Upon this Rock

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Doctrine, Dogma and Church Authority

Upon this Rock

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Doctrine, Dogma and Church Authority

"David Dale has given us an exhaustive treatment of urgent contemporary theological problems considered with erudition and compassion. This study will enable the reader to understand the criteria by which the Orthodox Church decides if doctrinal propositions are true or in error. This is a book about why doctrine matters and what it is and is not! David Dale's work gives an essential understanding... it should be compulsory reading for anyone considering ordination as well as all Orthodox laity". - Fr. Elwin, British Deanery of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

"Never a dull read, David Dale's work is a rare combination of sound theology, enthusiastic evangelisation and punchy polemic. With much of the Church in chaos David Dale knows that the remedy is Orthodoxy". ­The Editor, New Directions

Upon This Rock Includes:
• Discerning the authority of God
• The nature of Biblical Authority
• Liberal and Critical Biblical interpretation
• The Orthodox Tradition
• The Church
• Councils
• The Criteria of Christian Truth
• The Development of Orthodox Doctrine
• Orthodox Dogma

David Dale: After training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England and serving in a cavalry regiment David Dale first read for the English Bar and then read theology for ordination at Wells Theological College in the ministry of the Church of England. He later took an honours degree in history at the Open University and went on to do research at Oxford in the biblical and patristic understanding of revelation. He was a parish priest for 35 years until he left the Church of England in 1998 and was received into the Orthodox Church in 2000. He is a prolific journalist and an experienced lecturer.

The following is an excerpt from 'Upon this rock' by David Dale, taken from Chapter 3, Biblical Authority;
The revelation of God is in the events and thought recorded in Scripture. Because the record of revelation brings us face to face with God’s authority the text of the record itself - the text of the Bible - shares, in a secondary and derived way, the revelatory quality of the events, thought and so on that it records. A person reading the text, the record of God’s action in history, in faith comes face to face with that revelation mediated through the text. The revelation of God in history becomes present to the people of God in the text when it is read and expounded with faith and grace.

We avoid some needlessly distracting and damaging problems if we stick to the definition of the Bible as the record of revelation bearing in mind that the text itself has a secondary and derived revelatory quality. The text is the channel of the record of revelation. It is valuable because it is the only way in which we know of the acts of God, His saving revelation, in the history of the people of God. In the Bible we have a set of texts, which are records of divine revelation. For this reason the documents themselves have the authority to command our obedience to salvation for the reasons we have just set out. Because they are a record of revelation their authority concerns, and only concerns, questions of our salvation. Their authority does not necessarily extend to matters unconnected with our salvation and their authority in these matters is irrelevant to us. We do not study the Bible to answer questions about physics and astronomy or even history. There is plainly a solid historical background to much of the Biblical narrative or it would be nothing but fantasy but that is not our concern when considering the authority of the Bible.

It is worth noting, in any case, that there is a fundamental problem in coming to an objective account of what happened in any particular event recorded in the Bible, an event in which God discloses Himself to us. There is a simple way of demonstrating this problem. Consider the description given to you by a thoroughly honest and trustworthy young man of a young lady who is loved by him. She is loved by him precisely because, at some level, she brings something home to him - which other girls do not bring home to him. Meeting her and coming to know her has a revelatory quality for him. That is one of the elements in honest love between a man and a woman. His description of her, if true, must contain that revelatory ‘plus’ which he discerns; in this case it comes from ‘being in love’. The fact that she reveals something to him is, and must be, woven into his account of her. If he introduced you to her you might wonder as we sometimes do what he sees in her. The objective reality, the simple historic account of the girl, if there ever was such a thing (‘5’1", brown hair, brown eyes, clear skin etc ...), cannot, of itself, convey to you the revelatory ‘plus’. It cannot convey a truth about the girl, which is of any real significance and value.

If you never met the young lady you could not penetrate through the account that contains the revelatory ‘plus’ to an objective and simple statistical account of that girl. You could not encounter, in some way, the girl as she is to someone who is not in love with her precisely because the account you have is from someone who loves her. The love is in the report as an integral part of it. That is a fact we have to accept. There is no way round it. If someone asks us if the young man’s account is the truth, what can we say? We might observe that only a person who loves someone can truly know that person and that only an account of a person written with love is a true account. The truth of a person is the truth as seen by someone who loves that person. The absolute truth of a person is the truth as seen by God who loves us absolutely.

We cannot penetrate behind the description of a young man who truly loves a young woman to come to an objective, ‘historic’ account of what she is like. In the same way we cannot penetrate behind the record of revelation to the event as it might have been seen by someone who did not look at it with the eyes of faith or to whom God did not disclose himself. The famous question of Professor Leonard Hodgson - "What must the truth have been and be if people who thought and believed like that wrote in those terms?" - cannot be answered.

Why can it not be sensibly applied to a Biblical text? Because it will give an answer which purports to be the objective case, the simple facts. The simple facts, as such, however, cannot be for our salvation because it is the simple facts grasped in faith and discerned as revelation, which constitute the authoritative revelation which commands our obedience to salvation. The revelatory ‘plus’ communicates the revelation. The simple objective record, if recoverable, would be of no interest lacking, as it does, the revelatory ‘plus’.

As we have seen in the example in the last paragraph;
a) we cannot separate out the revelatory plus to leave an objective account of what happened and
b) even if we could such an objective account would be of no value. It would be like trying to show that the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ by scientific examination.

God’s revelatory acts in history are sacramental in the same way that sacraments are sacramental, that is, the truth of them is only discerned by faith. Only God’s revelation grasped in faith, and with that revelation communicated, can be for our salvation.

The record we have in Scripture is of events and facts grasped in faith and discerned as revelation, events which brought home profound truths to the people who witnessed them and took part in them. We cannot go behind the text to a position where we can read objective records of events and facts uninterrupted by the faith of the observer and recorder of the events. We do not have an account of these events from someone to whom they did not bring home profound truths. Digging around in the text, trying to come to such an objective account is a futile exercise. The question about the objective nature of the events cannot be reliably or even seriously answered except to say that in some events God acted to reveal himself and someone who discerned these events in faith as revelation recorded them as we have them.

I cannot seriously ask "What happened?" and expect a simple and unadorned answer just as I cannot ask "What sort of girl is she if a boy who loves her describes her like that?" and get a simple and unadorned answer. It is the same sort of futile and unanswerable question. One is simply whistling for the moon if one asks it and the answer will tell us nothing of value. The failure to apply this principle of asking the correct question constitutes the basic weakness of many schools of Biblical criticism. They exercise themselves over matters which are of no fundamental concern to the recorder of revelation, the Biblical writer, or to the believer. They are ultimately playing an irrelevant intellectual game; very clever but with no concern for salvation.

The Biblical account of the event or the expression of thought or of some other type of material to be found in the Biblical writings always contains the revelatory ‘plus’. That is why it is revelation. That revelatory ‘plus’ is what makes it authoritative revelation. The revelatory ‘plus’ cannot be separated out by us to leave an objective account. The truth of the revelation of God is in the event. If we could, by some means or another, separate out from the record of revelation an account of ‘what really happened’ it would have no value. The objective account, the objective report of the facts as they were seen, without faith, the history without interpretation, would not bring the revelation of God to us. It would not bring the non-believer to belief because it would lack a central element of the truth of the event. It would not be the whole story. The whole story is the record of the event with the revelatory ‘plus’. This alone is the whole truth and it is only the whole truth which can bring a person face to face with the revelation of God. It is precisely this whole truth which constitutes the authority of the Bible. Simple accounts of events without the revelatory plus have no value for the believer or the non-believer. They are not the whole truth. They have no more value than an objective account of the beloved. That objective account will not bring people who never meet her to love her or understand why she is beloved. The truth is in the poetry; the poetry is the truth. An objective account will not bring people to love the girl because it is not the truth of the girl. The truth is the account given in love and faith in which the reporter is part of the event, bound into the event or the person by faith and love.

Coloured cover, 314pages, size 215x140, paperback.

Additional Information

Author David Dale
Cover Soft
Width (mm) 215
Height (mm) 140

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