Monday, March 09, 2009

The Origin of "Sola Scriptura"?

In a recent combox thread, Pastor Weedon thoughtfully provided us with a number of texts which - in his view - prove that the Fathers of the Church taught the doctrine of "sola scriptura". Here are the texts he proposed:
“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

"Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).

"We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

"Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8
We will not, at this point, quibble about Pastor Weedon's interpretation of these passages (although it is obvious to us that these same Fathers also taught doctrines which Lutherans would reject on the basis of "sola scriptura", eg. the intercession of saints and the sacrifice of the mass and the necessity of episcopal ordination). We will accept - for the sake of the arguement - that by the time of the great post-Nicene Fathers, the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" was in place.

Now here is my question: When did this doctrine originate in the Church?

For it is plainly obvious that the doctrine could not have been apostolic. We are aware that Jesus and the apostles regarded the Hebrew Scriptures (or properly, to the Greek Scriptures of the Old Testament, including the seven deuterocanonical books) as the written and authoratitative Word of God (cf. the numerous references to "scripture" and "the scriptures" in the NT, including 2 Tim 3:16) - but they did not teach that these pre-Christian books were "sufficient" in themselves.

The writings of the apostles gradually gained acceptance as "sacred scripture", although it is obvious also that in the Church of the later half of the 1st Century and the 1st half of the 2nd Century, there still was not anything that could be called a "canon" in this regard. Even with the death of John and the final completion of the book of Revelation, not all Christian communities had access to all the writings of what we call "the New Testament", and that some regarded books as Christian Scripture that we today do not.

Therefore, in the first century or so after the death of the apostles, we can hardly think that anyone would have argued the principle of "sola scriptura" as the basis for all teaching and practice, since the OT was not regarded as sufficient and the NT was still in formation.

So at what stage did the Fathers begin insisting upon "sola scriptura" (remember, I am granting Pastor Weedon's point for the sake of the argument)? Any ideas?

(PS. I just checked Pastor's blog, and he has a really cool video of Vespers in his church. Check him and his people out in action here.)

26 Comments:

At Monday, March 09, 2009 8:47:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Pastor probably isn't up yet, but I am, so let me be sure I understand the game here: we grant for argument's sake that sola scriptura was in place by the post-Nicene fathers, observe that "Scripture" as used by Jesus was the Hebrew Bible and as used by the NT writers is the Septuagint, and observe that the canon of the NT was some time in being recognised as such therefore sola scriptura could not have taught at first, so at what point between after then and the post Nicene fathers was it established.

Geez, back in the day we would have said you can't even grant it for argument's sake, since the canon of the NT (and the OT too btw) was fixed and made normative by the Council of Rome and promulgated by Pope Damasus I in 382, which document says the Catholic Church is founded on these Scriptures, refers to Catholic Churches in the plural but as making up one bride of Christ, and says that the Roman Church has primacy from Christ himself in the tu es Petrus passage of Matthew. In short, that anything like sola scripura, the founding of the Church on scripture, is based on the Roman church's definition of what Scripture is coupled to the primacy of the Roman church.

To which I used to add, sola scriptura proves itself wrong, since "scriptura" does not record Jesus writing anything, commanding anyone else to write anything, or promising that anything else would ever be written, therefore apart from the action of the Catholic Church, fidelity to sola scriptura requires first that we drop "scriptura" as we know it!

Which I guess makes it a damn good thing that Damasus massacred all of Ursinus' supporters to make sure he was "elected" pope over Ursinus who was also "elected" pope, and that the patrician (wealthy) class of Rome, which supported him, got the Emperor Valentinian to get him off the hook when Damasus was brought up on murder charges before the Roman prefect stemming from the massacre. Money talks. Not to mention Valentinian's successor, Gratian, refusing the designation pontifex maximus since all subjects are to hold the faith of the Roman church. Not to mention Gratian's successor Theodosius ruling on 27 Feb 380 that the religion of St Peter brought to Rome, conserved by the Roman church of which Damasus is the head, IS the religion of the Roman Empire.

 
At Monday, March 09, 2009 9:24:00 pm , Anonymous Tom said...

Yeah, sola scriptura has always sounded like an odd proposition to me. Since the only way we have the scripture is by the tradition of the authority of the church to declare it as such (i.e.: scripture is a tradition in itself) i've never understood how it works. Surely, if we accept that scripture is the divine word (not Word as in event, but word as in text) because the Church has said so, then how can one, on the basis of the scripture given by that church, reject the church. If the church has the authority to declare what is true scripture, surely it has authority in general?

Of course, this is a very simple interpretation of sola scriptura, i'm not familiar with the details or more complex positions that go along with it, and i would be extremely interested to hear them.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:28:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Hey Tom! Elders aren't pastors, and past elders aren't even elders, but until Pastor gets some free time from that to which he was called, I'll pinch hit until you get a better answer.

I don't think sola scriptura is so much a complex position as it is a phrase used to mean several positions, some of which Lutherans reject and never meant.

Sola scriptura does not mean "only Scripture". It is a type of construction in Latin called an ablative of means, a way to state the means by which an agent does an action. It is translated "by Scripture alone". It does not mean, if you have Scripture you don't need anything else.

It also does not mean. if it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it. There are those later in the Reformation to whom it does mean that, and many in our time likewise, and we reject that. For example, liturgy. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus set up a liturgy or ask anyone else to do so. That does not mean then that having a liturgy is against the Bible. Liturgy is something the church has adopted and adapted from the synagogue because of its benefit to the good order of the church, and good order in the church is a good reason to do something.

So what we mean is, there are many good reasons for the church doing this and not doing that, and as to those which are not laid out specifically in the Bible, we accept them, we for example again accept liturgy, not rejecting it because it isn't in the Bible, but only that which has crept into it that contradicts the Bible.

You can say then our position is, if it contradicts the Bible we ain't doing it. Something being in the Bible is not the only good reason for doing it, it is rather the only good reason with a divine guarantee. And our other good reasons must not contradict those good reasons that have that divine guarantee of Scripture.

Similarly church. Sola scriptura does not reject church at all, or that church grows and develops. It rejects, rather, those things that have come along with the church's growth and development that contradict what's in the Bible. One such would be some of the Roman church's ideas as to the nature and extent of its authority. And, if these are indeed contrary to Scripture, one does not reject the church, but in fact upholds it, to deny them.

You can say then our position is, the church has said these are the books and no other on which you can rely and on whose truths the church is built, then it quit relying on them and its truths as the norm for all else, and we simply recall the church to fidelity to its own book that it declares faithful to God's truth.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:52:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Comments from me will have to be later. Very busy day today. Just one brief response: David, why do you say that Lutherans reject the intercession of the saints and the sacrifice of the mass - they reject certain features of Rome's practice and teaching on these, but the substance of either is maintained. For the matter of the necessity of episcopal ordination; well, I'll refer you as usual to St. Jerome. Pax!

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 6:28:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Okay, just a few initial thoughts:

1. Sola Scriptura is not so much a doctrine, as the conviction of the great fathers of the Church that doctrine proper is to be expressly grounded in the Sacred Scriptures.

2. Because Scripture showed itself to be the more stable form in which the doctrine of the Apostles lived in the Church, there was a growing tendency in the Fathers to turn to it as the final judge and arbiter of disputes.

3. The Church recognized herself as the recipient and custodian of the Sacred Writings, but I cannot find in any of the Fathers the notion that it was her approval of the Sacred Writings that gave them authority; it was rather that they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognized to be "God's Word written."

4. Already as early as St. Irenaeus, you can trace the beginning developments of insisting that the Church's dogma must be grounded in the Sacred Scriptures (which for him meant primarily the OT interpreted Christologically - that is, read through the lens of the Crucified One who triumphed over death). Thus, as Behr notes in his fine work The Way to Nicea, the opponents of St. Irenaeus appealed to Tradition for what was not in Scripture; but for St. Irenaeus, there was nothing in Tradition that was not also in the Sacred Scriptures. Said another way, Behr cites this from Florovsky, Tradition is simply Scripture correctly interpreted - i.e., read through that Christological lens.

Finally, do note that in my original post I said that Scripture teaches us the value of Tradition; and from Tradition we learn that all the Church's dogmas are to be founded in the Divine Words. It's a quite reciprocal relationship.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 6:34:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

I should have added one more thought: in the Lutheran Symbols we see that though advocating sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), the Confessors were aware of the dangers of personal interpretation and thus they sought to demonstrate that their approach to a given doctrine was not novel precisely by citing the Fathers as witnesses to that particular manner of understanding the Scriptures on that given doctrine.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:42:00 am , Blogger Kiran said...

