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Fathers of the Third Century > Cyprian "On Church Unity": Constructed opponent? Q #1 [answered well enough?]

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message 1: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments One tool for reading is what might be called the "rhetorical" approach, which is simply the principle that the text constructs the speaker, the audience, the opponent, etc. It also builds relationships between them.

The construction can be implicit, as when the speaker's character is constructed by the way he speaks (he rants or speaks reasonably, he is careful or he makes wild claims); and it can be explicit ("I fought in three wars, ...").

Explicit construction of the audience could be like: "You are brave men, well trained and confident." It could be in reality they are a rabble ready to run; but in the text they are constructed as brave and confident.

If the speaker says "We are brave men ..." then he the speaker is including himself in the audience, or combining the speaker and audience.

If the speaker says "I am a common man but you are all nobles" he is separating and contrasting the speaker and audience.

The text constructs one or more opponents implicitly or explicitly. "Those who say Jesus was only a human teacher ..."

Finally, the question: Discover the opponent(s) that Cyprian constructs in On Church Unity, always giving quotations that do the construction. What relationships does the text create between the speaker and each opponent, and between the audience and each opponent?


message 2: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Explicit construction joining the speaker with the audience, against the opponent.

We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion



message 3: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Our Satanic enemy, seeing idols forsaken and their pedestals and temples deserted by a people that forsook their faith in them, devised accordingly a new deception in order that, under the label of the name of Christian, he might lead the unwary astray. He devised heresies and schisms by means of which he could undermine the faith, by means of which he could corrupt the truth and tear our unity asunder.

Those whom he could not keep imprisoned in the blindness of their old way of life, he entrapped and beguiled by a new method of deception. He snatched men away from the Church itself. While they thought that they had approached near to the light itself and had escaped the night of this age, Satan spread again another darkness amongst those who took no notice of it. In consequence, while not standing fast on the foundation of the gospel of Christ and the observance of his law, they still call themselves Christians.

Though wandering in the darkness, they conclude that they have the light. Meanwhile the adversary is seducing and deceiving them, who, according to the Apostle’s statement, transfigures himself as if an angel of light, and grooms his own as though they were ministers of righteousness, introducing night instead of day, destruction for salvation, hopelessness under the guise of hope, betrayal under the cloak of trust, Antichrist under the name of Christ. As a result, while they lie with words pretending truth, they drain the truth of any effect through their artful contrivance. This is done, my beloved brothers, as long as there is no return to the birthplace of truth, nor is its capital sought, nor is the doctrine of the heavenly Master preserved.

Cyprian of Carthage. (2006). On the Church: Select Treatises. (J. Behr, Ed., A. Brent, Trans.) (pp. 148–149). Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


message 4: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Nemo said, "Explicit construction joining the speaker with the audience, against the opponent."

Truly.


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Our Satanic enemy, seeing idols forsaken and their pedestals and temples deserted by a people that forsook their faith in them, devised accordingly a new deception in order that, under the label of..."

Again, no disrespect intended, honest questioning here, but doesn't this and Nemo's message #2 give those that have broken off pause? How does one who has broken off view these statements? And if anyone thinks we broke off, please make me aware of what issues this would apply to, because I don't want to be one 'calling myself Christian while lying and pretending truth' as Cyprian (and others) say....yes, they may be speaking about the Novatians etc., and those that were back in their day....but there has to be some to which this applies now and I don't want to be one of them...


message 6: by Clark (last edited Oct 13, 2017 06:39AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments The purpose of this thread is to discover how the text constructs/depicts the opponent(s) of the speaker. I posted the quotation as raw material for that. I probably should have been more explicit.

Susan implicitly has spoken of some features of the constructed opponent. Opponent #1, I think is Satan. Opponent #2, I think is the human beings. He speaks of them as having been profoundly deceived by Satan. "Though wandering in the darkness, they conclude that they have the light."

I don't want to distract people from the overall question, but I have a question about how the text constructs opponent #2 (the human beings). I do not have an answer to this question.

