Monday, June 04, 2007

Two Swim the Tiber for Apostolic Faith

Almost a month ago, I was alerted to the fact that Francis J. Beckwith, former President of the Evangelical Theological Society, had converted to Roman Catholicism; I've just been told (hat tip to EYTYXOΣ) that Rob Koons, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas in Austin, has done the same, as well as provided a lengthy and thorough case for the Catholic side of the Catholic/Lutheran justification debate. Good reading for the theologically-inclined with the time to spare. The rest of us have to skim where we can and make up for it later...

Professor Koons' reasons for choosing Rome over the East are, by his own admission, shallow and based on his own cultural inheritance as well as theological exhaustion, but the very comment itself is charitable in its recognition of our shared apostolic heritage -- indeed, the issues that separate the Orthodox from the Catholics are not clear-cut to objective observers, and understanding needs to be given on both sides. The post, though, has me thinking a lot about the fast in which we find ourselves for the next 25 days. Father Stephen stresses that we remember our Apostolic Faith during this time. Of particular recommendation is the quote by Irenaeus, as well as the work from which it comes (books I, II, III, IV, and V -- more reading for theology buffs).

Bit of a the faith of the Apostles... Now that I've reconciled myself to this, it's actually comforting to know that God is glorified in His saints. Not just by His saints, through their praises, but in the actions of His saints for the good of the Church and all mankind...not the least of which are, we Orthodox believe, their holy prayers ascending before Christ on our behalf. The power to forgive sins, given to God alone in former times, was passed to these mere men by the Holy Spirit, men who were then led by that same Spirit into all truth in order that we could worship in Spirit and in Truth.

Holy Foremost of the Apostles Peter and Paul, pray to Christ our God for us.


EYTYXOΣ said...

I haven't read it yet, but I couldn't pass it up when I saw it on the 75% off rack at the DTS bookstore: Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification, edited by David Aune.

Book Description
Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars have conferred in recent decades to reconsider their theological differences. Conversation regarding Paul's doctrine of justification led to a breakthrough in 1999 with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This book recounts, assesses, and continues that conversation. The contributors are David G. Truemper (on the Joint Declaration), David M. Rylaarsdam (patristic interpretation), Randall C. Zachman (medieval and Reformation understandings), Joseph A. Fitzmyer (Catholic interpretation of Paul), Richard E. DeMaris (responding to Fitzmyer), John Reumann (Lutheran interpretation of Paul), Margaret M. Mitchell (responding to Reumann), Susan K. Wood (Catholic reception of the Joint Declaration), Michael J. Root (Lutheran reception of the Joint Declaration), and David E. Aune (on recent Pauline scholarship). Bible students, pastors, and theologians will find these essays enlightening and helpful.

From the Back Cover
This important volume provides a contemporary reassessment of the Pauline doctrine of justification from both Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives. The essays represent the fruit of a new ecumenical spirit and several decades of conversation between Lutheran and Roman Catholic representatives, a process that generated the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which was signed in 1999.

Following an introduction by David G. Truemper, biblical, historical, and theological chapters balance Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives. David E. Aune's substantial concluding chapter surveys the last two centuries of Pauline interpretation. The collection will be of great interest to biblical scholars, theologians, and historians of doctrine who are concerned with the interpretation of Paul, the division of the Western church, and the continuing ecumenical conversation. Contributors include David G. Truemper; Susan K. Wood; Michael Root; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.; Richard E. DeMaris; John Reumann; Margaret M. Mitchell; David M. Rylaarsdam; Randall C. Zachman; and David E. Aune.

"I began reading this book with the intent to skim but was quickly drawn into full engagement with its dialogue. The exchange is vigorous and thoughtful, arising out of deep commitments to ecumenism and to Paul. Those who share these commitments will surely find these essays stimulating."--Jouette M. Bassler, professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology

Rhology said...

Thanks for the tip to Koons' article. Another sigh-worthy piece of news.

I found this comment from Koons pretty enlightening as far as "Why not EO-doxy?"
Like Beckwith, Koons seems not to have sunk too much thought into the issues, whether RCC vs Prot-ism or RCC vs. EOC. It's only a big deal b/c these guys are big names, not b/c they anythg new or deep to say, IMHO.

Rhology said...

Oops, *have* anythg new or deep to say, I meant.

John said...

Thanks for tipping me off to the article. I'll have to read it more in depth later on.

