Monday, April 30, 2012

Chemnitz and Aquinas on the Sources of Sacra Doctrina

More from the article:
In investigating the differences and convergences between the Angelic Doctor and the Confessor of Concord, it should be noted that there is a certain degree of overlap in the method and intention of their theologies.  First, Aquinas and Chemnitz understand the Bible to be the Word of God.  At the beginning of the Prima Pars of the Summa, Aquinas explicitly states that God himself is the author of Scripture and that it is on the basis of the Word of God that sacra doctrina must be established.  Doctrine cannot be established on the basis of the opinions of the Fathers, since these are merely probable and not absolutely certain.[1]  Chemnitz likewise holds firmly to the Reformation principle ofsola Scriptura and therefore maintains that Scripture alone can establish Christian dogma.[2] 
Nevertheless, although Aquinas and Chemnitz both operate with a high view of Scripture, they also believe that theologians should strive to maintain continuity with the tradition of the Church-catholic.  Therefore, both Aquinas and Chemnitz accept the secondary authority of the Church Fathers and possess an equally strong commitment to the first six ecumenical councils.[3]  As is well known, Chemnitz affirmed a high view of secondary authority of Church tradition, as is evidenced by his treatment of the subject in his famous Examen Concilii tridentini (1565-1573).[4]  There, Chemnitz delineates eight different forms of Church tradition (traditio),[5] finding only the eighth (late, invented, unwritten tradition) to lack validity.[6] 
Chemnitz’s subordination of Church tradition to the Bible nevertheless brings to light several significant differences between him and Aquinas in regard to the question of theological authority.  Whereas for Aquinas magisterial authority has been granted by Christ as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures to the institutional Church (i.e., popes and councils),[7] Chemnitz holds that the ancient councils represent authoritative teaching only because they agree with the content of Scripture.[8]  Similarly, at times Aquinas appears to support what Chemnitz described as the illegitimate eighth form of tradition in his Examen.[9]  Nevertheless, even if Aquinas is read as supporting unwritten Church tradition as an equal source of dogmatic authority alongside that of Scripture (that is, in the manner of the “two-source” theory forth session of the Council of Trent[10]) it is irrelevant to goals of our present study.  For our purposes, the Angelic Doctor does not draw upon said unwritten traditions in order to his formulate of his doctrine of the hypostatic union and therefore this does not need to be a major area of concern.

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae , Ia. q.1, art.8; Summa Theologiae, Black Friars Edition, 60 vols. (New York and London: McGraw-Hill, 1964-), 1:28-30.  From this citation forward, the Summa will be cited as “ST,” whereas the page citation from the Black Friar’s edition will be cited as “BF.”
[2] Martin Chemnitz, De Duabus Natris in Christo (Wittenberg, 1653), 123; idem, The Two Natures in Christ, trans. J. A. O. Preus (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971), 313.  “Postquam vero hoc factum est, et fides nostra non nititur, vel Patrum, vel conciliorum autoritate et definitionibus, sed extructa debet esse super fundamentum Prophetarum et Apostolorum, Eph. 2."  The Latin edition used in this article is part of the volume of four of Chemnitz’s Latin works published by the Lutheran Heritage Society in 2000.  It is a facsimile of an early edition contained in Robert Preus’ library.  Hereafter the Latin will be cited as “Chemnitz” and the English edition will be cited as “Preus.”
[3]ST1a. q.1, art.8; BF, 1:29, 30.
[4] Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, 4 vols., trans. Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971-1986);  See discussion of Chemnitz appropriation of the Father and Church tradition in the Examen in following sources: Carl Beckwith, "Martin Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers inOratio de Lectione Patrum," Concordia Theological Quarterly 73, no. 3 (2009): 231-56;  Eugene Klug, "Chemnitz on Trent: An Unanswered Challenge,"Christianity Today 17 (August 31, 1973): 8-11; Fred Kramer, "Chemnitz on the Authority of the Sacred Scripture: An Examination of the Council of Trent,"Springfielder 37 (December 1973): 165-75; Arthur Olsen, "Martin Chemnitz and the Council of Trent," Dialog 2 (1963): 60-7.  Much thanks to Carl Beckwith to leading the author to these sources.  See bibliography in Carl Beckwith, “Martin Chemnitz’s Use of the Church Fathers in His Locus on Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 63 no. 3/4 (2004): 278.
[5] Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, 1:223-314.
[6] Ibid., 1:272-314.
[7]  ST, 2a2æ. q.1, art.10; BF, 31:53, 55, 57.  See longer discussion in Ulrich Horst, The Dominicans and the Pope: Papal Teaching Authority in the Medieval and Early Modern Thomist Teaching Tradition, trans. James Mixson (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2006), 5-21.
[8] Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, ; Examen Concilii tridentini,
[9] ST, 3a. q. 64, art. 2; BF, 56:106-7.  Thomas writes:  Et licet non omnia sint tradita in Scripturis, habet tamen ea Ecclesia ex familiari apostolorum traditione, sicut apostolus dicit, I Cor. XI, cetera cum venero disponam.
[10] Norman Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 2 vols. (London and Washington, D. C.: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990), 2:663-4.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Christological Center of Theology

