Thursday, September 4, 2008

sola scriptura or sola ecclesia or NEITHER

Many scholars have called Sola Scriptura the formal principle undergirding the Protestant Reformation.

As such, for me the study of Catholicism centered around understanding Sola Scriptura and the evidence for and against it.

If you were to ask me what the strongest passage supporting Sola Scriptura was (as a dedicated Presbyterian), I would respond without thought that 2 Timothy 3 was the key.

Let's read what Paul has to say to Timothy on the importance of Scripture.

14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

As a former advocate of Sola Scriptura, I would point out that the Scripture is useful for so much: teaching rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness. The end result, you ask? We will be come a thoroughly equipped person of God ready for every good work.
If we're ready for every good work, how could anything else be needed in our lives? Surely all we need is Scripture?

Now, there are many considerations that have led me to challenge this, such as answering the basic question of what Scripture IS in the first place, but another important consideration/angle came to my while reading a book by Dave Armstrong.

Read this clip of a passage and tell me if you do not see a similar sufficiency from something else.....Imagine Ephesians was somehow destroyed so that the first part of this chapter was destroyed, and we were left with a scroll describing the consequences of some action, but that action (or book) was unclear due to the destruction of the manuscript. We would read:

".........12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

We see an even fuller declaration of some amazing thing that provides for the full equipping of individuals and these individuals comprising the body of Christ in general to grow up in maturity, but if the manuscript were torn, we would be left to wonder: what caused all of these amazing things? Was this another affirmation of Sola Scriptura?

Well, thankfully, the manuscript was not torn. But at the same time, to the Protestant's dismay, what we read does not speak to the paradigm that a written text is all-sufficient. For we read:

"11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service...."

Here the full read of Paul's argument to the Ephesians shows us that it is the provision of Church Leadership, from apostles down to teachers, that provides all of those amazing blessings.

So what are we to conclude? Would Ephesians alone lead us to say that it's only the Church Leadership that provides us a stable foundation of truth? Well, maybe, but thankfully we have all of the Scriptures to understand that the Scriptures also play an important role.

Thus, just as 2 Timothy does not provide for a paradigm of Sola Scriptura, neither does Ephesians 4 make us think that it is only the Church that gives us truth, as though that occurred apart from the Word of God.

Rather, as custodian of the Word of God, the Church can tell us what is reliable and what is a good interpretation of that Word.

Thank you Lord, for your Word and the leaders that you appointed!

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