Skip to comments.Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession
Posted on 02/15/2011 6:47:28 PM PST by topcat54
In November 2009, the Roman Catholic website Called to Communion posted an article titled Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority, critiquing one of the claims of my book The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001). The article is attributed to Bryan Cross and Dr. Neal Judisch. According to their website, Cross is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and currently a Ph.D. student at Saint Louis University. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 2006. Judisch is a professor of philosophy at the University of Oklahoma and a 2008 convert to Roman Catholicism. Like the other regular authors at Called to Communion, Cross and Judisch come from a Reformed background and are relatively recent converts to Roman Catholicism.
(Excerpt) Read more at turretinfan.blogspot.com ...
I agree there is a difference and I am Catholic. I think too that many Protestants act as if Solo Scriptura was the rallying cry of the Reformation and not Sola Scriptura. I think the confusion lies with Scripture being given primary authority as the source for all subsequent authority such as confessions, doctrinal teachings and articles of faith and the creeds. These things are not above Scripture but they are drawn from Scripture and as such as authority. This is what prevents what us Catholics uncharitably call “being your own Pope”.
This stands in contrast to sects which claim that even the Creeds are not be used because they are extra Biblical. This sort of sect is the one I would say is Solo Scriptura and often are built up around a cult of personality.
I know that many orthodox Protestants from mainline denominations are fighting to keep their denomination faithful to the Gospel. Especially in matters of sexual morality. I pray that despite our differences you continue to hold steadfast.
I meant to write “to me, many Protestants” not “too many”
Well don't keep us in suspense!
“I think too that many Protestants act as if Solo Scriptura was the rallying cry of the Reformation and not Sola Scriptura. I think the confusion lies with Scripture being given primary authority as the source for all subsequent authority such as confessions, doctrinal teachings and articles of faith and the creeds. “ The primary reason that Solo Scriptura became the evangelical rallying cry was that after the Second Great Awakening and the great revivals that swept the new nation you had a people who were suspicious of clergy who clung to rote and essentially dry doctrine. It seemed to a people eager hear the gospel and to enliven their worship that the educated clergyman had no soul and that he preached prepared sermons to a mostly bored but aristocratic congregation. The creeds and doctrinal elucidations seemed like so much popish embellishment to the simple message of the Bible. Like most things in history, solo scriptura was a reaction to the more academic sola scriptura, and its legacy remains today within the evangelical churches regardless of denomination.It is usually the Reformed or Presbyterian Churches whose histories have always had a highly educated clergy that seek to revive the confessions and the doctrinal purity of their earlier years.
I agree and that does explain a lot.
Sola Scriptura is basically the response given when others have tried to put extra-biblical things above what the bible says about matters. The Bible is THE Word of God and there is no human document written by anyone else that is equal or supercedes it. No tradition of man supercedes anything in Scripture either.
And as far as a cult of personality is concerned, I would suggest that the Roman church has its own cults of personality and it’s probably not a line of argument you want to use to make a point other than one that ends in “remove the beam from your own eye, then help your brother remove the splinter in theirs”.
Fact is every denomination has issues. Some are actively trying to fight apostacy while others are embracing it and calling it “good”.
I was actually defending Sola Scriptura by showing it does not mean Bible Only but that it mean Bible is the primary authority and all other teachings must derive from it. This means that you have articles of faith, confessions, creeds, and doctrines which take their authority from the Bible alone. It is the Bible that gives them their weight. Each person in such denominations is not free to teach doctrine which is contrary to these. It is not a case of everyone is their own Pope.
By cult of personality I did not mean just any Protestant pastor. Think prosperity gospel preachers and such. You know the sort they do not represent most Protestant denominatons. Again it was not a remark against the godly ministers and reverends in Protestant churches but about hucksters who use the guise religion to prey on the gullible.
Such is not likely to happen if the congregation can point to established church teaching and say “wait that is not what we believe.”
Whether Catholic or Protestant established teaching is an important tool in battling heresy. If a Reformed preacher was to start teaching a belief in infused righteousness one can point to the confessions (I hope that is the right document)and say he is in error. But without such established doctrine and by saying only the Bible is to be used you can have varying interpretations on that subject and no clear teaching will emerge. That is Solo Scriptura.
