Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 2 - Sola Scriptura - By Scripture Alone

Reformation 500 Lent Course 2017 (Session 2)

Reminder: A summary of key Reformation doctrines - 5 Solas – “Alone”s – Big Ideas

Sola No. 1: Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone

What possible authorities (or influences) are there for our thinking (especially on theology and ethics)?

Scripture – Tradition – Reason – Experience often cited as possibilities – relationship between them?

(Sola Scriptura actually a post-reformation slogan but the idea is key to the reformation)

Authority (Method / “Formal principle”) – foundational – how do we know anything? – on whose say so?

The essence of this claim: the supreme and final authority of Scripture – the last word – top trumps – the supreme court of appeal – allowing the Bible to transform individuals, churches, societies etc.

The importance of the Bible in the Reformation

Ad Fontes! – Humanist Renaissance cry: Back to the sources! – Drink from Scripture, from the pure life-giving source! – original languages and directly not via medieval glosses and commentaries – Magisterial Reformation arguably a theologically conservative project (much tradition retained, high view of Patristic theologians esp. Augustine of Hippo, stressing continuity with early church whilst purging later corruptions – reformed catholicity cf. Radicals)

Luther beating on that verse of Romans – Worms: conscience captive to the Word of God as superior authority to popes and councils – “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.” - "Sermon on Monday after Invocavit" (1522) Works 51:77- perhaps not quite so simple but certainly a great return to the Word

Historical reminder: Jerome’s Latin Vulgate from 4th C

1408 Constitutions of Oxford created by Archbishop Thomas Arundell: “It is a dangerous thing, as witnesseth blessed St. Jerome to translate the text of the Holy Scripture out of one tongue into another, for in the translation the same sense is not always easily kept. . . . We therefore decree and ordain, that no man, hereafter, by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue . . . and that no man can read any such book . . . in part or in whole.” – But Wycliffe’s Bible - vernacular Bibles prohibited and burnt in England - 1519, 7 parents burnt for teaching their children English versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed

Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1516) - Printing

Execution of Tyndale for translating the Scriptures from the original languages - The Bible for every Christian - Tyndale on the boy at the plough

1538 – all parishes in England required to purchase and display an English Bible “in some convenient place within the … church” where “parishioners may … read it”

The Book of Homilies begins with a sermon “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading of Holy Scripture”

1520 Sola Scriptura effectively decreed in Zurich – all preaching to be according to Scripture avoiding “human innovations and explanations” – but what does that mean in practice? Controversies follow over Lent fasting and sausages and clerical marriage (extra-biblical traditions)

The inspiration, truth, authority of Scripture as The Word of God Written

Common ground with the RC church

The Bible’s view of the Bible

2 Timothy 3:16 – Spirit / breath / wind (Hebrew & Greek) – not just inspired or inspiring but Spirited – God-breathed – origin, sufficiency, purpose, effectiveness of Scripture – (primarily OT of course)

Calvin – Bible writers secretaries / notaries of the Holy Spirit (though not necessarily dictated!)

Acts 4:25 - 2 Peter 1:21 - Hebrews 3:7 – 2 mistakes! – speaker, tense

Psalm 19:7-11 – descriptions, characteristics and effects of God’s Law / Word

The word of God reflects the character of God – Titus 1:2 – i.e. truthful, trustworthy, authoritative etc.

Infallible (a term used of the Scriptures in Homilies 4, 9, 10) / inerrant – true in all that it affirms

How we respond to someone’s words is how we respond to them – e.g. if you reject my letters, phone-calls and emails you are not just rejecting my words but me – Isaiah 66:2 – Calvin (on 2 Tim 3:16-17): “we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it” – not the physical object of the Bible, but the Bible as God’s voice, God speaking to us today by the Spirit

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) and on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) – e.g. not an excessive wooden literalism – parables – phenomenological language

Jesus’ view of the Bible – not just believe the Bible because the Bible tells us to! – Jesus quoted 49 different OT verses - Jesus recognised the Old Testament as the Word of God – “It is written…”; “Have you not read…” – John 10:35 – Matthew 5:18; 15:3; 19:4-5; 22:29 - Mark 7:13 – Scripture must be fulfilled - Luke 4:21; 7:27; 18:31-3; 21:22; 22:37; 24:25-7, 44-7; John 13:18; 15:25; 17:12 – Depends on exact words - John 10:34; Mark 12:26

