Does Sola Scriptura lead to Moral Relativism?

So what do you think on this subject?

Nearly all Christian denominations accepted artificial contraception as morally licit. After that you have the subject of Divorce,Some even accepted homosexuality as “part of God’s plan” even going to the point of celebrating homosexuality, blessing gay-marriages and ordaining
homosexuals to the clergy.

Breaking away from the Truth leads to relativism. It’s just the right kind of chaos to fit the evil one’s plan.

Without a divinely guided teaching office to interpret the Scriptures, people will find whatever meaning they like in the text. The idea of *sola Scriptura *by its nature forbids any sort of teaching office and leaves interpretation up to the subjectivity of the reader. So yes, in making the Scriptures subject to the whims of the reader, the absolute morals which the Scriptures teach have been compromised.

Not exactly.
“Moral relativism” has always existed among different cultures and peoples.

Today, Women must cover their arms and ankles in some countries because it is considered immoral not to. In other countries, like the US, it is considered perfectly moral to wear a pair of shorts and T-shirt.

In the first century Paul wrote that women should not speak in church. We don’t pay attention to that today.

This is moral relativism and it’s got nothing specifically to do with a biblical canon, but how different groups of people perceive the world around them.

Focusing on a religion’s scripture and all the different ways it can be interpreted will of course lead to differing ideas of what it means.
Unfortunately, some of those writers were not clear in what they were saying and their words were left open to interpretation.
But even those religions that are not sola-scriptura have changed their perceptions of what they have read in scripture over the centuries.

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Certainly not. My denomination practiced sola Scriptura, and it also is not moral relativistic.

True, but things like “women covering their arms” is a cultural norm which can and will change over time - not an absolute moral principle. While the Catholic Church has indeed changed its position regarding certain cultural norms, it cannot change its stance on moral principles.

It is moral subjectivism—each person interprets for himself the truth.

It IS possible, though, to have generally shared interpretations of the Bible. In this case, the shared interpretation is “right,” although I scratch my head at the implicit notion that voting on things makes them moral, a mere majority vote somehow creates the magic of legitimization.

It can lead to it, sure. But I think that to state that it necessarily does isn’t true.

The problem that I see, as a Catholic, is that Sola Scriptura is a lot like the Constitution without a Supreme Court. You need a definitive authority to rule on things, so that people don’t individually claim the Bible supports things it doesn’t. So one could theoretically cherry pick Bible quotes and arrive at the conclusion that moral relativism is an acceptable teaching.

Generally though, most Protestants reject moral relativism although they accept sola scriptura.

What makes one denomination’s interpretation of Scripture more accurate than another? For example, I understand both the Lutherans and the Baptists base their teachings on Sola Scripture, and yet they differ in their teachings. So, how can one tell which of the two, if either, is correct?

What you are describing is Private Interpretation, which is most definitely not Sola Scriptura (At least how Lutherans define it, anyway. We can’t do much about those who’ve taken ‘our’ term Sola Scriptura and used it to describe a different mode of thinking).

Lutherans do understand a Divinely-instituted teaching office to exist within the church - that’s why we ordain our pastors after they have completed at least 4 (and often 8) years of Greek, Hebrew and theological study at one of our seminaries (which have incredibly stringent acceptance standards!). The responsibility to administer Word and Sacrament is not lightly conferred to any ol’ layman. The difference between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, in this regard, is that Lutherans don’t think their pastors or bishops are infallible - they’re human. They sin and put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else. We rely on the church, in general, to keep our teachers in line. That is certainly not a personal relativism like you describe.

Sola Scriptura simply means that our doctrines cannot contradict or come from outside of Holy Scripture, and that traditions must not contradict with Scripture. In practice, this means that the clearest portions of Scripture are afforded more “weight.” So the four, universally-accepted Gospels are the core of our canon and we build from there.

What I was trying to say is that Sola Scriptura leads to private interpretation if a teaching office is absent. Many Protestants (not all - as you have pointed out) seem to believe that having a teaching office is “extra-biblical”. This in turn necessitates subjectivism.

Ah, I see. I suppose I’d agree. But then it would no longer be Sola Scriptura.

:thumbsup: I completely agree. Protestants who have accepted moral relativism often get the most media attention, but I do not think they speak at all for the majority of weekly church going Protestants.

For one thing, churches which have accepted things like same-sex “marriage,” abortion, birth control without limits, et al. are churches that do NOT practice Sola Scriptura. Most of them, if not all, limit the authority and even divine inspiration of the Bible. Their interpretations of Christian ethics and dogma are based on the holdovers of 19th century Protestant liberalism, modernism, and Enlightenment rationalism. For a good discussion of this, even though it’s 80 plus years old, see Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen.