Opponent #1, Satan, is unredeemable, unpersuadable.

To what degree throughout the text does the text treat opponent #2 as having full awareness and free will right now? I don't mean free will in some foundational sense, but rather -- are they capable in any real sense of coming to their senses, realizing their error, and returning to the truth? Does the speaker at any time address them and exhort them to return? Or are they through Satan's thorough deception or their own wayward free will or both for all practical purposes lost? Unpersuadable? Written off? Not worth spending any effort to try to persuade?


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "The purpose of this thread is to discover how the text constructs/depicts the opponent(s) of the speaker. I posted the quotation as raw material for that. I probably should have been more explicit...."

I don't think anyone is ever unpersuadable, not worth the effort. One, they possibly don't know what they don't know (myself included) and two, even if they don't seem open-mined at all at the time, one never knows what was said or heard, that will keep playing in their mind and be efficacious at some other time in their life. I will need to re-read the text from this angle.


message 8: by Clark (last edited Oct 14, 2017 02:48PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Susan said, "I don't think anyone is ever unpersuadable,"

Satan, opponent #1, is conventionally taken as being unpersuadable.

I am, of course, trying to discover what Cyprian's text says about the human opponents. He certainly doesn't say they are nice people who are somewhat confused and if they just listen to the speaker for a while they might well understand and be convinced. He portrays them as 1) thoroughly deceived by Satan, and 2) to some degree at least embracing the deception, making it their own. "As a result, while they lie with words pretending truth, they drain the truth of any effect through their artful contrivance."


message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said, "I don't think anyone is ever unpersuadable,"

Satan, opponent #1, is conventionally taken as being unpersuadable.

I am, of course, trying to discover what Cyprian's text says about th..."


I was kinda excluding him sorry...


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said, "I don't think anyone is ever unpersuadable,"

Satan, opponent #1, is conventionally taken as being unpersuadable.

I am, of course, trying to discover what Cyprian's text says about th..."

I agree. I think he is seeing them as prideful contrarians.


message 11: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Nemo quoted Cyprian: "We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion."

The opponent is best kept at a distance (not embraced or approached). The opponent is cruel and venomous, and their cruelty and venom are contagious.

Is that a neutral and accurate statement of what Cyprian is saying in the quoted text?


message 12: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Susan said, " I think he is seeing them as prideful contrarians."

Cyprian says, "Those whom [Satan] could not keep imprisoned in the blindness of their old way of life, he entrapped and beguiled by a new method of deception." I.e., heresy.

I am thinking out loud about Satan and the human opponents, since Cyprian at the beginning mentions Satan prominently.

The first question is do any of the following questions really matter? And do we have sufficient textual info to answer them?

Does it seem warranted by the text to say that for Cyprian the opponent is not two independent opponents (Satan and the humans) but a combined or composite entity that includes both of them?

I suppose one way to approach that question might be to ask whether for Cyprian Satan is a metaphor by which he can rhetorically intensify the villainy of the opponent, or is Satan a real, active, conscious opponent (directly, or via the humans)?

If Satan is real for Cyprian, what effect if any does that have on, say, the persuadability of the opponent?

Does the speaker indicate whether he thinks the human opponents are themselves deceptive? That is, they could be prideful and sincere but deceived, or prideful and consciously deceptive in their own speech.

Again, does any of this stuff about the opponent matter in Cyprian's overall approach and method?


message 13: by Ruth (last edited Oct 16, 2017 12:44PM) (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I have just read this treatise, and it seems to me, that the basic argumentation is as follows:

