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Subject: Sola Scriptura rss

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Paul Sauberer
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In the theological arguments against creationism thread, I saw a reference to "sola scriptura." Instead of hijacking that thread, I thought I'd start a new one.

I seriously doubt that many, if anyone, actually follows a doctrine of "sola scriptura."

First, if one is working from a translation, instead of original texts, it is not being followed.

Second, even if working from the original texts, it is hard to use them directly because of de facto "translation" (i.e. converting them into one's native language for comprehension purposes) and cultural context.

Third, as soon as the words, "What the Bible means is..." comes out, "sola scriptura" goes right out the window. It is then not Scripture, but an interpretation, either personal or from someone else, that is being followed.

As a Roman Catholic, Scripture is obviously vital, but I also hold that God has not limited his revelation to it.

I think that in the end, both Catholics and Protestants effectively hold the same beliefs, but the theological jargon obscures that.
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Disagree. Sola Scriptura means that scripture holds the highest authority. Translation and interpretation is a necessary step to understand what scripture says and they do not undermine the notion that scripture comes first.

What does undermine Sola Scriptura is the idea that one form of interpretation is the only correct one and it is not debatable. In that context, I'm afraid I disagree with the Roman Catholics. Which they are wonderful in allowing all forms of higher criticism on the biblical text, and producing top notch scholars like Raymond Brown, but the Church does insist on having the final say. In that regard, the authority of the church supersedes the authority of scripture, and hence I disagree.
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Wray Cason
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Ooh, a juicy subject! I have agreements and disagreements with both statements so far. To a great extent, vernacular and semantics make a big difference in how this is understood. In that I agree with Pauls last statement. However, I ultimately disagree with that same statement. All Christians do agree on a few things but there is a whole host of important issues that Christians do not agree on. One answer to this conundrum is to limit the focus to the areas of agreement. That cuts out whole swaths of doctrine though and leaves a very bland Christianity. Another answer is to say that the differences either don't matter or don't exist. That just seems unworkable to me. Another answer is to insist on consistency. This is the only workable answer in my opinion. It has its own problems though. Who is to say what the consistent interpretation is? It comes down to a matter of authority.
Scripture as ultimate authority doesn't work because it has to be interpreted according to something else. What else? I understand the Catholic answer to be the ancient tradition of the Church as the ultimate authority. That is logically consistent up until the tradition goes awry. At that point the tradition you are relying on can't be trusted only it is exceedingly difficult to see it because you are still judging truth by the false tradition.

This is potentially contentious stuff. I appreciate the subject being raised and I sincerely hope this doesn't get stupid on us. I believe it is possible to debate this kind of thing without driving away the influence of the Spirit that I understand all Christians believe in.

The LDS answer to this conundrum is the understanding that the authority comes only from Christ himself. He established and reestablished that authority repeatedly throughout history. Each time people dropped the ball and ran with their own lacking understanding. The modern incarnation of Christs authority exists in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That is my belief in brief.
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chiddler wrote:

How do you know what is, and what is not 'scripture' ?


Good question. I'm merely giving sola scriptura a good defence. I won't say I hold a conventional view of sola scriptura. If I may read further into your question, you are trying to say that since the bible is decided by the early Councils, it is the church that proved the ultimate authority.

My response to that is the "word of God" has authority because it points towards the "Word of God" meaning Jesus Christ. In so far as the scripture serve as a good witness to Jesus, it is a worthy scripture.

The choice of the Councils is taken as authoritative not because the council itself has authority but because they well represent the sentiments of the churches and its members. Simply, it is the early Christians themselves who see these books as self-authenticating and of value in learning about their faith, and a good reflection of their spiritual experiences.

This forms the core of my disagreement with Wrayman earlier on this matter. Read some of the posts above this one.
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Paul Sauberer
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I still think that there is more agreement than disagreement here. As Wrayment points out, the sola scriptura doctrine still rests on authority, it's just a matter of who recognizes what authority.

If interpretation of Scripture is needed to authenticate doctrine, then I find it diffcult to declare it "self-authenticating." One way of phrasing it results in the effect of giving an interpretation the same weight as Scripture by claiming that it is really the same as Scripture, while the other gives it the same weight as Scripture by calling it Sacred Tradition. If I understand Wrayman correctly (since I have not really examined LDS teaching much) his tradition would say it is Christ himself.

Basically the same process with three different names IMO.
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Psauberer wrote:
I still think that there is more agreement than disagreement here. As Wrayment points out, the sola scriptura doctrine still rests on authority, it's just a matter of who recognizes what authority.

If interpretation of Scripture is needed to authenticate doctrine, then I find it diffcult to declare it "self-authenticating." One way of phrasing it results in the effect of giving an interpretation the same weight as Scripture by claiming that it is really the same as Scripture, while the other gives it the same weight as Scripture by calling it Sacred Tradition. If I understand Wrayman correctly (since I have not really examined LDS teaching much) his tradition would say it is Christ himself.

Basically the same process with three different names IMO.

Forgive me, I seem to have problems communicating my thoughts to you, so let me try again.

"Who recognizes what authority" is a very significant issue here.

Assume that the authority is A. We do not have just A, since A needs to be interpreted. So we have A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 and so on. That does not undermine the authority of A because we can use critical methods to judge all the A1 ~ A100 to find out what is the closest to A and adopt it. The only problem with using 1 interpretation as the only interpretation is that all the critical methods become mute because B says A1 is best, so A1 IS A. When that happens, B becomes the authority and not A. That I don't agree. I won't say that the Catholic Church necessarily does that, and I do give them a lot of credit in their work in biblical studies. But on certain points of doctrine, they are totally non-negotiable. I am perfectly willing to give them an advantage in exegetical considerations since 1. they have good linguistic grounds, 2. they have the backing of traditional understanding, 3. they have the guiding of the H.S. BUT it is only one of the factor in deciding which interpretation is best (admittedly a very strong one). It should not be a overriding one.

