Scripture, tradition, the Church

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by Rexlion, Aug 16, 2021.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I've moved @Stalwart's comment to this new thread.

    I agree that Scripture establishes eternal principles... broad principles in many cases and specifics in some cases. So it bears interpretation and application.

    I agree that the Church applies Scriptures to contemporary issues, with the caveat that I mean "the Church" in the sense of "the body of Christ on earth, His disciples". I have a problem with using the phrase, "the Church," to indicate the group of ordained leaders.

    Are the ordained leaders generally better-educated in Bible studies than the great majority of laity? Yes.
    Are they infallible? No.
    Are they immune to errors inculcated in them by their professors and peers? No.
    Are they more attuned to, and more obedient to the leading of, the Holy Spirit? Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on the individual.

    The problem is that every human being... even every Christian... is flawed, fallible, and hard of spiritual hearing. If there are 1 billion Christians in the world, there are 1 billion different viewpoints concerning the entirety of Christian doctrine; no two are alike and no two agree completely.

    As a consequence, over the centuries we've witnessed sections of the Church at times go off on tangents, fall into errors, and emphasize the wrong things. It hasn't always been easy for these mistakes to be identified and pulled away from, especially where the Scripture isn't specific. But the really shocking thing is, all to often these sections of the Church will cling to their mistake(s) in the face of clear Scriptures that teach otherwise. What's worse, sometimes the ordained leaders are the ones leading this mistake in direction, telling their people that their predecessor leaders taught it and that fact means it must be correct. This strikes me as hubristic.

    When we can't find anything clear or definitive in the word of God, okay then, we have to depend on what the early church taught. But any time we find Scriptures that serve as evidence for a particular practice or belief, those Scriptures should completely overrule anything found to the contrary in the early church practices. With the caveat that, any time we find such Scriptures, we have to ask whether we are interpreting them in a way that agrees with the context of the surrounding verses, the context of the letter or 'book', and the context of the Bible as a whole.
     
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  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    With respect to the thoughts I've outlined above, let me proceed to specifics.

    What does the Bible say about our salvation and redemption? We are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Eph. 2; Gal. 3). Jesus told people repeatedly that they would have eternal life if they believed (placed their trust) in Him (meaning, of course, Him as their Redeemer, the promised Messiah). Romans 10 says if we verbally confess Jesus as the Lord and believe in our 'inner being' (heart) that God raised Him from the dead (implied: for our justification), we will be saved. Jesus said (John 3) that he who does not believe is condemned, which yet again shows us that the key element is inner faith, faith of the 'heart' or spirit. Jesus said (John 6) that the "work" God requires of us is to believe in Him, the One sent by the Father. Romans 3 says that God's righteousness is received "by faith" unto all who believe in Jesus, and that "man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Galatians 3 calls "foolish" anyone who would turn away from this foundational truth and would consider any "works of the law" to be necessary elements or sources of justification.

    The Roman Church fell into grave error when it abandoned this foundational, essential truth and began teaching that saving grace attaches through receipt Sacraments. They led people to mistakenly believe that the act of baptism made a person a Christian. They taught that further saving grace is received through the outward act of receiving the Eucharist. They taught that saving grace could be utterly lost by the commission of a Mortal Sin (as defined by their ordained leaders), and that it could be recovered by the outward deeds of auricular confession plus performing penance.

    The Church of England rejected and disavowed many of the Roman errors. But did they get rid of all such errors? Or were some of them retained?

    The concept that saving grace attaches to a person in and through the outward deed of baptism is antithetical to the Scriptures. Oh, sure, there are some verses that show how important baptism is, but when we let "Scripture interpret Scripture" and look at the N.T. as a whole, we should see that they cannot contradict or overrule the basic, foundational truth that saving grace is bestowed through faith only, not ever through an outward work or deed. Faith is of the heart, not of the water.

    (This is one of the main reasons why I've never sought the Anglican badge on this forum. I don't qualify.) :blush:

    I would hate to be a man who taught anyone that saving grace is received in, through, or at baptism. I would not want that to be on my conscience if the baptized individual were to kneel before God on Judgment Day and say, "Lord, Lord! I was baptized in the Church. I attended services regularly. I tithed and I gave to charities. I received the Eucharist. I even said the Daily Office on occasion!" only to hear the Father say, "You trusted in all those deeds when you should have trusted in My Son. I never knew you. Depart from Me!" (Matt. 7:23)
     
  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    There is a very simple counterproof to your framework. And it is found in the sacred Scripture. Specifically, the Book of Acts, chapter 15. The ministers elected by Christ gathered together, to settle on points of doctrine and decide them for the Church. It wasn't Joe-Bob and Mr. Sprinkles and Susie Thompson who gathered. It was the Christ's ministers, ordained by him for the purpose of guiding the Church, who gathered together, and made a decision for the Church. By their choices they bound the Joe-Bobs, and the Mr. Sprinkles among the laity.

    This is what Canon Phil Ashey has written about in his monumental book, Conciliarism as the Anglican form of Church Government. Rome has the Pope, and the eastern orthodox have ethnic denominations. Anglicans have worldwide councils which (as at Jerusalem and Nicea), can settle points of controversy.

    The question of infallibility is a red herring. The substantial question is: is the Church authoritative. And that's all it needs to be for the doctrine of Councils to have validity. The Councils don't need to be infallible (in fact many were wrong, and vicious). That's a different question.
     
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  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    But why should something by morally (as opposed to legally) binding that is also false? Without the assurance of infallibility, it’s just authoritarianism.
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Science doesn't have infallibility, right? Yet we trust it.

    Science's authority exists because it is something which answers a need. It's not that science needs us, it's that we need it.

    Same here, it's not that the church needs us to trust it; but that we need some church that we can trust. We need it, more than it needs us. We need the church that can give us unified answers, based on accepted criteria and an objective method, behind which the faithful can rally.

    That's how for example local synods in the ancient church functioned. When St. Cyprian organized the Synod of Carthage in the 200s AD, he wasn't promising anyone infallibility. And yet he did it because the people were asking for it. They need the synod, more than the clergy needed another bureaucratic thing to setup and organize. The clergy could be fine without having it, but the laity needed and demanded answers and unity.

    As in science, so here, the motivation and the authority comes from the bottom-up.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Strictly speaking, science is a method, not a body of teaching. If the Church teaches us to believe X or not to do Y, and that to not believe X or to do Y places one’s soul in jeopardy, that teaching needs to be right, and trusted to be right. Authority alone doesn’t seem to be sufficient.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    They're more similar than you give it credit. To disbelieve science indeed 'places one's soul in jeopardy', at least insofar as our worldly existence is concerned.

    Rejection of science 1. places one against tremendous social pressure; 2. deprives him of tangible goods. The same works in the church. That's what excommunication means; it's not a straight condemnation to hell as Rome has corrupted the doctrine. It merely puts one out of the bounds of the communion. If the said communion represents the apostolic teaching, then that's dire for the person's well-being indeed.

    Excommunication began more as a worldly fencing mechanism to separate the catholics from the heretics. That's all it needs to do, to perform what the similar function accomplishes in science.
     
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  8. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough. That makes sense.
     
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  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    It seems worth pointing out that the Apostles were doing the very same thing that I'm advocating. They were relying on the word of God. Only, they didn't have the N.T. in the form we have it; they had something better: the words of Jesus. These were people who walked with Jesus and sat under His teaching. So, in order to come to a better understanding and consensus on an issue that was not directly covered by the word of God but which could be adduced indirectly, they considered the words of the O.T. and Jesus' words and then settled on what seemed right & best in light of God's words.

    Thanks for reminding me of that word, 'conciliarism.' More or less, I'm trying to distinguish between conciliarism based on the word of God (which is good), vs. conciliarism that gives more weight to tradition than to sound Biblical exegesis (which is bad). As I said in post #1, "When we can't find anything clear or definitive in the word of God, okay then..." But when the Bible is reasonably clear, the Bible's principles must prevail.
     
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  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Again, this is rooted in the revivalist dualism of ‘outer vs. inner’ or ‘spiritual vs. physical’ that’s reminiscent of the Gnostics, and is being read into the Bible rather than out of it. Sola fide doesn’t mean ‘in contrast to anything outward’; it means ‘in contrast to anything active’ (on the part of the redeemed person). Faith is something that happens to you; it is not something you do, whether in the mind or out in the world. When you open your eyes, you cannot help but see what you see. But you can choose to close your eyes. Faith is the “evidence of things unseen”. To quote Billy Graham, “I’ve never seen the wind. I’ve seen the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.” So seeing the leaves and branches sway suddenly, that’s analogous to faith. The wind, analogous to the unseen Spirit which moves us, is that which our senses (like faith) infer. It’s no accident that in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, for example, baptism is referred to as the “Mystery/Sacrament of Illumination”. By surrendering to the proclamation of the Gospel in the Word and Sacraments, one receives faith (“faith comes by hearing”), and in no other way.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2021
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  11. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I think what worries me about many of the arguments, like the Roman Magisterium, the Infallibility of Scripture, and many others, that the purpose of these claims is to provide one with an absolute certainty, which is often accompanied by arrogance, and people giving themselves permission not to listen to what others have to say. The biggest difficulty I have with this is that it is not Christlike.