* the devil tries to deceive us, both in obvious ways (persecutions), and in more hidden ways (heresies)
* we must watch out and stay close to Jesus (do as he commanded), otherwise we will be deceived
* Church unity is vitally important, for a lot of reasons, it is one of the things that Jesus expressly commanded
* Jesus first appointed Peter as apostle and then the other 11, this already indicates a kind of unity that begins from one. (Note: I see a little flaw in his argumentation here: Saint Paul was made apostle completely independent from the others)
* There are people who set themselves up as bishops 'without any law of ordination' (paragraph 10, I think this is his main point)
* The people who do this are no longer part of the Church, they have stepped out of the ark, figuratively speaking
* Whatever wonderful things these people do, it will not help them, since they are no longer part of the church
* It is important to remain friendly and reasonable, so that perhaps some of the deceived may see their error and come back (at least I hope that that is what he means in paragraphs 23 and 24)

So, to come to an answer to your question, I think the opponents are:
1. the devil
2. the persons who make themselves bishops

I do not think the deceived persons are so much the enemies, but only those who expressly go against what Jesus commanded, in this case those who declare themselves bishop independently.

These latter are indicated in paragraph 10:
Thus the faithful are approved, thus the perfidious are detected; thus even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and of the unrighteous are already divided, and the chaff is separated from the wheat. These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.


message 14: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Clark wrote: "If Satan is real for Cyprian, what effect if any does that have on, say, the persuadability of the opponent?"

I think Satan is real for Cyprian, and the point of his text is, that we can easily be deceived if we do not stick to the commandments of Jesus.
So that means that he is really dangerous, but we are not without defense. We do have a choice.


message 15: by Nemo (last edited Oct 18, 2017 09:37PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Ruth wrote: "Clark wrote: "If Satan is real for Cyprian, what effect if any does that have on, say, the persuadability of the opponent?"

I think Satan is real for Cyprian, and the point of his text is, that we..."


It seems to me that Satan is not so much a real being as a rhetorical device for Cyprian.

If Satan is a real being, then I would expect Cyprian to clearly describe his mode of operation, so that his audience may be able to discern and "stand against the wiles of the devil". When someone accuses his opponents of being aligned with Satan, and threatens them with eternal damnation, I would expect him to sufficiently clarify and justify his accusations at the very least.

Cyprian quoted 1 John 2:19 against his opponents who left the church. In that passage, John is very clear why the people who left deserve censure, but Cyprian's opponents do not belong to the same category.

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
...
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 2



message 16: by Ruth (last edited Oct 18, 2017 11:05PM) (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Well, I think Cyprian does say how the Satan deceives us. I will explain in a minute, but first I would like to say that I do not fully agree with Cyprian, which I will explain at the end of this post.

But, if we are just looking at what Cyprian said, the argument seems to be that
1. Satan deceives us by tempting us to go against Jesus' command
2. Cyprian explains why he believes that setting up a bishop without consent of the other bishops is such a thing (at least: I think that is what he says, as explained in my previous comment, but I may be wrong here? I do not know enough of the historical context, it just seemed so from paragraph 10)
3. Thus Satan tempts us to do exactly that

So whether or not Cyprian sees Satan as real, he does actually do what you say he ought to do: warn specifically against a certain tactic.

My own objections to his line of thought are this:
* I think you are very right in mentioning that Saint John has another category of which people left.
* It rules out healthy opposition if you don't watch out. I have seen too much spiritual abuse to be very much on my guard against this whole argumentation ("we are correctly appointed, hence you must do what we say, and cannot be saved without us")
* It is based on some form of ancestry, whereas Jesus himself told the pharisees that God could make children of Abraham out of stones (Matt. 3:9)
* His argument is proven wrong immediately by the appointment of Saint Paul, who does not 'descend' from Saint Peter


message 17: by Nemo (last edited Oct 19, 2017 01:21AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Ruth wrote: " Satan deceives us by tempting us to go against Jesus' command
2. Cyprian explains why he believes that setting up a bishop without consent of the other bishops is such a thing .."


That's actually one of the things that I think sorely need clarification on Cyprian's part.

He doesn't explain exactly what type of ordination is legitimate, and why some bishops are legitimate and others not. Both Cyprian and his opponent Novatian were ordained by other bishops. I think it is only fair that he clarify the criteria he used to make such accusation against his opponent, so the audience can judge for themselves whether his case can stand.

