Friday, March 7, 2014


A short explanation of tradition from the Scriptures and catechism is given above on the video. An example of this tradition passed on would be Lent

Below is a quote about the tradition of Lent found taken from part of  comment 129 at this site:  :
There is much to say regarding the early Church practice of Lent, so much so that I cannot include it all in a combox comment. Here are just a few pieces of evidence concerning Lent and the early Church.
The Nicene Creed was formulated at the first ecumenical council at Nicea in AD 325. Among thecanons from that council can be found the following words within the fifth canon:
And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and let the second be held about autumn.
According to St. Athanasius who attended the council there were 318 bishops from all over the world present at this council. And they do not say anything about establishing Lent; rather they speak of Lent as a given, as a liturgical reference point in relation to which they plan the time of other events. So the whole Church throughout the world takes Lent as a given, at the time of the first ecumenical council, before even the canon of Scripture had been determined, before the divinity of the Holy Spirit had been defined in the second council, and before one-Person-in-two-natures Christology had been defined in the third and fourth ecumenical councils in the fourth and fifth centuries.
Eusebius, for example, reports that in the late second century there was a difference in practice regarding when to end “the fast.” He writes:
A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour’s passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, ofterminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Saviour.
Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree, that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other but the Lord’s day, and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on this day only. There is still extant a writing of those who were then assembled in Palestine, over whom Theophilus, bishop of Cæsarea, and Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, presided. And there is also another writing extant of those who were assembled at Rome to consider the same question, which bears the name of Bishop Victor; also of the bishops in Pontus over whom Palmas, as the oldest, presided; and of the parishes in Gaul of which Irenæus was bishop, and of those in Osrhoëne and the cities there; and a personal letter of Bacchylus, bishop of the church at Corinth, and of a great many others, who uttered the same opinion and judgment, and cast the same vote.
And that which has been given above was their unanimous decision. (Church History 5.23, my emphases)
This second century dispute was over which day to end the fast and celebrate Christ’s resurrection. There was also dispute regarding what form the fast should take during the Triduum. What was not under dispute was the practice of fasting prior to celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Rather, as Eusebius implies, in the second half of the century, the practice of fasting prior to Easter was already celebrated in all the churches around the world. And according to Eusebius, St. Irenaeus wrote that even these variations in the form of fasting extended back to his ancestors: “And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors.” (Church History, 5.24) But because St. Irenaeus’s was an auditor (a hearer) and student of St. Polycarp, who was himself an auditor of the Apostle John, the only “ancestors” to which St. Irenaeus can be referring were either “apostolic fathers” or the Apostles themselves.
St. Athanasius, bishop of the Church at Alexandria, wrote the following to his Church in AD 330, just five years after the first ecumenical council:
We begin the fast of forty days on the 13th of the month Phamenoth Mark 9. After we have given ourselves to fasting in continued succession, let us begin the holy Paschal week on the 18th of the month Pharmuthi (April 13). Then resting on the 23rd of the same month Pharmuthi (April 18), and keeping the feast afterwards on the first of the week, on the 24th (April 19), let us add to these the seven weeks of the great Pentecost, wholly rejoicing and exulting in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom to the Father be glory and dominion in the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen. (Letter 2)
In AD 340, in his letter from Rome to Serapion, St. Athanasius wrote:
But I have further deemed it highly necessary and very urgent, to make known to your modesty— for I have written this to each one— that you should proclaim the fast of forty days to the brethren, and persuade them to fast, lest, while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should be derided, as the only people who do not fast, but take our pleasure in these days. For if, on account of the Letter [not] being yet read, we do not fast, we should take away this pretext, and it should be read before the fast of forty days, so that they may not make this an excuse for neglect or fasting. Also, when it is read, they may be able to learn about the fast. But O, my beloved, whether in this way or any other, persuade and teach them to fast the forty days. For it is a disgrace that when all the world does this, those alone who are in Egypt, instead of fasting, should find their pleasure. For even I being grieved because men deride us for this, have been constrained to write to you.
Note that concerning Lent he explains that “all the world does this,” and exhorts the presbyter Serapion to make sure the people fast, and read the letter from him (as bishop) to his parishioners so that they have no excuse for not fasting.
St. Jerome likewise writes:
We, according to the apostolic tradition (in which the whole world is at one with us), fast through one Lent yearly … I do not mean, of course, that it is unlawful to fast at other times through the year — always excepting Pentecost — only that while in Lent it is a duty of obligation, at other seasons it is a matter of choice.” (Letter 41, To Marcella)
Notice both that Lent is observed by “the whole [Christian] world,” according to St. Jerome, and that it is an “apostolic” tradition.
In the fifth century, St. Leo the Great refers to Lent as an apostolic institution, writing, “That the Apostolic institution of forty days might be fulfilled by fasting.” (Serm. ii. v. ix. de Quadragesima) So do St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Isidore of Seville.
My point
My point here is not at all to lay out all the patristic evidence for the universal observance of Lent. Nor is my point to challenge Duncan’s claims regarding the allegedly bad theology inherent in the observance of Lent with the following dilemma: either the widespread early observance of Lent indicates that the whole Church from a very early time fell into false theology, which thus presupposesecclesial deism, or the whole entire Church at some later point prior to the fifth or sixth century abandoned its original theological basis for observing Lent and adopted another theological basis for observing Lent. The problem with that thesis is that there is no evidence for it. Hence if according to Duncan Lent arose out of a theology of merit that does not fit with Reformed theology, then so much the worse for Reformed theology’s claim to apostolicity and catholicity. But that dilemma is not the point I wish to make.
My point concerns a different dilemma. If there are any practices that can justifiably be said to belong to Tradition, Lent is surely one of them, as even the bit of patristic evidence I’ve provided already makes clear. Hence if even the observance of Lent has no authority, then there is no authoritative Tradition. But in the Protestant/Reformed debate sketched out above regarding whether or not to observe Lent the fundamental question is not whether Lent is authoritative, but whether Lent is biblical and, if ‘biblical,’ then useful. Hence if Lent is part of authoritative Tradition, the nature of the Protestant/Reformed debate regarding whether or not to observe Lent demonstrates precisely the thesis of my post at the top of this page, namely, that sola scriptura entails the non-authoritative character of Tradition, and thus reduces sola scriptura to “solo scriptura” in essence, even when and where some adherents of sola scriptura retain the practice of Lent and practices like Lent. So the dilemma I wish to set forward here is the following: either there is no Tradition, in which case sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura,” or Lent is part of that Tradition, in which case the Protestant debate concerning whether to observe Lent demonstrates that sola scriptura nullifies the authority of Tradition, in which case sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura.” Either way, sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura.”

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