Jan 20 2010

More thoughts on Sola Scriptura

I ran across a great little post on the Wittenberg Trail webring on the issue of sola scriptura. Unfortunately, you’ve got to join before you can read any of the article, so a link will do little good for most folks.  So, I’ll reprint a portion here along with credit and a link.

The author is John L. Moseman, who from comments in the post, was Eastern Orthodox prior to becoming a confessional Lutheran.  The Orthodox, of course, do not hold to sola scriptura, due to their stand on Tradition.  John shares that it was the book of Galatians that challenged his belief in Tradition, and converted him to sola scriptura.

Here’s the body of his post, a shot commentary on Galatians:

“PAUL, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),” 1:1

This here in the first verse of this epistle is something that gets repeated, why? It is fundamentaly important that our faith is not handed down by men but God. What does this mean? That God can come into us and by his Word lead us in faith and direction. For the longest time I was hung up on Apostolic succession but it is not the men but the Word of God that propels the Church. RCC and EO would stress that their bishops were given the Holy Spirit but as Paul goes on to say that this is not the litmus test for teachers of the true faith.

” I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” 1:6,7

It is so evident here that false doctrine was coming from within the Church and that when these teachers turned from Christ on the cross they started making new doctrines. To me this stresses the importance of maintaing true doctrine found in the Gospel.

‘But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. ”

Right here it is expresses that even if it is an Apostle, an angel, priest, pastor, bishop or any other in the church that with they are not preaching THE WORD that they are not from God. To me this is where Sola Scriptura comes in with a bang, that it is not the pastors but the Holy Spirit, which comes from the Word. Without the Word of God we are hopeless as he goes on to explain that even the Apostles where confused. When they went on their own, when they relied on their authority and not on the Word. Here it is evident that in the Word we do have the authority of God. It makes it clear that if one is not in the Word or preaches the Word in truth that they are not of God. It becomes false doctrine. Also is it me or does he in a off shot way give creedance to Sola Scriptura when looking in the Scriputures to make his point?

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”

Here it is simple though we have to hold true to the traditions and they have their place. Without the Word of God behind it, breathed in it, it is not of God. This was evident to Luther. So here we see that Sola Sciptura is not isolating the traditions only the ones not adminstered by God breathed in by his Word. So how can Mr. Hahn seriously hold that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura when it is clear right here that the Apostles authority directly comes from the Word and the Word alone.

I suggest everyone to read the entire epistle. Later on in it you start to see St. Paul correct and say that the Apostles had been in error suggesting that they where confused when the failed to keep the Gospel in perspective. The basic truth is that RCC and EO are right about some things. They error when they put the infalliable authority of God in man’s hands and not in the Word. This why even some of our Lutheran pastors error they are corrected by the Word.

Some interesting things to think about.  However, there are a few other things to consider:

  1. The New Testament that we have today is a product of Tradition.
  2. The Gospel Paul talks about is the Apostolic message that the EO believe has been passed down through Tradition.
  3. The question is, is Tradition the Apostolic message, or merely the traditions of men?  Perhaps a combination?

Any other thoughts?

Jan 4 2010

Exploring the Twain 5 – Major issues between East and West

Today I started making a list of the various differences I’ve come across between the Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical theology (I am ignoring the RCC at this point, as it has its own issues, and it’s my blog).   Here’s the list, in quasi-random order:

  1. The interpretation of the phrase “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church” from the Nicene Creed.
  2. Tradition and authority
  3. The acceptance of the “filioque” clause in the Nicene Creed by the RCC and Protestant churches
  4. Views of the Atonement: Christus Victor vs. Substitutionary or Penal theories
  5. Soteriology: Theosis/deification vs. a forensic view of justification
  6. Apophatic vs. Capophatic theology
  7. Mystical v Rational theology
  8. The nature of sin

I quite possibly have left out something important, and reserve the right to add to this list.  Also, there is a bit of overlap in my list.   On some items in the list, I tend to agree with the Orthodox view (3, 4, 8); on others, I disagree (1, 6), and on the rest I either am “agnostic” or would take an inclusive or MOR position.  In the next few posts I will discuss each of these, in probably another quasi-random order.

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

It probably has not occurred to many people that churches who confess the Nicene Creed (including Orthodox, RCC, Lutheran, Anglican and many others) disagree on the meaning of “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”  Most of us who were raised Protestant understand this to mean that we believe in the invisible church, inclusive of all believers regardless of denomination.  The Orthodox, however, do not believe in this “invisible” church; to the East, this statement refers to the various churches in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, exclusive of the Roman and Protestant churches.

When this creed was developed in the 4th Century, there was only one church; the Roman church, while divided by language and politics, was still joined to the Eastern church.  So, this was not an issue until the Great Schism of 1054 (if I recall correctly) at which time the Roman church excommunicated the Orthodox, and the Eastern church “wrote off” the RCC.  Both factions laid claim to the Creed, believing that they were the “one” visible church.  When Luther & Co. began the Reformation, the phrase was reinterpreted to refer to the global, “invisible” church.

It is also interesting to note that some Protestant churches disagree with this line of the Nicene Creed (the Orthodox refer to the creed as the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed” as it was finalized in the later Ecumenical Council), as they refuse to accept the Orthodox and RCC churches.  How ironic.

Because the Eastern church believes salvation as flowing from the Church, this has obvious implications in the Eastern view of the Western churches.  While most do not say that there are no non-Orthodox Christians, they will not go so far as to say that salvation is possible outside of the Church.  One really has to better understand the Orthodox view of salvation to understand this issue, but I confess that so far, I don’t have that level of understanding.

If any of my 11 readers has some thoughts on this issue, I’d love to hear them.  I am on a fact-finding mission here, rather than being pedantic.

Nov 20 2009

Martin Luther is still my hero

Therefore a distinction must be made between reason left to itself without restriction, which runs about unbridled and is carried around by its reckonings, which judges and decides on the basis of its own principles, which are common notions, perceptions, experience, etc., and reason restrained by God’s Word and kept in obedience to Christ. This judges and decides on the basis of the proper principle of theology, that is, on the basis of God’s Word, which has been set forth in the Holy Scriptures. The mysteries of faith are not contrary to reason considered in the latter respect, but they are contrary to reason considered in the former respect. (from a yet-unpublished translation of Luther, as posted by Paul T. McCain)

Martin Luther is still my hero.   While Luther’s comments on reason (a longer quote is posted on McCain’s site) have been ridiculed by atheists as showing the irrelevance of Christianity, it is only because they are not understood in context.  Obviously, Luther relies on well-reasoned logic in this very analysis.

This quote by Luther, I think, reveals an area of protest with regard to the Roman Catholic Church that is often overlooked, and which I’ll be writing more about soon in my series on “Exploring the Twain“: The Roman Church’s theology was being subjected to a philosophy that was more and more governed by man’s ability to make things appear logical.  While Luther saw and opposed this direction, the rest of the protestants – Calvin and Zwingli, for example – continued to embrace a reason-driven theology, which paved the way for our modern evangelicalism.  Luther’s position here places him more in like with the Eastern Church, which had and has a different approach to theology and philosophy.

Luther probably doesn’t get all the credit he deserves for his remarkable insights, I think primarily due to his patently unmodern commitment to apostolic Christianity.

Luther is still my hero.