Jesus seems to presume the historicity of the Old Testament e.g. Luke 4:25-6; 6:3-4, 23, 26; 10:12; 11:31, 51; 13:28, 34; 17:26-32

The NT apostles authorised and commissioned by Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit - John 14:25-26; 15:27

The Apostles wrote with authority self-conscious authority as Jesus’ authorised representatives – 2 Corinthians 14:37-38; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; 1 John 4:6

In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Jesus’ words from Luke 10:7 as Scripture


Peter recognised Paul’s writings as Scripture – 2 Peter 3:16

Other reasons for believing the Bible e.g. philosophical and psychological sense, influence, artistry, archaeological confirmation, witness of the church / Spirit etc.

The unity and coherence of Scripture – Article 7; also Article 20 – since God does not contradict himself

The power and effectiveness of God’s Word – Genesis 1:3 – Isaiah 55:10-11 – Psalm 29:3-9 - V. J. Menon – Security check: “What have you got in your briefcase, Sir?”

Areas of dispute in Reformation times

The importance of the “alones” - In contrast to what?

(a) The Roman Catholic Church – Tradition – Magisterium (teaching office of the church) – The Pope

Who can (authoritatively) interpret / apply / validate Scripture?

Heretics had appealed to Scripture!

John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther. The second part (1687)

For did not Arius first, Socinus now,                            

  The Son's Eternal Godhead disavow?

  And did not these by gospel texts alone

  Condemn our doctrine, and maintain their own?

  Have not all heretics the same pretence

  To plead the Scriptures in their own defence?

How did the Nicene Council then decide

  That strong debate? was it by Scripture tried?

  No, sure; to that the rebel would not yield;

  Squadrons of texts he marshall'd in the field:

  That was but civil war, an equal set,                             

  Where piles with piles, and eagles eagles met.

  With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe.

  And did not Satan tempt our Saviour so?

  The good old bishops took a simpler way;

  Each ask'd but what he heard his father say,

  Or how he was instructed in his youth,

  And by tradition's force upheld the truth.

John Dryden, Religio Laici (Or A Layman’s Faith) (1682)

The Book thus put in every vulgar hand,
Which each presum'd he best could understand,
The common rule was made the common prey;
And at the mercy of the rabble lay.
The tender page with horny fists was gall'd;
And he was gifted most that loudest bawl'd:
The spirit gave the doctoral degree:
And every member of a company
Was of his trade, and of the Bible free.
Plain truths enough for needful use they found;
But men would still be itching to expound:
Each was ambitious of th'obscurest place,
No measure ta'en from knowledge, all from grace .
Study and pains were now no more their care:
Texts were explain'd by fasting, and by prayer:
This was the fruit the private spirit brought;
Occasion'd by great zeal, and little thought.
While crowds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm,
About the sacred viands [food] buzz and swarm,
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood;
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily sects rise up, and die;
A thousand more the perish'd race supply:
So all we make of Heaven's discover'd Will
Is, not to have it, or to use it ill.

Since Irenaeus of Lyon (d. c. 202) Tradition as an established way of reading the Bible (agreed interpretations) but increasingly in late medieval period, Tradition as separate source of unwritten revelation going back to Christ and the Apostles - tradition as a coequal norm with Scripture (a view formalised at Trent)

Sylvester Prierias: “Whoever does not hold fast to the teachings of the Roman Church and of the Pope as the infallible rule of faith, from which even Holy Scripture draws its strength and authority, is a heretic.” De potestate papae dialogus (1518)

“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.” (Trent, Session 4)

Trent required printers to have a license to print the Scriptures. No one to publish or possess anything related to the interpretation of Scripture unless vetted and approved.

Luther, “when the attempt is made to reprove them [the Romanists] with the Scriptures, they raise the objection that only the pope may interpret the Scriptures.” To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520)

Traditions and the Word of God – Mark 7:1-13 esp. v8

Papal infallibility – speaking ex cathedra - not formally defined until First Vatican Council (1870) but the majority RC opinion at the time of the Counter Reformation – Pope Pius IX, “I, I am Tradition, I, I am the Church” – Sola Roma?! (Vanhoozer, After Babel p119)

(b) The Radicals

Rejection of tradition - Sebastian Frank, Radical (1530): “Foolish Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory – of whom not one even knew the Lord, so help me God, nor was sent by God to teach. Rather, they were all apostles of Antichrist.” (McGrath, Reformation Thought, p146)

