Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tradition can be a good thing

'Sola Scriptura' as a doctrine has been misunderstood. For example when I was preparing for an essay about ethics I came across this quote: “No matter how seriously the church may take the authority of the Bible, the slogan of sola Scriptura is both conceptually and practically untenable, because the interpretation of the Scripture can never occur in a vacuum.” (Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 209) Hays here confuses the Reformed respect for tradition with the Anabaptist rejection of tradition. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is quite clear, we are to hold fast to the traditions of the church, which if true, merely echoes and highlights the pre-existing content of Scripture. 'Sola Scriptura' simply means Scripture is the single source of authority unlike the Roman Catholic church of the late medieval period which separated tradition from Scripture deciding that they were supplementary sources of authority. Hodge says “for an individual Christian to dissent from the faith of the universal Church is tantamount to dissenting from the Scriptures themselves.” (C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, I:184)


The Borg said...

paraphrase Hodge for me. I am not sure I get the import of that last sentence.

ish said...

ooops again. The above comment is from me not Shiloh.

Luke said...

Tradition 0: No role tradition whatsoever
Tradition 1: 'Sola Scriptura' Scripture is the final authority but tradition is basically the handed down history of human interpretation which if true merely highlights and displays Scripture
Tradition 2: Tradition supplements and is co-equal authority
Tradition 3: The church is the final authority over both Scripture and Tradition

(From Mathison, Sola Scriptura)

So Hodge is saying if we go against true tradition we are going against Scripture. The current Roman Catholic stance is Tradition 3 because true tradition reveals that the church does not have authority over Scripture. Some Protestants pretend that they come to Scripture without any tradition or bias.

Andrew Bowles said...

I think Hays is approaching this question from a different angle. Sola scriptura as a doctrine says what to do when the Bible contradicts tradition. It doesn't tell you what to do when you have different interpretations of Scripture. I'm not aware of any entirely satisfactory answer to this question. Do more and more exegesis? Proclaim an infallible magisterium? Set up an Inquisition? Call an ecumenical council? Form a thousand new denominations?

ish said...

I enjoyed Amos Os "In the Land of Israel" where he chapter by chapter "holds the mic" to an assortment of vastly divergent perspectives. Despite all this there exists a national identity that speaks a cohesion to the world at large so strongly that that you could hardly find a piece of the map that raises more ire ... or more support. Is it possible to extract an metaphor from this of the church and even see in the big picture a positive kind of tension in the search to respond faithfully to Scriptures? Does value arise more from the tension of debate than from passive acquiescence?