A few days ago I had the privilege of introducing the Anglican tradition to teachers at The Ecclesial School at St. Alban’s. The faculty are a mixed bunch — Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Afterwards I had a wonderful conversation with a sincere and devout Baptist who wanted to understand more about Anglican sacramentology. Why is the Eucharist the climax of our service? What do we think about baptism? (Reader, you may be relieved to know that I deftly avoided discussing any other “commonly called Sacraments.”) She was politely aghast that Anglicans affirm baptismal regeneration and simply could not understand the biblical basis for our belief. For my part, I have a hard time remembering how my former Baptist self understood phrases like “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” or “born anew of water and the Holy Ghost.” It seems to me that Scripture speaks perspicaciously indeed of baptismal regeneration. Our Anglican forebears likewise described baptism as “generally necessary to salvation,” while also requiring ordinands “to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture.” I did not cross my fingers when I made this promise. When it comes to baptism, I am so persuaded.
Yet here was a sincere, intelligent, biblically literate Christian, firmly persuaded otherwise. If “God’s Word alone” and “on its own” is “sufficient for the knowledge of everything of importance” — if it really is “easy to understand, at least regarding the subjects of critical importance” — how am I to explain my interlocutor’s disagreement? It seems to me that there are but three possibilities. My Baptist conversation partner must have been stupid, mendacious, or simply unbiblical — not so much misinterpreting Scripture but, rather, not interpreting Scripture at all, instead relying on extrabiblical authorities. This is a problem, given that I know her to be intelligent and believe her to be sincere. And as our entire conversation was rooted in differing readings of various biblical passages, I would be hard-pressed to prove that she was not in fact attempting to interpret Scripture. Under any notion of Scripture being “easily understood” — “alone” and “on its own” — I am left with choices that are not only highly implausible but also profoundly uncharitable.
The quotations in the previous paragraph come from River Devereux’s recent foray into the debate around iconography and the Second Council of Nicea (A.D. 787, “Nicea II” hereafter). Though I am hesitant to continue this seemingly interminable conversation, Mr. Devereux’s theory of biblical interpretation is too calamitously misguided to ignore. It is not simply that he is wrong — though, for the most part, he is — nor even that his argument is poorly conducted, though parts of it are. Straw men, misunderstandings, and false dichotomies abound. It is that the radical individualism he unwittingly affirms is toxic to faith and acidic to the Body of Christ. It is also, as we will see, paradoxically destructive to the authority of Scripture itself.
I do not question Mr. Devereux’s sincerity or his intelligence, but I will not equivocate. The spirit of this present age — self-defining individualism — suffuses his essay. Wherever this malignant spirit takes hold, the Church withers. By making the individual his own final authority on Scripture and doctrine, Mr. Devereux transforms the Body of Christ into a libertarian confederation of sovereign citizens. The Christian in this confederation is not an organic member of a Spirit-filled organism. Rather, in keeping with the spirit of the age, his Christian is an atomized, autonomous, choosing modern self.
Clarifying the Nicea II Debate
As Cory Byrum has recently pointed out, the principles Mr. Devereux outlines go far beyond debate over iconography. But before diving into the heart of the matter — which Mr. Devereux rightly identifies as biblical interpretation — I would like to clear up some misunderstandings about Nicea II and my own essay. I will not relitigate the Iconoclastic Controversy; my goals are more modest. I would simply like to clarify the basic terms of the debate, so that Mr. Devereux and others can be sure that what they reject is, in fact, Nicea II — and not a fiction of their own constructing.
Mr. Devereux makes much of my admission that Scripture apparently offers no consistent verbal distinction between veneration and worship, despite the conciliar fathers’ attempt to argue otherwise. He seems to assume that, if no verbal distinction exists, then no conceptual distinction can be made. This does not reflect how languages function. Are we to believe that the sarx which “the Word became” in John 1:14 is the same sarx which “sets its desire against the Holy Spirit” in Galatians 5:17? There is, after all, no verbal distinction whatsoever between Christ’s Incarnate “flesh” and the demonic power that St. Paul names “Flesh” (J. Louis Martyn 485).