Every heretical belief has its orgins in somebody deciding they alone really understood what Scripture meant. The purpose of articles of faith and the like is to make clear what a church believes and holds to be true.
Indeed. Jonathan Edwards best gave expression to the thrust you describe. It went beyond even what the “separates” taught at that time. A good in depth look at that period and the religious changes can be found in Richard Bushman’s From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765. It was published in 1967, but probably you can get hold of a copy. Very well-documented. A broader name for what was happening was “Enthusiasm,” and it lead to the very “democratic” movement called Methodism, which influenced by German “pietism.” In the Catholic Church, there was an unrelated but parallel movement, Jansenism, which might be called Catholic puritanism. Ronald Knox has a great book called “Enthusiasm.” Knox was an Anglican who became a Catholic priest and apologist, a great friend of Evelyn Waugh, and a translator of the Vulgate into English that is still used by the Roman Catholics in England and Wales. IAC. the powerful social effect of “enthusiasm,” cannot be under estimated.
Sam Adams, for one, was a product of that movement. Even in France the suppression of the Jansenists by their enemies the Jesuits served to undermine Church authority.
The two great awakenings had strong influence on the shaping of this country’s character. It certainly stands in contrast to European easy acceptance of government authority and its every expanding role.
I have never viewed the freedom to read and learn under the power of the Holy Spirit, about the truths in the bible, as ‘being your own pope.’ I would say most non-catholics do not view it that way, but I would say many catholics would. Of course it doesn’t mean we are free to teach incorrect doctrines, we never said that’s what that grants. We have no disagreement there. The fact that people have, will and continue to teach heresies, does not mean the rest of us are in favor of teaching heresies. I think one example is the exodus of folks from ELCA over their current blatant heresy regarding homosexuality.
Yes, I agree about the prosperity folks. But the bottom line with their heresy is legalism. They just figured out how to get rich off their particular legalism. The legalism is that if YOU don’t believe enough, if YOU don’t have enough faith, you can’t be healed, or that’s why you still have money problems. God wants you to be rich but if you don’t claim the promise and believe it, it won’t happen. So it’s your fault. But I will also say this is not the exclusive realm of protestant ministers, I would not say the roman church is immune from such people in the pulpits as well.
As far as pointing it out, the fact is protestant churches as a general rule have a lot more power to reprimand and dismiss such pastors over a catholic congregation. And they do send them packing, for this reason and others.
What our position is about other documents such as the Confessions is that they are correct insofar as they are derived from Scripture and agree with Scripture. At the same time, they are not superior from Scripture, or that they add to, or are needed and Scripture is incomplete without them. They are statements of belief and the statements explain themselves because they are built on Scripture (which is included as part of the document). The document is based on the Word of God but is not the Word of God. While the Confessions may provide to someone the basis for a particular denomination’s beliefs, the Word of God does not need the Confessions; but the Confessions must have and needs the Word of God, as the Bible is the Confessions’ foundation. The Word of God is its own foundation. Further don’t disregard the fact the Confessions have been tested against the Word of God by many, and continually tested throughout the ages that Scripture has not been mis-applied in order to somehow support someone’s pet heresy. They are not just written and never critically examined again.
Per your last paragraph, I am not sure I agree that every single heretical view comes from one individual as you put it ‘being their own pope’. For one thing, a person can hold an incorrect belief out of ignorance, and at some point, in their genuine studies, realize they were in error. Few Christians can say they haven’t had this happen to them as they have matured in their study of God’s Word, talking with other Christians, parents, pastors.
I also believe that councils of people have voted to make certain incorrect doctrines “valid” and other valid doctrines “heresies” - not just one person doing so. The ruling council of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is but one example. Not to be argumentative as I have enjoyed the discussion, but I would have to lump the Council of Trent in there as well.
Anyways, I have enjoyed the discussion with you.
