans...."

In any event, I'll end this meandering post here.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Benedetto Plazza's Help(?) in the Immaculate Conception Debate

In Mr. Albrecht's debate with Tony Costa on the immaculate conception, Mr. Albrecht raised a question as to the popes who denied the immaculate conception during one of the cross-examinations. Tony pointed to Schaff, who in turn pointed to Launoy. Mr. Albrecht followed up by asking if Tony had a citation to where John XXII said what he is identified as saying. He went on to insinuate that Launoy was just making things up, calling him a Socinian and so on (we addressed some of that ad hominem in a previous post).

I respond:

1) Note that Launoy himself identified this as John XXII or Benedict XII. He was not certain which pope wrote this. This is actually a mark of honesty, integrity, and caution on the part of Launoy.

2) Benedetto Plazza is about the only author I could find (possibly this reflects more on my searching than on extant disputations) who tried to discuss Launoy's assertions. In itself, this is a massive argument from silence, but it also explains why Schaff was willing to pass on the list without presenting counterpoints.

3) BP (in his Cause of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, p. 226) points us to Codex 4163 in the Royal Gallic Library, which contains manuscript sermons of Pope John XXII. Launoy pointed us to a manuscript sermon in the library of Cardinal Mazarin. The sermon evidently was a sermon on the feast of the assumption of Mary - the first sermon on that subject in the collection. Thanks to the French National Library, and BP's help, I was able to locate the very manuscript that corresponds to these indicators:

Here's the entry:
Cote : Latin 3290
Ancienne cote : Mazarin 1031
Ancienne cote : Regius 4163
Johannes XXII papa , Sermones.

The page with the quotation can be found here (link to page)(related link)(another related link), which also provides context for the quotation (highlighting of the original Latin is mine):

Evidently Launoy as uncertain as to whether the title page indication of authorship was correct, which attributes the sermons to John XXII (though note that the original hand of this manuscript identifies it as a papal sermon). The scholar Noël Valois, in "Jacques Duese, pape sous le nom de Jean XXII," concludes that the sermons in this manuscript are John XXII's, and I see no other more recent scholarship to the contrary. To be fair, John XXII isn't the most notable pope of all time, though part of the Avignon papacy.

There is also a manuscript collection of John XXII sermons in the Vatican library if you are interested (link 1)(link 2). I don't think that this particular sermon is in that collection, but I have not fully read the Vatican manuscript.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Schaff and Launoy Pre-Response

Another area that Mr. William Albrecht may choose to attack in our debate scheduled for tomorrow is the veracity of the historians from whom the list of popes came, Philip Schaff. Schaff is neither omniscient not infallible, and his conclusions and findings (like those of any historian), are open to challenge. That said, he is a leading Protestant historian, and has been accused by some of being too "Pro-Catholic." That said, he was quite definitely Protestant, and for some Roman Catholics that might be too much to handle.

Someone might say that, in any event, a historian is only as good as his sources. In this case, the source Schaff cites is another notable historian, Jean de Launoy. Launoy was the myth-buster of his time and an ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church. His work was not well received by those who love their traditions, and the traditions he attacked included the claim that Mary Magdelene spent time in Provence, France. He got the reputation of being excessively skeptical of the miraculous, a charge that led to him being described having a sort of Socinian rationalism. But wait, there's more.

Launoyle - le dénicheur de saints ('the Sainthunter') - managed to vex the Carmelites and Pope Benedict XIV, the latter of which ended up attacking Launoy's character in a papal bull (De Festis). How did Launoy do this? As "A Catholic Dictionary," (Addis and Arnold eds.) reports on the entry for "Scapular," Launoy proved that the Sabbatine bull of Pope John XXII was, in fact, a clumsy forgery, and that one attributed to Pope Alexander V was another forgery designed to cover the first. As the Sabbatine Bull provided an indulgence in association with the use of the scapular, as well as because it recounted an alleged Marian apparition, it was much beloved by folks like Pope Benedict XIV.

Benedict XIV has negative comments for Launoy ("impudentissime, turpissimeque mentitum"), but the dictionary mentioned above refers to his debunking of the forgery, "a dissertation of wonderful learning."