On the non-Protestant side, a “divinely inspired teaching office” has not prevented 50+% of Catholics from voting to elect pro-abortion, pro-same sex politicians to office. They have been affected by the same moral relativism that has gripped the entire western world. While it is certainly true that it has not affected the majority of the leadership, esp. in the Vatican, when rostered faculty of clergy at a particular Catholic institution in the midwest deny the resurrection, you know the problem has absolutely zip to do with Sola Scriptura.

What do you think “infallible” means, steido? Our Pope goes to confession every week. Surely he has to do something even remotely sinful!

On the other hand, do you believe your teachers - bishops and priests - can ever err in their teaching? If so - and I do, sincerely want to understand - what makes your bishops’ authority superior to your own (if, say, you studied just as much as them, but never became a bishop)?

Sola Scriptura simply means that our doctrines cannot contradict or come from outside of Holy Scripture

To which I ask: if a doctrine must come from within the Scriptures, where does it say doctrine must come from the Scriptures alone?

Probably an old, worn, tired out question. But if any new light can be shed on it.

We would probably agree that if a tradition clashes with Scripture, the tradition would fall. (Thus we are not Arians, Aquarii, Gnostics, Cathars, or Calvinists.)

Whether spoken or read, words are just a representation. I can have my 6 yr old read the word “apple” or I can say to him “apple” and he still won’t have an apple. He could remember me saying the word or he can flip open the book, but, unless to takes an apple, he’ll stay hungry.

Maybe this is more of an argument for “faith AND works” … but it just strikes me as odd to argue that only the bible contains all of God’s instruction or guidance, especially when there are so many languages he had to have known would exist and that translation can alter meaning without the right context. I mean, really, Jesus wasn’t just “in the bible.” He LIVED! He did stuff that “isn’t written here.” Even Jesus didn’t rely on just scripture so why would we?

So to answer the OP question, does SS lead to MR; no, I think MR lead to SS.

Strictly speaking, it does not. We (and by we I mean Lutherans) do not argue that Jesus or the apostles taught that all doctrine must come from a written record of revelation or a collection we call the Bible. What we do argue is that all doctrine must come from the word of God. Catholics will argue that this includes oral tradition, not written down, passed on by the apostles. We don’t disagree. What we do disagree about is whether the content of that oral teaching can also be found in Scripture, and whether it was even taught by the apostles to begin with. Since we know that Scripture comes from the apostles, we know that it is an accurate rendition of God’s word and thus, is supreme in its authority. We both agree that church teaching is subject to the apostolic kerygma. It’s in the locus where there is disagreement.

We would probably agree that if a tradition clashes with Scripture, the tradition would fall. (Thus we are not Arians, Aquarii, Gnostics, Cathars, or Calvinists.)

haha on the Calvinists.

We Catholics don’t think our Pastors and Bishops are human? :confused: Clearly you don’t understand the Catholic Church and Papal infallibility! Let me help you by giving you this link to read up on… When you’re done, let us know if you have any further questions and if you’d like to ammend your statement. :slight_smile:

catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility

So… the first Lutheran was not engaging in private interpretation?

Lutherans do understand a Divinely-instituted teaching office to exist within the church - that’s why we ordain our pastors after they have completed at least 4 (and often 8) years of Greek, Hebrew and theological study at one of our seminaries (which have incredibly stringent acceptance standards!). The responsibility to administer Word and Sacrament is not lightly conferred to any ol’ layman. The difference between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, in this regard, is that Lutherans don’t think their pastors or bishops are infallible - they’re human. They sin and put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else. We rely on the church, in general, to keep our teachers in line. That is certainly not a personal relativism like you describe.

Sola Scriptura simply means that our doctrines cannot contradict or come from outside of Holy Scripture, and that traditions must not contradict with Scripture. In practice, this means that the clearest portions of Scripture are afforded more “weight.” So the four, universally-accepted Gospels are the core of our canon and we build from there.

I am aware of the Roman Catholic meaning of “infallible,” and I apologize if I inadvertently blurred the distinction between the sin we humans daily commit and the sin an ordained minister commits in teaching false doctrine. It was not my intent, though re-reading my post, I see I could’ve been clearer for the sake of those who don’t understand. I was referring to the Roman Catholic belief that the Church cannot err, in general, nor the Pope (when speaking ex-cathedra), in particular. Lutherans do not afford this infallibility to any human-run institution or individual or even our Confessions (though we believe they do not err… I’m sure you understand the fine distinction). Our pastors and bishops can err (and do), and are corrected and/or disciplined. So what sets them apart, other than having studied? The simple answer to your question is similar to what I presume yours would be: they have been called and ordained, and now have the responsibility to administer Word and Sacrament to the church.

Sola Scriptura is not a method of proof-texting, but rather a practice of the church. In that regard, we don’t need to accept Sola Scriptura as a doctrine in itself (thus we don’t need to ‘proof-text’ for evidence that we use only Scripture) - it’s the Apostolic Faith which matters. Make a bit more sense? This link might help.

Amen.

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