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The Rule of Scripture ("Sola Scriptura")

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  • The Rule of Scripture ("Sola Scriptura")

    Williams' excellent, sweeping post here Scripture, Tradition, and Rome -Christforums stimulates this post.



    The Rule of Scripture in Norming (What Luther and Calvin called "Sola Scriptura")


    The Definition:


    The Rule of Scripture is the practice of embracing Scripture as the rule ("straight edge") - canon ("measuring stick") - norma normans (the norm that norms) as it is called in epistemology, as we examine and evaluate the positions (especially doctrines) among us.


    Here is the official, historic, definition (in Lutheranism, anyway): "The Scriptures are and should remain the sole rule in the norming of all doctrine among us" (Lutheran Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, 9).




    What it IS:

    1. An embrace of accountability for the doctrines among us (especially those in dispute).

    2. An embrace of norming (the process of examining positions for truth, correctness, validity).

    3. An embrace of Scripture as the best, most sound rule/canon/norma normans for US to USE for THIS process, in this practice.


    What it is NOT:

    1. A teaching that all revelation or truth is found in Scripture. It's not a teaching at all, it is the PRACTICE of using Scripture as the rule in the norming of doctrines. Scripture itself says that "the heavens declare the glory of God" but our visual reception of the stars is not used as the norma normans for the evaluation of doctrines among us in the practice of Sola Scriptura.

    2. A teaching that Scripture is "finished." It's not a teaching at all. While probably all that practice Sola Scripture agree with all others that God seems to have inscribed His last book around 100 AD and doens't seem to be adding any more books, the Rule of Scripture was just as "valid" in 1400 BC when Scripture consisted of just two stone tablets as it is today - only the corpus of Scripture is larger, that has no impact on the practice of embracing it as the rule/canon/norma normans in our evaluation of doctrines among us. The Rule of Scripture embraces the Scripture that is.

    3. Hermeneutics. The Rule of Scripture has to do with WHAT is the most sound rule/canon/norma normans for the evaluation of the doctrines among us, it is not a hermeneutical principle. Obviously that Scripture needs to be interpreted, but that's a different subject or another day and thread. The Rule of Scripture has to do with norming, not interpreting.

    4. Arbitration. Obviously, some process of determining whether the doctrine under review "measures up" (arbitration) to the "measuring stick" (the canon). This is also beyond the scope here, the Rule of Scripture is the embrace of Scripture AS that canon, it does not address the issue of HOW it is best determined if a position "measures up" to that canon.




    An illustration:


    Let's say Dave and Fred are neighbors. They decided that they will hire a contractor to build a brick wall on their property line, six feet tall. Dave and Fred hire Bob the Builder. He agrees to build the wall on the property line - six feet tall.

    Bob is now done. He claims the wall is six feet tall. Does it matter? If it doesn't, if his work and claim are entirely MOOT - then, nope - truth doesn't matter. And can just ignore what he said and did. OR we can consider that of the nearly 7 billion people in the world, there is ONE who is incapable of being wrong about measurements - and that ONE is Bob the Builder, claims ONE - Bob the Builder. IF Bob the Builder alone is right about what he alone claims about he alone here, it's pretty much a waste of time to wonder if what he said about this is true or not. But, IF truth matters and IF Bob the Builder will permit accountability (perhaps because he is confident the wall IS six feet tall), then we have the issue of accountability: Is the wall what we desire and what Bob the Builder claims it is?

    If so, we just embraced norming. Norming is the process of determining correctness of the positions among us. For example, Bob claiming the wall is 6 feet tall. Is that correct? Addressing that question is norming.


    Norming typically involves a norm: WHAT will serve as the rule (straight edge) or canon (measuring stick) - WHAT will be embraced by all parties involved in the normative process that is the reliable standard, the plumbline. Perhaps in the case of Fred and Dave, they embrace a standard Sears Measuring Tape. They both have one, Bob does too. Dave, Fred and Bob consider their carpenter's Sears Measuring Tape as reliable for this purpose, it's OBJECTIVE (all 3 men can read the numbers), it's UNALTERABLE (none of the 3 can change what the tape says) and it's OUTSIDE and ABOVE and BEYOND all 3 parties. Using that could be called "The Rule of the Measuring Tape." The Sears Measuring Tape would be the "canon" (the word means 'measuring stick') for this normative process.



    Why Scripture?


