The Dogmatization of the Bodily Assumption of Mary and the Appeal to History: A Brief Introduction to the Interpretative Differences between the Apostolic Churches and Protestant Skeptics

In my time spent observing the many Protestant critiques of Catholic or Orthodox Christianity, including my own which lasted just under 10 years, it is often thought by the Protestant skeptic that the founding credibility and verifiability of the faith contents of Catholicism or Orthodoxy (what I say below regarding Catholicism can, for all intents and purposes, be equally applied to Eastern/Oriental Orthodoxy) are fixed in what can be gleaned by investigating the surviving historical record. Practically, if we want to know what the grounds for belief in the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary is, we turn ourselves to the historical documents and artifacts of the past and see if we can accumulate the evidence to warrant that it was a belief held by the earliest Christians and thereafter going forward in the Church’s history to the present. If a sufficient warrant is given, then the Protestant might say, “Ok, I don’t believe it is a binding doctrine for me (i.e., sola scriptura), but I can, at least, see that it has a basis in the historical record for Catholics and Orthodox.” On the other hand, if there is scant evidence in the available record, or worse, significant variance from one author to another in what records are available, then it is often thought that such circumstances indicate the non-Apostolic origin of the belief in question (i.e., the bodily Assumption of Mary). For if a belief was Apostolic in origin, it would have been known and accepted by everyone. Ergo, in this case, it is thought that a particular doctrine, such as the bodily of Assumption of Mary as our working example, is not even sustainable as a Apostolic doctrine, let alone a position even held by the early Church. The underlying assumption here is that Catholics and Orthodox have the burden to prove that all their dogmatic beliefs are in sufficiently exemplified in the historical record in order for her criteria to be met as to what qualifies as Apostolic doctrine.

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