Are we attacking the wrong sola scriptura?

Recently in looking at books online I have come across a very interesting book that gives a new (or possibly, traditional) understanding of sola scriptura.

The book is The Shape of Sola Scriptura, and its author, Keith A. Mathison, makes the argument (I have yet to read the book, but this is what I’ve read from numerous reviews) that the understanding most evangelicals have of sola scriptura is flawed, and that evangelicals should return to the sola scriptura of Reformation times. According to him, modern evangelicals have mostly disregarded the importance of the church and its traditions, and instead have created a system by which an individual decides how to read Scripture and how it should be interpretted.

Anyhow, although I have yet to buy the book, it sounds very interesting, especially in how it declares that, besides the Scripture itself, one needs a Rule of Faith determined from Church tradition, which instructs one in how to read the Scriptures.

I would imagine that this books presents a more formidible representation of sola scriptura, and I wonder if people on these forums have read this book, and if they have, what they thought about the work.

[quote=Madaglan]Recently in looking at books online I have come across a very interesting book that gives a new (or possibly, traditional) understanding of sola scriptura.

The book is The Shape of Sola Scriptura, and its author, Keith A. Mathison, makes the argument (I have yet to read the book, but this is what I’ve read from numerous reviews) that the understanding most evangelicals have of sola scriptura is flawed, and that evangelicals should return to the sola scriptura of Reformation times. According to him, modern evangelicals have mostly disregarded the importance of the church and its traditions, and instead have created a system by which an individual decides how to read Scripture and how it should be interpretted.

Anyhow, although I have yet to buy the book, it sounds very interesting, especially in how it declares that, besides the Scripture itself, one needs a Rule of Faith determined from Church tradition, which instructs one in how to read the Scriptures.

I would imagine that this books presents a more formidible representation of sola scriptura, and I wonder if people on these forums have read this book, and if they have, what they thought about the work.
[/quote]

Well, here’s the thing: it would not be truly “sola” scriptura if you added in Church Tradition. Once you add in Church Tradition, the argument becomes easy. Which Church’s Tradition is the right one? Well, which Church is the only one with Tradition? Why the Catholic Church (I guess the orthodox would have a claim too, but Catholic v. Orthodox is a whole other argument). I’m sure I’ve oversimplified things :o .

Greg Krehbiel did a review of Mathison’s book.

[quote=Madaglan]Recently in looking at books online I have come across a very interesting book that gives a new (or possibly, traditional) understanding of sola scriptura.

The book is The Shape of Sola Scriptura, and its author, Keith A. Mathison, makes the argument (I have yet to read the book, but this is what I’ve read from numerous reviews) that the understanding most evangelicals have of sola scriptura is flawed, and that evangelicals should return to the sola scriptura of Reformation times. According to him, modern evangelicals have mostly disregarded the importance of the church and its traditions, and instead have created a system by which an individual decides how to read Scripture and how it should be interpretted.

Anyhow, although I have yet to buy the book, it sounds very interesting, especially in how it declares that, besides the Scripture itself, one needs a Rule of Faith determined from Church tradition, which instructs one in how to read the Scriptures.

I would imagine that this books presents a more formidible representation of sola scriptura, and I wonder if people on these forums have read this book, and if they have, what they thought about the work.
[/quote]

Yes, it is a very good book that represent the historic and scholarly Evangelical concensus about sola Scriptura. The only thing that I fault Keith on is broadbrushing those who hold to the false view (solo scriptura–notice the “o”) as those of the general Evangelical tradition today. It is primarily the lay folk and fundementalistic outlook that he is attacking, which he does a GREAT job. Most all evangelicals would agree with his assesment.

That is why you have heard me say numerous times on this forum that most are attacking a confession of sola Scriptura that does not represent that of the Reformers nor the evangelical consensus (straw man).