As Sherry L. Reams described it: "Launoy--a priest and doctor of theology whose major offense was to demonstrate the absurdity of such famous medieval legends as those casting Dionysius the Areopagite as the first bishop of Paris and crediting the foundation of the church in Provence to Lazarus, Martha, and Mary Magdalene--aroused such passionate opposition among his countrymen that he gained a lasting reputation as an impious enemy of the saints." (The Leganda Aurea, University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, p. 32)

As icing on the cake, Launoy was Gallican as opposed to being an ultramontanist. Gallicans took the position that papal power was limited by the authority of the bishops and temporal governments. Whether this was the cause or effect of Benedict XIV execrations, who knows.

Suffice to suggest that the extant criticism of him is more about a disagreement with his conclusion than an attack on his historical methods. Like Schaff, he is neither omniscient nor infallible. Neither of those, however, should prevent us from benefiting from his historical insights.

I should point out that Benedict XIV would not have liked Launoy's list of popes that denied the immaculate conception. Reportedly his "golden bull," Gloriosae Dominae, was one of the stepping stones toward the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (and toward a future definition of Mary Co-Redemptrix), and referred to Mary as "Queen of Heaven" (compare Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-19&25).

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Ludwig Ott regarding the Immaculate Conception

In "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma," Ludwig Ott describes the historical development of the dogma (link to starting page of discussion). Ott traces the dogma back to Eadmer, a twelfth century British monk. Shortly thereafter, Ott tells us that Bernard of Clairvaux "warned the faithful that this was an unfounded innovation, and taught that Mary was sanctified after conception only, that is, when she was already in the womb." Likewise, Ott acknowledges that "Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary." Nevertheless, Ott argues that they taught the immaculate conception implicitly by teaching Mary's most perfect purity and holiness and the similarity and contrast between Mary and Eve. Nevertheless, though Ephraim the Syrian may be brought forth as an example of these high views of Mary, they still fall short of teaching the immaculate conception. That is why it is not until the 12th century that we see -as Ott puts it - the first monograph the subject. Moreover, that view was met with immediate resistance. As Ott explains: "Under the influence of St. Bernard, the leading theologians of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Petrus Lombardus, St. Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas cf. S. th. III 27, 2), rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception."

As Ott points out, John Duns Scotus (died 1304) finally proposed a version of the doctrine that received wider acceptance and ultimately seems to have been embraced in the papal definition of the dogma.

I mention this partly because I have heard Mr. Albrecht cite or quote from Ott a number of times, though he does not seem to quote these statements of his. It seems to be inconvenient to his view of history to acknowledge that this dogma is a doctrinal innovation. Unlike some errors about Mary, this is one whose relative modernity we can trace back from its conception in the twelfth century, to its birth in the late 13th, to its childhood struggles through the late medieval and modern period, until its final dogmatization in the middle of the 19th century.

We could fault Ott for failing to note the popes against the dogma in the developmental period:

  • Innocent III (c. 1216)

  • Innocent V (d. 1276)

  • John XXII / Benedict XII (c. 1342)

  • Clement VI (d. 1352)

Nevertheless, we understand that there may be various reasons for such a non-acknowledgment.

Pre-Responding to the "Immaculate" => "Immaculate Conception" Argument

It's hard to know exactly how Mr. Albrecht intends to defend against the fact that so many popes taught contrary to the dogma of the immaculate conception before its definition in the 19th century. In a previous post, I discussed the specific arguments I expect to hear from Albrecht about certain contra-IC quotations, but Albrecht claimed that he was sitting on a pile of quotations on the other side. What could those be?

My best guess (based on Mr. Albrecht's arguments in other debates on the subject) is that they include quotations like these:

Leo I, Sermon 31 (link)
"After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, ..."

7th Ecumenical Council, Decree (link)
"With the Fathers of this synod we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon has promulgated, ..."

6th Ecumenical Council (link)
- Letter of Agatho
"Moreover we confess that one of the same holy consubstantial Trinity, God the Word, who was begotten of the Father before the worlds, in the last days of the world for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost, and of our Lady, the holy, immaculate, ever-virgin and glorious Mary, truly and properly the Mother of God, that is to say according to the flesh which was born of her; ..."

- Prosphoneticus to the Emperor
"For as the Word, he is consubstantial and eternal with God his father; but as taking flesh of the immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, he is perfect man, consubstantial with us and made in time."

These and many other writings describe Mary and/or her virginity as "immaculate." A modern reader will be tempted to automatically associate the term "immaculate" with the dogma of the "immaculate conception." This is particularly tempting for Protestants, who reject the idea that Mary was sinless, and consequently would affirm that her virginity was immaculate at the incarnation, and that she had been justified by faith, but not that she was otherwise sinless. Tempting though it may be, it's an equivocation fallacy.

