“Sola Scriptura” would have failed

The early Church’s first heresy it encountered was Gnosticism; a belief that declared the material world evil and the spiritual world good. The body was seen as an obstacle to the earnest strivings of the soul. Also produced by the Gnostics were the “Gnostic Gospels” which were composed of the gospel of Judas, Thomas, Phillip, and Mary Magdalen.

How would the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (The Bible Alone) have dealt with these Gnostic gospels? The New Testament, as authorized scripture, was not around. A few books of the New Testament were in use by the early Church, but they were not compiled authoritatively or binding to all. In fact, there were some real concerns about the book of Hebrews (Eusebius the Church historian mentioned this).

So, some books were fraudulent, some were in question, and some were accepted. If the early Christians had believed in Sola Scriptura, how would they have dealt with this problem? There was no formalized set of books for Christians to draw the line because the line had yet to be drawn. The Church leaders took upon themselves the authority to carefully determine which books were credible and authoritative and which were not. They had to consult the authorship, interpretation and meaning, and the truthfulness of each book’s substance. And, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the books they chose were established into the New Testament Canon.

How foolish therefore, to look back on such an authority and tradition and reject it in the name of Sola Scriptura; a doctrine which could never have produced the very thing it relies upon. “Sola Scriptura” declares “I accept your New Testament, but in the name of the New Testament I reject you.”

If Sola Scriptura would have failed the early church, why do we think it successfully reforms the modern church?

How did we begin?

After the death of Christ but before the New Testament was written, any genuine Christian had to have his faith handed down to him either orally, as in an oral witness of the gospel or historical events, or through the teaching of proper worship, as in communion and baptism, All this we would classify as tradition.

Certainly, the person of genuine faith would only have other believers to look to for questions like, “what does this mean?” He would ask questions and get an oral answer, even an interpretation of that answer. And whether it was James at Jerusalem, Peter at Antioch, or another Apostle, the Apostle’s teachings would have been coveted the most by all Christians when looking for answers, guidance, and interpretations

Having begun in tradition, why at the end of modernity do we reject it?

Athanasius on the reason for the Incarnation

Originally posted on Just Thomism:

Athanasius’s account of the Incarnation is one of those ideas so logical and simple that, once you get it, you always feel like explaining it takes ten times more words than necessary.

1.) Man, created from nothing, is an animal who was given the likeness to the Logos.

2.) Man lost his likeness to the Logos, and so necessarily fell back to nothing – to corruption and death.

3.) Death therefore became necessary, but the Logos could not stand to lose those who were in his likeness.

4.) Death therefore had to somehow re-establish likeness to the Logos: but the only way death could re-establish likeness to the Logos is if the Logos himself died. 

5.) The Logos could not die if he did not have a body.

(Added later)

6.) The Logos therefore unified a body to his person, such that whatever happened to the body could be said to…

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Protestants are Cherry Picking the Bible

The issue of Bible interpretation is a point of contention among atheists as well as Christians. It is claimed that a man and his Bible is all that is needed. After all, the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Yet, one won’t spend too long in Christian circles till he discovers that “a man and his Bible” will come up with extremely off-the-wall ideas. He always has a need to be corrected by others in the Church. He’s like a tree which needs stilts to hold it up or it will grow crooked. It is suggested that the way to correct these bad understandings of the Scripture, is to have the Bible reader research what the great men of faith have said about things. He is told to reach back to the early church fathers and use them to get a better interpretation of Scripture. However, this is just a more well read version of “a man and his Bible”, albeit a more humble one. The individual is still the final arbiter of what he reads. The Protestant will accept St Augustine’s ideas on grace and faith, but not on the Eucharist, and certainly not on the Pope. He is, for all intents and purposes, cherry picking, as the atheists are so fond of pointing out. And in this accusation, I think they are right. My dear Protestants, we are cherry picking.

