Epistemology of history, appealing to church tradition

in #theology6 years ago

Brother James Kip Farrar continues to interact with me about the office of deacon.

He says:

_ You have, again, missed the point. Scripture was written in a historical context. It was practiced in a historical context. Understanding that historical context helps one understand Scripture. You seem to think that just because people with wrong doctrine advanced the idea of deacon that it somehow means that to agree with the office of deacon means that we agree must with their flawed theology? That's one fierce paper tiger. If that was actually true, then following your logic, it would mean that you would be forced to renounce the Trinity seeing as how the doctrine was defended by a deacon named Athanasius. But I won't hold you to that. The fact is that the early Church found an awful lot of things to fight about. Almost immediately they divided over important theological issues. Heretics were recognized and denounced. But one thing that seemed to be a non-issue was the offices of overseer and deacon. That's because everyone recognized their validity. Now if you want to pretend that Scripture can be interpreted in a vacuum, I suppose that's your prerogative. But don't be surprised when others find your hermeneutic unpersuasive._

Also, it seems that your main argument has been basically, "show me why we should prefer translating diakonos as Deacon rather than servant.' Perhaps you believe that I have failed to do that. Even if I have, that still does not mean that your alternate interpretation is true. You still need to make the case of why your reading is to be preferred to the ubiquitous witness of the last two millennia.

I reply:

Scripture was written in a historical context. It was practiced in a historical context. Understanding that historical context helps one understand Scripture.

No argument there.

You seem to think that just because people with wrong doctrine advanced the idea of deacon that it somehow means that to agree with the office of deacon means that we agree must with their flawed theology?

I'm afraid, brother, it is you who have missed the point. We need to dig deeper to more foundational questions since you are appealing to "church tradition" as part of your case. HOW WE KNOW what is flawed theology and what is correct theology is at issue here. I contend that the reliability of the opinions of (((the extant manuscript tradition of))) "Church Fathers" is only as good as the arguments they marshaled in favor of their position. Telling me that those guys took for granted that "deacon" was an office and then quoting them using "diakonos" (in the case of those whose MSS survive in Greek) here or there doesn't get us anywhere. Even if in their usage of the word "diakonos" it seems clear that they meant to describe an office to which men are appointed rather than a more general "servant" sense, you still have most of your work in front of you. HOW DO YOU KNOW that this author's position on the office of deacon is not "flawed theology"? You certainly do not hesitate to disaffirm the teachings that (((the extant manuscript tradition of))) Irenaeus brought to the table when we're talking about transsubstantiation and apostolic succession. But then when it comes to the office of deacon, you're all like "Irenaeus believed in it!" You have to be consistent, and with your appeals to historical theology you're not. And you haven't even answered my original challenge questions; that's because you and I both know you couldn't begin to do so. And you're arguing exactly like papists and Eastern Orthodox argue - they too know that their teachings can't be substantiated from Scripture, they don't care, and they want to try to appear to have rational justification for what they practice and believe. So they appeal to "tradition", and their appeals are just as specious as yours here are.

If that was actually true, then following your logic, it would mean that you would be forced to renounce the Trinity seeing as how the doctrine was defended by a deacon named Athanasius.

The logic I am employing would actually have no connection whatsoever to this inference. Even assuming that Athanasius was a deacon in the sense you mean it, just because he was in error in that area has no necessary connection to how accurately he systematised the doctrine of the Trinity. I am being consistent - I say let us examine Athanasius' arguments as to the Trinity AND as to the office of deacon (if indeed any arguments purportedly from his pen in the extant manuscript tradition survive), and let us examine them FROM SCRIPTURE.

Many errors are very old. So are many truths. You can tell them apart by examining them in light of Scripture. That has been my insistence from the beginning; you are the one who introduced these arguments from historical theology, and so I am obliged to correct your flawed epistemology of history.

But one thing that seemed to be a non-issue was the offices of overseer and deacon.

  1. That is your assumption, based on the extremely limited extant manuscript tradition.
  2. Very large amounts of Christians from this same time period seemed to agree with prayer for the dead, and with infant baptism. But you reject those teachings, based on Scripture. Be consistent.
  3. Because it doesn't actually matter what a billion people believe; if Scripture says they are mistaken, they are mistaken.

You still need to make the case of why your reading is to be preferred to the ubiquitous witness of the last two millennia.

Let the reader indeed judge.

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