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Re: [XTalk] Origin of Christian dogmatics

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  • Robert M. Schacht
    ... Well, I know it is always supposed that dogma is supposed to be *based on* revelation. But at least in modern times, when I see dogma, I see many words
    Message 1 of 109 , Jun 3, 2001
      At 11:07 AM 06/03/01, you wrote:
      >Hello Bob:
      >...Yes, and Paul also claims that his understanding of Christ crucified
      >was REVEALED to him on the road to Damascus. This is the very
      >essence of dogma.

      Well, I know it is always supposed that dogma is supposed to be *based on*
      revelation. But at least in modern times, when I see "dogma," I see many
      words in a carefully articulated statement. But let's see what the Catholic
      Encyclopedia (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05089a.htm>) has to say
      about dogma:

      > Dogma
      > The word dogma (Gr. dogma from dokein)
      > signifies, in the writings of the ancient
      > classical authors, sometimes, an opinion or
      > that which seems true to a person;
      > sometimes, the philosophical doctrines or
      > tenets, and especially the distinctive
      > philosophical doctrines, of a particular school
      > of philosophers (cf. Cic. Ac., ii, 9),
      > and sometimes, a public decree or ordinance, as
      > dogma poieisthai.
      > In Sacred Scripture it is used, at one time, in
      > the sense of a decree or edict of
      > the civil authority, as in Luke, ii, 1: "And it
      > came to pass, that in those days
      > there went out a decree [edictum, dogma] from
      > Caesar Augustus" (cf. Acts, xvii,
      > 7; Esther, iii, 3); at another time, in the
      > sense of an ordinance of the Mosaic Law
      > as in Eph., ii 15: "Making void the law of
      > commandments contained in decrees"
      > (dogmasin), and again, it is applied to the
      > ordinances or decrees of the first
      > Apostolic Council in Jerusalem: "And as they
      > passed through the cities, they
      > delivered unto them the decrees [dogmata] for
      > to keep, that were decreed by the
      > apostles and ancients who were at Jerusalem"
      > (Acts, xvi, 4).
      > Among the early Fathers the usage was prevalent
      > of designating as dogmas the
      > doctrines and moral precepts taught or
      > promulgated by the Saviour or by the
      > Apostles; and a distinction was sometimes made
      > between Divine, Apostolical,
      > and ecclesiastical dogmas, according as a
      > doctrine was conceived as having
      > been taught by Christ, by the Apostles, or as
      > having been delivered to the faithful
      > by the Church.
      > But according to a long-standing usage a dogma
      > is now understood to be a truth
      > appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by
      > God, transmitted from the Apostles in
      > the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by
      > the Church for the acceptance of
      > the faithful. It might be described briefly as
      > a revealed truth defined by the Church
      > -- but private revelations do not constitute
      > dogmas, and some theologians confine
      > the word defined to doctrines solemnly defined
      > by the pope or by a general
      > council, while a revealed truth becomes a dogma
      > even when proposed by the
      > Church through her ordinary magisterium or
      > teaching office. A dogma therefore
      > implies a twofold relation: to Divine
      > revelation and to the authoritative teaching of
      > the Church.

      In our discussion, I was leaning on the latter relation, and you seem to
      have been leaning on the former part. The article continues:

      > The three classes of revealed truths.
      > Theologians distinguish three classes of
      > revealed truths: truths formally and explicitly
      > revealed; truths revealed formally,
      > but only implicitly; and truths only virtually
      > revealed.
      > A truth is said to be formally revealed, when
      > the speaker or revealer really means
      > to convey that truth by his language, to
      > guarantee it by the authority of his word.
      > The revelation is formal and explicit, when
      > made in clear express terms. It is
      > formal but only implicit, when the language is
      > somewhat obscure, when the rules
      > of interpretation must be carefully employed to
      > determine the meaning of the
      > revelation. And a truth is said to be revealed
      > only virtually, when it is not formally
      > guaranteed by the word of the speaker, but is
      > inferred from something formally
      > revealed.

      Again, it seems that you were leaning on the latter classes of revealed
      truths, whereas I was assuming the first.
      For example, did Jesus think he was uttering dogma? Given that the Gospels
      are generally considered to have been written 35 to 65 years after his
      statements, and given how the evangelists differed in their reporting of
      what Jesus said, who's truth is being revealed? I'm somewhat lost here.

      > Was this Damascus road experience Pentecostal in
      >nature? Yes (and today is Pentecost Sunday!). Was it inarticulate?
      >You mean was Paul dumbfounded by the revelation? Again, yes.

      i.e., Class Two, or maybe Three, above?

