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Monday, October 12, 2015

Sola Scriptura No!

The standard position of many Christians is sola scriptura, even if they don't know it. The phrase means "only Scripture" and is the position that Scripture is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. To put it another way, the Bible contains all that is required for salvation and godly living. Well, mostly another way to put it, because there is another element in the idea -- exclusion.

You see, the Roman Catholics have a different idea. They have a three-pronged structure, where Scripture, the Church, and Tradition are the three authorities. Not one. Thus, one of the reasons that the Reformation put forth this sola scriptura notion was that the Roman Catholics had a problem -- their three authorities contradicted each other. So which was authoritative?

Today, of course, there are more alternatives available. We can throw in Science. (That's with a capital "S" because in this application it is somewhat ... divine.) The Bible may say X, but if Science denies X, then the Bible is wrong and Science is right. Oh, sure, the good Christian folk on this wagon might say, "The Bible isn't wrong! It's just ..." and then they'll fill in "misunderstood" or "myth" or something like that. You know, "The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth, but Science tells us that it occurred by natural means -- Big Bang, Evolution, that kind of stuff -- so clearly the Bible wasn't patently true when it described God creating the world." Science: 1; Bible: 0.

We can throw in Modernity. Back then they thought Y, but our Modern Society knows better. Clearly Y is false. So when God instituted rules on, say, homosexual sex, He didn't have the benefit of our much better Modern Society and its views about sexual orientation and gender identity. These are a horse of a different color. That clears it all up. God and the Bible were wrong. Modernity: 1; Bible: 0.

I'm almost amused at the way that some vague entity popularly known as "Common Sense" gets into this, too. I'm fairly convinced that "Common Sense" is just as real as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but, hey, who am I to say? Coupled with Philosophy and Experience, these two gain substantial superiority over biblical authority. "Yes, yes, Paul claims that there is none who does good, but we know better. Common Sense tells us that this just isn't true." And "The Bible tries to display God as absolute Sovereign, but simply logic will tell you that Free Will requires that God not be absolute Sovereign or Free Will doesn't exist." And Sovereignty disappears in a puff of logic. Common Sense, Experience, and Philosophy: 1; Bible: 0.

Turns out the Bible appears to be pretty low on the list. As it turns out, in fact, there seems to be a common thread here. Just about anything can outweigh the Bible for authority. The goal appears to be a host of authorities ... far more than the supposed three held by the Roman Catholics. No one offers any real reasons for these alternative authorities or any hierarchy for them. The Catholics have contradictions between their three. You can only imagine the contradictions between the Bible and the rest of these self-made authorities. What about the contradictions among this multiplicity? Which one(s) win? I guess your own choice of authority will determine that. (Rest assured it won't be the Bible.)


Craig said...

How could you have left out the ever popular Reason? Because Reason always trumps Scripture.

Stan said...

You're right. But I didn't really leave it out, because the "reason" they use is more like "common sense" than "reason". And, of course, just about anything these days trumps Scripture.

Craig said...

I kind of thought that was the case.

Craig said...

Since this posted our buddy has left a polite demand, on a wholly unrelated blog post of mine, that I should defend your post on the Orthodox doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I declined for several reasons. However this gem caught my eye.

"I just continue not to find the case plausible and can't see how it is even rational to make an extra-biblical claim reached by human reasoning that the Bible is the "sole authority..." It just seems self-defeating and thus, I will continue not to buy into this human theory, so long as no one steps up to defend it and, at the very least, acknowledge the reality that it's a human theory, not a literal biblical teaching."

One wonders how much study Dan has put into this matter, and how open minded he was when he went into said study.

One wonders why Dan needs someone to convince him, rather than to be motivated enough to study the issue himself.

One wonders why Dan finds this particular "extra biblical" theory implausible, yet finds the "extra biblical theory" that Genesis is myth plausible?

One wonders why Dan finds the notion of deciding to base ones acceptance of scriptural teaching on human Reason Biblical, while finding this Orthodox doctrine "extra biblical"?

Finally, one wonders of Dan really actually believes that "No one" in the entire course of History has ever bothered to defend this Orthodox doctrine. You heard that correctly, "No one steps up to defend it...".

I could be wrong, but it seems as though you are doing what he claims "no one" has ever done. Congratulations for being the first to defend this.

I haven't really read his comments, although I haven't deleted them either, so if you want to take a glance and incorporate his objections into any future posts you do that would be great.

Me, I'm going to avoid going into this with him again

Stan said...

Reasonable questions, Craig. Since he cannot comment here, I suppose going to you and asking is to someone else besides me a reasonable thing to do. I'm fascinated that "no one tries to defend this" is the complaint aimed at a post aimed at defending it. And I'm baffled, not merely by his view, but so many others, what would take the place of Scripture. As far as I can tell, it's "Me".

Craig said...

"Because we REALLY think that if you take these handful of cherry picked verses and read them JUST THE RIGHT WAY in the manner that we do with the presumptions we hold going in and agree with US in how we interpret them, THEN one really must affirm that the Bible is hinting so strongly at it as to be not only reasonable but essential..."

This is the bar you must strive for in dealing with this topic.


This is his response to the "no one has ever defended it" problem.

"They have not defended it to me, rationally, answering the specific questions I am asking. Never. Not ever. Really. Ever."

So, I guess if it hasn't been specifically aimed directly at him and his specific questions, then it just doesn't exist.

