Scripture Alone

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Britta

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I’m curious to those who adhere to Scripture Alone as their sole authority. If Scripture is all that is needed, how and where does scripture support this?

Thanks.
Britta
 
I believe the crux of the matter is. Scripture doesn’t say anywhere that it is all that is needed. Indeed, there are several places where it either says oral tradition is also important or alludes to the fact. (2 John:12 and 3 John:13 are the latest that I’ve noticed…)

John
 
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Britta:
I’m curious to those who adhere to Scripture Alone as their sole authority. If Scripture is all that is needed, how and where does scripture support this?
As someone who is confessionally reformed, I don’t think it is the “only thing” needed. We would normally see the scriptures the sole normative infallible authority for doctrine in the church. However, we recognize the neccessity of secondary authorities and interpretation within the bounds of broad historical orthodoxy and accepted creedal positions.

That being said, we normally support this through a combination of scritpural passages, patristic authority, reason, and theological considerations (tradition, broadly speaking, would be part of this and the patristic category).

ken
 
II Paradox II:
As someone who is confessionally reformed
Hate to sound dumb, but what do you mean by “confessionally reformed?”
 
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Britta:
Hate to sound dumb, but what do you mean by “confessionally reformed?”
It’s a different way of saying I am Reformed and hold to the confessional positions of that tradition (i.e… the westminster confession).

ken
 
II Paradox II:
It’s a different way of saying I am Reformed and hold to the confessional positions of that tradition (i.e… the westminster confession).

ken
Thanks for sharing. I looked it up. It is new to me. It sounded very much like the Catholic Church’s teaching. I continue to be amazed at just how many different Christian groups there actually are. http://forums.catholic-questions.org/images/icons/icon3.gif

God Bless
 
Hmmm. The interpretation of Sola Scriptura has expanded. Once upon a time (at the time of Luther and Calvin and the Westminster Confession) the definition was considerably narrower than has been described here.

"The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men . . .(1:6) All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly expounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them . . . (1:7).

Sola Scriptura has been described as untenable, unworkable, and unbiblical, because it is not supported by Scripture. Perhaps its believers found that to be true, and that’s why the definition has now been broadened to take into account “traditions” and other sources. Protestant traditions, of course, because originally Sola Scriptura expressly excluded the Church or Sacred Apostolic Traditions as necessary for salvation. In fact, they were jettisoned all together in favor of Martin Luther’s 66-book cut version of the Bible.

I’m wondering how you would define “historical orthodoxy.” Whose orthodoxy? Which orthodoxy? Beginning from what date?

Interesting thread. Thanks.
 
Hmmm. The interpretation of Sola Scriptura has expanded. Once upon a time (at the time of Luther and Calvin and the Westminster Confession) the definition was considerably narrower than has been described here.
The definition I was using was expanded to address misconceptions and to give a better picture of the doctrine. This is done because challenges to the doctrine itself require further clarifications to insure a proper understanding and to further define how the concept is developed.

This should be a familiar process as Christians as a whole recognize historical instances of this same process in the development of the trinity. As the conciliar definitions were clarified over time, no one thinks they have been changed in essence, only “developed” in understanding in reaction to challenges from those who eny the doctrine.
"The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men . . .(1:6) All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly expounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them . . . (1:7).
And how does this contradict what I stated? Perhaps you would do better by examining the confession beyond just it’s section on holy scripture?
  1. For instance, chapter 31 on Synods and councils states as follows: “It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for teh power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word”
  2. or, for instance, article V. under the sectionon holy scripture which talks of our knowledge of scripture coming in part from th testimony of the church: "We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.[10] And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.[11]
    "
  3. Or for instance in article 6 :“and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed”
The point of all of these is that the reformed confessions recognize the secondary authority of traditions and reason in the church to govern things not explicit in the scriptures. We regard the scriptures as sufficient for salvation, but not exhaustive of every topic that may come up, hence our conciliar ecclesiology and our nods to the testimony of the church and “christian prudence” among other things.

