Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vincent’s Maxim

Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est

This is the oft repeated maxim of Vincent of Lerins, a semi-Pelagian from the 5th century, translated as "what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all". Used as a definition of Christian orthodoxy, it presents an ecumenical embrace of Christian doctrine that has its focus on the bare essentials of the Christian faith. It removes ecclesiastical dogma as the harbinger of salvation. Subscribing to this maxim, we cannot embrace several key doctrines as central to salvation and acceptance within the Christian community. The Calvinist acrostic TULIP could not be embraced as within the veil of orthodoxy established by the Vincentian Canon. Neither could certain aspects of the Arminian doctrine of Prevenient grace. There are traditions and creeds from several otherwise orthodox sects within the body of Christ that we cannot embrace as orthodoxy itself if we embrace Vincent's perspective.

If Vincent's maxim is received as presented, can we reject semi-Pelagianism as being outside the essential fold of Christian doctrine and therefore its adherents as unredeemed? The Augustinian doctrine of Grace and man's fallen condition oppose the semi-Pelagian notion of assisted inherency and Vincent was certainly opposed to Augustine's teachings on these matters. Yet, so were a great many others prior to Augustine's conflicts with Pelagiaus. It might be objected that Vincent argued a self interest although that alone does not negate his premise regarding orthodoxy. Instead, one must demonstrate that the exclusion of doctrine from the embrace of orthodoxy is done so with damage to essential soteriology as determined within scripture, this also being Vincent's premise. Can Oneness Pentecostalism be regarded as orthodox with regard to soteriology yet heterodox regarding the Godhead? Are Pelagians within the scope of justification? Do we consider intellectually driven high Calvinists with their notions of the Gospel defined as Calvinism to be fair game on the evangelical field?


Godismyjudge said...

I look at the essentials for salvation as things the bible says or implies you must believe in order to be saved or the things it says you can't believe and still be saved. From this perspective, the list of 'essential doctrines' is fairly small and that's the way I see it - the knowledge is easy, trust not knowledge is where many folks go wrong.

As humans we have a remarkable ability to be inconsistent. I do think Semi-Pelagianism is inconsistent with the idea the Christ is the Savior. But perhaps semi-Pelagians still believe Christ is Savior and are simply inconsistent to do so.

God be with you,

A.M. Mallett said...

I once held that Pelagians and semi-Pelagians were outside the realm of salvation. While I continue to reject both as heterodox, I cannot put myself in the position of stating a soul cannot be considered of Christ when he affirms Paul's given word of faith (Rom 10:8-11). These matters become contentious quickly and given my interest in Vincent's rule, I believe we serve the LORD's interests better to withhold our judgment. Having said that, I would not have a Pelagian serve as a pastor or elder of the church or teach in any capacity. Then again, the church I fellowship with would not allow a Calvinist in those capacities either.

Godismyjudge said...

I hear you on Pelagian's & Semi-Pelagians in church leadership. The more you know, the lest understandable errors become. But the credibility of a profession of faith is mostly about a relationship with Christ and changed life, rather than doctrine.

God be with you,

Tom said...

Since Arminians have essentially a Romish soteriology, it is not surprising in the least that you value human tradition over Scripture. As for me, I'll stand by the Word of God.

A.M. Mallett said...

I doubt you would find a more "anti-Romish" churchman than John Wesley and his fellows. However, in keeping with the subject of this post, are there aspects of Vincent's maxim that you would find troubling for your theological perspective?

Tom said...

Well, Mallett, since you decided to mention Wesley, my reply is that Romanists certainly do find a kindred spirit in him. John M. Todd writes:

“Wesley preached the doctrine of justification by faith. But for him it amounted to little else than complete trust in God and faith in his love. He supposed that he was teaching something that the Catholic Church opposed and which the Protestant Reformation had brought back into the Christian world. But it is clear….that there is contained, implicitly in this doctrine of Wesley’s, the Catholic doctrine of grace…..It was not surprising that Wesley mistook the Catholic doctrine for a doctrine of works, or a doctrine of works disguised by the formula “faith and works.” Yet this very formula of the Council of Trent expressed the same doctrine that Wesley himself avowed.”
(John Wesley and the Catholic Church, p. 21)

Catholic Answers, a Roman Catholic apologetics organization, says that in regards to Wesley:

“The Wesleys were viewed by many as being Jesuit agents in disguise. Their belief in the Real Presence, apostolic succession, the importance of good works, fasting, and their rejection of Calvinistic predestination were seen as a return to Catholic positions. John resented the accusation that he was being used by the Catholic Church. He said of Catholics, "I wish them well but I dare not trust them/” ….One Catholic scholar said of John Wesley, who died in London in 1791, "Under other circumstances he would have been the founder of a religious order or a reforming pope.”