    The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral points us to four things. Holy Scripture, The Creeds, The Dominical Sacraments, and the Historic Episcopate.

    Richard Hooker pointed us to the coalesce of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

    The Context we need for Scripture, certainly includes the verses around it, the importance of not expounding one part of scripture in a manner that is repugnant to another, and also the historic political and social context that gives rise to the passage.

    The reformers who argued for Sola Scriptura, had never understood that to mean 'me and my bible'.

    In Cur Deus Homo Anselm, sometime Abbott of Bec and later Archbishop of Canterbury argued that faith and reason when followed truly will arrive at the same conclusion. I am inclined to think that Anselm touched on greatness here.
     
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  12. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Faith is one of those words that has subtly changed meaning over the years until it has nearly lost all meaning. Most Evangelicals would probably define the term as some nebulous acknowledgment of a set of propositions. But Biblical faith was always more about doing things than about a set of dogmatic propositions.

    Look at the Law: there are reams of explicit instruction on worship and conduct within the community but very little dogmatic teaching. There are a number of stories that serve as touchpoints to display the faithfulness of the most notorious members of the community - Gideon's 300, Joshua and the faithful spies, the saga of Abraham, etc. This points us to the fact that the Greek word pistis has shades of meaning. Some of these include belief, faithfulness, allegiance, and loyalty.

    Even in the NT documents, there is as much or more practical instruction as dogmatic instruction. Most of the epistles are primarily concerned with telling the faithful how to live in the community, which is often justified by referring to some doctrinal principle.

    On the subject of baptism, this is one of those matters where a few people from a fairly recent period thought they had outsmarted the tradition of the church. In America, a rejection of baptism as generally necessary to salvation has been successfully presented as a majority position, a consensus, even though this has never been the historical reality. It is only the reality within a myopic subset of the Evangelical community.

    Baptism and regeneration have been hinted at since the creation when the Spirit hovered over the primordial waters to create new life from disorder. The NT writers then see this theme returned to again and again in the inauguration of the Noahic covenant and the Law. Abram was given circumcision and a new name for a similar reason. Baptism is a much safer and more concrete touchstone to point to as a marker of beginning to follow God than a moment of devotional fervor, self-loathing, or peace brought on by a revivalistic presentation.
     
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  13. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I think to be factual and fair that's what excommunication means in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Being excommunicated in the RCC simply places one outside the bounds of the communion. The RCC wants the excommunicated person to rejoin the communion by correcting what they did wrong. Excommunication in the RCC does not mean that's it you're damned forever no matter what you do.
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    With respect, I don't see one Scripture cited in your response, to support your statement. It sounds reasonable, but if it's not supported by Scriptures it's just tradition-based "man's reasoning," and opposed by the N.T. taken as a whole. The N.T. certainly supports the proposition that baptism is important and expected of a Christian, but the N.T. does not support the proposition that baptism is an absolutely necessary element in the Christian's salvation or that it is the key act through which saving grace is bestowed.

    In the Acts of the Apostles, for example, the indwelling Holy Spirit came to the new converts of Cornelius' household (Gentiles) prior to their subsequent baptism; this shows that God not only is 'no respecter of persons,' but that also He is no respecter of baptisms, when He graces people with eternal life. God frequently (I daresay constantly) bestows the gift of saving grace to people at the moment they come to have faith in Christ; how can we suppose that God will withdraw His saving grace and that the Holy Spirit will depart from that person if he subsequently fails to get baptized (whether due to lack of opportunity or lack of Biblical understanding as to baptism's great significance), much less suppose that baptism is the act by which one receives saving grace?

