June 11, 2011

"Silent, like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it..."

From Newman's The Prophetical Office of the Church - Lecture 1 (I'm probably the only one here who's interested in this, but here are some important points presented with clarity.)

...If we ask, why it is that these professed Traditions were not reduced to writing, it is answered, that the Christian doctrine, as it has proceeded from the mouth of the Apostles, is too varied and too minute in its details to allow of it. No one you fall in with on the highway, can tell you all his mind at once; much less could the Apostles, possessed as they were of great and supernatural truths, and busied in the propagation of the Church, digest in one Epistle or Treatise a systematic view of the Revelation made to them. And so much at all events we may grant, that they did not do so; there being confessedly little of system or completeness in any portion of the New Testament.

If again it be objected that, upon the notion of an unwritten transmission of doctrine, there is nothing to show that the faith of today was the faith of yesterday, nothing to connect this age and the Apostolic, the theologians of Rome maintain, on the contrary, that over and above the corroborative though indirect testimony of ecclesiastical writers, no error could have arisen in the Church without its being protested against and put down on its first appearance; that from all parts of the Church a cry would have been raised against the novelty, and a declaration put forth, as we know in fact was the practice of the early Church, denouncing it. And thus they would account for the indeterminateness on the one hand, yet on the other the accuracy and availableness of their existing Tradition or unwritten Creed.

It is latent, but it lives. It is silent, like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it. It is the Church's unconscious habit of opinion and sentiment; which she reflects upon, masters, and expresses, according to the emergency. We see then the mistake of asking for a complete collection of the Roman Traditions; as well might we ask for a full catalogue of a man's tastes and thoughts on a given subject. Tradition in its fulness is necessarily unwritten; it is the mode in which a society has felt or acted during a certain period, and it cannot be circumscribed any more than a man's countenance and manner can be conveyed to strangers in any set of propositions.

Such are the Traditions to which the Roman Catholics appeal, whether viewed as latent in the Church's teaching, or as passing into writing and being fixed in the decrees of the Councils or amid the works of the ancient Fathers....
Posted by John Weidner at June 11, 2011 5:24 PM
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