Conserving the Revelation
|CONSERVING THE REVELATION
In order to come to an understanding of the manner in which Scripture is to be interpreted, I believe it is necessary to consider by what means the Holy Spirit preserves the Revelation in Christ.
The Apostles were divinely inspired to preach (Day of Pentecost) the Revelation of God in Christ. They were also divinely inspired to act by baptizing those who accepted what they they preached. They were also divinely inspired to celebrate the Eucharist as Worship ("the breaking of the bread") each Sunday. They were also inspired Divinely to decide doctrinal, moral, and disciplinary issues at the Council of Jerusalem. Finally, much later, some of the twelve and some who were not the Twelve, were Divinely inspired to write gospel accounts as well as the rest of the NT.
They were not inspired as isolated individuals, but as members of the Church visible united to one another in a communion of faith, worship, common life. All of those activities would qualify as Tradition; because they not only spoke, but did things as well, as including writing (some of them) - all by positive Divine inspiration, just as Our Lord not only spoke but DID things (and never wrote).
What they were inspired to say, do, write, they commissioned others to conserve by repeating what they said and did and wrote. They commissioned others in their own lifetime to so conserve by repeating. This conserving by repeating was a Divine commission, coming from the Lord Himself. In preaching the divinely inspired thoughts, they were preaching Christ's thoughts; in doing the sacraments, they were doing Christ's actions; in deciding the issues at the Council of Jerusalem, Christ was deciding through them; when they healed or worked miracles, Christ was the principle author. All this is attested in various places in the NT.
While they were alive, what was the nature of what they did sacramentally? Was not what they celebrated sacramentally the very reality they were preaching? On Pentecost Day, e.g., after Peter's preaching was accepted, they baptized the 5,000, thereby bestowing a connection to Christ by the supernatural birth of the sacrament, infusing the Indwelling Trinity. The preaching was for the sake of participating in the realities preached; this by Christ's intent in inspiring them to so act after preaching, in fact, Christ pouring into the souls of the converts the Holy Spirit when the Apostles poured the water of Baptism.
Did God intend these realities which were preached and shared in for every generation, or only for the generations of the time of the Twelve? Did He want that beyond that time and place for all times and places until the Second Coming? If so, then conservation of this Revelation for all generations is the Divine plan (this intent can be shown in Scriptures). A supernatural grace of conservation within the visible Church which survives the deaths of the Twelve as to what they preached, did sacramentally, decided in council, and partially wrote down, is given in virtue of the commission to extend to all nations the meaning and reality of Revelation, must follow of necessity, and if God's intention is to have all nations and generations receive the preaching and reality of Revelation, it must be conserved not by isolated individuals, but be conserved as it was when the Twelve were alive, communally within the visible Church.
Thus the only difference between TRADITION and Tradition is new Revelations for TRADITION (which ended with the lives of the Twelve), and conservation of the Revelation. Thus the oral preaching is conserved in the memory of the Church by the Holy Spirit Who is permanently indwelling the Church; the realities preached are sacramentally conserved in the Liturgy of the Church; the authority to decide doctrinal, more, and disciplinary questions is conserved within the Church hierarchy; and the Scriptures are conserved and understood within the Church.
The grace of conservation is different from the grace of positive Inspiration and Revelation in that no new realities are revealed; but the grace of conservation is equally inerrant in the Church as a whole, since it is a grace, a supernatural gift preserving what was once revealed by positive Inspiration and now repeated substantially in non-inspired words, sacramental actions, authoritative decisions by the Apostles' successors and in Scripture communally understood. There is thus a continuity in the Church between the time of the Apostles and the time after their deaths, a continuity that is maintained by the grace of conserving what has been positively revealed.
This conservation in relation to the Revelation is analogous to the conserving of creation in relation to creation. Just as God first creates the universe ex nihilo and then conserves what He creates, so does He reveal Himself and conserve what He reveals in the Church. The reason is simple: God wants each generation and every nation to encounter the same Revelation in both its reality and in its meaning, so that no time or place subsequently would be at a substantial disadvantage. It is above all in the sacramental life of the Church that the realities preached are present.
Now this means that there is a grace of infallibility in the Church as a whole keeping it from error when it repeats the Revelation, keeping it from defect when it celebrates the Realities in the Sacraments, and having an authority to decide re new questions raised. This grace of infallibility that the Church as a Body has is a conserving grace. The individual who agrees with the Church's teaching has a share in this infallibility. But the individual does not have a guarantee of this infallibility - the Church does. The individual likewise shares in the indefectibility of the sacramental life of the Church, but has no guarantee of it as an individual.
The memory of the congregation of the Church of the thinking of the Oral Preaching, and the ritual Praying of the Liturgy is conserved by the Holy Spirit permanently joining Head and Body. An individual father is acclaimed by the Church as capturing its own Divinely conserved memory and meaning; that is why the individual is acknowledged as a Doctor, i.e., Teacher of the faith. IOW, it is not in isolated individuals that the memory and meaning is primarily conserved, i.e, the Thoughts of the Oral Preaching preserved by repeating in other non-inspired words, but in the _community_.; a communal memory of what was preached and done.
An individual expounds that communal memory, conserved in the practice and preaching of the Church and in the Scripture as understood by the community. That is because the Spirit of Truth has been permanently given to the Church at Pentecost _and never withdrawn_, never meant to be withdrawn, keeping it One.
The Bishops manifest this unity with their primate, and have the gift of recognizing this memory and meaning and continuing the reality of the memory and meaning within the community.
Teaching is an expressed meaning, i.e, expressed thoughts; oral understandings can be remembered and repeated in different or similar words as well as in the same words. Written understandings can be preserved only by thought processes when read. Both the thought processes in hearing oral meanings, and the thought processes in reading written meanings can err left to the unaided human mind. To conserve the meaning in either instance requires a Divine grace of keeping one from error, but a guidance of the Holy Spirit. Such a guiding grace is not a positive inspiration or new Revelation; but it is a grace. It is given to the Church, not to the individual as such; he nevertheless shares in that grace by accepting and repeating what the Church has. The individual thus "happens" to be infallible; the Church is guaranteed to be infallible in its memory and indefectible in the possession of the Realities celebrated when it is united substantially.
Unity is thus a sign of infallible teaching conserving Apostolic preaching, as also in the conserving the Realities preached in celebrating the Sacramental life of the Church. Substantial unity of the successors of the Apostles (i.e., episcopate with primate as a substantial body) manifest unity of faith.
How (and under what circumstances) this promise of the Church's union with Christ is applicable is seen in united Apostolic Teaching and Practice. I think this can be shown from Scripture where the Apostolic office there ensures communion of faith, celebrating the Realities of the Revelation in sacramental practice, deciding in a united council doctrinal and disciplinary and moral questions. That is clear in Scripture: united Apostolic authority in preaching, worship, decisions.
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