Nor is it the case that Nicea II “hinged its arguments” on a verbal distinction. As I stated in my previous piece, “the basic conceptual distinction between veneration given to many, on the one hand, and worship given only to God, on the other… is more than enough to sustain the distinction made by Nicea II, regardless of the fathers’ particular digressions into vocabulary.” The biblical arguments put forward against veneration largely beg the question, assuming rather than demonstrating that prohibitions on worship also ban veneration.
But I did admit probable error in part of the Council’s biblical interpretation, prompting a parenthetical scoff from Mr. Devereux — “so much for infallibility.” Alas, this comment only reflects Mr. Devereux’s inadequate understanding of the debate. Fr. Ben Jefferies and I have a longstanding disagreement about whether or not the anathemas of Nicea II bear the same authority as the Definition. But there is no ambiguity about the biblical reasoning Mr. Devereux attacks. It is unquestionably part of the broader conciliar proceedings, which no one views as inherently authoritative, much less infallible. Confusing the (non-authoritative) proceedings and the (authoritative) promulgations of the Council is something akin to being unable to distinguish between the records of a Congressional debate and the actual bill passed by that body. It betrays a very basic incomprehension of the view that he intends to reject.
Further, Mr. Devereux’s focus on conciliar infallibility is something of a red herring. It is not a straw man — many do hold to the infallibility of Ecumenical Councils. (For instance, Mr. Byrum’s excellent entry into this debate implies but does not outright claim infallibility for Ecumenical Councils.) But that is not the position I have staked here. The relevant question is not so much whether Councils speak infallibly but whether they speak authoritatively. Legitimate authority in the home, the parish, and the polis need not be infallible in order to merit our obedience. Mr. Devereux fails to engage this position, instead pressing a false dichotomy: either Nicea II must be infallible and equivalent to God-breathed Scripture, or it must be just another opinion with no inherent authority.
Even more significant than his persistent misconception of conciliar authority, Mr. Devereux also misunderstands the basic shape of the biblical debate over images. “Nicaea II and Fr. Perkins,” he says, “will happily retort that” the condemnations of “religious images… in countless places” in the Old Testament “are about ‘idols.’ However, Isaiah and Jeremiah’s condemnation of images would seem to apply to even images depicting YHWH Himself.” He seems to think that the iconodules staked their position on the notion that the Old Testament prohibition on images would not apply to images of God. This precisely inverts their view. Perhaps the only unambiguous Old Testament teaching on images is that depicting God is absolutely forbidden. As far as the Old Testament debate goes, the noteworthy question is whether the second commandment also bans images of natural creatures. (As I noted last time, the proliferation of creaturely images in the Temple suggests otherwise.) What was never in any doubt was the prohibition on images of the unportrayable God. On this, the iconodules and iconoclasts fully agreed. As St. John of Damascus wrote, “If we were to make an image of the invisible God, we would really sin; for it is impossible to depict one who is incorporeal and formless, invisible and uncircumscribable” (82).
The iconodules’ central argument is incarnational. God is Spirit, and yet God became Incarnate. As a result of the Incarnation — of the hypostatic union and the communication of idioms — God became portrayable. “If we make an image of God,” St. John of Damascus wrote, “who in his ineffable goodness became incarnate and was seen upon earth in the flesh, and lived among humans, and assumed the nature and density and form and color of flesh, we do not go astray” (82). For the iconodules, to deny that divinity can be seen in depictions of the carnal flesh and blood of the incarnate Christ is to say that our Lord lied in John 14:9.
Mr. Devereux emphasizes that the New Testament never rescinds the second commandment. Once again, this misunderstands the debate at a basic level. The classic iconodule position has never been that the second commandment was rescinded but rather that it is irrelevant to depictions of the Incarnate Christ.
These failures surely do not reflect a lack of intelligence on Mr. Devereux’s part, but they do reveal his superficial grasp of the subject. My request for continued engagement in the debate is to engage in the debate. That might mean stepping back from the fray to read more deeply. I do not assume that rightly understanding Nicea II necessitates agreement, but it is a prerequisite for disagreeing coherently — most especially for doing so in a public forum.
From the particular issues of Nicea II, we can now move to the heart of the matter: authoritative Bible reading.