I will agree that as with so many on the left, it makes perfect rational sense to go to me and ask that I defend what you have written. Because, it's all about group identity, not individuals.

I do note the irony in complaining that "no one ever..." about a post that is doing what it is claimed that "no one ever..." has done.

Stan said...

Something I haven't figured out, Craig. If the Bible is not the definitive answer (because it simply cannot be, given that we are humans and fallible in our understanding and no one can say with certainty that we understand ... oh ... just about anything in the Bible and we wouldn't want to speak for God when ... well, I guess He isn't actually going to do it), what is? What qualifies as the go-to authority on which we can say, "This is true and that is not" or "This is Christianity and that is not" or even "This is how you get saved and that is not"? Seems like we end up in a sticky relativist morass where nothing and no one has actual truth or authority in matters of faith and practice. I don't understand, given the biblical claim that Scripture is sufficient in all matters, what better source we're supposed to use. Them?

Stan said...

(Craig, You sent in a comment and I even posted it, but then accidentally deleted it in an email mistake. If you wanted to put it up here again, I'd post it again.)

Stan said...

I found it, Craig.

Craig said (before I accidentally deleted it):

"That is a great question, I've never gotten an answer. I encouraged Dan to take exactly that question and a few others and actually research and write a post laying out a positive case supporting whatever his position is. I hope he will."

Stan said...

And David said (before I accidentally deleted it):

"How is it cherry picking when there are multiple references and none that are contrary? I'd get it if there is an avoidance of verses that appear to contradict a belief. If this was cherry picking, isn't all theology "cherry picked" since none of the entire Bible speaks on one topic?"

(It's easy to try to "Delete" an email and accidentally delete the comment instead.)

Craig said...

Dan did attempt an answer to the above question, I was hoping for a well researched Biblically supported response that took a definite position and defended it. I got a bunch of random christiany sounding statements that were so generic that they could mean anything or nothing. Why was I surprised?

Stan said...

Dan doesn't get to comment here. However, I know of no " well researched Biblically supported response that took a definite position and defended it" from him. You understand, I hope, the impossibility of such a response. If you don't consider the Bible to be the authority or even something that anyone can actually know for sure, using it to support your position ... on anything ... would be pointless.

Craig said...

I agree, I am hoping that he will actually stake out, support, and defend a specific position as opposed to simply repeating "You guys are wrong."

Craig said...

Just to clarify, I don't think he will take me up and even if he did I don't think he can provide any alternative that has more Biblical support than S.S. I just get annoyed at the "You guys are wrong, but as long as that's all I say I don't actually have to provide a reasonable alternative", posture that is the default that I want to encourage him to actually take a stand and provide a coherent, Biblically supported, alternative. He actually said that "we" need a new theory, so why couldn't he be the one to provide it.

Craig said...

I spoke too soon. It seems that something resembling an alternative to S.S. is showing up in dribs and drabs at my blog and may soon show up at Dan's. So far it's mostly "you guys and your theory are irrational" with absolutely zero Biblical support, but it's not done yet. I'm predicting less Biblical support than for S.S. as well as much more creative interpretations in order to make it fit.

I've been wrong about this before, maybe I'll be wrong again.

David said...

That won't happen. There has been no discussion with him that has ever involved biblically reasoned evidence, only extrabiblical sources like "reason" or science or feeling. I don't think I ever saw a biblical reference from him.

Craig said...

David, I suspect you are probably correct, but I still hold out some hope that this will be otherwise.

Craig said...

So we finally have Dan's well researched, Biblically supported alternative to S.S., and it is (this is not a joke) "Reason".

That's it.

Stan said...

"Biblically supported." Really? Of course, "Reason" is the only alternative.

To be fair, I'm not sure he understands the question. We're not saying we don't use our reason when we see the Bible as the final authority. We're saying that whatever the Bible says is the final authority. That is, if "Reason" is the final authority, then it has the authority to overrule the Bible. "The Bible clearly says this, but my Reason tells me that that is better, so we'll cancel the Bible's instruction on the matter and go with mine ... because my Reason is the final authority." To be fair to Dan (and many others I'd assume), I'm not sure that's what he's saying. What he is saying that "My understanding is the final authority" which, of course, is simply relativity and, therefore, anarchy ... since it would be true for each individual.

Craig said...

Of course by Biblically supported, I mean completely devoid of any Biblical support.

I actually think you are right, that Dan is not actually advocating the position that Reason is something that literally trumps the Bible, but that everyone individually uses their own Reason to determine what the Bible means for them. Of course this leads to anarchy as you point out. It comes back to the elimination of any sort of fixed standard, which then becomes license to do virtually anything as long as you can torture some scripture or scriptural principal into supporting your personal predilection.

Although, Dan does seem to refer to Reason as if it is an objective concept quite a bit.

Bob said...

Prov. 3
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

just wondering if this relevant to the discussion.
opps i used scripture that i should not understand
with out sufficient reasoning skills. my bad...

Stan said...

What do you suppose it means to "not lean on your own understanding" when, of course, we do ... have to understand?

Stan said...

Of course, the "lean not on your own understanding" isn't about "understanding Scripture", but is placed in contradistinction to "trust in the Lord" as the "or" function. "When you arrive at an opportunity to a) trust in the Lord or b) trust your own understanding, choose "a".