web analytics

Singing Sola

I was perusing my first blog, and I found this post from a year before my Gavin was born. My blog tone was very different back then — more vent-ish, believe it or not. But I kinda wanted to have this one in the mix again. I still agree with what I said back then:

Proving sola Scriptura using sola Scriptura?

Why? Why this standard? Who says we must prove sola Scriptura using only Scripture? This type of challenge reminds me of radio personalities who dare their opposition to prove X with the promise of earning a million dollars. It’s a challenge never meant to be met.

Do you prove what is true Science using Science? No, not at all. It’s the nature of a principle or an idea. Centuries of modernity have evolved a cultural definition of Science. From Francis Bacon through Albert Einstien, if something has a certain smell of science, it’s Science. Religion is not science. Grocery shopping is not science. Coffee brewing is not science. No big whoop.

You might call that “t/Tradition,” sure, in the fact that it arises out of our culture and customs. I’m not one to get all bent out of shape over the fact that we accept a cultural standard as our ideal. 

But the principle/custom/tradition of sola Scriptura is different than an adherence to Tradition. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The fact of the matter is there are as many “Traditions” as colors in the spectrum. Do you do X, Y, Z, Q, R, or S? Who knows which one is best? One group insists on honoring this holiday; another says it’s six days later. How do you know which Tradition is correct? So a group of people centuries ago created the idea that the only Text that would be mandated would be Scripture. It was a Modern move. A principled shift. A well-reasoned change. A.A. Hodge discusses it in a rather antiquated discussion here. I, of course, cite that only for historical reference not as an endorsement. Essentially sola Scriptura argues that Scripture is the cornerstone, the centerpiece, the bottom line. And everything from there is up for grabs. You do what you wish. You have Christian liberty. 

Funny thing — those who insist on Tradition are also pretty singular in their insistence about which Tradition is right. They are pretty insistent that theirs alone is the only way. They are pretty top-down in their church government. They are the least likely to allow Christian liberty.

They are also the least “modern” in their customs. That’s not really a surprise. They are left in the Old World, cloistered in their beautiful cocoon. They also think that Scripture is mysterious and detached — that we need Tradition to interpret it. 

They also argue that sola Scriptura has led to corruption — violent parenting, poor governing, etc. Um. . . . how do I say this nicely? . . . Corruption is human. Laying the blame for corruption at the feet of sola Scriptura is ignorant, blind, and tragic (in the Burkean sense). We don’t need Tradition to be the checks and balances because truly only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Holy Spirit can use t/Tradition, sure. He can use sola Scriptura too. I just doubt that applying an arcane and ancient set of texts is the best solution to contemporary corruption. It doesn’t seem to be a good antidote.

Those who embrace Tradition say that they only embrace the Traditions that resonate with Scripture. Um. . . .  hate to tell you this, m’dears, but that’s called  sola Scriptura! 

Those attracted out of a sola Scriptura tradition into a Tradition tradition relish its exotic quality, its Old World spectacle. And that’s fine. Relish that. I can’t help but point out that those people come out of a shallow, silly Protestantism. Every one has a provincial perspective, a limited exposure to the robust Protestant intellect and Faith. 

And those of us who use sola Scriptura? We’re actually the more diverse, the more accepting of differences. We’re more tolerant, and more adaptable (hence less corrupt). We’ve chosen this one Text as sacred and inspired. In a sense, it’s a democratic, New World move. As critical as I have been in my life of Modernity, I admire its perspicuity. It whittles away the unnecessary to find points of agreement. I like the streamlined, four-square, modern quality to my set of traditions. For me, it focuses me on God. And I don’t think the Bible is like a tax code — impossible to understand without human intervention. After all, even a child, Christ said, can understand it.

I’m unmoved by the rather petulent insistence that we prove the validity of sola Scriptura with the method of sola Scriptura. Hmph. They’ll say I’m proving their point that “t/Tradition” is necessary. Well, I never said it wasn’t necessary. I said that I wasn’t going to elevate it to a Sacred Text. I’ll debate Augustine. I’m not debating St. Mark. It’s a choice I’ve made. And it’s a good one.

Get over it.

7 thoughts on “Singing Sola

  1. “Who says we must prove sola Scriptura using only Scripture?”

    Good thoughts and an enjoyable read, but this line I quoted above admittedly confuses me.

    If Sola Scriptura is meant to be held as “sola Scriptura”, then… wouldn’t the Scriptures say exactly that? And if they don’t, I personally see that as a bit of a logistical problem. *shrugs*

  2. Hey, Molly. 🙂

    If Sola Scriptura is meant to be held as “sola Scriptura”, then… wouldn’t the Scriptures say exactly that?

    I don’t see why. . . . Sola Scriptura is a(nother) *t*radition, a human choice, a cultural construction. It’s giving Scripture the trump card, so to speak. Why do you have to find evidence for it in Itself? I’m honestly asking.

    I mean, you and I both know that t/Tradition is all over the place in any “denomination” or “style” of worship. Some use invitations, some immerse, others sprinkle, blah, blah, blah. . . . This is just another one. In our past, you and I might have insisted on immersing, but we both know *now* that it’s not what we might have thought it was. It, too, is a tradition.

    Anyway, I wrote that nearly 3 years ago, and I was thinking of killing that old blog, and I transferred a few things over here. This was one of them. *Now* I would just say while I would choose sola Scriptura, I think most of the non-Protestants are not as starkly different on the Text as I might have once thought.

  3. Thought about this a little bit more. . . .

    See — I don’t hear anyone saying that the Scripture says to be sola Scriptura. What I hear is the idea of semper reformanda. The idea that humanity is always going to mess up and that even the path we’re on now may need correction later on.

    It should be a statement of humility about our words versus God’s Word — something that drives us to our knees.

  4. Oooh, I see what you’re saying. Sola Scriptura is just as much tradition as any other one. EXCELLENT point. (One that I think most fundamentalists would be very upset with, though).

  5. Interesting thoughts. Are you getting at the idea of Sola Scriptura being a presupposition? If so, I might agree, but I have to think about it more. SS is certainly consistent with Scripture itself, but whether we can prove it from Scripture might be a different question.

    Needless to say, I’ve had my share of Sola Scriptura v. Tradition discussions in the last three years. This isn’t a tact I’ve taken. Yet.

    When it gets really fun is when the following line of reasoning arises:
    1. Sure, I believe that Scripture is the only authority.
    2. But Scripture isn’t always clear. Someone has to interpret it.
    3. We know that there’s no private interpretation, and likewise, if everyone could interpret it for herself, we’d have chaos, and that cannot be what God intended.
    4. Therefore, someone must have the power to give an authoritative interpretation.
    5. That someone is Us, the One True Church.

  6. I think one must be careful of solO scriptura as well, though. Without tradition we have no canon, right? How do we even know what is Scripture?

Comments are closed.