Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ritual, Authority, and the Tradition of the Church

I gather that these two places cacoethes scribendi and mark horne web blogs are referring to my post below on Chesterton and Tradition. Mark simply misses the entire point of Chesterton and I am honestly baffled as to how I would even begin to respond except to encourage him to go and read Chesterton. I have the utmost respect for both of these men as capable theologians who are beyond my own capabilities but I do strongly disagree with the mentioned posts and specifically the collapsing of the Fathers and Councils does not get to the heart of the issue. (See the cacoethes post specifically.) Due to a lack of time myself and writing this post in haste, I would simply refer any interested reader to Tract 34 from the Tracts of the Times. I realise that my referencing this work will not convince the two mentioned authors of the mentioned blog posts but it does address some of their concerns.

Here is a portion of it; read it all here.

St. Basil, whose work on the HOLY SPIRIT, S 66, shall next be cited, flourished in the middle of the fourth century, 150 years after Tertullian, and was of a very different school; yet he will be found to be in exact agreement with him on the subject before us, viz. that the ritual of the Church was derived from the Apostles, and was based on religious principles and doctrines. He adds a reason for its not being given us in Scripture, which we may receive or reject as our judgment leads us, viz. that the rites were memorials of doctrines not intended for publication except among baptized Christians, whereas the Scriptures were open to all men. This at least is clear, that the ritual could scarcely have been given in detail in Scripture, without imparting to the Gospel the character of a burdensome ceremonial, and withdrawing our attention from its doctrines and precepts
."Of those articles of doctrine and preaching, which are in the custody of the Church, some come to us in Scripture itself, some are conveyed to us by a continuous tradition in mystical depositories. Both have equal claims on our devotion and are received by all, at least by all who are in any respect Churchmen. For, should we attempt to supersede the usages which are not enjoined in Scripture as if unimportant, we should do most serious injury to Evangelical truth; nay, reduce it to a bare name. To take an obvious instance; which Apostle has taught us in Scripture to sign believers with the cross? Where does Scripture teach us to turn to the east in prayer? Which of the saints has left us recorded in Scripture the words of invocation at the consecration of the bread of the Eucharist, and of the cup of blessing? Thus we are not content with what Apostle or Evangelist has left on record, but we add other rites before and after it, as important to the celebration of the mystery, receiving them from a teaching distinct from Scripture. Moreover, we bless the water of baptism, and the oil for anointing, and also the candidate for baptism himself......After the example of Moses, the Apostles and Fathers who modelled the Churches, were accustomed to lodge their sacred doctrine in mystic forms, as being secretly and silently conveyed...This is the reason why there is a tradition of observances independent of Scripture, lest doctrines, being exposed to the world, should be so familiar as to be despised......We stand instead of kneeling at prayer on the Sunday; but all of us do not know the reason of this. Again, every time we kneel down and rise up, we show by our outward action, that sin has levelled us with the ground, and the loving mercy of our Creator has recalled us to heaven."
For an excellent article on Tradition see Rather Not blog who points out many necessary issues for us in order to rightly understand what it is we should be explaining when we use the word Tradition. Thanks for the link RatherNot!


Anonymous I'd rather not say said...


8:26 pm  
Anonymous I'd rather not say said...


8:27 pm  
Anonymous The Common Anglican said...

Wow. I am shocked that Mr. Horne, of all people, misinterpreted this quote to that degree.

But of course, to read his dealings with Kimel on Catholicism, I shouldn't be surpised.


1:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, I was as well. I'm not sure how he comes to those conclusions from all that Chesterton has ever said. Maybe he'll retract some of it or at least clarify what he is getting at. His own Reformed tradition wouldn't make such statements unless he was of the ilk of radical Puritanism.

7:24 am  
Blogger Mark said...

I didn't think I was interpreting Chesterton at all so much as asking how his famous quip (which I have and will invoke in some situtations) could be misapplied. It was a meandering post so it probably is inaccurate in any number of ways....

However, Jeff, I *though* I was arguing for a view of tradition much like you mention on Feb 25: "Its authority, therefore, is relative, subordinate, confirmatory, precedential, rational...." I'm not *positive* that the Church was at its best in the patristic era, but other than that estimate I quite agree with what you wrote about the Carolinian view of tradition.

For what it is worth.

4:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark! I may have misunderstood you and will go back and look at it again. I read your post as a mis-read of Chesterton, so that is why I mentioned it the way I did. Chesterton was arguing for the voice of the Fathers and those who have gone before rather than the arrogance of accepting something because it is new and clever. I think patristic fundamentalism is a problem but what I see in Protestantism is often worse than the former. For instance, go read the reading list at Ref21 and find the patristic fathers mentioned...nuff said!

6:53 pm  
Anonymous Jeff Meyers said...

Strange, but I never even read your post on Chesterton until now. I just happened upon it doing a google search for something else. My posts on Luther on tradition predate your comments. I have no problem with what you said in your original post.

8:39 pm  

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