"Early Church" Arguments

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FrozenChosen

Puritan Board Freshman
Is it fair to suggest that "the early church did X, so X is appropriate?" I see it happen a lot, I've done it a few times, and there is some discussion of the behavior of the early church on this board as well.

Do you all approve of such arguments? Well, not in the sense that the early church statement totally permits or disallows something, but is it a valid support for an idea?

It seems to me that if someone wants to rely on this kind of argument they haven't read the Corinthian epistles and other books.

For example, in some discussions with charismatics I've brought up the early church's rejection of the Montanists, not as a proof, but just to make them think. That's not the same as "well the early church did this so it's OK!"

What are your thoughts on using early church behavior in discussions? Do you mention them? In what sense?
 

Christopher

Puritan Board Freshman
Early Church history is good and helpful but they were flawed sinners like us. Like you noted, look at Corinth and they had the Apostles! No, the early churh should not be used as the standard. There is only one standard, the Bible.
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:a0f1ffc425]That's not the same as "well the early church did this so it's OK!"[/quote:a0f1ffc425]

I've never heard anybody argue like that. Not even Romanists, even they admit mistakes in practice.

I have been thinking alot about appeals to tradition lately. I believe that I cannot prove the validity of NT documents, without believing the claims that the Apostolic Fathers (those Fathers before AD200) and Apostlic established Churches made. The Early Church HAD to rest on the teaching they received (i.e. tradition) in order to validate whether such and such doctrine was true. Calvin says that we can know the contents of Scripture by the testimony of the Spirit. That is true, but there must be some way to prove that such and such is so. The only way I can do that is by assuming the truthfulness of the Church before 200, and then using the modern arguements.

We have no good manuscripts before the third century. I mean, the contents of Scripture could have been radically changed. Thus, I am bound to the truthfulness of the Churches that the Apostles themselves have established. I must lean on God's promise to give the Church his Spirit to lead us into all truth.

First of all, it depends on what you are trying to argue. If you say that such and such is a unanimously decided doctrine of the Church before like AD150, and you could prove it, then that would carry alot of weight.

Just some thoughts.

Paul
 

Christopher

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul, it appears you really are into the arly church. have you read "learning theology with the early church fathers?" i just got it last week but have to read three other books first in line. ought to be a good read.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
While there certainly were errors in the Early Church, when I see something being taught within a few generations of the apostles, or descriptions of early church life by people in a nearby time-period, it [b:30d73208d2]adds[/b:30d73208d2] something to a theological argument.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
The testimony of the early church may confirm our understanding of the Scriptures, but not infallibly. When we and they approach the sames Scriptures and come away with the same ideas, you are more likely to be closer to the truth. But men can err. It's nice to know we are in good company but let us not overestimate the value of the early church testimony, just because they were closer to the apostles. As with the generation in Solomon's day, and those following Hezekiah, and as we have seen in our own times, it doesn't take more than a generation for the truth to be lost or distorted beyond recognition.

[Edited on 5-30-2004 by puritansailor]
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:27905e587b][i:27905e587b]Originally posted by puritansailor[/i:27905e587b]
The testimony of the early church may confirm our understanding of the Scriptures, but not infallibly. When we and they approach the sames Scriptures and come away with the same ideas, you are more likely to be closer to the truth. But men can err. It's nice to know we are in good company but let us not overestimate the value of the early church testimony, just because they were closer to the apostles. As with the generation in Solomon's day, and those following Hezekiah, and as we have seen in our own times, it doesn't take more than a generation for the truth to be lost or distorted beyond recognition.

[Edited on 5-30-2004 by puritansailor] [/quote:27905e587b]

Are you saying that the Church is constantly progressing in her understanding of 'true doctrine'? I agree with that.

But... those who were closer to the Apostles can validate whether the teaching we have at present is valid or not. The only way we can know that the NT documents have not been tampered with before AD 200, is by the trustworthiness of the Church. We must trust them for a true witness of Jesus. We only build on their foundation.

