Question for Protestants


#1

I have a question for Protestants that subscribe to Sola Scriptura and “personal interpretation”.

If a member of your church one-day stated that he/she was moved by the Holy Spirit and had a new interpretation of verses in the Bible and this new interpretation had huge doctrinal implications, what would your church do?

  1. Would you accept his/her interpretation and change doctrines?

Or

  1. Would you try to get him/her to submit to your church’s understanding of scripture; then if he/she doesn’t submit, requesting that he/she leave the church?

In Christ,
Hans


#2

Hans, while I am no longer a Protestant, I can give you an answer based on my experience. First of all, I think your question is too general, but having said that, the Presbyterian church in which I grew up in had a certain amount of latitude given to its pastors.

They could make a lot of interesting conclusions based on their personal interpretation but in general their influence was based on their personality and preaching ability. But I went to a very large church with several pastors, so no one particular pastor really had the power to change anything.

Like if one Sunday Pastor Ray got up there and said he now believed all the women should go back to covering their heads, only the people in the congregation who really liked Pastor Ray would follow his message. Unless all the other pastors backed him up then there wouldn’t be much public concern about it. Besides, the Elders and the Deacons also have a role as sort of a check and balance to the erring pastor. It’s a much more corporation style of running things, at least in the Presbyterian church.

Most churches I attended put very little value in the doctrinal beliefs of the denomination. Some of my family members attend Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, non-denominational, Presbyterian or Assembly of God churches just depending on whether or not they like the preaching and music. They have no intention of joining the church and really no one at the church cares if they formally join or not unless they wanted to be in a leadership position. The actual differences in historical doctrine between these very different denominations is no matter to them.

That being said, in the Presbyterian church, if a pastor really gets kooky with the theology, then the pastors, the elders, the presbytery would all eventually step in and try to get the offending minister in line. Unless they were all heterodox too! The Presbteryian church I grew up in is very different from the one in the media lately and from how the votes are apparently going at the national conferences on moral issues.


#3

That’s a good question.

First I would want to know what he thought he discovered. If it was doctrinally strange or huge as it is stated, I would tell him that he needs to really support his findings. I would let that individual know that although the Holy Spirit can direct us we are still fallible humans and not only prone to error but are guaranteed of it.

The Holy Spirit can lay an infinite path out for us but we can only see as far as our limited human eyes and only walk as far as our limited human feet will take us.

I would continue by saying that if he truly believes that the Spirit has directed him towards this discovery that he now has a Christian responsibility to study into the matter and use the other God given resources outside of himself. The Holy Spirit has also worked though the writings and words of others. Talk to his priest and read the writings of the Church Fathers and subsequent theologians.

The Holy Spirit does not place you at your destination but starts you down a path. When you begin your travel prepare well, take provisions, speak to those that have walked similar paths, and never be afraid to ask for help.

This is what I would say….


#4

[quote=Shibboleth]I would continue by saying that if he truly believes that the Spirit has directed him towards this discovery that he now has a Christian responsibility to study into the matter and use the other God given resources outside of himself. The Holy Spirit has also worked though the writings and words of others. Talk to his priest and read the writings of the Church Fathers and subsequent theologians
[/quote]

Thank you for the reply Shibboleth, but the question is for those who subscribe to Sola Scriptura; therefore, there are no other writings and words of others, especially the Church Fathers, to research. Also, Protestants do not have priests to rely on for help.

In Christ,
Hans


#5

Those of us who believe in sola scriptura fall into two broad camps (at least!) Some, such as Baptists, are more radical (striking at the “root”); others are more “group oriented.”

In a scenario such as you described, the radicals would declare the heretic to have departed from the plain teaching of Scripture. In other words, their interpretation is really no interpretation at all–it’s just reading the Bible. So the heretic would get the boot.

The less radical among us believe that the interpretation of Scripture is a group project. “If you leave a man alone with his Bible, you will produce a heretic” (Bill Ury). So the weird interpretation would be submitted to the judgment of history. Since history has been around for a long time already, we can pretty well tell ahead of the fact where this heresy trial is going to wind up :slight_smile: The New Testament instructs the pastor to maintain doctrinal purity within his flock (Titus 1:13).

