This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Letting Go Of Sola Scriptura

Here's another email snippet i wrote from several months ago:

i guess i'm finding 
that the Bible just isn't the sort of document that i've always been brought up to treat 
it to be.  i think i was taught that it's a reasonable expectation for it to function 
like a how-to manual, and everything i'll ever need to know is in there.  The Bible can 
be treated a perspicuous, sufficient, and self-contained.

But i get no indication from the Bible itself that the text presents itself in this way.  

(1) There is clear reference in the NT to other information had by the NT-recipients that 
we just don't have.  Hebrews 5:11-6:2 suggests that the readers of Hebrews had an entire 
sort of "catechism" course that they had to complete and should've completed by 
that time.  Further, Acts refers to instances of sermons or teachings the content of 
which we have no record and thus no knowledge of.  Or the frequent mention by Paul of 
"traditions" he had taught to his readers (ex., 1Cor 11:2; 2Thess 2:15).  We 
can claim "oh, well, surely we have the same content *elsewhere* in the NT," 
but there's absolutely no way to prove that or frankly to even think demonstrate that the 
claim is likely.  And in the case of the Hebrews passage, when compared to the rest of 
the NT, we don't have any documents that come across as a "how to" or a 
"101" on any of the subjects listed there.

(2) i take it that the NT epistles themselves simply weren't designed to contain the same 
content as the oral teachings of the apostles.  The epistles we have, so far as i can 
tell, were all *follow-up* correspondences.  That is, they were written works that 
followed face-to-face meetings between the author and the readers--face-to-face 
encounters that clearly included significant sharing of information between the parties.  
And the epistles are written in a way that assumes the readers have knowledge of the 
events and information shared during those face-to-face meetings.  In other words, those 
documents are clearly *not* written to *recount* the same information that was shared in 
person.  Yet, many of those documents even explicitly refer to information shared during 
those encounters as important or what is being built upon.

(3) i take it from the NT documents themselves that we simply do not possess all of the 
apostolic documents from that era.  i think it's fairly clear from reading the Corinthian 
letters that there was at least one more letter than we have, and some scholars actually 
believe there are actually two letters between Paul and the Corinthians that we don't 
have.  Paul also refers in Colossians to an epistle to the Laodiceans.  Some scholars 
believe is just is Ephesians.  Maybe it is, but it's at least still possible that it's a 
different document altogether.  We have no access to these written works and thus no 
knowledge of their content.  Yet the readers of those documents did.

(4) The text even refers to a process of oral transmission of teaching (2Tim 2:2).  If 
the Bible is meant by God to function as a sufficient record for us, why not tell Timothy 
to just write people another inspired document?  The fact that the letter of 2Timothy 
exists in concert with this practice of oral transmission suggests to me that the text 
(of at least 2Tim) wasn't meant to function apart from that ongoing process.

(5) What about the origin of the NT?  Why do i accept *these* 27 books as opposed to more 
or less?  i don't really personally have an answer other than that i'm depending upon the 
Council at Carthage (397) to have gotten it right.  If that dependency relation is true, 
how then can i justify not having a similar dependency relation with respect to other 

1 comment:

Michael Astley said...

These are interesting points, and help to open up a whole new world to me. Much like Clark Carlton's The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, this post shows something of the thought processes along the journey to Orthodoxy of somebody who comes from a background that is very much removed from my own experience as a former spikey Anglo-Catholic, and it is very helpful to learn from a former insider's point of view how many of these things are perceived.

Thank you for sharing this.

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