Paul
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:976e5a7c9f][i:976e5a7c9f]Originally posted by Christopher[/i:976e5a7c9f]
Paul, it appears you really are into the arly church. have you read "learning theology with the early church fathers?" i just got it last week but have to read three other books first in line. ought to be a good read. [/quote:976e5a7c9f]

haven't read that one. I have read a few others though. I will be studying the mediaeval Church later this summer. :yes:

Paul
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
Early church and current practice

Our attitude to the early church fathers relates not only to doctrine but to practice.
Luther and the early Anglican fathers took the attitude that what ever has been done or taught in the past should be retained unless it can be proved to contradict the clear teaching of the Word of God.
The early Presbyterians and Puritans believed that we should not doing anything in the worship of God that is not commanded in scripture.
The Dutch Reformed in their Church order fall somewhere between the two positions.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Studying church history and the thought of the early church fathers is very useful. Some of these men were taught by the apostles themselves. Those are very good credentials.

The scriptures are our final and ultimate authority. The writings of the Fathers help interpret ambiguities. It is kind of like interpreting the Constitution. The document itself is the final authority. Yet, the writings of the drafters of the constitution, or of their contemporaries, is more likely to be consistent with the original intent than some moden who picks up the constituion and reads it. In constitutional law, the writings of the drafters are not authoritative, but are very persuasive. I for one would not believe or accept a novel interpretation of the Constitution that was inconsistent with clear and prevalent writings of the constitutional period.

Rembrandt makes a good point about the canon. These were the guys who did the hard work of discerning which books are inspired and not. While they did not "authorize" the scriptures with some independent authority, their recognition and establishment of the canon is our legacy. There is no need for me or anyone else to try and come to an independent judgment of whether the Gospel of Peter is inspired. Our mother, the Church, has already done that. Anyone who tries to do otherwise is foolish. This include Luther. (Fortunately, later Lutherans abandoned his position).

Scott
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:892a87979e][i:892a87979e]Originally posted by yeutter[/i:892a87979e]
Our attitude to the early church fathers relates not only to doctrine but to practice.
Luther and the early Anglican fathers took the attitude that what ever has been done or taught in the past should be retained unless it can be proved to contradict the clear teaching of the Word of God.
The early Presbyterians and Puritans believed that we should not doing anything in the worship of God that is not commanded in scripture.
The Dutch Reformed in their Church order fall somewhere between the two positions. [/quote:892a87979e]

I have a VERY good question. The Puritans were radically against all celebration of religious holidays (save Sabbath). The Early Church has instituted the 'Church-year', where certain days are set aside for recognition etc. Is it a good idea to accept these traditions (Easter, Christmas etc.) as long as we understand that they are in NO way commanded (Col. 2), but are fine for freewill observance?

Calvin celebrated Christmas a few times. I don't think it is BAD necessarily, as the Puritans thought. Is this a good practical tradition that we should continue to observe as long as it doesn't get out of hand (i.e. Roman, Anglican)?

Of course the history of the formation of the holidays is laughable. But should we forget it all together?

Paul

[Edited on 6-1-2004 by rembrandt]
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
Should we observe traditions of practice (such as the above example), or just Scriptural tradition? Note: it is a trick question. What is a Scriptural tradition? Everybody comes up with their own idea of Scriptural beliefs. There must be some other foundation that works alongside [i:4b36a0f6a0]sola scriptura[/i:4b36a0f6a0]. This is the testimony and history of the Church. What qualifies then, for Church tradition? Must the Scriptures say it for it to be a valid tradition? I don't think the Puritan's ideas on this were very consistent when taken to logical conclusions.

Paul
 

SoldierOfTheRock

Puritan Board Freshman
How do we know what they wrote?

Ok, I think that the early church guys can be used as evidence, but not as scipture. Again, its that sola scripture thing.

You all talk like you know about the early church fathers, and I truly believe you do. So here is my question - What is a good book to read to learn about them. Nothing too extensive, but a good overview, and I can go from there.

I think I might post this in the library section as well.
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:b06968bbe7][i:b06968bbe7]Originally posted by SoldierOfTheRock[/i:b06968bbe7]
Ok, I think that the early church guys can be used as evidence, but not as scipture. Again, its that sola scripture thing.[/quote:b06968bbe7]

How do you know what Scripture looked like before AD200 [i:b06968bbe7]without[/i:b06968bbe7] going to external sources, i.e. the Church Fathers? How do you know that God actually said that all Scripture is God-breathed and how do you know that Jesus actually said the great things he did about 'Scripture'? On who's account do you go upon?