No individual can cause schism without the support of many other members, even the consent of bishops, in the Church. I don't think it helps to argue, as Cyprian did, that "we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us", because the withdrawal is mutual from the perspective of an outside observer.


message 18: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Well, his argument is in paragraph 4, where he writes The Lord speaks to Peter saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (...) Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity

It seems to me that Cyprian is saying that you must be able to trace your appointment back to Saint Peter.
I think this forms the basis of what Catholics call the 'apostolic succession'
As I said, I do not agree, Saint Paul could not trace back his lineage to Saint Peter, instead he expressly tells us that Jesus called him independently of the others.

When you say that Novatian was also appointed by 'approved' bishops, then maybe this treatise is not against Novatian, but against another practise?


message 19: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments The following information from Wikipedia perhaps sheds some light on the situation:

The schism continued as the laxists elected a certain Fortunatus as bishop in opposition to Cyprian. At the same time, the rigorist party in Rome, who refused reconciliation to any of the lapsed, elected Novatian as bishop of Rome, in opposition to Pope Cornelius. The Novatianists also secured the election of a certain Maximus as a rival bishop of their own at Carthage. Cyprian now found himself wedged between laxists and rigorists, but the polarization highlighted the firm but moderate position adopted by Cyprian and strengthened his influence, wearing down the numbers of his opponents. Moreover, his dedication during the time of a great plague and famine gained him still further popular support.

See here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprian
Under the section 'controversy over the lapsed'


message 20: by Susan (last edited Oct 19, 2017 05:57AM) (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Ruth wrote: " Satan deceives us by tempting us to go against Jesus' command
2. Cyprian explains why he believes that setting up a bishop without consent of the other bishops is such a thing .."

Th..."


I'm stuck on "the withdrawal is mutual" from the perspective of the outside observer... could you explain that a little more?


message 21: by Ruth (last edited Oct 19, 2017 10:23AM) (new)

Ruth | 415 comments O, I can do that easily enough (explain mutual withdrawal, I mean). Take for example my former congregation where the idea that the man is the head of the family is explained in such a way that in case of a disagreement the man gets to decide. This has the effect that some, if not all, men get the comfortable feeling that God has given them superior brains, and therefore, if their wife says something that they see differently, they can more easily think that that is because of the deficient brain of their wife and therefore they naturally feel no need whatsoever to take the pains to try and understand another viewpoint.

It is really quite a natural effect from the feeling that God has put you in the right to start with.

But.. I hope you agree with me that this "not taking pains to see their side" is really a way of withdrawing. It is very painful for the underdog not to be taken seriously.

I see very much the same symptoms in the dealing with different viewpoints in the church.


message 22: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Nemo said, "It seems to me that Satan is not so much a real being as a rhetorical device for Cyprian."

Do folks think the following is accurate? - Cyprian never addresses Satan or describes Satan or his actions in any detail. In the universe created within On the Unity of the Catholic Church Satan is present and active only in and via the humans.

If that's accurate, then within this universe Satan is not a direct opponent to be talked to or acted against directly and personally.

The thought occurs to me that Christ is present in this treatise only in this same way -- that is, not a direct ally to be talked to or acted with directly and personally.

...

Summary of chapters 1-3 for our current purposes: Cyprian establishes the current conflict as a "front" in the universal, ongoing war between Satan and God. That is, when the advent of Christ made it so that fewer people were deceived to worship the pagan idols, Satan responded by deceiving some Christians into adhering to a counterfeit light that is not the true light. Cyprian and those with whom he is connected adhere to the true light; the ones he is speaking against adhere to the false light. Then in the remainder of the treatise Cyprian focuses on this "front" in the universal war.