The Bible, the Church, and the Christian
In upholding the Church’s authority to interpret Scripture, I have been accused of a kind of epistemological nihilism — a strange charge, given Mr. Devereux’s rather nihilistic rejection of any knowledge of God outside Scripture. “Only through the God-breathed Word spoken by the Prophets, the Christ, and the Apostles, is God revealed,” he declares. “There is simply no other source through which we can know about God’s Covenant or anything that our Lord ever said, did, or promises to do.” This is an odd claim, considering that the Church was baptizing Christians and celebrating the Eucharist before one jot or tittle of the New Testament was set down. And of course it was the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, that set down in writing the “unwritten Word of Christ and His Apostles.” It was the Church that, guided by that same Spirit, rightly identified the canonical Scriptures.
I have not and do not deny that Scripture is God-breathed and our final authority for matters of doctrinal dispute, but I most certainly deny that it is the sole means of knowing God. Are we to believe that God is not known in his sacraments? When Cleopas and the unnamed disciple returned from Emmaus to Jerusalem, breathlessly recounting how Christ “was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35), should the other disciples have corrected the error? Their hearts burned within them as Christ unpacked the Scriptures — but they only knew him in the breaking of bread.
Our most intimate and indeed salvific knowledge of Christ comes not through biblical erudition, as important as that is, but rather through the saving union with him effected in those sacraments “generally necessary for salvation.” Obviously, this sacramental mode of knowing will not resolve our impasse around Nicea II. It would be a category error to suggest that faithfully partaking of the Eucharist automatically settles doctrinal dispute. But we must not sever the reading of Scripture from the sacramental, praying life of the Church. The Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42) form a seamless and integrated whole. God is known in his sacraments and in his Church — not as separate from, much less in opposition to Scripture, but in an organic unity with the written Word.
In his latest piece, Mr. Devereux writes, “In Protestantism, the first principle of our faith is understood to be Scripture alone. The starting point of our faith is that we have come to believe in the Divine origin, inspiration, and truth of Holy Scripture.” This may well be a distinctive first principle of Protestantism — I will let those more invested in the label sort that out among themselves — but the first principle of Christianity writ large is faith in Jesus Christ, attested to both in the Scriptures and in the praying, sacramental life of the Church.
For Mr. Devereux, however, it is not just that Scripture “alone” is our source for knowing God; Scripture is also known “on its own.” It is hard to decide how literally this is meant. In the first half of “To Reject a Council,” he seems determined to justify my (admittedly snarky) description of his hermeneutical principles as the Bible “viewed from nowhere” — a strange epistemology, a Bible known with no knowers to know it.
Ultimately, though, Mr. Devereux confirms the accuracy of my sense that, in his first essay on Nicea II, “the specter of an unidentified authoritative interpreter of Scripture floats behind every line,” and he affirms the identity of that supreme authority:
the individual Christian does indeed become his own authority…. For Luther to have rejected the teachings of the Church… in favor of the ‘testimony of the Scriptures,’ means that he placed his understanding of that testimony above the Church’s…. One cannot say to another Christian ‘I stand with the Scriptures, you do not,’ without actually meaning, ‘I stand with my interpretation of the Scriptures against yours.’
Hence, it is not so much Scripture that is “alone” and “on its own” but rather the individual Christian. Alone and on his own, he authoritatively interprets Scripture.
Mr. Devereux salvages some use for the Church in the latter part of his essay. The Church’s “Divinely commissioned teaching office” includes “the duty of writing and formulating Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms.” He even affirms the right of particular jurisdictions or ecclesial authorities to demand adherence from her members — but, paradoxically, the individual Christian is not obligated to submit to the Church’s teaching office but, rather, to take it under advisement. Thus, despite his protestations otherwise, his Church acts not as an authority but as an advisor. She may supplement the individual Christian’s reading — or she may become superfluous or even contrary to the knowledge of Christ solely achieved through the individual study of Scripture. Mr. Devereux says that Christians should not “see themselves as lone wolves,” but when it comes to authoritative biblical interpretation, we are very much alone.
All of this depends upon Mr. Devereux’s theory of Scripture’s easy perspicacity — the idea that Scripture is both “clear and easy to understand, at least regarding the subjects of critical importance.” But easy for whom? To whom is Scripture perspicacious — and when? Need Tyndale’s ploughboy be an adult before achieving easy perspicacity? Need he be literate? Educated? Free from severe intellectual disability? A Christian?