Beyond the confessional issues, I think it is clear historically that the magesterial reformation churches were not self-consciously rejecting the gathered wisdom of the churches. If anything, their strongly Humanist background caused them to search out the early fathers and scriptures in an attempt to get back to the “golden age” of the patristic period in response to what they perceived as the compromised late-medieval church. You can see this in Calvin’s pattern of patristic cites in his work. He overwhelmingly quotes early fathers thousands of times in a positive sense while rarely quoting any medieval with respect (outside of Bernard of Clairvaux). (if you need references you can check out "John Clavin, Student of the Church Fathers by A.N.S. Lane)

ken
 
The second half of my post…
Sola Scriptura has been described as untenable, unworkable, and unbiblical, because it is not supported by Scripture. Perhaps its believers found that to be true, and that’s why the definition has now been broadened to take into account “traditions” and other sources.
This is a skewing of the history. If anything, the modern rejection of any older authority is a new phenomenon not present in the magesterial reformers. There are numerous scholarly works out there that discuss this to a great extent. Chapter 11 of Heiko Oberman’s book, " The Harvest of Medieval Theology" is a standard in this study.
*I’m wondering how you would define “historical orthodoxy.” Whose orthodoxy? Which orthodoxy? Beginning from what date? *
Historical Orthodoxy is being defined by the early creeds and councils. As you know, the Reformed and Lutheran churches accept them with the exclusion (partial or full) of the seventh ecumenical coucil. However, our churches (Rome and classical protestant churches) are still united on a broad sweep of theology from the early church that corresponds to the creeds.

ken
 
I mentioned Oberman, so I figured I’d post some of his book for those that do not have it. This come from pages 372-374 of “The Harvest of Medieval Theology”

*Tradition I, then, represents the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as understood by the Fathers and doctors of the Church. In the case of disagreement between these interpreters, Holy Scripture has the final authority. The horizontal concept of Tradition is by no means denied here, but rather understood as the mode of reception of the fides or veritas contained in Holy Scripture. Since the appeal to extrascriptural tradition is rejected, the validity of ecclesiastical traditions and consuetudines is not regarded as “self-supporting” but depends on its relation to the faith handed down by God in Holy Scripture

Thomas Bradwardine can be pointed out as one of the first outspoken representatives of Tradition I at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Though his references to the problem of Scripture and Tradition are relatively few and scattered, his emphasis on the exclusive and final authority of Holy Scripture is quite explicit. His position on this issue may well underlie his willingness to attack Occamistic Pelagianism despite his feeling that he stood alone over and against almost the whole church, even the curia.

John Wycliff was undoubtedly deeply indebted to Bradwardine on this issue. It was Tradition I that provided him with the tools he used to evaluate medieval doctrine critically. As we shall see, Huss and Wessel Gansfort must also be regarded as exponents of Tradition I.

The second concept of tradition, Tradition II, refers to the written and unwritten part of the apostolic message as approved by the church. Here it is not the function of the doctors of Holy Scripture but that of the bishops which is relatively more stressed. The hierarchy is seen to have its “own” oral tradition, to a certain undefined extent independent, not of the Apostles, but of what is recorded in the canonical books. Ecclesiastical traditions, including canon law, are invested with the same degree of authority as that of Holy Scripture. Leading spokesman for the nominalistic tradition such as Gerson, Occam, d’Ailly - and even more emphatically Beil - will be shown to champion the position of Tradition II.

A very sharp and most succinct formulation of Tradition II in contrast with Tradition I is given, not by a professional canon lawyer, but by Ambrosius Of Speier, unfortunately an almost forgotten Carmelite preacher. In a sermon published on the eve of the Reformation, he refers to the formulation of Gratian according to which the responsibilities between the doctors of Scripture and the Pope are divided in such a way that the interpretation of Holy Scripture is to be the task of the theologians, the decision of legal cases that of the papacy. His comment on this is, however, that such am answer should be taken with a grain of salt; then he adds with wry humor: you may rely on the doctors of Scripture in all matters regarding the interpretation of Scripture… unless it regards the sacraments and the articles of faith; since the power to interpret a dubious law has been granted not to the theologians but to the Pope. It is clear that he views Scripture as a divine law of which canon law is an integral part.

