Find it in the fathers!….um, no

The one common refrain at OrthodoxBridge is that Protestants can’t find any of their distinctives in the early Fathers of the church.   This charge bothers some people.  However, like a judo artist, I will redirect the blow.  This will not prove that Protestantism is correct, but it will show that if the charge is correct, not only is Protestantism false, but so is Orthodoxy.

In volume 5 of his series on the History of Christian Doctrine, Jaroslav Pelikan openly challenges the adequacy of the Vincentian canon (it’s in the second to last chapter).  At best it can only read, “What is [usually] believed by [many] people in [most] places.”  Evidentially, especially in the earlier days of the church, it’s almost impossible to prove that the people in India believed in the same thing as the people in North Africa.   And if the evidence is missing, how can you make the case?

Even worse, as Lars Thunberg points out, St Cyril affirmed “one will and energy” of Christ (Pseudo-Dionysius said the same thing).   The whole point behind St maximus’s theology is the very opposite of this.  Yet, if one were to “go to the earlier fathers,” would one necessarily come away with dyotheletism?   Even worse, St Maximus himself hints that the greatest of all theologians, St Gregory Nazianzus, used language that was disturbingly similar to monotheletism.

The problem is this with Orthodox internet apologists:

P1:  Our practice today is part of the ancient tradition of the church.
P2:  We thus appeal to this church father to prove this.
Therefore, the early church taught this and this is the tradition.

What’s the problem with this argument?  The problem is that there is an epistemic gap between P2 and the conclusion.  How do we know that this father is the tradition, or that tradition is thus and so (and most of the time, I don’t even grant P2.   A lot of times these fathers aren’t event talking about 9/10ths of the practices that are now considered “tradition”)?

Even granting P2, at best the syllogism’s conclusion only reads:  one Father of the church taught this.


70 comments on “Find it in the fathers!….um, no

  1. Andrew Buckingham says:

    Again, more thought provoking blog posts by Jacob…Thanks!

    I’ve spent some time deeply considering the relationship between tradition and orthodoxy. I’ve read. Some mainstream psychological or scientific renderings about ‘tradition.’ I won’t pollute the waters here. But Jacob, just know I like what you write! Its interesting and worth attention. Peace.

  2. Andrew says:

    Doesn’t Cyril mention two energies in his commentary on the Gospel of John? I think I remember Perry saying that at one point or another.

    • I kind of remember that. The problem is that Cyril often said a lot things. He was once accused of teachign the Filioque because of his unguarded language. Farrell documents that.

    • Yes, Cyyil teaches dyothelitism in his commentary on John 6 and other places.

      If Andrew thinks that Thunberg argues that Cyril was a monothelite then it would be helpful for him to cite the material from Thunberg so that his readers aren’t left taking his word for it.

      • I’ll dig up the quote later. It’s in the second chapter on Neo-Chalcedonianism. Thunberg leans towards that claim. Whether or not he employed all the relevant data is another question.

      • Does Thunberg “lean” that way or does he make the claim? What you have above seems to say that he in fact makes the claim. Which do you claim?

        Also, as to Dionysius, Maximus does a fair amount of work on theanthropos and theandric showing that it is perfectly in line with his Dyothelitism and this has tended to be upheld by contemporary analysis of the Dionysian corpus.

  3. Canadian says:

    “The one common refrain at OrthodoxBridge is that Protestants can’t find any of their distinctives in the early Fathers of the church.”

    Careful, your readers might just go read the posts and comment threads over there to discover you have said this for dramatic effect and not truthfully. ANY…..ANY of their distinctives??? However, anything that is distinctively peculiar to Protestantism would necessarily mean it was not part of the original.I don’t think you want that, do you?

    “Jaroslav Pelikan openly challenges the adequacy of the Vincentian canon”

    So what. So does Florovsky, but your argument does not take you where you want it to.
    There are times when the minority was correct. But that does not permit schism or destroy catholicity and authority.

    “The whole point behind St maximus’s theology is the very opposite of this. Yet, if one were to “go to the earlier fathers,” would one necessarily come away with dyotheletism?”

    No. Maximus did not oppose Cyril. Bathrellos has documented thoroughly that Cyril was defending one agent in Christ. Chalcedon as well as Maximus support and defend Cyril. Certain language was used in different ways but was not describing opposing views of Christ. Bathrellos also thoroughly clarifies Gregory’s belief that Christ had a human will that was deified. None of this helps you. The father’s are not individually infallible but what you are implying is that they disagreed in a heretical fashion. Look, lots of ancient theologians and popes were condemned for heresy, this is not surprising but good and right.

