Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who decides what the gospel is?

There are further questions to consider when thinking about how many gospels are at work in the Communion today, but first some words about what the gospel is (as I understand it).

I like what Ron Smith, commenting here last week, says the gospel is, "there is only one Gospel. At the heart of it is this declaration: "Jesus Christ came into this world to SAVE SINNERS" - that's all of us - not just the good!"

I think we could go a wee bit further, taking a cue from Bishop Tom Wright who makes much of the gospel as the announcement of the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus as the alternate and greater Lord to Caesar, and say the gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. In rough terms "Jesus is Lord" sums up the four gospels in which Jesus acts and speaks as Lord of the world and King of the Kingdom of God, and "Jesus is Saviour" sums up the epistles in which Paul and others set out the case that the death of cross resolves all problems of sin, provides the one and only needed solution of righteousness being provided for all sinners, and ends the former sacrificial cult based in the Jerusalem temple.

Having, I hope, made a fair attempt at stating the gospel in terms both founded on Scripture, consistent with the teaching I have received as an evangelical Christian, and in terms coherent with what a leading catholic Anglican commenter here has said, I return to the question of 'two gospels' in the Anglican Communion!

Something I do not think we Anglicans are very good at seeing as a fault within ourselves is that when we engage with a theological issue like the question of what the gospel is and whether there is more than one gospel at work in the Communion we rarely talk about the related issue of authority: who decides what the gospel is, who decides what the gospel is not? We tend to act, and, to be blunt, I see signs of it here in our discussions, as though our own personal grasp of the gospel is the criterion by which to judge whether (say) TEC is faithful to the gospel, or whether two gospels are driving the deliberations of one of the Instruments of Communion. This is not to say that my grasp or your grasp of the gospel is wrong, but to note that even if 1000 of us agree on the gospel, we have a problem if another 1000 disagree with us. Who decides? That is a major problem which the Church of England derived Communion is grappling with to a degree not previously experienced (I would argue).

By 'Church of England derived' I mean that at the root of the Communion is, on the one hand, the rejection at the Reformation of a Magisterium based in Rome, and on the other hand, the installation at the Reformation of the 'magistrate' (i.e. civic authority via parliament) to be an (or 'the'?) authority in determining matters of doctrine and practice, specifically via approval of prayer books. Problem: 'civic authority' over the church does not translate well to other nations in which the planted version of the C of E is not a 'national church'. In practice member churches make their own decisions via a supra-diocesan authority bound by constitution such as General Synod or General Convention. For the Communion a problem potentially arises when one General Synod/Convention disputes the decision of another such body, and a complex problem arises when the body being disputed thinks its authority is indisputable!

So, in talking about the possibility that two gospels are at work in the Communion today, it is insufficient for me or you or even both of us together, dear reader, to make the claim. We need a means of determining whether the claim has merit or not, and if it does, what is to be done about it. Cue arguments for the Covenant. You did expect me to say that, didn't you?!

There is a further problem I think needs a mention. In Communion talk we worry about 'member churches' more than  individual parishes or dioceses. We are tempted to say things like 'TEC follows another gospel'. But what is the basis for saying such things? How do we determine that a whole member church is oriented towards another gospel? And, who determines that such an orientation exists?

It is insufficient, in my view, to conclude from a few pronouncements of a few bishops, or the observable tendencies of some flagship institutions (cathedrals, theological colleges), that X is following another gospel. Yet that is what we observers from afar seem to do (yes, me in the first rank of culpability here). Even when the observers are within the member church, there are still questions about how knowledgeable the observer is. I notice, for instance, in my own church, that sometimes things are said about parts of our church which I find at variance with my own observations. When the variation exists between one who is not involved in those other parts and one who is, there is a real question of who is speaking authoritatively about the situation. Nevertheless potentially a clear situation could arise when a General Synod/Convention offers a belief by resolution which is open for scrutiny by other bodies. So far, however, I know of no Anglican General Synod/Convention that has acted as clearly as, say, denying one of the great creeds, or adding devotion to Buddha to its constitution.

Neither of the two concerns being advanced here means that there are not two gospels at work in the Communion, nor that there is an intrinsic problem in determining whether that is the case or not. But I am flagging that we should be suitably cautious about how we might proceed in a manner which involves proper authority, both authority in making judgement and authority which is universally recognised in our Communion.

