Scripture and Tradition

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Justin Williams

Puritan Board Freshman
What are some good books defending sola scriptura?

The Orthodox Churches claim that the Scriptures are verified as such by the body of Christ, the church which is guided by the Holy Spirit. In that vein, if the Church, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is what provides a foundation for what is and is not Scripture then the Church is also the source of what traditions are biblical.

Therefore what argumentation do we as those who hold to sola scriptura have against such beliefs?

:gpl:
 

LeeJUk

Puritan Board Junior
It's not so much a problem with tradition I have.

However, when tradition contradicts scripture. That's the main problem.

The sole authority is Scripture and is greater than the secondary which I'd say is tradition.

It's not like we neglect it absolutely. We have the WCF and our theologians for example.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison is a study of the role of tradition within the Patristic period. I have it and have read parts of it. It's been very useful for both primary source quotations and analysis.

Amazon.com: The Shape of Sola Scriptura: Keith A. Mathison: Books

The whole subject is fascinating, it shows how you cannot seperate the Church from the Bible. This book is a great antidote to those who think that tradition is only a Roman concept.
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison is a study of the role of tradition within the Patristic period. I have it and have read parts of it. It's been very useful for both primary source quotations and analysis.

Amazon.com: The Shape of Sola Scriptura: Keith A. Mathison: Books

The whole subject is fascinating, it shows how you cannot seperate the Church from the Bible. This book is a great antidote to those who think that tradition is only a Roman concept.

The paradosis (tradition) is simply biblical teaching. However, the papists go much further. Their term is "Sacred Tradition" (it must be capitalized).

Sacred Tradition - the "living memory" of the church - is not codifiable, is not written down, cannot be pointed to or even ultimately defined. However it is their claim that it comes directly from the Risen Lord during His 40 days on earth following the resurrection. It contains such things as:
- 7 sacraments
- the papacy
- 3 orders of ordination (with ontological philosophy)
- the immaculate conception
- the bodily assumption of Mary, etc.

So we need to make a clear distinction between "tradition" and "Sacred Tradition."
 

akennethjr

Puritan Board Freshman
Justin, you said "...the Church is also the source of what traditions are biblical."
What do you mean? In what sence does the church become the source of "what traditions are biblical."?
 

Justin Williams

Puritan Board Freshman
Justin, you said "...the Church is also the source of what traditions are biblical."
What do you mean? In what sence does the church become the source of "what traditions are biblical."?

By that statement I meant, if the Church validates what writings are or are not Scripture then they can also validate church traditions or practices such as the use of icons or prayers to the saints.

The Orthodox churches justify such practices because the validation of a writing or act lies within the decision of the church. Therefore if the Church can decide whether or not to include the epistle of James in the canon it could also validate the use of icons in worship.
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
Justin, you said "...the Church is also the source of what traditions are biblical."
What do you mean? In what sence does the church become the source of "what traditions are biblical."?

By that statement I meant, if the Church validates what writings are or are not Scripture then they can also validate church traditions or practices such as the use of icons or prayers to the saints.

The Orthodox churches justify such practices because the validation of a writing or act lies within the decision of the church. Therefore if the Church can decide whether or not to include the epistle of James in the canon it could also validate the use of icons in worship.

The operative word being "if". Because the EO and the papists see the church as primary, and the Scriptures flowing from and being validated by it, then whatever the church sanctions is de facto being sanctioned by God.
 
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A.J.

Puritan Board Junior
By that statement I meant, if the Church validates what writings are or are not Scripture then they can also validate church traditions or practices such as the use of icons or prayers to the saints.

The Orthodox churches justify such practices because the validation of a writing or act lies within the decision of the church. Therefore if the Church can decide whether or not to include the epistle of James in the canon it could also validate the use of icons in worship.

Eastern Orthodoxy argues in much the same way as Roman Catholicism does. Christian apologist Dr. James White (aomin.org) would describe such a reasoning (if ever it is used by a Roman Catholic) as an example of what he calls Sola Ecclesia. He asks in Sola Scriptura in Dialogue that

... if Rome determines the extent of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ and the meaning of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ how can she logically be subservient to two things that she in fact defines and interprets? .... that is what sola ecclesia is all about: the Church as the final authority in all things.

In the same article, Dr. White notes that the councils of Hippo and Carthage, which recognized the books which we now have in the NT, were provincial councils. They were not like the Roman Catholic Council of Trent or the Vatican Council II. He also explains that there is

... evidence from Jewish sources, from the New Testament, and then from all those leading early Fathers, like Melito of Sardis, Athanasius, and Jerome, through even Pope Gregory the Great, all the way up to the time of the Reformation--who rejected the Apocryphal books that were dogmatically canonized in April of 1546 at the Council of Trent

The Church has no right to validate icons for worship. Scripture condemns it. The only way for people to accept this idolatrous practice is to submit to Sola Ecclesia. Moreover, there is historical evidence that the use of icons for worship was not an apostolic practice. It was a man-made tradition.

Dr. White has argued many times in the past that Rome's assertion that an infallible Church is necessary before a person can know for certain that the books we have in the NT are God-breathed (or inspired) is erroneous. In his debate with Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid, Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?, he (White) argues that a Jew 50 years before Christ could know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles, for instance, were Scripture when there was obviously no infallible Church during that time!

The best argument confessional Protestants can offer against this popular Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view of authority is summed up by Dr. Michael Horton in an inteview which may be read here.

"What would you say to an Evangelical tempted to become Catholic or Orthodox?"

Here’s how I would counsel such a person: Start with the gospel. The gospel creates and sustains the church, not the other way around....

It is from the gospel from which the Church draws its identity. A religious institution like Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy may boast of institutional unity. But without the gospel, there can be no true Church (cf. Belgic Confession Article 29). Even cults have institutional unity. But they are false churches. As confessional Protestants, we can establish continuity with the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles precisely because we can establish continuity with father Abraham to whom the promise of a Seed (Christ) was made (Rom. 4; Gal. 3). This is something which Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy cannot do. Their view of justification contradicts the testimony provided by Scripture on the life of Abraham, the father of all who believe.
 
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wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the EO concept of "holy tradition" as I've seen it explained in their own words is a little odd to the western church mindset. They don't see Tradition as being "over" Scripture, or alongside it, or under it, or around it--I think they see that tradition is Scripture, and Tradition is the writings of the fathers, and is the decrees of the 7 councils, and is still the ongoing work of the Spirit in the church. I read that when the Western church added the "and the Son" clause to the Nicene Creed, the East saw that as equivalent to adding words to one of the books of the New Testament. So the controversey that arose in the 16th century (well, earlier too...and definitely since) may not directly fit the eastern context. It's extremely nebulous.

I think the OP's point that the church gets to define what is and is not tradition is well made. Obviously not everything said by every father is given equal weight--some is rejected. By what authority? The church's authority. And how can we prove that authority? From tradition! Which tradition? On and on it goes. Similar, I think, in the Roman Catholic view.
 

Reformed Thomist

Puritan Board Sophomore
The sole authority is Scripture and is greater than the secondary which I'd say is tradition.

It's not like we neglect it absolutely. We have the WCF and our theologians for example.

I think it constantly needs to be clarified that Sola Scriptura is not Solo Scriptura. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not that the Bible is the only authority, but that it, being the Word of God (and all other authorities not being the Word of God), is the final authority. We are free to consult various authorities (Augustine, Calvin, Hodge, et al) on theological matters -- and non-theological authorities on non-theological matters, for instance, Aristotle, on Logic -- and we should do so for the sake of gaining knowledge, but the Word of God is always the final word on faith and practice. It is the only infallible authority for us.
 

Justin Williams

Puritan Board Freshman
Orthodoxy is growing in America and the reason is due to the lack of substance in most evangelical churches. Christians are growing restless with the mega/emergent/seeker-friendly churches which dominate the scenery and are looking for something that has some type of continuity with the early church.

The Orthodox are doing a good job of getting Christians to let go of sola scriptura and embrace Orthodoxy and all the traditions that it entails (the use of icons, prayers to the saints, theosis, etc.). I too am looking for a Christianity that is not so "Americanized" but has roots in the early church (ie. liturgical, communal, etc) yet without the obvious pagan traditions as stated above.

In light of this it would be a great help to have resources available to contend against the undermining of sola scriptura.

Do any of you know if Dr. Horton has dealt with this subject in detail in any of the books from his covenant theology series?
:gpl:
 

wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
Orthodoxy is growing in America and the reason is due to the lack of substance in most evangelical churches. Christians are growing restless with the mega/emergent/seeker-friendly churches which dominate the scenery and are looking for something that has some type of continuity with the early church.

I would agree that this restlessness, combined with a mindset that is geared far more toward experience and inner feelings than toward objective facts and truths, have contributed to the EO expansion here. That, together with novelty for most Americans, together with the fact that it presents a person with a radical departure from the larger mass-market, watered-down, consumer-driven culture that's only a few inches deep.

The Orthodox are doing a good job of getting Christians to let go of sola scriptura and embrace Orthodoxy and all the traditions that it entails (the use of icons, prayers to the saints, theosis, etc.). I too am looking for a Christianity that is not so "Americanized" but has roots in the early church (ie. liturgical, communal, etc) yet without the obvious pagan traditions as stated above.

They're doing a good job, which is made easier because most Christians have absolutely no idea of what sola scriptura actually means. If they do, they have a view more like what an earlier post called "solo" scriptura. So what they're letting go of is something that was never understood in the first place. Listen to RC/EO "conversion" stories--take your pick--and you'll quickly find that most evangelical converts didn't understand Protestant doctrine at all, and it's not really their fault, in a sense, because at best they were surrounded by trivial worship and a total lack of doctrine. They don't know that Protestantism was every anything other than "Americanized." I think, though, we can see that Catholicism here has become pretty Americanized too, so I suppose it's only time before it happens to Orthodoxy--join the club! :)

In light of this it would be a great help to have resources available to contend against the undermining of sola scriptura.

I know the Webster/King volumes on this subject have been very well received by many respected Reformed theologians, as well as assailed by "pop" Catholic apologists (which probably adds to their appeal :lol:). I read Mathison's book, cited above, and found it very helpful and well-documented, although he does seem to treat the idea of the "rule of faith" or regula fidei of the early church, almost as though it was a separate tradition of interpretative framework that came down from the apostles together with Scripture, rather than as something necessarily arising from within Scripture.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I read Mathison's book, cited above, and found it very helpful and well-documented, although he does seem to treat the idea of the "rule of faith" or regula fidei of the early church, almost as though it was a separate tradition of interpretative framework that came down from the apostles together with Scripture, rather than as something necessarily arising from within Scripture.

Dear Bill,

According to the following ECFs, you are right...

Cyril of Jerusalem (318-386): But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart, taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you. I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light should wish to lead you astray. For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed , and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them an the table of your heart. NPNF2: Vol. VII, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture V, §12.

Niceta of Remesiana (335-415): These things beings so, beloved, persevere in the tradition which you have learned. Be true to the pact you made with the Lord, to the profession of faith which you made in the presence of angels and of men. The words of the Creed are few—but all the mysteries are in them. Selected from the whole of Scripture and put together for the sake of brevity, they are like precious gems making a single crown. Thus, all the faithful have sufficient knowledge of salvation, even though many are unable, or too busy with their worldly affairs, to read the Scriptures. Fathers of the Church, Vol. 7, Writings of Niceta of Remesiana, Explanation of the Creed, §13 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1949), p. 53. Thus the tradition that has “sufficient knowledge of salvation” is that which is inscripturated.

Augustine (354-430): Receive my children, the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol (or Creed). And when ye have received it, write it in your heart, and be daily saying it to yourselves; before ye sleep, before ye go forth, arm you with your Creed. The Creed no man writes so as it may be able to be read: but for rehearsal of it, lest haply forgetfulness obliterate what care hath delivered, let your memory be your record-roll: what ye are about to hear, that are ye to believe; and what ye shall have believed, that are about to give back with your tongue. For the Apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” For this is the Creed which ye are to rehearse and to repeat in answer. These words which ye have heard are in the Divine Scriptures scattered up and down: but thence gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of slow persons might not be distressed; that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. For have ye now merely heard that God is Almighty? But ye begin to have him for your father, when ye have been born by the church as your Mother. NPNF1: Vol. III, On the Creed: a Sermon to the Catechumens.

John Cassian (360-430s?): For, as you know, a Creed Symbolum) gets its name from being a “collection.” For what is called in Greek σύμβολος is termed in Latin “Collatio.” But it is therefore a collection (collatio) because when the faith of the whole Catholic law was collected together by the apostles of the Lord, all those matters which are spread over the whole body of the sacred writings with immense fullness of detail, were collected together in sum in the matchless brevity of the Creed, according to the Apostle’s words: “Completing His word, and cutting it short in righteousness: because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth.” This then is the “short word” which the Lord made, collecting together in few words the faith of both of His Testaments, and including in a few brief clauses the drift of all the Scriptures, building up His own out of His own, and giving the force of the whole law in a most compendious and brief formula. Providing in this, like a most tender father, for the carelessness and ignorance of some of his children, that no mind however simple and ignorant might have any trouble over what could so easily be retained in the memory. NPNF2: Vol. 11, On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius, Book 6, Chapter 3.

Blessings,
DTK
 
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wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
Speaking of the Webster/King volumes... :)

DTK, it sounds as if they are seeing the Nicene Creed itself as the regula fidei or the framework within which to interpret Scritpure--although they also state that the creed arises from within Scripture. Surely, though, to arrive at the creed required careful interpretation of Scripture, which had to occur with certain presuppositions and within a certain framework. I had the impression, from Mathison's book (if I remember rightly), that this interpretive framework (which I guess gave rise to the creed?) was the regula fidei that came down from the apostles.

Am I way off? It's happened before, just ask my wife!
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
DTK, it sounds as if they are seeing the Nicene Creed itself as the regula fidei or the framework within which to interpret Scritpure--although they also state that the creed arises from within Scripture. Surely, though, to arrive at the creed required careful interpretation of Scripture, which had to occur with certain presuppositions and within a certain framework. I had the impression, from Mathison's book (if I remember rightly), that this interpretive framework (which I guess gave rise to the creed?) was the regula fidei that came down from the apostles.

Am I way off? It's happened before, just ask my wife!

No, not the Nicene Creed, but rather what has come to be known as the Apostles' Creed. :)

Blessings,
DTK
 

Justin Williams

Puritan Board Freshman
Speaking of the Webster/King volumes... :)

DTK, it sounds as if they are seeing the Nicene Creed itself as the regula fidei or the framework within which to interpret Scritpure--although they also state that the creed arises from within Scripture. Surely, though, to arrive at the creed required careful interpretation of Scripture, which had to occur with certain presuppositions and within a certain framework. I had the impression, from Mathison's book (if I remember rightly), that this interpretive framework (which I guess gave rise to the creed?) was the regula fidei that came down from the apostles.

Am I way off? It's happened before, just ask my wife!

Bill and D.T.,

For my instruction and edification on this topic, would you mind elaborating on what you two are discussing? :graduate:

Thanks!

