Sunday, November 7, 2010

Theology: Sola Scriptura?

There are groups of Christians who seem to believe that Christian doctrine emerges independently from the pages of Scripture. This emerges anew for each individual in an absolute way. Tradition and authority, and often reason, are obliterated. Often, these people refer back to the Reformers, particularly Luther, as the ones who broke us away from our slavery to these twin evils. Never mind that Luther would not have agreed with them (despite his famous statement about "sola scriptura.") Naturally, this radically modernist viewpoint leads to a thorough disdain for high churches that do venerate tradition and authority.

Taken to this extreme, "sola scriptura" becomes utterly absurd. Scripture, authority tradition and reason are all important parts of proper theology. Protestant tradition holds scripture to be primary, but it cannot logically be untangled from the other threads.

New Testament scripture was written by Apostles, or those who directly knew Apostles. In time, these works were taken up by the majority of the church, and eventually canonized. The canonizing of these works was not random, but based on certain criteria, namely, the aforementioned apostolic authorship, general acceptance by the church, and, additionally, consistency with the whole of scripture.

So what do we have here? Scripture is first written by foundational authorities (however inspired by the Holy Spirit), then enters into the church by tradition, and finally validated by further authorities on the basis of good reason.

Thus, though we should indeed hold tradition, authority and reason to be subservient to scripture, to reject them, one truly must reject scripture. The Bible is part of our world, part of our history, an incarnate presentation of the word of God, and it cannot be removed from that fact.
1. This post is modified from a comment I made in a thread on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. There's a follow up post over at my friends blog.

    P.S. He is right that he doesn't speak for me, and I do not agree with everything he says.