POSTSCRIPT Interesting post from Cranmer which highlights that 'habemus papem' (we have a pope) does not necessarily solve the 'problem of authority' in the church.

26 comments:

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, you have laid out the practical aspects of what you term "the issue of authority" very ably, although I did have an immediate reservation when you defined the issue as "who decides what the gospel is, who decides what the gospel is not?"
I think we should distinguish between the gospel as such, which is a God-driven proclamation of salvation through Christ, and our responsibility as his Church to hear, respond to, and become agents of, that proclamation. The sort of secondary process you describe would then be all about how we collectively determine whether we or others are adequately receiving the transforming Word that addresses us all. (Golly! Shades of Barth!)

I think that whenever we use terms like "authority" and ask "who decides", as people of faith reasoning about the gospel that has brought us to life, it is helpful to speak in ways that remind us of whose Presence we are in, not as a matter of formal piety, but to take account of the owner-operator in this enterprise.
This would then enable us to address the possibility of "another gospel" at work in the Church less in terms of the beliefs promulgated and more in identifying the same Holy One working in one another as opposed to a malign spirit.

I have been thinking recently that when Paul stands so resolutely in Galatians 1 against "another gospel" threatening his converts, he may be referring to a difference that is a relational more that it is doctrinal: that he has experienced God in action inspiring and vindicating a proclamation that Gentile converts are acceptable without circumcision, so that a denial of its validity is a repudiation of God's sovereign action. "The grace of Christ" is God's sovereign Word to and through his people; "another gospel" is any resistance to it, detected in personal rather than doctrinal terms. So Paul is thinking that he knows for sure that God has accepted his converts as they are, so what is going on with others that they are objecting to what God has done?

Back to the Communion and its future. I remain convinced that our only way forward in Christ is to identify and respond to the transforming presence of Christ in one another. Attempting to prove others wrong in their beliefs or policies through theological dispute is a striving after wind. Doctrine has its place, but only within a context of shared life.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
I think, and I think others here would also think, that you are being naive here about the presence of two gospels in the Communion. Whether characterised in doctrinal, personal or pneumatological terms, there are things going on which cannot be overlooked in a pursuit of 'the transforming presence of Christ' in one another, things which are causing pain, division, and separation, all of which cannot be 'Christ' at work within us.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Hey Peter, it's me here ... but is that really you in your response to what I thought you would find a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment? How did you ever get that stuff out of what I wrote? That's a sort of bugger-off-out-of-my-blog response.

In Christ, who i believe to be at work in both of us,
Howard

Bryden Black said...

1. Herewith an extract of a commissioned piece for our last GS, Why the AC Covenant Matters:

“In the first instance, some folk will turn directly to the election and consecration of Gene Robinson, who is a partnered gay man, as the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the United States. Nor would they be entirely wrong to do so. Yet it is my contention, and many agree, that in fact this event is but one symptom among many. What it reveals - and what the many different reactions to this event also reveal - is once more the rich complexity of our contemporary world and the circumstances the present Anglican Communion simply finds itself in. Even as some of us might have contributed to these circumstances, creating new initiatives and pioneering new ways, others are mostly on the receiving end - and others again are left wondering what on earth is going on.

But such events and such phenomena as Bishop Robinson’s consecration are furthermore symptomatic of a deeper concern. And it is this concern which triggers directly any conversation on such a thing as the Anglican Communion Covenant. For what is really at stake here is the issue of authority - and beyond that, the different forms of supposed legitimacy substantiating differing understandings and practices of authority itself.

Authority: levels and contexts

Authority never simply functions ad hoc or without an historical setting. Another preparatory paper for General Synod, that by Peter Carrell, begins by referring to both elements of our history and our present self-governing status. The two subtly interact, even now. Options have developed precisely on account of our history. We are not a Congregationalist Church. Nor are we a centralised organization as is the Roman Catholic Church with its Magisterium. Where we have come from - our sources, and the very word “authority” incorporates the word “author” - determines to a large degree what is occurring in the present and what our options are for the future. This is the way any human traditions and the traditioning process function.