If we interpret the scriptures by the church, how judge the church by the scriptures? I mean, one can condemn this or that aspect of the way Catholics do things, but it is only as part of the Church that this criticism can even be made. Outside the Church, what tradition?

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:49:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Kiran,

Does not even Rome acknowledge their separated brethren are in some profoundly baptismal sense not "outside the Church"? That was the point of the article I linked on the other page from the Jesuit declining to refer to the Protestants as "heretics."

From the Lutheran standpoint, I think it is highly significant that even as late as the Formula of Concord, Rome's tossing of us was characterized as "schism." SD Intro 4

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 10:32:00 am , Anonymous Tom said...

Well PE, that is a very interesting bite, unfortunately the protestants with whom i find myself familiar (in Sydney) tend to be of the super-hyper-mega evangelical bent. And I've had them say some really weird stuff to me. Things like the church is good because it was set up by God, and that's the method God has chosen for us to worship, but that's the only reason, and if you let it slide it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, the result was, their take on sola scriptura meant the way in which you expressed at the start. That is, as

"if it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it."

So as far as I can see, what you mean by sola scriptura is that the foundation of the church is the scripture, and there may be extensions of this, in-so-far as they do not contradict the scripture. Eg, liturgy. And you reject extensions that do (as you say, for this point i do not concede) contradict the scripture, eg. the philosophical sense of the Natural that the church tends to rely on in working out its moral philosophy/theology.

Now, I would ask some further questions.

I am curious, given that the church is the receptacle of the authority and power of Christ on earth (what-so-ever you hold true on earth I shall hold true in heaven etc. etc.), and that the history of the scriptures themself is a long one (it took ~300 years after the birth of Christ to form the scriptures, and in this formation certain scriptural books and writings were rejected) and that it's confirmation AS scripture was by the Church, how does one then dispute when the church might say with that same authority? Of course, if something is blatantly contradictory this would be the case, but as far as I can see those profound and deep contradictions do not seem to exist. Certainly not as far as I have lived in the church. For example, the teachings of the church that we might pray to God, asking for the intercession of the Saints, or that Mary is the Mother of God, assumed bodily into Heaven, none of these seem in contradiction to any scriptural reference I know, but certain protestants i've met seem to have a real bent with these. What's the problem? There's nothing condemning such things in the scripture, and the same authority that declared scripture true, also declared these things to be true. How can they be rejected?

We must deal with the question of nature at more leisure elsewhere, for I feel several comboxes would not be enough to say what I wish on that topic. Also, I could never approach the topic with anything approaching a lack of bias as I'm studying this particular topic in depth, and therefore would defend it to its very death. It's the foundation of my Honours!

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:02:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

I belonged to a denomination-Churches of Christ- which still has as its motto" where the Scriptures speak ,we speak ,where they are silent,we are silent". What happens- a pietism that meant that there was no support as a denomination on all social and ethical issues such as abortion ,and in the Victorian Abortion law debate last year,i do not recall seeing a CofC or Baptist rep making a comment about this issue,at least not loudly,but i am sure Schutz will put me correct me.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:14:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

Matthias,

I belong to a Synod which speaks quite often in union with Rome on social issues of the day. Our Synodical President, I believe, offered the opening for our national protest of Roe v. Wade that legalized the slaughter of the unborn in the US. We speak with sturdy confidence out from the conviction that Scripture HAS spoken on these matters and that this settles it for us as Christians; but that also reason speaks clearly on these matters and that should also settle matters even for an unbeliever.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:36:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Two things to consider, Tom. One is, the validity of Scripture does not depend on its recognition by the church, nor does the church's recognition confer validity on Scripture but rather recognises a validity Scripture already has.

One might say, but that's the same as with dogma -- a dogmatic definition later on does not define a new dogma, but formalises a dogma already there, and therefore is a manifestation of the same authority.

In the latter, it's about a recognition of a doctrine already at least implicit in the basis of doctrine, whereas in the latter it's about a recognition of the basis of doctrine itself.

In our circles, you often hear the words "Christian Freedom" or "adiaphora", the latter being a Greek plural for indifferent things, ie things neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture, which the former phrase states pur freedom to do or not do.

That freedom is from a divine command to do or not do. It does not mean anything goes, though it often is misused by us in just that way. There may well be other good reasons to do or not do this or that, and one is not free from that, neither to lay them down as equal to having a divine command nor to behave as if absent a divine command about it doesn't matter what we do or don't do.