    In epistemology (regardless of discipline), the most sound norma normans is usually regarded as the most objective, most knowable by all and alterable by none, the most universally embraced by all parties as reliable for this purpose. My degree is in physics. Our norma normans is math and repeatable, objective, laborative evidence. Me saying, "what I think is the norm for what I think" will be instantly disregarded as evidential since it's both moot and circular. I would need to evidence and substantiate my view with a norm fully OUTSIDE and ABOVE and BEYOND me - something objective and knowable. This is what The Handbook of the Catholic Faith proclaims (page 136), "The Bible is the very words of God and no greater assurance of credence can be given. The Bible was inspired by God. Exactly what does that mean? It means that God Himself is the Author of the Bible. God inspired the penmen to write as He wished.... the authority of the Bible flows directly from the Author of the Bible who is God; it is authoritative because the Author is." Those that accept the Rule of Scripture tend to agree. It's embrace as the most sound Rule flows from our common embrace of Scripture as the inscriptured words of God for God is the ultimate authority.

    The embrace of Scripture as the written words of God is among the most historic, ecumenical, universal embraces in all of Christianity. We see this as reliable, dependable, authoritative - it as a very, very, broad and deep embrace as such - typically among all parties involved in the evaluation. (See the illustration above).

    It is knowable by all and alterable by none. We can all see the very words of Romans 3:25 for example, they are black letters on a white page - knowable! And they are unalterable. I can't change what is on the page in Romans 3:25, nor can any other; what is is.

    It is regarded as authoritative and reliable. It is knowable by all and alterable by none. Those that reject the Rule of Scripture in norming ( the RCC and LDS, for example ) have no better alternative (something more inspired, more inerrant, more ecumenically/historically embraced by all parties, more objectively knowable, more unalterable), they have no alternative that is clearly more sound for this purpose among us.

    To simply embrace the teachings of self (sometimes denominational "tradition" or "confession") as the rule/canon is simply self looking in the mirror at self - self almost always reveals self. In communist Cuba, Castro agrees with Castro - it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Castro is correct. We need a Rule outside, beyond, above self.



    Why do the RCC and some Others so passionately reject this practice?


    Those that reject the Rule of Scripture in norming tend to do so not because they reject Scripture or have an alternative that is MORE inerrant, MORE the inscripturated words of God, MORE reliable, MORE objectively knowable, MORE unalterable, MORE ecumenically embraced as authoriative. Rather the rejection tends to be because each rejects accountability (and thus norming and any norm in such) in the sole, singular, exclusive, particular, unique case of self alone. From The Handbook of the Catholic Faith (page 151), "When the Catholic is asked for the substantiation for his belief, the correct answer is: From the teaching authority. This authority consists of the bishops of The Catholic Church in connection with the Catholic Pope in Rome. The faithful are thus freed from the typically Protestant question of 'is it true' and instead rests in quiet confidence that whatever the Catholic Church teaches is the teaching of Jesus Himself since Jesus said, 'whoever hears you hears me'." The Catholic Church itself says in the Catechism of itself (#87): Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, The faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their [Catholic] pastors give them in different forms." IF self declares that self is unaccountable and that self is exempt from the issue of truthfulness, then the entire issue of norming (and the embraced norma normans in such) becomes entirely irrelevant (for itself). The issue has been changed from truth to power (claimed by itself for itself, exclusively).


    The RCC's "fathers" on Sola Scriptura:


    "We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439) Note: Gregory of Nyssa died in 394, quite a few years BEFORE Luther or Calvin were born.


    "Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast." St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)


    "Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).



    "What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin' as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,' everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin." Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).


    "We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the the Scripture." St. Basil the Great (On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 7, par. 16)


    For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)


    Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God. St. Augustine (De unitate ecclesiae, chp. 10)



    I hope that helps!


    Discussion?



    .

  • #2
    Originally posted by Josiah View Post
    Discussion?
    I am a thug, so hold on a moment while I Google some words ...

    Hermeneutics: "the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts."
    epistemology: "the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion."

    OK, I'm good now.

    Let me kick up some dust and start a little trouble (it may be my spiritual gifting ;) ).
    If I understand, "Sola Scriptura" or the Rule of Scripture says that you and I are going to disagree about something (just because we are imperfect) ... like, I don't know, the necessity of water baptism for Salvation (as good an example as any) ... and we are going to agree to use the Bible Scripture as the yardstick for whacking each others arguments to bits (in Christian love).