State vs. Event
To avoid this equivocation fallacy, note well the difference between a state and an event. The state of being sinless is one thing, and how a person became sinless is another thing. For example, there is a view of baptismal regeneration that suggests that when a person is baptized, they are made pure from original sin and all preceding actual sins. Likewise, the doctrine of justification by faith alone also teaches that in justification we are rendered guiltless. Without getting into the important distinctions between baptismal regeneration (defined that way) and justification by faith alone, the point is that a person is in some sense sinless in both cases. Likewise, both Roman Catholics and Protestants agree that those in heaven are sinless.

So, even if Scripture had said that Mary was sinless (a state) at Jesus' conception, that would not necessarily tell us how she became that way (an event). Scripture does not speak of Mary in that way, while some in the Patristic era and many in the medieval era definitely did speak of Mary as sinless. How could she be sinless if she was not immaculately conceived? She could have been purified from sin rather than being preserved from sin.

What about other possible arguments? It's hard to say. I recall Mr. Albrecht taking the position that Leo the Great exegeted Genesis 3:15 in a way that represents Mary as the New Eve, or something to that effect. Those kind of arguments should readily be seen to be a rabbit trail.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Pre-Responding to William Albrecht's Position on Popes Leo and Innocent

It's sometimes hard to pin down one's debate opponent before the debate, as not everyone has published extensively on a given topic.  Thankfully, in a recent debate with an Orthodox opponent, William Albrecht was questioned about the writings of a couple of popes in the list of popes that we hope to discuss in our debate on January 18.  The Orthodox advocate started with Leo.

Leo the Great, Fifth sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 25), Chapter 5.
... when by the condition of birth, there is one cause of perishing for all. And so among the sons of men, the Lord Jesus alone was born innocent, since he alone was conceived without the pollution of carnal concupiscence.
Albrecht responded that he agreed with this because "he is simply talking about the fact that the purification of Mary comes from the Holy Spirit. If you read farther there, it actually says nothing about-- [timer beeped] speaking of Mary's conception, it says nothing about Mary's conception. He viewed sexual intercourse as sinful, and he says the shattering (sic for shadowing?) of the Holy Spirit is a purifying one, not one for sin. There's much more to be said about Leo, but I've got all these quotes in front of me. [time was then called] (approx. 37:30-38:00 debate time)

My rebuttal is this:
1) I certainly grant that Leo is not particularly discussing Mary's conception. Indeed, technically since Leo says "sons," and Mary is a daughter, there's that.
2) Nevertheless, Leo's logic (as explained by Albrecht) undermines Albrecht's point. For Leo, as Albrecht was starting to concede, the issue is whether someone was conceived by sexual intercourse. Mary was so conceived. Therefore, Leo's position logically entails that she contracted the pollution of carnal concupiscence. Again, if someone will point out that Leo does not mention this logic here, I will concede that point as well.
3) And, of course, while the context may not explicitly address conception, the context does say this: "He took an origin in the womb of the Virgin, was placed in the baptismal font; he gave to the water, what he gave to his mother; for the power of the Most High and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, which worked that Mary gave birth to the Savior, also worked that water regenerate the believer." The parallel here does seem to suggest a purification of Mary (as Albrecht stated), but purification is opposed to preservation. If she was preserved as the immaculate conception dogma teaches, she did not need to be purified.
4) And while Leo may say great things about Mary elsewhere, there are also many similar quotations to this as outlined in my post (link to "How Many Popes Does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception?).

Innocent III, Sermon on the Assumption, Sermon 2 (aka Second Discourse on the Assumption)(see the alternate translation here)
Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin; Mary was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.
Albrecht was asked if he agreed with Innocent III and Albrecht responded: "Pope Innocent III here says that the Holy Ghost had, before the annunciation, cleansed Mary's soul from original sin. He then says that he, in turn, appeared to cleanse her flesh from the appearance of sin. She was innately cleansed from Original Sin by God well before the Annunciation, so I do agree. There is no hint of Mary sinning here, or even having a sinful nature." 
Albrecht's opponent then reiterated the question, emphasizing the phrase "produced in sin." Albrecht responded: "No, he never uses the word 'produced in sin' here. I disagree with that interpretation - that translation - I disagree with that. And he doesn't say 'produced.' It says 'Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin.' And then he uses a different word for produced with Mary. It doesn't use that word." (approx. 45:00-45:45 debate time)

