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Fathers of the Third Century > Cyprian "On Church Unity": Who is *in* the Church? Q #2 [An answer proposed]

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message 1: by Clark (last edited Oct 25, 2017 04:14PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Summary entry for this question

Status: Proposed answer was posted: Message 87.

Active 2017-10-25


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Summary entry for this question

Status: We'll see if people think it is well stated and formed

Active 2017-10-20"


Very interesting and important question I would think to all of us. Thank you for posting.


message 3: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments In previous discussions both in this folder and in the longer discussion on Cyprian in "Topical Interests" the question came up as to why Cyprian says he and his associates are inside the Church and the other people are outside the Church.

That is a restatement of the actual questions that were floating around, one of which was more or less: Cyprian says the other guys left the Church, the other guys say Cyprian & Co. left the church; does Cyprian say why he is sure the other guys left and if so, what is his case?

People mentioned also that taking the work alone and out of context may be causing confusion. I propose we add the following two letters to the text being discussed.

To Antonianus About Cornelius and Novatian

To the People, Concerning Five Schismatic Presbyters of the Faction of Felicissimus

It has been lurking in my mind that the reason that Cyprian never names his opponents in the treatise On the Unity of the Catholic Church is that he had faced two major cases of people setting up rival institutions, Novatian and Felicissimus, and that the treatise is against both of them and anybody who does it in the future, not just against Novatian as some people (not people in this group) assume or argue.

Anyhow, one of the letters is about Novatian and one is about Felicissumus.

Da Question: When, where, and how does Cyprian make the case that he and those associated with him are in the Church, and Those Other People are outside the Church?


message 4: by Clark (last edited Oct 20, 2017 06:40AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments I am not sure that Cyprian himself or the translators are precise in the use of the following terms. But perhaps the distinction may help us be precise in our postings.

I was taught that schism is primarily about organization:

schism 1 Ecclesiastical. ▸ a A division, esp. a formal split within or the secession of a group from, the Church; the division of (part of) a Church into mutually opposed organizations; the state of or an instance of such division, esp. as caused by a dispute over discipline, the validity of an episcopal or papal election, etc. LME.

... and that heresy is primarily about doctrine, liturgy, etc.

heresy 1 Opinion or doctrine contrary to the orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church; an instance of this. ME.

(Both definitions are from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. "ME" means the term started to be used in Middle English; "LME" means it started to be used in Late Middle English.)


message 5: by Clark (last edited Oct 20, 2017 06:47AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments One reason I pay attention to the difference between heresy and schism is that some Roman Catholics have categorized my Communion (Eastern Orthodoxy) as schismatic, not heretical. Here is Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) in his interesting and useful book, The Great Heresies:

"I may be asked by way of postscript to this prelude why I have not included any mention of the schisms. The schisms are as much attacks upon the life of the Catholic Church as are the heresies; the greatest schism of all, the Greek or Orthodox, which has produced the Greek or Orthodox communion, is manifestly a disruption of our strength. Yet I think that the various forms of attack on the Church by way of heretical doctrine are in a different category from the schisms. No doubt a schism commonly includes a heresy, and no doubt certain heresies have attempted to plead that we should be reconciled with them, as we might be with a schism. But though the two evils commonly appear in company, yet each is of a separate sort from the other; and as we are studying the one it is best to eliminate the other during the process of that study."

Absolutely off topic: Belloc's poem "Matilda, Who Told Lies and was Burned to Death"


message 6: by Clark (last edited Oct 20, 2017 06:42AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Apropos of nothing here is my favorite definition of "heresy." (I can't give you the source.) "A heresy is a single truth carried too far."


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "One reason I pay attention to the difference between heresy and schism is that some Roman Catholics have categorized my Communion (Eastern Orthodoxy) as schismatic, not heretical. Here is Hilaire B..."

I personally don't know enough about the schism and the other side (right or left lung was it, that John Paul II was it, said?) but I never thought that it was an instance of heresy....


message 8: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments Clark wrote: "Apropos of nothing here is my favorite definition of "heresy." (I can't give you the source.) "A heresy is a single truth carried too far.""

Oh, I like that. So true. ...and I read 'The Great Heresies', might have to dust it off again... :)


message 9: by Nemo (last edited Oct 20, 2017 08:54AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments The word heresy is derived from Latin haeresis, meaning "school of thought, sect", from Greek haíresis, literally, "act of choosing", derivative of haireîn, "to choose".

In ancient Greek, the verb hairein, meaning "to take", gave rise to the adjective hairetos "able to choose" and the noun hairesis "the act of choosing". In time the noun developed the extended senses of "a choice", "a course of action", "a school of thought", and "a philosophical or religious sect". Stoicism was considered a hairesis.(from wordinfo.info)

In the New Testament, the word "haíresis" have two different shades of meanings, one neutral and the other pejorative. In Acts, they are mostly rendered as "sects", referring to religious sects in general; whereas in the Epistles (Gal. 5:20, 1Cor. 11:19, Titus 3:10, 2 Pet. 2:1), they are "divisions/heresies", referring to those who create dissension from within the church.