Yet there is an added element, it has to be said, when we view matters in this way. How exactly might we ‘read’ the history of the processes that have brought us thus far? For “authority” is also a living thing, a matter of “practical reason” even. Consider such a thing as the Treaty of Waitangi and its role in the complex processes currently brought before the Tribunal to settle claims for compensation by iwi. For not only are we, in the 21st century, ‘reading’ now an historical document written in 1840 when none of us were actually present; there is also the simple fact that the very ‘history’ gathered for the purposes of the claims has a distinct bias. No; this word “bias” is not a dirty word, necessarily. Rather, it just says why we are undergoing our historical research into such a situation: to make a claim because we have a particular grievance about something, and these are the substantiating reasons. For all that, a local historian, Giselle Byrnes, has published a most important book, The Waitangi Tribunal and New Zealand History (Oxford University Press, 2004), pointing out that such an approach has omitted vast tracts of otherwise significant history that has occurred in these Islands. And how might this history interact with the narrower ‘grievance history’ being written up over a few decades now via the Waitangi Tribunal process? How might the wider setting of the history of Aotearoa New Zealand be able to accommodate and integrate those specific features of quite legitimate yet limited ‘grievance history’ into this wider, more comprehensive history?

Bryden Black said...

2. extract cont: "Everything else being equal, what we now face in the Anglican Communion is rather similar. A particular event has occurred (as mentioned) which has precipitated a wide set of reactions (also mentioned). But this particular occurrence is symptomatic of a wider, more complex situation. What is really at stake here? For it has happened in a cultural and historical and organisational setting way beyond a mere sacramental act in New Hampshire one November, in 2003. And how might we adjudicate not only the event of Robinson’s consecration (if we really think we have to, which is itself one response among many), but furthermore the reasons for the varying reactions we have witnessed around the Anglican Communion, and even in Aotearoa New Zealand itself? And then, lastly, what are we to do with all the different responses - and especially those that are quite at odds one with another? It is the scale and depth of our differences that have been major contributors to our Communion’s present plight - to degrees simply not witnessed before.” [Ends]

I reproduce this extract for one reason. When Peter raises the issue of ‘authority’ he comes to the heart of the thing. And the problem with the AC is, it has no real desire to live under authority. Each Province/whatever enjoys its supposed “autonomy” too much! They simply avoid both the kind of revelation conveyed in Phil 2:1-13, and the kind of theology exemplified indeed by Karl Barth (thanks Howard!): in the words of Eberhard J√ľngel, “Verantwortliche Rede vom Sein Gottes bei Karl Barth. Eine Paraphrase” = “Responsible/answering/answerable speech regarding God’s Being in Karl Barth. A paraphrase.” All such theology is both UNDER the due authority of the Living Word Himself and necessarily a paraphrase, using further words, according to historical and cultural happenstance. The latter especially raises yet agin all my earlier remarks on the related thread re “continuity”. These are the issues folks, IMHO.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
Okay, too blunt by me - I certainly want you to visit and to comment here.

Re-reading what you wrote, I agree that we need as a 'first reaction' to each other in Communion to seek what is of Christ in each other; only as a 'second reaction' should we look for what is not right in each other's thinking.

However, I stand by my general point which I will rephrase here as a question, with an introductory comment: in order for your thoughtful characterization of differences among us not to, in the end, become a line of platitude, what would be counted as two gospels among us?

(That is, I find you were thought-provoking: you provoked me to wonder if we are only allowed to think there can only ever be one gospel among groups naming themselves as Anglicans!)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden,
Might I challenge you to consider giving, at least in outline, how 'global Anglican authority for the 21st century' might be developed?

You are permitted to give the one word answer "Covenant." But you may wish to say more than that.

Otherwise I am wondering whether an Anglican Communion which clearly has no strong desire to mimic Rome's Magisterium is thereby doomed to embrace the congregationalism it has long professed to wish to avoid!

Bryden Black said...

Good questions Peter. Shall get to answer when I have some time over the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, you are right: in a word - COVENANT! Furthermore, one with another Section 4 yet again!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
I wonder if you're not making this more complicated than it needs to be. Of course, the gospel is a treasure we can never hope to describe fully, but we can pass on the message as we have received it from the apostles as recorded for us in the Scriptures. When the Galatians were following a different gospel, Paul reminded them again of the gospel he had preached to them. When the Corinthians were confused about the resurrection, Paul re-stated the gospel to them. In Acts, we see the gospel presented in all sorts of different contexts by the apostles. So, we have a full, rich and authoratative source for what the gospel is about. It is about the Lord Jesus - sent by the Father to be one of us in accordance with His eternal plan, suffered, died for our sins, buried, raised from the dead, ascended and declared to be Lord of all, offering salvation to all who will repent and believe in Him.