Until the beginning of the fourteenth century theologians defined their own task in the terms in which we have described Tradition I, while the enterprise related to Tradition II was more or less an appendix. Yet it was certainly not a sign of “late medieval disintegration” that more and more doctors realized that they had to come to terms with a dual concept of tradition. Rather it indicates theological progress in the period that as a result of their better understanding of the setting and context of biblical passages, more and more theologians either had to call for a doctrinal reformation or to abandon the claim to a biblical warrant for a particular doctrine. Special significance was thus attached to John 20:30: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book…”*

Oberman and others have tied Tradition I to the prereformation refomers such as wycliff and huss as well as the magesterial reformers such as Calvin and Luther. This tradition carried on into the conciliar creed of Westminster which we have been quoting.

ken
 
II Paradox II:
The definition I was using was expanded to address misconceptions and to give a better picture of the doctrine. This is done because challenges to the doctrine itself require further clarifications to insure a proper understanding and to further define how the concept is developed.
In reading the section on “The Harvest of Medieval Theology,” it is interesting to see the development of this doctrine. It seems the understanding of this doctrine started out one way and through development over time, is now a bit more defined to be actually closer to what the CC has always understood of tradition and scripture. Maybe, in time, it will be defined even closer.

The more we look into the faith alone doctrine, we find that again, it is being developed and is also closer to what the CC has always understood.
It’s similar, except that we would deny the church is infallible, though it is authoritative.
So we know we need both tradition and scripture. We also know that He promised not to leave us orphans (John 14:18).

If we go to all the theologians to understand scripture, and as we know, many vehemently disagree, how do I know which one is correct?
 
In reading the section on “The Harvest of Medieval Theology,” it is interesting to see the development of this doctrine. It seems the understanding of this doctrine started out one way and through development over time, is now a bit more defined to be actually closer to what the CC has always understood of tradition and scripture. Maybe, in time, it will be defined even closer.
I think you may be reading it wrongly (though it can be difficult without the rest of the chapter). Oberman’s point is that the patristic attitude towards scripture and tradition was different than that that eventually came to be enshrined in the Council of Trent. His point was that the older way of looking at scripture and tradition was that scripture was the highest authority and tradition was either the interpretation of that scripture or else a an oral version of the same truth scripture preached. This would be in contradistinction to those who were saying that scripture and tradition had different content (i.e… the scriptures don’t say anything about the assumption of Mary, but the oral tradition of the church does).
The more we look into the faith alone doctrine, we find that again, it is being developed and is also closer to what the CC has always understood.
I’m not sure about that either. I think if anything, the two positions have been seen to be closer than people thought because now we have had 500 years to calm down and really listen to each other. Again, most of the anathemas delived at Trent really didn’t address the reformation doctrines and some of the reformation critiques of Rome didn’t really address the bulk of Catholic teaching. In a lot of ways, our communions were going against teachings they did not fully understand. Not to say we don’t have real disagreements, but some of the things we think each other believe aren’t accurate and have divided us needlessly.
So we know we need both tradition and scripture. We also know that He promised not to leave us orphans (John 14:18).
Sure. We just disagree to what extent tradition matters, what the content of tradition is and whether it is infallible or not.
If we go to all the theologians to understand scripture, and as we know, many vehemently disagree, how do I know which one is correct?
a few things -
  1. We look back to the fundamentals of the faith as enshrined in the creeds and the scriptures. Simply put… some things are not worth dividing over and we simply will not figure them out. Some may say this is a cop-out, but every communion does this to some extent. For instance, Catholics are allowed to believe a wide range of ideas on predestination because a Pope resolved a long-running controversy over the issue by essentially declaring the question as one beyond human understanding and open to a plurality of theological views. IMO - far too many divisions have happened over things that should never have been given such prominence. The center of our faith is well defined and adhered to by virtually every Christian. Outside of this core, the burden of proof is much higher.
  2. You must study the scriptures for yourself and see on which side the scriptural teachings fall. If an issue is truly so murky that it cannot be determined either way, then it is our responsibility as Christians to defer to our brothers and strive for unity on the essentials we all agree on and avoid division over things which are beyond our knowledge.
  3. You can appeal to the church itself to make a judgement (not infallible, but authoritative) and submit in peace to the judgment of a plurality of church leaders. On this issue I would argue that a conciliar model is more appropriate than a papal one.
ken
 
