Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Problem with Evangelical Sola Scriptura

I live in an ecclesial world that rightly touts the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone!). I have grown up in this tradition (after my early years in a tradition that held to Scriptura et Magisterium). A lot of ink and spiritual sweat has been spilled over clarifying the fact that for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Scriptures alone as breathed out by God are the final authority for faith and practice (I sometimes refer to that as Scriptura Ultima). As I understand it, this doctrine doesn't snub the fact that truth can be presented via common grace in other earthly texts. And insomuch as they accord with the Sacred Writ, they are true statements. The Scriptures are the final arbiter of all other writings.

Not too many card-carrying evangelical Christians have a hard time disagreeing w/ the above understated formulation. Nevertheless, in the day-to-day life of the Church, I sense perhaps an all too often tendency to take Scriptura Ultima in a literal chronological sense. That is, we read and are heavily influenced by the voices, authorities, and texts of our culture (NY Times, Bono, Oprah, the name it) first. Then (!), we run the noise through our evango-high def sola scriptura. No doubt, this isn't as mechanical as I'm making it to sound. I am asking: is our reality that we literally sometimes listen to the Word of God last (or finally, ultimately)?

I guess I am proposing a practical and daily return (yea, application) to the Scriptures not just as our final court of appeal but as our first consideration.
The problem with evangelical sola scriptura in the life of the church is that it often makes the Bible the last consideration (almost like throwing a bone at God). Maybe I'm proposing that embedded in this great historic doctrine is Scriptura Principium. The definition would then be that Scripture is our first and final authority in faith and practice. This allows for common grace and culture "conversations" in between, but it properly keeps the front and back doors of the Gospel well-protected.

No comments: