Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Incoming Blog Post Alert from Bellisario

Bellisario writes: "I have recently been working on a response to Turretin Fan's absurd abuse of the Angelic Doctor's works concerning his view of Sacred Scripture." He explains that his research is taking a long time (it can't be that long, he only started within the last month) and generating enough material for a book. He then states:
When we dive into Saint Thomas' works and the historical and educational background in which he lived, it is quite clear as to what his texts represent concerning Sacred Scripture. I can assure you, it is nothing close to the Protestant flavor which guys like William Webster and others claim him to be. In fact, he is a pure Catholic, and his theology concerning Sacred Scripture is identical with the Catholic Church today.
(source - emphasis added)

We'll see about that. We're going to carefully check Bellisario's post (when it comes) to see whether Aquinas' theology concerning Scripture is "identical with the Catholic Church today." We have no doubt at all that Aquinas' view of the church (and particularly the Roman Church) is different than the view held by folks who are Reformed today. We expect that this will be the bulk of Bellisario's post - comments about how Aquinas was submissive to the authority of Rome and viewed the Roman pontiff as the earthly head of the church with broad authority over the church. Things that don't really address Aquinas' view of Scripture or those points at which Aquinas differs from modern Roman Catholicism. We hope that in his book-length blog post, Bellisario will address the following issues:

What did Aquinas mean by the following statements:

a) "Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another."

b) "Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."

c) "Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense. "

(discussion of these three may found at this link - additional comment on the third one, here)

d) "the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ" (discussed here - and here)

e) "sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei" ("only canonical scripture is the/a rule of faith") (discussed here - and here)

We hope that Bellisario will not neglect to address these points in his lengthy blog post, carefully explaining what they do mean, rather than trying to focus on what they do not mean.

-TurretinFan

45 comments:

SP said...

I'll be watching with popcorn in hand!

I might suggest defining terms first.

For example, Yves Conger and then John Paul II spoke of scripture's primacy as a matter of Catholic understanding drawing from Augustine.

I cannot discern if you are approaching the primacy of scripture in the same way because it seems that you are trying to draw something akin to sola scriptura from Aquinas (based on the tags you're puttin on your posts about primacy)

Turretinfan said...

SP:

In this case, it may be easier to explain the sense in which he gives Scripture primacy by providing one or more passage where Aquinas does so.

But since you raised Yves Congar - what was the definition of primacy for him? (or you can just provide an example of the usage you had in mind)

steve said...

It's odd that some Catholics are so defensive on this point. After all, they subscribe to the development of doctrine. That being so, why insist that the view of Aquinas must be identical to the view of, say, Benedict XVI?

Why not at least admit the possibility that Aquinas is a transitional figure who isn't consistently Protestant or modern Catholic?

SP said...

TFan,

I'll try to pull some books later today but even Wiki references Conger on prima scriptura:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prima_scriptura>Here

SP said...

Steve,

Why not at least admit the possibility that Aquinas is a transitional figure who isn't consistently Protestant or modern Catholic?

Well, when Aquinas frames the authority in the Church as 'infallible' in the same sentence where he speaks about the 'primacy of scripture' it is kind of hard to admit the possibility that Aquinas was a sola scripturaist.

I don't know why one would admit that when the answer is so obvious.

SP said...

weird. my link to wiki is off.

just wikipedia 'prima scriptura.'

louis said...

Nobody said he was a sola scripturalist.

SP said...

I realize that but I sense this is where this is going.

Correct me if I am wrong.

Turretinfan said...

I think you may be conflating "doctrines of the church" and "authority of the church." Or Perhaps not ... though it certainly seems that way.

Turretinfan said...

"I realize that but I sense this is where this is going. Correct me if I am wrong."

Yes, you're wrong. See above, where Steve notes that Aquinas is between the two positions.

-TurretinFan

SP said...

OK.

In that case I would be glad to read your case for Aquinas being between the two positions.

This would of course include demonstrating how Aquinas' position on scripture and tradition is different from what the Catholic Church teaches.

Turretinfan said...

SP:

Right now, the focus is on pointing out what Aquinas believed. Obviously, that's only part of a proof that what Aquinas believed is different from what the contemporary Roman Catholic magisterium teaches.