The authority to measure whether a church is following a different gospel, is to go back to the Scriptures. Is the teaching consistent with the gospel as proclaimed in the Scriptures? We can make a judgment on the gospel TEC follows based on their own words and practices. They declare openly that they are about "full inclusion", and that the Spirit is leading them in new directions. They openly refute passages of Scripture as irrelevant to today, and state that they do not believe in personal salvation or atonement. Their legal action against churches, appointment of false teachers as bishops, and promotion of ungodly lifestlyes shows the fruit of this false gospel.

Within the Anglican Communion, we already have the Lambeth Conference, Primates Meeting and ABC which can speak with authority on these issues (I'd suggest the ACC is a consultative rather than authoratative body). Those that have done so have been ignored, and then nobbled to make sure they don't do so in the future. So, I don't hold much hope for a covenant to work, given perfectly adequate existing structures have failed.

You make a valid point about ignoring the faults of our own churches. While all of our churches are made up of redeemed sinners and contain false teaching and ungodly practices, it is another thing entirely when these are promoted by the bishops and leadership as a whole, and those who hold to the apostolic gospel are persecuted for doing so.

Imagine if the Galatians and Corinthians responded to Paul's letters, or the crowds in the temple responded to Peter, by saying, "Thank you for your concern, but we feel we have found a new way of expressing the gospel in our own context, led by the Spirit. We hope we can still remain in conversation and the strongest possible relationship together". They submitted themselves to the apostles' teaching, as those who were appointed by the Lord Jesus himself. So should we.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
I am in large measure of agreement with you, but have you pointed the way forward? It could be argued that 1 and 2 Corinthians imply a section of the Corinthian church were responding to Paul's letters in the way you characterise (i.e. they did not submit to the apostle's//apostles' teaching). If neither Instruments nor Covenant nor Scriptures [because not all Anglicans are agreed to submit to them] offer a way forward re authority, are we beyond hope?

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
In terms of pointing a way forward, I would suggest a couple of things.
The first is that the apostles' approach to churches which are following a different gospel, like Galatia, Corinth or Sardis (from Revelation), seems to be fact finding (e.g. sending an emissary), teaching (e.g. letters), warning (via letter or in person), and then removal from fellowship. I hasten to add this was done deliberately, slowly, and with a grief filled heart. In the Communion, the 1998 Lambeth Conference did step 2, and the 2005 and 2007 Primates' Meetings did step 3. Since then, the instruments have been nobbled to ensure we stay in an endless loop of step 1, rather than proceed to step 4. So, it is impossible to proceed further along the path demonstrated in the Scriptures by the apostles.

Since the current instruments are ineffective, it is clear that alternative structures are required, which uphold the apostolic faith as revealed in the Scriptures and Creeds, uphold the 39 Articles and formularies as normative of Anglican faith and practice, encourage and support gospel ministry, and seek reform from within the Anglican Communion. GAFCON/FCA is the body that is seeking to do this. I am not 100% in agreement with all of GAFCON's agenda, particularly some of their schismatic initiatives such as AMiE, but they offer a framework for orthodox Anglicans to continue ministry within the Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
There have been problems!

I would be delighted to find that GAFCON/FCA sticks to its knitting, offering "a framework for ... within the Communion."

Sometimes I wonder if I may be excused for wondering if the 'schismatic' aspects of GAFCON/FCA's initiatives and actions betoken a different form of knitting.

Kurt said...

“…uphold the 39 Articles and formularies as normative of Anglican faith and practice…” Andrew Reid

Sorry, but this is totally unacceptable to many Anglicans today. The Articles are a curious admixture of Catholic truth and Calvinist heresy. This hodge-podge was probably necessary at one time to hold the Church of England together, but that is not the case today.

As I have pointed out before, the Articles of Religion have never been very popular in the American Church. In the Proposed Prayer Book of 1785, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England were cut down to twenty in number. In the first authorized Prayer Book of 1789 they were left out altogether. The question of their reinstatement proved to be a subject of considerable debate within the American Church.

