Monday, February 11, 2008

My Ramblings

Well, here are my ramblings...they are not as complete or organized yet so bear with me and be ready for some upcoming posts.

My View
Note: Here I will just give a brief recap of why I think Sola Scriptura is the best option. I will do this given the assumptions of both systems about apostolic authority and God’s active involvement in human history to give us what we need to know for our faith and growth in Him.

In the very beginning, oral tradition was extremely beneficial and acceptable for an oral culture because 1) There was a smaller group and the information did not circulate to nearly as many churches as it did later. 2) The apostles were still alive to correct misconceptions- and they did. 3) The information was fairly fresh since it was closer to the event.

Later, written tradition became necessary because 1) Over time, memory fails and in this case, the message was passed on to many different areas, cultures and people. 2) With written tradition, there was less room for corruption. 3) The apostles and eye witnesses were dieing and would soon no longer be around to correct misconceptions.

So, why do I think Scripture should be our final authority? I am committed to the idea that the closer one is to the source, the better. In the case of the writings of the apostles and ones closely connected to them, that is as close to the source as we can get. Since we no longer have the apostles here with us, it seems sensible to look towards their writings as our authority.

Further, we can trace these writings in the manuscript tradition and see little mistakes down the line. These mistakes came about even in the possession of the church, but we are able to look back down the line and isolate where the mistakes arose and make the necessary corrections. We have a document that is around 99% reliable. We can not say the same for the EO's particular oral tradition.

Interpretation
Note: This is only in regards to interpreting written tradition

Given that we both accept apostolic authority as from God to the apostles, we must now consider our reasons for thinking there is an added step. I say added because, approaching Scripture from a view of Church infallibility does not stop at saying “Scripture is infallible since it came from an apostle” (our view of infallibility is all based on apostolic authority and written tradition is not the thing in question). People advocating this view go a step further and claim that in addition to the very words of the apostles, the infallibility of the Church is needed to properly interpret the infallible documents.

Why add a step either way? Why need writings when the Church can direct us in the right way? Why need the infallibility of the Church if the inspired writers wrote with the set intention of making the mystery of God’s love known to us? Or wrote in the hopes of clearing up misunderstandings. This is not to say all details will be grasped- just as Church interpretations are not fully grasped by individual’s within the existing “infallible Church.” One must also wonder how conducive this view is to the exposure of errors within it’s system.

Also, how could one committed to the necessity of the Church’s interpretations recognize there is any inconsistency between Scripture and the views of the Church? After all, those exposing such inconsistencies or contradictions are heretical- protestants or ones living in rebellion to the one true apostolic Church. Church interpretations are correct and no matter what contextual or hermeneutical evidence is put forward, the interpretation stands.

Addition and Subtraction
The charges of possible missing books, conspiracies and added books are not only problems advocates of Scripture Alone are subject to. As far as the danger of tainting God’s sacred word goes, both of our systems are liable to the warning. The Protestant may be guilty of taking away from the canon and the “Holy Orthodox” Church of adding to it- just as those preaching circumcision among the Gentiles added to the grace of God.

"I, who advocate Scripture Alone claim that God, in His wisdom and foreknowledge, preserved His crucial message and has directed the canon process."

One could charge that there is no guarantee of such a thing without the infallibility of the Church to ensure a reliable canon. To this I could easily say: “Oh, but God is all powerful and in His goodness preserved this source of His infallible truth.” A person might dislike this answer. However, in response I could just as easily point out that there is no guarantee when it comes to the infallibility of the Church either, to which the person might respond, “Oh, but God is all powerful and in His goodness preserved this source of His infallible truth through the infallibility of the Church.” The problem remains and cuts both ways.

It seems that maybe we ought to look for practical and in some areas- material indications that something ought to be in our canon (given we both take the apostles to have spoken infallibly). I have given my reasons for believing Scripture alone is the best route to take. Now I need reasons to believe in the infallibility of the Church. Merely appealing to the desired goal will not cut it.