I am groping towards two ways to talk about this:

1) Nemo has suggested that chapters 1-3 and the assignment of Cyprian and opponents to being the parties of Christ and Satan respectively are more rhetorical than real. That is, if Satan is "not so much a real being as a rhetorical device for Cyprian" then it seems Christ is also, and the whole universal war is also -- they are ways to heighten the persuasive effects of the remaining parts of the treatise, to brighten up the good guys and tarnish the bad guys. Certainly Christians are often accused of just this, especially by other Christians. :-)

2) The structures we have identified accurately represent Cyprian's universe that he lives and acts in. That is, that the universal war is what is happening, and that it plays itself out in the way that the book is structured: Satan and Christ are real and they are the underlying causes for what is going on but we humans in the battle act not by addressing them directly or asking for direct intervention but by acting in the world and in the Church with and against other human beings. This means ensuring that right-thinking and right-acting bishops are in place, excommunicating rebels or lapsed and re-communicating the repentant, and stating and promulgating the principles of what it means to be right-thinking and right-acting.

Does Satan's impersonality and indirectness in the treatise imply option 1 rather than option 2?


message 23: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Nemo said, "He doesn't explain exactly what type of ordination is legitimate, and why some bishops are legitimate and others not. Both Cyprian and his opponent Novatian were ordained by other bishops. I think it is only fair that he clarify the criteria he used to make such accusation against his opponent, so the audience can judge for themselves whether his case can stand."

Susan said, "It seems to me that Cyprian is saying that you must be able to trace your appointment back to Saint Peter."

I'm not sure this discussion belongs in this topic.

I am happy to pursue it. It could be a new question, something like "In On the Unity of the Catholic Church how does Cyprian argue that he and his associates are in the Church and those he speaks against are schismatics and heretics, outside the Church?" Or we could tack it onto that other long discussion I've been avoiding. :-)

What do folks think?


message 24: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Yes, of course, he doesn't really speak to the devil. He is not the target audience. He is actually our common enemy, I think.

I will read the text one again when I have more time, but could his introducing the devil not be a way of saying that we all have the same enemy, and that his goal is to expose his hidden strategies.


message 25: by Nemo (last edited Oct 20, 2017 10:23AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Clark wrote: "... Does Satan's impersonality and indirectness in the treatise imply option 1 rather than option 2? ..."

The absence of personality and directness of Satan does not imply option 1, but the lack of clear characterization does. I'll briefly explain what I mean.

I think "the universal war" is present in Cyprian's universe, but he doesn't characterize the two sides clearly, and so the audience cannot discern where the battle line should be drawn and whether his opponents are on the other side of the universal war. As Ruth suggested, they may very well be on the same side.

To use an analogy, in political rhetoric, people sometimes align their opponents with Hitler, without clarifying or justifying their accusations. Hitler is personal and direct enough, but it doesn't follow that he is somehow behind the political struggle.


message 26: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Okay, one more attempt at constructing opponents. Based on Clark's and Nemo's comments above.
I think my initial idea of the line of argument was option #2 in Clark's message. That we can defend ourselves from being deceived by having the proper defense system in place, which is bishops who are united by virtue of all having been installed eventually by Saint Peter.
(Sorry if that sounds really magical, it is how I was brought up, to think this way)

So I would construct all the parties as follows:
1. The devil as enemy
2. The heretics as victims.
3. Those who have not yet given in to the heresy, they need to be on their guard.
Both parties, 2 and 3, need to know the way of protecting themselves against the devil, that is the point of this treatise.

Now, thinking of what Nemo said that it might be a kind of rhetoric to align people with the devil, I have read paragraph 3 again. Cyprian does indeed start out to say that they have been 'snatched' by the devil, so they are victims. But then he goes on to talk about the effects of that, and says that they now make void the truth by their subtlety
So, in that sense, yes: they have become aligned with the devil.

I can see that this may be a rhetorical trick. I took it more literally, and such accusations of having fallen pray to the devil really scare me, but it all depends on how personal you imagine the devil to be. If you just take him to be a corruptive force, then this accusation only comes down to saying in rather strong words that their thoughts are incorrect.

So then we can rule out the devil as opponent (he is not even addressed anyway). And then we have:
1. The heretics, whose ideas have been corrupted, and are corrupting others in the same way
2. The people who still adhere to the right faith and need to see through that corruption, and guard themselves against it.