Interestingly, Bellisario's eagerness to post on this topic may provide some occasions to narrow down the points of disagreement further.

For example, at other times I have noted that Aquinas didn't accept the Immaculate Conception (he did think the Blessed Virgin had no personal sin, but acknowledged that she was conceived in Original Sin). That's another issue (and perhaps an easier one to discuss) where Aquinas is between the Roman Catholic and Reformed positions. We affirm further that she had actual sins, and Rome says she didn't have original sin.

This topic is more complicated for a number of reasons, but I hope that if you study the matter carefully you'll come to see that Aquinas' position on the issue of Scripture is also somewhere between the typical Reformed believer and the Roman Catholic. For example, as noted above, Aquinas viewed Scripture as both formally and materially sufficient - whereas the modern Roman magisterium at least in practice denies formal sufficiency (and perhaps material sufficiency as well - though many Roman Catholics, particularly converts from a "Protestant" background, do acknowledge material sufficiency).

-TurretinFan

louis said...

"Aquinas viewed Scripture as both formally and materially sufficient"

Do you really mean to go that far on formal sufficiency? I don't see a very strong case for that -- based on what you've posted.

Turretinfan said...

Yes. I'm not sure whether the case is necessarily airtight yet, but there hasn't been much of any response to the issue from the other side. I don't see any holes, but perhaps they will find something I overlooked.

For Aquinas, the articles of faith are all drawn from Scripture and this is done as a matter of convenience.

SP said...

For Aquinas, the articles of faith are all drawn from Scripture

AND the teaching of the Church.

"Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth.

He could have stopped at 'Holy Writ' but he didn't.

I think this is the axis on which your argument turns.

Turretinfan said...

"AND the teaching of the Church."

That's - at best - irrelevant. It is misleading if you are trying to suggest that Aquinas viewed the teaching of the Church as a second source.

"He could have stopped at 'Holy Writ' but he didn't."

Right - and yet his reason for continuing isn't to suggest a second source, which he takes pains to make clear by explaining that the teaching of Church is derivative.

SP said...

TFan.

That's - at best - irrelevant. It is misleading if you are trying to suggest that Aquinas viewed the teaching of the Church as a second source.

Aquinas never separated the "Holy Writ" from the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. I think this is very relevant to the question and the way that you are trying to frame the 'primacy of scripture.'

Further, I don't believe that he treated the Church as 'a second source' but a function of the only source.

How else could Aquinas call the teaching of the Church 'infallible', which he did in the very passage you cited.

'The formal object of faith is Primary Truth as manifested in Holy Scripture and in the teaching of the Church which proceeds from the Primary Truth. hence, he who does not embrace the teaching of the Church as a divine and infallible law does not possess the habit of faith'

- Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 5, a. 3

me: "He could have stopped at 'Holy Writ' but he didn't."

you: Right - and yet his reason for continuing isn't to suggest a second source, which he takes pains to make clear by explaining that the teaching of Church is derivative.


I think you need to take a careful approach to this argument because elsewhere Aquinas explicitly mentioned teaching of the 'infallible' Church that he says are from tradition and not in scripture:

Example: Part Three, Question 25, Article 3 on Worship (veneration) of Images

OBJECTION 4: It seems that nothing should be done in the Divine worship that is not instituted by God; therefore the Apostle when about to hand down the doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Church, says: 'I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you (1 Cor 11:23) But Scripture does not lay down anything concerning the adoration [i.e. veneration] of images.

REPLY 4: The Apostles, led by the inward stirring of the Holy Ghost, handed down to the churches certain instructions which they did not leave in writing, but which have been ordained in accordance with the observance of the Church as practiced by the faithful as time went on. Therefore the Apostle says: 'Stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word' --that is by word of mouth -- or by our epislte -- that is by word put into writing (2 Thess 2:15)


And, as you know, Aquinas taught that the Church was incapable of erring.

On the contrary, The universal Church cannot err, since she is governed by the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of truth: for such was Our Lord's promise to His disciples (Jn. 16:13): "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth." Now the symbol is published by the authority of the universal Church. Therefore it contains nothing defective.