"not b/c they have anthing new or deep to say"

The fact that that don't have anything new to say, IMHO, is the whole point.

EYTYXOΣ said...

rh wrote: I found this comment from Koons pretty enlightening as far as "Why not EO-doxy?"
Like Beckwith, Koons seems not to have sunk too much thought into the issues, whether RCC vs Prot-ism or RCC vs. EOC. It's only a big deal b/c these guys are big names, not b/c they anythg new or deep to say, IMHO.

I would think a 95-page paper discussing the Catholic-versus-Lutheran view of justification shows that he indeed put a lot of thought into RCC vs Protestantism, but that it was RCC vs Orthodoxy that Koons admits he didn't invest the time in. After all, here is the table of contents of his essay:

Table of Contents
1. The burden of proof, 5
2. The question of justification, 10
2.1 What exactly is at issue, 10
2.2 The case for the Lutheran side, 13
2.2.1 Justification as forensic, 13
2.2.2 Grace as favor vs. grace as help, 17
2.2.3 Faith, not works, 18
2.2.4 Faith as passive and merely receptive, 23
2.2.5 The no-boasting argument, 25
2.2.6 The distinction between Law and Gospel, 25
2.2.7 Solo Christo, 27
2.2.8 Simultaneously saint and sinner, 27
2.2.9 Meriting an increase in grace is a self-contradiction, 28
2.2.10 Post Vatican II Neo-Pelagianism, 29
2.2.11 The motivation for good works, 30
2.3 The case for the Roman Catholic side, 30
2.3.2 Eternal life as a reward, 30
2.3.4 The fatal contradiction in the Lutheran position, 32
2.4 Eternal vs. temporal penalties, purgatory, 34
2.5 Self-righteousness and assurance of salvation, 36
2.6 In summary: the crux of the matter, 39
3. Sola Scriptura, 41
3.1 The case for the Lutheran position, 43
3.2 The case for the Roman Catholic position, 45
3.3 The historic episcopacy, 49
4. Purgatory and praying for the dead, 51
5. Praying to the saints, 52
6. Mary, 53
7. The Mass as a sacrifice, 54
8. The primacy of the pope, 55
9. Conclusion, 57
Bibliography 59
Appendix A: Commentary on the Council of Trent, 60
Appendix B: Commentary on Proof Texts concerning Justification by Faith, 78
Appendix C: St. Augustine’s The Spirit and the Letter on Justification as Inherent Righteousness, 93

Also, Koons wrote: "I guess I could plead a kind of theological exhaustion: finding a satisfactory to one of the two great schisms in Church history has taken me thirty years of study and reflection. I simply don’t have the time or energy to give the same degree of attention to the other."

So if he spent 30 years examining Protestantism vs RCC on justification, how and why do you dismiss him as not having sunk too much thought into the issues? 30 years is longer than I've been a Christian (but only by a couple months).

Have you read the 95-page paper, or are you just responding to a brief read-through of Koons' blogpost?

David Bryan said...

This, I think, is a tendency we all have, if we're not careful; we tend to assume that those who convert from US to THEM are (obviously!) uninformed and shallow thinkers who, were they REALLY to look at the issues, would (obviously!) come back to US.

That someone could look for so long and so thoroughly through an issue and yet come to the exact opposite conclusion as we is something we may not understand--nor are we obligated to agree or even to doubt our own convictions upon hearing contradictory ones--but we are not therefore at liberty to say that the person who disagrees with us hasn't "sunk too much thought into the issues," or that they don't "have anything new or deep to say."

That's too easy a dismissal of far too much effort and courage on the convert's part.

Rhology said...

The implication of what you two are saying is that Koons selected only his weakest arguments for the abstract (ie, his blogpost) of his 95-pg paper.

I don't find that a very compelling argument, and none of the arguments in the blogpost contained anythg challenging. Just lettin' ya know my thoughts. Move on folks - nothin' to see here...

EYTYXOΣ said...

Rhology said...
The implication of what you two are saying is that Koons selected only his weakest arguments for the abstract (ie, his blogpost) of his 95-pg paper.

The implication of what I was saying was that to rule on the depth or shallowness of Koons's conversion based merely on the blogpost was to ignore the evidence that Koons himself provided by referencing his paper.

Dismissing Koons based simply on the blogpost is probably not unlike dismissing the evidence for Oswald being the lone gunman without actually reading the Warren Commission Report.