    Assuming that I have the gist of it, so what?
    Let me beat on your Sears tape measure analogy just a bit. It is 1000 years later and Dave, Fred and Bob are all dead and buried. We have copies of copies of the original plans and contract. Fortunately, we have exact replicas of the original Sears Tape Measure that we can still use to measure. Art and Joe disagree about whether the original wall has been added to, so we get out our tape measures. You read off the side of the Tape measure that is in inches, look up the ancient conversion from inches to feet and claim the original wall was 6 feet tall. I read off the side of the tape measure that is in centimeters and claim that the original wall was 6 cm tall and only intended to mark the property as a curb that Dave and Fred could step over proving that they were friends and has been added to. We take our argument to the Church where an 'expert' will inform us that the official International Measurement for Length in 2017 is the Meter, therefore the original wall was 6 meters tall, proving that the wall has been lowered, Dave and Fred wanted nothing to do with each other and people are much friendlier in 3017.

    The point of this silly story, is to ask the question "of what value is a rule, when two people using it can arrive at different results reading the same text?"

    [PS. I hope you take this in the spirit of good natured banter ... I am not hating on Scripture or your excellent post.]
    Comment>

    • #3
      Originally posted by atpollard View Post
      I am a thug, so hold on a moment while I Google some words ...

      Hermeneutics: "the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts."

      I'd agree. Of course, as I noted, Sola Scriptura is not about hermeneutics. It's about norming.




      epistemology: "the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion."
      Yes. It is the philosophical school that addresses what is real/true/valid.


      If I understand, "Sola Scriptura" or the Rule of Scripture says that you and I are going to disagree about something (just because we are imperfect) ... like, I don't know, the necessity of water baptism for Salvation (as good an example as any) ... and we are going to agree to use the Bible Scripture as the yardstick for whacking each others arguments to bits (in Christian love).

      Assuming that I have the gist of it, so what?

      Without a rule, we are only left with conflicting opinions. One says the wall is 6 feet tall, one insists it's 5 feet tall.... it's unlikely both are correct (although both could be wrong). But perhaps the wall is measurable.... perhaps we have a measuring tape that both conflicted parties agree is reliable. In THAT case, we have a canon, a rule, a standard by which we both agree is reliable to settle our variant views. Without such, we don't.


      The point of this silly story, is to ask the question "of what value is a rule, when two people using it can arrive at different results reading the same text?"

      You've changed topics. As the opening post specifically and clearly stated, agreeing on a rule is only agreeing on the rule - it is not arbitration. You've simply decided to skip over the issue of this thread and change it to arbitration, asking "who will definitively decide how tall the wall is when they do not have an agreed upon rule?"

      Yes, again as specifically and clearly stated in the opening post, arbitration IS a part of norming. In the Rule of Law for example, there still is often the need for arbitration according to the written, objective, knowable rule accepted by all sides.... there will likely be some arbitrative process needed IF (big word there) IF there is a disagreement. But arbitration is ;largely impossible unless there is FIRST an agreed upon Rule/Canon/Norma normans - judged in accord with WHAT? No answer is possible if there is no WHAT. Another small point..... typically, those in disagreement don't arbitrate the issue, for example, in the Rule of Law, the Jury does not consist of two parties, the plaintiff and defendant (although such a method is not impossible). But again, you've entirely skipped over the entire issue of this thread.... the entirety of the rubric of Sola Scriptura..... and jumped to a different topic: arbitration with nothing to arbitrate according to.

      IMO, each side simply declaring that there is one who is right - self - because self has so declared self to be so, and thus exempt from norming is not helpful. Some rule/canon/norma normans OUTSIDE, above, beyond self.... as objective and knowable as possible..... generally embraced by all parties as reliable.... perhaps pre-dating all parties.... is a good canon. To date, none has suggested a better one for theological disputes than Scripture.... it's just some insist that itself is largely exempt from such.

      MY perspective....


      Pax Christi


      - Josiah
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by Josiah View Post
        You've changed topics. As the opening post specifically and clearly stated, agreeing on a rule is only agreeing on the rule - it is not arbitration. You've simply decided to skip over the issue of this thread and change it to arbitration, asking "who will definitively decide how tall the wall is when they do not have an agreed upon rule?"
        Sorry about that, it was not my intent. I am fascinated by the Calvinism vs Wesleyan Arminianism debate. Both sides agree 100% on the Rule of Scripture. Both sides support their case from scripture. The "sola scriptura" actually supports both sides.

        I suppose my only point is that based on personal experience, sola scriptura can eliminate some 'measurements' (views or opinions) as invalid, but it seems inadequate for determining ultimate Truth. Something more seems necessary, so perhaps it isnt an absolute 'sola' after all.

