[CS-FSLUG] Open Source Theology

Chris Brault gginorio at sbcglobal.net
Fri Jun 16 17:30:15 CDT 2006

Michael Bradley, Jr. wrote:

> Chris, whether or not this will suprise you I'm not sure, but I think 
> you've painted in broad strokes a picture that is accurate and that 
> Catholics in general would agree with.  I would point out that at those 
> times when the early Church, in the decisions of local councils or in 
> the writings of an influential leader, spoke out on the issue of what 
> belongs in the Christian Canon and what does not, the controversy could 
> be quite heated and the exercise of claimed apostolic authority played 
> no little part in helping to calm things down.
> That the Holy Spirit was active in guiding the whole process, there can 
> be no doubt. In fact from a Catholic perspective there is simply no 
> contradiction in suggesting that the Holy Spirit can work in the minds 
> of individual believers and Church leaders and at the same time guide 
> and guard the Church as a whole when it moves to clarify particular 
> sticky points.

I whole heartedly agree. But the current church in China is a prime 
example of what can happen if the scriptures are not close at hand. They 
have more variations than we have denominations. I assume that's why the 
Canon was codified officially for all Churches when the opportunity arose.

That said, I am certain that the Holy Spirit worked in the minds of the 
church fathers. I am also certain that since they were not first hand 
recipients of the knowledge upon which they expounded upon that they 
made mistakes. Also, I am certain the the devil was also at work on 
them. That is why their words are not Canon and the Apostles' are.


> But what of the early Church's own opinion as to the value and authority 
> of the teachings of the Apostles, both as handed down in the form of 
> writings that were collected in to the NT and those that certainly were 
> expressed in writings from the first centuries forward but didn't come 
> from the Apostles themselves, or from say Mark or Luke, in the form of a 
> gospel or epistle.  The question is how did the early Church understood 
> the Holy Spirit to author and transmit Divine Revelation in the 
> post-Pentecost era, before the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles 
> and then afterwards.  When the Fathers are "asked" about this, they do 
> not answer with anything that resembles "sola scriptura," not in the 
> First Century, not in the Second, not in the Third, nor afterwards. Why 
> is that?  My intent in posting the message with the long list of quotes 
> from the Fathers was to raise awareness that the early Christians and 
> their leaders had certain views about the role of oral and written 
> Apostolic Tradition, that is "teaching," and that those views are not 
> recognizable as the view held by, say, modern Protestants.

One word: Inaccuracy. I trust my pastor. I trust church leaders to feed 
me the truth. They are not always accurate. I assume this was the same 
in the early church. Indeed, the early church fathers taught as they 
were discipled (as was common in their day) based upon the full 
teachings of the Apostles or upon what their master taught them. The 
Holy Spirit did alot of work in between.

That said, the oral traditions were based upon the teachings of the 
Apostles, whether in word or in letter. Their teachings are those of 
Jesus, whom they saw and heard in person. Over time, things began to get 
inaccurate. A Canon was needed to ensure that the heretical and psuedo 
books were rejected. It was also needed to weed local traditions from 
the actual teachings of Jesus as recounted by the Apostles.

And there we have the main reason for "sola scriptura". The oral 
traditions tended to become more and more inaccurate as time went on; 
Especially without a distinct Canon from which to refer for 
justification. As with modern bibles: The difference is not with the 
original text, but with the interpretation.

In other words, the oral traditions without written justification (Jesus 
has an opinion on this subject) are suspect. I don't trust them either.


> Moreover, did the early Church understand it's individual post-apostolic 
> leaders to be incapable of error (the answers is a not suprising "no")?  
> But then how did the early Christians understand the teaching of the 
> Church -- including NT and OT Scriptures, and the full body of Apostolic 
> teaching as transmitted orally -- to be protected from error? Or did 
> they consider the Church to be protected from teaching errors in the 
> first place? If so, at what levels and in what contexts? 

Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself. Oral tradition is not 


> These are the questions that deserve honest research and answers.  My 
> purpose was/is not to try and hash out these answers on the CS-FSLUG 
> mailing list.  In fact after this e-mail, I'm think it's best we move 
> the discussion to another forum if we are to continue it. There is also 
> the consideration of time -- I don't like to give half-baked 
> reflections/answers nor pose spurious questions, and writing these 
> e-mails takes a lot of time.  Don't get me wrong, I love it!  And of 
> course I knew I was opening a can of worms when I posted my earlier 
> message, but I hope you'll symapthize with me if I warn that I simply 
> can't take the time to respond to everything that comes my way -- we 
> need more Catholics on the list!  ;-)   Of course you could always come 
> jump in the various frays and discussions at forums.catholic.com 
> <http://forums.catholic.com> .

I completely understand. This is taking time away from my work.

I am not interested in jumping into a gang of Catholic scholars alone. 
That said, I can think of a Baptist forum we could join. I'm sure the 
bias of the scholarship would be just as poignant.


> Are there to be any protected or absolute interpretations then?  Are 
> yours culturally conditioned too, or say those of the Southern Baptist 
> Convention which recently concluded a general concil?  If we agree that 
> there are some or should be some, then what value is there in making 
> comparisons to the interpretations and teaching of say the first 
> ecumenical council or the Church Fathers who lived in 100s A.D.?  

I was referring to the "weak" and the "strong" brother as referred to
in I Corinthians 8. There are certain issues that are disputable and
certain that are not. The interpretations are based upon culture. In
certain topless women are not "sexual" while in western society they
are. This is a cultural and matter where the absolute is interpreted in 
terms of the culture.


> It's not so simple as that. Consider the information related in
> "Brethren of the Lord"
> http://www.catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp

After reading the page, here are my thoughts:
First me must assume that Mary the mother of James at the cross was 
referring to the disciple James (these were rather common names: Mary 
and James).

Next, we are asked to accept the Proto-evangelium of James as containing 
accurate information about early church traditions. This is indeed a 
second century document that uses the Greek text of the OT as reference. 
However, if we are using church fathers here, Origen quickly spoke 
against the idea of step-brothers and seemed to defer to a more "plain 
reading of the text" which is that the brethren were natural 
half-brothers (and sisters).

Then we are asked to play the semantics game with a few biblical words 
like brethren and with the "unusual marriage" of Joseph and Mary (it was 
so special that after many years of marriage they never had sex, not 
even once. Joseph and Mary were special indeed). At this point the name 
dropping begins. Church Father's names are tossed at us like grenades. 
However, reading the actual words of Irenaeus makes it quite clear that 
he inferred no such doctrine as Mary's perpetual virginity. I assume 
that is why, in the end, the reformers tossed this church tradition in 
the round file cabinet.

Although I like the "if this is true and if this is true then this is 
possible and then this could have happened" way of coming to conclusions 
about biblical history, I prefer the simplest reading of the text.

As Jesus's own hometown neighbors said:
"Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and his 
brothers, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all of his sisters with 
us? Where then did this man get all of these things?”"
- Matthew 13: 55,56

Perhaps you'd like to read this in every translation on earth 
(http://biblebrowser.com/matthew/13-56.htm) including the Latin Vulgate 
and the Majority Text in Greek. Here is the problem we are presented 
with here. Sisters could be like Brethren, meaning close relative or 
cousin. So let's take a look at the verse in that light.

"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother called Mary, and his 
close male relatives, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Aren't all of his 
close female relatives with us? Where then did this man get all of these 


"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother called Mary, and his 
male cousing, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Aren't all of his female 
cousins with us? Where then did this man get all of these things?"

And why put brothers and sisters together with Mary the mother? And 
funny how they left out John the Baptist (a rather famous cousin of 
Jesus and the only one we actually know about).

Here is where I stand: In the case of Biblical historical accounts, the 
plainest reading is almost always the right one.

Gabe Ginorio

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