Even if we were to agree upon some basic standards of responsibility, competence, intelligence, or education, we would still have to ask why we should trust ourselves rather than the Church. The history of doctrinal and denominational proliferation and division — perhaps most apparent in those traditions which jettison “tradition” in favor of a Bible-and-me individualism — lends no credence to the idea. In the face of dissenting interpretations, the only way to salvage easy perspicacity is to embrace the trichotomy with which I began: disagreement over core theological principles can only issue from stupidity, mendacity, or the placing of unbiblical traditions over the Bible itself. Certainly, some disagreements do flow from one or more of those three errors, but to assume that they must do so in any and every instance is implausible and uncharitable.
Undoubtedly the greatest problem with Mr. Devereux’s view is that Scripture itself never says, explicitly or implicitly, that the individual Christian is the supreme authority for the interpretation of Scripture. Quite the contrary, as Mr. Byrum’s essay shows! The Bible verses Mr. Devereux cites only support his position if — leaning into certain Protestant clichés — one adds the modifier “alone” to them: “Thy Word [alone] is a lamp unto my feet” (cf. Ps. 119:105). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is [alone] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God [on his own] may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). No one doubts Scripture’s profitability, and I do not doubt that Scripture speaks clearly. But our Lord (Matt. 13:10-17) and St. Paul (1 Cor. 1-2) agree that the Scriptures are not perspicacious to those outside of the family of God. Neither tells us that, once in the family of God, each family member is individually and equally empowered to interpret the Scriptures authoritatively. To the contrary, the promise of the Spirit’s leading into all truth (Jn. 16:13) was not given to a collection of individuals but rather to the nascent gathered Church.
Judgment and Authority, Trust and Knowledge
I am not advocating epistemological nihilism. My view of Scripture is no lower than that of Mr. Devereux. And, although I have a higher view of the Church’s teaching authority, as well as a relatively chastened view of private Bible reading, I do not deny the gift of human reason nor the necessity of personal judgment. As I wrote some time ago in a piece critiquing the Roman tendency to dismiss personal judgment:
Who or what is most worthy of your trust? Using your personal judgment to place trust in someone else’s judgment is no contradiction. You do it every time you accept the advice of a physician. Because of this act of trust — which is necessary for all knowledge — judgment is inevitably personal and yet never truly private… You cannot avoid responsibility for your own judgment.
For Mr. Devereux, though, the exercise of personal responsibility and judgment makes me my own final authority. If I must judge, then I must be my own final authority. But this simply misunderstands what authority is. It conflates the conditions of knowing (epistemology) with the obligation to obey (authority).
Legitimate authority is that to which obedience is owed within its legitimate sphere, regardless of personal opinions. Consider our obligation to submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13). This submission does not eliminate personal judgment, because we must first identify the legitimate governing authority to obey and then place that duty in right relation to our duties to other authorities and ultimately to Christ. When political institutions function healthily, there is little cause to question their legitimacy. Amidst dysfunction or crisis, however, determining the identity and proper limits of political authorities becomes, at one and the same time, much more important and vastly more difficult. For instance, at one point during Covidtide, our parish faced county mandates that directly conflicted with directives from state officials. We had to decide which authority was legitimate — but this did not mean that we were therefore the final political authority for our parish. Likewise, we must judge if and when an authority oversteps its bounds. If county officials ordered us to stop preaching the Gospel, we would be compelled to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But if they ordered us to add more handicapped parking spaces in keeping with county ordinance, we would be hard-pressed to argue that this was not within their legitimate scope of authority. We would be obligated to obey, regardless of our opinions about the prudence or necessity of such a measure.
The same principles hold for ecclesial authority. If your rector orders you to sing the Te Deum and not the Benedictus at your parish’s Morning Prayer service, you are duty-bound to obey, regardless of your personal preferences or views. If, however, your rector tells you to preach that Jesus Christ is not born of a virgin, he has overstepped his authority. You have a filial obligation to disobey — not because you are the final authority but because you and he both submit to the greater authorities of the Creed and the Scriptures. You are obligated to correct him in private and, if necessary, to petition the bishop for redress. But you do not suddenly become your own rector. In your relationship with your rector, you are responsible for submitting to his legitimate authority, but this responsibility does not make you your own final authority.