(i) Mystics / Spirit / “charismatic” types - experience

(ii) Rationalists - reason

Pure individualism – often a stress on equality, rejection of hierarchy (goods held in common) – recipe for theological chaos – Luther called it a new Babel

The Magisterial Reformers and Tradition

Not Solo / Nuda (naked) Scripture – it is not good for Scripture to be alone (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p144); “Our final authority is Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone” (Mathison, p259) not just me and my Bible (and the Holy Spirit) and a blank sheet of paper - the fellowship of the church down the centuries and around the world - a role for God-given God-gifted teachers (Acts 8:30-31; Ephesians 4:11-16) - a role for scholarship, original languages etc. - the valuable role of Tradition – the church gives more weight to the Council of Nicaea’s Doctrine of the Trinity  than to how every Tom, Dick or Harry reads his Bible

“Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If upon reading a particular passage you come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for 2,000 years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.” (R. C. Sproul, The Agony of Deceit, pp34-5, quoted in Helopoulas, These Truths Alone, p9)

Ashley Null: “Although it is common among Anglicans to speak of the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, in which each leg is equal, it is far more accurate to speak of Scripture as a garden bed in which reason and tradition are tools used to tend the soil, unlock its nutrients and bring forth the beauty within.” (Lecture quoted in Null and Yates, Reformation Anglicanism, p86)

Tradition / church has a ministerial authority derived from and subordinate to the Scriptures – testimonial rather than judicial authority (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p144) Article VIII. Of the Three Creeds - “The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.- Article 20

The authority of Bishops and councils etc. in so far as they are faithful to the Word of God – doctrinal rather than historical / institutional continuity – cf. Apostolic Succession – unbroken chain of Bishops back to Peter?

What are our traditions? Are they good / helpful / biblical?

What role, if any, might creeds and confessions have? Are they helpful?

The canon (measuring rod, ruler, rule, norm) – which Scriptures? How do we know? No inspired contents page!

John Eck, Luther’s opponent at Leipzig Disputation 1519, “Scripture is not authoritative without the authority of the church.”

OT already agreed by the time of Jesus

In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of all the books which became our NT and he used the word "canonized" regarding them. The first council that accepted the present canon of the New Testament may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393).

Criteria for acceptance: Apostolicity – written by or from the circle of / endorsed by the Apostles and holding to their teaching – e.g. Mark the interpreter of Peter

The Bible (Word of God) makes the church. In a sense the church makes the Bible (people write it and then others agree it is authoritative), but the Bible’s authority comes directly from God rather than from the church. The church recognises the authority of the Bible; she does not make the Bible authoritative. The church must interpret the Bible, but the Bible also interprets the church (tells her her nature and function).

The Bible as self-authenticating (a ring of truth) / The witness of the Spirit in the church / Providence

The Apocrypha (see Article VI) – included as Scripture by The Council of Trent session 4 (1546) – cf. Jerusalem Bible today – praying for the dead 2 Maccabees 14:40-46

Trent – Scriptures “as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition” – “the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.”

The sufficiency of Scripture – cf. e.g. Apocrypha, Tradition and new revelations of the Spirit

Not strictly Scripture alone – e.g. not Scripture as opposed to Christ! - as part of God’s economy of salvation, accompanied by the Spirit for the church

Thomas Cranmer: “If anything is necessary to be learned, of the holy Scripture may we learn it.” (Preface to the Great Bible, 1540)

Sufficient for what? Not sufficient as a car manual or phone book

“there is no truth, nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that it is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.” “For in the Holy Scripture is fully contained what we ought to do and to eschew, what to believe, what to love and what to look for at God’s hands at length.” (Homily on Holy Scripture)

Article VI. Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.… And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine”

Nothing needs to be added to it – Revelation 22:18 - Luke 16:29, 31

Not exhaustive, of course – sinful creatures’ knowledge of God always partial – humility – pause before I identify my reading of the Bible with the voice of God

The clarity / perspicuity (transparency) of Scripture – for all God’s people, Pope not needed to interpret it!

Medieval quadriga 4-fold sense of scripture (literal, allegorical, tropological / moral, analogical / what to hope for) – reformers stress plain / natural / grammatical-historical / literal sense though Christological and prophetic not literalistic

Zwingli, On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God (1522), “The Word of God, as soon as it shines upon an individual’s understanding, illuminates it in such a way that he understands it.”

