Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura (latin for: by scripture alone)

From Wikipedia:
Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all — that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting. That the Bible requires no interpretation outside of itself is an idea directly opposed to the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Coptic, Anglo-Catholic, and Roman Catholic traditions, which teach that the Bible can be authentically interpreted only by Apostolic Tradition

2 Tim 3:16
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,"(NIV)
This is a verse that is often used to support the Sola Scriptura position. What was Paul saying as he was writing this letter to Timothy? Let's consider a few other translations:
"Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness." (ASV)
"every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness,"(Youngs Literal Translation)
When some people hear this verse simply quoted, they may think the Bible is stating that the 66 books in our protestant bible are 100% God's spoken word.

First we have to note that the verse does not say that scripture is the only or even primary source of God's message to us. So it says nothing to support the wording "scripture alone" or "Sola Scriptura". Even though the use of these terms is still part of protestant "tradition".

But there is more to consider. In 100 - 150 AD when Paul was writing this letter to Timothy, what they would call scripture was our old testament and possibly many books we refer to as apocrypha. They also had access to some of the early christian writtings of various degrees of inspiration. The collection of books we now call scripture was put together over the next centuries by the same church leaders who were also part of the early catholic church.

The Bible as we have it was not handed to us by God in one package. We must rely on the credibility of God's people from many generations who have handed it down to us - both from Old Testament times, as well as the the early christian (catholic) church.

I believe great care has been taken by God's people to do this great task. The Bible is a credible historical document. We do have a great book containing God's message for the world, and it is foundational to our faith.

Catholics also have a high view of scripture. This is from their catechism:
"God is the author of Sacred Scripture. 'The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.'"

Is it self-interpreting?

Yes, I believe it is self-interpreting, however I doubt if anyone has done this entirely.

Throughout my life, my understanding of the Bible has been influenced by many people. I have allowed a variety of church traditions to interpret scripture for me. If those interpretations are founded in scripture, there is no problem, but if they are not, then I believe God will hold them accountable for their teachings.

So I see the issue as not so much whether traditions interpret scripture, but whether or not those interpretations are clearly Biblical.

Most of the details that divide the different church traditions use a lot of terms that are not found in the Bible (like "sola scriptura", or "scripture alone"). All Christians place great value on the Bible. I pray that we can keep our main focus on the topics the Bible is clear on, and in doing so can discover our unity.


Anonymous said...

Roman Catholic Catechism:

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."42

"and [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."43

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."44

mrjhutton said...

Protestant churches also interpret scripture. Every denomination and christian tradition will argue that their interpretation of scripture is correct.

I think it should come as no surprise that the catholic church believes their tradition has correctly interpreted scripture.

So I don't think there is much point focusing on this.

If the interpretations are true to Scripture there is no issue. When we feel an interpretation is not true to Scripture we are free to disagree. For those of us who are not catholic we don't have to agree with all their interpretations.

I guess to sum up where I'm at. I am not catholic, but I'm not sure if I need to protest (protestant) or be anti-Catholic in any way. I'm struggling to determine if the differences between my beliefs and the catholic's are any greater than the differences I have with thousands of other denominations who I count as potential brothers and sister's.

Anonymous said...

The issue with "Sola Scripture" isn't interpretation. It has everything to do with what the interpretation is based on: scripture or tradition (note how the catechism reads). I don't disagree with you on the issue of interpretation of scripture at all - we all do our best to interpret the doctrines of scriptures. The problem arises when doctrines are pronounced by the (a) church, outside of the parameters of Scripture, as infallible / absolute revelation and being espoused as equal WITH divine scripture... that's the issue of "sola scriptura" - not interpretation.

mrjhutton said...

I think I understand what you're saying here. However I think catholic interpretations strive to be true to scripture where scripture is clear. On issues where scripture is silent or less clear they also rely on tradition.

I think on issues where scripture is clear, the catholic tradition and protestant traditions have interpreted well and are in agreement. When scripture is silent or less specific on an issue we find that the different traditions have interpreted differently.

I think it is more productive to look at the merit of each issue individually, try to understand their point of view, and determine if the differences are such that we can agree to disagree, and still show love and respect to each other.

Thanks - God bless.