But history is uneven, so variations in belief will persist. At the regional or annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, there might be scholars from 50 or 100 different denominations (I’m guessing here), but we all agree on the basics. (Well, there’s a few flakes floating loose, but they’re anomalies.)

Since we now abjure the use of force, sola scriptura means that only the Bible can bind the conscience. But “the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion” (John Wesley), so the Bible doesn’t give an individual the liberty to dream up and teach screwball doctrines within the church. He will be excommunicated, and he and God can work it out between them.

In sum, the individual answers to God, but so does the church and pastor. When agreement is impossible, the church must exclude the heretic. :bible1:


#6

[quote=Hans A.]Thank you for the reply Shibboleth, but the question is for those who subscribe to Sola Scriptura; therefore, there are no other writings and words of others, especially the Church Fathers, to research. Also, Protestants do not have priests to rely on for help.
[/quote]

Hans, it appears that you have a faulty understanding of Sola Scriptura. Yes, Protestants may consult writings of theologians, church fathers, etc., etc. That being said we do not believe that the opinions of men are equal with Divine Scripture, but it is useful to get the opinions of others.

The Belgic Confession-Article 3: The Written Word of God-please read through to Article 7.

Sola Scriptura means “that Scripture is the Church’s only infallible rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines.”

Source: Wikipedia: Sola Scriptura

That basically means that Scripture alone is the standard by which all doctrines are judged by. If a doctrine contradicts Scripture then the doctrine is thrown out.

For further study I reccommend that you read the following Confessions which pertain to Scripture along with the writings of the Reformers themselves:

Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter I
Second London Baptist Confession of Faith - 1689

Becky :slight_smile:


#7

That basically means that Scripture alone is the standard by which all doctrines are judged by. If a doctrine contradicts Scripture then the doctrine is thrown out.

Becky,

I have just one simple question to ask: Why is it, then, that Bible alone Christians diifer in their understanding with the early Church Fathers and specifically the Catholic Church such as (to name a few): Eucharist, Abortion, Divorce, Contraception, etc.? If said to have the Scripture as their standard for doctrines…

Pio


#8

In the Pentecostal churches I was in, a “new revelation” would be compared with Scripture, and if it was found to be supported in Scripture, it would be accepted. If it was not supported, but not denied either, I believe it would have been up to the individual to accept or reject it. If it was found to contradict Scripture, it would be rejected.

The past 8 years I have been a Southern Baptist, and they reject all new revelation out of hand.

DaveBj


#9

Scripture reference, please? Thanks.


#10

[quote=Becky]Hans, it appears that you have a faulty understanding of Sola Scriptura. Yes, Protestants may consult writings of theologians, church fathers, etc., etc. That being said we do not believe that the opinions of men are equal with Divine Scripture, but it is useful to get the opinions of others…

…Sola Scriptura means “that Scripture is the Church’s only infallible rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines.”…

…That basically means that Scripture alone is the standard by which all doctrines are judged by. If a doctrine contradicts Scripture then the doctrine is thrown out…
[/quote]

Even though Protestants may consult writings of theologians, church fathers, etc., when it comes to doctrines, the only infallible source according to Sola Scriptura is the Bible. But, if you as a church are relying on the interpretation of past men/women or the current interpretation of such then are you not subcribing to tradition? The Bible cannot interpret itself.

My point in starting this thread was to bring about a realization that what will happen to the “heretic” in the listed scenerio (excommunication), is what happened/happens to Luther and all others that decided/decide that they knew/know how to interpret Holy Scripture better than the very Church that bound all the books together and has an unbroken succession of teachers (Bishops and their helpers the Priests) going all the way back to the Apostles. The very thing that a subscriber of Sola Scriptura argues against (Tradition), is what that person will use to say that the “heretic” is wrong.

