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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A reply to David N

From the blog By Whose Authority?. My response was too long for his comment section, and I didn't feel like chopping it all up. The issue at hand is the 1hr or so lecture by Dr. Ligon Duncan,
As seen here:
T4G 2010 -- Session 7 -- Ligon Duncan from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

David N,

You are mostly repeating what you said earlier. So in order to move the argument forward, I will try to explain where and why I either agree or disagree.

David N, said:
"Dr. Duncan taught a whole Patristics class at RTS, so I'm sure he was much more even-handed and scholarly than he was in his 1-hour talk to a mixed group of pastors and laymen. It's simply impossible to do the same work at a short talk like that as you would do in an extended class setting where everyone has read the source material."


David N, said:
"When you only have 1 hour, and your thesis is that the Early Church Fathers were not all "hostile" to Protestant theology, it's pretty much necessary to cherry-pick quotes and offer some basic, surface level explanations of things (like why most of the Fathers seem to stress free will, for example). You can't really fault Duncan for that."

I took issue with the false picture he was trying to paint. What picture do you think he was trying to paint by saying their view of free will was nothing like that of protestant Arminianism and medieval Roman Catholicism?

What do you think he was trying to say? Do you think he was trying to imply that their view of free will was much like their own (Soft and hard determinism)?

1.) Do you really think they were compatibilists(soft determinists)?

2.) Do you really think they were of the kind of Calvinists that reject any idea of free will? You know, what some might call "hard determinism" while others might call another form of "soft determinism"?

3.) How can Calvinistic and Reformed protestants speak from one side of their mouths about Rome and Arminianism being ""semi-Pelagian"", but on the otherside of their mouths say that the early church fathers views of free will were nothing like medieval Rome and Arminianism?

Now in saying that, I am not really saying the early fathers were semi-pelagian, nor am I saying Rome and Arminianism are semi-pelagian, what I am saying is their(the church fathers) views of free will was most definitely closer to medieval Rome and protestant Arminianism than the deterministic schools found within Calvinistic and Reformed protestant circles.

So yes, I think I have some valid reasons to fault him for trying to paint the opposite picture. He should of left Arminianism and Rome out the 1hr lecture. And he should of chosen a topic about the fathers that really represent the Reformed perspective.....the topics he chose just wasn't gonna fly.

David N, said:
"But again, I fundamentally disagree with most of your claims, so I wouldn't expect you to like Dr. Duncan's approach anyway."

So you fundamentally disagree with most of my claims in regards to the fathers?

I still believe in free will, foreknowledge, and predestination just like the Eastern Fathers, and pre-Augustine western fathers did. I also agree with portions of what Saint Augustine had to say about the issue in his early to middle years. And even in the western regions of the church, it took them decades after the death of Saint Augustine to adopt a moderate Augustinian position that still adhered to some form of synergy after the first contact of monergism as seen below at the 4 to 6 minute mark. And even at the local western council of 2nd Orange the Calvinists Robert A. Peterson and Michael Williams said in the book "Why I am not an Arminian" on page 38 that the council supported a semi-Augustinian form of "synergism". And so, a form of free will was still preserved in Rome even after Augustine.

I still believe and hold to the doctrine of Recapitulation(Saint Irenaeus)

I still believe and hold to what Saint Athanasius had to say about the Incarnation.

I still believe and hold to a form of the Classical/Ransom/Christos Victor doctrine of the Atonement.

I am a pacifist(well, a self professed semi-pacifist now for I see some warrant in self-defense) that believes and knows that both sides of this issue co-exist within Christiandom. And yes, Eastern Orthodoxy preserved a form of pacifism as seen here. But guess what? It also preserved the opposite as well, as seen here.

I still believe and hold to an interpretation of the Doctrine of the Trinity that are extremely close to the pre-nicene era. Infact, my understanding is the Nicean and Neo-Nicean views. This is way closer to the thoughts of the pre-nicean era than your Calvinistic double(a tendency towards bi-theism) or triple(a tendency towards tri-theism) asiety views.

My Christology is essentially the same as Saint Cyril. The 4th ecumenical council adopted much of his views and works about the issue, and the 5th ecumenical council adopted even more Cyrillian language and writtings, and it gave the proper and official interpretation of the 4th ecumenical council.

The Calvinistic and Reformed Christology has strong Nestorian tendencies, as seen here, here, here, here, and as this Lutheran youtube video below shows:

I'm sorry David N, but it is more likely for the Calvinistic and Reformed protestants to read what they believe into the fathers in regards to the issues I just mentioned above than me. If it could be said that I read things into the fathers, and I don't believe I do, but if it could be said.....just know it will always be to a much lesser degree than Calvinists and Reformed protestants.

David N, said:
"You can't compare a Protestant claiming some of the Fathers as their own to an Orthodox person claiming the Puritans as their own. It's simply not the same thing. The Puritans were aware of and consciously rejected the main elements of Catholic and Orthodox theology, so of course it would be silly for an Orthodox person to claim the Puritans as being Orthodox."

I don't know if the puritans were aware of Orthodox theology. They were aware of Roman Catholic theology. You keep making the mistake that we are one and the same. However, I do see your point and so, I will use another example more to your liking.

David N, how would you feel if an Arminian protestant who was well read in the works of both John Calvin and Theodore Beza gave a 1hr lecture about how they were truly Arminians, and that modern Calvinists are just reading their beliefs back into them? How would you feel about that? Now you know how I feel when you try to say we(Orthodox Christians) read our beliefs back into the fathers, and that you(Calvinist and Reformed protestants) mostly have them on your side against us.