Let me point out, though, that doesn’t mean we are all wrong. An accurate interpretation of Scripture does exist, and our cherry picking is bound to hit the mark at some point. But, it’s bound to miss it as well. So, how do we know when we get it right? It’s a hard question. And one can see that our problem exists because we address the problem at an individual level, i.e. “a man and his Bible.” We have a real need to refer ourselves to an authority. The only relevant authority available to us in these matters is the Church. So what does the Church say about the Scriptures? And therein lies the rub. Which Church is to be the authority? The Independent Fundamental Baptists?… The Southern Baptists?… The Methodists?… The Free Will Baptists?… The Nazarenes?… The Church of Christ?… The Assembly of God?… The Lutherans?… or (oh, the horror) The Catholics?

And do any of them actually have a list of doctrines that define their denomination? For instance, what does it mean to really be a Southern Baptist? In my own experience, I’ve learned that each denomination has disagreements within themselves, and a certain amount of that is OK, even healthy. But do the Southern Baptists have a list of core doctrines on which none disagree and therefore define the denomination? If they do, that is precisely what is meant by the much hated term “Church Tradition.” Each Church, if it is to be legitimate, must have a coherent Church Tradition or they are a denomination without a definition. And that is one thing I cannot stand. Whatever you are, you must know what you are.

Whatever the answer to these questions above, it cannot be that Church Tradition must be avoided. Each of us, as individuals, need Church Tradition to help us understand the Scripture. We need an authoritative arbiter of the truth. We need a Guardian of Orthodoxy. But, if one exists, there are serious implications for the many denominations out there. If there is a church that is right, then all the other churches are wrong. And some are more wrong than others. There would be elements of the true Church in the other denominations, but they would not be the fullness that makes up the Church.

I do not claim to have an answer for this problem, but I know one thing. I no longer abhor and reject Church Tradition. I have a real need for it. I am looking for a Guardian of Orthodoxy. I do have a direction I’m looking and I have real reasons for looking in that direction. But, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that yet. I only write this so that others may see the problem and begin the search themselves.

Does God speak English?

God’s native tongue is not English. God has no native tongue. In fact, God does not have a tongue or a mouth. So, how is it that God speaks to us? What does is mean for God to “speak?” Many Christians desire to hear God’s audible voice and do not. They read their Bibles and pray, quiet their hearts, and wait for a still, small voice. And some report that eventually they do “hear” something, though they would clarify it was communicated to them in their hearts. Others, however, hear nothing and become frustrated.

It is a Western activity to pray and expect to be given an answer in English. Certainly, God can communicate in any language. But, any invisible being can whisper something in your ear and say that it is God. (Let’s hope you can detect the authentic voice.) But, this is not a means of communication that is specific to God. What happens when God speaks?… Creation. Those who expect an audible English voice ignore the Godly communication already going on around them. That’s the difference between human communication and God’s. We say “tree” and refer to the brown, tall, leafy thing in front of us. God says “tree” and there it is. The brown, tall, leafy thing is at once His word and its referent. God’s voice is the tree’s existence. If God were to stop speaking, the tree would no longer exist. So, when we pray, don’t expect an audible reply. Look around you. God never stops speaking.

Belief in God gives rise to the problem of evil

Belief in God gives rise to the problem of evil. Without Him there is no problem; there is just what we find in nature. But, knowing and trusting God brings a peace and satisfaction that overcomes the problem of evil on a personal level; so much so that one would tolerate the problem of evil if it meant being with God. At least the believer has someone to blame and be angry with when bad things happen. It is our deep trust in God that allows us to vent our distrust to Him. But, to whom does the atheist complain?

Who’s right?

Tradition and belief beget and support one another. There is no escape from tradition in the church. Protestants would prefer that the written word of God resolve every doctrinal controversy, but it cannot. For false teachers quote the Bible for support of their false beliefs just as the true teachers do. What actually resolves the dispute is tradition; the church’s explanation of what the scriptures really mean. Those who say tradition is not an authority are actually appealing to their own tradition on the matter. Tradition is necessary for attaining the correct beliefs.