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Monday, April 17, 2006

Orthodox and Anglicans/The Bible and the Church

1. What is the relation between the Bible and the Church?

In order to simplify this question, let me propose the respective Orthodox Catholic view.

[23] Jesus Christ taught his Apostles, during his lifetime and from his Resurrection to his Ascension, all the Catholic truth, founded the Church, to be guided infallibly by the indwelling Holy Ghost, "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." THIS CHURCH IS "THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH,"--and I add most emphatically--the only pillar and ground of the truth. The Apostles deposited this truth in their several Churches, consecrated bishops to be their successors and preservers of the truth deposited. Of this "depositum fidei" part was occasionally written, part orally transmitted (2 Thess. ii. 15), but both the written and unwritten word of God formed but one and the same faith, the faith of the Church. This One Word of God, as contained in Bible and Tradition, cannot be torn asunder without making the Bible a storehouse of deadly weapons, a refuge of heresy, a hand-book for the use of Satan (St. Matt. iv. 6). The Bible is neither the complete nor sufficient source of Christian truth, but explicitly points to the contrary. To the apostles Jesus Christ "shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts i. 3). What did he speak during those forty days? "About the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," i. e. about the Constitution of the Church and Church-doctrine. And quite natural it was, for the foundation of the Church was close at hand. Of this teaching we find fragments scattered about in the Epistles, [23/24] as occasion required it, but nowhere is written down the complete account of the preparatory instruction which Christ gave his Apostles in the days between his Resurrection and Ascension. Still the Church rests on this instruction, completing what we do not find in the Bible. For instance, nobody can satisfactorily settle the important question of the Baptism of infants from the Bible. Without the teaching of my Church I certainly should be in this point a Baptist. Again, according to Catholic Church teaching, the seven Sacraments are instituted by Christ himself; but, in the Bible, you can only find two sacraments instituted by Christ. Therefore you make the heterodox distinction of two essentially different classes of sacraments, viz. the two real sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and five sacramental rites of minor importance. Consistently you can attach to the latter class only an "operatio ex opere operantis," and if you still assert an "operatio ex opere operato," it is but one of the many inconsistencies which overcloud Anglo-Catholicism vibrating between Church and Bible. We have the Church including the Bible, both forming but one Unity. You have the Bible and the Church, forming a Duality disparaging either of the two. Now as you hold the genuine Protestant belief of the self-subsistence of the Bible, not considering the Bible as a fruit of the Church in the full Catholic meaning of the word, exclusively belonging to the Church, to be interpreted only by the Church--you cannot find the proper position of the Church, but place her under the control of the Bible. I [24/25] say, you do not fully consider the Bible as a fruit of the Church, which fruit, as soon as ripe, i.e. canonically completed and universally recognized, was detached from the tree, became self-supporting and sovereign, though not directly hostile to the tree which retains the office of keeping the Bible's Pedigree, after having been superseded by the Bible in all its other primitive functions. Before the Bible was ready, the Church was acknowledged to have been an absolute monarch; since the Bible is ready, the Church became (in the opinion of Protestants) a constitutional prince, lodged in a splendid palace, but bereaved of all rights, even of the right of Veto. The real power lies with the Magna Charta of the Bible, which every one twists as it pleases him. It is true, the Church is a most convenient armoury for the Anglo-Catholics to find weapons for defending themselves and combating Protestantism, but they forget that the primitive position of the Church is materially altered, since the Bible ceased to be the Church's helpmate, both (Church and Bible) being but one and the same organ of the Holy Ghost. Since the Reformation the Bible has to watch over the Church, and has to dictate the sound belief to the Church. Now I call this Protestant table-turning. Such a Church beside the Bible (instead of the Bible within the Church) may be useful, handy, comfortable, but she is not necessary, merely "un article de luxe." Wherefore the greater bulk of consistent Protestants exploded the antiquated idea of the Church as being both cumbrous and injurious to pure Bible-belief.

J.J. Overbeck - Catholic Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism.

12 Comments:

Anonymous I'd rather not say said...

Jeff,

It will surprise no one that I do not quite agree with Overbeck; however, I'll save that for another day. What I'm really interested in for now is---what is the source of that photo?

6:14 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

I had a number of questions myself and hoped to get some thoughts from others here on this issue. As far as the photo, I found it by a google search of images. I didn't see the source but it's a beautiful church!

6:32 pm  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

I was going to ask the same question. It's an interesting mix of Western Baroque and Eastern icons. Certainly couldn't be "Eastern Orthodox," at least originally, no?

Dan

8:21 pm  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

The altar is definitely western catholic in arrangement. My guess is that it is Roman Catholic.

8:24 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Okay, I found some info on the church. It is a Byz. Greek Catholic Church in Western Austria.