- Summa Theologica, II.II, q. 1, a. 9

In this thread you claimed that Aquinas' view on scripture was "quite close if not identical" to the Reformed view.

Unless you can do something with Aquinas' clear teaching that scripture can only be interpreted by the Catholic Church and that this teaching is infallible than you are gonna have a tough time.

Turretinfan said...

"Aquinas never separated the "Holy Writ" from the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. I think this is very relevant to the question and the way that you are trying to frame the 'primacy of scripture.'"

He separates them analytically, at a very minimum.

"Further, I don't believe that he treated the Church as 'a second source' but a function of the only source."

You've jumped from the doctrines/teachings of the Church to the church. Did you notice your own jump?

"How else could Aquinas call the teaching of the Church 'infallible', which he did in the very passage you cited."

There's lot of possibilities here. The teaching of the Church may be infallible for a number of reasons to Aquinas. Be careful about reading back into Aquinas the categories of our modern times.

"I think you need to take a careful approach to this argument because elsewhere Aquinas explicitly mentioned teaching of the 'infallible' Church that he says are from tradition and not in scripture"

Did you notice that Aquinas then goes on to refer to practices, not dogmas? Do you notice that he doesn't refer to these practices as "infallible" and that he does not derive articles of faith from them?

"And, as you know, Aquinas taught that the Church was incapable of erring."

At least, he thought that with respect to the symbol of faith (i.e. the essential doctrines).

But even if we should interpret his comment to mean that the universal church could never err:

1)that doesn't necessarily imply that the church obtains its doctrines elsewhere than from Scripture; and

2) even if the church sometimes did, it doesn't imply that those additional doctrines are essential doctrines that are necessary for the faith.

-TurretinFan

SP said...

Where did Aquinas teach that the Church could err in any doctrine? Whether one thinks they are 'essential' or not?

My point in talking about the Church in view of scripture is that Aquinas at a bare minimum held that the scripture are for the Church to interpret.

Looking at his view of scripture apart from his view of the interpreter of scripture would be a little like taking a cook book of a master chef and trying to create his dishes only by looking at the ingredient list and not care about his instructions on how to apply those ingredients.

John Bugay said...

Be careful about reading back into Aquinas the categories of our modern times.

TF, This is not just an SP error; it is the very heart of Catholic methodology to "read back" contemporary Catholic doctrine into everything:

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12HUMAN.HTM

21. It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.

Geoffrey Miller said...
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Geoffrey Miller said...

Sorry, the above was a double post.

"The formal object of faith is Primary Truth as manifested in Holy Scripture --> and <-- in the teaching of the Church which proceeds from the Primary Truth. hence, he who does not embrace the teaching of the Church as a divine and infallible law does not possess the habit of faith'"

I'm sorry, but this seems on the face of it to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Thomas did in fact hold a twofold rule of faith: Primary Truth manifested in Scripture and in the teaching of the Church (commonly denoted Sacred Tradition). I just do not see any way around this. Grammatically speaking, it appears certain this is what is being asserted.

louis said...

I wouldn't say "beyond a shadow of a doubt", but SP and Geoffrey make some good points here. I'm interested to see how this discussion progresses.

SP said...

It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.

Thanks John. I don't think there is any problem with that statement.

Turretinfan said...

"Where did Aquinas teach that the Church could err in any doctrine? Whether one thinks they are 'essential' or not?"

I'm not sure Aquinas ever specifically addresses the issue of non-essential doctrines and the church. Why does it matter?

"My point in talking about the Church in view of scripture is that Aquinas at a bare minimum held that the scripture are for the Church to interpret."

If you mean "only the Church" and not others, you'll find you're mistaken.

"Looking at his view of scripture apart from his view of the interpreter of scripture would be a little like taking a cook book of a master chef and trying to create his dishes only by looking at the ingredient list and not care about his instructions on how to apply those ingredients."

I'm not sure we want to talk about Rome cooking up new doctrines. That's certainly not how Aquinas saw it.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"I'm sorry, but this seems on the face of it to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Thomas did in fact hold a twofold rule of faith: Primary Truth manifested in Scripture and in the teaching of the Church (commonly denoted Sacred Tradition). I just do not see any way around this. Grammatically speaking, it appears certain this is what is being asserted."