Wesley may have resented being identified with Roman positions and practices. But like it or not, he certainly was, whether he was willing to admit it or not.

As your question, I thought I already answered it. But since you seem to lack the ability to comprehend that, the simple fact is that a person would have to be absolutely insane to willing trade the riches of God’s Word for the quicksand of human tradition. There is not the slightest hint in Scripture that Vincent’s Maxim has any merit whatsoever. If you see any worth in Vincent’s maxim, then you have essentially embraced a Romanist view of tradition.

Be my guest in embracing your spiritual junk. I’ll take Christ as found in Scripture.

A.M. Mallett said...

It would be far more advantageous for you to quote primary sources i.e. Wesley or other prominent Wesleyan or Arminian sources. Using secondary and rather hostile and uniformed opinions regarding Wesley does not serve your interest well.
As for Vincent's maxim, I would suggest you do not understand the concept. It has nothing to do with Roman Catholic teachings or practice. It is a method of identifying what comprises ecumenical orthodoxy.

Tom said...

Mallett, you are definitely near the bottom of the list of people on this planet that I would take advice from on what are the best sources to use. I've provided more than sufficient evidence to prove my point. If you can't deal with it, then that is YOUR problem, not mine.

As for your very uninformed comment that Vincent's Maxim "has nothing to do with Roman Catholic teachings or practice;" that would certainly come as news to Roman Catholics. John A. Hardon, one of Rome's most well-known and respected theology professors in the last half of the 20th century says that it is "The famous threefold test of Catholic orthodoxy....By this triple norm of diffusion, endurance, and universality, a Christian can distinguish religious truth from error." (Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 562).

And I can't allow this to go without mention. You appeared over at Peter the Lump's blog applauding Norman Geisler's criticism of Turretinfan for writing under a pseudonym. Well, in case you are totally unaware of the fact, Vincent did his work by using the name "Peregrinus."

Pot, meet kettle.

Now delete away!!!!

A.M. Mallett said...

Tom, I believe I made it clear that I also use the handle "travelah" and have for many years now.

You wrote:
John A. Hardon, one of Rome's most well-known and respected theology professors in the last half of the 20th century says that it is "The famous threefold test of Catholic orthodoxy....By this triple norm of diffusion, endurance, and universality, a Christian can distinguish religious truth from error."

I reply:
While that is not Vincent's maxim, what part of that perspective of orthodoxy do you object to and why?

Tom said...

Mallett, you also said regarding Geisler's attack on Turretinfan for using a pseudonym, "Dr. Geisler has a point...." Either you must admit that Geisler does NOT have a point, or else the credibility of Vincent's work must also be called into question because he, too, wrote under a pseudonym. You don't get to have it both ways.

As for Hardon's quote, if can read it VERY carefully, you will notice that I inserted a "...." that means that I skipped a portion of the dictionary entry for the sake of brevity. The part I skipped was the actual Maxim, or as Hardon called it as often used in Roman theology, the "Vincentian Canon."

And my objection to it is as a guiding principle of theology that can "distinguish religious truth from error." There is absolutely NOTHING in Scripture that would cause me to see any merit in it whatsoever.

A.M. Mallett said...

Tom, Geisler does have a point and so did Vincent. I have no problem with writers using a pseudonym. They generally are not hiding. Geisler's issue is with those who hide behind a handle while launching personal attacks, similar to what you are doing on my blog. However, while Geisler might object to your tactics and he would be right in doing so, I find your behavior a verification of the spirit that drives extreme Calvinists and it is sometimes a good example to leave as evidence of such.
For Hardon to claim Vincent's maxim is in accordance with Roman Catholic dogma (he actually did not make that claim contrary to your assertion) would be little different from an extreme Calvinist claiming his dogma is the Gospel to the exclusion of most of the body of Christ. To the contrary, Vincent presented a perspective of orthodoxy that as with all expressions of orthodoxy is not found in scripture but is found in the expressions and determinations of the pillars of the church. There is no instruction in scripture that spells out the particulars of defining orthodoxy other than those determinations. To reject Vincent's maxim lends to the suggestion that you would also reject the ecumenical councils of the church.

If you reject Vincent's maxim, what rule of orthodoxy would you propose?