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "The word heresy is derived from Latin haeresis, meaning "school of thought, sect", from Greek haíresis, literally, "act of choosing", derivative of haireîn, "to choose".

In ancient Greek, the verb..."


So how are you personally defining heresy since you seem to express multiple definitions/connotations.


message 11: by Nemo (last edited Oct 20, 2017 09:15AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Schism: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/schi...

3.
Ecclesiastical.
a. a formal division within, or separation from, a church or religious body over some doctrinal difference.
b. the state of a sect or body formed by such division.
c. the offense of causing or seeking to cause such a division.

I think, in the early Church, heresy and schism are used interchangeably to refer to divisions in the Church caused by differences in beliefs and doctrines.


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote:

I think, in the early Church, heresy and schism are used interchangeably to refer to divisions in the Church caused by differences in beliefs and doctrines.

It seems like that sometimes when reading it, but then in #12 it says heresies and schisms, which if there was no distinction, it would seem odd to write them both...
I don't know if noting a distinction or not gets us any closer to who is in the Church vs. out.



message 13: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Yes, a truth taken too far, that is certainly a danger. And perhaps because Cyprian held the middle position he considered the others as going to that extreme.


message 14: by Nemo (last edited Oct 20, 2017 10:39AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Ruth wrote: "Yes, a truth taken too far, that is certainly a danger."

The problem with that definition of heresy is the lack of proper point of reference. How far is too far? Most often, we use ourselves as the point of reference, and judge others by our own (double) standard. That is the real danger in the life of the Church, I think.


message 15: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Yes, of course, I agree. And often it happens that an oppressed minority is actually right.
And still we don't know how Cyprian defined the borders. I plan on diving into those mentioned texts.


message 16: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I have just started reading this letter To Antonianus About Cornelius and Novatian.

It seems a long letter and I will need more time to reflect on it, but right now I really want to say that I am so impressed and moved by the pastoral tone of the first paragraphs that I just read.
Such wisdom and consideration for different circumstances. And so concerned for anxious people.


message 17: by Clark (last edited Oct 21, 2017 06:41AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "The problem with that definition of heresy is the lack of proper point of reference."

This is essentially tautological, since heresy by definition is dispute about the point of reference. Another way to say this is that heresy is wrong belief, and the argument is precisely about what "wrong" is.

Everybody tries to establish a "proper point of reference" and when they do, others call it heretical.

(I suppose in a way C.S. Lewis's enterprise of discovering "mere Christianity" is a non-exclusive attempt to establish a reference point; but I think it was descriptive rather than normative. That is, I think he derived it after the fact from what Christians agree on, rather than seeing it as a source of truth that can be used to generate or evaluate theological principles or claims.)

The saying I gave does usefully describe, I think, something common to major heresies the early church faced: If one takes too far the truth that Jesus was man one gets Arianism, if one takes too far the truth that Jesus was God one gets docetism, if you take too far the idea that the Father is somehow prior to or above the Son then one gets subordinationism, if one takes too far the idea that there are three persons in the Trinity one becomes a tritheist, if one takes too far the idea that God is one one gets unitarianism and Islam, and so on.

So yes, in my saying "too far" is the evaluative term and it does imply a judgment relative to some criteria or reference point; and the big disputes in the early centuries were precisely about what the reference point is, and what is "too far." And that's a lot of what we are reading about in this group.


message 18: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "I think, in the early Church, heresy and schism are used interchangeably to refer to divisions in the Church caused by differences in beliefs and doctrines."

I am certainly open to this idea but will need to test it. Let's keep an eye out.


message 19: by Clark (last edited Oct 21, 2017 07:19AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Near the beginning of the Felicissimus letter Cyprian makes the claim we are exploring:

"In consequence, they expelled themselves rather than that it was we who expelled them. It is they who have passed the sentence upon themselves according to their own conscience, consistent with your divinely inspired decision. The criminal conspirators have of their own free will expelled themselves from the Church."

That's the claim, and there is a bit of supporting argument: "Your divinely inspired decision" refers, I think, to a sentence a little earlier: "They have kept the memory of their conspiracy and its old poison against my episcopal office, and also against your votes and the judgment of God." That is, I think, he became bishop by a combination of divine providence and guidance of some sort, and by some sort of collective affirmation (not, I think, a simple election).


message 20: by Clark (last edited Oct 21, 2017 07:26AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Cyprian then says: "It has been resolved that there should be no new policy in the case of the fallen without our convening as one body. On that occasion we will engage ourselves in comparing our considered opinions and devising a tariff that would be moderated equally both by concerns with discipline and with mercy. It is not only our resolution but also that of the confessors and clergy of Rome, and likewise of every bishop holding office whether in our province or beyond the sea. It is against this decision of ours that they have rebelled. These divisive conspiracies are challenging every priestly authority and power to their very foundation."