Eventually, after much consideration and debate, a modified set of Thirty-nine Articles was included in the Prayer Book of 1801. However, no one in the American Church—neither clergy nor lay—has ever been required to “subscribe” to the Articles. Today the Articles have been removed to the “historical documents” section at the end of the Prayer Book of 1979.

The Thirty-nine Articles, whether of 1563 or 1801, are of purely historic interest—as are the Ten Articles of 1536, and the Six Articles of 1539, the Forty-two Articles of 1552, the Twenty Articles of 1785, etc. That the Articles of 1563 continue to be advanced by some as “normative” of Anglicanism is unacceptable.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
It is a matter of fact that not all Anglicans everywhere are required to 'subscribe' to the 39A.

It is not a matter of agreement that the Articles contain 'Calvinist heresy.' Would you care to enlighten us as to what those heresy(s) are?

Anonymous said...

"As I have pointed out before, the Articles of Religion have never been very popular in the American Church."

Amongst other things.

But the Episcopal Church of the USA has only ever been a small part of world Anglicanism, despite its excessive number of wealthy bishops, and it needs to stop seeing the world through the eyes of uppercrust New Yorkers.

Martin

Anonymous said...

"Calvinist heresy" is a strange expression, since the only Church Council to repudiate a "Calvinist" understanding of theology was the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent (1547), to which Calvin published a reply:
http://www.the-highway.com/antidote_Calvin.html
Only Tridentine Catholics speak of "Calvinist heresy".
Calvin's 'heavenly receptionist' understanding of the Lord's Supper is explicitly affirmed by the 39 Articles.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Calvinism may not be a heresy. But then, neither may be any other form of theology that brings people 'out of the cold' into the Body of Christ.

The real question is: What does The Church have to say about God that attracts human beings to believe in their need of salvation in Christ?

Does the Church begin by offering all the negatives, or all the positives?

Surely the 'milk' of loving kindness is a better nourishment than the tougher fodder of bitter gall.

I think Jesus had the only answer to the problem of evangelism: "Come to ME, all you who labour and are heavy-burdened, and I will re-fresh you". The Eucharist is the fruit of Christ himself - given freely, as Food for the journey, to ALL believers.

Kurt said...

“Only Tridentine Catholics speak of ‘Calvinist heresy’".—Martin

You think so, do you? You should get out a bit more, theologically, Martin. It’s not just American Episcopalians who have despised Calvinism for centuries (indeed, since before the so-called “Pilgrims” came ashore at Plymouth Rock). Or, just the Papists who consider Calvinism a heresy. The Eastern Churches also want nothing to do with a theology that “makes God the enemy of mankind.”

“Calvin's 'heavenly receptionist' understanding of the Lord's Supper is explicitly affirmed by the 39 Articles.”—Martin

Quite so. Another good reason why for Catholic Anglicans the Articles are not worth the paper they are printed on! If Anglicans can accept Receptionism as a valid expression of the Real Presence, I think that we have to accept Transubstantiation as a valid expression, too—even if we might disagree with the Roman interpretation of Transubstantiation. (Personally, I am favorably disposed toward Consubstantiation.)

“Surely the 'milk' of loving kindness is a better nourishment than the tougher fodder of bitter gall.” –-Fr. Ron

Yes indeed! It’s this ‘milk’ that I find totally lacking in Calvinism, and is the major reason why I call Calvinism a heresy.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the beautiful fall foliage
In Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

Hi Kurt! Forget about so-called Calvinism and read Institutes of Xn Religion, Book IV, Ch.XVII. Especially noting the role of the Holy Spirit, both here and earlier in previous Chs. Such a read might enlighten some ...

Anonymous said...