How do you know the accounts of Jesus and the Apostles are true? The pious answer is because Scripture says so therefore God says so, but how do you know that that Scripture did not go through changes? Was it because God was Sovereignly working through the Church to preserve his truth? If so, that means you are resting on the Church's revelation of God, which is really God's revelation of God. Just like you are said to believe Paul when you are reading him, but can still be said to be believing God.

Trusting that people didn't tamper the writtings before AD 200 is a leap of faith, ultimately trusting that God preserved the writtings through the Church. We trust that the traditions laid down by the apostles didn't go undone, but came to fruition according to God's word. So it appears to me, that our trust is in Scripture, in the Church, and in God; and ultimately in God. But we cannot get around the Church's testimony about this fact. God gave the Church his Spirit to guide us into all truth.

[quote:b06968bbe7]You all talk like you know about the early church fathers, and I truly believe you do. So here is my question - What is a good book to read to learn about them. Nothing too extensive, but a good overview, and I can go from there.

I think I might post this in the library section as well.[/quote:b06968bbe7]

Get a good Church History set. I read Sheldon's on the Early Church, but Schaff's is the best.

Paul
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
As everyone has said, I think that early church history can often [i:e176f74f5a]corroborate[/i:e176f74f5a] our views and practices, but that the principle of original sin and examples such as the Corinthians church clearly show the error of putting [i:e176f74f5a]too much[/i:e176f74f5a] value on it. The weight the early church should have on our views and practices is basically just at a place on the same line that we use for [i:e176f74f5a]all[/i:e176f74f5a] extrabiblical sources. For instance, we certainly give a lot of weight to the theology and textual interpretation of men like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, the Westminster divines and the like. However, while we do typically place more weight on those sources than we do on the early church, it's still basically the same principle--they're just typically given [i:e176f74f5a]more[/i:e176f74f5a] corroborative weight than the early church practices.

In Christ,

Chris
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:9c4e4926ee][i:9c4e4926ee]Originally posted by Me Died Blue[/i:9c4e4926ee]
As everyone has said, I think that early church history can often [i:9c4e4926ee]corroborate[/i:9c4e4926ee] our views and practices, but that the principle of original sin and examples such as the Corinthians church clearly show the error of putting [i:9c4e4926ee]too much[/i:9c4e4926ee] value on it. The weight the early church should have on our views and practices is basically just at a place on the same line that we use for [i:9c4e4926ee]all[/i:9c4e4926ee] extrabiblical sources. For instance, we certainly give a lot of weight to the theology and textual interpretation of men like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, the Westminster divines and the like. However, while we do typically place more weight on those sources than we do on the early church, it's still basically the same principle--they're just typically given [i:9c4e4926ee]more[/i:9c4e4926ee] corroborative weight than the early church practices.

In Christ,

Chris [/quote:9c4e4926ee]

I disagree.

[b:9c4e4926ee]1 Tim. 3:15, "The Church of the Living God, [i:9c4e4926ee]the pillar and foundation of truth[/i:9c4e4926ee]."[/b:9c4e4926ee]

[b:9c4e4926ee]Matt. 16:18, "on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades [i:9c4e4926ee]will not overcome it[/i:9c4e4926ee]."[/b:9c4e4926ee]

You are going to put the universal testimony of the Church on the same level as a man's (Calvin's etc.) interpretations? The Reformers would not agree with that.

You think the Reformers have more weight than does the early Church? The Reformers have weight [i:9c4e4926ee]because[/i:9c4e4926ee] of the early Church. If there was never any early Church witnesses to predestinarianism I would never believe it! The Reformation was a revival of a mode of thought in the early Church.

In regards to your example of Corinth, that is only a congregation. No one congregation is the universal Church. We go on the the testimony of the Church as a whole. The invisble Church as a whole is infallibe in the sence that what they decree at synods and councils cannot err finally; they will correct themselves eventually. Understanding of true doctrine is increasing, but we must go back to the foundation that the apostles laid as interpreted by the apostle's disciples (Apostolic Fathers). Clearly the apostles apointed apostles for themselves. They are to be trusted.

God has given his Spirit to us and has promised to guide us into all truth (john 16). The Church can be trusted, we can have faith in the Church! We can trust her apostles and prophets and her faithful ministers of the new covenant.

