The necessary question is this: Who gets to interpret Scripture with the authority to teach its meaning? The Scripture was written and recognized (which recognition is just as important in the long run) within a community that was established with the authority of the Apostles and the men they ordained and consecrated. The Canon of Scripture was recognized, and though this was vox populi (where the people knew they could hear God's own voice), the recognition was ratified by universal episcopal consensus. So, the Church teaches with authority that these books have God as their Author.
The interdependence of the Church and Scripture in Antiquity is impossible to deny. Without the Church having recognized the word of God well enough to define the New Testament Canon as part of One Canon in two Testaments, where would we be? Therefore, the Reformers meant, by sola scriptura, to return the Church to that standard in which the Church and Scripture spoke with one voice on the essential doctrines, such essential doctrines as we confess in the Nicene/Constantinopliatan Creed. The Anglican Article on the Creeds (Article VIII) cannot help but reassert this interdependence, for in it the Church of England taught with authority that the Creeds are to be received, and then adds that they may be received because they agree with Scripture. Therefore, they confidently stated that any interpretation of Scripture that contradicts the Creeds must be rejected automatically, and is not to be given a hearing.
If the Anglican Communion in modern times had held to that Ancient standard, none of today's problems would exist. For example, we see Dr. Rowan Williams interpreting Romans chapter one in a very private manner; and his private interpretation is the standard "Scriptural" defense used by the Homosesexualists. We say he and they are wrong because none of the Fathers in Antiquity, nor the universal Church at any time, interpreted it his way. Will we then receive a Fundamentalist defense of Dr. Williams' private interpretation according to this strange modern definition of sola scriptura?
This gets back even to the subject of Thomas Aquinas. The Reformers accepted the same standard of Sola Scriptura, but they accused the Medieval theologian/philosopher of inconsistency, which allowed for what we call today Development of Doctrine (which has itself developed since the passing of Newman); that kind that both Rome and modern Protestants of the Williams/ Louie Crew variety accept because it allows new doctrines to become dogma.
We may believe in the Reformer's definition of [Thomas Aquinas' pharse] Sola Scriptura, because they meant to bow in obedience to Scripture as understood in Antiquity, which did not reject the authority of Tradition.
Robert Hart +
Reply to me:
My response follows:
I am not in complete disagreement. I think this part was very good: "Hence, the role of Tradition is first and foremost the faithful proclamation of the oral and sacramental Word in the context of the Divine Liturgy as God's vehicle of grace."
The word you used, paradosis (παράδοσις), is translated in the New Testament as "traditions" in a positive sense.
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." II Thes. 2:15
"Tradition is NOT limited to Antiquity, nor is Antiquity the only best 'interpreter' of Holy Scripture."
The word Antiquity has been employed in order to make a simple point: Every interpretation should conform to what we know to have come earlier. The Vincentian Canon (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) exists in order to prevent error. To call the Scripture "self-interpreting" is naive and dangerously idealistic, if only due to the dullness and sinfulness of fallen man, including Christians; and it appeals to a level of self-confidence that is frightening, and that is also quite evident in heretics. If the Scripture is to be treated as self-interpreting then obviously, one has to think that the meaning of Scripture is always 100% in accord with every bias of his own and with every gap in his own knowledge. Clearly, one must judge himself infallible in order for your theory to work; otherwise it is impractical at best.
By the time the Church had a new generation of bishops it had established traditions of doctrine and practice, and these had come from the Apostles. But, the New Testament Canon was not a settled issue yet. The burden you have, in your argument, is the burden of proof. Prove that a doctrine can be true if it is not in accord with both Scripture itself and the understanding of Scripture held by those who learned directly from the Apostolic college that wrote the Gospels and Epistles, and who knew what their own words meant; not to mention the Paradosis as recorded in Patristic times.