    “We thus appeal to this church father to prove this.
    Therefore, the early church taught this and this is the tradition.”

    Funny. When all the father’s agree on something (eg the eucharist is the flesh of Christ or baptismal regeneration) it is dismissed because it must be the devious deception of Pilgrim’s Enchanted Ground encompassing them all. But when the father’s have various opinions, they are dismissed and the Protestant cry goes up “where is the Vincentian unanimity of the father’s?”.

    You know very well Orthodoxy does not think that the apostles practiced every thing that is practiced today. But the same faith is guarded and passed on nonetheless.

    • Canadian says:

      I need to clarify… can make the change and delete this request if you like.

      When I said “No. Maximus did not oppose Cyril.” It appears that I am saying No to the second question you asked…..that of “would one necessarily come away with dyotheletism?” Just remove the word “No.” Thank you.

    • I’m not too worried if they go over there and read the comments.

      You know very well Orthodoxy does not think that the apostles practiced every thing that is practiced today. But the same faith is guarded and passed on nonetheless.

      So is the same faith identical to what the apostles did or did not practice? If it is not the same thing that is practiced today–and I was under the impression that that theology is modeled after praxis–then how is is the same faith?

      • Canadian says:

        Come on.
        The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was not used by the apostles. But they were strictly liturgical.
        The eucharist was not served by intinction….it is the body and blood of Christ nonetheless.
        The Creed did not exist….yet the creed is defended and repeated.
        The sign of the cross though very ancient, likely was not specifically used by the apostles.
        Etc, etc.
        Here again, you request uniformity or dismiss the content. Unity does not require uniformity. The faith once delivered is expressed within certain bounds but differently, no biggie. Praxis does protect and express proper theology, and it is adapted for precicely that reason. But this all comes under the authority of the bishop who is in communion with all the bishops. Needs and challeges change, but the faith is still that of Christ’s pillar and ground of the truth. Acts 15 did not change the faith, it adapted it’s praxis to guard the truth that always existed.

      • Canadian says:

        You just undercut your own position, my friend. If you are not practicing what the apostles and their followers practiced, how is it the same faith?

  4. Andrew Buckingham says:

    Hey so call me ignorant, but isn’t Jesus the ground of our faith? What I mean is, what I see is competing traditions, using blogs and comments, to do something I’m not sure what. What I am saying is, what is driving all these blog posts and comments? There may be some honest soul searching on behalf of both parties. Just my two sense: in Sunday school, they taught me, ‘Jesus loves me this I know…For the Bible tells me so.’

    My faith kinda rests on that song I was taught, and now teach to my children.

    So hey, keep writing back and forth about the differences in Eastern and Western ways. Let’s just all make sure it is Jesus we run to when all is said and done.


    • Canadian says:

      1 Timothy 3:15
      But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

      Jesus cannot be separated from his body. Is his body visible or invisible?

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Hey Canadian, I don’t think I understood if this was a question at me. Looks Iike it is.

        Jesus’ body is visible.

        But I have no idea what you are getting at.

        Likely I have been spending too much time on the golf course, and not enough on blogs or in theology books.

        I look forward to any discussion this leads to! My best yo you and those nearest you,


        PS thanks for the Bible reference verse. I just read it in my Bible too. But now i have to go to work. Peace.

      • Canadian says:

        Hi Andrew,
        Above you brushed aside “competing traditions” for a simple relationship with Jesus. The implication seems to be we should not guard our traditions at the expense of anyone’s personal faith in Jesus. The scripture testifies to the church being the pillar and ground of the truth, but you seem to imply that if really embraced, this would somehow take away from Jesus himself. My point was to find out if you think there is opposition or division between Christ and his body the church, and also to see if you think that Christ’s body, the church, is invisible or visible. If the Church Christ established is the bulwark and stay of the truth, then it has the ability and authority in communion with the Holy Spirit, to be one as Christ and the Father are one (John 17), and to differentiate between true and false “traditions” without competing with anyone. We can’t just pick our tradition and it be ok just as long as we all love Jesus.

