Sola Scriptura, the NT Canon and the Church
21-07-2008, 08:06 AM
The debate about Scripture and/versus Tradition which John raises is an important one. It is vital that all Orthodox are adequately informed when discussing the subject.
Alas, unlike John, I am much less patient in such discussions that I probably should be.
For example, a young Baptist pastor sought, not long ago, to convince me of the evils of trying to add Tradition to Scripture.
?We should rely only on the Bible? he declared.
?Which Bible?? I replied. He looked confused.
?THE Bible? he said, producing the floppy black KJV which at least in Sydney is the constant talisman of Protestants (the really radical might go for a NKJV or even something more recent ? but apparently it always has to be black and floppy).
?How do you know that?s the Bible??
?It says so on the cover.?
?But how do you know it?s the right Bible containing the right texts??
?Because it?s sold in our church bookstore.?
?How does your church know it?s the right Bible containing the right texts??
?Because the text has always been the same.?
?So in the 1st or 2nd centuries Christians were reading this very Bible??
Early Church history rarely being a strong point for Protestants he had to think a while about this tricky question. Even the pastor might have known that the KJV was a little later in origin than the 2nd century.
?Well, not in the 1st and 2nd centuries.?
?Well, when did this Bible come into being? Who decided what texts should be included? Who decided what texts should not be included? And why??
?The books of the Bible are there because there the books of the Bible.?
?How do you know??
?Because there in the Bible.?
The discussion was clearly going nowhere.
?Surely the books of the Bible are the books of the Bible because the ancient Fathers of the Church decided what constituted the Canon of Scripture? And decided that other books were not part of that Canon??
?Well, I guess.?
?Are the books of the Bible listed in one of the books of the Bible??
?So the Canon of Scripture is defined by the teachings and writings of the Fathers which are not part of the Bible??
?I guess ? but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.?
?Of course. But we only know what is Scripture because it is part of the Tradition of the Church. No Tradition, and we might be including the so-called ?Gospel of Judas? in our Bible.?
?But that?s not in the Bible?.?
Scripture is defined by Tradition, and therefore Scripture is a part of Tradition. No Tradition and we?re left with a free-for-all grab for any early Christian texts which might be around. I didn?t explain to the young pastor that, if we accept that the Church through Tradition defines the Scriptures, then we might then want to recognize that the Scriptures can only be interpreted in the light of Tradition.
Of course, both appeals to Scripture and appeals to Tradition can, amongst the theologically illiterate lead to madness. My local ultra-conservative Baptist Church doesn?t allow the use of an organ because it?s not Scriptural (although why they haven?t gathered together an orchestra of musical instruments specifically named in Scripture I don?t know). The local True Genuine Greek Orthodox Church doesn?t allow electric light in the church because it is not Traditional. Strangely, they allow electronic amplification. If I ever have an empty few days I might ask the Bishop there to explain?..
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 - Fr Gregory - 21-07-2008 08:06 AM