You are confusing (among other things) "object of faith" and "rule of faith" - the two are not the same thing.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Bugay:

Yes, I think that Mr. Bellisario may well try to argue for a single source view, which would then not align with "21. It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition," which you quoted above.

We'll have to wait and see.

-TurretinFan

SP said...

I'm not sure Aquinas ever specifically addresses the issue of non-essential doctrines and the church. Why does it matter?

Because of your claim that Aquinas only taught that the church never erred on 'essential doctrines.'

Geoffrey Miller said...

Reprinted quote for clarity: "The formal object of faith is Primary Truth as manifested in Holy Scripture and in the teaching of the Church which proceeds from the Primary Truth. Hence, he who does not embrace the teaching of the Church as a divine and infallible law does not possess the habit of faith'

The quote asserts that the formal object of faith is Primary Truth, which is manifested in Scripture and Church teaching. If the claim, "he who does not embrace the teaching of the Church as a divine and infallible law does not possess the habit of faith," does not mean, at the very least, that Church teaching is a rule of faith, I must be frank and admit that I am not sure what does. How can you top a "divine and infallible law"?

Turretinfan said...

"if [lengthy item omitted, see above] does not mean, at the very least, that Church teaching is a rule of faith, I must be frank and admit that I am not sure what does."

Such candor should be applauded. In order to understand what it does mean, you probably need to understand the difference between "habit of faith" and "rule of faith" correct?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

I had written: "I'm not sure Aquinas ever specifically addresses the issue of non-essential doctrines and the church. Why does it matter?"

SP responded: "Because of your claim that Aquinas only taught that the church never erred on 'essential doctrines.'"

Well, if you can show me where he says that the church cannot err on non-essential doctrines (or even that the universal church, as such, is involved in teaching non-essential doctrines), I'll accept the historical fact of what he taught. I don't pretend to have an exhaustive knowledge of everything Aquinas wrote, so I leave open the possibility of being corrected by the discovery of some new information.

Are you aware of any such place? Or is this just idle speculation? Or what?

Geoffrey Miller said...

Now, Aquinas does differ from the common phraseology of modern Church teaching on several points--the immaculate conception, as you have already pointed out, being one of them.

However, as far as I am aware, these variances are still within the bounds of what Church teaching allows. Concerning Mary, for example, a Catholic must hold that she was sinless; a singular grace, predestined to be hers, has kept her from all sin for her whole life, and she has had this grace from the instant of conception, when she received it, because that is when life begins.

In Eastern theology though, this singular grace is seen as preventatory--keeping her from falling into sin due to the effects of a fallen world. Only the West has a concept of a kind of guilt (it isn't really guilt, per se) that is passed along from which she must be cleansed. At the end of the day, of course, all this is highly technical and esoteric--merely a word game. For practical purposes, our belief on the matter is identical and we are at liberty to differ among ourselves in the philosophical clouds beyond clouds because, when you get right down to it, what goes on up there has no bearing on the real world and the faith actually lived.

Esoteric debate is a consequence of man's fragility and temptation to intellectual pride, in most cases. It can cause severe divisions over relatively minor things, which is why St. Paul cautions against it so much, begging people to be of one mind, or in other words, to let odd things slide.

Keeping all this in mind, there actually isn't anything intrinsically wrong with such debates. They are great for recreational purposes, and besides, since so many folks have already started them, being aware of them and engaging in them is a necessary evil. As long as everyone wears their safety gear and plays nice, it can be a lot of fun.

This is a benefit of Christian liberty. And I find it exhilaratingly marvelous.

Oh, for the sake of curiosity and such, I read a good blog post on the development of the dogma of the immaculate conception.

http://athanasiuscm.blogspot.com/2009/12/immaculate-conception-part-i.html

http://athanasiuscm.blogspot.com/2009/12/immaculate-conception-part-ii.html

God's blessings and have a good Theophany! I'll be back later tonight. Feel free to email me with questions or updates (I think I have the contact option on my profile).

Turretinfan said...