My summary: 1) The church at large has decided not to frame a general policy regarding the lapsed until there can be a general consultation among the bishops (and confessors?) both in North Africa and Rome. 2) Felicissimus and his folks have already declared and are implementing a policy on the lapsed (immediate readmission to Communion, no formal repentance or period of repentance).


message 21: by Clark (last edited Oct 21, 2017 08:12AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments The following is my attempt to give a picture of what is under discussion here. It is historical background. I welcome better documents or material on these questions. The texts below are from Schaff someplace. My goal is to give a general idea. Some details may be wrong.

In the church during the centuries we in general are talking about, at the Eucharist services, people were classed by the degree to which they were allowed to participate in the service. They actually stood in defined places. It took months or even years to move from one class to the next.

"The station of Mourners is without the gate of the oratory; the station of the Hearers is within the oratory, in the porch with the catechumens; the station of Prostrators is within the door of the temple; the station of Co-standers is among the communicants; the last is the participation of Holy Mysteries."

The oratory is I think the narthex -- the sort of front hall that people first come into when arriving at the church. So the "mourners" have to worship from outside the church building entirely. The "hearers" can worship from within the narthex, with the catechumens. Catechumens are people being prepared to be baptized; preparation may have taken three years. I believe the doors between the narthex and the main church were closed at a certain point. (In the Orthodox service book see the proclamation, "The doors! The doors!") The "prostrators" can be within the church main area. The "standers" or "co-standers" get to stand with those who are in full communion, the communicants. But only the last named actually receive communion.

Below is one set of principles that describes the classes.

The repentant lapsed seem to be covered by canon III below: four years of penance before they can receive communion.

II. THE CANONS OF THE BLESSED PETER, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA, AND MARTYR, WHICH ARE FOUND IN HIS SERMON ON PENITENCE.

CANON I. The fourth Easter from the beginning of the persecution was now come; and orders, that they who did not fall till after they had endured severe torments, and have already been "Mourners" three years, after forty days' fast, are to be admitted to communion, although they have not been before received [to penance].[2]

CANON II. But if they endured imprisonment only, without torments, let a year be added to their former penance.

CANON III. If they fell voluntarily, without torments or imprisonments, but are come to repentance, four years are added to their former penance.

CANON IV. The case of them who do not repent pronounced desperate.

CANON V. They that used evasion, and did not right down subscribe the abnegation, or with their own hands incense the idols, but sent a heathen to do it for them, are enjoined six months' penance, though they have been pardoned by some of the Confessors.

CANON VI. Slaves forced by their masters to incense idols, and doing it in their master's stead, are enjoined a year's penance.

CANON VII. The masters who forced them to it, are enjoined three years' penance, as being hypocrites, and as forcing their slaves to sacrifice.

CANON VIII. They who first fell, and afterwards recovered themselves, by professing themselves Christians, and endured torments, are forthwith admitted to communion.

CANON IX. That they who provoked the magistrates to persecute themselves and others are to be blamed, yet not to be denied communion.

CANON X. That clergymen, who run themselves into persecution, and fell, though they did afterward recover themselves, and suffer torments, yet are not to be admitted to perform the sacred offices.

CANON XI. That they who prayed for them who fell after long torments, be connived at, and we pray together with them, since they lament for what they have done, with anguish and mortification.[3]

CANON XII. That they who with money purchased their ease and freedom, are to be commended.

CANON XIII. Nor should we accuse those who ran away, and left all, though others left behind might fare the worse for it. [4]

CANON XIV. That they who endured tortures, and afterwards, when they were deprived of speech and motion, had their hands forced into the fire, to offer unholy sacrifice, be placed in the Liturgy [i.e., in the diptychs] among the Confessors.


message 22: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "The problem with that definition of heresy is the lack of proper point of reference."

This is essentially tautological, since heresy by definition is dispute about the point of reference..."


You statement "heresy by definition is..." presupposes that we/you have a working definition of heresy. But I think the definition mentioned doesn't work because it lacks clarity, whereas both the Oxford English dictionary definition (which you provided in msg. 4) and original meanings of the word of heresy (of which I provided a brief summary in msg.17) have clarity.

People may disagree on which doctrine is heresy, but they can agree on a definition of heresy itself. Otherwise it is meaningless to accuse the other side of heresy.

Having said that, I very much agree that your definition of heresy does acutely capture the common characteristics of heresies, viz. they all emphasize one single doctrine to the exclusion of others. It is not so much a problem of taking one piece too far as missing other pieces.


message 23: by Nemo (last edited Oct 21, 2017 11:01AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Ruth wrote: "I have just started reading this letter To Antonianus About Cornelius and Novatian.