        I agree that it is infinitely preferable to 'I have my truth and you have yours' and I really liked your analysis of the RCC opposition to Sola Scriptura ... I'm still thinking that over. It was a new perspective for me. (I knew early Church Fathers supported Luther and Calvin, that was what the Reformers were complaining about.)
        Comment>

        • #5
          Originally posted by atpollard View Post
          Sorry about that, it was not my intent. I am fascinated by the Calvinism vs Wesleyan Arminianism debate. Both sides agree 100% on the Rule of Scripture. Both sides support their case from scripture. The "sola scriptura" actually supports both sides.

          I suppose my only point is that based on personal experience, sola scriptura can eliminate some 'measurements' (views or opinions) as invalid, but it seems inadequate for determining ultimate Truth. Something more seems necessary, so perhaps it isnt an absolute 'sola' after all.

          I agree that it is infinitely preferable to 'I have my truth and you have yours' and I really liked your analysis of the RCC opposition to Sola Scriptura ... I'm still thinking that over. It was a new perspective for me. (I knew early Church Fathers supported Luther and Calvin, that was what the Reformers were complaining about.)
          Thank you!

          I largely agree with you. While having an outstanding, mutual Rule - Canon - norma normans is a great advantage, and likely WILL put to rest some very dangerous claims and teachings, it (in and of itself) can't solve everything.


          IMO, there are two reasons for this (assuming all sides ARE sincere, humble and honest - which, I'm the first to admit, often isn't the case):

          1. Scripture does NOT clearly address everything. Indeed, as a Lutheran, I would suspect the differences between Calvinist/Reformed doctrine and Lutheran doctrine isn't likely to be resolved this way: while we'd disagree, it's likely both "sides" would conclude theirs "measures up" to the Measuring Stick (the literal meaning of canon) - and it might be hard to show otherwise. Scripture just doesn't address everything. IMO - that realization tends to humble me and cause me to lean toward some things being okay as "pious opinion" (as we call it in Lutheranism) but maybe not as Dogma.... okay to permit but not affirm as mandated de fide dogma OR condemn as heresy?


          2. Although the Reformational churches have a common Rule/Canon/Norma normans - we do not have a arbitrative agent. I mentioned to you that generally, the artbitration must be made by a body/person OUTSIDE of the disputers (the plaintiff and defendant are not even permitted to be on the jury). For 800 years, Christianity DID have such (flawed as it might have been), we had Ecumenical Councils (albeit not so ecumenical). Seven of them. And they WERE able to arbitrate things in a way that the vast majority of Christians (on all sides) accepted (although sometimes it took time): we had something of an arbitrative body and process - limited as it was. But the last ended in 800 AD (without a conclusion) and there's been none since. We can sometimes arbitrate things WITHIN a denomination (most denominations have some process for this that all in the denomination accept - or leave or get kicked out) but there's very, very litte such process between denomiations (the Anglican Communion TRIES - to little avail). This is something Luther often decried. Luther was willing to submit to an Ecumenical Council and repeatedly called for such, but there had not been one in over 700 years and the obsticles to such were insurmountable even then (much more so now). Thus.... the Rule of Scripture rarely gets applied beyond the individual and denominational levels.


          But IMO, these two realities do not undermine the wisdom of Sola Scriptura or suggest that rejecting accountability is to be preferrred or that some OTHER rule would be more helpful. It just means that in the MESS in which we find ourselves, the MESS that preexisted Protestantism by over 700 years, there is no simple means by which to evaluate truth/teachings/claims in any effective, determining way. The church works in a fallen world. Still..... the Rule of SCRIPTURE is the best we have.


          I hope that contributes something...


          My half cent....


          - Josiah
          Comment>

          • #6
            It's so awesome that Jesus and I didn't have to study the scriptures. All we had to do was listen to the voice of God and obey all his commandments to end up speaking for him.

            John 7
            13: Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
            14: About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
            15: The Jews marveled at it, saying, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?"
            16: So Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me;
            17: if any man's will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
            18: He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

            John 12
            44: And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
            45: And he who sees me sees him who sent me.
            46: I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
            47: If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
            48: He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
            49: For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.
            50: And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me."

            John 14
            23: Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
            24: He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
            25: "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you.
            26: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

            1 John 2
            27: but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

            We servants who listen to the voice of God and obey his commandments are used to write and speak each word God gives us via the Holy Spirit. We don't need "sola scriptura" like unspiritual men use to appear more godly.
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by LordyLordy View Post
              It's so awesome that Jesus and I didn't have to study the scriptures. All we had to do was listen to the voice of God and obey all his commandments to end up speaking for him.
              The voice you hear is not God's voice but one created by your own imagination.

              Comment>
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