Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Existential faith and the regula fidei

About a month ago, Stephen and Doug had an exchange concerning the nature of "truth," especially within the Christian tradition. Doug's position is apparently the following:

The truth is objective; we’re just unable to agree on it.
Which for Stephen is a self-refuting question: "It boils down to, the truth is subjective."

This is hardly a post-modern issue. Ever since the Jews rejected Jesus and the Gnostics started doing their own thing, "truth" within the church has been a contested commodity.

Which provides the intro for my next thread, namely the nature of the "rule of truth" for the early church fathers and the implications that has for Christian dogmatics. My thoughts consist in my translation of a fascinating essay by Bengt Hägglund entitled, "Die Bedeutung der >Regula Fidei< als Grudnlage theologischer Aussagen," Studia Theologica 12 1958:1-44 ("The significance of the regula fidei as a basis for theological statements"). This article was recommended to Daniel Driver in an interview with Brevard Childs as one of the most influential for his thought. I have found it incredibly enlightening, especially given the directions toward allegory which took place in Childs' later thought.

So, for today, some opening thoughts:

What is the regula fidei? Writing in 1958 Bengt Hägglund noted that although this concept played a central role in the theology of the ancient church and continued to be seen as a fully appropriate and unproblematic category amongst the scholastics and old Protestants, within contemporary theology it has come to be seen as a “scrap of lifeless tradition” (Stück nicht mehr lebendiger Tradition). Though the concept of “faith” has received a central role, it has acquired a meaning that differs sharply to that of the ancient church. When the church fathers spoke of the regula fidei or regula veritatis, they were referring to a concrete doctrine, a reality fixed from the beginning onwards, on the basis of which one could distinguish between truth and falsity. Contemporary theology, on the other hand, sees “faith” as a personal, existential category which transcends all doctrinal norms. If the church is to be faithful to its apostolic and prophetic roots, it is necessary to ask just what the church fathers meant when they spoke of the regula fidei. What is the content of the regula fidei? How does it relate to dogmatic construction? Finally, how can this concept help us clarify the fundamental dogmatic questions concerning the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, Proclamation and Doctrine?

More on this soon ...

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