That is primarily the reason why I started this thread back in Dec.:
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=23902&highlight=michaelp

Sola scriptura has NEVER meant that Scripture is the only authority, only that it is the only INFALLIBLE authority. Traditions has always been an authority in the Evangelical tradition.

Luther’s trilateral view of authority (Scripture, Tradition, Reason)
and Wesley’s quadrilateral view of authority (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience) both evidence that Reformed and Arminian views held great respect for the authority of other souces in our lives. It was only the Anabaptist tradition and the restorationist movements in the 19th and 20th centuries (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, etc) that outright rejected tradition as an authority in any sense.

Thanks for sharing this. Maybe it will have a greater impact coming from you,

Michael

I can see where they are coming from, as I was reading a post on my bass fishing forums…one guy was giving his testimony on how his parents foreced him to church when he was younger, and would punish him for breaking the rules of his faith (not catholic).

The other guys chimed in about letting go of the church, and just begin a relationship with Jesus. That’s all you need according to them.

Most have said that their life is better after doing so…I guess a little is better than nothing at all…

[quote=michaelp]Yes, it is a very good book that represent the historic and scholarly Evangelical concensus about sola Scriptura. The only thing that I fault Keith on is broadbrushing those who hold to the false view (solo scriptura–notice the “o”) as those of the general Evangelical tradition today. It is primarily the lay folk and fundementalistic outlook that he is attacking, which he does a GREAT job. Most all evangelicals would agree with his assesment.

That is why you have heard me say numerous times on this forum that most are attacking a confession of sola Scriptura that does not represent that of the Reformers nor the evangelical consensus (straw man).

That is primarily the reason why I started this thread back in Dec.:
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=23902&highlight=michaelp

Sola scriptura has NEVER meant that Scripture is the only authority, only that it is the only INFALLIBLE authority. Traditions has always been an authority in the Evangelical tradition.

Luther’s trilateral view of authority (Scripture, Tradition, Reason)
and Wesley’s quadrilateral view of authority (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience) both evidence that Reformed and Arminian views held great respect for the authority of other souces in our lives. It was only the Anabaptist tradition and the restorationist movements in the 19th and 20th centuries (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, etc) that outright rejected tradition as an authority in any sense.

Thanks for sharing this. Maybe it will have a greater impact coming from you,

Michael
[/quote]

Hello all-

MichaelP and I have “run a few laps” on this target and although we don’t seem to quite mesh in our thinking we respect those differences of opinion. Please pardon the conspicuous sarcasm that follows here…

Well what do you know? The concept of Sola Scriptura has “evolved” and all those who adhere to it don’t all mean the same thing by it. Hmmmm - who do we side with?
Please explain what “infallible” Scripture means and how we know how to apply it to our lives. Is it an accessible reality or just a state of being independent of our understanding of it? I was under the impression that Scripture was inerrant. I’m just a stupid Christian, like most, and Scripture confuses me. Am I supposed to be listening to other people as well as Scripture itself or what?
How do I know who to listen to? Is it spelled out in Scripture?

Phil

Another reason why there is no such thing as protestant doctrine they can’t even agree upon the stuff they make up. They have multiple interpretation on every doctrine you can think of even sola scriptura.

They often accuse catholics of proposing false arguments. Not is not the case at all. There are so many defintions of the err correct protestant faith that we can’t possibly present every defintion they claim to be the correct protestant interpretation.
What church tradition is right? What defintion of x doctrine is right?
WHo determines what is correct doctrine. Since protestants can’t agree on which church and which interpretation of x,y, or z doctrine the dialogue is very difficult for us as we are expected to know thier interpretation out of the supposedly thousands of correct biblical interpretations.

Luther believed in the Real Presence till the day he died.

Yet modern Catholic-bashers think the Real Presence was a freakish view maintained only by the “Roman Church.”

What you’re saying now is that Sola Scriptura has morphed in the same way into just another Catholic-bashing tool by modern protestants.

Sad.

Thank you everyone for your posts. It is interesting that most evangelical churches still believe that the church and church traditions are important, albiet not infallible.