It seems a long letter and I will need more time to reflect on it, but right now I really want to say that I am so impressed and moved by the pastoral tone.."


I was also moved by Cyprian's pastoral concern for the wounded believers. It was a very difficult time for the Church under persecution.

By contrast, he treats Novatian with no such sympathy at all. The latter is not considered even remotely a brother gone astray, but as an avowed enemy.

In reference, however, to the character of Novatian, dearest brother, of whom you desired that intelligence should be written you what heresy he had introduced; know that, in the first place, we ought not even to be inquisitive as to what he teaches, so long as he teaches out of the pale of unity

When I read this, I thought of John 7:51, when Nicodemus questioned the Pharisees about Jesus, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”

It is a little ironic that the works of both Cyprian and Novatian are included in the same volume in ANF5.


message 24: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments P.S. I realize that when Cyprian writes about the unity of the Church, he is not just addressing Novatian or other individuals, as Clark pointed out, but expounding a general principle of unity.

However, I think the case of Novatian is interesting, if not important, because it put to test the principle that Cyprian expounds, whether it addresses the practical issue of disagreement and disunity in the Church, and how Cyprian deals with prominent figures in the Church who disagree with him.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "P.S. I realize that when Cyprian writes about the unity of the Church, he is not just addressing Novatian or other individuals, as Clark pointed out, but expounding a general principle of unity.

H..."


I don't get the impression that Cyprian is saying they disagree with "him"...


message 26: by Ruth (last edited Oct 21, 2017 12:46PM) (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Nemo wrote: "By contrast, he treats Novatian with no such sympathy at all. The latter is not considered even remotely a brother gone astray, but as an avowed enemy."

I agree with you that it sounds strange that he does not even want to inquire into what Novatian says. But on the other hand there had already been an assembly on the topic, and it had already been decided that what Novatian said was against the consensus. No need to keep investigating the same thing over and over?

And I can certainly understand that he has no patience with Novatian, precisely because that man himself seems to be rather a hard-liner. Just as Jesus was very hard on the pharisees, because they were so strict and inhuman.

Cyprian writes Considering His love and mercy, we ought not to be so bitter, nor cruel, nor inhuman in cherishing the brethren, but to mourn with those that mourn, and to weep with them that weep, and to raise them up as much as we can by the help and comfort of our love (par. 19)
So it seems to me that he considers Novatian such a bitter and cruel and inhuman person, and he is so vehement against him precisely because he wants to protect the needy.

It will certainly be interesting also to read what Novatian himself says on the matter.


message 27: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Ruth wrote: "I can certainly understand that he has no patience with Novatian, precisely because that man himself seems to be rather a hard-liner. Just as Jesus was very hard on the pharisees, because they were so strict and inhuman."

Cyprian's acknowledges in section 5 that Novatian's own writing which was circulated "throughout the whole world" shows mercy not inhumanness, towards the lapsed.

Neither the Mosaic Law nor the Roman law condemns "anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges".(Acts 25:16)

It just seems to me that, by refusing to discuss Novation's own writings, and yet accusing him of arrogance and cruelty to others, Cyprian is not treating Novatian with justice. (In modern parlance, he is denying Novatian an unalienable human right).


message 28: by Clark (last edited Oct 22, 2017 06:40AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, 'You statement "heresy by definition is..." presupposes that we/you have a working definition of heresy.'

You are absolutely right, my quip is definitely not a comprehensive, independent, enforceable definition of heresy. It's an aphorism.


message 29: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "It is not so much a problem of taking one piece too far as missing other pieces."

I am reminded of the oft-repeated shtick in which an officer calls for volunteers and everybody except one guy takes a step backwards. The officer congratulates the one guy on having volunteered.


message 30: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Susan said, 'I don't get the impression that Cyprian is saying they disagree with "him"... '

I don't think Nemo would decline having that phrase amended to "him and those associated with him" or some such.


message 31: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, 'Cyprian's acknowledges in section 5 that Novatian's own writing which was circulated "throughout the whole world" shows mercy not inhumanness, towards the lapsed.'

Could you please provide a quotation? Or point me to it if it has already been posted here?


message 32: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Susan said, "It will certainly be interesting also to read what Novatian himself says on the matter."

Are you saying that it would be interesting to read what Novatian himself says?

The Novatian writings I see in ANF are only a treatise on the Trinity and a piece about eating Jewish food.


message 33: by Clark (last edited Oct 22, 2017 06:34AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments ANYHOW, in messages 19 and 20 I tried to point at some of Cyprian's arguments regarding Felicissimus, and why F. and his associates are outside the church. (Every time I write "Felicissimus" I want to say "Gesundheit!")