      • This is an example of how Orthodox guys could have an even better apologetic. What Andrew is getting at (I think) is that how do we know which traditions are valid or not? While it’s true in one sense that the church gets to determine it, the criteria and manner (and historical reconstruction) of such determining is not always quite clear.

        Approaching it from that angle, going a bit deeper beyond the “Well, the church just interprets it,” is a much more fruitful approach to apologetics.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Thanks Canadian, and Outlaw too! Hey, I’m leaving to play at a real nice golf course for all day, but my thing is, more broadly, that being raised in a baptist church in California, and then joining a reformed and Presbyterian congregation in college at age 18 (and I still belong to that denomination), my knowledge is limited. More than anything, I am thankful for both of your help I seek to understand more about EO. I’m really committed to my church,, and am ordained a deacon, but all the more, my allegiance is to Jesus. Its exciting finding folks like you, who despite our differences, share One Lord above all. That’s all. Peace. -AB

  5. ***You just undercut your own position, my friend. If you are not practicing what the apostles and their followers practiced, how is it the same faith?***

    I don’t see how that is my position. My position is that the earliest moments of Christianity do not give us any clear “how-to” on liturgy, so in a sense we are all innovative in praxis.

  6. jnorm says:

    1.) The Vincentian canon was never meant to be a one size fits all rule. What was Saint Vincents reason for writing it? What was he trying to fight against? And so wouldn’t it make sense that his method would work best against that? .

    2.) In regards to Saint Cyril, it doesn’t matter if he said “one will and energy”. For He also said “One Incarnate Nature of the Word after the union” too! And so what matters most is what a person means by what they say. I know a number of Coptics who disagrees with Pyrrhus’s Monothelitism as well as with marionettism in general, but still prefer to speak in terms of “One Will” anyway. And so it’s about what a person means, and not necessarily what a person says. For both Rome and the Reformed are Dyophysites, but do all Dyophysites believe the same? Do we all share the same meaning?

    3.) Do you believe that there is no such thing as orthodoxy? And that there were a thousand different beliefs all in opposition with one another? You seem very upset about something.

    • ~1. I was just quoting Pelikan.

      ~2. I am not sure specifically what you area sking. I suppose my answer is a tentative “no.”

      ~3. I believe there is a deposit given to the early church. As to what it is, I am not sure (and even on Orthodox gruonds–when I spent five years reading Farrell and Perry–what the content of it is. Oral tradition by nature is very hard to verify when it is 2,000 years ago.

      I’m not angry and I don’t want this blog to come across as a rant against Orthodoxy. I actually want to do a series of posts praising Fr Seraphim Rose against modern bourgeoisie Orthodoxy.

  7. Robert Arakaki says:

    I am working on my response to this blog posting. Thank you for your patience!

  8. Nate says:

    Why is is problematic to admit that the church may err? The majority of the bishops may all agree on something totally wrong and break off communion with the correct minority, which is the true heir of the apostolic faith.

    • The contention from the EO side is not whether the church fathers can ever be wrong–no one, for example, takes Irenaeus seriously when he says Jesus was 50 years old when he died!–but rather, how do the Fathers collectively represent the Patrum Consensus, and whether that can be wrong.

      • Nate says:

        So this “Patrum Consensus” with which various fathers disagreed on various matters is now a single united monolith, with all the errors of the fathers identified? And do these ancients assert the inerrancy of their own opinions, or is this quality retroactively bestowed? And given the possibility of even an ecclesiastical majority falling into error, who determined which parts of which fathers get to be elevated to Consensus, this supposed infallible interpreter of scripture, apparently assembled like Frankenstein’s creature from selected pieces of the deceased?

      • Andrew Buckingham says:


        In our circles, have you heard of the Latin phrase, ‘animus imponentis’?

        The reason I ask is because, while maybe there’s no relation to the discussion here, animus imponentis ( or ‘AI’) was invoked around some controversies in the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada. Now I know maybe our Presbytery has not always been viewed as one of the bright shining stars in the OPC, there’s stuff you and I can talk about here, when I see you at church.

        That, and when I can get you up here golfing with me…I just passed the idea to Heather. Let’s go golf soon 🙂

      • Nate says:

        Andrew, the concept you bring up from the creation conference, ‘animus imponentis,’ seems to me to have little utility outside the denomination or the Reformed tradition. EO and our branch of Protestantism are not united by any ecclesiastical authority, so how can our denomination’s interpretation of our constitution (Westminster) be useful to those who are not under the authority of that body and reject that constitution, no matter how it is interpreted? If we are talking to our Outlaw friend who subscribes to the same secondary standards, that is a different matter.

