Church Dogmatics Archives



More Generally: Theology (129)

February 24, 2010

Biblical Literalism as Hyper-Perspicuity

Last night I was at a lecture on science and religion at USC's Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. (Evidently, we have an Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Who knew?) In the course of a lecture with which I otherwise mostly agreed, Fr. Paul Heft connected radical Biblical literalism with the Reformers. This is, of course, strictly false: the Reformers were not literalists in anything like the sense in which twentieth century fundamentalists were. However, it got me thinking about what connection the doctrine of perspicuity, which I was recently discussing on Called to Communion, might have to radical literalism...
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October 22, 2008

"Can Berkeley's God Raise the Same Body, Transformed?'

My paper "Can Berkeley's God Raise the Same Body, Transformed?", which is to be presented at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Pacific Division conference next week is now available on the conference web-site. I would greatly appreciate any comments or criticisms.
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October 8, 2008

Baber on the Real Presence

Some of the papers to be presented at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Pacific Division Conference have now been posted. Mine isn't up yet, but I will provide a link when it is. For now, I want to point readers to a paper by the University of San Diego's Harriet Baber which she has entitled simply "The Real Presence". We have previously discussed here the difference between transubstantiation and real presence. Baber describes this quite nicely in her introduction...
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February 18, 2008

A Moderate and Plausible Arminianism, Based on John 6:40 and Romans 8:29

My position on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is that the more moderate forms of each are both plausible and orthodox. Hyper-Calvinism can slide into the heresy of fatalism, or the denial that God loves all people; hyper-Arminianism slides, of course, into Pelagianism. It is only the moderate forms of each which are, I say, plausible and orthodox. These moderate forms, I hold, represent two different man-made philosophical and theological systems designed to uphold the same doctrines revealed in Scripture. I believe that when the disagreement actually reaches all the way down to Biblical hermeneutics, rather than staying in...
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December 26, 2007

Aristotle and Transubstantiation (Some More)

Tim Troutman (formerly known as "The God Fearin' Fiddler") of The God Fearin' Forum has responded to my latest discussion of Eucharistic theology and Aristotle. Perhaps I have not been very clear. Whatever the case, Tim persistently misunderstands both my claim and my argument for it. I am going to try to make what I am claiming very clear here:
The doctrine of transubstantiation, as expounded by Trent, is rendered incoherent by any system of metaphysics sufficiently different from Aristotle's.
This should not be confused with any of the following claims, which I do not make...
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November 5, 2007

What's Wrong With Evangelicalism?

A lot actually. I don't want to start making a list (I might not stop). Regular readers may wonder why I still use the title so prominently, given my concern for history and tradition, and frequent attempts to distance myself from many elements of popular Evangelicalism. The answer is that I agree with the statements of faith of all the major Evangelical para-church groups, including their view of Scripture (my increasingly great respect for tradition has not altered that), and I continue to believe (perhaps more strongly than before) in "generous orthodoxy" - the view that the collection of doctrines...
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November 2, 2007

Transubstantiation vs. Real Presence

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on the historical significance of transubstantiation which has led to some interesting discussions. The principle problem with this post and the discussion that follows it, however, is that no one seems to understand the difference between transubstantiation and the Real Presence. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on this either, but I do think I know enough to clear up some historical and metaphysical confusion. I am going to use two principal sources - session 13 of the Council of Trent, and the relevant article from the Catholic Encyclopedia - to explain the historical development and specific content of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and then attempt to show two things...
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September 21, 2007

On Theological Method

Last night, I had a brief friendly debate with some Calvinists, which has me thinking about theological method. Briefly, I approach the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism from the perspective primarily of philosophy rather than revealed theology. That is, I argue that libertarian free will, which is incompatible with most (but, surprisingly, not all) versions of Calvinism, but is central to Arminianism, is a philosophically attractive thesis on grounds of, for instance, human moral responsibility, the problem of evil, and the phenomenology of choice. (I don't claim that Calvinists can't provide accounts of these things, I simply claim that Arminians...
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August 13, 2007

Original Sin-Original Guilt, Christ's Righteousness-Imputation of Righteousness

Peter Kirk has posted a discussion of the Latin text Augustine was familiar with and its effect on his doctrine of original sin. The claim is, effectively, this: Augustine believed in the doctrine of original guilt because of an ambiguity introduced by an excessively literal Latin Bible which persists in the Vulgate and later theologians have a propensity to read original guilt into the text of Scripture because Augustine did. The passage in question is the end of Romans 5:12. The English translations are pretty much all the same: "in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned." But Augustine's translation says...
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July 16, 2007

Four Aspects of Ecclesiology

While listening to a sermon on Colossians 1:24-29 yesterday, I had some thoughts about the nature of the Church. In particular, I am thinking of four ways of looking at the Church which, as it turns out, are very tightly interwoven. I call these somatic ecclesiology, apostolic ecclesiology, evangelistic ecclesiology, and eucharistic ecclesiology. Somatic ecclesiology is based on the idea of the Church as the "Body of Christ," which is one of the most common descriptions in Scripture. Apostolic ecclesiology is based on the idea of the Church as that structure which has the apostles and prophets as its foundation...
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April 19, 2007