In message 21 I tried to show in concrete detail the sort of thing that the dispute is about. That is, it was or became the general practice of the Church in the early centuries to specify significant, multi-year public penance for actions such as lapsing. Different degrees of lapsing were handled differently. In relation to those practices, Felicissimus and his folks are saying no such penance at all is necessary for the lapsed. Novatian is saying (I think) that no such penance is possible for the no-extenuating-circumstances lapsed. (I don't know his detailed positions on all the categories of lapsed.)

Please correct me if I have misstated the positions of Felicissimus and Novatian.

The overall stated question is "When, where, and how does Cyprian make the case that he and those associated with him are in the Church, and Those Other People are outside the Church?"

Perhaps people could summarize Cyprian arguments brought up in messages 23-27? Or point to arguments we haven't identified yet?


message 34: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Susan said, 'I don't get the impression that Cyprian is saying they disagree with "him"... '

I don't think Nemo would decline having that phrase amended to "him and those associated with him" or s..."


Yes, I guess, but he still seems to intimate that Cyprian (and maybe those with him) are not, 'in' the Church, .reacting to those choosing to deviate 'out' of the Church.... I guess I was under the assumption, that there was a 'Church' maybe somewhat loosely, but nonetheless, defined and recognized as such....; when Nemo writes, I sense more a rebuttal of this, almost an everyone vs. everyone type scenario....so I was trying to get my own thoughts straight....


message 35: by Nemo (last edited Oct 22, 2017 11:50AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "It is not so much a problem of taking one piece too far as missing other pieces."

I am reminded of the oft-repeated shtick in which an officer calls for volunteers and everybody except..."


When I first read your "carried too far" definition, I was reminded of a parable by a Chinese philosopher, Mensius, which goes like this:

A king went to war, and a battle was fought. Soldiers fled from the battleground, some ran fifty steps and stopped, and others a hundred steps. How can the former ridicule the cowardice of the latter?

That's what led to my "point of reference" response.


message 36: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo said, 'Cyprian's acknowledges in section 5 that Novatian's own writing which was circulated "throughout the whole world" shows mercy not inhumanness, towards the lapsed.'

Could you please provide a quotation? Or point me to it if it has already been posted here? ..."


I thought mentioning "section 5" was sufficient for people who want to look up the source. But, here is the entire section.

And this also I wrote very fully to Rome, to the clergy who were then still acting without a bishop, and to the confessors, Maximus the presbyter, and the rest who were then shut up in prison, but are now in the Church, joined with Cornelius. You may know that I wrote this from their reply, for in their letter they wrote thus: “However, what you have yourself also declared in so important a matter is satisfactory to us, that the peace of the Church must first be maintained; then, that an assembly for counsel being gathered together, with bishop, presbyters, deacons, and confessors, as well as with the laity who stand fast, we should deal with the case of the lapsed.” It was added also—Novatian then writing, and reciting with his own voice what he had written, and the presbyter Moyses, then still a confessor, but now a martyr, subscribing—that peace ought to be granted to the lapsed who were sick and at the point of departure. Which letter was sent throughout the whole world, and was brought to the knowledge of all the churches and all the brethren

(Judging from the above quote, and the opinions of scholars, I think it is safe to say that it was Novatian who wrote the letter in reply to Cyprian on behalf of the clergy in Rome.)


message 37: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Clark wrote: "In message 21 I tried to show in concrete detail the sort of thing that the dispute is about. That is, it was or became the general practice of the Church in the early centuries to specify significant, multi-year public penance for actions such as lapsing. "

The impression I got from reading Cyprian's letters is that there was no "canon law" or general practice regarding the treatment of "the lapsed", for otherwise there would have been no need for an assembly to decide the matter.

Peter I of Alexandria held office between 300 and 311, according to Wikipedia, which suggests to me that his canons (which you excerpted in msg.21) didn't come into existence until late 3rd and early 4th century, a generation or two after Cyprian.

It is likely that the policy regarding the lapsed was hashed out and fleshed out during and after the controversy, and finally formalized into canon law.

What troubles me is why and how the Church became divided because of a policy dispute.


message 38: by Nemo (last edited Oct 22, 2017 02:05PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1426 comments Clark wrote: "Perhaps people could summarize Cyprian arguments brought up in messages 23-27? Or point to arguments we haven't identified yet? "

I think Cyprian arguments against Novatian and his associates are the following:

1. They are not appointed by God
2. They are not elected according to "the law of ordination"
3. Their teachings are against the doctrine of Charity
4. Their conducts are morally reprehensible

1. In the other threads, I first posed the question how Cyprian knows that God is on his side. As far as I can tell, he simply asserted it in his two letters as he did in his treatise on church unity.

2. The fact that Cyprian wrote repeatedly to Antonianus against Novatian suggests to me that there was no "law of ordination", and he had to persuade Antonianus by other means. Otherwise, he could have cited the canon and settled the issue once for all.