While it seems (at least from what I gather so far) that sola scriptura is more complicated than it would seem to many non-evangelicals.

I have a question that I hope michaelp can answer. I now understand that many evangelicals are not the “tradition-haters” that many non-evangelicals believe them to be. In your last post you wrote:

Sola scriptura has NEVER meant that Scripture is the only authority, only that it is the only INFALLIBLE authority. Traditions has always been an authority in the Evangelical tradition.

Ok, so we are to understand that 1) Scripture is the only INFALLIBE authority, and 2) There are other authorities, even though they are not necessarily infallible.

My question is: If only Scripture is INFALLIBLE, then how does one know, with infallible certainty, that one has the complete Word of God in the Scriptures, or that one does not have books in the Scriptures that are not inspired? In other words, how does one know the canon with infallible certainty? If the church and church traditions are seen by evangelicals as authorities (but not infallible authorities), how can the evangelical rely on them to give him the canon?

It seems that, in order for sola scriptura to completely work for evangelicals, they must first presuppose that the Scripture (viz. the Bible of the Protestant canon) is the only infallible source of faith, and furthermore, that other works written during the 1st and 2nd centuries (like the widely accepted* Shepard of Hermas) *and the deuterocanonical works are not inspired. To avoid this presupposition, its seems that one has to use the authority of the church to determine the canon. If the church does not have infallibility, how do we know if it correctly identified the canon in the first place!

Anyhow, I hope you don’t take offense at this question; but this is one of the major problems I have with the idea of sola scriptura–that is, how one infallibly recognizes the complete written Word of God.

Madaglan,

You’re assuming that an infallible source of authority must depend on another infallible source of authority. But that leads to infinite regress. Both sides get themselves hopelessly bogged down as long as they presuppose that they need infallible authority in order to know the truth about God. We believe Scripture to be infallible not because we must have infallible authority in order to be certain of the truth, but simply because it is inspired by God and God doesn’t inspire error. It isn’t an epistemological problem at all–it’s simply a corollary of saying that Scripture is the inspired word of God. Protestants don’t believe that any decrees of the Church are the Word of God in that sense, and hence don’t believe that the Church is infallible. That is to say, there is no organ or structure of the Church that can be depended on not to err. That does not mean that historic decisions of the Church can’t be trusted as true and reliable.

In short, why do you think we need to know things with infallible certainty in the first place?

In Christ,

Edwin

[quote=Madaglan]. . . . . that the understanding most evangelicals have of sola scriptura is flawed, and that evangelicals should return to the sola scriptura of Reformation times.
[/quote]

It could probably be a step in the right direction. Start with something that all the reformers believed, like Mary’s perpetual virginity, then work their way through pergatory and transubstantiation.

Let’s push it.

[quote=Contarini]Madaglan,

You’re assuming that an infallible source of authority must depend on another infallible source of authority. But that leads to infinite regress. Both sides get themselves hopelessly bogged down as long as they presuppose that they need infallible authority in order to know the truth about God. We believe Scripture to be infallible not because we must have infallible authority in order to be certain of the truth, but simply because it is inspired by God and God doesn’t inspire error. It isn’t an epistemological problem at all–it’s simply a corollary of saying that Scripture is the inspired word of God. Protestants don’t believe that any decrees of the Church are the Word of God in that sense, and hence don’t believe that the Church is infallible. That is to say, there is no organ or structure of the Church that can be depended on not to err. That does not mean that historic decisions of the Church can’t be trusted as true and reliable.

[/quote]

I don’t believe that this issue is the “killer blow” that some believe it to be, so I hesitate to discuss it in such a way.

You are correct in stating that the inerrancy of the content of scripture is a consequence of its authorship. It is inerrant because God “co-authored” it. I agree with that. Most Catholics would agree with that. But it misses the point. The issue is one of discovery and determination. God inspired certain texts, but which texts? An infallible determination of the identity of scripture allows you to be maximally certain that the content you have before you is an inspired work of God. So, in fact, it is related to epistemology. When an external body has determined the identity of scripture, you can know that is scripture.