      > Is the word dogma anachronistic? I suppose so, but it's still a good word
      >if you define it as revealed truth or faith, having no preconditions.
      >Does that make it narrow and stiff? A dogmatist, as Stott defines
      >it, would call his faith merely simple and straightforward.

      I think that after 1700 years of official Catholic dogma, it is hard to
      think in other terms.

      >...Please understand, just because the content of what is debated by
      >Jesus is dogmatic (a revealed truth) does not mean that he typically
      >operated in a dogmatic fashion (with or without your negative


      > I am not trying to deconstruct yet another caricature
      >to explain the historical Jesus.

      Thank goodness!! :-)


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Loren Rosson
      [James] Do you think these folks were armed? [Loren] No. With the possible exception of the Samaritan Prophet, the popular prophets didn t lead armed revolts.
      Message 109 of 109 , Jun 18, 2001
        Do you think these folks were armed?

        No. With the possible exception of the Samaritan
        Prophet, the popular prophets didn't lead armed
        revolts. "Violence" was left as the prerogative of God
        alone, when He soon acted. Jesus followed suit here,
        never condoning human violence, elsewhere promising
        divine retribution (as in Mt. 11:20-24/Lk. 10:13-16).

        So, would you say that it is possible that the masses
        went out just to see IF a miracle would be performed,
        rather than to participate? Would they necessarily
        had any clue as to the chance of being
        slaughtered as they were?

        I think the masses went out because they believed,
        fervently, that God would act; that the Kingdom was
        imminent. I see no reason to question the enthusiastic
        level of their participation in the march around
        Jerusalem's walls.

        How many do you suppose there actually were?

        A lot -- these are called "popular" prophets for good

        Josephus is surely exaggerating with the numbers
        though, isn't he?

        Probably. I imagine hundreds, rather than thousands,
        of followers for the Egyptian prophet.

        What do you think was their reason for being
        there? Just to innocently see if the Egyptian's
        claim would come to pass or to
        actually fight their way into Jerusalem?

        I believe they circled Jerusalem with the expectation
        that (at the prophet's command) the walls of the city
        would come tumbling down, as Joshua's legendary shout
        had done to the walls of Jericho in ages past. This
        would have been the first apoacalyptic prelude to the
        Kingdom of God. I don't know how "innocent" this is,
        but I sense your sarcasm. However preposterous and
        naive such expectations may seem to us, they were no
        more so than, say, those of the followers of Theudas,
        who was supposed to have parted the waters of the
        Jordan before getting decapitated by Cuspius Fadus.

        Well, I'm wondering how we know any of these people
        were really doing anything more than going out to
        possibly observe a miracle...I'm reacting to the
        following article written by an historian who seems to
        paint first century peoples with too broad of a brush
        of gullibility, in an attempt to give us the
        background against which we should view claims about
        Jesus' miracles:


        If you have the time, I'd appreciate any
        feedback/guidance on the overall quality of/points
        raised in that article.

        I would say the author of this article is daft,
        deluded, and devoid of sense. His disdain for the
        people of antiquity is galling. He writes:

        "The age of Jesus was not an age of critical
        reflection and remarkable religious acumen. It was an
        era filled with con artists, gullible believers,
        martyrs without a cause, and reputed miracles of every
        variety. In light of this picture, the tales of the
        gospels do not seem remarkable at all. Even if they
        were false in every detail, there is no evidence that
        they would have been disbelieved or rejected as absurd
        by a people largely lacking in education or critical
        thinking skills. They had no newspapers, telephones,
        photographs, or public documents to consult to check a
        story...The shouts of the credulous rabble overpowered
        their voice and seized the world from them, boldly
        leading them all into the darkness of a thousand years
        of chaos."

        First of all, we cannot dismiss the movements of
        Theudas, the Egyptian Prophet, John the Baptist, or
        Jesus of Nazareth with the above sort of indictment.
        Much in these prophetic movements can be commended,
        just as much can be criticized. But we fail miserably
        in the historical task when we judge the past by
        so-called "enlightened" standards. Secondly, far from
        lacking "religious acumen", the age of Jesus -- that
        is, 2nd-Temple Judaism -- was marked by vibrancy,
        diversity, and (often enough) fierce intelligence.
        Obviously the author and I have very different views
        of the people of antiquity.

        So I can appreciate you reacting against this fellow.
        But that the Egyptian prophet and his followers were
        incited to riot (mad as they were under the Romans and
        Judean elite), and that they fervently believed Yahweh
        would soon act dramatically in history (in accordance
        with ways He had in the past), does not necessarily
        make the leader a "con artist" nor his followers
        "gullible". Does it?

        Loren Rosson III
        Nashua NH

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