3. Cyprian refuses to discuss Novation's own writings, so he cannot justly claim, let alone prove, that Novation's teachings are heretical.

4. Cyprian made those assertions without citing any source, or any church or legal documents for support. He didn't (and probably couldn't) charge Novatian or his associates with any personal wrongdoing.


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "ANYHOW, in messages 19 and 20 I tried to point at some of Cyprian's arguments regarding Felicissimus, and why F. and his associates are outside the church. (Every time I write "Felicissimus" I want..."

(Every time I write "Felicissimus" I want to say "Gesundheit!")

hahahahahahahahahaha...... I have been running all afternoon....I try to read these responses so slow so I understand them....and just had to say, that was unexpected...brought an audible laugh out loud...hahaha...thanks....


message 40: by Clark (last edited Oct 23, 2017 06:03AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "Cyprian's acknowledges in section 5 that Novatian's own writing which was circulated "throughout the whole world" shows mercy not inhumanness, towards the lapsed.'"

The quotation says nothing in Cyprian's voice about Novatian's policy showing mercy not inhumanness towards the lapsed. That is why I asked for the quotation. You are putting words into Cyprian's mouth.


message 41: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "The impression I got from reading Cyprian's letters is that there was no "canon law" or general practice regarding the treatment of "the lapsed", for otherwise there would have been no need for an assembly to decide the matter.

Peter I of Alexandria held office between 300 and 311, according to Wikipedia, which suggests to me that his canons (which you excerpted in msg.21) didn't come into existence until late 3rd and early 4th century, a generation or two after Cyprian.

It is likely that the policy regarding the lapsed was hashed out and fleshed out during and after the controversy, and finally formalized into canon law."


I guess I need to be a bit clearer about my goal in that post and what the contents are.

I said, "The following is my attempt to give a picture of what is under discussion here. It is historical background. I welcome better documents or material on these questions. The texts below are from Schaff someplace. My goal is to give a general idea. Some details may be wrong.

"In the church during the centuries we in general are talking about, at the Eucharist services, people were classed by the degree to which they were allowed to participate in the service. They actually stood in defined places. It took months or even years to move from one class to the next."

The purpose of my post, as I stated, was to give historical background. When the people are discussing allowing the lapsed into communion again without penance, what does it mean? I wanted to help people understand that the policy question was quite important, since it defined a person's status in the church for years. Penance wasn't just saying a couple of "Hail Mary" prayers, penance was a visible, public process that took years to work through. Only at the end was the person allowed to receive communion again.

In order to show the various kinds of penance that were practiced in the church I quoted some canons from a little later in time from a different region of the Church. I began the post by saying "In the church during the centuries we in general are talking about, ..." I didn't even give the canon source, because the source and time of the canons didn't matter except that it showed general practice in the church in those centuries.

As I said, "My goal is to give a general idea."


message 42: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments Nemo said, "The impression I got from reading Cyprian's letters is that there was no "canon law" or general practice regarding the treatment of "the lapsed", for otherwise there would have been no need for an assembly to decide the matter."

There is no need for an impression or inference. See message 20, above. Cyprian explicitly says there was no general practice regarding the treatment of the lapsed, and it is this fact that means that Felicissimus is out of bounds by declaring and implementing a policy before the Church as a whole had had a time (when it could, after the persecution lessened) to think things through and make a collegial determination of policy.

The one thing that it seems everyone (including Novatian before he was excommunicated and, for all I know, after) agreed on was that a lapsed person at the point of death who repented was to be accepted back into the Church.


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "The impression I got from reading Cyprian's letters is that there was no "canon law" or general practice regarding the treatment of "the lapsed", for otherwise there would have been no ..."

All very interesting....again, as we have stated, it really takes effort to not look at things from my 2017 eyes, like our current penances...
Your post reminds me of the Temple doesn't it? How there were concentric circles of intimacy all drawing towards the Holy of Holies? Wasn't it arranged that way? I guess it makes sense that the early Church might be arranged like that also, as they were all or most Jewish? Again, I really have to keep nudging myself to get out of my modern mode of thinking. It also seems to shows the reverence with which they held Communion....
I could be completely wrong about all this...


message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "Nemo said, "The impression I got from reading Cyprian's letters is that there was no "canon law" or general practice regarding the treatment of "the lapsed", for otherwise there would have been no ..."

And as you say, does not having a general consensus about a specific issue, prove that there was no general consensus about achieving a general consensus? Or a general consensus about how Bishops are chosen etc...
When I read Nemo's own posted short bios on Cyprian and Novatian (not written by either of them) there seems to be an overall acceptance that there was a general consensus on how these things were done, hence it is obvious or noticeable when someone went outside the 'norms'...


message 45: by Clark (last edited Oct 24, 2017 07:05AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 556 comments MORE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

I am going to write this. I do not have references I can quote right now. I am happy to research them. I invite everyone to improve the following by adding facts and references, and by correcting any misinformation I have given. I do *not* think I am understating Rome's role below. We are talking about early centuries.