      • The Patristic consensus is exemplified if not established through the judgments of the councils, which pick out their works and/or views. In this way, the variety of views are honed down ecclesiastically.

        A good many councils speak of either themselves or their predicessors or both as being “inspired” by the Spirit. It matters not if Protestants accept that self attestation or not. What matters relative to the coherence of the view is that the claim is made.

  9. Nate,

    That may occur, but then the question is, how is the apostolic faith identified?

    • Andrew Buckingham says:

      Hi Perry,

      Sorry to interrupt, but I almost posted something last night about this. Instead, I went to my denomination’s search field, input ‘apostolic faith,’ and thought this was helpful, as well as the entire article (link below). I may have missed the point. And I know I am not making an argument, I am just sharing. But maybe some things to think about:

      “The Westminster Confession of Faith states clearly the historic Protestant position on the question of authority:

      The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.6).”


      PS your picture is awesome! Although I much prefer episodes 4, 5, and 6, I will always appreciate a Star Wars reference of any kind. I was using the line, “let the wookie win” to try to personally worm out of some debates over creation lately. I digress…

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        So in other words, which tradition is holding to Scripture? Now that’s a whole ‘nuther can of worms. A whole ‘nuther set of OPC q&a links. Form another time. In our own denomination, we felt our church was not practicing Historic Biblical Christianity. We feel J Gresham Machen had his finger on the problem in our church, and after being defrocked for what we believe was upholding Biblical Christianity, formed the church that I have now been in for over a decade. I digress…

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Maybe more help ( I will stop now, sorry for all the reading material, but the question posed is interesting)

        “In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul—who was not physically present in Corinth—wrote to them to tell them what to do with respect to a discipline case. He said (in 5:4-5): “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” So you see, Paul did not pass on his authority to another man so that he could be there in Corinth. No, Paul said, in effect, if you will do what I as an apostle now instruct you to do then I will be with you in spirit, and you will also have the power of our Lord Jesus with you, to deliver that man to Satan, etc.

        So, to put it simply, the Reformers realized that there was no need for apostolic successors. No, the need was simply to have the apostles themselves with us through their inspired and inerrant teaching. And that is what we have in the New Testament.”

      • Andrew, I am not clear on how what you posted helps. Any group could propose a strong doctrine of perspecuity. Given that scripture doesn’t give us doctrinal formulae this doesn’t present us with a mechanism and even if it did, certaily ot one that can produce ultimately normative judgments. In short, is scripture’s teaching ever revisable? Is man’s?

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        I won’t claim anything I do is helpful…

        But I will show you where my heart is.

        I gotta get back to work. Basic idea – I didn’t like the Christianity I was raised in, but I read my Bible several times as a teenager. It was my Bible that I clung to when I wasn’t sure where to go to church.

        That’s all. Personal history. I am sorry if I wasted your time, Perry.

        I’ll be reading those EO things you and Jacob like. I know nothing of your tradition, yet.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Is scripture’s teaching ever revisable?


        Is man’s?


      • Andrew,

        I am not sure how one reaches that conclusion re: 1 Cor 5. Given that Paul speaks of passing on his ministry and the Spirit through the laying on of hands, it seems highly plausible that he did so for the Corinthians. What he gives them are instructions, but it in no way follows from the fact that in his epistle that he so gave them that they lacked the requisite apostolic ministerial authority to execute those instructions. So the reasoning seems fallacious.

      • Andrew,

        If I thought you were wasting my time, do you really think I would be here?

        If the scriptures are not revisable and man’s teaching is, I am interested in how both of these are to be maintained?

        On the one hand, the canon seems revisable on Protestant grounds, which seems to make scripture itself revisable.

        On the other hand, if any teaching from scripture is to be as normative as scripture is materially, then it too must be unrevisable, yet no Protestant teaching could be or so it seems to me.

        It seems one or the other has to go or Protestantism does. Such are the way things appear to me.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        I am sorry where I am abrupt, Perry. I am new to this world of internet blogging and commenting.

        Hey, thanks for sharing your perspective.

        I read a book on canon a few months ago, promoted by some back and forth on Facebook with Jacob. Questions about the canon are indeed important. We can keep talking about these matters, here in this public forum.

