So, what came first, the Church or Scripture? Often, this kind of question is leveled at the Protestant in the hope that he or she will have to grudgingly admit- “the Church.” While some might dread such an answer, they shouldn’t. There was definitely an oral tradition circulating among believers prior to the New Testament, but the question that should be asked is “does this mean that the Church is what gives something infallible authority.”
When speaking with several Orthodox friends of mine, I have noticed that the question is often posed in order to show that Christianity was able to exist prior to the compilation of the New Testament documents and so the Church community is the necessary ingredient and not Scripture. However, I have a problem with this setup. My reasons for accepting the Scripture as the only infallible guide to faith and practice lies in its source- the apostles. After all, it was to the apostles that Christ promised to guide into all truth (John 16) and send the Holy Spirit to bring back to remembrance all that He said (John 14). I don’t have a problem with the existence of a prior oral tradition before the apostles (or those closely connected to them) wrote down their teachings. My concern is in actually receiving the apostolic word. And Scripture best preserves this for our time (see “By Whose Authority” posts).
It may be brought to the Protestant’s attention that an authoritative body was needed in order for the New Testament Scripture to be brought together. I would agree. However, it need not be agreed that the authoritative body must be infallible. Doing so would add another unnecessary step. What makes Scripture infallible? If the answer is an infallible Church, then what makes the infallible Church infallible? Whether one is Eastern Orthodox or Protestant, infallibility ultimately goes back to God through the apostles. The Protestant position simply eliminates the middle man in the infallible chain.
Hopefully, this will spark some good discussion