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:14:00 pm , Blogger Kiran said...

Pastor Weedon, yes. But even if Lutherans are schismatics, I would think that would still be "outside the Church." Lutherans are not in the same position, say, as liberal Catholics. At any rate, I don't mean to assert something about Lutherans, so much as a question about your ecclesiology. Where do you (and I think I had better specifically and singularly adress this to you, Pastor Weedon) see Rome as being, and where do you see Lutherans in relation to the Church?

press: The unbeatable source of unknowing

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:48:00 pm , Anonymous Tom said...

Hrm, PE I don't think the argument will quite cut that way. I'm going to start by attempting to re-state what you've said as I have understood it and if I've made an error, please correct me.

p1a/ Scripture is valid because it is true scripture.

p1b/ Scripture is unique because it is the foundation of further dogma.

p2/ Dogma is valid because it is true dogma.

p3/ The role of the church in each of these cases is to announce what is true scripture or true dogma; not to create truth, but to recognise and confirm it.

c1/ Because the truth of scripture does not lie in the authority of the church, but in its own right, it provides the best and highest authority to teach. (sola Scriptura)
c2/ While dogma is a good and useful thing, in the end it is not able to rely on the stronger foundation of scripture, but on the weaker foundation of men, and therefore should rightly take a secondary place to scriptural teaching.

As I have read you, the distinction you seem to be drawing is that scripture is the foundation of dogma.

My first question then is if scripture is the foundation of dogma, why is it that there is an antecedant to scripture? The church herself is prior to scripture, and scripture would certainly not exist in the way it does today without the authority of the church to declare it as such.

While its true that the validity of the scripture does not rely on the church saying it is valid (that is, it's validity is in itself) our capacity to know its validity relies on what the church has said. In the end, I can only treat scripture with due reverence because I have been taught that it is the word of God. If such discretion to decide its validity were up to me, I might say all sorts of things.

My second question is, even if I were to grant that sola scriptura is the best and most reliable method of arriving at true dogma, how ought I to interpret the scripture? Because many people can look at the text of the scriptures and arrive at reasonable conclusions as to what it might say about any number of things. In the end, even if I were to grant the supremacy of scripture, don't I still need the Church to teach me truthfully, confirming what is the correct interpretation?

(I make this second point because the argument that the Bible can be taken literally and thus doesn't need an interpretation is self-contradictory, as that is an interpretation in itself, and still requires justification)

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 7:30:00 pm , Blogger Vicci said...

My first question then is if scripture is the foundation of dogma, why is it that there is an antecedant to scripture? The church herself is prior to scripture, and scripture would certainly not exist in the way it does today without the authority of the church to declare it as such.

Clearly that's not correct. Unless you want to promote a very narrow definition of 'scripture'.
If, as most of us would agree, scripture is the Word of God -revealed, then it's a moot point as to when certain scrolls, etc may have been discovered, or when certain 'verses may have been written.
The Sermon on the Mount (say) remains 'scripture' even if it had not yet been written down. (or discovered) Obviously, lots of the OT was written ages after the fact..but we all regard it as Scripture.

Trying too hard with this Church Is Alles argument.. imv.

clund to squash with workboots

 
At Tuesday, March 10, 2009 10:44:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

Kiran,

I see Rome as being a heterdox particular Church (of course, the largest particular Church of the world!). I see her as fully Church, because she does not overthrow the foundation (1 Cor. 3) but she has built upon it with worthless things, and then driven from her midst those who pointed out that those things were indeed but "wood, hay, and stubble" and not at all the "gold, silver, and precious stones" which she covered over with them.

Hence, I regard Roman Catholics as my dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, who unfortunately elevate certain merely human notions to the level of divine dogma and thus have caused division within the Body of Christ over them. I am sorry to speak so, and I ask forgiveness if this distresses my Roman brothers and sisters.

If I may permit the Orthodox priest, Alexander Schmemann, to speak for me on this: "For Christians, baptism is the foundation of the Church, because the
Church, i.e., the community of those who believe in Christ, is not
simply an organization to disseminate Christ's teaching and to
provide mutual help and support. It is the union in Christ of all
those who have received from Him the gift of new life and the
forgiveness of sins." – Schmemann, Celebration of Faith, vol. 1, p. 121

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:29:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Hey Tom!

On your first question, if scripture is the foundation of dogma why is there an antecedent to scripture: several things.

