In this provocative study, Abraham (Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Perkins School of Religion) reviews the various criteria of truth Christian traditions have set forth, 'from the Fathers to feminism.' By Abraham's reckoning, the early Church didn't limit its canon to a single criterion, whether scripture or a combination of written and unwritten tradtion, but held to a quite broad and fluid sense of canon as a composite of many sources of the Faith. A canon (list) of Scripture weighed heavily, to be sure, but also a canon of saints, of doctrine, of Fathers-'a network of means of grace given by God to be received through the working of the Holy Spirit . . . a rich tapestry of materials, persons, and practices which are to function together in harmony for the welfare of the Church and for the salvation of the world.' With Aquinas there began a near obsession of theologians and philosophers thereafter to 'epistemize' or systemize canonical tradition, leading to a number of theological impasses, in both Catholic and Protestant contexts. In a complex but rich historical narrative, Abraham shows how the intuitive, universal canonical consensus of the early Church began to splinter, from the division between the East and the West and the development of the criterion of papal infallibility, the Reformation and the principle of Sola Scriptura, and so on through Descartes and Locke, Schleiermacher and Newman, Warfield and Hodge, Karl Barth and other twentieth-century projects toward epistemological reconstruction including feminism. Abraham concludes with a call for what might be called an epistemological humility, and dependence instead on that 'network of means of grace' classically described in many patristic writers and lived in the sacramental and liturgical life of the early Church. 508 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Standard accounts of canon reduce it to scripture and treat scripture as a criterion of truth. Scripture is then related in positive or negative ways to tradition, reason, and experience. Such projects mistakenly locate the canonical heritage of the church within epistemology, and Abraham charts the fatal consequences of this move, from the Fathers to modern feminist theology.