After at the first symposium we had considered the meaning and mission of the service in the church, devoted the second symposium to the fundamental question of God and at the third symposium considered the beautiful message of the redemption of us humans in Jesus Christ, is the question today. is about The relationship between the binding truth of faith and the further development of the Church’s teaching is the focal point of the symposium.
Development or change?
This is by no means an easy question, but one that can be easily misunderstood. Because how can the truth of faith be binding and at the same time open to further development? Isn’t this a contradiction? This question arises all the more because in the church, at least in our part of the world, the postulate of a further development of the church’s teaching is often raised, but further development is understood as change. Therefore, the question in question arises as to how the truth of our faith can be binding for God, if it can be changed by us humans at the same time, and what must consequently be understood in the right way by further development.
The decisive key to answering this complex question is found in the biblical quote in the title of the symposium: “I received from the Lord what I then passed on to you” (1 Cor 11:23). With this statement in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul confesses that he can only pass on to the Christian communities what he himself has received. So he writes in the 11th chapter about the proper celebration of the Eucharist: “For I received from the Lord what I then gave you: Jesus, the Lord, took bread the night he was delivered, said the prayer of thanks, broke the bread and said : “This is my body for you. Do this in memory of me.”
Resurrection and the Eucharist belong together
Likewise he took the cup after supper and said: This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this every time you drink it in remembrance of me!” (1 Cor 11,23-25). We find the same traditional formula again in chapter 15, where Paul talks about the resurrection: “For above all I have handed down. to you, which I also received: Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and was buried. He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5). Paul in Jerusalem knew the content of the two passages that are woven into the first. Letter to the Corinthians taught, and it had to go back to the 1930s, that is, shortly after the death of Jesus.
The two texts contain basic elements of Christian tradition regarding the resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of the Eucharist. For Paul, both mysteries of faith are inseparably connected, insofar as the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promising “beginning of a gift”, “which no longer ends”, and the Eucharist is “the present of the risen one, who in the signs of devotion constantly gives himself , and such is our life”. With these two texts, Paul unequivocally documents that he did not himself think or invent the essentials of the Christian faith, but that he received it. And this brings to light how Paul saw his mission of passing on the gospel, namely in the two movements of receiving and liberating.
The relationship between the truth of the faith and the further development of teaching
With the two verbs, and in this tight order, the topic of today’s symposium is touched upon. On this basis of the apostle Paul’s guidelines, the church has always shaped and deepened the relationship between the binding truth of the faith and the further development of teaching throughout its history. This is already evident from a glance at the basic processes with which the church was already constituted in apostolic times, and which are among its lasting essential features: The first basic process consists in the development of the canon of the Holy Scriptures, which towards the end of the second century led to some but has not yet come to a final conclusion. The Holy Scriptures in the double unity of the Old and New Testaments are a church book that arose from the tradition of the church and is passed down through it.
In selecting the scriptures which the Apostolic Church has accepted as Holy Scripture, the Church has used a standard which it has called regula fidei, the rule of faith. The fundamental creeds of Christianity constitute the real key to interpreting and transmitting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with their spirit. This is the second fundamental process of the apostolic church. Thirdly, the basic forms of worship, especially the celebration of the Eucharist, also go back to the Apostolic Church and belong to its tradition, in the conviction that the law of prayer and celebration is also the law of faith.
Four basic principles of the Apostolic Church
Finally, in the early church, the conviction of apostolic succession in the episcopate developed, which serves to faithfully transmit God’s revelation and the apostolic tradition. The canon of Holy Scripture, the rule of faith, the basic form of Eucharistic service and apostolic succession in the episcopate are the four fundamental facts of the apostolic church, which must not be isolated from each other, but belong inseparably together. These basic processes show how the interaction between receiving and sending happens in a harmonious way.
God’s revelation is primarily addressed to the Church, from where it is received and transmitted. Transmission of revelation in the tradition is a complex because living event. Tradition should not be understood simply as a quasi-mechanical transmission of inherited beliefs in the sense of archiving what happened. Rather, it is to be considered a “dynamic process” in which the traditional form of faith is “simultaneously reinterpreted and developed to suit the particular situation of the church” (Joseph Ratzinger).
Doctrine of faith must be handed down and interpreted in an understandable way at the same time
A legal and necessary further development of the doctrine of faith therefore has a significant reason why, on the one hand, God revealed everything in Jesus Christ that he wanted to say to us, and that the apostles fully witnessed the revelation, but that currently the other side, so it is not yet guaranteed that the full testimony in the church has also been fully received and understood.
Because of this distinction, the church is repeatedly faced with the task of handing down and interpreting the doctrine of faith in a way that is both true to the original and contemporary. The special mission of the episcopal and papal magisterium consists in the concern for the faith’s faithfulness to its origins. For hierarchy means “holy origin”. It has the task of protecting and passing on the “sacred origin” of the Christ event and to ensure that the necessary further development of the church’s doctrine takes place in the respective time in such a way that it remains true to its origin at the same time.
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