Opening  section to an article I've been working on.
In the Smalcald Articles (1537), Martin Luther famously asserted that the doctrine of justification defined the identity of the Church.[1] Despite loud objections to the contrary, in principle other historic Christian communions must also concur with this judgment.  For Lutheran Christians, the article of justification specifies the content of the salvation that Christ offers.  Although other theological traditions may not wish to construe redemption in this exactly this manner, that fact remains that the explication of the redemption to be found in Christ must be understood as central to the theological enterprise of Christianity.  The Christian Church has no other reason for being than to witness to salvation in Christ. 
Moreover, work and benefits of the savior cannot be divorced from his person.  As both Athanasius[2] and the young Melanchthon[3]helpfully both pointed out, in positing particular works and benefits to be gained from Christ, one necessarily posits a particular ontic structure to his person.  For example, moral influence theories of atonement need only posit a fully human Messiah (who speaks about morality on God’s behalf) or a Messiah who is only divine (that is, who pretends to be human in order to more effectively communicate morality or special gnosis).  On the other hand, a divine and human Messiah will be posited if one claims that Christ has overcome sin, death, the law, and the Devil.  As vere homo, Christ can enter into these realities, as vere Deo he may overthrow them.  Though the person is not reducible to the work (an all too common mistake in modern theology), the works of the savior presuppose the reality of his person. 
Beyond this basic recognition that the person of Christ is inexorably tied up with his work, second article of the Creed is indubitably wedded to the first and third.  Just as the spokes of a wheel extend out from the axel, so too the other articles of the faith extend out from thehauptartikel of Christ and his benefits.  Christ and his solution to the problem of sin, logically implies a particular understanding of sin, fallen human nature, and a certain ontic structure of creation.  In this, Schleiermacher was essentially correct that anthropological heresies correlate to Christological ones.  Logically, the four natural heresies of the faith, which he posited, (Docetism, Nazarenism (Ebionism), Manichaeism, Pelagianism)[4] determine one another.  Moreover, human fallenness also presupposes a certain role of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, and so the third article must cohere with the first and second.
For this reason, what we say about Christ, will ultimately determine what we say about the other dogmas of the faith.  Christology is the heart of the Christian faith from which (to speak figuratively) the arteries and veins of the other doctrines extends outward.  Even if in our systematic explication of Christian doctrine, our starting point is perhaps another article of the faith (this is indeed possible; we are by no means advocating “central dogma”[5] theory here), the final direction and structure of any discernibly Christian theology will ultimately be determined by how it answers Jesus’ question: “who do you say I am?”
It is for this reason that it has been deeply puzzling that ecumenical dialogue has largely ignored the article of the person and work of Christ.  This is particularly true with regard to the dialogues between the Roman Catholic and Lutheran communions in North America. Instead of Christology, the North American dialogues have largely tackled other topics, such as Church structure, the status of the Virgin Mary, and justification.[6]  Though many of these topics directly relate to that of Christology (justification being chief among these!), Christology has never been directly engaged.
For this reason, in the following essay it will be our goal to explicate the historic differences between the Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions as they find expression in competing Christological teachings.  The major interest of this study will not be to discern the antecedent causes of these differing Christological trajectories, although there will be a few minor historical suggestions in this regard.  Instead our main goal will be to demonstrate how certain structural priorities with regard to the person and work of Christ effect the conceptualization of the divine-human relationship and the nature of salvation.  It will be our thesis that these differences fundamentally shape and distinguish Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran teaching. 
As our basis of comparison of these two different traditions, we will discuss the Christological teaching of Thomas Aquinas and Martin Chemnitz.  Though many Roman Catholics and Lutherans would not agree with every detail of these two theologians’ doctrines of the Incarnation, both thinkers have, historically speaking, had a significant impact on the formation of the official dogmatic teachings of their respective communions.  In the case of Chemnitz, this influence can be traced to his significant contribution to the Formula of Concord (1577), whereas in the case of Aquinas, one may point to his followers’ significant influence on the formation on the Decrees of the Council of Trent, as well as his status as the “Teacher of the Church” within the Roman Catholic communion since 1567.[7]  This being the case, the general parameters which Lutherans and Roman Catholics operate in have generally mirrored the Christological frameworks established by these two important thinkers.  In exploring their understanding of the Incarnation, we will primarily limit ourselves respectively to two major and highly influential works: the Summa Theologiae (1265–1274) of Thomas and De Duabus Natris in Christo (1561) of Chemnitz.

[1] SA II.5  in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed., Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 301.  Luther writes: “On this article [justification] all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world.  Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubt about it.  Otherwise everything is lost, and the pope and the devil and whatever opposes us will gain victory and be proved right.”  Also see Luther’s comment in WA 40/III: 352.
[2] Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, 19.3; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 14 vols., ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 4: Hereafter cited as “NPNF.” Athanasius writes: “Thus, then, God the Word showed Himself to men by His works.”
[3] Philipp Melanchthon, Loci Communes Theologici, in Melanchthon and Bucer, ed. Wilhelm Pauck (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), 21. “To know Christ is to know his benefits . . .” 
[4] Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, trans. and ed. H. R. MacIntosh and J. S. Stewart (London: T & T Clark, 2005), 97-101.
[5] See Alexander Schweizer, Die protestantischen centraldogmen in ihrer entwicklung inerhalb der reformirten kirche, 2 vols. (Zürich: Orell & Fuessli, 1854-56).  See critique in Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520-1725, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 1:124-6.
[6]See Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue, 11 vols. (New York: Published jointly by Representatives of the U.S National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops' Commission for Ecumenical Affairs, 1965-2011).  
[7] See brief discussion of Thomas’ status in the Catholic Church in: Hans Küng, Great Christian Thinkers: Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Schleiermacher, Barth (London: Continuum, 1994), 114.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ontology and the Whole: Some Thoughts on Comprehensive Explanations of Being

Recently I've been reading this book on Lutheranism and philosophy:

It's something of a mixed bag. The Hinlicky and Bayer essays are quite good- an essay with the charming title of "Queering Kenosis" is probably the worst piece of theology that I've ever read. Seriously. Ever.

Anyways, I particularly found the Bayer essay helpful in that he reads Luther in a fairly historically reasonable way and makes some good proposals for how to deal with different theological and philosophical topics. Bayer reads Luther's ontological thinking primarily as reflecting Aristotle as interpreted by Ockham. This is hard to argue with. He also makes the point that all the talk of "relational ontology" that ones finds in contemporary Lutheran theology (coming from Joest and Ebeling) is not helpful as a comprehensive explanation of Luther's views. Luther does talk in the manner of substance ontology and in the categories of relation. Luther does not possess a comprehensive explanation of being, but thinks in categories that fit contextually what he finds in revelation. Some categories of ontology work for the realities we find in revelation, some don't. Others work contextually, but not in other contexts.

I have noted in the past that I find a similar eclecticism in both Melanchthon and Gerhard. Melanchthon likes the revised Humanistic Aristotle and Cicero. Gerhard pulls bits and pieces from all sorts of scholastic thinkers: The hidden God from Luther, the fives proofs of God's existence from Aquinas, and the distinction of the Ectypical and Archetypal theology from Francis Junius (who adapted it from Scotus' theologia nostra and theologia in se!).

This comes from a larger theme in Bayer's work: namely that systematic explanations of being usually fail and are in fact, part and parcel of the theology of glory. The theology of glory wishes to be God, and there always seeks to know the whole. This is not our privilege as God's creatures, at least not in this life. For example, in thinking through the question of the analogy of being vs. the univocity of being, it has occurred to me that there are aspects of both ways of thinking about God that make sense of what we know in light of revelation. God is of course incomprehensible and as Paul says we see him in a glass darkly, partially knowing and not knowing. We see the glory of God reflected in nature and its perfections (Romans 1, Psalm 19). In these regards, the analogy of being and analogical discourse regarding God is valid. On the other hand, God is one and God is three- not in a analogical sense, but in a univocal and quite literal sense. God's actions in creation are also quite literally what Scripture reports them to be. God really does punish and redeem people in a literal and univocal sense of the term. God's actions are God, and so we must say that God in some sense can be spoken of univocally. For this reason, elements of the univocity of being have validity as well. Either as a comprehensive way of relating God and creation pretty much falls on its face.

With a rejection of comprehensive explanations of being, come the recognition (also following Bayer) that different explanations of being are valid contextually within certain spheres of reality. For example, as I have argued in the past, creation is itself inherently narrative and so we find our reality when we find place within the narrative of creation and redemption. God himself is not a story though- he is the narrator who defines the story by speaking it forth. Though God may incorporate (or perhaps to use a Christological analogy "enhypostasizes") particular identities assumed in this narrative into his fullness of being, such roles do not change him. Neither is creation an arena for God's own self-actualization. God is already pure actuality.

This is why a theology such as that of Robert Jenson, which seeks to comprehend God and creation under a single ontology of narrative has all the same problems that the classical scholastic debates on the analogy vs. the univocity of being had. Not only does Jenson turn God into a pathetic deity who needs creation and in fact somehow gains possibilities for self-actualization from creation, but he sets up a new theology of glory by claiming to know the whole.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Preliminary Report on "The Lutheran Confessions"

I've been reading over the last week or soThe Lutheran Confessions: History and Theology of the Book of Concord, by Arand, Kolb, and Nestingen.

I'm currently about half way through it. I figured I would give a preliminary report and make a small critique of it so far.
1. Despite the fact that these scholars worked have worked together in the past, and were friends when Kolb was at Concordia St. Paul, they actually operate with rather different understandings of how the Lutheran Church arose. Nestingen was taught by Forde and Harry McSoreley.He came of age while existentialism, Neo-Orthodoxy, and the Luther Renaissance were still hot stuff. Many of his theological judgments and scholarly understandings of the Lutheran Reformation werepretty clearly defined in the 60s and 70s, and haven't change much since. From this basis, Nestingen asserts number of things that are theologically and historically problematic. For Nestingen, there is a profoundtheological difference between Luther and Melanchthon. With Luther, one has a pastor concerned about pastoral care. Though there is a forensic aspect to his doctrine of justification, basically justificationis conflated with sanctification by the effective Word of God. Melanchthon corrupted Luther's Reformationby bringing in Scholasticism, Humanism, and the straight-jacket of orthodoxy. His concerns were not pastoral, but intellectual. He was also a legalist in that he taught the third use of the law and the doctrineof lex aeterna (it is often admitted by these types that Luther did use the term "lex aeterna," but it is claimthat he did not mean the same thing by it as Melanchthon).
2. Kolb and Arand are not children of this era, but come out of the trend in Reformation scholarship since the late 70s and early 80s. The trend in this era (primarily on under the influence of Heiko Oberman)was to see a continuity between the late Middle Ages and the Reformation. Moreover, scholars of this era have also increasing seen a continuity between the period of Orthodoxy and the Reformation. The Luther Renaissance (which Nestingen is still under the spell of) followed Ritschl and Holl (and the earlierPietist theologians!) by seeing in Melanchthon and Luther- as well as the Reformation and Orthodoxy-vast theological differences. This judgment has largely been reversed. Kolb in particular has overcomesuch stereotypes by his close readings of the original sources (just take a look at the bibliography of the Bound Choice book!). According to their perspective then, although Melanchthon is recognized as having made mistakes theologically, he is understood as having made major contributions to the formation of Protestant theological method. He is also seen as having been motivated by genuine pastoral concerns (just as Luther was, after all, heavily influenced by Humanist methods!). This is true particularly with regard to his doctrine of the third use of the law, which is understood by Arand and Kolb as simply being a natural outworking of the Luther and Melanchthon's understanding of the distinction between active and passiverighteousness. It is not a betrayal of Luther's understanding of the law, but rather a basic recognition that regarding things "below us," we are free and rational, and therefore can be instructed by God in whichspecific works he wishes us to perform.
3. When these differences are appreciated, the text becomes an interesting read. Having heard bits and pieces of the text in Nestingen's lectures at Luther Seminary, I can usually tell when he's writing. If I had toguess, I think I would say he wrote the sections on the Catechism, Augustana, and the Smalkald Articles. Arand probably wrote some of things on the Catechisms as well. Most of the rest I think (so far) is Kolb.The use of the phrase "Wittenberg Circle" (his description of the culture of theological-cross pollination during the early Lutheran Reformation) is used in a lot of these sections. The interesting part is that it appears that the historical judgments of Arand and Kolb have largely won out. Nestingen has beenable to repeat many of his historical characterization here (much of which I consider to be false), but Arand and Kolb have clearly gone over them and toned them down. We see absolutely no hint that the thirduse of the law is a bad thing. We see no demonization of Melanchthon-which is actually quite surprising. In fact, there is a defense of Melanchthon on several points. Unfortunately, one of the Nestingen more problematic assertions about the contrast between Melanchthon and Luther in fact does make it through. According to Nestingen, Luther's theological method was to infer the bondage of the will from the actuality of thecross. If the whole person was redeemed by Christ, then the will must be bound and sin must have totally ruined humans. In contrast, Melanchthon studied the text of Scripture and quotations from the Fathers, and built his case from there. This is basically false. Luther of course does argue this way in Bondage of the Will towards the end, but it's only after he made a series of arguments which are largely philosophical, and a few which are exegetical. What Nestingen is actually doing here is attributingthe methodology of post-Kantian German Protestant dogmatics to Luther: Since one cannot know the "ding-an-sich" (in this case God) one infers it through it's effects on one's consciousness. What is the effect? A consciousness of salvation. Who is the agent of this effect? Jesus- so all theology must be deduced from the second article! In class, Nestingen also tried to make this claim on the basis of the ordering of the Catechisms and the Augustana. As Richard Muller would point out, such a contrast is makes little sense if one actually studies why confessions of faith or dogmatic text books were writtenin the way that they were: Mostly they were simply ordered on the basis of the Creed or in the caseof the first Loci Communes, according to the structure of the Epistle to the Romans. Drawing outimplication as to what the theologian's starting point is from the structure of the articles of the faith areis highly problematic. As Lewis Ayres points out, talking about a "starting point" to almost anytheologian's theology is itself non-sensical. It presupposes that people think as systematically as text-books when forming their actual ideas.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kudos to Wade Johnston!

Wade has just informed me that the Flacius Clavis translation received a great review in Lutheran Quarterly.  Kudos to Wade for a fine translation job!  I was just happy that I was able to make a small contribution in the form of my introduction.

The Friendly Neighborhood Arians Make a Visit!

Yesterday I came home from shopping and discovered that my friendly neighborhood Arians have left an invitation to Kingdom Hall for me. The flyer has on it the question "How do you view Jesus?"- then it gives the options of a baby, a dying man, and a King (with white hair apparently?- I guess the state of exaltation hasn't done our Lord well?). The amusing thing is that the second option has a picture of him dying on the cross and it's cropped in such a way to cut out everything just above his elbows. In other words, they don't want to weird out the conventional Christian crowd with their extremely odd belief that Jesus died on a "torture stake" and not on a literal cross, which they claim is a later pagan symbol. Apparently the Greek grammar wizards who came up with the "New World Translation" didn't realize that the Greek word "stavros" could also be a cross in the road. Hence this suggests that the NT literally means that Jesus died on a cross-shaped piece of wood. My wife has traced this "torture stake" idea back, and it apparently was a common belief among British anti-Roman Catholic Evangelicals in the 19th century. It was intended, I guess, as a way of attacking the crucifix.