Hey Ken,

How old did you say you were again? Reason why is because I don’t know whether to tell you that your posts were thoroughly informative, well thoughout and articulated - or - to just say that it was totally awesome dude (I shall refrain from saying that you’re ***DA BOMB ** *, although you really are dude 👍 ).

Peace,
CM
 
ChurchmouseHow old did you say you were again? Reason why is because I don’t know whether to tell you that your posts were thoroughly informative said:
, although you really are dude 👍 ).

Thanks.

As for age… I’m 29. Though I still reserve the right to wear flip-flops to work and play occasional online video-games, so you can probably say either one. 😃

ken
 
II Paradox II:
I think you may be reading it wrongly (though it can be difficult without the rest of the chapter).
I would like to read this in context, I’ll try to do that.
(i.e., the scriptures don’t say anything about the assumption of Mary, but the oral tradition of the church does).
Actually, there is evidence of this in scripture. Much like the Trinity, it is alluded to although not specifically spelled out.
We just disagree to what extent tradition matters, what the content of tradition is and whether it is infallible or not.
I believe scripture AND tradition were both inspired by the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit guides the Church, I’m going with the Holy Spirit as my final authority.
For instance, Catholics are allowed to believe a wide range of ideas on predestination because a Pope resolved a long-running controversy over the issue by essentially declaring the question as one beyond human understanding and open to a plurality of theological views.
I’m not completely sure about the predestination idea, but there are things the Church states that is not a required belief of its members. It’s not about 'having" to believe every single thing which has developed in the Church over the past 2000 years. The main Truths we believe are the doctrines and teachings which were passed down from the Apostles and Christ Himself. Nothing has been changed, altered, added, or deleted from in that area. One of them is the Scripture Alone idea. We didn’t even start out with a full set of books until almost 400 AD.
You must study the scriptures for yourself and see on which side the scriptural teachings fall. If an issue is truly so murky that it cannot be determined either way, then it is our responsibility as Christians to defer to our brothers and strive for unity on the essentials we all agree on and avoid division over things which are beyond our knowledge.
My point again is why would the Holy Spirit give us scripture but not a true succession of apostles to rely on for the proper interpretation of that scripture? If, as some say, He did, then which Church really has the right interpretation?
On this issue I would argue that a conciliar model is more appropriate than a papal one.
For me, where Christ is concerned, it is not a democracy to review and decide what makes the most sense.

BTW, thanks for your in depth explanations. It has shed much light on the subject.

😃
 
I would like to read this in context, I’ll try to do that.
It should help. The book can be quite difficult in parts, but the chapter (11) this comes from is relatively easy (The rest of the book focuses on things you probably don’t care about anyways…)
Actually, there is evidence of this in scripture. Much like the Trinity, it is alluded to although not specifically spelled out.
  1. The trinitarian doctrines are much more attested to than the Assumption both is quanitity and type. Comparing the two is probably a stretch.
  2. The Assumption is primarily derived from logical consequence from other Marian dogmas and the scriptural evidence presented is more of the “it doesn’t disallow for it” variety. This is in contradistinction to the trinitarian verses which appear many times and talk directly of their subjects.
I believe scripture AND tradition were both inspired by the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit guides the Church, I’m going with the Holy Spirit as my final authority.
And this is where we in large measure part company.
I’m not completely sure about the predestination idea, but there are things the Church states that is not a required belief of its members. It’s not about 'having" to believe every single thing which has developed in the Church over the past 2000 years.
This page gives a decent overview with a link to further study from Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”. But back to the point… My argument was simply that all groups draw lines at which dogma cannot be defined where we must bear with uncertainty even when one claims to have an infallible interpreter. We simply have a wider range of things that are open in this sense.
The main Truths we believe are the doctrines and teachings which were passed down from the Apostles and Christ Himself. Nothing has been changed, altered, added, or deleted from in that area. One of them is the Scripture Alone idea. We didn’t even start out with a full set of books until almost 400 AD
This is where we would disagree. I’m not sure this notion can be sustained. For instance, the early creeds summarized the doctrinal tradition in the early church. However, where are such dogmas as the Assumption or the Immacualte Conception in the creeds? What about papal infallibility?

