Friday, April 30, 2010

Raymond Brown on Orthodoxy

"When the charge of heresy is raised in Christian communities today, there is a tendency to associate that stigma with wild-eyed radicals proposing new ideas. IN Christian history, however, some of the most significant heresies have been conservative rather than radical -- the tendency to hold on to old theological answers when new questions have caused the main body of Christians to move on to new answers. The Jewish Christians, as we detect their presence in John and know their presence in the second century, were holding on to oder and more primitive views on such subjects as Christology, the eucharist, and relations to Judaism, views that were widely held early in the first century but were now no longer deemed to be adequate expressions of truth. At the Council of Nicea ([325 CE]) the lower Christology of Arius was more primitive than the higher Christology of Athanasius. Arius was content with the scriptural formulations of Jesus' identity, e.g., 'In the beginning was the Word,' which meant for him that the Word had a beginning. Athanasius had to persuade the Council to accept newer, non-Scriptural formulas, e.g., true God of true God, coeternal with the Father. But he did this with insight: The Scripture answers were no longer adequate because now a question was being asked that had not been asked in [New Testament] times, and the new answers he proposed were true to to the direction of the Scriptures. "Orthodoxy," then is not always the possession of those who try to hold on to the past. One may find a truer criterion in the direction toward which Christian though has been tending, even if that direction suggests that past formulations of truth have to be considered inadequate to answer new questions." (Bold emphasis added, italics in original)

pp.80-81, The Community of the Beloved Disciple by Raymond Brown.