So what doctrines do “we” hold? Or, what are the chief sources of authority for deciding doctrinal issues?
Folks who’ve been here a while know that I love to go back to Lancelot Andrewes on this one: 1 Canon, 2 Testaments, 3 Creeds, 4 Councils, 5 centuries and the Fathers who taught therein. And yet, as I look this list over, I find myself embarrassed by my general ignorance of the teachings of those four Ecumenical Councils. I know our major Christological definitions are in there–but what else? Furthermore, according to the classic Elizabethan Settlement,an Anglican heretic is one who contradicts these four Councils, making them a pretty important touchstone for what “we” believe.
So what do we do about this? There’s an ancient solution–or at least a big step in the right direction–for those who slept through the Ecumenical Council class in seminary or who didn’t have one altogether (yours truly among them). There’s a summary of the canons of the first seven councils (those recognized by the Romans, Orthodox, and Anglo-Catholics) called the Ancient Epitome which gives a line or two to indicate what each canon is up to. And–these are both contained and translated in the NPNF volume on the Councils.
It would be a relatively easy task to:
- Download the flat file of this volume from CCEL.org
- Write a macro/VBA script that would search for the text “ancient epitome” and then copy the paragraph where that was found and the next paragraph (i.e., the title, then the contents)
- Proofread for accuracy and clarity
- Add “new” epitomes for the ones that are unclear
- Format for ease of reading and reference
- Construct a thorough index/cross-reference
- Distribute as a PDF/Lulu Press publication
On the other hand–such a thing may already exist and I just don’t know about it…