(F Things) Mathew Block–Misreading Scripture Alone, how some evangelicals ran into trouble

This is a more accurate understanding of the Reformation understanding of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition (and, indeed, explains why Lutherans can consider the Lutheran Symbols authoritative). We cannot simply reject the history of the Church. True, where Tradition is appealed to as a source of new dogma, we are right to resist it. But when Tradition codifies and clearly re-presents the teachings of Scripture, it is to be accepted as a norming influence on our individual reading of Scripture.

Philipp Melanchthon explains the Lutheran position well: “Let the highest authority be that of the Word which was divinely taught,” he explains. “Thereafter that church which agrees with that Word is to be considered authoritative.” And again: “Let us hear the church when it teaches and admonishes,” he writes, “but one must not believe because of the authority of the church. For the church does not lay down articles of faith; it only teaches and admonishes. We must believe on account of the Word of God when, admonished by the church, we understand that this meaning is truly and without sophistry taught in the Word of God.”

Christianity Today’s report suggests that some Protestants have forgotten this right relationship between Scripture and Tradition. We are right to trust in Scripture alone; but it is foolhardy to read Scripture by ourselves.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

3 comments on “(F Things) Mathew Block–Misreading Scripture Alone, how some evangelicals ran into trouble

  1. Ross Gill says:

    A timely article on All Hallows Eve.

  2. MichaelA says:

    The writer makes some good points, but he hasn’t thought his argument through very well: The survey was of self-identified evangelicals. Anyone who considers themselves evangelical, even if they’ve only been to church a few times in their life, or just went to Sunday School as a child, gets in.

    If you did a survey of self-identified roman catholics, orthodox or anglicans, I expect you would get the same results, perhaps even worse.

  3. New Reformation Advocate says:

    MichaelA (#2),

    Like Ross Gill (#1), I welcome this article, not only for being timely, but for being helpful and illuminating. I agree with much that the author says. But I agree with you, Michael, that this short piece doesn’t adequately deal with a complex topic. Matthew Block has indeed made some good points, but I agree that he doesn’t seem to have thought through his argument sufficiently. The problems go beyond his reliance on a superficial poll that isn’t representative of Evangelicalism at it best; a survey that however does probably reflect the shallowness of all too much American Evangelicalism on the ground, as it actually exists. We Americans (including American Christi9ans) generally show little interest in history of any sort, and as a young nation with an emphatically Protestant heritage, we show particularly little interest in church history. We Americans are much more interested in the future than in the past, and American Protestants have even less interest in the ancient Catholic Church than European Protestants.

    But I can’t resist taking things a step farther. Unlike Matthew Block, I think the root problem isn’t that a grossly distorted and unhistorical understanding of the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura has taken hold in much of Evangelicalism, one that not only Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer, but lesser lights like Melancthon, Bullinger, and Bucer would also have sharply criticized. They at least intended, and wanted, to stand in fundamental continuity with the Great Tradition, especially on the classic doctrines of orthodox Christianity enshrined in the Creeds and the early Councils.

    As you know, Michael, as an Anglo-Catholic, I dare to reject the whole fallacy of the Sola Scriptura principle itself. We Anglicans have never been formally committed to it, although it can certainly be argued rather convincingly that the Articles implicitly teach it. But believing that Holy Scripture is the final and supreme authority for resolving religious disputes is one thing. Believing it to be the SOLE divine or inspired authority is quite another thing.

    Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the Reformers for valiantly striving to restore the supreme authority of Holy Scripture after it had been, for all practical purposes, subordinated to the authority of Church Tradition in practice, or regarded as merely equal to the authority of Holy Tradition as a separate and dual source of divinely-revealed truth. That valiant struggle by Protestants was entirely right and commendable. And translating the Word of God into the vernacular, and preaching plainly from the biblical text, were key components in that laudable program for restoring the supreme authority of God’s Word.

    But the Reformers grave error was in presuming that Holy Scripture interprets itself, or can be safely interpreted apart from the guidance of Holy Tradition, of which it is a central and controlling part, but only a part.

    To put it concisely, and controversially, the Protestant Reformers were wrong in their key principle of Sola Scriptura, and the Council of Trent erred with their counter-principle of Scriptura ET Traditio, as if there were two independent and dual sources of Divine Revelation. The Eastern Church has been wiser. The better formulation is Scriptura IN Traditio. But I wouldn’t expect a Sydney Anglican, or a Ugandan Anglican for that matter, etc., to agree with me.

    David Handy+
    (Being an advocate for a New Reformation today by no means implies full and uncritical support for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. After all, there was a Catholic Reformation too, not merely a Counter-Reformation. And major mistakes were made on all sides then, as now.)