Justin

Ps. Please excuse my ignorance of the topic.
 

wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
Justin,

What I'm trying to ascertain is the role of the "rule of faith" that I believe was identified, very early in history, as the...guide? tradition? framework?...anyway, the "rule" that guides the doctrine and worship of the Christian church. I don't think anybody questions that a body of tradition did develop very early, and that traditions were passed along in the early church, but as DTK and others have pointed out, the ECF (early church fathers) did frequently assert the supremacy of Scripture in establishing doctrine and practice, and in refuting heresy. But, since the heretics likewise had scripture and could appeal to their own interpretations (which I believe included appeals to higher "knowledge" that, as the name implies, was available only to gnostics), the orthodox believers appealed to an apostolic rule of faith that was the possession of the church--and that within this rule of faith, the truths of Scripture could be properly interpreted so as to uphold true apostolic teaching and divide orthodoxy from heresy.

DTK quoted several fathers above who refer to "the creed" which I mistakenly took to be the Nicene creed, but was actually what came to be called the Apostles' Creed. However, it sounds to me as though these fathers are appealing to the Creed as a summary of Scriptural truths that can guide those who can't fully grasp all of Scripture--and as a rule or standard by which Scripture can be interpreted. Yet, if this creed arose from Scripture (as the citations imply), then the creed itself must have come from interpretation of Scripture, which interpretation had to have been guided by some rules of interpretation--hence the creed could not have been the sum total of the rule of faith, unless I'm misunderstanding. Which is entirely possible!

So I'm trying to find out just where the "rules" for interpretation, and the context, and the framework for interpretation within the early church, came from...and do these rules stand apart from Scripture, or alongside Scripture, or do they somehow come within Scripture?

I would propose that, even if such a rule came along with Scripture, it does not therefore supercede it, and although it can be distinguished, cannot be separated, and this rule furthermore would only guide the interpretation of what is written and not the addition to what is written--things like purgatory, Marian dogmas, etc. Eastern Orthodoxy for example asserts that iconography came down from the apostles and was part of the body of tradition that included Scripture and within which it was to be interpreted, but I cannot see how any reasonable rule of interpretation would allow for the sudden switch from stoning people for bowing down before images, to requiring that they kiss them as part of their worship!!!

Mathison covers this quite nicely in his book, overall, but never does seem to identify just what constitutes this apostolic rule of faith, beyond the vague "what has been believed at all times by everyone" sort of thing.

ps. If you read any in the realm of Catholic apologists, you'll quickly find yourself swimming in arguments about "material" vs. "formal" sufficiency of Scripture. Give that one a whirl sometime if you want a lesson in sophistry :2cents:
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
Justin,

What I'm trying to ascertain is the role of the "rule of faith" that I believe was identified, very early in history, as the...guide? tradition? framework?...anyway, the "rule" that guides the doctrine and worship of the Christian church. I don't think anybody questions that a body of tradition did develop very early, and that traditions were passed along in the early church, but as DTK and others have pointed out, the ECF (early church fathers) did frequently assert the supremacy of Scripture in establishing doctrine and practice, and in refuting heresy. But, since the heretics likewise had scripture and could appeal to their own interpretations (which I believe included appeals to higher "knowledge" that, as the name implies, was available only to gnostics), the orthodox believers appealed to an apostolic rule of faith that was the possession of the church--and that within this rule of faith, the truths of Scripture could be properly interpreted so as to uphold true apostolic teaching and divide orthodoxy from heresy.

DTK quoted several fathers above who refer to "the creed" which I mistakenly took to be the Nicene creed, but was actually what came to be called the Apostles' Creed. However, it sounds to me as though these fathers are appealing to the Creed as a summary of Scriptural truths that can guide those who can't fully grasp all of Scripture--and as a rule or standard by which Scripture can be interpreted. Yet, if this creed arose from Scripture (as the citations imply), then the creed itself must have come from interpretation of Scripture, which interpretation had to have been guided by some rules of interpretation--hence the creed could not have been the sum total of the rule of faith, unless I'm misunderstanding. Which is entirely possible!

So I'm trying to find out just where the "rules" for interpretation, and the context, and the framework for interpretation within the early church, came from...and do these rules stand apart from Scripture, or alongside Scripture, or do they somehow come within Scripture?

I would propose that, even if such a rule came along with Scripture, it does not therefore supercede it, and although it can be distinguished, cannot be separated, and this rule furthermore would only guide the interpretation of what is written and not the addition to what is written--things like purgatory, Marian dogmas, etc. Eastern Orthodoxy for example asserts that iconography came down from the apostles and was part of the body of tradition that included Scripture and within which it was to be interpreted, but I cannot see how any reasonable rule of interpretation would allow for the sudden switch from stoning people for bowing down before images, to requiring that they kiss them as part of their worship!!!

Mathison covers this quite nicely in his book, overall, but never does seem to identify just what constitutes this apostolic rule of faith, beyond the vague "what has been believed at all times by everyone" sort of thing.

ps. If you read any in the realm of Catholic apologists, you'll quickly find yourself swimming in arguments about "material" vs. "formal" sufficiency of Scripture. Give that one a whirl sometime if you want a lesson in sophistry :2cents:

I think that the key is that the "Rule of Faith" arose from the Apostles (and in turn arose from Christ) and was not derived from scripture, after all before the Bible was written the Church had doctrine and belief, deriving from the Rule of Faith.