Only then I do not see the point of this treatise. I mean, if he is just being rhetoric, and saying that his opponents have a devilish way of thinking, then why does he not just point out their errors? Why make a general point about 'unity' when you don't specify what belongs to it. I have been wondering why his treatise is so vague on the actual points of doctrine, and precisely this led me to think that this treatise is not really about doctrine so much, but more about having the right system, regardless of what the involved persons actually say. So then we are back at option #2.


message 27: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments On the question of why the devil is portrayed so impersonal, I think this may be because we do not really ever see him directly.
We only see the effects of his actions: how people think or behave in consequence of his influence.
Of course it is rather tricky to make assumptions on exactly where his influence starts, and who is influenced and who is not. I am beginning to see a lot of problems with this idea of blaming the devil. (But it is as old as Genesis...)


message 28: by Nemo (last edited Oct 19, 2017 01:03PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Ruth wrote: ".... I have been wondering why his treatise is so vague on the actual points of doctrine, and precisely this led me to think that this treatise is not really about doctrine so much, but more about having the right system,.."

I wondered about the same thing. :)

Having the right doctrine and having the "right system" are very much related. How does the audience know which one is right if Cyprian doesn't clarify his meaning?

Cyprian believes that the unity of the Church is dependent on the unity of the bishops, with Peter being the beginning of that unity. (I don't think he means that all bishops must "descend" from Peter.) The situation is particularly tricky, because the issue being disputed is precisely the bishopric of Rome. Which bishop is legitimate? Which system is right?

When the stake is so high, the lack of clarity on Cyprian's part is baffling, but perhaps he thought it prudent not to delve too deep into a subject that migh cause more confusion and disunity.


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "It seems to me that Satan is not so much a real being as a rhetorical device for Cyprian."

Do folks think the following is accurate? - Cyprian never addresses Satan or describes Satan ..."


I am not sure that I completely understand, but I think #2. I think Jesus always spoke as Satan was real, no? So, it seems to me someone that temporally close to when He lived and talked would have viewed Satan as real. I find it hard to believe that anyone would not have.
But then we have an issue of right-thinking? That is why I asked Nemo to expound on his withdrawal is "mutual" - that seems to imply that no one has the "right-thinking", they both just mutually differ....
that gets me back to the heresy question that I don't think was ever answered...
If there was originally "right thinking" and one deviates from this, which is what I thought was called "heresy" - that would not be mutual withdrawal to me....that would be one, or a group, deviating from on their own.
So, what is "right-thinking"....


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "He doesn't explain exactly what type of ordination is legitimate, and why some bishops are legitimate and others not. Both Cyprian and his opponent Novatian were ordained by other bisho..."

Sorry I wrote my other question before I read this, but I think it is a very important topic that I would like to understand more fully myself. It doesn't matter to me where it is discussed.


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "He doesn't explain exactly what type of ordination is legitimate, and why some bishops are legitimate and others not. Both Cyprian and his opponent Novatian were ordained by other bisho..."

Nemo says he thinks Cyprian should have clarified things better for his audience....but his audience most likely understood how the bishops were ordained, the workings of the Church that had been put in place by Jesus...I am not sure he had in mind particularly people in 2017 that he had to fully explain things to....; usually when they don't explain things like that, it is because their audience fully understood....like when they wrote to a Jewish audience, they would not explain Jewish things, but would do so to a Gentile audience...


message 32: by Susan (new)

Susan Ruth wrote: "On the question of why the devil is portrayed so impersonal, I think this may be because we do not really ever see him directly.
We only see the effects of his actions: how people think or behave i..."


Do we all agree that the Devil is real and just discussing if Cyprian meant that in this specific treatise? Or do some here truly not think the Devil is real?


message 33: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Ruth wrote: ".... I have been wondering why his treatise is so vague on the actual points of doctrine, and precisely this led me to think that this treatise is not really about doctrine so much, bu..."