8:24 pm  
Blogger lexorandi2 said...

Well that makes perfect sense! Of course!

Thanks.

Dan

P.S. Ever figure out what happened to your images??

4:36 am  
Anonymous Dean A. Einerson said...

Is Overbeck saying anything beyond what Basil says in Chapter 27 of "On the Holy Spirit?"

6:01 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Dean

Would you please expound on what you are referring to? It may bring some fruitful discussion. Thanks for popping in!

2:52 pm  
Anonymous Fr. Dean A. Einerson said...

Jeff, I do hope that I have not misunderstood the issues at hand. However, it seems to me that when Overbeck wrote,”… both the written and unwritten word of God formed but one and the same faith, the faith of the Church” he was saying the same thing that Basil wrote in On the Holy Spirit. . “Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.” 27.66

Overbeck makes the point that the Bible in isolation the rest of the Tradition may become a tool for heretics. “This One Word of God, as contained in Bible and Tradition, cannot be torn asunder without making the Bible a storehouse of deadly weapons, a refuge of heresy, a hand-book for the use of Satan.” Georges Florovsky wrote concerning the Arians: “The Arians and their supporters had produced an impressive array of scriptural texts in defense of their doctrinal position. They wanted to restrict theological discussion to the biblical ground alone. Their claim had to be met precisely on this ground. Their exegetical method was much the same as that of the earlier dissenters. They were operating with selected proof-texts, without much concern for the total context of revelation.”

Florovsky refers to Tertullian’s Prescription Against Heretics in which Tertullian says that heretics use scripture apart from the “rule of faith” which is to say the mind of the Church or, I would say, the larger Tradition.

Finally, I would suggest, (to my brother Anglicans worried about Article VI) that Holy Scripture itself points toward the importance of the Tradition, or as Overbeck wrote,” The Bible is neither the complete nor sufficient source of Christian truth, but explicitly points to the contrary.” It seems that John and Paul also point to the contrary:

John 20.25: But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

I Corinthiams 11.2: I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

2 Thesalonians 2. 15: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

3:45 am  
Anonymous Fr. Dean A. Einerson said...

In short, I do not think that Overbeck is saying anything that is not found in the Fathers, Basil and Tertullian being only two.

3:51 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Pardon me Father for not recognising that you were a priest. Thank you for the explanation and I think it makes a lot of sense in light of the Overbeck article. I think we see a lot of what you mention in 'Reformed' sects of Christendom as well. What is often found within Protestantism is a systematic theology looking for a proof-text. That is why I am becoming more convinced all the time of the oddity of studying Scripture outside of the context of the Church and Tradition as any other piece of literature is examined. It's just not intended for that type of scientific treatment.

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Fr. Dean A. Einerson said...

Jeff,
You certainly had no reason to recognize me as anything in particular, let alone a priest.

HA Hodges in Anglicanism and Orthodoxy: A Study in Dialectical Churchmanship (SCM, 1957) wrote that Anglicanism should “not let Papal autocracy be replaced by an oligarchy of Biblical theologians and preachers of the Word.” (56)

That must be at least as true of academics who would look only at words and not the Word.

Hodges goes on to say,
“The longing to press forward and apprehend the fullness of the Faith is strong in many Anglicans, and it usually drives them towards Anglo-Catholicism—for fullness, of course, is just what Catholicism promises. But western Catholicism, Roman and sometimes also Anglican, is liable to a kind of rigidity, an authoritarianism and an exclusiveness which prevent it from altogether fulfilling its promise. In search of a higher and more ultimate authority than the scholastics one may well look towards the Bible, and of course the claim to make the Bible supreme in every sphere is a characteristically Protestant claim.

“But Protestantism too has its own kind of rigidity and exclusiveness, more vicious and more impoverishing than the Catholic kind. One seeks to escape from both into an atmosphere of freedom, flexibility and openness of mind. These are the liberal virtues, and surely, one thinks, where these are truth must be. One is not so sure of it when one sees what becomes of these qualities when divorced from the authority of Bible and tradition. Between these three points the mind of the Church of England moves, and never finds a stable synthesis. But the meaning of the Church of England is to strive and pray for that synthesis; and if it were found, what would it be but western Orthodoxy at last made visible?” (56-57)

Today it is hard to imagine Hodges or Derwas Chitty's recognition of western Orthodoxy in Anglicanism, let alone Overbecks', and yet I do not think that it is impossible to do so-just very, very difficult. Re-understanding our approach to the relationship of Scripture and the rest of the Tradition is a good place to start however.

By the way, Hodges’ booklet is not easy to find, but I recently was able to find a copy at the Anglican Bibliopole, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Dean Einerson

4:24 pm  

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