Part of the reason why Development of Doctrine is asserted so often is to bridge the gap between the tradition of the early church and the doctrines we have now which don’t seem to fit them exactly or even closely.

Again, if you read the section by Oberman, he is arguing the exact opposite with regard to the relation of scripture and tradition - that during the early medieval period a shift occured away from Tradition I and towards Tradition II. As the reformation dawned, the reformed and Lutheran churches carried on the older Tradition I while Rome has in essence gone Tradition II while still tentatively holding on to the older tradition in some respects.

continued on next post…
 
My point again is why would the Holy Spirit give us scripture but not a true succession of apostles to rely on for the proper interpretation of that scripture? If, as some say, He did, then which Church really has the right interpretation?
  1. For one - he did give us a basic outline of the major truths of the faith in the creeds themselves. This was the tradition of the early church.
  2. Succession of bishops alone is not enough to guarantee truth. The OT history should prove this well enough and Christ’s statement that he could raise sons of Abraham from the rocks is germane here as well. Simply put, the succession of truth is the more important half of the equation. I would argue that the scriptures and the tradition of the early church go against seeing Rome’s succession as legitimate because it has strayed from the scriptures and the fundamental creeds while claiming it is the central authority of the faith.
  3. One final point here is simply that we must argue over what the church has actually been granted in a historical and biblical sense, not just rhetorical questions about which system gives better results. Theoretically speaking it is better to have the HS give us directions through one person who is infallible as this will produce far more certainty. But at a theoretical level an even better system would be for the HS to directly reveal to our minds his truth that way we wouldn’t have the infallible truth mediated to us through people, thus adding a layer of interpretation between us and the truth.
I would just argue that this is not the heritage the scriptures or the early church give to us. What you see instead is a general agreement on the fundamentals enshrined in the creeds and disagreements with more or less brotherly unity in those things outside of them with the arguments for doctrine based on the scriptures. I have no disagreement that Rome’s system is theoretically more certain, I just have a big problem with it being asserted as the teaching of the early church and the scriptures.
For me, where Christ is concerned, it is not a democracy to review and decide what makes the most sense.
It’s not being asserted as a democracy, but simply the fact that we need to make judgments for oursleves sometimes from the evidence God places before us. If you read Augustine’s work “De Doctrina Christiana” you will find he articulates many rules of interpretation we can use to make up our minds about the verses we read. He asserts further that when scripture is truly ambiguous and cannot be resolved by appeal either to either other clear verses or the “rule of faith”, one may interpret as he wishes within the broad bounds of orthdoxy. God gave us the scripture to be understood and used by Christians, not as a black box that can only be used by a ministerial class.

IMO - this is the closest explanation of the methodology of the early church and this is what has been passed down to us, not a reliance on infallible interpreters who go beyond the basic doctrinal foundation that was built from scripture and enshrined in the creeds.
BTW, thanks for your in depth explanations. It has shed much light on the subject.
You’re welcome. Have a good day… 🙂

ken
 
Hey Paradox, how’s that carpal tunnel syndrome feeling? I’d ask a question, but I’m afraid your hands will fall off…

Sorry, couldn’t resist…it’s good reading
 
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