Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sola Scriptura Fiction

Truth never stands free of a particular tradition.

In other words, there is no such thing as "just the facts." There is always a context within which the "facts" must be understood. This is even true with something as "objective" as science.

"Clearly the scientific tradition as a whole, and the many concepts, classifications of data, and theoretical models which are the working tools of science form as a whole a tradition within which scientists have to dwell in order to do their work. Without such an enduring tradition, science would collapse. At any moment in history several parts of the tradition may be under critical review and alternatives may be proposed; but this critical review would be impossible without the a-critical acceptance of the tradition as a whole. The progress of science depends, therefore, on the authority of this tradition."
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

If this is true for something like science, how much more must it be true for theology?

There is no such thing as a tradition-free truth. The idea that many people have of sola scriptura is dependent upon the tradition of the Enlightenment. It requires a whole series of assumptions that stand outside the text. These assumptions come from a tradition, but it is not the Christian tradition. It is a tradition is that is in large part in conflict with the Christian tradition.

Some Protestants ridicule the Roman Catholic Church for its reliance upon tradition. But Christianity depends upon tradition.

Of course, the Christian tradition should not stand above the text. Nor should that tradition be etched in stone. But the tradition is important, even essential.

Pastor Rod

"Helping you become the person God created you to be"


jeff franczak said...

I suggest that a good tradition meets all the following criteria. (And others that I’m not thinking of.) These criteria seem to be applicable to traditions in various contexts, e.g., a family, a society (the Knights of Columbus, the Red Hat Society, etc.), or a church congregation.

1) It is rooted in truth. (That is to say, it’s not nonsense.)
2) Its purpose is to point to, support, or serve something other than itself.
3) A super-majority (more than a simple majority) of the membership perceives that the tradition provides benefit and/or enjoyment.
4) A super-majority agrees with the frequency and/or duration of the activity.
5) It serves to unify the group. (Maybe this is simply a derivative of #2?)

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for your thoughts on this. A post-modern person would probably say that "good" would be defined by the tradition. They would say that it is not possible to stand outside all traditions to evaluate one tradition.

It is possible to evaluate other traditions in light of the tradition one belongs to, however.