        I’m really short of time, with the kids under the age of six, and a very time consuming job as an accountant. I will be putting my best foot forward, but I will need readers to be patient, and I always need grace.

        What strikes me, last the most 30,000 foot level about all of this, is wondering what is driving all our commenting, blogging, etc. Perry, I did check out your blog. I will try to follow your thoughts. Just ask yourself, what is driving you. I am sure you know and I am sure I am sounding condescending. But I have my hints at why people blog and comment what they do. I don’t presume and always try to give the benefit of the doubt. I will read your blog more and listen to whatever is addressed to me. I am pretty hard core protestant though.

        More later,

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        *three kids

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        *at the most

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Sorry, last post, Perry.

        Hey, my connection to Jacob was I read his review on Goodreads for St. Cyril by Mcguckin. My pastor told me to read that after I was playing with fire, reading modern theologians I won’t name.

        Point is, I am sorry for how I communicate. Of course we are all doing what we do because we care.

        I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

        Point is, that Mcguckin book is amazing and I was delighted to see it on your recommended reading.

        Also, my point is, nice to ‘meet’ you, Perry.

        Looks like you have three kids too. Cool!


      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Right, Nate. Either way, denominations are a good thing, because it is a peace promoting thing when brothers, realizing they are at loggerheads, must separate due to both sides feeling their conscience’s clear on whatever issue, before God. It is in this light that the schismatic tendency of protestants is to be viewed. Sad, yes, but necessary for peace in a world of sin.

      • Perry,

        “If the scriptures are not revisable and man’s teaching is, I am interested in how both of these are to be maintained?”

        I’m still mulling over your comments. You may know I am ordained in the OPC and am in full standing, and so subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith as an officer in that denomination. I would implore you to read chapter 1 of that document, “On Holy Scripture,” but I know that’s not an answer to the questions you raise. It’s just I am out of time, and so I need to commute to work. I’m really into puritan writers, and listen to their writings as I drive.

        More later,

    • Nate says:

      Scripture seems sufficient to me as a rule of faith and life. Not all things are equally clear, but those things which are necessary for salvation are clear. I see no need for appeals to ancient fathers or their consensus (if that were well defined) as an infallible interpreter. These venerable and saintly fathers could not have anticipated every question that would arise and require new interpretation of scripture thousands of years after they finished their race. Why should providence not permit Christians struggling to interpret scripture aright over the centuries to achieve greater and greater precision with the passing of time? Unanimity does not exist between Christian churches, but you are certain that EO has some monopoly on the apostolic faith? If it is not an appeal to scripture, what makes you so sure that you are correctly distinguishing between orthodoxy, error, and heresy?

      • Canadian says:

        Innumerable Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, Evangelicals, Seventh Day Adventists etc all appeal to the same scripture and disaggree even about salvation itself to the point of refusing to commune (John 17??). It is not that there is an appeal just to some ancient consensus of the father’s. It is the promises of Christ to the Spirit indwelt church that must be noticed. If He will really keep his promises of leading her into all truth, being with her until the end of the age, the gates of hell will not prevail and that this church is one even as he and the Father are one…..then the church he established has always existed as he established it….with interpretive authority because of her connection to Christ her head. Faithful men have received what was passed from the apostles whether by letter or their words and we still must submit to those who have the rule over us, as scripture says. Through the centuries, new heresies and challenges were met by the church in Council. They had the ability and authority to answer and preserve the truth.
        Notice that the NT church could do things no Protestant assembly or denomination does, with or without the use of scripture, and the question must be asked why?
        1. Define heresy with certainty.
        She did not just present a case from scripture for folks to consider and let the people decide if something is biblical or not (modern sermon does this).
        2. She could forbid and identify schism.
        Scripture forbids schism. The church forbids schism. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. The closest we could get would be the joining of First Baptist with Community Baptist. Though noble in itself, this does not constitute the elimination of a schism, just a moving of chairs.
        3. In relation to the above, the church can actually procure ecclesial unity.
        I asked myself one day “how could I as a protestant repent of a sin I see in scripture (schism) and still remain Protestant. Schism from who exactly? If schism is a sin, then there must be a body that is the ONE that all divisions come from.
        4. She can demand the assent of faith.
        The NT church had real interpretive authority for all Christians. This same church exists today and like her origins in the NT, can and does put forth that which is binding and normative for all Christians.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        And while I sympathize with what may be characterized as a Schismatic tendency in Protestantism, breaking away and peaceable withdrawal (which is what we in the OPC feel we are rightly doing) is not necessarily sin. In our heritage, we found ourselves in and amongst fellow Presbyterians (this was in the 1930s) with whom we could not longer commune because we felt they abandoned Christianity. The right thing, in this case, was to form a new denomination. Total depravity is real in you and me. Sin has touched every facet. Sin is pervasive and hasn’t escaped the church either. Nate’s right, Scripture is our plumb line. Again, I sympathize Canadian, but ultimately, breaking away is a form of love, because we did not wish todisrupt the church we found ourselves in (be we, I mean founders of the OPC like Machen). Breaking away is not easy,it means personal loss of property and pension pay for the ministers, and the list goes on.

