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

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Self-Referential Problem with Sola Scriptura

The following is an excerpt from another email discussion i had with someone about
Now, in the last email i defined Sola Scriptura as:
"the belief that the 39 books of the OT and the 27 books of the NT are the exclusive 
authority for the faith and practice of the church."  So this is still what i intend 
for you to understand when i use the term "SS."  

So let me try and spell out the problem.  SS is *itself* a part of the faith and practice 
of the Church of Christ ["CoC"] (or any denomination that holds to SS for that matter).  Therefore, if SS is 
true, then the only way the CoC can have authority for including SS as part of its faith 
and practice is if SS is taught by the 39-OT/27-NT.  That is, if SS is true and a part of 
the CoC's faith and practice, then SS must authorize itself (hence, 'self-referential').  

But it doesn't!  For at least the following reasons:

(1) The 27 books of the NT were produced by a church that didn't have 
    the 27 books of the NT.  Thus, no single author whose document is 
    included in the 27 could've taught SS since the 27 didn't exist at 
    the time that any of them were written (except for whichever 
    document was chronologically 27th).

(2) The 27 books of the NT were produced by a church that clearly 
    didn't adhere to SS because she recognized other sources of 
    authority--namely the apostles themselves, the teachings of the 
    apostles passed on orally, and revelations given to those who 
    possessed certain types of charismata.

(3) Nowhere does any single document included in the 27 provide an 
    explicit list of which documents are meant to comprise the 27.  
    Thus for any single one of the documents included in the 27, we 
    cannot justify it's use in the faith and practice of the church by 
    means of SS.  If we justify it's use by means of some authority 
    outside the 39-OT/27-NT, then we have already violated SS.  But 
    again, if we stick solely to the 39-OT/27-NT, then we have no 
    clear authority for the use in faith and practice of any 
    particular document included in the 27.

(4) There at one time existed documents *beyond* the 27 which in 
    principle we would have every reason to accept as authoritative, 
    which even if such documents are not currently extant, it remains 
    the case in principle that there are more books than just the 27 
    that could serve as authoritative for the church's faith and 
    practice. (Take pre-1Corinthians as an example here: 1Cor 5:9)

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