Is the Canon Dogma, or Doctrine?


#1

I understand that some matters of faith are considered to be Dogma, such as the divinity of Christ. Other matters are defined infallibly as doctrine, such as that only men can be ordained, but not as Dogma. (Hope I am expressing that correctly). What about the Canon of Scripture? For instance, the Church has defined the New Testament as these specific 27 books, and furthermore, closed that Canon.

How would the Church regard that? Is the choice of books, and the closure of Canon, a matter of Dogma, or in the general category of infallibly defined doctrine, or some other classification? Is there a difference between the Canon of Scripture in general, and the NT Canon in particular? I ask that, because Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians seem to be only moderately concerned about differences in the OT Canon, with some books in a gray area; but I think most Christians across the board would be outraged at adding or subtracting books to the NT, especially adding/subtracting a gospel. (That is starting to happen in a few places now).


#2

The short answer is: the Canon is a dogma because it was declared with an anathema in Session 4 of the Council of Trent. That session listed the current books of the Catholic Canon and said, “But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts…let him be anathema.”

The long answer is: you haven’t correctly defined the terms dogma and doctrine. A dogma is a specific type of doctrine. It is a doctrine that has been infallibly defined either by an ecumenical council or by a pope.

A doctrine that has been infallibly defined is a dogma. A doctrine that has not been infallibly defined is not a dogma. A doctrine, when the term is used by itself, simply means a teaching. A teaching can be either true or false. It is false if it is taught by heretics, it is true if it is taught by the Church. All the Church’s doctrines come from Christ, and are therefore true, but they are only defined when a controversy arises over their interpretation that can cost people their souls. At that point they become dogmas.

An example is the Incarnation. The fourth ecumenical council defined that the Incarnation preserved the two natures of Christ “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Before this was declared dogma, there were several attempts to understand how the divinity of Jesus was related to His humanity. The Church intervened because it saw that this could cost people their souls.

Re: the Incarnation - If Christ’s divinity was changed into humanity by the Incarnation, as some proposed, then Jesus was no longer God after the Incarnation, and as man only He could not save us. And if Christ’s divinity destroyed His humanity in the Incarnation, as others proposed, then Jesus was never a man, and could not have taken our place on the Cross. Therefore the Council declared that His humanity and His divinity were both preserved in the Incarnation, so that He could save us as God, and offer atonement as man.

This doctrine of the Incarnation is ancient and can be found in the New Testament. Its definition came only because a controversy arose about it that could cost people their souls. This is an example of how a doctrine becomes a dogma.

The Canon of Scripture, as a doctrine, also goes back to the Apostles, who used the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and largely wrote the New Testament. The Canon became controversial in the Reformation period. At that point, the Church intervened, and the ancient doctrine was defined as dogma by the Council of Trent.

I hope that helps. God bless!


#3

Very good answer!


#4

dmar198 #2
A doctrine that has been infallibly defined is a dogma. A doctrine that has not been infallibly defined is not a dogma.
All the Church’s doctrines come from Christ, and are therefore true, but they are only defined when a controversy arises over their interpretation that can cost people their souls. At that point they become dogmas.

This needs to be corrected to the real teaching of the Church – we need to understand the modes of teaching on dogma and doctrine.

The question of doctrine and dogma:
From Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus), for infallibility to be exercised the Pope must teach
(a) ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter), that is as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians,
(b) speaking with Peter’s apostolic authority to the whole Church,
© defining a doctrine of faith and morals.

So the Pope’s ‘ex cathedra’ definitions may be either of revealed dogma, to be believed with divine faith, or of other truths necessary for guarding and expounding revealed truth. Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Magisterium have explicitly affirmed that both ecclesial and papal infallibility extend to the secondary doctrinal truths necessary for guarding and expounding revelation. Thus *Humanae Vitae *(Encyclical) against contraception, and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Apostolic Epistle) on male-only priests, contain infallible doctrinal definitions, to remove all doubt.

Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, 25) reaffirms this teaching: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.” Vatican II, reiterated the teaching of Vatican I on papal infallibility, and its documents are readily available [from the EWTN Library (http://www.ewtn.com/vlibrary/search.asp, or the Vatican Library) for anyone with the will to know what Christ’s Church is teaching, like most of the documents of Vatican I, and the papal documents before and since Vatican II

Thus, no dogma has to be affirmed, nor anyone anathematized, nor the word “define” or “definition” be used for an infallible papal teaching – only that the Pope is handing down a certain, decisive judgment that a point of doctrine on faith or morals is true and its contrary false.