1) I suspect that Albrecht may not have listened carefully, and began by discussing the quotation from Innocent III in his Sermon on the Purification of the Virgin.
2) Nevertheless, when he switched over to the quotation from the Sermon on the Assumption, his denial of the use of the term "produced," is baffling.  The Latin as provided by Patrologiae Latina (vol. 217 - here) states:
Illa fuit sine culpa producta, sed produxit in culpam; haec autem fuit in culpa producta, sed sine culpa produxit.
Indeed, the PL editors (publishing in 1890) felt it necessary to point out in a footnote that this was said before the definition that now exists. (See footnote 21 at the bottom of the same page.)(see identical Latin here)

So, no. It's the identical word, letter for letter the same.  And the translation "produced" is the right translation from the Latin.  I would like to given Albrecht the benefit of the doubt that his eyes may have skipped back up to the other quotation, though it is mystifying how he could be so wrong.


How does "Read Your Bible" Translate into "Formal Sufficiency"?

How does Origen teach the formal sufficiency of Scripture? Pastor David King received a hot response to his position that the following quotation supports formal sufficiency:
The more one reads the scriptures daily the greater one's understanding is, the more renewed always and every day. I doubt whether a mind which is lazy towards the holy scriptures and the exercise of spiritual knowledge can be renewed at all. 
Origen's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, on the words "transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

The translation appears in Oden's "Romans" volume in the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" (p. 308, cited as CER 5:32, referring to Heither's 5 volume edition) It comes from book 9 of Origen's commentary.

Thomas Scheck's translation, found in Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 6-10 (Volume 2, Book 9, chapter 1, section 12, p. 196) published by The Catholic University of America Press (2002) is this:
(12) Our mind is renewed through training in wisdom and meditation upon the Word of God, and the spiritual interpretation of his law. And to the extent it makes daily progress by reading the Scriptures, to the extent that its understanding goes deeper, to that extent it becomes continuously new and daily new. I do not know if anyone can be renewed who is lazy in respect to the Holy Scriptures and training in spiritual understanding, by which it becomes possible not only to understand what has been written, but also to explain more clearly and to reveal more carefully. [fn39]
FN39: Heither in Origenes, Commentarii, 5:32 n. 17, observes, "The reading of scripture is for Origen the preferred way to make progress in one's Christian life."
These are two different translations of Rufinus' Latin translation of Origen's Greek original. Only fragments of the Greek original have survived. Origen's commentary on Romans is the earliest surviving Greek commentary on Romans by 150 years, and it has survived primarily because of Rufinus' Latin translation. Tyrannius Rufinus of Aquileia (345-411) was a prodigious translator into Latin from Greek. In 1941, a papyrus was discovered that contained the longest known fragment, a section covering Romans 3:5-5:5. As far as I know, we don't have the original Greek for the paragraph quoted above (just in case Nick, or anyone like him wants to accuse us of "hiding the Greek").

There have been various criticisms of Rufinus' work, but as long as we are not discussing the doctrine of the Trinity, we have good reason to believe that the thoughts are Origen's, even if the expression is Rufinus'.

The Latin, as provided in Migne at PG14:1206C-07A is this:
Renovatione sensus vestri. Renovatur autem sensus noster per exercitia sapientiae, et mediationem verbi Dei, et legis ejus intelligentiam spiritalem: et quanto quis quotidie ex Scripturarum proficit lectione, quanto altius intellectus ejus accedit, tanto semper novus et quotidie novus ellicitur. Nescio autem si potest renovari sensus qui piger est erga Scripturas divinas et intelligentiae spiritalis exercitia, quibus possit non solum intelligere quae scripta sunt, verum et explicare apertius, et manifestare dilgentius.
So, what does it all mean?

Meanwhile, another passage of Origen has been raised namely On First Principles, Book IV, Section 9:

English translation based on Rufinus' Latin translation:
Now the reason of the erroneous apprehension of all these points on the part of those whom we have mentioned above, is no other than this, that holy Scripture is not understood by them according to its spiritual, but according to its literal meaning. And therefore we shall endeavour, so far as our mod­erate capacity will permit, to point out to those who believe the holy Scriptures to be no human compo­sitions, but to be written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to be transmitted and entrusted to us by the will of God the Father, through His only-begot­ten Son Jesus Christ, what appears to us, who ob­serve things by a right way of understanding, to be the standard and discipline delivered to the apostles by Jesus Christ, and which they handed down in suc­cession to their posterity, the teachers of the holy Church.