It is a complex issue on which many gifted, faithful and open minded people have disagreed.

[quote=Contarini] In short, why do you think we need to know things with infallible certainty in the first place?
[/quote]

Infallibility, it also is a very complex issue. I like to view infallibility as analogous to the steel columns and girders that form the skeleton of skyscrapers. You don’t need to see the steel skeleton with absolute clarity for it to perform its function. In fact you don’t even need to know its there. But it is essential to prevent the building from collapsing. Infallibility is like a steel skeleton surrounding a doctrine or subject matter. We can never know anything infallibly. But infallibility acts as a steel skeleton within which we place our human certainty. Without it, our arguments collapse into relativism.

Infallibility can be looked at in at least two ways: as a consequence of it coming from God, and also as a means to an end (that end being the maximal certainty of followers). Both can be true at the same time, that is, the infallibility that comes from Gods truth allows us a solid foundation on which to base our maximal certainty.

Protestants believe that the ‘steel skeleton’ of infallibility of scripture is a sufficient support their faith whereas Catholics believe that the ‘steel skeleton’ of infallibility of scripture and Catholic dogma is a necessary support for faith.

So to answer your question from my perspective, we can’t know things with infallible certainty, but infalliblity is still essential because it acts as a framework for our faith. It narrows the scope of possible options. It has a real effect on our beliefs because we cannot depart from it too much without straying into unreasonableness, illogic and internal incoherence.

[quote=Contarini](Sir_William’s reply in red)
Madaglan,

You’re assuming that an infallible source of authority must depend on another infallible source of authority. The bible was not written directly by God. It was written by God through men. Men have written many things. It is logical that we have a basis for knowing which of these writings are, in fact, the inspired writings of God.

But that leads to infinite regress. This is non-sequitur.

Both sides get themselves hopelessly bogged down as long as they presuppose that they need infallible authority in order to know the truth about God. This is non-sequitur.

We believe Scripture to be infallible not because we must have infallible authority in order to be certain of the truth, but simply because it is inspired by God and God doesn’t inspire error. Here is where you fail to make your case. Yes, we all believe that the accepted canon includes only infallible writings. However, what you fail to address is who or what determined what is in the canon of writings that we agree are infallible. How do you know that the New Covenant is revealed in its 27 books?

It isn’t an epistemological problem at all–it’s simply a corollary of saying that Scripture is the inspired word of God. On the contrary it is very much so. The corollary you propose is the circular argument that we know that scripture is the inspired word of God because God inspired it.

Protestants don’t believe that any decrees of the Church are the Word of God in that sense, and hence don’t believe that the Church is infallible. Once again this is not logical. You must believe two things decreed by the Church. Firstly, that the actual written words are in fact inspired by God. Secondly, that some subsequent group was able to tell us which writings fit this criteria and which don’t.

That is to say, there is no organ or structure of the Church that can be depended on not to err. If you accept that the 27 books of the New Testament are in fact the infallible word of God, then you are in deed depending on an ‘organ or structure of the Church’ to be infallible in declaring that canon.

That does not mean that historic decisions of the Church can’t be trusted as true and reliable. This is true.

In short, why do you think we need to know things with infallible certainty in the first place? Because otherwise we could end up in Utah getting baptised for our ancestors.

In Christ,

Edwin
[/quote]

Because Protestants have chosen to adopt a canon that was created much later, they have no choice but to discredit the authority of the original canon and ergo, any such authority.

Unfortunately, that leaves them in the troublesome spot of not being able to authenticate any bible including their own.

Try as you might, you cannot succesfully sever the bible from the Church; you would have as much luck building a castle in mid-air.

Originally Quoted by Contarini:

Madaglan,

You’re assuming that an infallible source of authority must depend on another infallible source of authority. But that leads to infinite regress.