One of them being your point b, which is not what I say. There is no further dogma. Revelation is full, entire and complete.

Another is, there is an antecendent for much else too, for example the creeds, the liturgy etc. Nobody wrote a book, or a creed, or drew up a liturgy, and then sought to build a community of believers around it. Rather, the community of believers recognised in writings it put in a single collection the revealed Word of God, set down in a creed what it believed, evolved liturgy to worship accordingly. While much that travels under the label Protestant would not agree, Lutherans have no problem with that at all.

Which leads to this -- it is precisely because we do accept that, and not at all to deny it, that the Lutheran Reformation (as distinct from the later Reformation in general, which was quite un-Lutheran) did what it did. While I am not going to intrude into the discussion in this combox between Kiran and Pastor Weedon, I would refer you to Pastor's answer to him, as it states quite well how this works out in the context you and I are discussing.

Finally, then, to put it in the present terms, it is not that there was no antecedent, it is a matter of the subsequent course of that antecedent, the church, and of it remaining true to what it itself had established.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 8:12:00 am , Anonymous Tom said...

Well I certainly appreciate this patience. I'm diving right into this because it is something that i'm curious about; if I am trying too hard on "Church Is Alles" then forgive me; my Catholic upbringing betrays me.

Alright, from what I've read so far I think we're getting to the meatiest part. The way I've heard sola scriptura defined in this (is it precisely, or more protestant generally?) Lutheran sense, there is nothing in it that I can reject substantially, except what it rejects by itself.

Any dogma founded on the word, is to be trusted. I do not disagree; if the scripture is true, then it follows that what the scripture itself declares true must also be true. Anything in contradiction with the scripture therefor must be false. (I don't mean to alarm you PE, but that would be the philosophical sense of nature creeping in right there! First Principle of Theoretical Reason etc.)

At this point, I think we're very much in agreement (except my cheeky comments about nature).

From here Lutherans propose to reject certain parts although certainly not all of the teaching of the Church, just those that they understand to be in contradiction with the scripture.

p1/ Scripture is Revelation
p2/ Revelation is complete
c1/ Scripture is the best authority to teach. (there are some suppressed premises in there but they're not important)

Anyway, in trying to sort this out (clumsily, I know, but it's early and I have to get to class soon so I must be unhappily brief) it strikes me, how can we know that Revelation is complete? Furthermore, how can we know there is no Revelation beyond Scripture?

At least in the early stages, I think this Lutheran understanding of sola scriptura is in no way against the Church, only when it is used to remove some things the Church holds dear (and from my memory of studying the Reformations) such as Icons, Shrines, The Communion of the Saints etc. do I think the problem with it arises. Sola scriptura must be seen in the particular light; as St. Irenaeus says (alla Pastor Wheedon above) that scripture interpreted correctly is through a Christological lens, it still seems to me, that one can only know that Christology is the correct lens because one has been taught as such.

So, to sum up; I cannot quite come to grasp with this sense in which scripture is self-evidently itself, and complete, and fully revelation. I do not disagree necessarily with these principles, but only because I have the Church teaching me as such; it is not something I can know by myself.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 11:48:00 am , Anonymous Mike said...

Scripture is solid, written, fixed and stable. Sola Scriptura would seem to make a lot of sense - so long as everyone agrees with you as to what the Scriptures mean.

Seems to me we could have happily debated Sola Scripture until the Reformation happened - but now there's no question.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:08:00 pm , Blogger Kiran said...

Pastor Weedon, I for one don't mind at all. We must acknowledge where we stand relative to each other if we are to grow closer, and a good friend is one who is not afraid to tell me where he thinks I am wrong, even if he is wrong to think so.

Now, my further question is where does this idea of a church being fully Church, even if heterodox derive from? Surely, as Thomas Aquinas would say (in his discussion of the Orthodox baptismal formula, I think), if something is added to the foundation, it either contradicts the foundation, or it doesn't. If it does, then it is not a good building and will topple. Or to take another metaphor, it is a diseased limb stuck to a healthy head. If it doesn't so contradict the foundation, then it is in some sense an organic growth - a development. This idea of a heterodox, complete church seems odd to me.