Side note: when I say self-authenticating, I mean self-authenticating to the original readers, meaning that they say "yes, this is what we have believed all along."
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Wray Cason
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Another way of looking at this is to consider the mistakes. They inevitably exist. How are they to be recognized? If something in the scriptures is wrong or completely omitted, how are we to know? How are we to know if it matters? I don't know if that contingency is really addressed in other Christian faiths. My LDS faith holds that it is the same revelatory process that created the scripture to begin with that restores and corrects what is needful.
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Lawson
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Psauberer wrote:
I seriously doubt that many, if anyone, actually follows a doctrine of "sola scriptura."


I share your doubt. Personally, for all of my reasonably authentic Protestant credentials, I'd be relying on more than "sola scriptura" in a hot-drop minute if, say, I had what I really believed to be a personal revelation that contrasted with the scripture.

One thing that I found really fun and interesting about Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates was the contrast between the beliefs of the early U.S. Puritans and the later U.S. Bible Belt.

Psauberer wrote:
As a Roman Catholic, Scripture is obviously vital, but I also hold that God has not limited his revelation to it.


I agree with you -- I don't limit God's message to the Bible. Speaking out my theological ear, I'll say this: I think that the "sola scriptura" thing comes out of a particular historical moment.

Here's how I understand it: For many years, the Christian Bible had been assembled but was inaccessible, effectively speaking, to the vast majority of the Christian populace. (This situation was courtesy of their inability to understand Latin and their illiteracy in all languages, I gather.) Only a small minority of educated, literate, Latin-speaking people could read and understand Christian scripture.

Many years later, as the Bible was becoming more accessible (through greater literacy and increased translation into vernacular language), some people noticed that the commands of the Bible were not necessarily consonant with the dictates of the church as it had developed.

Much drama ensued.

Quote:
I think that in the end, both Catholics and Protestants effectively hold the same beliefs, but the theological jargon obscures that.


Here, I fully agree. Indeed, my Roman Catholic in-laws are in town, and we're preparing to attend Palm Sunday services at my (and their son's) Protestant church.

Personally, I think that "sola scriptura" is meaningful (at a minimum, in a "whoa, wait a minute, and where does that come from?" kind of way), but I don't think that translates into any huge difference between Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox or other brand of Catholic) and Protestant belief.
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Wray Cason
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corross wrote:
....but I don't think that translates into any huge difference between Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox or other brand of Catholic) and Protestant belief.


I don't understand this idea. It seems to be more common among Protestants. I understand that it is often not much of a thing for a Protestant to switch from one Protestant church to another. I understand it is often a big deal for a Protestant to switch to Catholicism. I understand best of all what a bid deal it is for Protestants or Catholics to switch to Mormonism. I think I understand the differences between the beliefs and they are profound. I understand why a devout Catholic or Mormon would be hurt by the conversion of a child. I don't understand the odd dynamic among Protestants. Switch to another Protestant denomination, regrettable but no biggie. Switch to Catholicism or Mormonism, oh heck no!

The thing is that I wonder if Protestants really understand the various theologies. There is as much wild difference between Protestant theologies as there are between any Protestant theology and Catholocism or Mormonism. The only thing that makes sense to me is that many individual Christians don't understand the differences. That in itself is interesting to me. I wonder what matters to Christians. Of course, I might just be completely off in my assessment.
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Lawson
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Wrayman wrote:
corross wrote:
....but I don't think that translates into any huge difference between Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox or other brand of Catholic) and Protestant belief.


I don't understand this idea. It seems to be more common among Protestants. I understand that it is often not much of a thing for a Protestant to switch from one Protestant church to another. . . . I don't understand the odd dynamic among Protestants. Switch to another Protestant denomination, regrettable but no biggie. Switch to Catholicism or Mormonism, oh heck no!


I'll speak just for myself, as a Protestant of the progressive stripe.

I find there to be lots of differences among Protestant denominations. Personally, I'm Presbyterian, and I've found the theology among (for instance) Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians to be pretty similar -- individuals differ (and liturgy differs, at least for Episcopalians compared to the rest), but there's not a lot of meaningful difference.

There are, however, many meaningful differences between my beliefs and those of other Protestant Christians . . . where I live, most Christians are Baptist or non-denominational (i.e., fundamentalist without any particular organizational structure), and while there are many things that I share with them as fellow Christians, there are many things that we do not share.

This goes, really, to my base point in response to the original post: For me, the differences in Christian belief do not really fall among Catholic/Protestant lines. In fact, I find that I have more in common, theologically, with many Roman Catholics than I do with fundamentalist Protestants.

I'm not particularly well-versed on LDS theology, so I can't really speak to where I agree or disagree there (aside from the rather obvious point that I, as a non-LDS Christian, don't believe in the revelations to Joseph Smith that form, as I understand it, the basis of the LDS church). Well, and there's the further point that I emphatically oppose(d) Proposition 8 in California, which I gather to have been a cause of the LDS church. Is that a theological disagreement? I'm guessing that's a "yes", among possible other things.

In any event, I do not at all share your view that switching among Protestant denominations is necessarily less of a big deal than switching between, say, Protestant and Catholic denominations.
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