Monday, 21 July 2008

The rule-of-truth as guideline for true doctrine

This post continues my translation of Hägglund on the theological significance of the regula fidei from yesterday. For an overview of the whole thread go here.

As we have already emphasised, the rule of faith constitutes a guideline for the evaluation of the church's proclamation—which, incidentally, can already be seen in the name itself. ... In the struggle against the heresies the Fathers alluded to the regula as a summary of the authentic and only true traditio of the church. Therefore, it was the rule of faith which came first and not the heresies. One can even say that it was only through the regula that the heresies became recognizable as such. No regula no heretics. That is to say, it is the rule of faith which decides which doctrine is true and which false. The fact that in contemporary theology so little is said about “heresy” is undoubtedly connected to the fact that so little is known about a regula veritatis, by means of which talk of what is heretical becomes meaningful at all.

The designation of the regula fidei as a guideline for the evaluation of doctrine is motivated not only by the negative desire to combat false proclamation, but also by the insight that the preservation of the correct traditio is linked with struggle and decision and that the purity of doctrine is always endangered. The positive task of the regula fidei, namely, that of being the fundamentum of church doctrine, must therefore always be complemented by this other, in a certain sense “negative,” task of combating false doctrine and deciding between true and false doctrine.


Michael said...


I was wondering if Childs was influenced by Gadamer at all. Have you read anything that pertains to that?

Phil Sumpter said...

I'm not aware of anything off the top of my head. If you look up "Gadamer" in the Index of Authors in Childs' Biblical Theology the name comes up twice. First he is cited as having had an influence on von Rad. This belongs in his section on different models of doing biblical theology. Childs was a big fan of von Rad so I guess this is an endorsement. However, his later comment (on p. 206) qualifies the usefulness of Gadamer in constructing a biblical theology. Though he has helpfully critiqued the Enlightenment theory of history, biblical theology cannot rest on a theory of history. To quote: "it is a major concern of this book on Biblical Theology at least to point in a different direction. Biblical Theology offers neither a new philosophy of history nor a fresh theory of language, but rather it suggests that the church's path of theological reflection lies in its understanding of its scripture, its canon, and it christological confession which encompass the mystery of God's ways in the world with his people" (206).

What made you think of Gadamer?

Michael said...

Thanks for the response. It seems as if both Childs and Gadamer critique the enlightenment hermeneutical method. Gadamer sees a lot of validity in finding the meaning of scripture through the understanding of tradition. Much of what I have read on your blog about Childs makes me think that he took some direction from Gadamer (maybe indirectly) and developed it more for the Biblical studies. It makes me want to investigate Childs a little closer. I think I would enjoy it.

Phil Sumpter said...

Well, anything that makes you want to investigate Childs a little more is good!

As I said, Childs appreciated von Rad and von Rad was a big fan of "tradtion," though what that meant for him is not necessarily what Gadamer meant by the term. I think Gadamer is important so I hope to find time to read him at some point. He's often referred to amongst propenents of theological hermeneutics.