In Christ,
Hans


#11

The Church (i.e., the Apostles and disciples of the Apostles) wrote the New Testament. The Church sorted through about 200 of her own writings to discern and collect those that were inspired and reject those that were not in order to form the New Testament. This winnowing process took time. And the Church endured severe persecutions by Imperial Rome for three centuries after her birth. Finally, when she was nearly 400 years old, the Church named the canon of Scriptures and called them the Old and New Testaments. The two collections together she called the Bible. The Church was the agent of the Holy Spirit in writing, selecting, and canonizing the NT and in canonizing the OT.

The effect cannot be greater than the cause.

Since the NT was produced by the Church, if the effect (the Scriptures) is infallible, the cause (the Church) must be infallible also.


#12

Nice job Katholikos. I’d add to your reputation with that one, but they want me to spread it around, since you’ve made me say “Right On” :thumbsup: in the past.

In Christ,
Hans


#13

Kevan,

You said:

So the weird interpretation would be submitted to the judgment of history. Since history has been around for a long time already, we can pretty well tell ahead of the fact where this heresy trial is going to wind up

Interesting point. So why aren’t you Catholic? History HAS been around for a long time. Do you stop looking at history prior to the Reformation?

For example, hasn’t history been pretty conclusive that there are 73 books in the Bible? How about just considering the Book of Daniel for a moment. All extant Greek manuscripts follow Theodotian’s recension of the Book of Daniel (Theodotian was a 2nd century Jew). It is clear that St. Jerome accepted this recension of Daniel. It was included in his Latin Vulgate, as well as other manuscripts of various ancient languages. Why do the Protestants reject it against the judgment of the Christian churches for the previous 1500+ years?


#14

[quote=itsjustdave1988] So why aren’t you Catholic? History HAS been around for a long time. Do you stop looking at history prior to the Reformation?
[/quote]

No, I have a great appreciation for all periods of history and study them all when I get a chance.

All extant Greek manuscripts follow Theodotian’s recension of the Book of Daniel (Theodotian was a 2nd century Jew). It is clear that St. Jerome accepted this recension of Daniel. It was included in his Latin Vulgate, as well as other manuscripts of various ancient languages. Why do the Protestants reject it against the judgment of the Christian churches for the previous 1500+ years?

Notice that I said in the earlier post that history is uneven. The arguments that you present are commendable. On the other hand, the arguments in favor of the Masoretic Text are also weighty. If you remove the authority of Rome from the equation, the arguments for the Hebrew text are compelling.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Please forgive me for not wrangling. Most of that serves only to prove who’s the best wrangler (or who’s the best prepared). My desire here is to gain and share understanding. If I can explain some odd part of Fundamentalism to others, or some tidbit from history or biblical languages, then I’m happy to do so. But it seems to me to be bad manners to come on a Catholic website and argue against the Catholic position. :getholy:


#15

Kevan,

I have a great appreciation for all periods of history and study them all when I get a chance.

Then I recommend you consider a futher study the history of the canon of Scripture.

Protestant church historian J.N.D. Kelly agrees that the deuterocanonicals were in fact accepted universally for the first two centuries of Christian history, and only later came to be disputed due to increased controversy with the NEWLY DEFINED Jamnian Hebrew canon.

From J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines, Harper Collins Revised Edition, San Francisco CA, 1978, 52-56.

For the first hundred years, at least, of it’s history the Church’s Scriptures, in the precise sense of the word, consisted exclusively of the Old Testament. The books comprising what later become known as the New Testament were of course, already in existence; practically all of them had been written well before the first century ended, and they were familiar to and used by second century writers. They had not yet been elevated, however, to the special status of canonical Scriptures…

It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the … books of the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism. … It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha, or deutero-canonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hand of Christians was … the Greek translation known as the Septuagint… most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew…

In the first two centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas, and from 2 (4) Esdras and Ecclessiasticus in the latter. Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary. Towards the close of the second century, when as a result of controversy with the Jews it became known that [the Jews] were united in repudiating the deutero-canonical books, hesitations began to creep in…

For the great majority, however, the deutero-canonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense… The same inclusive attitude … was authoritatively displayed at the Synods of Hippo and Carthage in 393 and 397 respectively, and also in the famous letter which Pope Innocent I dispatched to Exuperious, Bishop fo Toulouse, in 405.


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