The two (scripture and the rule of faith) are not in conflict and neither was hidden or secret, the rule of faith necessarily receded into the structure of the Church's interpretation of scripture as scripture mirrored the rule of faiths own detail.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I think that the key is that the "Rule of Faith" arose from the Apostles (and in turn arose from Christ) and was not derived from scripture, after all before the Bible was written the Church had doctrine and belief, deriving from the Rule of Faith.

That is an interesting thought to be sure. But if one is speaking of the Apostles' Creed as the rule of faith, as were folks like Irenaeus and the other Fathers I cited above, then it was based on Holy Scripture. Yes, the Church had doctrine and belief before the NT was written, but the regula fidei, which the Fathers referenced, was based upon, indeed drawn from the Scriptures, as the above citations I provided make clear.

To think that the regula fidei, of which the above Fathers spoke, was to be equated with the unwritten doctrine and belief of the Church before the NT Scriptures existed would be pure speculation on your part. The rule by which the Bereans examined the preaching of Paul, before the NT Scriptures, was the OT Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

DTK
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
I think that the key is that the "Rule of Faith" arose from the Apostles (and in turn arose from Christ) and was not derived from scripture, after all before the Bible was written the Church had doctrine and belief, deriving from the Rule of Faith.

That is an interesting thought to be sure. But if one is speaking of the Apostles' Creed as the rule of faith, as were folks like Irenaeus and the other Fathers I cited above, then it was based on Holy Scripture. Yes, the Church had doctrine and belief before the NT was written, but the regula fidei, which the Fathers referenced, was based upon, indeed drawn from the Scriptures, as the above citations I provided make clear.

To think that the regula fidei, of which the above Fathers spoke, was to be equated with the unwritten doctrine and belief of the Church before the NT Scriptures existed would be pure speculation on your part. The rule by which the Bereans examined the preaching of Paul, before the NT Scriptures, was the OT Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

DTK

I do not equate the Apostles Creed with the Rule of Faith, to do so appears to me to be speculation. It goes without saying that the Creed was the result of the interaction between the Rule of Faith and Scripture.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I do not equate the Apostles Creed with the Rule of Faith, to do so appears to me to be speculation.
I'm not saying you did. My point is that a number of the ECFs did.

It goes without saying that the Creed was the result of the interaction between the Rule of Faith and Scripture.
Goes without saying? I'm sure this means something to you, but I do not know what you're trying to say. But I'm willing to leave it here.

DTK
 

wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
I can't speak on Hippo's meaning, but I think he may be saying the same thing that I was trying to express. Namely, that if the Apostle's Creed is a summary of New Testament teaching, and if it arose from the early church's interpretation of Scripture, then the creed could not have served as the rule of faith or else it would have given rise to itself. Thus there was some interpretive framework within which the early Christians interpreted Scripture, and I think we see it at work within the NT itself where so many OT quotations are given to support what is then explained about Christ. But then, those who wrote the NT obviously believed and lived by the truths that came to be summarized in the Apostle's Creed...

DTK raised an excellent point about the Bereans, though--that they interpreted (and they were "noble minded") the OT and weighed Paul's teaching against what they saw written there, and found it to be in accordance with what was, at the time, the only Scripture they had. Evidently they interpreted within a framework that was not the Christian regula fidei--if anything, weren't they weighing the earliest Christian tradition against Scripture? So, the OT must have been clear enough to be understood by those who were reading it--although there are many examples of believers' minds being "opened" by Christ to understand the OT. I think also of Paul's description of those whose minds are hardened:

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. - 2 Cor. 3:12-17

Unless the Scriptures are read in the light of the Gospel of Christ, then our hearts and minds will be veiled--and unless the Spirit comes to us, we cannot have the light of the Gospel of Christ.

So I guess the regula fidei must have been the Gospel message and teaching that came to be written in the NT, and that can only function among those who have the light of the Spirit. So if this rule of faith is coincident with the Gospel in the Scriptures, then I suppose the Scriptures are their own rule of faith?

I'm not sure if that reasoning is circular, spiraled, or just a big knot :um:. It's really not an easy thing to get my head around, though.

DTK, is it accurate to say that the "tradition" the ECFs referred to, outside of Scripture, began mainly as customs or liturgical practices and not as doctrines that were not rooted in Scripture? I think Mathison made that point.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
So I guess the regula fidei must have been the Gospel message and teaching that came to be written in the NT, and that can only function among those who have the light of the Spirit. So if this rule of faith is coincident with the Gospel in the Scriptures, then I suppose the Scriptures are their own rule of faith?

Yes, and this is, btw, the coincidental view of tradition as defined by A. N. S. Lane, viz., that the content of apostolic tradition coincides with the content of Scripture. This is the view set forth basically by both Irenaeus and Tertullian. See A. N. S. Lane, "Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey," Vox Evangelica 9 (1975), pp. 37-55.