        But with Luther, when we read our Bibles, and we hear something out of step, we stand before God. And can not do but otherwise.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        Which of course, was not uttered by Luther,but you get the idea. Jacob, you still in to Lutheranism? I’ve been seeing all sorts of books hitting your goodreads, thought I saw some of Calvin’s writings. I recently added on my ‘to-read’ list the Romans commentary by Calvin. Take care.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        And not to be a complete pain in the you know what, the reason I ask questions and want to find good books on all sorts of subjects is because I like to find things written that actually help indivduals as well as larger groups to reach positions of further clarity and understanding. I’m kind of a young guy (maybe not, I turned 30) so I have been finding in my last few months the places on the internet where very knowledgable people talk theology, and other things, and enjoy the discussions as I do.

        My point is, something Nate told me, was that in matters like we are discussing, it’s good to find those writings that help to answer some of the questions, over and against those writings that seem to only introduce new questions or those that attempt to answer questions but don’t do that successfully.

        This may sound extremely condescending. I’ve recently come to discover the tone with which I write and how it is read is somehow experiencing disconnect.

        What I am saying is, I have no motive here, other than to learn. And I talk bluntly.

        But you can see why I ask Jacob for the writings that are helpful, on the topic.

        For me, the OPC has been a place where I have found people who seem to talk clearly and straight-forward on the issues at hand.

        But I’m again going to plead ignorance. And with that, my comments now stop.

        But I’ve found you all, and am reading what you write.

        It’s interesting to hear your thoughts. I want to hear more.


      • Nate says:

        New interpretations force the churches to continually draw the borders of orthodoxy and state what they believe to be true and what they reject as error. They may draw that narrowly, in response to some controversy, and controversy is usually why councils convene, so distinguish between error and the truth of the apostolic faith, or they may leave considerable latitude for a multiplicity of views because a lack of certainty rightly causes the ecclesiastic authority to fear condemning truth. It is indeed terrible when a church marks out its doctrinal stance in a way that excludes the truth, but controversies will demand that a stance be taken. When the majority errs in such a way, and fences the table of the Lord against the genuine heirs of the apostolic faith, which they reserve for the deluded sheep that exhibit culpable loyalty, not toward biblical truth, but for empty externals and the former name of the denomination, then the rejected minority is actually the heir of the apostolic faith. The may be true that the majority can always retain the ancient and formerly noble name of the denomination, but when they are in error, that is no virtue, and the majority is the party guilty of being schismatic.

      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        I meant do post here. Reposting :

        Right, Nate. Either way, denominations are a good thing, because it is a peace promoting thing when brothers, realizing they are at loggerheads, must separate due to both sides feeling their conscience’s clear on whatever issue, before God. It is in this light that the schismatic tendency of protestants is to be viewed. Sad, yes, but necessary for peace in a world of sin.

    • Andrew Buckingham says:

      So said another way, these things helped me. That doesn’t mean they will help anyone else.


      • Andrew Buckingham says:

        I think Jacob is working through several different thoughts / traditions and using Orthodox blogs as well as his own to “catalogue” his journey. I’m not up to speed as the rest of you are. I’ll try to read more and bark less. 🙂

  10. Canadian,

    I used to use that same argument, and Catholics would point out that, simply given the criteria, Copts, Roman Catholics, and Armenian Orthodox could make exactly the same claim. In that case, who gets to adjudicate?

    I agree that Protestants face this difficulty, but it seems that all communions have the same difficulty in one form or another.