Pope Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter *Ad Tuendam Fidem *defines the three levels of teaching in dogma and doctrine:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium *25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on Ad Tuendam Fidem by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]
[ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM]](http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM])


#5

, or the Vatican Library) for anyone with the will to know what Christ’s Church is teaching, like most of the documents of Vatican I, and the papal documents before and since Vatican II

Thus, no dogma has to be affirmed, nor anyone anathematized, nor the word “define” or “definition” be used for an infallible papal teaching – only that the Pope is handing down a certain, decisive judgment that a point of doctrine on faith or morals is true and its contrary false.

Pope Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter *Ad Tuendam Fidem *defines the three levels of teaching in dogma and doctrine:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium *25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on Ad Tuendam Fidem by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]
[ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM]](http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM]) Thank you for the clarification Abu. Do you know of any practical tips for determining whether a doctrine belongs to the second category or the third?


#6

dmar198 #5
Thank you for the clarification Abu. Do you know of any practical tips for determining whether a doctrine belongs to the second category or the third?

The following gives examples which will help, and the URL link works:
**DOCTRINAL COMMENTARY ON THE CONCLUDING FORMULA OF THE PROFESSIO FIDEI **
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
[This commentary was issued coincident with the promulgation of “Ad tuendam fidem” by Pope John Paul II, modifying the Oriental and Latin codes of canon law.]
1998, the Solemnity of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Also:
**Answer by David Gregson of EWTN on Nov-22-2002: **
“You are correct in stating that the Pope exercises his charism of infallibility not only in dogmatic definitions issued, ex cathedra, as divinely revealed (of which there have been only two), but also in doctrines definitively proposed by him, also ex cathedra, which would include canonizations (that they are in fact Saints, enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven), moral teachings (such as contained in Humanae vitae), and other doctrines he has taught as necessarily connected with truths divinely revealed, such as that priestly ordination is reserved to men. Further details on levels of certainty with which the teachings of the Magisterium (either the Pope alone, or in company with his Bishops) may be found in Summary of Categories of Belief.”


#7

, or the Vatican Library) for anyone with the will to know what Christ’s Church is teaching, like most of the documents of Vatican I, and the papal documents before and since Vatican II

Thus, no dogma has to be affirmed, nor anyone anathematized, nor the word “define” or “definition” be used for an infallible papal teaching – only that the Pope is handing down a certain, decisive judgment that a point of doctrine on faith or morals is true and its contrary false.

Pope Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter *Ad Tuendam Fidem *defines the three levels of teaching in dogma and doctrine:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium *25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on Ad Tuendam Fidem by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]
[ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM]](http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM])
Based on the 3 above categories, under which would fall the Church’s designation of the Canon - in other words, the decision to Open the Canon (and add a New Testament to the existing, still inspired Scriptures); the designation of these specific 27 new books - and the declaration that the Canon is now closed?


#8

commenter #7
Based on the 3 above categories, under which would fall the Church’s designation of the Canon - in other words, the decision to Open the Canon (and add a New Testament to the existing, still inspired Scriptures); the designation of these specific 27 new books - and the declaration that the Canon is now closed?

As the Canon of Sacred Scripture has been defined by the Church nothing may ever be added to it.

The books that actually are the inspired Word of God was decided by Pope Damasus at a Council of Rome in 382, and this has been irreformable, confirmed at the Councils of Hippo, 393, Carthage III 397, Carthage IV in 419 and canonised at the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1563).

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 01-01-2009 (EWTN)
At the Council of Trent in 1546, the Council Fathers gave formal definition of the Canon of the Bible (while declaring the Vulgate to be authentic), promulgating a list of the books accepted as entirely canonical in the decree Sacrosancta.

It is important to remember what is meant by definition. The Council of Trent did not invent some list of books. Rather, it considered the accepted canons and affirmed them.
ewtn.com/vexperts/showresult.asp?RecNum=565116&Forums=0&Experts=103&Days=2009&Author=&Keyword=Council+of+Trent+in+1546&pgnu=1&groupnum=0&record_bookmark=3

Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent
The Fourth Session

“But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.”
bible-researcher.com/trent1.html

The formation of the New Testament canon (A.D. 100-220)
The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until** the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council**.
newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm

Did the Council of Trent Change the Church?
The word anathema is a Greek word meaning to separate, suspend or set aside.
The Church does cut off or excommunicate Catholics who consciously and publicly deny the canons of Trent because the canons affirm the teachings of Christ. These Catholics are welcomed back when willing to be reconciled with the Church’s teachings.
tinyurl.com/o7r3kml


#9

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