Friday, October 19, 2007

How Many Fathers Are There?

Orthodox previously stated: "Firstly, you can't use the Vincentian canon against itself. The Vincentian canon assumes that there is a catholic church." This seemed strange, since of course the maxim "The Bible says it," likewise assumes that there is a Bible, a point that Orthodox seems unwilling to acknowledge; for if he acknowledged it, then the entire dispute over the canon of the Bible would be revealed to be extraneous.

So, to avoid the same retort this question, let this question be clear. This question that is about to be asked is not a question that disputes the assumption of the Vincentian canon, namely that there is a catholic church, instead this is a question about the workability of that assumption.

Recall that Vincent allegedly said:

This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.
What this looks like is the "lowest common denominator."

We need to know what the "whole Church throughout the world confess[]" is. To know that, we must know who is in and who is out of the church. Orthodox seems to have made clear his position:
... it doesn't matter what protestants think, nor does it matter, at least since the schism, what Roman Catholics think, because neither of those groups are in the Church, nor is their religion, in the strictest sense, the Christian religion in the fullest sense, so they can't be considered to be "in Christianity".
For now we can leave aside this particular insult. Orthodox means that only the "Orthodox Church" counts in the analysis.

But there is still a problem, even if we remove the millions of Catholics and Protestants from the Church, because we still have to deal with the pre-schism differences of belief.

The next item is that it is "manifest" that the doctrines were "notoriously" held "by our holy ancestors and fathers." Notice the strong language, these are not doctrines that might probably have been held, but doctrines that were clearly and openly held by the group of "our holy ancestors and fathers." Again, this leads us to the same identity question as before, but we can safely say for now that Orthodox would interpret this to mean "Orthodox ancestors and fathers" and not just anybody who was born before we were and called himself a Christian.

Finally, the last item is that within antiquity, we should adhere to the "consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors." Again, we can safely infer that the gnostics are not on the list of priests and doctors. Nevertheless, here's the question. The one question that this entire post has been leading up to:

There's one puzzle piece missing.

How many such ("catholic Christian" within whatever sense Vincent would have meant by that, and you don't need to reexplain that point) priests and doctors were there in antiquity?

The answer looked for here is a rough estimate:
a) 50
b) 100
c) 500
d) 1000
e) 5000
f) 10,000
g) 50,000
h) More than 50,000
i) Fewer than 50
j) No clue - not even a rough estimate
k) Some other rough estimate (please specify the other rough estimate)

We don't need you necessarily to name them, but simply to tell us roughly how many there were.


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