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April 21, 2009

More on the Development of Doctrine: The Choice is not between “Protestantism” and the “Older Traditions.”

Filed under: Development of Doctrine,Theology — William Witt @ 2:05 am
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HeronMichael Liccione has continued the discussion on the Development of Doctrine over at Perrennis Philosophia.

This is the first part of what I hope will be a series of responses.

1) Dr. Liccone begins with a misleading summary of the issue of disagreement. He suggests that when it comes to the question of the Development of Doctrine there are three hermeneutical circles (HC), characteristic of Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. The purpose of the HC is to identify an “authority [his emphasis] of ultimate appeal for distinguishing between true and false doctrine.”
2) The fundamental choice really boils down to two, between the Protestant HC on the one hand and the Catholic and Orthodox HC on the other, which he refers to as “the older traditions.” The main difference is “how they relate belief about the nature and authority of the confessing community itself to the deposit of divine faith.”
3) Liccione believes that the question of authentic authority has to be settled prior to the question of whether there are legitimate developments of doctrine.
4) Nonetheless, there is a criterion that can help one settle which prior explanation one should endorse—abduction, by which he means “inference to the best explanation.”

Liccione’s identification of the choice in assessing the question of doctrinal development between what he calls the Protestant HC and the “older traditions” is inherently misleading because there is no “older tradition” of doctrinal development. Doctrinal development is a modern phenomenon. (more…)

April 2, 2009

A Palm Sunday Sermon

Filed under: Sermons — William Witt @ 4:27 pm
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Psalm 31: 9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 15: 1-47

Exactly ten years ago I was visiting an Episcopal Church on Palm Sunday. The service had begun with the Procession of the Palms and the readings of Jesus’ triumphal procession into Jerusalem, and the readings had concluded with a reading of the Passion Account of Jesus’ crucifixion. The priest then went to the pulpit and began his sermon with these words: “The idea that Jesus died for our sins has caused more suffering and evil than any other idea in the history of the world!” He then proceeded to preach a sermon in which he outlined every horrible event in the history of the church—I think he talked about the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, Antisemitism; I’m fairly certain he mentioned the Nazi holocaust—and he stated repeatedly throughout the sermon that all these horrible events could be traced to a single idea—that Jesus had died for the sins of the world. We then stood and said the Creed.

Without commenting on this priest’s orthodoxy—which was certainly lacking—one might ask what could possibly motivate someone to make such an outrageous claim? From the pulpit no less? Well, if the priest was intending not to comment on the church’s teaching but on its practice, he might well have had a point. We need to be honest that there have been plenty of times in church history when Christians have just got it wrong. (more…)

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