By the way if I took you away from the main discussion, it was because I think Church is somehow prior to scriptures, in the sense that it is the Church that gives us the Scripture and tradition such as they are, and outside of the Church, one cannot have either Scriptures or tradition or Tradition. A (T)tradition is exactly that, something handed down, personally. Pentecost happened well before the letters of St. Paul were written (or even formulated), or the Gospels. A gap in the tradition doesn't seem to make sense. To say I can somehow have access to Thomas Aquinas, or Augustine or St. Paul across all the centuries and better than the intermediaries, doesn't seem to make sense to me, not just as a Christian, but as a historian. Of course, in one sense, one could say this archeologically, but even archeology must draw conclusions based on something handed down. This also further explains the extent of the havoc wreaked by certain kinds of Biblical studies upon religious practice.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:14:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

The problem is, Kiran, that we as Lutherans are part of a community that has ever recognized the fathers as being fathers of the Church of which we are a part. I know you think we're skipping the intervening centuries; I don't think we're doing anything of the sort. You see, we don't grant that our Church BEGAN as a Church when Luther appeared on the scene.

About the Sacred Scriptures, if we recognize them as God's Word written, in that sense the Word is always prior to the Church and formative of it - and the Scriptures are a particular form of that Word.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 1:13:00 pm , Blogger Kiran said...

Pastor Weedon, so where are the Lutherans, say, prior to Jan Hus? Or was the reformation the point at which "the Pope and all the Bishops who followed him seceded from the Lutherans"). Where is the connecting thread to Christ?

I like what you say of the Word, but surely God's Word, and God's word itself admits towards the end of the Gospel of St. John, is far too large to be contained within the confine of any set of books, howsoever large. The Word became man in Jesus Christ. Where does the Word become a book, or a collection of books? It is in a sense this thought that led me to the Church (though, I think, even as an Anglican, I gave the community priority to the Book that came out of it) - that materialist as I was I needed both the tangible Body of Christ sacramentally and continually present.

nomons: Devices that indicate the absence of a particular species of Melbourne-dwelling creature now to be found only in Soho.

 
At Wednesday, March 11, 2009 3:02:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Tom -- did we not say Scripture is not self-evidently itself and the complete Revelation, but rather that it is the church which has so defined it, as that upon which one can rely in this world of many writings making many claims?

 
At Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:11:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Dear Kiran,

Sorry my reply has taken so long! Its been very hectic.

To ask where was Lutheranism before Luther is like asking where was the doctrine of the Trinity before Nicea? It existed certainly and the Church lived from it, and yet its proclamation attained a refinement of expression. The Reformation represents such a refinement of expression, but it did not alter the old faith - it merely cleared it of some rather unfortunate accretions chiefly from the Middle Ages in the West.

Lutherans are the merest of mere Christianity described by Lewis. We recognize a true Lutheran in any poor sinner who despairs of his own righteousness and places all his confidence in the Righteousness of Another and expects God to be gracious and merciful to him for that Other's sake - and that such mercy takes concrete shape in the Bath where the Blessed Trinity names us His own and plunges us into the death and resurrection of our Lord so that we are put in Christ; and when He puts our Lord's body and blood into us as our forgiveness, our life, and and our salvation in the Eucharist.

 
At Thursday, March 12, 2009 12:41:00 pm , Blogger Kiran said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

Thank you for your answer. I am having a hectic day too, so I shall reply very briefly. What accretions specifically? The homilies on your blog (and I don't mean this to flatter you), I think one would not at all be surprised to hear it in a (good) Catholic parish. So, where is the difference? Does it enter with Thomas? Is it in practice? What is it? I am in no hurry at all.

humity: soiled

 
At Sunday, March 15, 2009 1:59:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Dear Kiran,

At long last, back to this conversation. First, thank you for the kind words on the homilies. Second, so where is the difference? The notion of merit as applied to the saints, the conception of a treasury of such that the Church has authority to dispense; the making of purgatory into a place (as opposed to purgation perse); the sidelining in ecclesial life of what is central: the justification of the sinner for the sake of Christ's merit and righteousness alone; the elevation of human custom and distinctions to the level of divine dogma (think our disagreements on the sacred ministry). Perhaps that enough to get started?

When did it begin? You can trace beginnings of different errors to different times. I do not believe in vilifying St. Thomas - he had much good, and he also put forward some silliness (monastic vows equal to Baptism???).

What the Lutherans sought to do was to remove those merely human notions that beclouded the wondrous work that God has wrought for our fallen race in the Redeemer and to lift up that work as our hope, our joy, our very life - for His work grants us entrance into HIM.

 

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