When I read people of old, no one seems to have that PC way of thinking to mince words, worried about offending or causing confusion...they seemed to be way more clear and definitive in their views and communicating such - I think there is just some confusion by some here because this is just one work taken out of context.


message 34: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments Susan wrote: ".but his audience most likely understood how the bishops were ordained, the workings of the Church that had been put in place by Jesus...I am not sure he had in mind particularly people in 2017 that he had to fully explain things to....; usually when they don't explain things like that, it is because their audience fully understood....like when they wrote to a Jewish audience, they would not explain Jewish things, but would do so to a Gentile audience... "

This is exactly what came to my mind reading these comments. It depends on the intended audience whether or not you have to explain things, such as ordination of bishops. He is not writing to people ignorant of the Church.


message 35: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments Nemo wrote: "Having the right doctrine and having the "right system" are very much related. How does the audience know which one is right if Cyprian doesn't clarify his meaning?"

I am not so sure it can be found in this document. For one, we haven't read any of the other writings of Cyprian, so we only have a snapshot here. I don't expect this document to reveal his reputation among his peers. It must have been quite good, for we still venerate him as a saint. So he the likelihood that he was orthodox is very high.

As for doctrine, in the 250s we are very early still. Many of the doctrinal definitions emerge from councils after the lifetime of Cyprian. We have to remember, this is before the Edict of Milan in 313 where the Church is no longer persecuted. Even though we have communication going on within the Church, there hasn't been an opportunity yet to sit together at a council and make decisions in unison.

A good example here is baptism. The questions surrounding re-baptism so pressing in Cyprian's time was resolved at some point. Otherwise we wouldn't have the line in the Nicean Creed "I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."


message 36: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1408 comments Kerstin wrote: " It depends on the intended audience whether or not you have to explain things, such as ordination of bishops. He is not writing to people ignorant of the Church..."

The Church Fathers "did not have the gift of brevity", as one scholar quipped. When they wrote, they explained things clearly and repeatedly, so there was no misunderstanding among their readers. It was perhaps due to the fact that they communicated mainly in writing, and didn't have the luxury to explain things face to face.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they had no need that he should write to them, and yet he wrote to them twice, and urged them to "increase more and more". They were not in the middle of a schism, but Cyprian's audience were. If the schism impacted their eternal destiny, as he believed, I think he should have and would have spared no efforts to make sure they understood the ordination of bishops. I don't know why he didn't, unless it was not beneficial for them to delve into it.

The fact that Cyprian wrote to the other bishops to turn their support from Novatian to Cornelius suggest to me that there was no clear "law of ordination", and he needed to persuade people on other grounds. If I'm not mistaken, this is what's called lobbying in modern political parlance.


message 37: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I would like to react to what Susan and Kirstin say, that of course to insiders it is obvious what he meant. I had the same feeling at first, but changed my mind.

For me this question of constructing opponents has been most useful to clarify in my head what's really going on in this text.
Because at first I also thought it was clear enough, but when I was trying to write that down (with quotations from the text!) I suddenly found myself wondering, but what is he now really trying to say? And to whom? And why?
This exercise of really trying to pursue the details of this simple question of basic text understanding helps to get rid of the mindset with which I first started and thought that it was all really clear.

Perhaps it is an idea that for these text enquiry questions we try to always support our thoughts with quotations from the text.
I really think that is very helpful to force myself to pay attention to what the author is now really trying to say. And I have learned a lot in the process, it gives me real joy.