1. Did Christ institute the Roman Ecclesiastical Hierarchy?
No. If the claim that Christ instituted the Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy were true, we might actually expect to read of Christ instituting the Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy in the documents of the New Testament written by the Apostles. There is certainly precedent for this expectation in the Old Testament. There we see Moses setting forth the details of the old covenant priesthood and the priestly succession. God did not leave all of this to chance and hope the Israelites would figure it out on their own. Nor did this Old Testament hierarchy emerge out of a process of development. Furthermore, Moses did not hand down the instructions through any kind of proto-gnostic secret tradition. The priestly hierarchy was an institution of such importance that it was given publicly.
“What our position is about other documents such as the Confessions is that they are correct insofar as they are derived from Scripture and agree with Scripture. At the same time, they are not superior from Scripture, or that they add to, or are needed and Scripture is incomplete without them. They are statements of belief and the statements explain themselves because they are built on Scripture (which is included as part of the document). The document is based on the Word of God but is not the Word of God. While the Confessions may provide to someone the basis for a particular denominations beliefs, the Word of God does not need the Confessions; but the Confessions must have and needs the Word of God, as the Bible is the Confessions foundation.”
Yes I agree that is the position of Sola Scriptura. They have their authority in Scripture. My point was that Protestants who believe in Sola Scriptura do have teaching authority in their churches. It is not a magesterium who draw from Scripture and Tradition. It is those items you refer to.
In other words it is not just a free for all of everyone can believe what they want (and not be in danger of heretical views) and everyone is their own authority (this is what I meant by “own pope.”). Scripture is given primacy and from it comes all other teachings.
I don’t want this to become Catholic vs Protestant. My intent was to show that Sola Scriptura is not Solo Scriptura. You are free of course to come up with your own intrepretation of Scripture. My only contention was if your vision contradicts your denominations official teacing you may be regarded as a heretic by that denomination. They determine this contradiction by appeal to their official teachings derived from their understanding of Scripture.
I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Sola Scriptura equals Be your own pope. That I believe comes from a mistaken understanding of Sola Scriptura.
Well, every denomination has core teachings and beliefs and will not necessarily call you a heretic on everything, perhaps politely unorthodox. Also not every belief is weighted equally, there are core beliefs and there are lesser points or those hypothesized or extrapolated from certain passages in Scripture. There are some items we are free to disagree on that don’t jeopardize one’s salvation. Church structures, for example.
But denominations calling those that don’t believe what they teach, unorthodox, heretic, etc, - that’s been around since the beginning of time.
I get your point that Sola Scriptura isn’t Solo Scriptura. Actually that’s a very nice and concise way to phrase it.
I agree with what you have written.
“A good in depth look at that period and the religious changes can be found in Richard Bushmans From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765”
Thanks for your interesting response. I have heard of this book and will see if my library carries it. I recommend two books very highly for a study of AMerican religious movements that possibly you already know: The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch, and America’ God by Mark Noll. Both are invaluable resources. It is remarkable that there was ever a time in our history that common man was so invested in his faith. I pray for another revival!
3. Are the bishops of Rome the successors of Peter?
No. Had the idea of Petrine Roman succession originated with Christ and not with the church of a much later generation, one would have expected to see an unbroken line of succession from Peter in Rome forward through a series of bishops. Instead, the historical evidence clearly indicates that the monepiscopacy did not develop in Rome until the second half of the second century. If Peter had appointed a successor, the papacy would not have had to await the latter half of the second century before gradually beginning to come into existence.
Revivals come and they go. The generation after the Great Awaking, perhaps in rebellion against the zeal of their parents and older brothers, was more secular. But two generation later, as awareness of the atheism of the French Revolution began to penetrate our upper classes, the “Second”Awakening had tremendous effect. In 1789, most Americans did not belong to a church community. By 1860, the vast majority did. But the period afterwards, with Darwin as a marker, the upper classes began to separate God from their lives, although they still paid homage to the Christian morality. Carleton J.H.Hayes, the Catholic historian, has a good survey of the period, “A Generation of Materialism,” It all led to a day of the Lord in August, 1914, when all the sins of Europe came crashing down their heads. I fear the same turning away from God may lead our nation to like disaster. Despite the long prosperity the Europeans have enjoyed, their societies are decadent. literally dying out.