English translation based on extant Greek of Origen:
Now the cause, in all the points pre­viously enumerated, of the false opinions, and of the impious statements or ignorant assertions about God, appears to be nothing else than the not understanding the Scripture according to its spiritual meaning, but the interpretation of it agree­ably to the mere letter. And therefore, to those who believe that the sacred books are not the compositions of men, but that they were composed by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, agreeably to the will of the Father of all things through Jesus Christ, and that they have come down to us, we must point out the ways (of interpreting them) which appear (correct) to us, who cling to the standard of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles.

English translation provided by Peter Martens, an Origen scholar (in Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life, p. 130 - this is shorter because only this portion was translated):
Therefore we must show to those who believe that the sacred books are writings not from men, but that they were composed and have come down to us from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the will of the Father of the universe through Jesus Christ, what are the apparent ways [of interpretation] for those who hold to the rule of the heavenly church of Jesus Christ through the succession of the apostles.

As Martens acknowledges, there is considerable debate over what Origen mean by the "standard" (first two translation) or "rule" (Martens' translation):

As you can see from the quotation above, the ideas range from "the principle of allegorical exegesis" to "the canon of Scripture." Whichever sense you land on, Origen does not simply mean "go ask the church what the text means: the closest to that would be "the ecclesiastical preaching as enumerated in the preface ...." Martens seems to believe that Origen was referring to the church's rule of faith, without a lot of explanation as to what it means. For example, in a footnote on page 131, Martens writes:

As Martens argues: "adherence to the church's rule of faith and a discerning engagement with the Greco-Roman disciplines yielded viable interpretations of Scripture -- or at the very least, safeguarded interpreters from the sorts of doctrinal errors committed in the Gnostic exegetical circles." (p. 131)

Interestingly, it's quite possible to adopt both the "rule of faith" position and the canon of Scripture position simultaneously, if the Scripture is self-interpreting and the rule of faith for the church, and if the Scriptures were handed down by the apostles and those that followed them.

In any event, Origen himself clarifies his meaning two sections later, after discussing the challenges of reading prophesy and the apostles' letters and the need for the mind of Christ and the keys of interpretation:

From the Latin:
11. But, as we had begun to observe, the way which seems to us the correct one for the understand­ing of the Scriptures, and for the investigation of their meaning, we consider to be of the following kind: for we are instructed by Scripture itself in re­gard to the ideas which we ought to form of it.
From the Greek:
11. The way, then, as it appears to us, in which we ought to deal with the Scrip­tures, and extract from them their mean­ing, is the following, which has been ascer­tained from the Scriptures themselves.
So, it is not that there is a deficiency in the form of Scripture that must be made up by the church, but rather the Scriptures themselves provide the key to their understanding.

And that's, of course, one of the key principles of formal sufficiency: Scripture interprets Scripture.  This contrasts with the view expressed at CCC119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." (DV 12 § 3.)

If reading Scripture is the way we renew our mind, this implies that Scripture does not merely contain revelation, but that it does so in a form that permits our proper understanding of it. In other words, the Scriptures are formally sufficient.  Obviously, a person can inconsistently advise us to read our Bibles, even while teaching that the church has the final say (which is not what Origen said, even under Martens' view), but on its face every statement that affirms that reading the Scriptures is the way to make progress in the Christian life is an affirmation of the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Duns Scotus and the Immaculate Conception

In our recent debate (link), Roman Catholic apologist William Albrecht took the position that the dogma of the immaculate conception was ancient and biblical. The careful listener will note that Mr. Albrecht was unable to provide any patristic quotations that actually affirmed the idea of the immaculate conception, and his rather bizarre exegesis of Galatians 3 was an interpretation totally foreign the patristic era. Mr. Albrecht attributed his exegesis to Duns Scotus, a medieval theologian, who overlaps with Thomas Aquinas. I have seen a philosophical defense of this error from Duns Scotus (which you can read here and in a second instance here), but I have not yet seen an exegetical defense.

