As discussed in episode #69, there are at least three schools of thought within Eastern Orthodoxy concerning the atonement. What means do Christians have for weighing competing theological views? Is there an objective standard of truth by means of which we can judge such disputes? The current lecture posits that ratiocination must serve as the standard of truth for all Christians.
Ratiocination, lexically defined, means:
1. The process of exact thinking: REASONING.
2. A reasoned train of thought.
As is our wont in this series, we modify the lexical definition, stipulating that for our purposes ratiocination shall mean: “The logical, systematic interpretation of primary tradition by means of secondary and even tertiary tradition in those instances when primary tradition does not interpret itself.”
PRIMARY TRADITION consists of two things: the Bible and the tablet of nature. These are the ONLY elements of Holy Tradition that are inspired and inerrant. The Bible and the tablet of nature are data that unerringly reveal the word of God to mankind. Regrettably, data rarely construe themselves. In most instances, one has to construe primary tradition by means of secondary tradition.
SECONDARY TRADITION (also known as consensus) consists of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Church Fathers. Unlike the Bible and the tablet of nature, the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers are neither inspired nor inerrant. Nonetheless, the Church Fathers lived much closer to the time of the Apostles than we and the Seven Ecumenical Councils represent the consensus of thought among those early Fathers. Thus, one is warranted in using councils and Fathers to infer claims regarding unclear or disputed passages in the Bible.
TERTIARY TRADITION consists of liturgies, saints’ lives, iconography, pious practices, church architecture, and hymnody. These are uninspired sources and are of lesser authority than councils and Church Fathers. Therefore, they provide a much weaker warrant when inferring claims from primary tradition.
This lecture also discusses primary, secondary, and tertiary construal, diagramming how an argument moves from evidence to proof by means of such inference patterns.