Friday, March 9, 2007

I stand alone on the Word of God

One of the key dividing points between Protestants and Catholics is the idea of sola scriptura, meaning by scripture alone. The Catholic belief is that of sola verbo dei (by the word of God alone), and prima scriptura (scripture first).

Obviously, no one believes that all truth is contained within the scripture. For example, it is true that I took my children for a walk today, the Bible does not deal with this at all. So what is supposedly contained in the scripture, all spiritual Truth? First I will say, all Truth necessary for salvation is contained within the Bible. The Catholic church would not dispute this. Honestly, all Truth necessary for salvation is probably obtainable given only any one of the four Gospels.

So what is the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic beliefs: Primarily that the Protestants say that the Word of God is Scripture while the Catholics say that it also contains sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the church. In scripture, God promises severe suffering to whoever would take away from or add to his Word. The Catholics say that the Protestants have taken away from it, the Protestants say the Catholics have added to it. Who is right.

First of all, on tradition. Not all tradition is Sacred. The Sacred tradition comes primarily from the early church fathers, 100 AD - 800 AD. Most protestants (myself included) no little or nothing about these church fathers. The earliest of these received direct apostolic teachings. Among the sacred traditions are the Nicene Creed and the Apostolic Creed, which are accepted by most protestants. How can that be? They support the most basic tenets of the Christian faith, and are easily supported by scripture. Huh? How is this different from prima scriptura? I don't know. So sola scriptura seems to be faltering.

The second part of sola scriptura deals with the interpretation of scripture. Luther claimed that scripture interprets scripture well enough for itself and did not need an interpreter. Therefore, if the Bible was available to the common man that would be enough. Now I have had many arguments about various Biblical passages to know that not everyone interprets things the same way. Moreover, the need for translation introduces greater propensity for human error, plus the translator often intentionally or not adds his own interpretation to the scripture by the words he chooses. To solve this confusion on can find a plethora of commentaries. We have at least a dozen commentaries. Besides this, there are volumes upon volumes of books on Christian living. Then we go to church on Sunday to here the preacher speak on some topic. Moreover, as members of a church we are expected to follow that churches doctrines or disciplines (which denomination you attend greatly affects the degree and type of disciples you are expected to follow). So if there is no need of an interpreter, then why on earth don't we just sit and listen to someone read the scriptures straight up with no additions or explanations.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church is able to rely on the pope and his bishops to interpret the scriptures. They can live by the Magisterium. Unfortunately, many Catholics have a lack of sufficient experience with and understanding of much of the Bible. This does not mean there is a flaw in basic doctrine.

Moreover, if the Bible was all there is. That would mean that God had stopped revealing himself to man. I know from personal experience this is not true. I have heard the voice of God.

So what is left of the sola scriptura argument then. "I don't believe that I should have to follow traditions not stated in the Bible and I should not have to submit to The Church's interpretation of the Bible."

I guess what I have always believed in is the prima scriptura argument. The Bible is the ultimate expression of God's word and nothing that is contrary to it can possibly be true. I think at least that most evangelical protestants would say the same thing.

Furthermore, the person who first steps out believing sola scriptura may easily lead himself to the heresy of solo (alone) which is that Truth is found only in an individual's interpretations (meaning that truth is different for everyone).

P.S. Praise God for sunshine and warm weather!!!!!

1 comment:

M LO said...

Wow... I have not checked blogs for a couple of days, so I was quite surprised to see these last two posts. I myself have often wondered what role the church fathers play in the theology of protestant denominations. I came to the conclusion that most Christians, Protestant or Catholic, would find truth in what the church fathers have to say. I based some of this evidence on the Nicene Creed, which, as you pointed out, many Protestants recite. The main proponent and defender of this creed was St. Athanasius who is respected by almost all Christians.

You also make another good point that many Catholics have not read or studied the Bible seriously. I could probably be counted among these, but I am trying to get better. Yet, I feel lucky that the mass is actually more Biblically based that what some would believe. We have at least one Old Testament reading, One New Testament reading, one Gospel reading, and one Psalm per Mass. In fact, I have been told that if one attends mass every day for four years, they will have heard the entire Bible read. This of course does not mean that we should not read the Bible on our own. I think it was Pope Pius XII (don't quote me on the specific pope)who said that special graces would be bestowed upon those who just read the Bible for 15 minutes a day.

Finally, you made a most poignant point about God speaking to us. If we adhere to sola scriptura, it does make it more difficult to explain when we ourselves have heard the voice of God. It is important to remember that God did not stop speaking to his people when the final page of the Bible was written.

Look for a comment from me on your previous post as well.