Mr. Devereux, however, seems to think that the very act of submission — following as it does from a prior act of judgment — implies the final authority not of the one submitted to, but of the one submitting, which is nonsensical. By conflating authority with the basic epistemological conditions of knowing and judging, Mr. Devereux makes it impossible for anyone to obey, in any circumstances. According to Mr. Devereux, the fact that I must decide whether to submit to the Church means that I am the final authority. But since I must always decide in all circumstances, I must always be the final authority. Consider Scripture itself. If I must decide what Scripture means, then I am not under Scripture’s authority either but rather the final authority standing over it, at least for myself. Likewise, since I must judge whether Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity to whom my obedience is owed, well, that very act of judging makes me and not Jesus Christ my own final authority, according to the principles elaborated by Mr. Devereux. If, by contrast, the act of discerning Christ’s divinity and the meaning of Scripture makes us responsible for our own judgments but not authoritative over Christ and Scripture, then the same must hold true for our relation to the Church. To discern the nature and shape of the Church does not mean that we are final authorities over the Church. Within her rightful sphere of authority, we must obey her.
Hence, we must ask whether the interpretation of Scripture falls under the authority of the Church Catholic or of the individual. As noted above, Scripture never identifies the individual as the ultimate authority in Bible reading, and it strongly affirms the Church’s role in safeguarding truth. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church wrote, received, authorized, and perpetuated the canon. In his latest piece, Mr. Devereux avoids confronting the obvious implications of this historical reality by arbitrarily declaring the canon itself to be a first principle — less a rebuttal of contrary evidence than a refusal to engage it. He even says that the Church does infallibly interpret Scripture, but he reserves this for the (unknowable) invisible Church. Excising the Church’s tangible historical role from consideration while relocating the Church’s authority to the invisible (and thus irrelevant) Church — this is special pleading.
Granted, to affirm the Church’s authoritative reading does not settle matters. We must discern when, where, and how the Church has spoken authoritatively. If the Church were functioning healthily, discerning her voice would not be particularly difficult. But the Great Schism has put the Church into a perpetual state of crisis and dysfunction, such that ecclesiological agnosticism, while unacceptable and unsupportable, is understandable. Ironically, those who (wrongly) accuse me of epistemological nihilism when it comes to interpreting Scripture are themselves complete nihilists when it comes to identifying and submitting to the voice of the Church. Here I simply want to affirm that seeking to submit our personal, particular, and idiosyncratic understandings of Scripture to the judgment of the Church Catholic, both now and historically, is a basic duty of the Christian.
We do so not because we trust the Church over the Bible, as though the two were antagonists or rivals. Rather, we recognize that the Church, as the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, is filled by that same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of Scripture. To have ears to hear and eyes to see, we must read Scripture not as unaccountable individuals but, rather, in line with the voice of the Church as a member of that Spirit-filled Body.
I do not deny that Scripture speaks clearly — but I do deny that it can be viewed from nowhere. I do not deny personal responsibility nor the gift of reason — but I do deny that the individual is his own authority. I do not deny the difficulty of the ecclesiological questions alluded to above — but I do deny that they are unanswerable or irrelevant, or that the difficulty excuses us from the task.
Reading the Scriptures is a gift and a joy and a duty of the Christian. We all ought to “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,” but we never do so as autonomous individuals. We do so, first and foremost, amidst the gathered local parish — and finally as members of Christ’s own Body.
The Christian in the Church
“God would not abandon us,” writes Mr. Devereux, “by leaving us to seek that knowledge [of everything of importance] from a fallible and untrustworthy source.” But it is Mr. Devereux’s own view that leaves us starkly abandoned — left to our own interpretive devices, without even the comfort of an established canon. The Church discerned the canon of the New Testament. We receive that canon as a gift. But if the Church cannot be trusted to interpret her own canon faithfully and authoritatively, then we have no reason to submit ourselves to the Church’s judgment about the scope of the canon itself. Nothing but an arbitrary act of will prevents the authoritative individual interpreter from rejecting part or all of the canon, as so many heretics have done in recent and in ancient times.
Praise God, he did not abandon us! We are not alone with the Bible and our fallible brains, left to muddle through Scripture as Lone Rangers without even Tonto to guide us. To the contrary, he has made us members of the Spirit-filled, Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. That Body merits our trust and our confidence — and she demands our obedience.