DTK, is it accurate to say that the "tradition" the ECFs referred to, outside of Scripture, began mainly as customs or liturgical practices and not as doctrines that were not rooted in Scripture? I think Mathison made that point.

Yes, this is basically correct. I offer you the following comments of patristic scholars...

G. L. Prestige: Further evidence comes from Epiphanius, a vigorous though undiscriminating hammer of heretics, and Chrysostom, the master and pattern of all Biblical commentators belonging rather to the historical than to the dogmatic school of exposition. Epiphanius is meeting the difficulty that the Bible seems to contradict itself on the question whether Christians should marry or not marry; he quotes various statements of St. Paul and of our Lord, which appear on a superficial view to be at variance. He replies that the words of Scripture are not to be explained away, but that thought and insight are required to determine the force of any particular injunction. “Moreover,” he adds, “you must employ tradition; everything cannot be found in divine Scripture; the holy apostles traditioned some things in scriptures and some in tradition” (haer. 61.6). It is very sound and sensible advice. If some direction given in the Bible puzzles you, first use your common sense and try to understand the circumstances surrounding the problem; compare one passage of the Bible with another; if more help is needed, see whether a consideration of early Christian practice throws any further light. Chrysostom is of the same mind. Commenting on the apostle’s injunction to “hold fast the traditions” (II Thess. ii.15), he remarks: “From this it is evident that they did not tradition everything by epistle, but many matters also unwrittenly; but the former and the latter are similarly trustworthy. So let us regard the tradition of the Church too as trustworthy. It is tradition, seek no further”. Later on, his comment on II Thess. iii.6 (“not according to the tradition which you received from us”) helps to indicate the kind of subjects which he thought the apostle regulated in that way. They were not matters of faith, but of practice. “He means”, says Chrysostom, “tradition through actions; that is always in the strict sense what he means by tradition.” G. L. Prestige, Fathers and Heretics (London: SPCK, 1958), p. 20.

H. E. W. Turner: The fourth-century Fathers show a particular interest in traditions. Thus Epiphanius discusses the question whether Christians should marry and, after quoting the relevant Pauline passages, argues as follows: ‘You must also employ Tradition, for not everything is contained in Scripture. That is why the Apostles delivered some things in Tradition and others in Scripture as the Holy Apostle himself says.’ It would be a grave error to deduce from this passage the complete equality of Scripture and Traditions as sources of doctrine. If the writer speaks of Tradition in general terms, it is clear that *practical traditions* are uppermost in his mind. St. Basil, on the other hand, is more directly concerned with the liturgical practices of the Church in the following passage: ‘Among the doctrines and proclamations of the Church some have come down to us from written teachings, others we have received transmitted to us secretly from the traditions of the Apostles, both of which have the same force for religion. No one who has the slightest experience of ecclesiastical institutions will dispute them. For if we endeavoured to decry the non-written customs as destitute of force, we should unwittingly strike at the Gospel at some vital point. What Scripture teaches us to sign with the Cross those who have placed their hope in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ? Or to turn to the East during the Prayer? What saint has left in writing the words of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? The blessing used over the waters of Baptism, the threefold immersion, the renunciation of the devil and his angels, even the actual text of the Baptismal Creed all come from the unwritten Tradition.’ Though both Fathers enunciate general principles which appear dangerously unguarded, the examples which they cite place their real meaning beyond doubt. In other contexts both can make an equally emphatic appeal to the sufficiency of Scripture. From 2 Thessalonians ii, 15 St. John Chrysostom deduces that the Apostles did not hand down everything in letters, but many matters without the use of writing; both are equally trustworthy. It is Tradition; let us seek no further. The absence of reserve here is almost worthy of Tertullian himself, but in a slightly later passage Chrysostom tells us more clearly what is in his mind: ‘St Paul means traditions through *actions*; that is what he *always meant* when he uses the word strictly.’ H. E. W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., reprinted 1978), pp. 320-321.

G. W. H. Lampe: He [i.e. Chrysostom] appears to be speaking here of moral and practical precepts rather than of unwritten doctrinal tradition, as is Epiphanius when he says that since the apostles did not write down all their teaching one cannot derive everything from Scripture but must also use tradition. Certainly, when the latter author asserts that God has taught us both in writing and agrapôs, he is alluding to matters of Church order and worship. We have already mentioned Basil’s long exposition of unwritten tradition in regard to liturgical and devotional practice—a passage which has often been misused to support the Tridentine theory of tradition as a source of authority, parallel to Scripture, in matters of doctrine. Quoted from his essay in F. W. Dillistone, ed. Scripture and Tradition (London: Lutterworth Press, 1955), pp. 47-48.

J. N. D. Kelly: Indeed, all the instances of unwritten tradition lacking Scriptural suppport which the early theologians mention will be found, on examination, to refer to matters of observance and practice (e.g. triple immersion in baptism; turning to the East for prayer) rather than doctrine as such, although sometimes they are matters (e.g. infant baptism; prayers for the dead) in which doctrine is involved. J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), p. 47.

