Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oh what a friend we have in Pelikan

So I finally got my volumes 3 and 4 of "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine" and have been flying through volume 3. In less than a day I'm on page 130 of 307 and I am enjoying it alot, but it scares me because it's so challenging, I'm realizing that my "education" in medieval and late medieval history that I received at university was almost nothing more than Modern Humanist Propoganda. I also learned that Roman Catholic attitudes that Protestantism is COMPLETELY innovative are also incorrect.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
In complete honesty Pelikan I find is very fair, but does clearly read like an Orthodox Christian who was educated by Lutherans. My bold assertion there is based on a few facts. He likes to point out the Western acceptance of the filioque as kind of a universal 'accident' and talks about how the West (Anselm particularly) F-ed up Christology pertaining to the 2 wills of Christ. He also talks about the "seeds" of the Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction in the 10th century preaching of "consolation and warning" and the "two-fold fashion" and sacramental nature of preaching. So yes he seems very fair, but it's just interesting to note those hints of the traditions he's most familiar with. (I think he's awesome I'm not trying to call him biased).

There's Something about Augustine:
His story-like telling of the history of Western Dogma is very kindred of my favourite historians who at the price of possibly over-simplifying, commit the sin of "making History interesting" by telling it as a narrative (Gibbon's account of the Roman Empire was the same). But the narrative seems to be all about St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine is always the source and summit (to borrow the phrase on the Eucharist from the Catholic Catechism) of theology. Everyone is always fighting about Augustine and the story which ends up as a tragedy with the Reformation seems to be all because of Augustine. Pelikan's Lutheranism also is evident in his constant affirmations that the catholic faith was always "prima scriptura" scripture as the highest authority followed by the fathers (mostly Augustine) and then reason.

So it seems VERY interesting to me to know more about Pelikan's conversion as he had spent so much time studying the West and how to become East Orthodox you ultimately have to say that this whole Augustinian school of thought that becomes the centre of every debate was just wrong from the start. Original Sin is untrue, Predestination is only a mystery, etc. I really need to buy his volume on the East.

What's it to Me?
The interesting thing is seeing his sort of commentary on authentic developments and inauthentic developments of tradition. For example he seems to be completely Orthodox in his assessment in this book. He notes wherever the supremacy of Peter or the Papacy is called into question but unlike a Lutheran, he always asserts that it was the bishops who held this equal authority with Peter having Primacy but not Supremacy (a very Orthodox assertion). He also always notes that the belief in Justification by faith alone was an innovation and not to be found in medieval teaching (a very non-Lutheran assertion). But he also talks about penance and the penitential system with great disdain (a very Orthodox and Lutheran assertion), and talks about the constant belief in the objective efficacy of the sacraments (an everyone but Reformed and Anabaptist assertion).

So maybe he's just recording history. I'm just too stuck in polemics. It's great to have a challenge though. During this whole conversion process things would've been much better if people told me to read more Church History and used more Church History to sway me. Oh well, nothing is set in stone, it's good to have this 'dead theologian' Pelikan to 'dialogue' with through his writings, perhaps if I ever gain Slavic citizenship the Orthodox might eventually consider me worthy of attending their eucharistic celebrations and I could see what he was 'on about'.

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