NOTE: in regards to my posts about the Church being a "wh0re", I do believe that the Church can go astray for a time. I do not have a problem with admitting grave error all in the Church (as I have before). But this situation we are in now is not always the case. She has not ALWAYS been disobedient as a whole. The Church is constantly progressing and constantly correcting herself. [b:9c4e4926ee]Therefore the [i:9c4e4926ee]universality and orthodoxy[/i:9c4e4926ee] of the Church can be trusted COMPLETELY in matters of true doctrine.[/b:9c4e4926ee]

Paul
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Paul, you said, "The Church is constantly progressing and constantly correcting herself," yet then state that the Reformers have less weight than the early church. That is non-sequitor.

Just to clarify, I did not mean taking someone like Calvin or Edwards individually--I was using them as examples of giving weight universal groups of the external churchl; when I said Calvin, I was referring to the weight of the Reformers; Edwards, the weight of the Puritans and Separatists; the Westminster divines, etc.

Also, at least when I was talking about "the early church," I was not including the apostolic era. I basically meant the church from the death of the last apostle to the fourth century.

So under that definition of the original church, surely you have to admit that, say, the Westminster divines, have more weight in our doctrine than the church [i:e020e143ab]as a whole[/i:e020e143ab] did in that time period. The Westminster Confession is the very document most Presbyterian churches use today to state the very heart of their doctrine! And that group of people (the divines) certainly had less error among them than did the whole external church between the second and fourth centuries.

In Christ,

Chris
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
In no way usurping sola scriptura, there is a thread here on PB that addresses the idea of history as a support system for believers today. In the same way God has kept HIS Holy word safe, in my opinion He has also kept the body safe in that we, even today, look to the history of the church as a support system for us.

That thread can be found here. It is entitled:
"Theological Traditionalism Defined, Examined, Refuted"

http://www.puritanboard.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=1710
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
A couple of points:

[1] Church councils, even universal councils, can and do err. Still essential aspects of key councils have been received by the universal church. These define basic orthodoxy, such as the Trinity and the like. You will notice that all of the widely or universally received teachings of these councils are baked into the Westminster Confession. The received / accepted teachings of universal councils are the highest secondary authority to scripture. This is liike the Supreme Court's decision on a matter.

[2] The Westminster Confession was not the product of a universal council. It was the product of a provincial council. This is like a state court's decision on a matter - it only affects the region covered by that court. Therefore it does not have actual authority outside of the bodies that have received or affirmed it. Still, as many of us agree, to date it is the highest and best expression of what the Bible teaches.

[3] While councils, can and do err, so do individuals. The real interpretive issue is: who is the final and better interpreter - the universal church or isolated individuals. If the individual is final, then we basically have countless one-horse Popes. Individuals are more prone to err than universal councils (or even provincial councils in many circumstances). The ability to err (misinterpret scripture) is inherent in all people. The Holy Spirit will guide His people in all truth. He has promised to do this at an individual level as well as a communal level. The biblical model for resolving interpretive differences places the Holy Spirit's work at the communal level. See Acts 15. You will note that the Spirit approved of the Jerusalem Council's decision.

Scott
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Scott, you as, "Who is the final and better interpreter - the universal church or isolated individuals?" As far as that question goes, I think everyone would say the universal church. However, if the question were changed to ask whether the universal church or specific [i:0759b82303]groups[/i:0759b82303] is the better interpreter, I would have to go with the latter.

When we say "the universal church," we are including [b:0759b82303]ALL[/b:0759b82303] groups that have ever used the label "Christian" to describe themselves! Externally speaking, if we are to be consistent, "the universal church" must include the Gnostics, the Pelagians, the Roman Catholics, the Anabaptists, the Arminians, the Mormons, the Dispensationalists, the "third wave" revivalists, etc.

So while the universal, external church has prime significance over any one group [i:0759b82303]covenantally speaking[/i:0759b82303], I simply don't see how you can [i:0759b82303]possibly[/i:0759b82303] say that the universal church is historically the final and best interpreter of Scripture - as opposed to specific groups, such as the Reformers, the Puritans and Separatists, the Westminster divines, etc. Maybe I'm missing your point.

In Christ,

Chris
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Chrisopher:

I am not sure I am following you. As far as Reformers being better interpreters, I believe this is true in a sense. They developed more highly what was already there and in that sense are better. They also had a deep appreciation and understanding of Patristics. Calvin's writings are full of references to Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyprian, etc. I just wish modern Reformeds were as in touch with the patristics as Calvin was. For too many Reformed, outside the Bible, church history begins with the Reformation.

Also, think of it this way. The NT was written in the first century AD. We have opinions of commentators from that period and near it. These opinions are from people who received their teaching from the apostles or those taught by the apostles. To me thier opinion is of more weight than someone in the modern world who approaches the text cold. For example, if I want to understand an ambiguity in the Constitution, I would prefer the writings of James Madison to some modern scholar. That does not mean that Madison was necessarily right, but he has more credibility than the modern. Further, I would value the consensus of the first few generations after the Constitution than the present generation. Of course, again, that does not mean the the early generations are right, just in my opinion more credible.

In any event, a conciliar decision of the universal church is a different matter. It carries much more weight as a secondary authority.

Scott
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
[quote:9cd140e022][i:9cd140e022]Originally posted by Scott[/i:9cd140e022]
Chrisopher:

I am not sure I am following you. As far as Reformers being better interpreters, I believe this is true in a sense. They developed more highly what was already there and in that sense are better. They also had a deep appreciation and understanding of Patristics. Calvin's writings are full of references to Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyprian, etc. I just wish modern Reformeds were as in touch with the patristics as Calvin was. For too many Reformed, outside the Bible, church history begins with the Reformation.

Also, think of it this way. The NT was written in the first century AD. We have opinions of commentators from that period and near it. These opinions are from people who received their teaching from the apostles or those taught by the apostles. To me thier opinion is of more weight than someone in the modern world who approaches the text cold. For example, if I want to understand an ambiguity in the Constitution, I would prefer the writings of James Madison to some modern scholar. That does not mean that Madison was necessarily right, but he has more credibility than the modern. Further, I would value the consensus of the first few generations after the Constitution than the present generation. Of course, again, that does not mean the the early generations are right, just in my opinion more credible.[/quote:9cd140e022]

I agree with you here, in that the universal church and the early church are the most [i:9cd140e022]credible[/i:9cd140e022] source regarding what the apostles taught, and the historical accounts. But that was not what you seemed to be saying in your previous post. There you said that the universal church was "the final and better intepreter" - and I guess I assmumed you meant that with regard to interpreting and exegeting the Scriptures. But if I misunderstood you, and you in fact just meant that the early and universal church is more [i:9cd140e022]credible[/i:9cd140e022] in terms of apostolic teaching and historic account, I completely agree.

[quote:9cd140e022][i:9cd140e022]Originally posted by Scott[/i:9cd140e022]
In any event, a conciliar decision of the universal church is a different matter. It carries much more weight as a secondary authority.
[/quote:9cd140e022]

What are some specific examples that you would place in this category of universal, conciliar decisions?
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
(I wrote this while Scott was writting his last post. Sorry for repeating, if I did.)

[quote:1b7f2db700]Paul, you said, "The Church is constantly progressing and constantly correcting herself," yet then state that the Reformers have less weight than the early church. That is non-sequitor.[/quote:1b7f2db700]

What I would say is that the history of the Church as a WHOLE is a very valid source for doctrinal and practical tradition. Many Reformed folks think that the 16th and 17th centuries were THE best and we should return to them. I am not doubting that the Reformation was a great period of recovering and discovering true doctrine; I just do not see a RETURN to that era ALONE as the wisest descision. There is great stuff that can be brought from the mediaeval Church and the early Church.

I am not saying that the early Church can do better than the Westminster Divines and such. Only that the Westminster Divines, were DEPENDENT upon the early Church (they did not make up doctrines out of the blue- the early Church's formation played a great part). Because that was when true doctrine was being laid. If we are to value tradition, orthodoxy, and universality, then we MUST go back to our true tradition, which can be traced back to the early Church, Apostolic Fathers, and finally the Apostles themselves.

Paul
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
[quote:da9c280613][i:da9c280613]Originally posted by rembrandt[/i:da9c280613]
(I wrote this while Scott was writting his last post. Sorry for repeating, if I did.)

[quote:da9c280613]Paul, you said, "The Church is constantly progressing and constantly correcting herself," yet then state that the Reformers have less weight than the early church. That is non-sequitor.[/quote:da9c280613]

What I would say is that the history of the Church as a WHOLE is a very valid source for doctrinal and practical tradition. Many Reformed folks think that the 16th and 17th centuries were THE best and we should return to them. I am not doubting that the Reformation was a great period of recovering and discovering true doctrine; I just do not see a RETURN to that era ALONE as the wisest descision. There is great stuff that can be brought from the mediaeval Church and the early Church.[/quote:da9c280613]

Agreed. Augustine is a perfect example of that fact. I agree that a return to the Reformation era [i:da9c280613]alone[/i:da9c280613] is not the wisest decision in looking for historical corroboration from the external church, but rather, as you say, that we need to look to [i:da9c280613]all[/i:da9c280613] eras of church history for such corroboration. What I thought you were saying before was that a return to the early church (second to fourth centuries) [i:da9c280613]alone[/i:da9c280613] is more valuable than turning to the Reformation era [i:da9c280613]alone[/i:da9c280613]. I still do think that, as far as viewing eras [i:da9c280613]by themselves[/i:da9c280613] is concerned, the 16th-17th centuries are the best bet. But now that I see what you meant, I totally agree that it is not our best bet to look to [i:da9c280613]any[/i:da9c280613] era [i:da9c280613]by itself[/i:da9c280613], but that we will gain the most if we look to all eras - still not all sources from all eras, just some sources from all eras.

[quote:da9c280613][i:da9c280613]Originally posted by rembrandt[/i:da9c280613]
I am not saying that the early Church can do better than the Westminster Divines and such. Only that the Westminster Divines, were DEPENDENT upon the early Church (they did not make up doctrines out of the blue- the early Church's formation played a great part). Because that was when true doctrine was being laid. If we are to value tradition, orthodoxy, and universality, then we MUST go back to our true tradition, which can be traced back to the early Church, Apostolic Fathers, and finally the Apostles themselves.[/quote:da9c280613]

Again, I agree with you here, that the Reformers, the Puritans and Separatists, and the divines were all dependant upon a vast amount of sources from the early church up through their own time period. I just think that even though they and us all need to look to [i:da9c280613]all[/i:da9c280613] eras of church history to get the best gold, we still need to "pick and choose" per se from each era, rejecting blatant heretical groups like the Gnostics, Pelagians, Anabaptists, etc.

In Christ,

Chris
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
[quote:30a45889b0]
There you said that the universal church was "the final and better intepreter" - and I guess I assmumed you meant that with regard to interpreting and exegeting the Scriptures. But if I misunderstood you, and you in fact just meant that the early and universal church is more credible in terms of apostolic teaching and historic account, I completely agree.
[/quote:30a45889b0]

I was vague. I am using the idea in two different senses. The first would be authoritative decisions from an universal (ecumenical) council. The second would be the scattered writings of the Church Fathers. The first has actual authority (albeit secondary). The second has persuasive authority. It is like the difference between a Supreme Court opinion on the Constitution and the notes of James Madison. The Supreme Court has been granted actual authority to resolve differences of interpretation. The notes of Madison simply provide a closer-in-time perspective on the original understanding of the Constitution.

BTW, the WCF rightly provides that conciliar authority should be accepted because it is of divine appointment: ". . . decrees and determinations [of councils], if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; [b:30a45889b0]not only[/b:30a45889b0] for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, [b:30a45889b0]as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word[/b:30a45889b0]."

You also asked for examples. These would be the early ecumenical councils such as the Council of Nicea and the Council of Chalcedon, which defined trinitarian doctrine. All orthodox everywhere accept the trinitarian teachings of these councils (even anti-creedal churches who do not recognize the authority of the councils) and you will note that the WCF and other comprehensive later confessions incorporate these earlier decisions.

Scott
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
[quote:628c2f3e5b]
I still do think that, as far as viewing eras by themselves is concerned, the 16th-17th centuries are the best bet.
[/quote:628c2f3e5b]

Perhaps in some respects. Still, this was a time of turmoil, internecine theological fighting, and bloody religious wars. It destableized Europe, which was torn physically and spiritually for a long time thereafter and relatively speaking descended into secularism quickly thereafter. The Reformation produced more division than any other time in Christian history. A house divided cannot stand. I think that many Reformers would have agreed that the Reformation failed in key respects, namely to Reform the church (as opposed to divide it).

That said, in terms of doctrinal exposition, there is not much better than Calvin. Also, without a doubt, the Roman church of the day was a rampaging tyrant.
 
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