Psalm 119:105, 130; Ephesians 3:4 a very encouraging verse!

The Bible everywhere assumes that it can be understood – Deuteronomy 6 – ordinary people can teach it to their children – Jesus assumed it and blamed people when they did not get it – “Have you not read…” etc.

Some Scriptures are hard to understand – 2 Peter 3:16 – but the problem is with us not with the Bible

“There is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the self same thing in other places is spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity both of learned and unlearned.” (Homily on Holy Scripture)

“VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1)

Scripture helps us to interpret Scripture – clearer texts help us understand the more obscure ones – the parts interpret the whole, and the whole the parts - value of a system, though reformable by Scripture – virtuous spiral not vicious circle - Calvin’s Institutes (French edition 1541, preface) “could be like a key and entrance to give access to all the children of God, in order that they might really understand Holy Scripture” – Christ and the gospel as interpretive keys

Prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit - 2 Timothy 2:7

Protestantism’s dangerous idea? A Pandora’s box of unchecked subjectivism? Everyone reads as is right in his own eyes - The multiplication of interpretations, divisions, denominations etc. – splits over everything! E.g. Luther and Zwingli disagree over Matthew 26:26 - Christians disagree about the meaning and application of some Scriptures, even though it is clear in essentials - “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity (love)” (often attributed to Augustine; German Lutheran, Rupertus Meldenius (c. 1627), quoted by Richard Baxter, English puritan).

The centre and goal of the Scriptures is life-giving faith in Christ

John 5:37-47 – You can have a PhD in Biblical Studies and miss the whole point – Bible knowledge not an end it itself

Luke 24 – The risen Jesus leads a Bible Study and says it’s all about him!

Luther: “There is no doubt that all the Scripture points to Christ alone” (WA, 10:73) “All of Scripture everywhere deals only with Christ’ (WA, 46:414); “In the words of Scripture you will find the swaddling clothes in which Christ lies. Simple and little are the swaddling clothes, but dear is the treasure, Christ, that lies in them” (LW, 35:236) – Sola Scriptura means that it is in Scripture that we definitively meet Christ, the real Jesus of the Bible not some Christ of our imagination

How does the Bible feature in your life? Do you agree it was worth people dying for the sake of an English Bible? Does your use of it reflect its value?

How can we “continue in what” we “have learnt and become convinced of” from the Holy Scriptures? (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

What ways of interacting with the Bible have you found helpful / would you recommend?

Have you found any resources / translations / notes / groups etc. helpful?

What fuel is there for prayer and praise in what we have thought about in this session?

Collect for the second Sunday in Advent: “BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Further reading / resources:

Matthew Barrett, God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture – What the Reformers Taught … and Why it Still Matters (The 5 Solas Series) (Zondervan, 2016)

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (1985)

Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (IVP Academic, 2011)

Anthony N. S. Lane, ‘Sola Scriptura? Making Sense of a Post-Reformation Slogan’, in A Pathway Into the Holy Scripture (ed. by Philip E. Satterthwaite & David F Wright; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994)

Marc Lloyd, ‘What the Bible Says, God Says:  B. B. Warfield’s Doctrine of Scripture’ Ecclesia Reformanda 1.2 (2009): 183-210

Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001)

John Murray, ‘Calvin’s Doctrine of Scripture’

Michael Ovey and Daniel Strange, Confident: Why We Can Trust the Bible (Christian Focus, 2015)

John Piper, ‘Always Singing One Note—A Vernacular Bible - Why William Tyndale Lived and Died’

Mark Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The clarity of Scripture (IVP, 2006)

Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (IVP, 2009)

John Wenham, Christ and the Bible

Andrew Wilson, Unbreakable: What the Son of God taught about the Word of God (10 Publishing, 2014)

Douglas Wilson, ‘Sola scriptura, creeds, and ecclesiastical authority’ pp. 255-286 in Mathison, Keith A., ed. When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism (P & R Publishing, 2004)

Glen Scrivner Sermon – Scripture Alone - – The Bible and what it can do for you (all age talk) – 2 Timothy 3: 3:14-4:2, Psalm 19:7-14 - February 5, 2017 – The Bible view of the Bible – its authority and inspiration – John 10:31-39 – Feb 12 2017 – The clarity, sufficiency and purpose of Scripture – John 5:31-47 – Feb 26 2017

No comments: