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.

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