Calvinism and Arminianism: On Making the Right Objection

I want to make an important point about something that is either a reasoning mistake (if done accidentally) or an underhanded rhetorical trick (if done intentionally). I've seen it a lot (and done it myself, accidentally) in debates between Calvinists and Arminians (mostly on a popular level, but sometimes even in the writings of philosophers and theologians), so I'm going to use this debate to provide examples ... The issue is this: all of us believe implicit contradictions, because we are unable to determine all the consequences of our beliefs. This means that there is a big difference between rejecting a belief p and accepting a belief q which, unbeknownst to you, logically entails not-p. So, if you believe ...
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March 31, 2007

Protestant Mariology

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on why Protestants are offended by Mariology. This was one of the issues that came up in our previous debate, so I would like to address it briefly here. Before I do so, I want to make a few preliminary remarks. The first is that the assertion that Mariology is offensive to Protestants contains a terminological mistake, but it is a mistake that is also made by many Protestants. "Mariology" is the branch of theology that deals with Mary. Protestants are not offended by this subject of study. In fact, there is...
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March 21, 2007

Sola Scriptura in Augustine

As previously promised, this post will treat the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in Augustine. First, let me state that by Sola Scriptura I do not necessarily mean a particular formulation by Luther or Calvin or any particular church, but rather I mean to show that the cluster of doctrinal positions into which all of these fall exists in the early church. So I really mean the doctrines (plural) of Sola Scriptura, and not some particular doctrine. I define these as follows: A teaching is a Sola Scriptura doctrine if and only if it asserts that the contents of the canonical books of Scripture possess divine authority and/or sufficiency...
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Catholicism and Church History

I have recently been participating in a little debate over at The God Fearin' Forum on some of the issues of Church history (primarily history of doctrine) that are significant to Protestant-Catholic (and Orthodox!) disagreements. I encourage you all to head over and read the debate so far, and perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I will jump in! Later today (if I have a chance) I'm hoping to get a case put together for the historical foundations of Sola Scriptura...
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March 17, 2007

The Historicity of the Doctrine of Inerrancy

Jeremy Pierce of Parableman has an excellent post refuting the claim that the doctrine of inerrancy was invented in the 19th century as a response to theological liberals. I intend someday to get back to my long-stalled Why Believe the Bible? series, and when I do some of what Jeremy says here will be important for the next post, which is supposed to be on the witness of the Church to the Scripture. My one complaint about this post is that, in a fashion that is unfortunately typical of my fellow Protestants, it jumps through Church history from the New Testament, to Augustine, to Luther and Calvin, as though there was nothing in between...
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January 27, 2007

Scripture and Tradition in Protestantism

At the new blog Metaphysical Frameworks, Johnny-Dee (also of Fides Quaerens Intellectum fame) discusses the meaning of sola scriptura in its application to the practical methodology of Protestant theology. His suggestion is that "protestants consider the Bible to be like the Constitution, and the theological tradition to be like legal precedents from the Supreme Court." In other words, the determinations made by previous generations of Christians as to the teaching of Scripture are to be given great weight and not overturned lightly, but, ultimately, they are interpretations of Scripture and it is Scripture that is ultimately authoritative. Therefore, as much...
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January 15, 2007

Pub Theology

For all of our Irish Catholic friends (and anyone else who thinks beer and theology go well together), Paul Cat of Alive and Young explains why hypostatic union is like a black and tan. HT: Siris
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June 21, 2006

PCUSA on the Trinity

Update (6/22/06, 9:17 PM): A fascinating post at Siris discusses the use of 'Mother' and 'Womb' langauge in the tradition of orthodox trinitarian theology. The considerations Brandon brings up are such that the PCUSA statement makes less rather than more sense because of them. GetReligion reported yesteday on the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly's vote to 'receive' (but not 'approve') a paper suggesting liturgical use of new trinitarian language. Alternate formulations mentioned in the paper include "Rock, Redeemer, Friend;" "Lover, Beloved, Love;" "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier;" and "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love," but the formulation everyone is...
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May 2, 2006

"Three Persons, One Substance" - Paradox or Solution?

I seem to have opened quite the can of worms in my post on Church dogma the other day when I said: There seem to be some clear (to me) cases of Christian dogma that are not obviously uniquely deriveable from Scripture. For example, consider the formulation of the trinity as three persons (Greek hupostaseis and/or prosopa, Latin personae) in one substance/essence (Greek ousia, Latin essentia and/or substantia). This type of formulation is extremely common in the Christian tradition, and is derived primarily from the Chalcedonian Creed. However, I don't think we can say that it is obviously uniquely deriveable...
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April 26, 2006

Church Dogma

I've been thinking for some time now about dogma, and so I wanted to write a post to outline just what dogma is, and give some questions (but no answers!) about what it's content ought to be and where it ought to come from. First, dogma is not dogmatism. I positively despise dogmatism. Dogmatism is the practice of holding to one's beliefs in such a way as to utterly ignore alll evidence and arguments to the contrary. Dogmatism is the death of intellectual growth, and of Christian faith. A faith that does not allow itself to be challenged, or that...
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