Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Doronzo on the (In)sufficiency of Scripture

From Doronzo, The Channels of Revelation, pp. 15-18 (available thru ITOPL):


Peregrinus said...

Sacred Scripture is a written record of only a part of the whole of Tradition, i.e., of what the Christ handed on to His Apostles, as the Evangelist John notes (John 27:25). There are certainly elements of the Faith (but amazingly few) not contained, even implicitly, in The Bible. Those who argue otherwise are ignorant both of the content of Sacred Scripture and of how and why it was produced.

It should be noted that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not one of those elements not implicitly contained in Sacred Scripture. A meditation on the meaning of the phrase "full of grace" (perniciously translated as "highly favored" in some modern English versions of the Bible) at Luke 1:28 reveals that fact.

Ashton said...

This is my way of thinking at the present moment, inspired by Garrigou-Lagrange: a revealed truth may be 'contained' in scripture implicitly in at least three ways: (i) as a necessary logical consequence of one or more other revealed truths (e.g., that Christ has two wills, one human and one divine, follows from the doctrine that 'The divine Son became man' and the definition of 'man'); (ii) as a proposition asserted by an inspired writer but by means of objectively ambiguous or unclear language (e.g., "full of grace" carrying the meaning that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from original sin and infused with sanctifying grace); and (iii) as a proposition the truth of which is required or presupposed by a divinely-instituted devotional practice or ritual (e.g., that water is required for a valid baptism).

If those criteria are accepted, it does seem to me that every defined Catholic dogma is contained in scripture. But Tradition is required to help us achieve certitude as to what scripture contains implicitly. In my opinion it is not very helpful to use phrases like 'seed form' or 'seminal form' or 'germinal form' when discussing the development of doctrines. (And that is what the text here is discussing, really.) Such terms are too vague to be useful. Unorthodox theologians say things like 'The papal office is found in seminal form in a Petrine trajectory found in the New Testament documents.' But what they mean by this is that no proposition in scripture actually affirms the truth of the doctrine of the papacy, only that one competing 'trajectory' seems to be heading in that direction. One must be very precise in making clear exactly what 'seminal form' (etc.) means when speaking about dogmatic development or implicit revelation. A doctrine can be revealed only if it was taught or contained in the teachings of the sources of divine revelation prior to the death of the last apostle. A trajectory which makes a conclusion probable and which historically culminates in a definition centuries after the death of the apostles is insufficient to establish that the doctrine in question is revealed.

Examples of authentic development: One can defend the Assumption of Mary as a necessary consequence of the Immaculate Conception. One can defend the Immaculate Conception from Luke 1 (full of grace) and Genesis 3 (enmity with Satan). Devotional practices such as the veneration of images seem to have their own logic, since a devotion is not a doctrine: it makes no sense to say a devotion is 'true' except in a convertible sense like 'good'. Homage paid to images can therefore be defended on the grounds that such devotion confers spiritual benefits (e.g., as psychological aids in prayer or as sacramentals), has no theological argument against it, and has no positive divine command against it.

Rituals, like the sacraments, are more difficult. I suppose I would be inclined to say that when Christ referred to 'baptism' this term denoted a concrete set of ritual behaviors which can be known only by historical inquiry (consultation of Tradition). Because terms like 'baptism' refer to socially-defined human behaviors, and not to natural kinds (like 'man' or 'ox'), it seems to me one can only know the definition of such terms by examining the usage of those terms by the relevant linguistic community.

All of this is just conjecture, sharing my own incomplete and probably sometimes false beliefs---which I hold only provisionally. I would like input from anyone who is further along on these matters.