R. P. C. Hanson: The appeal to unwritten tradition is always made by those writers of the second and early third centuries who make it as an appeal to something which is secondary, which can easily be allowed to vary from church to church and from place to place, and which cannot seriously be compared as an authority to Scripture. It is consistently thought of as a tradition which regulates praxis, not doctrine. R. P. C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962), p. 238.

DTK
 
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wturri78

Puritan Board Freshman
DTK,

Thanks again for the quotes, as always! I can see how it would be very easy for just about anyone to anachronistically read their own loaded definition of "tradition" or other concepts back into the ECFs. J.N.D. Kelly's remark that these traditions usually referred to practice rather than doctrine, although sometimes doctrine was involved (i.e. prayers to the dead) raises an interesting question--if the early church had those practices, and considered them apostolic in origin (although not doctrinal, perhaps) and did not see them in conflict with Scripture, should that at all influence how we look at the relationship of such traditions to Scripture? One could fairly ask, were the early Christians inconsistent and incorrect in their worship and practice, or are we judging things to be unscriptural that actually aren't? I believe the former, but it certainly does make me think hard before saying almost 2,000 years later that so many early saints and martyrs were badly mistaken.

Back to Justin's original post (and I apologize if I've taken this too far off course), I hope the citations given by DTK and our discussions here have given you some ideas for understanding the issues surrounding sola scriptura and the relationship of scripture to tradition. I would reiterate that I recommend Mathison's book, and I also strongly recommend sections of J.N.D. Kelly's work Early Christian Doctrine where he does touch on the relationship between the two. I'm sure the other citations given by DTK are worthy of reading. I'll add them to my reading list, which now probably wraps around the earth at least twice.

As a good overview that you can listen to in your car, or watch on a DVD, I'd also recommend the debate between James White and Patrick Madrid, "Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?" I read the transcript and it was fairly enlightening (Alpha and Omega Ministries, The Christian Apologetics Ministry of James R. White). In this you'll see the fairly recent (in history anyway) Roman Catholic line of reasoning that tries to differentiate "formal" from "material" sufficiency. White gives the example here of going into a bicycle shop to be equipped for riding--they have everything he needs to accomplish his task and he has no need to go outside of that shop for something else. Madrid counters by calling that "materially sufficient" in that he can get all the materials there, but he still needs someone or something to show him how to ride, how to assemble the bike, etc.--so the bike shop is not formally sufficient. On the surface he would seem to have a point, and the argument would be effective against the "solo scriptura" line that abolishes tradition entirely (more of the radical reformation approach). Yet Catholicism imports "materials" that clearly didn't come from the "bike shop" and go far, far beyond being a rule to teach us how to put together the material that we find in the Bible.

Another line of reasoning you'll find ad nauseam is the argument that the Bible itself denies that it is the sole authority for faith and practice. Obviously if it's true, then sola scriptura is a self-refuting position. Again it's directed against the simplistic "me and my Bible" position and not against the Reformed understanding of it. They jump from demonstrating that the Bible makes reference to traditions (which nobody denies) to assuming that this "tradition" includes all the later doctrines and dogmas--reading their understanding of it back into the text.

-----Added 5/19/2009 at 09:59:45 EST-----

Justin, speaking of matters relating to the real nature of tradition in the early church--here's a recent blog post (http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3288) from James White that hits on most of these matters succinctly, including the reading of a modern concept backward through time, into the writings of those who were not familiar with the concepts. The idea that the "seeds" of later Roman dogma were present somewhere in history (even in the Bible), and they just grew into the "trees" of dogma later on, but everyone in the early church would've agreed had they been shown the light from later generations, is an argument commonly used by modern RCC apologists. As white points out here, that kind of argument (if you can rightly call it that) is a recipe for proving anything you want from history. Just find a "seed." Yet when Protestants demonstrate the "seeds" of Sola Scriptura or other Reformed beliefs, they're shouted down for being anachronistic and told "you're abusing the fathers." The sword evidently doesn't cut both ways.

What's funny is that Reformed arguments against RCC apologetics apply almost equally well toward Eastern Orthodox--but I'll bet any knowledgeable Orthodox believer would have a field day with this person's claim that all the fathers would have accepted Papal Infallibility and the treasury of merit, had they just been explained to them. Frankly some of the best arguments from history against the Catholics come from the Orthodox. They were doing it long before we were :)
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
Before commenting further I will give these posts a good deep read and look at some of the sources quoted.

This is a really interesting thread.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
DTK, I can see how it would be very easy for just about anyone to anachronistically read their own loaded definition of "tradition" or other concepts back into the ECFs. J.N.D. Kelly's remark that these traditions usually referred to practice rather than doctrine, although sometimes doctrine was involved (i.e. prayers to the dead) raises an interesting question--if the early church had those practices, and considered them apostolic in origin (although not doctrinal, perhaps) and did not see them in conflict with Scripture, should that at all influence how we look at the relationship of such traditions to Scripture? One could fairly ask, were the early Christians inconsistent and incorrect in their worship and practice, or are we judging things to be unscriptural that actually aren't? I believe the former, but it certainly does make me think hard before saying almost 2,000 years later that so many early saints and martyrs were badly mistaken.
Yes, the Roman use of the Fathers with respect to tradition is laden with anachronistic presuppositions. Kelly's reference to how some practices like "prayers to the dead" can involved doctrine - calls to mind the formula of what has come to be known as Lex orandi, lex credendi (law of prayer is the law of belief). Credit for this has been attributed to Prosper of Aquitaine (AD 390-463), who commented, legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi ("Let the law of prayer establish the law of belief"). See Migne, PL 51:209C. For the Protestant mind, we can immediately conjure up the image of a minefield that such a practice leading to belief evokes.