"However, as far as I am aware, these variances are still within the bounds of what Church teaching allows."

No - on the immaculate conception his view is out of bounds of the contemporary requirements of Roman Catholicism.

Normally, though, people point out that some freedom to believe wrong doctrines (judged by today's standards) is permitted to folks who come before the dogmatic definition of the doctrine. We don't dispute the fact that Roman Catholicism judges historical figures by that standard, but we do note that it is odd to claim that the immaculate conception is an essential doctrine now, but is something too obscure for Aquinas to see then.

Alex said...
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SP said...

No - on the immaculate conception his view is out of bounds of the contemporary requirements of Roman Catholicism.

The Immaculate Conception had not been dogmatically defined in an ecumenical council yet.

Well, if you can show me where he says that the church cannot err on non-essential doctrines (or even that the universal church, as such, is involved in teaching non-essential doctrines), I'll accept the historical fact of what he taught. I don't pretend to have an exhaustive knowledge of everything Aquinas wrote, so I leave open the possibility of being corrected by the discovery of some new information.

Are you aware of any such place? Or is this just idle speculation? Or what?


I am not the one who drew a line in the sand in between 'essential' doctrines and 'non-essential' doctrines.

Aquinas does not say, "The Church cannot err when it comes to 'essential doctrines.'

He said: On the contrary, The universal Church cannot err, since she is governed by the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of truth: for such was Our Lord's promise to His disciples (Jn. 16:13): "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth." Now the symbol is published by the authority of the universal Church. Therefore it contains nothing defective.

- Summa Theologica, II.II, q. 1, a. 9

SP said...

In my above comment...sorry, somehow I didn't read how you admitted that the doctrine hadn't been defined yet. I wasn't trying to rub it in : )

Turretinfan said...

SP:

Agreed that he doesn't use the exact words in your first proposed quotation.

Note, however, that the symbol is a statement of essential doctrines and that it is simply excerpted from Scripture for convenience (according to Aquinas' explanation).

-TurretinFan

SP said...

Note, however, that the symbol is a statement of essential doctrines and that it is simply excerpted from Scripture for convenience (according to Aquinas' explanation).

Where does Aquinas draw this distinction?

Turretinfan said...

I had written: "Note, however, that the symbol is a statement of essential doctrines and that it is simply excerpted from Scripture for convenience (according to Aquinas' explanation)."

SP asked: "Where does Aquinas draw this distinction?"

I discuss it in this previous post.

Matthew Bellisario said...

The term symbol, or symbolum in Latin, is used by Saint Thomas to express Creeds of the Faith, not all essential doctrine of the Church.

Turretinfan said...

MB:

What makes you think that Aquinas thought there were essential doctrines that were not included in the symbol?

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...

Because not all essential doctrine and teachings of the Church are explicitly contained in the Creeds. We can see that St. Thomas lists them throughout his Summa Theologica depending on what doctrine or teachings he is addressing in the text. It is apparent that St. Thomas was not referring to all essential doctrine. He was addressing Creeds of the Church for a specific reason, in reference to Sacred Scripture.

Turretinfan said...

"Because not all essential doctrine and teachings of the Church are explicitly contained in the Creeds."

Can you identify one doctrine that Aquinas says is an essential doctrine that is not in the creeds?

"We can see that St. Thomas lists them throughout his Summa Theologica depending on what doctrine or teachings he is addressing in the text."

I hope your article will be more specific.

"It is apparent that St. Thomas was not referring to all essential doctrine."

(see above)

"He was addressing Creeds of the Church for a specific reason, in reference to Sacred Scripture."

Hopefully in your article you'll state what the specific reason is.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Read his writings, and read what he is writing about in the context of the passages that you are cutting and pasting. Maybe then you can figure it out. You act as if Saint Thomas is writing about every essential doctrine ever taught by the Church, and if you can read, his passages are referencing certain teachings. Quit reading his writings with your Protestant predisposition for a change and look at what he is actually writing about.

Turretinfan said...

Bellisario:

If you have nothing further to contribute, thanks for stopping by.

Hopefully your article will do more than make the kind of vague unsubstantiated assertions that your comments here are providing.

-TurretinFan