MY PURPOSE IN WRITING THIS IS TO REDUCE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE CANON LAW AND THE WAY CHURCH DECIDED THINGS DURING THESE YEARS.

Even though the reference is before this time, think about the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.

The key word is collegialtiy -- decisions are to be made by bishops arguing with each other. All bishops were equal except some were more equal than others.

The Church in these centuries (before 350, let's say) was a loose federation of churches throughout the Mediterranean. Each major city had a bishop, who in a sense was the institutional church in the city and its district. The bishop issued canons, ordained clergy, etc., for that district. A new bishop is quite likely to issue new canons or otherwise change things.

There were known regions, some of which had a larger city in which there might be a bishop with special importance. These acquired the title "Metropolitan" sometimes. In any event, all the bishops in a region were supposed to meet at least a couple of times a year to argue with with each other about everything.

The Metropolitan did not have direct authority to tell the other bishops what to do. Correction of wayward bishops was to be done by the regional grouping of bishops as part of arguing about everything. A new bishop was chosen by a combination of local enthusiasm and the regional bishops. A new bishop was ordained by several of the regional bishops.

Certain cities were recognized as having special authority. They might be called the "patriarchates." Rome was recognized as having a special influence or cachet, but it could not tell everybody else what to do. Part of its special influence was that people from elsewhere in the Mediterranean who couldn't resolve a question by arguing among themselves would go to Rome so everybody could argue about it there. It was regarded as a good place to go to argue about Really Important and Difficult Things.

Sometimes lots of bishops would come together at one place to argue with each other about a more or less well-defined topic. These are councils, including the ecumenical councils. It was really difficult to get bishops together for a council -- travel was very slow and very dangerous. A remote bishop might have to be away from his diocese for a couple of months in order to attend a two-week council.

When they were together quite often they would publish a whole lot of loose ends that had accumulated. They might publish a set of canons from some metropolitan because it seemed useful. They might together state formal canons, that were usually quite brief and general.

Then they would all go home and in various ways apply things to varying degrees and argue about things.

In summary: Church governance in these centuries was a decentralized hierarchy of largely independent bishops who would by meetings and letters argue with each other to arrive at policies and doctrine. A local bishop was quite independent and could be reined in only by other bishops (or by riots, etc.). There was a known hierarchy among bishops but it was a hierarchy of de facto influence, not an authoritative hierarchy.

In the thread above:

1) These principles of collegiality and of decentralized hierarchy and about the need for bishops to argue about everything important were in the air. They were just The Way Things Are Done.

2) In the letter about Felicissimus Cyprian says that the regional bishops hadn't yet had a chance to argue about what to do about the lapsed, and they hadn't had a chance yet to argue about it in company with the bishops in Rome who were were arguing about it.

3) A bishop who violated the principle of collegiality (as Cyprian asserts Felicissimus had done) was violating the defining legitimation principle of the Church, the principle by which bishops and councils had authority, and by which certain kinds of truth were discovered or ratified.

4) Even if Peter's canons had been in force at the time we are reading Cyprian about, those canons would have had only regional effect, in Egypt. They would not have had any simple, direct authority in Africa (i.e., Carthage and environs).

5) At least until 325, and for a significant time after that, there was no institutionalized bureaucracy that could record and enforce anything, much less the canons. There were some local and regional bureaucracies associated with the bishops, but these were fitful and anyhow bishops and Christians in general might be on the run or meeting secretly or whatever. The most developed local bureaucracies were the ones for managing the charitable works of the church -- collecting and managing funds, delivering food and medical care to the needy, etc.

6) Finally, there was a principle of "economia" or "oeconomia" by which the bishop or priest on the spot might lessen or tailor the penalties prescribed by canons according to the particularities of the case. At least some of the time applying the canons was by no means a mechanical, bureaucratic act, but rather compassionate action by the bishop or priest with the primary goal of healing this particular, unique penitent.

Over the centuries Roman Catholicism moved toward the governance model we see now -- a clear unified authoritative hierarchy with fully developed bureaucracies, a system of courts, canon lawyers, etc., etc. Eastern Orthodoxy has stayed much closer to governance by collegiality and by arguing about stuff.

The purpose of this post is not combative but informative.


message 46: by Susan (new)

Susan Clark wrote: "MORE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

I am going to write this. I do not have references I can quote right now. I am happy to research them. I invite everyone to improve the following by adding facts and ref..."


I take it as informative. Thanks for all the info and clearly stated.


message 47: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Clark wrote: "Ruth said, "It will certainly be interesting also to read what Novatian himself says on the matter."
(note: it wasn't Susan, but me, Ruth, who wrote that)
Are you saying that it would be interesting to read what Novatian himself says?

