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)