Are either or both systems in the wrong on some issues? Possibly, and even on matters apart from the content of the canon. In comparing the two systems, I propose those approaching this matter spend time in prayer before looking to see if: 1)there is any indication that the Church is infallible, 2) the nature of this infallibility or 3) If in the absence of Church infallibility one must necessarily leave either system for the other.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A language is a system of arbitrary symbols which derive meaning in a culture from consensus. -I trust that you understand this comment because we share the same system of symbols. Culture maintains such a consensus. English is one language which developed differently in various separate cultures throughout the world. An American has a difficult time understanding the English of an urban Nigerian; and the Nigerian, in turn has a difficult time understanding the Australian. Had English remained solely in England then all English speakers would have a strong consensus about the meaning of their arbitrary system of symbols. The culture in society maintain the consensus by which a language has meaning. What has this to do with the Sola Scriptura? Everything! The Scriptures, God's written system of symbols, maintain their meaning in a particular society of people called "The Church". The Church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (II Tim 3:15) because the Spirit of Truth dwells therein and we trust Christ's promise that the gates of Hades will not triumph over it. The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church lives, prays, venerates, chants, and depicts the Scriptures and understand them according the the historical and physical truth of Christ's coming. The good news is about a true, historical, and physical Person and the truth about Him is maintained in a true, historical and physical manner. Christianity is not a philosophy preserved in writings like the philosophy of Plato but it is a Faith lived upon the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Christ Jesus, our common Lord. Sola Scriptura seems to tend to degrade the Faith into a philosophy to be interpreted by whichever society picks it up.

Catz206 said...

Interesting. I guess the same could be said about the Hellenized world because they understood the language the New Testament was written in.

“The good news is about a true, historical, and physical Person and the truth about Him is maintained in a true, historical and physical manner.”

Amen :)

“Christianity is not a philosophy preserved in writings like the philosophy of Plato but it is a Faith lived upon the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Christ Jesus, our common Lord.”

I agree that it should not be reduced to a mere philosophy preserved in writings. After all, our common Lord Jesus calls us to action (John 15:12) and has sent us the Holy Spirit to transform and conform us to be like Him.

“Sola Scriptura seems to tend to degrade the Faith into a philosophy to be interpreted by whichever society picks it up.”

How so? And how does the EO or RC Church ensure this does not happen? Also, sorry about the delayed response. I do not check for comments as regularly as some might. God Bless.

Searching for the Church said...

For instance, what does the phrase "eat my flesh and drink my blood" mean?

There are (that I know of) five distinct interpretations of that verse. Transubstantiation, 'Real Presence,' Consubstantiation, Memorial, and the EO view, which I am less sure about, except that they also advocate some kind of 'Real Presence.' So you have Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, most other Protestants, Eastern Orthodox.

Each community disagrees (more or less) with the other. Each community agrees with itself, and the next generation of that community (if they stay, whether children or converts) agree with their parents, grandparents, etc. Each community is drawing from the same set of texts. Each community is examining the texts in the same context (the whole NT, the whole Bible, etc.).

However, a Low-Church Protestant is at a disadvantage compared to an EO/RC/Anglican.

Most Protestants are committed to saying, "The Word is sufficient to interpret itself, in whatever community" but has a hard time saying, "Your community is doing it wrong!"

A High Church-er is committed to saying, "The Word is insufficient to interpret itself, but must be interpreted in a community, namely this community" and therefore has an easy time saying, "Your community is doing it wrong!"

A Protestant Evangelical can't say "When in doubt, trust your pastor," without being (or at least sounding) self-refuting.

The Protestant Anglican however can say, "When in doubt, trust your pastor," without being self-refuting.

Make sense? That doesn't mean that the Oral Tradition people are right, it just means that they have an easier time regulating the community as they pick up the Holy Scripture, since there are big authoritarian pastors to tell them No.

As Protestants, we have to say, "Maybe you're right," and proceed to persuade them elsewhere in Scripture, or from common reason, or else we're sunk.

Catz206 said...

“Make sense? That doesn't mean that the Oral Tradition people are right, it just means that they have an easier time regulating the community as they pick up the Holy Scripture, since there are big authoritarian pastors to tell them No.”

Maybe the Scriptures aren’t needed for the lay people then? It might be just easier for the Church to tell them directly what to do or believe. Then again, maybe they have a more devotional role. What do you think?

“As Protestants, we have to say, "Maybe you're right," and proceed to persuade them elsewhere in Scripture, or from common reason, or else we're sunk.”

Yeah, its def easier to have someone tell you exactly what to believe and Scripture and common sense is where we would have to go.

As for Jesus’ statement, if we are looking in John, there is a pattern of the people constantly mistaking Jesus’ words to be literal when He is communicating Spiritual realities. Ex) Nicodemus, women at the well, disciples soon after…ect. It makes me wary of taking His proclamation to be literal.

Personally(there are a lot of these), I may upset people on all sides of the coin in that I am not too concerned over whether someone holds to Transubstantiation or not as long as they take it in remembrance of Christ and in the spirit of brotherhood as Paul says.