A Theological Ellipsis, part one

Introduction

This essay is not meant to be an attack on Eastern Orthodox theology.  I have utmost respect for it.    It is merely documenting why I am cannot currently go this route.  Since it is not meant to be a rebuttal or refutation, it likewise cannot be critiqued as such.  I am not advancing a particular thesis nor am I giving a defense of Protestant distinctive.   A sharp Orthodox apologist could present numerous cogent objections to Protetantism and I probably wouldn’t have a good response to them.  Notwithstanding, I do think I have a few cogent reasons why it is difficult or impossible to go the Orthodox route right now.

I do not want to be like those who study a little bit of Orthodoxy and then devote their entire internet careers stalking Orthodox websites.  I really don’t have time fro the “blog wars.”  One wit has rightly described hell as “the comment section of a theological blog.”

As with Scripture, so with Tradition

One of the more popular arguments I had used against sola scriptura was that it demanded the premise that “Scripture interprets Scripture.”  The problem, though, is one of circularity.   How could one even begin the process?   One is assuming a priori that there is a given Scripture that interprets the less clear ones.  But who gets to determine which is the given and which the less clear ahead of time?  Unfortunately, I think, this same problem can be advanced against the Traditionalist approach.  While I don’t believe the Fathers “contradict each other” (at least not outright), one must admit that there are troubling passages.   Therefore, the same problematic applies:  which interprets which?  How do you know?       For example, St John Chrysostom says that the True Faith is found where the Bible is truly believed.  This, at least on the surface level, is a far claim from the standard traditionalist approach.   Who gets to determine how “the bible is truly believed”?   The proper answer is “The tradition.”  John Chrysostom, however, doesn’t say that (at least not in that passage).

You will see some internet Calvinists say that “Oh yeah, well the Fathers contradict each other.”  You can be sure of two things:  99.99% of internet Calvinists making this claim have never read the Fathers outside of some citation of Augustine.”  Secondly, they probably don’t know what a contradiction really is.  I don’t think the Fathers “contradict” each other, but there are some difficulties.   I don’t have my set with me right now, but here is an exercise.  St Athanasius said that the Son was the Father’s will, or act of willing.  Yet, later neo-Palamites will critique Rome for making the Holy Spirit an energy and product of Father and Son.  Here is what I mean.   Person is not nature; person is not operation.  Yet, it appears that Athanasius identified the person of the Son as an operation of the Father.

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