The Puritans and others who held to the Geneva Discipline tried to defend their own ideas in England, and they ran into Richard Hooker who knew both Scripture and history better than they. Their "church government" appeared scriptural to them (as it does to Presbyterians today) because they were lazy and sloppy in interpretation, and always had to give recourse to the excuse: "That was a 'special' kind of ministry." When given this reply in my own experience I point out that our polity (episcopacy) has not only the witness of the ancient writers (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch who learned directly from Paul, Peter and John), but it actually fits the pattern in Scripture, especially the Pastoral Epistles. Why must they justify a later innovation with the flimsy excuse that the Biblical pattern is there to be ignored, that is, treated as a "special case"? If only they would have allowed the ancients to interpret, with the humility it requires to heed one's teachers, they would have known better.
No, the problem is not Tradition, but innovation that pretends to be Tradition because it becomes a teaching or practice established by custom or precedent (e.g. all-celibate clergy). These customs and precedents are the actual traditions of men, the man-made traditions, condemned by our Lord, that embolden them to set aside the Word of God.
In English history, the Reformers were the genuine Traditionalists, if only by intention. They demonstrated this by their own appeals both to Scripture and Antiquity, quoting the Bible and the Fathers (assuming we may allow them to speak for themselves). When Cranmer wrote to Calvin, his request for a Synod was an idea modeled after the Ecumenical Councils, and to take a stand not against Tradition, but against innovation. In that letter he wrote, "Our adversaries are now holding their council at Trent, that they may establish their errors." This one line sheds light on many things, including Article XXI.
The danger of Trent was the potential for unrestrained innovation, as if the Episcopalians were having a vote in General Convention today that could be forced on millions of people in many countries, no matter what demonic madness gave birth to it. Thank God they have not such power; but Rome was seen as having exactly that kind of international power, with the aid of worldy governments. Transubstantiation * ("which overthroweth the nature of a sacrament" Art. XXV) and other ills were the result. And, none of these errors came from Antiquity, but from refusing to learn from the same. Over time, to justify further innovations (such as Papal Infallibility in 1870) Rome had to say the same thing, Mr.... that you have said: ""Tradition is not limited to Antiquity, nor is Antiquity the only best 'interpreter' of Holy Scripture." Indeed, they overthrew the Vincentian Canon and replaced it with Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development, since nothing else could justify their past innovations and the claim to possess infallible authority to create dogmas in the future (what next? Co-Redemptrix?)
How can they err if Scripture is "self-interpreting"? Because every man, no matter how sinful, thinks his own interpetation to be correct, including whatever man will hold their highest office. So, how do we know the true interpretation of Scripture? Not by innovations, concerning which Cranmer could foresee the outcome of Trent. Yes, we must hold dear the teaching of Antiquity, and avoid new ideas that simply cannot be consistent with the meaning of Scripture, and that the ancient Church would never have tolerated-indeed, in certain cases did not tolerate..
At the moment Rome is free of the error of Women's Ordination: But what is to stop Doctrine from such a Development in years to come, especially with an Infallible authority who reads "self-interpreting" Scripture? Or, we can ask the same about homosexual "marriage."
But, I may ask, just whose side are you on? It seems to me you would make a good Roman Catholic in the worst way. I suggest that instead you cultivate a healthy taste for Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.
Dr. ... wrote:
"The cure for this is not the exaltation of Tradition and telling the laity that they don't really know what God's book says..."
Dr. ... The error was not Tradition, but abandoning Tradition- including Traditional interpretation of the Bible, and creating "Development of Doctrine" theories, the worst coming much later from an ex-Anglican, the terribly confused apostate Newman. Tradition does not mean Medieval Roman development; nothing is more Traditional than Billy Graham's trademark claim to authority for his preaching: "The Bible says..."
A proper definition of Tradition does the opposite of telling the people they don't understand. It tells them that they do understand. Even those who are not scholars, but who let the Creeds teach them the meaning of Scripture, are safe from, e.g., the "Jehovah's Witnesses."
* As understood in that century.