Origen and the rule of faith (vs. “Turretinfan”)


Reformed Protestant apologist “Turretinfan” (words in blue below) wrote an article titled How Does “Read Your Bible” translate to “Formal Sufficiency”? (1-14-20). We cannot say from the title, but it is about the views of Origen (c. 184 – c. 253) concerning the rule of faith, supposed formal sufficiency of Scripture (that is, it alone is necessary for the understanding of itself and for doctrine), and sola Scriptura (that is, the Bible is the only infallible source of Christian truth).

Turretinfan recovers two quotes which, according to him, prove that Origen distinctly believes in “non-Catholic” things; present them by declaring: “How does Origen teach the formal sufficiency of Scripture? “:

Our minds are renewed through training in wisdom and meditation on the Word of God and the spiritual interpretation of his law. And as he progresses daily in reading the scriptures, as his understanding deepens, to that extent he continually becomes new and new every day. I do not know if it is possible to renew someone who is lazy towards the Holy Scriptures and trained in spiritual understanding, whereby it becomes possible not only to understand what has been written, but also to understand what has been written. explain more clearly and reveal more carefully. (Translation by Thomas Scheck, in Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10 [Volume 2, Book 9, chapter 1, section 12, p. 196]; commenting on Romans 12: 2; published by The Catholic University of America Press, 2002)

Now, the cause, in all the points previously enumerated, of false opinions and ungodly statements or ignorant assertions about God, seems to be nothing other than the failure to understand Scripture according to its spiritual meaning. , but the interpretation of it in a pleasant way. to the letter. And therefore, to those who believe that the sacred books are not the compositions of men, but that they were composed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the will of the Father of all things through Jesus Christ, and that they have come down to us, we must indicate the ways (of interpreting them) which appear to us (correct) which cling to the standard of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles. (On first principles, Book IV, Section 9; English translation based on the extant Greek of Origen)

The way, therefore, as it appears to us, by which we are to deal with the Scriptures and extract their meaning from them, is as follows, which has been established from the Scriptures themselves. (Same., Article 11)

Tuuretinfan comments on these passages further:

Whichever meaning you land on, Origen doesn’t just mean “go and ask the church what the text means.” . .

It is interesting to note that it is quite possible to adopt both the position of the “rule of faith” and the position of the canon of Scripture, if the scripture is interpreted by itself. and the rule of faith for the church, and whether the scriptures were handed down by the apostles and those who followed them. . . .

So, it is not that there is a gap in the form of scripture that needs to be filled by the church, but rather the scriptures themselves provide the key to their understanding. And this is, of course, one of the key principles of formal sufficiency: Scripture interprets Scripture. . . .

If reading scripture is how we renew our minds, that implies that scripture not only contains revelation, but does so in a form that allows us to fully understand it. In other words, the Scriptures are formally sufficient. Obviously, a person can inconsistently advise us to read our Bibles, even teaching that the church has the final say. . ., but on the face of it, any statement that asserts that reading the scriptures is the means to progress in the Christian life is an affirmation of the formal sufficiency of the scripture.

As in all cases, it is necessary too determine what the writer thinks of the Church and christian tradition, because the rule of faith has to do with the love relationship of these two entities with Scripture. We can already see that Origen, in the second extract above, incorporates the Church and the apostolic succession into the mixture (“which cling to the standard of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles “), So that it expresses the Catholic view of the” three-legged stool “.

Simply Turretinfan ignores this section and continues on its way, classically exhibiting the usual Protestant tunnel vision of “seeing no evil” in these areas. It is quite unimpressive.

The word “standard” is particularly remarkable and revealing. Church and apostolic tradition / succession are involved in the rule of faith alongside Holy Scripture. All we need to do now is supplement the above with other related statements from Origen and some reputed Protestant scholarly opinion. Origen also wrote the following:

However, since many of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from one another, not only on trivial and trivial things, but also on matters of the utmost importance, as, for example, concerning God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only with regard to these, but also with regard to others which are created existences, namely powers and holy virtues; It therefore seems necessary to first set a definite limit and to set a unmistakable rule on each of them, then move on to the investigation of the other points. For as we ceased to seek the truth (despite the professions of many among the Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all those who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we came to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and have been persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; therefore, seen there are many who think they have the views of Christ, yet some of them think differently from their predecessors. still preserved, it alone must be accepted as a truth which does not differ in any way from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition. (From Principiis, preface, complete section 2; ANF, Vol. IV)

Origen, in this Preface, ceaselessly reiterates the same unscriptural elements of the rule of faith: “the teaching of the apostles” (4), “the most clearly taught in all the Churches” (4), “the apostolic teaching” “(5),” This too is clearly defined in the teaching of the Church “(5),” the teaching of the Church “(again in 5, and in 6, 7, 10),” l ‘teaching of the Church ”(7),“ On which there is but one opinion in the whole Church ”(8). It continues in the same way throughout this book:

“He can judge them heretics and contrary to the faith of the Church” (Bc. I, ch. 7, part 1); “We must now determine which are the matters which should be treated in the following pages according to our dogmatic belief, that is to say in accordance with the creed of the Church” (Bk. I, ch. 7, part 1). “The punishments of sinners, according to the threats of Holy Scripture and the content of the teaching of the Church”; “Some take offense at the creed of the Church” (Bc. II, ch. 10, part 1), “Those, however, who receive the representations of Scripture according to the understanding of the apostles,. . . (Bk. II, ch. 11, part 3).

Therefore, it is evident that Origen stuck to the Catholic rule of faith and apostolic succession, and that he denied sola Scriptura.

Protestant historian JND Kelly describes Origen’s perspective on the relationship between the Bible and tradition:

Early 3rd century writers such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen continued to use language on this subject. [tradition, in context] closely related to that of Irenaeus and Tertullian, and spoke of “the ecclesiastical canon” or “the canon of faith”. . . in addition to the public tradition of the Church, they believed they had access to a secret tradition of doctrine. . . for Origen, it seems to have consisted of an esoteric theology based on the Bible. . . According to Origen, the rule of faith, or canon, was the body of beliefs currently accepted by ordinary Christians; or it could represent the whole content of faith. In his usage, it amounted to what he called “ecclesiastical preaching.” . . and by that he meant the Christian faith as it was taught in the Church of his day and transmitted by the apostles. Although its contents coincided with those of the Bible, it was formally independent of the Bible and also included the principles of biblical interpretation. (The first Christian doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, Fifth Revised Edition, 1978, 43)

Kelly’s last sentence describes almost exactly the Catholic distinction between the material and the formal sufficiency of Scripture. We agree with Protestants that Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient as a rule of faith, independent of Church and Tradition.




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Summary: The Protestant apologist “Turretinfan” writes on Origen and the rule of faith, and tries to force him to fit into a Protestant mold. It fails miserably, as I demonstrate.


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