    • Robert Arakaki says:


      I suggest you factor in the ancient Pentarchy and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The inquiring Protestant is then faced with three choices: (1) the Church of Rome which was part of the Pentarchy but went its own way with its claim to an infallible Papacy, (2) the non-Chalcedonian Churches which do not fully accept the Seven Ecumenical Councils, or (3) the Church of Constantinople which stands in solidarity with Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and which accepts the Seven Ecumenical Councils. This leaves the Greek Orthodox Churches as standing in continuity with the early Church. Hope this helps.


    • jnorm says:

      I use a different set of arguments when dealing with Roman Catholics. I don’t believe in a one size fits all rule or argument. Some arguments work better for some groups than others.

      I use to argue with Copts and Armenians, but in recent years I have found myself agreeing with them, and they find themselves agreeing with me and so I won’t comment about them.

  11. […] 3 July 2012 the blog site Outlaw Presbyterianism criticized the OrthodoxBridge for its use of the Vincentian Canon.  It’s sad to see a friendly […]

  12. Robert Arakaki says:


    I just completed my response to your 3 July posting. Because of the length of the response (four thousand words) I decided to post my response on the OrthodoxBridge. You may if you wish copy the entirety of my response onto your site. I hope that my response addressed your concerns and questions.


  13. The seven councils criteria wouldn’t have been helpful since at the time there were maybe four or five councils. The Copt could say, “Why is it okay for you to reject Heira and the Robber Council but I can’t reject Chalcedon?”

    • OP,

      That is a good question. I’d suggest the answer lies in looking at what Chalcedon had that Heira lacked. What did 2nd Nicea say it lacked?

    • Robert Arakaki says:

      The Copts and the Orthodox are slowly moving towards reestablishing unity. Under certain circumstances a Coptic Christian may receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox Church. Don’t worry about historical hypotheticals! Be more concerned about where you stand with regard to the Orthodox Church.

      • For the everyday Copt and Armenian, it’s not a hypothetical and their rejection of said Councils is illustrative of the point I am trying to make: simply positing “council” by itself does nothing in terms of demonstrating the truth of your belief.

      • jnorm says:

        Outlaw Presbyterian,

        The difficulty I see has more to do with our anathemas of their saints and their anathemas of our saints. I talk with Copts and Armenians alot and I know that they are able to accept Chalcedon (as interpreted by the 5th council), and so the issue is with some of the canons.

        Even-though there is a Coptic Parish near my city, my Parish still gets alot of Coptic visitors. We also get a good number of Ethiopian and Indian visitors as well.

  14. Here’s the link to Robert’s Blog response mentioned above.

    As for your (Outlaw’s) comment to Robert’s response here:

    “It should be noted that the words in quotation marks are from Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (p. 12). In other words, it was John Henry Newman who was challenging the adequacy of the Vincentian Canon, not Jaroslav Pelikan.”

    “I suspect that Outlaw fell victim to a hasty superficial reading of Prof. Pelikan’s profound scholarship and that he believed he found a convenient quote in support of his Protestant position.”

    Neither Robert or anyone at the would quarrel with how many pages you’ve (Outlaw) read, or doubt your normal theological accumen. But do you not strain a tad too hard here NOT to admit your error of attribution…or the faulty syllogism he exposed above? This is surprising given your appeal at times to “peer review scholarship”.
    in His tender mercies brother.

    • i was actually agreeing with the substance of his argument. Pelikan wrote that immediately before he converted to Mother Russia. i know his context. My point was Pelikan’s point: in order for the VC to be valid it has to be highly qualified.

  15. i will admit where i am wrong, too. see the tabs on retractare

  16. (Tried 5 times yesterday & last night to post this to the 1st Pt1 Dyer interaction…but it would not post. On all 2nd tries…it blocked it as a duplicate. I’d exit and come back…only to get the same thing, no-post & duplicate block on 2nd try. am I blocked from posting everywhere? why?)

    This is interesting (Dyer Pt1)…posting mostly to follow. Yet I do find it a tad odd for OP to chaff should any Orthodox he’s opposing/challenging disagree with him. And I’ve completely missed this “whom did every new commenter make some smart-@$$ remark”. Didn’t see it and don’t think Mr. Arakaki would tolerate it. But you can go look for yourself to see if OP victim’s-towell is legit…or if he overwhelmingly, has been treated with kindness 🙂

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