Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) -- Really?

In the original Reformation documents collected into one publication, The Book of Concord, the ‘Formula of Concord: The Epitome’, says the following:

“1. We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments alone, as it is written, “You word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105), and Saint Paul: “If… an angel from heaven should proclaim to you something contrary,… let that one be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8).”

The same book also says this:

“5. …we pledge ourselves also to the Small and Large Catechisms of Dr. Luther, as both catechisms are found in Luther’s printed works, as a Bible of the Laity, in which everything is summarized that is treated in detail in Holy Scripture and that is necessary for a Christian to know for salvation.”

An interesting pair of quotes that give rise to a simple question: why should I believe any document that tells me that Scripture alone is the infallible regula fidei (rule of faith) and yet, moves on to consider extra-biblical material (catechisms) binding and authoritative?

From a Catholic perspective, there’s no problem with the above scenario: one can consider traditional, binding doctrines as expressed in the catechism as equally authoritative to Scripture. From a Protestant perspective though – which is where the above quotes come from – only Scripture is binding and authoritative. So why would I care to consider a catechism? Or even an interpretation of biblical doctrines such as The Book of Concord purports to be?

Christopher J. Freeman

(Category: The Scriptures : Scriptural Authority)


Hidden One said...

It seems to me...

If you say that 'a' is True, and 'x' is 'a' by a different form, then 'x'=true.

So, if you say that the Bible alone is true, and that Luther's stuff is and is as the Bible, then it works. I think. It alll depends on the pre-existent assumptions.

~Hidden One~

Gregory said...

Paul, the problem there is only that along with Sola Scriptura, Martin Luther taught that any person was able to interpret those scriptures correctly for himself. Thus, holding a particular tradition to be binding, because it is the "correct" interpretation of Scripture, negates the second point of Luther's teaching on that subject.

Moreover, the point Christopher was making was simply, which is it? Only the Bible, or only Martin Luther's interpretation of the Bible? It's not exactly x=a.

From there, the question would come, what authority does Luther (or anyone, for that matter) have to interpret the Bible, that we should hold to their interpretation as binding? And it is that question that negates Sola Scriptura, because the Bible doesn't give the right of interpretation to everyone. Moreover, the lack of central authority stemming from Sola Scriptura has led to the numerous divisions within Protestantism.

Thus, the question of who can authoritatively interpret Scripture is itself a question that exists beyond the bounds of Sola Scriptura.