On the other hand I also think that to fully understand what he might mean in paragraph 10 we might need some more background information.


message 38: by Susan (last edited Oct 20, 2017 04:26AM) (new)

Susan I don't know....I just read this Treatise again.... I don't know if it is just growing up Catholic or what explains it, but this whole thing is clear as a bell to me.... I think he is profoundly clear and it should make people a little concerned and cautious about what they believe and continue serious introspection whether they are in union with the Church... His prose and points are clear and biting if you ask me.
Re: that specific point about ordination, I read that he is expressing that someone just can't set himself up as a bishop, meaning he did not really go through any process (whether the process was clearly defined or not) and I don't think any us of think any body can just make themselves a bishop....
I also think this point illustrates that although this Treatise is numbered, I think one loses something when one tries to pick it apart and isolate ideas....they all seem to flow and overall there is a richness and depth that paints the whole picture, that is somewhat lost I think by doing that...again, it is an awfully clear picture to me....


message 39: by Clark (last edited Oct 20, 2017 06:09AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments I created a new question intended to support a shared inquiry into Cyprian's case that he is in the Church and his opponents are outside the Church.

What I'm trying to do in the question is to capture and unify questions that people have been asking here and elsewhere. Please let us know (over in the new topic) whether or not you think the question is well framed and does that. I'm just trying to capture and unify your questions, not to pose some new question of my own.


message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan I am reading Belloc's "Characters of the Reformation" because B and N didn't have his "How The Reformation Happened" or something like that...anyway, in it it says:

"Henry tried to keep England Catholic without the Pope, but he failed..."
"He it was who started the ball rolling. He did not intend the results which ultimately followed, nor even the results which followed immediately within his own lifetime, still less the results which followed after his death. It was a passionate, foolish, ill-considered blunder - and was a very good example of the truth that evil comes upon the world through men's blind sins much more than through their calculation."

I thought that timely of what we were discussing about the subtlety of evil...


message 41: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Perhaps I'm now sidetracking too much, but I just read about the really sad situation that evolved by having two Popes in 1379

I have hesitated if I want to share such sad things. But on the other hand I do think it sheds light on the problem that we have been discussing, as an example of two parties both claiming to be the 'right' kind of clergy.

When each Pope excommunicated the followers of the other, who could be sure of salvation? Every Christian found himself under penalty of damnation by one or the other Pope, with no way of being sure that the one he obeyed was the genuine one. People might be told that the sacraments of their priest were not valid because he had been ordained by the "other Pope", or that the holy oil for baptism was not sanctified because it had been blessed by a "schismatic" bishop. In disputed regions, double bishops might be appointed, each holding mass and proclaiming the ritual of the other a sacrilege
It goes on and on...

This is from A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century page 357


message 42: by Susan (new)

Susan Ruth wrote: "Perhaps I'm now sidetracking too much, but I just read about the really sad situation that evolved by having two Popes in 1379

I have hesitated if I want to share such sad things. But on the other..."


I think it is important to discuss. I am glad you posted.


message 43: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Susan said, "I am reading Belloc's "Characters of the Reformation" because B and N didn't have his "How The Reformation Happened" or something like that"

Characters of the Reformation for free online, to read or download.

I couldn't find any online copies of How the Reformation Happened, free or otherwise, and even the physical book offerings were pretty lean.

A non-Catholic reading Belloc has to be a bit thick-skinned. :-) Belloc is forthright ("direct and outspoken; straightforward and honest") in his writing.


message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said, "I am reading Belloc's "Characters of the Reformation" because B and N didn't have his "How The Reformation Happened" or something like that"


Characters of the Reformation
for free..."


Now you tell me! Hahaha. Thank you. I actually know too little about all that, so still glad I bought it. I'm an 'underliner'...not that it helps me remember anything....thank you so much for the info.


message 45: by Clark (last edited Oct 21, 2017 07:08AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 550 comments Susan said, "I'm an 'underliner'"

I also. You can underline or highlight any electronic book format. I can help with that. If you underline with Kindle, your underlined text is available online on the Amazon site. I use a service that downloads my Kindle notes and underlining into Evernote, where I can conveniently manipulate them. Ask if you're interested. This helps make underlining "stickier" since you can review the underlines or search using them (and go back to the source text to see the context).


message 46: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said, "I'm an 'underliner'"

I can help with that.

Oh my gosh...I can barely turn my computer or Kindle on.... I bought my first laptop at 52 and am just understanding ipages hahaha...thank you though. I will keep it in mind.



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