Hence, the limitation of Aquinas’ proof of God through efficient causes. Of course there is the problem of “infinite regress”; I agree with you there. However, I think that the issue really boils down to presuppositions. We build our infallibility on a series of presuppositions. Catholics presuppose the fact that Christ founded the Catholic Church with infallibility–that the early Church records are veracious. Catholics likewise presuppose that Christ is a reality, and that the writings of the Tanakh are the Word of God. However, Catholics do not presuppose that the New Testament is inspired, but that it is shown to be inspired because the infallible Church demonstrates it is so. Protestants, on the other hand, before anything else, seem to presuppose the Tanakh and the New Testament Writings as the Word of God.

In short, why do you think we need to know things with infallible certainty in the first place?

I believe that I agree with the majority of what teajay writes. I only add that one presupposes that the ground upon which the skyscraper is built is not going to become displaced.

[quote=Contarini]Madaglan,

You’re assuming that an infallible source of authority must depend on another infallible source of authority. But that leads to infinite regress. Both sides get themselves hopelessly bogged down as long as they presuppose that they need infallible authority in order to know the truth about God. We believe Scripture to be infallible not because we must have infallible authority in order to be certain of the truth, but simply because it is inspired by God and God doesn’t inspire error.
[/quote]

But how do we know that it is inspired by God?

Where **in **the Bible do we find a complete list of the books **of **the Bible? Where in the Old Testament do we find it written that there will be a New Testament?

A brief survey of known Judeo-Christian writings would reveal lots of books that look like books of the Bible, but were never accepted. Who had the authority to accept or reject the books of the Bible?

Who wrote Revelation? He gives his name as John, but which John? Which James wrote the Epistles of James?

For the Bible to exist, someone had to make all the decisions that led up to the books we havd now. Those decisions were based on tradition! It is tradition that leads to the acceptance of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but not Thomas, Mary, and so on.

It is tradition that accepts the Apocalypse of John, but not the Apocalypse of Peter.

How can we be sure that the books in the Bible as we have them now are inspired, and those rejected are not? Only if we accept the Church has the authority given by God.

people who cares how you put it–the bottom line is this–in either view of sola scriptura the Protestant cant interpret scripture infallibly. so how does he know if his interpetation is correct? the bottom line is u need an infallible interpreter, at times, to determine definitively what scripture means–with all due respect —the position, even the historical(historical meaning the Reformers) position is terribley wrong and either position cannot answer how we know what scripture means? the Protestant cannot infallibly interpret scripture and prove if his interpretation is correct over anohte rperson’s–including others in other Protestant Churches.

[quote=marineboy]people who cares how you put it–the bottom line is this–in either view of sola scriptura the Protestant cant interpret scripture infallibly. so how does he know if his interpetation is correct? the bottom line is u need an infallible interpreter, at times, to determine definitively what scripture means–with all due respect —the position, even the historical(historical meaning the Reformers) position is terribley wrong and either position cannot answer how we know what scripture means? the Protestant cannot infallibly interpret scripture and prove if his interpretation is correct over anohte rperson’s–including others in other Protestant Churches.
[/quote]

Can you interpret the Magisterium infallibly?:wink:

[quote=michaelp]Can you interpret the Magisterium infallibly?:wink:
[/quote]

I think you have a misunderstanding of what the Magesterium is.

It comes from the word for “Teacher.” The Church has the authority to teach, which includes the authority to interpret.

We do not “interpret” the Magesterium. We are taught under its authority.

Great question about the magisterium—unless there is a question baout a magisterial documnet ther eis no need to queston or interpret th magisterium–but if there is a question then we have a living magisterium and we can ask and they(Pope bishops) can clarify!!!–u cant as the Bible what its own interpretation is----

[quote=michaelp]Can you interpret the Magisterium infallibly?:wink:
[/quote]

:tsktsk: You’ve gone down that winding road before…

…it’s a dead end…:banghead:

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