Sunday, August 31, 2008

quot homines, tot sententiae

Continuing with debate over the proper place of the Virgin Mary: Derek responded with Denuo..., and I should like to say a few things as well.

Where better to begin than with a quote von Balthasar: One is ashamed for a Christianity which today is ashamed of its own Mother. (tr. Aidan Nichols)

Derek says: Show me the evidence, Scotist, that this was held by the undivided Church, and I’ll be happy to consider it more deeply. It is hard to know what level of evidence if desired, but there are some interesting bits and pieces from the Church Fathers--I presume Bernard, Bonaventure, and the like do not count, or at least do not count as much:

Expanding on one of the "causa salutis" reference of an earlier post, here is Irenaeus:
Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. (Adversus haeresus, III, 22)

And again from Irenaeus in the same work: And as by the action of the disobedient virgin, man was afflicted and, being cast down, died, so also by the action of the Virgin who obeyed the word of God, man being regenerated received, through life, life . . . For it was meet and just . . . that Eve should be "recapitulated" in Mary, so that the Virgin, becoming the advocate of the virgin, should dissolve and destroy the virginal disobedience by means of virginal obedience. (Ibid, III, 22,24)

St. Jerome put it briefly (Ep, 22, 21): Death through Eve, life through Mary.

Modestus of Jerusalem has it that through Mary we are redeemed from the tyranny of the devil. (Patrologia Graeca 86, 3287)

John Damascene addressing Mary: Hail though whom we are redeemed from the curse.
(Patrologia Graeca 86, 658)

There 's a neat saying from Augustine: Christ is truth, Christ is flesh: Christ truth in the mind of Mary, Christ flesh in the womb of Mary. (Sermo 25, Sermones inediti, 7: PL 46, 938)

And in that spirit, a bit from Origen's Commentary on John: The Gospels are the first fruits of all Scripture and the Gospel of John is the first of the Gospels: no one can grasp its meaning without having leaned his head on Jesus' breast and having received from Jesus Mary as Mother.

This is just a list I pieced together; it is not exhaustive, but might serve as a ground floor to the discussion, as all of it would be accessible free of charge to anyone with Google. Anyway, maybe there is enough here to merit further serious consideration. Although such quotes might be explained away individually--no great feat--that strategy is beside the point. Rather, we were seeking evidence for an appropriate base of belief or practice in the "undivided" church which might have found faithful articulation in the fifth Marian dogma. Such quotes, from diverse authorities spanning centuries, seem to me to constitute the desired evidence justifying further inquiry, or deeper consideration. This call for deeper consideration is not much--granted. And there is no demonstration of my case from these quotes--granted.

To Derek's section II, I shall have to plead ignorance. There is too much in Lumen Gentium which I cannot claim to understand, though it seems to me anyone holding to the analogy of faith would disavow any consideration of a Marian dogma apart from other dogmas; abstraction would produce new content. As I believe RC theologians generally take the analogy of faith seriously, they would seem to have to prefer considering Marian dogmas only as part of a greater dogmatic whole. Of course, that's not quite what I am doing, as the greater dogmatic whole a RC theologian might recognize is probably something I would not recognize.

The real difference between us, quotes from the Fathers et al aside, seems to be the distinction Derek draws in his section IV between doctrine and dogma. He writes dogmas are absolute and binding in a way that the more general term doctrine does not require, as a dogma is a belief we must hold about the faith, whereas a doctrine is a belief we actually hold. He might entertain the fifth dogma as a doctrine, something some hold where he thinks we may see popular devotion gone awry, but there is no sufficient basis, he seems to say, for regarding it as dogma.

I can live with that--both the doctrine/dogma distinction and the rejection of the dogma. Why? He is willing to tolerate Marian devotion as a doctrine, even if not as a dogma. And indeed though I think it really is a dogma, proving that in Anglican terms, from Scripture, might be impossible. There is no reason, as an Anglican and an Episcopalian, I have to convert him and others to belief in the fifth dogma as dogmatic, however desirable conversion would be.

Moreover, and perhaps more controversially, the text Derek quotes from the RC Catechism defining dogma as truth in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith has a certain looseness to it. A devotee of Rahner, familiar with the notion of an anonymous Christian, might think there could be anonymous Marians as well.

That is to say, even an Anglican who would think the propositional articulation of the fifth dogma is in error could nevertheless be a Marian in spite of himself, were he disposed to regard Christ with the heart of Mary. In that case, he might have a faithful relation to the dogma in question--an irrevocable adherence as it were. True, the fullest adherence for a rational animal might include propositional articulation, but adherence might well be possible in the absence of such articulation, or even in the presence of a contrary affirmation, as when words are uttered contrary to the inward disposition.


At 11:56 PM, Blogger Tony Hunt said...

My comment is not meant to be a comment on all early Mariological statements, as I have not researched them;

but as I understand the Orthodox position, a position supposedly held since those early years, are not statements about Mary really Christological statements against (for instance) Docetist's and the like? And so by this singular emphasis on Mary do we not forget that she is only important as the Incarnation is important?

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Derek the Ænglican said...

Alright, Scotist, my reply is up; come and get it...

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the text Derek quotes from the RC Catechism defining dogma as truth in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith has a certain looseness to it. A devotee of Rahner, familiar with the notion of an anonymous Christian, might think there could be anonymous Marians as well."

Why not remain an anonymous Marian to a Christian whom you're trying to defend Mary against? There seem to be so many negative stereotypes associated with her that some Protestants hear the word Mary and associate it with the Popes in the corrupt Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, Luther, etc...? These protestants are never going to listen otherwise, it seems to me.

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, if you ever run out of hot topics within the Anglican Church, here's one:

At 5:56 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Relax--I just have not been checking here at all for awhile.

As you wish, I'll delete your posts.

However, I think you can send a message by email:

If you have time, we can meet for coffee in Deland or hereabouts and talk philosophy or theology.


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