The Novatian ..."

When I wrote "it will be interesting to read what Novatian said" I was referring to what Nemo had said, that his texts are also in the ANF.

But apparently there aren't any texts of him on this topic left. In a way that is a pity, for as it is now, I am forming an opinion on an argument by two parties, but I only know one side of it.

But however that may be, I think we can still learn a lot from Cyprian, as he explains very well how and why he came to his decisions, and what is most important to him.


message 48: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments For me the question: 'who is *in* the church, according to Cyprian' has become much clearer by reading these two letters.

In paragraph 5 of the letter to Antonian, he writes that as a preliminary step they had made some quick decisions, with which also Novatian agreed (as I understand it), and then later (as mentioned in paragraph 6) they had an opportunity to have a general assembly and decided in unity what was to be done.

There is also another very enlightening sentence in paragraph 3 of that other letter to the people:
And although it was once arranged as well by us as by the confessors and the city clergy, and moreover by all the bishops appointed either in our province or beyond the sea, that no novelty should be introduced in respect of the case of the lapsed unless we all assembled into one place, and our counsels being compared, should decide upon a moderate sentence, tempered alike with discipline and with mercy;—against this our counsel they have rebelled, and all priestly authority and power is destroyed by factious conspiracies


So, I think what Cyprian means with 'unity' is: that all the bishops and experienced laity gather together, to come to a collective decision.

And it seems to me that this is precisely what he regards so very important, and therefore his other letter 'on unity' does not go into details about doctrine, for he is more dealing with the general procedure.


So: who is *in* the church? Answer: those who hold the conclusions of the general assembly.


For me personally this leads to other questions: what would you have to do if you have sincere problems with the decision of the general assembly? Would it be possible that the combined forces of all bishops and elders etc made a mistake? Can unity be enforced like this? Is it really true that your salvation depends on being in the church in this fashion?

However I can see very well that Cyprian is really fighting precisely to keep as many as possible *in* the church (I mean the lapsed), and I admire him for that.


message 49: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Note: in the other topic (question 1), it was really unclear to me what Cyprian meant in paragraph 10 by bishops who appointed themselves. This has now become much clearer by the description he gives to Antonianus about how Cornelius was made bishop.

See par. 8:
Then, moreover, he did not either ask for the episcopate itself, nor did he wish it; nor, as others do when the swelling of their arrogance and pride inflates them, did he seize upon it; but quiet otherwise, and meek and such as those are accustomed to be who are chosen of God to this office, having regard to the modesty of his virgin continency, and the humility of his inborn and guarded veneration, he did not, as some do, use force to be made a bishop, but he himself suffered compulsion, so as to be forced to receive the episcopal office. And he was made bishop by very many of our colleagues who were then present in the city of Rome, who sent to us letters concerning his ordination, honourable and laudatory, and remarkable for their testimony in announcement of him. Moreover, Cornelius was made bishop by the judgment of God and of His Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the suffrage of the people who were then present, and by the assembly of ancient priests and good men

And in contrast with that he writes about Novitian in paragraph 24:
Whoever he may be, and whatever he may be, he who is not in the Church of Christ is not a Christian. Although he may boast himself, and announce his philosophy or eloquence with lofty words, yet he who has not maintained brotherly love or ecclesiastical unity has lost even what he previously had been. Unless he seems to you to be a bishop, who—when a bishop has been made in the Church by sixteen co-bishops—strives by bribery to be made an adulterous and extraneous bishop by the hands of deserters; and although there is one Church, divided by Christ throughout the whole world into many members, and also one episcopate diffused through a harmonious multitude of many bishops; in spite of God’s tradition, in spite of the combined and everywhere compacted unity of the Catholic Church, is endeavouring to make a human church, and is sending his new apostles through very many cities, that he may establish some new foundations of his own appointment. And although there have already been ordained in each city, and through all the provinces, bishops old in years, sound in faith, proved in trial, proscribed in persecution, (this one) dares to create over these other and false bishops:


message 50: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments Clark, this is very well written. Much of this is still in place today, East and West.

I think it is a given that the early Church had common practices on how to ordain their clergy. I wonder if On the Apostolic Tradition has more details. As I mentioned before, it isn't part of the Schaff anthology. Bernard Green* writes:
"It has been argued that the document reveals a development in the understanding of the office of bishop, establishing the bishop as the center of sacramental life in the church, and finally conforming Roman practice to the understanding of the role of a bishop already found in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. The text is undeniably enormously complex and seems to preserve layers of liturgical practice, with material which probably dates from the late second-century overlain with revisions from the early mid-third. It is unlikely that the finished product was in any simple sense a liturgical book for practical use."
So Green's language here on the subject of bishops is careful, but a text nevertheless that shows concerted development (the text contains much more, eucharistic prayer, catechumenate, and more). One would have to read it to get a better understanding.

*Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries


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