David N, said:
"The Fathers were not aware of the debate over Sola Scriptura, or Sola Fide, and there was no free will debate until Augustine (which I don't find at all coincidental, by the way), so it is not silly to claim that their theology might agree with Protestants on some points, because they were not explicitly addressing our modern concerns."

They did deal with seeds, variations and forms of some of those issues when dealing with the gnostics and other heretics of their day. To say that a debate centuries later in time can overturn the concepts of free will, the role of Scripture and faith that we Orthodox still hold to and preserved is to put your development not only at odds with them, but also us as well.

In regards to the issue of free will, they fought against the determinism and fatalism of both the gnostics and pagans, and so why should they think it would be ok to embrace a christianized version of determinism when they already rejected it? Why do you think Saint Vincent of Lerins wrote his famous rule of faith? It was because he rejected what Saint Augustine was saying in his later years. The stuff Augustine said in his later years is the very blueprint and foundation of a huge chunk of Calvinism. Without it, Calvinism would not have a chance of existing many centuries later.

In regards to Scripture, they already developed a "rule of faith" Prima Scriptura modal so why should they abandon it for a Solo/Sola Scriptura principle? It is said by some that the heretic Arius only wanted to stick to scripture, if this is truly the case, then they were aware of some form of Solo/Sola Scriptura. They were aware of some seeds of it, and they rejected it for a rule of Faith modal.

And in regards to faith, most of them already saw it as an issue of fidelity, and so, why should they change that perspective for the imputation modal formed many centuries later?

David N, said:
"However, there are some significant overlaps in theme and emphasis between the Reformed and the Orthodox, so it would not be so absurd for an Orthodox person to appreciate some of the Puritans and agree with some of their work."


David N, said:
"That's what's going on here with the Fathers."

I don't know if that was the picture he was trying to paint. I would agree with you if he didn't include mid evil Rome and Arminianism in a negative light in regards to the issue of free will and the church fathers. He should of left the issue of free will alone. Or just not mention Rome and Arminianism. For he tried to make it seem as if they were in agreement with the Reformed, and as you and I both know....or should know....that is far from being true.

David N, said:
"The Fathers were not aware of 16th century debates (or even 8th or 10th century debates), so it makes no sense to read those debates back into Patristic theology and claim that the Fathers were definitively "Orthodox" or "Catholic" or "Protestant."

Our beliefs some centuries later are mostly nothing more than logical conclusions of what was taught centuries before. This isn't the case for Reformed protestants and in some cases Rome. What you teach flips what was taught centuries before on it's head and out the window.

David W, does a good job in explaining this very thing:

David N, said:
"There is much in the Fathers that I would argue is essentially "Protestant" (specifically Reformed, not Anabaptist). But that does not make the Fathers Protestants."

It all depends on what you see as "essentially protestant". I would have to see what you think that is first before I can comment further.

David N, said:
"In any case, now I'm rambling. My only point is that the Orthodox are just as guilty of reading their theology into the Fathers as everyone else is (especially when it comes to the Eucharist and a few other things)."

I disagree. At first I was gonna give in and say something like......if it could be said that we read something into the fathers then....whatever we read into the fathers will always be to a lesser degree than you(Calvinistic and Reformed protestant). But when I saw that you added the issue of the Eucharist into all this, that's when I knew you really don't have a clue, and that I shouldn't give up any ground to you at all, for if you truly think we are reading our theology of the Eucharist into the fathers then you must be full of it! I'm sorry! I tried to be nice.

Before you make such statements, I think you should point the finger at the Reformed and their philosophical and Nestorian influences first, for we are not the problem in this regard.

David N, said:
"Orthodoxy represents an "easternized" development of Patristic theology, just as both Roman Catholicism and a few Protestant denominations (Reformed, Lutheran, and Anglican) represent slightly different "westernized" developments."

Technically we don't believe in the "development of doctrine", at least not in the sense you are talking about. What we believe in is an organic logical conclusion or growth to what was taught before. And so our development is more natural, whereas yours is unnatural for you:

1.) Turn free will into determinism
2.) Turn Ransom/Christos Victor into Penal Substitution
3.) Turn the Real Presence into either grape juice, symbolism only or light spiritualism only
4.) Turn the "rule of faith" into Solo/Sola Scriptura
5.) Turn Baptismal regeneration into symbolism or obedience only

David N, said:
"Everyone has developed their theology beyond anything the Fathers could have originally intended, so it makes little sense to try to claim that everything one group believes today, after centuries of debates and developments that the Fathers had never heard of, is exactly what the Fathers believed."

I'm gonna play David W's video again:

David N, said:
This is why Protestants can more honestly approach the Fathers, appreciating their insights without being forced to accept their errors or implausibly fit their theology into a predetermined mold that doesn't always fit.

That's not what I saw when I was protestant, and seeing different protestant groups quoting the fathers in defense in whatever their group believed. The difference is, the Orthodox are closer to the fathers in most things, and so, we can quote far more of what they say in our defense than most protestant groups.

Christos Anesti


Nathan said...

Minor correction: it's "medieval," not "mid evil."

"There is much in the Fathers that I would argue is essentially "Protestant"

This is of course an anachronistic way of thinking about things. Protestants have borrowed much from the Fathers, often unwittingly. But to read them on their own terms, they don't look very Protestant at all. I often wonder if Protestants think essentially along these lines, "they weren't like us, but if they were alive today, they would be." Counterfactuality is a poor foundation, but how is it possible to remain Protestant without it?

Jnorm said...

Thanks for the correction in spelling!

And I agree, John Calvin quoted a number of them at length. He agreed with Saint Augustine more and would choose him over the others.......just as what many Roman Catholics did back then and some probably still do today. That can confuse and muddy the waters a bit.

But yes, I agree for that's one of the pictures I saw back in my protestant days.

Christ is Risen!

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