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Friday, August 01, 2014

Just Get It Over With

Read this. He may have a doctorate, but he's very confused. "Tradition" isn't just a card you play; it's a recognition that God has broken into the normal course of human events to say something, something that transcends us by the fact of Him saying it. This is one of the chief characteristics of revelation; it is given by God, and in the case of supernatural or special revelation, could not be otherwise known. If I may digress for a moment, one reason why some Catholics reject the false "Scripture vs. Tradition" dilemma is that Sacred Scripture, though uniquely God-breathed, is Tradition.

That may shock you, but stay with me. Were not the Scriptures of the New Covenant composed as the written version of the apostolic kerygma concerning Jesus? Being careful to remember that the Sacred Scriptures are of divine origin, and in consequence, completely free from error, we must say this. The Scriptures are human in that sense, that real people encountered God in the normal course of events. This is why Newman begins with the Incarnation when he makes the case for doctrinal development; it is the ultimate expression of God's love for us, and a vindication of our humanity; he was humbled and certainly humiliated, but no longer would "human" be automatically synonymous with weakness and failure. He took on our nature and elevated it. I digress. Alleluia!

And I say "Scriptures of the New Covenant" with intention. God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself before any of the Apostles or their company put pen to paper. The Church of the New Covenant received and was sustained by His Eucharistic presence before anybody read anything about it. God and His People, the basic outline of history in redemption. I'm indebted to Dr. Scott Hahn for that point.

It would be deeply unhistorical to appeal to certain formulations in history, while spurning all innovation or development. That's just it, though: Leithart can't really tell us the difference between a development and a corruption, because he rejects the Church, the new People of God, in whose life and doctrine the distinction can be made in a principled way. So he must on the one hand accept everything since the Protestant revolt (its animating principle being the primacy of conscience and individual interpretation) as a development, while appealing to the authority of the Catholic Church against what he regards are the nastier fruits of that individualist position. The appeal to history isn't wrong; it's just often ad hoc.

Sooner or later, one has to face the axiom: One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time. To say that ever-new understandings of what God has said in Christ may break forth is to accept the principle of development. To be a Catholic truly is to accept the Church which is Tradition's guardian, by the will of God. Why would any Christian, no matter how brilliant, be allowed to define "Church" or "faith" for himself?

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