This should be unsurprising, as the Encyclopedia Britannica suggests that the first clear articulation of the immaculate conception came in the 12th century and then found its explanation in the writings of Duns Scotus (link). Pope Benedict XVI similarly acknowledged Duns Scotus as having, as one of his three main contributions, the following: "Secondly, Scotus argued that our Lady’s preservation from original sin was a privilege granted in view of her Son’s redemptive passion and death; this theory was to prove decisive for the eventual definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception." (link)

Similarly, writing about the doctrine of the immaculate conception, Eugene Lobo, S.J. indicated: "It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching. Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They point out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset." (link)

In short, the dogma of the immaculate conception was one of the later errors to develop in Roman Catholicism, which is why it is not surprising that over a half dozen bishops of Rome taught contrary to it (link).

On a tangential note, I would point out without endorsement the interesting discussion that Duns Scotus provides on the Sufficiency of Scripture (link).

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Leo I and Gregory I vs. the Immaculate Conception

In an earlier post (link), I provided evidence that the teachings of Leo I aka Leo the Great and Gregory I aka Gregory the Great at least implicitly contradict the modern dogma of the immaculate conception. Luigi Gambero's "Mary and the Fathers of the Church" has a section on Leo I (pp. 302-09) and a section on Gregory I (pp. 366-72). While Mr. Gambero can point to teachings by Leo I and Gregory I that we would not accept (such as Leo's and Gregory's apparent idea that Mary miraculously maintained the physical evidence of virginity despite giving birth), Mr. Gambero does not present any evidence from Leo I in favor of the dogma of the immaculate conception.

Mr. Gambero's subject matter index for the immaculate conception does not point us to any Roman bishop in the patristic period (i.e. up to the time of John of Damascus) as teaching the dogma. Jurgens' "The Faith of the Early Fathers" similarly fails to provide any allegation of teaching on this subject from any Roman bishop (also within that same time period).

In addition to the materials in my previous post, I also located these further examples from Leo's letters:

Letter 31:2 – “For if the New Man had not been made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and taken on Him our old nature, and being consubstantial with the Father, had deigned to be consubstantial with His mother also, and being alone free from sin, had united our nature to Him the whole human race would be held in bondage beneath the Devil's yoke , and we should not be able to make use of the Conqueror's victory, if it had been won outside our nature.”

Letter 35:3 – “For although the Lord’s nativity according to the flesh has certain characteristics wherein it transcends the ordinary beginnings of man’s being, both because He alone was conceived and born without concupiscence of a pure Virgin, and because He was so brought forth of His mother’s womb that her fecundity bare Him without loss of virginity: yet His flesh was not of another nature to ours: nor was the soul breathed into Him from another source to that of all other men, and it excelled others not in difference of kind but in superiority of power. For He had no opposition in His flesh [nor did the strife of desires give rise to a conflict of wishes]. His bodily senses were active without the law of sin, and the reality of His emotions being under the control of His Godhead and His mind, was neither assaulted by temptations nor yielded to injurious influences.”

Ultimately, while a few RC apologists may try to excuse Leo's or Gregory's remarks, a straightforward reading of their words is that they held Jesus to be the lone exception to original sin. Indeed, to the extent they tried to explain it, they did so by reference to the virgin birth. Mary, however, was not virgin born: she was conceived in the ordinary way. Thus, in the mindset of these writers, she would not have been an exception. She could be purified from that sin, but she would have automatically contracted it by the way she was conceived.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Miscellaneous notes about the 1549 Ethiopic

Orientalism, Aramaic and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation: The First Printing of the Syriac New Testament is a 2007 Brill book by Robert Wilkinson. Pages 68-70 provide some insight into the background of the printing of the 1548-9 Ethiopic (Ge'ez) Bible. Evidently, the printing was based on a single manuscript that had recently arrived in Rome from Ethiopia. In a footnote, Wilkinson points the reader to Metzger's "Early Versions of the New Testament" regarding the deficiencies of the manuscript.

Metzger, at p. 299, points out that the Latin translation in Walton's Polyglot was repeatedly criticized: "its Latin rendering has more than once been excoriated as being far from accurate." (p. 230). "Novum Domini nostri Iesu Christi Testamentum ex versione Aethiopici interpretis in Bibliis polyglottis Anglicanis editum ex Aethiopica lingva in Latinam" by Christoph August Bode (aka Bodius) (1753), may provide some improvements to Walton's translation, but only appears to address the four gospels (link).

Evidently then-Cardinal of Sana Croce, Marcello Cervini (later Pope Marcellus II), was a patron of the printing. The colophon "seems remarkably to claim that Cervini could read Ethiopic. If this were so, it would suggest an involvement in Oriental Studies beyond that which has been previously imagined." (Wilkinson, p. 69, fn. 23)