    Whether or not the institutionalized church has taught the necessity of baptism for a long time is really begging the question, because (as I endeavored to emphasize in post #1) if we can't back up a tradition with the overarching message of the Bible, and if in fact the Bible contradicts the tradition, then the adherents to that tradition are in error. Where is the evidence from Scripture that saving grace unto eternal life depends, not upon believing in Jesus but, upon baptism?
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2021
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    If faith were just "something that happens to you," sort of like a rock falling on one's head out of the sky, then why did our Lord command us to go into all the world and teach people about Him? Don't you suppose He gave us the Great Commission so that they might come to believe and become disciples? "Faith cometh by hearing..." (Romans 10). Faith doesn't "just happen," it comes when people hear and inwardly accept & believe the truth of what they've heard! The notion that faith "just happens" to people is one of the big problems in Christendom, because it fosters a "what will be, will be" attitude of Christians toward the lost: "If God wants them saved, He'll save them." He'll drop a rock on their head. Yeah, right. :disgust:
     
  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    No, no, no...that's not what I'm saying. Classical Protestant doctrine in both the Lutheran and Reformed traditions is that faith is something one receives, i.e., one is passive with respect to it. It is not something we do (though we can choose not to receive it). If that were not the case, there would be no real distinction between 'justification by faith' and 'justification by works'; an inward work is still a work. That's what I was referring to. When the Reformers were talking about justification by faith alone, they weren't contrasting inward belief with outward action; they were contrasting anything we try to do, with God's act of making us righteous. That's a very important difference and it's often overlooked, with the result that the Reformers are misread and misunderstood. I was simply referring to classical Protestant confessional teaching.
     
  17. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The formulation I've always used here is: did God bring you to the Church, or did you bring yourself in response to his call? If the latter, God is no longer your sovereign Lord; he is simply whispering sweet nothings into your ear while holding the door open for you to enter. In the latter formulation, you save yourself. In the former, God saves you, which is what Scripture teaches us. We have no power at all to save ourselves.

    Jesus proclaims himself the Good Shepherd, because he saves the sheep from the wolves and brings them back to the fold (John 10:11-16).
     
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  18. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Well, I guess we can engage in a good old fashioned Protestant session of proof texting:
    Genesis 1:2, Genesis 7:6-8:13, Exodus 15:10-19, 2 Kings 5:1-15, Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15-16, John 3:3-8, John 3:22, John 4:1-2, John 5:2-4, John 9:7-11, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-16, Acts 8:36-38, Acts 9:18, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 16:14-15; 33, Acts 18:8, Acts 19:4-5, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-5, 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-28, Ephesians 4:5, Ephesians 5:25-27, Colossians 2:11-13, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 6:2, Hebrews 10:22, 1 Peter 3:21, Revelation 1:5, Revelation 7:13-14.
    I skipped the parables where the figure is less explicit and the foot washing scene.

    No doubt you have read all of these and found a way to dismiss the plain, clear, grammatical (insert favorite Fundamentalist description of the Biblical text here) meaning by relying on past faulty teaching in the Finneyian/Holiness-Pentecostal tradition and the thin case made on what appear to be exceptions to the rule. By the way, it is not at all clear that Cornelius' household was 'saved' when the Spirit descended on them. That's just the narrative that the Revivalist tradition has shoe-horned into the passage.

    What is really under consideration is a defective notion of what it means to get saved. I never use that terminology because it's so loaded with Evangelical connotations and bogged down in garbage theology. Salvation is better understood as a process of healing an illness, a passage upon a lengthy journey, than a moment in time when one's heart felt something out of the ordinary. Some measure of grace is always present in the background of our lives. The Anglican altar call is Confession and Absolution.

    Also, this idea of a moment of emotional conversion is very unhelpful to those who grew up in Christian homes. Many or even most of them have always felt as though they were a member of the church, at least until they questioned their beliefs at the close of adolescence. And for those who were not born in a Christian home, the emotional conversion thing doesn't give them something concrete to look back on if they ever have a doubt. That's how you get people coming to the altar call 4-5 times, being baptized 2-3 times, and still feeling generally miserable, joyless, and unsure of the purpose of their life.
     
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  19. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I am not trying to be mean here but this is just silly. If you respond to the call of Christ and you have saved yourself? Seriously? In no shape form or fashion are you saving yourself here. Christ is still doing the saving here. You are just responding to Christ's previnient Grace. I am not sure I would be rejecting the whole Armenian and Eastern Orthodox Tradition based off the sole tradition of Calvanist thought.
     
  20. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In your scenario, how does God save you? Are you pulled to the church by the Holy Spirit or your own inclination?

    If the latter, I repeat: this takes away the sovereignty of God. This isn't even Calvinism -- it's just basic Christian theology. If your effort is what saves you, that's a works-based and not a faith-based soteriology (2 Cor. 3:4-6, and Eph. 2:8-9).

    I'd argue that an Arminian/Universalist soteriology has by far the weaker Scriptural support.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2021