“Every man his own pope” — this jibe is frequently a caricature and a straw man but here it is accurate. Mr. Devereux’s Church, as a collection of sovereign individuals, can exercise no true authority and demand no submission from her members. Even the canon itself becomes logically subject to individual judgment. This is not the biblical picture of hierarchy, order, authority, and submission within a sacramental organism. The Scriptures do not present Christians as independent selves, standing over the Church in judgment.
But modernity does.
The specter floating behind this latest essay is the modern self — the autonomous, rational, choosing individual. Unwittingly and unintentionally, River Devereux’s ecclesiology is that not of the Holy Spirit but of the Zeitgeist. The question we must answer is not and never has been the falsely dichotomous, “Should we trust Scripture or the Church?” To the contrary, the object and ground of our faith is neither the Church nor Scripture, “alone” and “on its own.” It is Jesus Christ the Righteous, who is known in the Scriptures and in his Church. The relevant question for our conversation is whether I should trust the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures or my own personal reading of it. To answer that question, I must decide whether I am a member of the Spirit-filled Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, or whether I am a modern self.
- I originally submitted this piece prior to the publication of Mr. Devereux’s response to Cory Byrum. I have since made some revisions, but the bulk of my essay responds to the second of his three essays, “To Reject a Council.” ↑
- See my larger argument here, particularly the long citation from St. John of Damascus. No one has effectively answered the biblical examples of veneration offered by the Damascene. (Fr. Ben Jefferies’ engagement, while more substantive, was insufficient, as I explain in the comments of his piece.) ↑
- You can make your way through our previous back-and-forth here. ↑
- Interestingly, Mr. Devereux’s own failure to grasp the nub of the iconodule position closely mirrors John Calvin’s insufficient engagement with Nicea II, as I have previously pointed out (following James R. Payton, Jr.): “Despite the first-millennium iconoclastic controversy being almost wholly christological in nature for both parties, Calvin’s only consideration of Nicea II in his definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes is restricted to Book 1 on God the Father. He does not even acknowledge that the Council saw Christ’s incarnation as transformative for understanding the second commandment.” ↑
- At least not in its final form — I assume some of Christ’s disciples were taking notes during his ministry, and that these made their way into the Gospels in due course. ↑
- Mr. Devereux insists in his followup piece (and in a clarifying comment added to that piece) that he does not deny Church authority. He is clearly aware of the tension between making the individual his own final authority and the Church’s biblical and historic role. Such tensions certainly can be fruitful, as E. L. Mascall emphasizes, but in this case they are not so much fruitful as irreconcilable. ↑
- This paragraph and the four that follow were added in response to his latest piece. ↑
- I owe the insights in this paragraph to Charles Carman. ↑
- The invocation of conscience is also a red herring, since the question is not whether we must follow conscience but rather how a well-formed conscience should guide the Christian if his own Bible reading conflicts with the Church’s. A few years ago, my then-four-year-old daughter rejected the Trinity because, in her mind, Jesus could not simultaneously be the Son of God and God Himself. In college, a friend told me he did not believe in the Trinity because he did not see it in Scripture. Meanwhile, Wayne Grudem rejected the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son for a time based on his biblical scholarship. Were these profound acts of faith in Scripture over the traditions of men? Or were they acts of hubris and presumption? In each case, the question is not whether one should follow one’s conscience but, rather, what a well-formed conscience should advise — whether to maintain one’s own opinion in defiance of the Nicene Creed or to trust the Church’s reading, despite misgivings. ↑
- I lay down some principles for discerning and applying the voice of the Church in my essay on Anglican Formularies and Ecumenical Councils, and I describe the (historically limited but ecclesiologically monumental) significance of the Great Schism here. ↑
- Compare, for instance, Vladimir Lossky’s essay “Tradition and Traditions” with Richard Hooker on Scripture, reason, and tradition. Hooker’s “reason” is arguably closer to (though far from identical with) Lossky’s “Tradition” than to Enlightenment rationalism, while Hooker’s “tradition” largely corresponds with what Lossky calls “traditions.” (I first made this connection in reading through an unpublished paper by Jordan Stewart titled “Law and Order: Hooker’s Paradigm for Scripture, Reason, and Tradition.”) ↑
- Again, we should reject the false equivocation between fallibility and unworthiness. When parents leave their children in the care of fallible but trustworthy teachers, they are not abandoning them. ↑
- I expand on this in the latter portions of this essay, beginning with the section titled “Hierarchy and Order in the Church.” ↑