Well, Kurt, if you're going to pray in aid the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox in denouncing the 39 Articles, you will have to be consistent and accept that whole swathes of teaching and practice in Tec (women's ordination, sexual ethics, Christology among many etc) are deemed heretical by those churches. You can't cherry-pick your friends and expect to be taken seriously.
Please remember how Tec is seen throughout the rest of the world: as a wealthy but small and consistently declining and aging semi-detached branch of Anglicanism.
I don't know how much you know about so-called "Calvinism" on which you vent so much spleen, but I echo Bryden's suggestion that you read Calvin on the Holy Spirit - very profound and deeply related to the Eastern Fathers. & find out about the Patriarch of Constantinople Cyril Lucaris and his debt to Calvin.
You need to get out theologically, Kurt. Go & listen to Tim Keller, fr'instance....
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

For any Christian teacher to refer to 'institutes of Xn Religion' is to deliberately fall short of the full expression of Christianity' It may well be that such intentional foreshortening of the Grace of Christ is what may be lacking in the dry and stale out-buildings of academia. What the Church really needs is the full-Bodied experience of the Living Christ in the daily Eucharistic Offering - not dry academic tomes which see fit to reduce Jesus to 'Xn'

St. Francis despised books - simply because they could occlude, and often misrepresented, the reality of the Word-made-Flesh in Jesus. Perhaps this is why certain evangelicals put the Words in the Book before the Word-made-flesh.

Bryden Black said...

Sigh .... double sigh .... Dear Fr Ron; I can only assume from your comment that you have never tried to read Calvin’s works yourself, either the Institutes or any of his Commentaries. Instead, it may be that you have relied on apocryphal ‘readings’, at third hand, of such godly folk as Jean Cauvin. I also suspect you are falsely pitting Francis himself against the likes of Bonaventure, from whose writings I myself have gained enormous encouragement in the Faith/in faith. Stones, glass houses, and all that, Ron! Tolle lege!!

Father Ron Smith said...

Has anyone noticed that some bloggers have to express their disappointment on this blog with a 'sigh'? It must be so disappointing to find that their so book-learned theologising seems to meet with so much opposition. But, sighing???
It doesn't really come across on blogs.

For Bryden - Yes, I do know about Bonaventure; like Anthony,Seraphic Doctor; he had to put up with Francis' pesky opposition to his fascination with book-learning. Francis was very different from most of his learned followers. He wouldn't have wanted Brother Elias to raise up a Basilica dedicated to Francis in Assisi, either. He was a simple man. But then again, Francis was a sacramentalist, with a love of Our Lady Mary, Theotokos; a charismatic preacher; lover of lepers and people on the margins of society - like Jesus, really.

Bryden Black said...

Morning Ron; I suspect that the key difference between us is this. I have absolutely no problem with Francis’s “simplicity”, nor his “sacramentality”, nor his attachment to our Theotokos. Just as I also have no problem with the likes of Bonaventure, Calvin, Barth, Aquinas, Martin, or von Balthasar. To simplify horridly: both sides of the ledger are equally representative of the multifaceted Jesus, the multi-limbed body of Christ.

The reason for this inclusivity: I have met living saints who embody each side of this necessary diversity in the Church. And therefore have a profound desire to extol “the divine fruitfulness of the Spirit” (von B), wheresoever I may see it. I am far from convinced that your own comments exhibit such genuine catholicity. Sigh again!!!

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Bryden, thankfully, in God's good time, God will be the Judge, and not you. Deo gratias & Agape!

I may not sigh, on your behalf, but I may weep!

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron,

The title of Peter’s thread is: Who decides what the Gospel is? As ever, such a question comes with a context, which is certain other threads and comments - not least your own judgment, as hailed by Peter! So let’s not duck the issue the way you’ve tried to with your latest, shall we!

The Russian church historian Bolotov distinguished three levels of authority as follows:

1. Dogmas, to which all believers are obliged to adhere.
2. Theologoumena, being beliefs and their expressions which are probable, and so authoritative, but not absolutely in the form of 1.
3. Theological opinions, which may be useful/helpful but lack due authority - until/unless they climb up to level 2.

My immediately previous comment sought to exegete certain canonical views of Jesus and his Church, applying them across the board to certain key figures in history. At one level, this may be just an exercise at Level 3 ala Bolotov. Yet, your very summary, cited by Peter, was also a virtual quote, as are key terms in my last comment, derived direct from Scripture. Just so, we may both ramp up our “opinions” a bit; not because they may be found in some Ecumenical Council or somethhing - very much the subject of Bolotov’s schema, especially as an Eastern person addressing the filioque stuff - but because they echo strongly the very Scriptures which are the well-spring of all ecclesiastical authority. Stet!