Ready for the third and last part of this series! Well here it is! If you somehow haven’t read the first two parts then you’re probably an alien from another world, but don’t worry I have the links for them right below so you’re cover won’t be blown.
Why I Don’t Affirm Sola Scriptura, and Why Thomas Merton Saves The Day (Part One)
Why I Don’t Affirm Sola Scriptura (Part Two)
Beginning from where I left off last time!
The third reason is that the process of canonization is problematic for this doctrine as it was guided not by scripture but by an external source of authority, The Rule of Faith. In the early church there was something called “the rule of Faith.” The scriptures did not have primary authority in the early church. As Rowan Greer says, “If we may take Ignatius’ view as the one that prevails in the early church, we may conclude that while the Hebrews Scriptures were the Bible of the church, their authority was secondary to that of the Christian preaching.” The Christian preaching or this rule of faith was the primary authority. Depending on the person there were different forms of this rule of faith. As far as I know the simplest version of the rule of faith is Jesus Christ, His Cross, Death, Resurrection, and the faith which is through him. There are more fleshed out forms. But for the sake of brevity the rule of faith was essentially the basic form of the Apostles Creed, Trinity, Full Deity and Full Humanity of Christ, Death, and Resurrection, etc. The official canon, the books that were chosen or left out was based on what was in agreement or not in agreement to the rule of faith. Not based off of what agreed with scripture. How could it before it was officially canonization? And even if one wants to argue it was determined based off of the Hebrew scriptures theres no historical backing for that, and it did not serve as the primary authority anyway. (For a good summary of this listen to )
Another Problem for the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and our fourth reason is the question of which Bible?Which Biblical Canon? Do we mean the Protestant Canon, and if so, why should it be privileged above the other canons? Do we mean the Catholic and Orthodox Canon, and if so, how do we decide that this particular canon is the privileged one? Now of course Sola Scriptura is a Protestant doctrine so most likely proponents of this doctrine are likely to choose the Protestant Canon. But still why one particular canon? Especially in light of the various “canons” that existed in the early church. There wasn’t one official canon until the 4th century, and even then it was the Protestant Canon. Before that official canonization, what you considered scripture, varied depending on what period and geographical location you were from, and varied from person to person. Many people didn’t include the book of Revelation in their scriptures, and many included the Shepherd of Hermas in their scriptures. There was definitely some grey and wiggle room in what books were considered scripture up until the official canonization. So there couldn’t have been a Sola Scriptura without an official canon, let alone a Protestant Canon.
And then we still have to ask the question which bible. Do we choose the “old bible” or the “new bible?” Which one do we have in mind? What do I mean by an “old bible” and a “new bible?” The following is an excerpt from my essay Inspiration and Modern Authorship
“Essentially beginning in the second temple period the Jew’s reinterpreted their scriptures in such a way that gave them a new meaning nay, multiple new meanings that oftentimes if not always were void of the original and contextual meaning of scripture as intended by the original authors and were unconcerned with how scripture would have been understood by the original audience. They we’re more concerned with how scripture spoke to them in their present moment than they were on how it spoke to its original audience. This was carried on and inherited by not only the authors of the New Testament, but Jesus and going into the later early church after the 1stcentury. One could say this created “two” distinct bibles.
“One would not be wrong to think of this transformation as, in effect, a kind of massive act of rewriting. The raw material that made up the Bible was written anew not by changing its words but by changing the way in which those words were approached and understood. This sounds like an exaggeration when stated so baldly, but I hope the previous chapters have offered proof that it is not. What we have observed all along are two very different sets of documents, the biblical texts in their original settings and meanings and what those texts were later made out to mean by Jewish and Christian authorities. The words of the two sets of documents are basically the same, but they nonetheless make up, side by side, two completely different books.” (Kugel, 2008)”
So we even have to ask the question of, “Do we mean the “old bible” or the “new bible?” I think this severely complicates the doctrine of Sola Scripture.
And lastly but not least is our fifth reason. This one is only an argument against the extreme form of Sola Scriptura I pointed out in part one of this series. (So if this doesn’t apply to you feel free to ignore it, although I’ve heard not read all of a blog post turns you into a goblin)
I think it helpful to acknowledge that like Judaism Christianity really has both a “written Torah” and an “oral Torah.” We have our scriptures and we have our traditions . Even amongst the extreme proponents of Sola Scriptura have a tradition, however, unlike many others who acknowledge some sort of adherence to a tradition they choose to remain ignorant of their own traditions. For those who understand drinking as a sin are adhering to their oral tradition, rather than written tradition, the scriptures. For any sensical exegesis of scripture will acknowledge a sound acceptance of drinking in moderation. Since the discovery of how to prevent the fermentation process is extremely recent we can concur that any possible reading of Scripture that suggests drinking a sin is unfounded from the texts itself and complete nonsense.
My point being that even those fundamentalists, who accept an extreme Sola Scriptura view thus denying any sort of authority to any sort of tradition do themselves in fact accept a sort of tradition outside the “written tradition” (the Bible). And it is my conviction that they should acknowledge this, rather than pretending “cling” only to scripture, which is itself a kind of tradition, only a written or recorded tradition, rather than a sort of oral tradition. We are thus more similar to the Catholics and the Jews than we otherwise thought. Much like the Jews we especially, the fundamentalists, interpret our written tradition through our oral tradition (I say this as someone that was raised in a fundamentalist background). This to an extant I think is okay, but we must acknowledge that this is in fact what we sometimes do. I have hinted “oh so subtly” that I see scripture as a written, and recorded tradition. I want to suggest as I have before that both written and oral tradition have found Truth, and to the greatest extant  that humans can possibly have accurately, or so rightly interpreted these found truths in Christ. But also that we have contained in both traditions errors which we have wrongly interpreted from the truth.
Luckily Tradition is ever changing and moving towards the divine. As we move towards the reconciliation of all things we will find truths along the way that will correct our previous misunderstanding, and we will lose truths along the way. We will need to look back to the past, to our traditions, and reclaim those truths that we have lost. But we will also need to look forward to find truths that we have yet found, allowing the Holy Spirit to shape and mold our traditions going forward, replacing the more fallible parts of our traditions.