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The Church Courtyard => The Sacred Sciences => Topic started by: Graham on October 14, 2020, 12:19:53 PM

Title: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Graham on October 14, 2020, 12:19:53 PM
Exactly how much credence do we owe to the system of theological notes found in e.g. Ott's Fundamentals, particularly to notes beneath the dogmatic level?

I have in mind some recent discussion of the Atonement. Ott attaches or appears strongly to attach a theological note of sent. fidei proxima to a theory first made explicit in the 11th C., concomitantly sweeping the previous theological consensus into the trashbin of proximity to heresy.

At this level the system seems to become self-referential and recursive, in that it represents a kind of evolving theological consensus about the degrees of theological consensus. Which would offer a valuable guideline but hardly seems like it could bind the conscience.

A few questions occur to me: what is the authority behind this system? What is theological note of the system of theological notes? What theological note would 10th C. theologians have attached to their theory of the Atonement, and if that level of certainty can be discarded after further consideration, where does that leave the system of notes?
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Daniel on October 14, 2020, 03:32:09 PM
Pardon my ignorance. By "notes", do you mean the labels that are applied to the various categories of doctrine and to the various penalties for rejecting them?

I think the whole thing is suspect. Ott isn't infallible, and, while he might be a good scholar, there's no guarantee he classified everything correctly. And with regard to the system itself, the way I see it is that any particular doctrine X is either taught by the Church explicitly, taught by the Church implicitly, or not taught by the Church at all. Ott wants to add more categories for some reason, and bind us to believe in the fallible opinions of theologians.

As far as I know, nobody is bound to believe in stuff that the Church doesn't actually teach.

(Well, technically, I suppose we are all bound to believe everything that is true, even the truths that the Church doesn't teach. But forcing people on pain of sin to blindly accept other people's opinions makes no sense.)
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Graham on October 14, 2020, 03:43:56 PM
Yes, theological notes refers to the grades of certainty such as fides ecclesiastica or sent. fidei proxima.

Quote
taught by the Church implicitly

There's the rub. Ott would say that the grades of certainty below the dogmatic refer to things taught implicitly.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Daniel on October 15, 2020, 07:47:37 AM
Ok, I see the problem.

Just intuitively, I would qualify my definitions as follows:
- explicit = any truth found in sacred scripture or tradition, rightly understood
- implicit = any truth that follows by way of pure deduction only from explicit truths, prior implicit truths, and other a priori knowledge.
Within these two categories, everything is 100% certain. There is no room for doubt, so everybody is required to believe it all.

But theological conclusions which follow from a posteriori premises, or theological conclusions which follow by way of induction rather than deduction, aren't 100% certain (and would not fall into my "implicit" category). Because of this, I don't think anyone should be required to believe them (at least not on epistemological grounds).

But yeah, now I guess I see the reason for additional categories. Because it's still better to believe in a well-reasoned inductive argument than to just believe whatever you want willy nilly. The latter would generally be prideful and foolish.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: The Theosist on October 15, 2020, 08:40:12 AM
My first thought is that grades of certainty and their degrees of obligation are not divine revelation. How are they themselves binding?
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: John Lamb on October 16, 2020, 02:12:43 AM
Synagoguery.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: truly-a-philosofan on October 16, 2020, 02:37:19 AM
My first thought is that grades of certainty and their degrees of obligation are not divine revelation. How are they themselves binding?

Authority of the Church.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Daniel on October 16, 2020, 07:25:42 AM
My first thought is that grades of certainty and their degrees of obligation are not divine revelation. How are they themselves binding?

Authority of the Church.

But does the Church actually bind us to accept them?
And if so, does the Church even have power to bind us to accept novel teachings not revealed by God?
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Graham on October 16, 2020, 12:35:28 PM
My first thought is that grades of certainty and their degrees of obligation are not divine revelation. How are they themselves binding?

Authority of the Church.

I'm glad someone is taking this position. Could you explain why you believe the notes beneath the dogmatic level are backed up by binding authority?

I'm going to draw Kent's attention to this thread and see what he might have to say.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Nazianzen on October 17, 2020, 02:02:41 PM
My first thought is that grades of certainty and their degrees of obligation are not divine revelation. How are they themselves binding?

Authority of the Church.

But does the Church actually bind us to accept them?
And if so, does the Church even have power to bind us to accept novel teachings not revealed by God?

Remember that each note has its own character, so that we are not obliged to believe anything by some of them - we may be obliged to reject something, or hold it to be unsafe (in the present state of knowledge) etc.

Also, the Church herself employs them in her teaching activity, so they are certainly not a purely private matter.

There’s no question here of new truths, the issue is the degree of certitude and the compatibility with truth of a particular formulation. 

Any approach which tries to demean these notes implicitly undermines the plain fact that divine revelation is accepted by the intellect, which comprehends it (to some degree).  You cannot talk sensibly about divine revelation as if it weren’t received by limited, created, intellects, which themselves have particular qualities, limitations, etc.  We’re rational beings, which means that we understand, and we understand how and to what degree we understand.  The notes are our scientific expression of the latter - that is, our understanding of our understanding, and the degree to which we understand. 

I hope this helps!
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Daniel on October 17, 2020, 03:14:20 PM
Thank you.

By "novel", I just meant that the system as a whole is not something that was revealed by God.

I don't really have much objection to the system itself, apart from the fact that it seems prone to error.

I think this may be part of the OP's concern. Suppose the notes system existed a thousand years ago, and the earlier atonement theory was at that time classed as "proximate to faith". Every Catholic at that time agreed that it was a revealed doctrine... just not one that had yet been solemnly defined. But then later a new atonement theory comes along, and displaces the old one. The old one is then re-classified as "proximate to heresy", and Catholics are more or less forbidden from believing it. This seems really weird and, in a way, looks like the Church has changed her teaching. Because everyone believed that the old theory was true AND revealed. And now nobody believes that the old theory is true or revealed. Additionally, suppose the new theory is actually revealed. (Can that even happen? Can a revealed doctrine fall under the radar for like a thousand years and then make a comeback?) So suppose that were to happen, and the new theory is solemnly defined and is promoted to the grade of "ecclesiastical faith" or "divine faith". The old theory then becomes "heresy". So what are we to make of the thousand years' worth of Catholics who believed in the old theory?


We’re rational beings, which means that we understand, and we understand how and to what degree we understand.  The notes are our scientific expression of the latter - that is, our understanding of our understanding, and the degree to which we understand.

This seems to be a helpful way of looking at the notes system. I do see it as useful.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Nazianzen on October 17, 2020, 03:56:48 PM
Daniel, I haven’t looked up the contention that there was a theory of the Atonement that was superseded, etc, and I have no interest in doing so.  It sounds decidedly fishy on the face of it.  So, I think at this stage that the entire problem is a question of fact.  If your fact is right, then there’s something to explore, but not otherwise.

Leaving that aside, it’s certainly possible for a revealed doctrine to be obscured, by the raising of new questions, which themselves arise from a deeper understanding of revealed principles.  This happened in the case of the Immaculate Conception, and in a different way, papal infallibility. 

The spirit of faith is able to tolerate with patience and equanimity this torturous process, which is entirely a matter of human limitation, and from which a greater clarity and security of doctrine arises.

Our era is, of course, faithless.  We must make acts of faith and trust in God and be grateful that we have the precious gift of faith.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Kent on October 19, 2020, 02:40:54 PM
Exactly how much credence do we owe to the system of theological notes found in e.g. Ott's Fundamentals, particularly to notes beneath the dogmatic level?

I have in mind some recent discussion of the Atonement. Ott attaches or appears strongly to attach a theological note of sent. fidei proxima to a theory first made explicit in the 11th C., concomitantly sweeping the previous theological consensus into the trashbin of proximity to heresy.

At this level the system seems to become self-referential and recursive, in that it represents a kind of evolving theological consensus about the degrees of theological consensus. Which would offer a valuable guideline but hardly seems like it could bind the conscience.

A few questions occur to me: what is the authority behind this system? What is theological note of the system of theological notes? What theological note would 10th C. theologians have attached to their theory of the Atonement, and if that level of certainty can be discarded after further consideration, where does that leave the system of notes?

I struggle to find an appropriate analogy, but the question is a little bit like asking 'what degree of credence do we owe to the encyclical format?'  Not the teachings in encyclicals, mind you, but the format itself.  Or like asking 'what credence we owe the existence of distinguishable fields of theology-- ecclesiology, hagiography, Christology, etc.?'  You're not going to find any 'dogmatic decrees' instituting the encyclical format, the distinctions between theological areas of inquiry, or the system of theological notes.  Rather, you simply see that the Church makes ubiquitous use of them without ever stopping to 'solemnly acknowledge/approve' the usage.

I hate strained analogies and I think this approximates one so I won't go too far, but: what each of these has in common is that they are somewhat conventional in regard to their purpose and emergence.  As time goes on and as new questions raise new insights, understanding deepens and complexities arise which require categories to better systematize articles of faith.  Theologians at a certain point realized it was useful to distinguish between various fields of inquiry, popes realized it was useful to employ the encyclical format, etc.

Just so with the system of theological notes.  That this system only exists after the rise and institutionalization of competing Christian faiths is telling.  Such a system would be close to purposeless in a world where there is only one organized Christian religion to which one can belong.  In a world where there are forty thousand, it suddenly becomes relevant and useful to begin to more systemically organize propositions in a way that assigns them various weights, so as to better understand the relationship between the believer, the proposition, and the deposit of faith.  Not to imply that such an enterprise would have been worthless in (say) 190 AD-- but it certainly would have seemed extraneous, so much so that no one was likely to undertake the enterprise (and as history tells, that was in fact the case).

I hasten to point out the following, which may be obvious: the system of theological notes is not something that laity were ever intended to give any significant acknowledgment.  You won't find them in Deharbes, the Baltimore Catechism, the Roman Catechism, etc.-- their use really is quite exclusive to the advanced and scientific study of theology (which of course some laity do partake in, but none are expected or required to) as well as to the realm of inquisitional auditors. But no lay Catholic has ever (or will ever) be expected to sit down and categorize propositions according to the notes.  Catholics just believe what the Church teaches.  There is of course room for obscurity on this or that item, in which case further study (or consultation with one's pastor) is encouraged.  But in general, one simply believes that there are guardian angels, that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity, and that Our Blessed Mother was perpetually a virgin-- without stopping to grade the theological note of each of these propositions.  That isn't just 'how it works' for the laity, that is how it is supposed to work.



Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Kent on October 19, 2020, 03:56:44 PM
The Church herself tolerates differences between how theologians apply the system. The differences from one theologian to the next should not be overstated, but they do exist.  As with many things, we learn as much (if not more) from the Church's actual behavior and praxis as we do from any solemn pronouncement.    This (tolerance of hers) helps further reveal the character of the system as a scholarly and governmental convention, not all that dissimilar from the Church's use of Latin. 

Would one say that the Church's use of Latin is an 'article of faith?'  No, it's just what the Church does.  Ditto the system of notes.  Neither are arbitrary decisions or systems-- they are demonstrably reasonable and with good purpose.  And yet neither fall into the category of propositional dogma, either.  They are a different kind of thing, which is all I am getting at.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Santantonio on November 25, 2020, 07:41:31 PM
St. John of Damascus was the first to develop an early exposition of this system of gradation.

What an interesting question. I'd like to learn how the Magisterium implemented this in the Dark Ages.
It is a matter of importance, because the Councils and Popes must have made statements about this,
there is no other way it would fall into common theological use without Magisterial approval.

Therein lies the authority... but I don't know exactly where at this time.


Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Santantonio on November 27, 2020, 01:49:52 PM
Have you explored Denzinger on these questions?
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Kent on November 27, 2020, 04:30:50 PM
St. John of Damascus was the first to develop an early exposition of this system of gradation.
What an interesting question. I'd like to learn how the Magisterium implemented this in the Dark Ages.

Can you link to where you read about St. John Damascene?  I find that surprising, and imagine it's something else he developed. 


Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Michael Wilson on December 04, 2020, 06:06:20 PM
I'm reading this book by Cardinal Franzelin: "On Divine Tradition" If I can find the exact page I will post it; he covers the topic of the "Theological Notes" and apart from the "De Fide" note, which indicates that a doctrine has been formally defined by the Church, most of the notes come from the general consensus of the manualists; so they are not strictly speaking infallible, but represent the product of the Church's doctors of theology.
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: MundaCorMeum on December 04, 2020, 10:16:52 PM
I thought this was going to be a discussion on Gregorian Chant  :shrug:
Title: Re: How much weight to theological notes?
Post by: Santantonio on December 06, 2020, 09:40:51 AM
St. John of Damascus was the first to develop an early exposition of this system of gradation.
What an interesting question. I'd like to learn how the Magisterium implemented this in the Dark Ages.

Can you link to where you read about St. John Damascene?  I find that surprising, and imagine it's something else he developed.

I was thinking of how the publication in Latin of all Damascene's works influenced Latin theological opinion greatly in the early medieval period. This was ordered by Pope Eugene III, and completed by Burgundius (Burgundio of Pisa), henceforth the more complex theological notes began emerging, with Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be a PhD.-level endeavour to analyse this relationship thoroughly. There is mention (lacking) in the Catholic Encyclopaedia to this effect: " It is no small credit to John of Damascus that he was able to give to the Church in the eighth century its first summary of connected theological opinions. At the command of Eugenius III it was rendered into Latin by Burgundio of Pisa, in 1150, shortly before Peter Lombard's "Book of Sentences" appeared. This translation was used by Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as by other theologians, till the Humanists rejected it for a more elegant one.".

St. John Damascene, of course, in his determinations, did refer to earlier Church Fathers. It is the idea of a codifiable system that can be enforced by the Church which is import, so it may be widely disseminated in the universities and developed by the Magisterium... forgive my language, but you know what I'm getting at. This is because, if one truly were to delve deeper into the idea of stratifying heresies, sins, and all manner of transgressions, and then drawing conclusions to treatable action on the part of the Church, it's really Tertullian who affected the Church so much in that way. This was a time in the 2nd century when the Church struggled to come to consensus on how to deal with penitents, which sins the Church could forgive, which is should leave to God, and so on.. the Encratites of the late 2nd century were very rigid, but fell out of favor. The more legalistic prescriptions of Tertullian (not that they represent all his work, and he did provide a way for the worst penitents via ' Exomologesis'), were rejected by Pope Calixtus I. These decades of theological development are generally referred to as 'the penitential controversy'. I was just referring to its description in Msgr. Philip Hughes' first volume of Church History. It is fruitful to consider how the popes were challenged in these matters but had the final say. That is grace and providence at work. It is an impossibility for the "Orthodox" and the Protestants, thus, their theologies are defective. Calixtus certainly had his battles and was martyred.