But you are indeed correct to point out that the ECFs were often fraught with inconsistency. But both the Roman and Eastern Orthodox mindsets cannot even begin to allow for such inconsistency. Thus, they are forced either to gloss over such inconsistencies, or involved themselves in mind-boggling gymnastics to make them conform to modern day belief in those communions when their (the ECFs) expressed sentiments contradict them.

Back to Justin's original post...I would reiterate that I recommend Mathison's book, and I also strongly recommend sections of J.N.D. Kelly's work Early Christian Doctrine where he does touch on the relationship between the two.

One thing to bear in mind, though, about Dr. Mathison's book is that it is not per se a defense of sola Scriptura, whereas our volumes were written with that intention. I think Dr. Mathison's main intention was to set forth the historical position/meaning of sola Scriptura, and then critique present day aberrant views of it. BTW Bill, have you read our books?

Another line of reasoning you'll find ad nauseam is the argument that the Bible itself denies that it is the sole authority for faith and practice. Obviously if it's true, then sola scriptura is a self-refuting position. Again it's directed against the simplistic "me and my Bible" position and not against the Reformed understanding of it. They jump from demonstrating that the Bible makes reference to traditions (which nobody denies) to assuming that this "tradition" includes all the later doctrines and dogmas--reading their understanding of it back into the text...

...The idea that the "seeds" of later Roman dogma were present somewhere in history (even in the Bible), and they just grew into the "trees" of dogma later on, but everyone in the early church would've agreed had they been shown the light from later generations, is an argument commonly used by modern RCC apologists. As white points out here, that kind of argument (if you can rightly call it that) is a recipe for proving anything you want from history. Just find a "seed." Yet when Protestants demonstrate the "seeds" of Sola Scriptura or other Reformed beliefs, they're shouted down for being anachronistic and told "you're abusing the fathers." The sword evidently doesn't cut both ways.

The concept of tradition often employed by non-Protestant communions is a far cry from the NT meaning of παράδοσις (paradosis). I've dealt with this in Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 1. The noun form of the Greek word παράδοσις (paradosis), usually translated “tradition,” occurs some 13 times in the New Testament (Matt. 15:2, 3, 6; Mk. 7:3, 5, 8, 9, 13; 1 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6).1 The first eight instances are those found in the parallel accounts of Matthew 15 and Mark 7 where the Lord Jesus denounces in no uncertain terms the practice of the Pharisees who were transgressing and rejecting the holy law of God that they might keep their traditions (Matt. 15:3; Mk. 7:9). He charged them with making these the traditions the foundation of authority by which they were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9), and indicted what had obviously become a common practice when he added, “and many such things you do” (Mk. 7:13).

The Lord Jesus charged the Pharisees with having invalidated Scripture by the use of their traditions. By implication, then, Scripture is viewed by our Lord as the ultimate judge for determining what is true and what is false tradition. Scripture is never judged by tradition. Tradition is always judged by Scripture because Scripture is God-breathed, whereas tradition is not. The same sentiment was expressed by the Early Church Father Jerome in this manner: “The other things, also, which they find and feign, of themselves, without the authority and testimonies of the Scriptures, as if by apostolical tradition, the sword of God [the word of God in the Scriptures] strikes down.”2 Though Roman apologists frequently affirm the paradigm of Pharisaical tradition as a model for the Church of Rome, the Lord Jesus repudiated it, and exposed the Pharisees as those who “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men” (Matt. 23:13) and “blind guides” (Matt. 23:16, 24). Jesus said of the Pharisees, “Let then alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14).

In Gal. 1:14, the apostle makes reference to “the traditions of my fathers” of which he was “zealous” prior to his conversion to Christ. And he repudiates “the tradition of men” in Col. 2:8 as did Christ in Matt. 15 and Mk. 7. Charles Hodge commented that “Gal. 1, 14” and “Col. 2, 8”are references “to what is human and untrustworthy . . . and frequently in the gospels of the traditions of the elders.”3

Only in the remaining three instances (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6), where the noun παράδοσις appears, do we find binding Christian tradition in the New Testament. In each of these passages, the apostle makes reference to authoritative apostolic tradition which he had “delivered” (1 Cor. 11:2), “taught” (2 Thess. 2:15), or “commanded” (2 Thess. 3:6). In all three instances, the tradition(s) to which he refers could be objectively identified by the readers of his epistles. In each instance, these traditions were not something that awaited the future development of a living voice because 1) they had already been “delivered” to the Corinthians who were “keeping” them (1 Cor. 11:2), 2) they had already been “taught” to the Thessalonians who were presently commanded to “stand fast” in them and “hold” them (2 Thess. 2:15), and 3) they were commanded to “walk” according to them, which clearly indicates that the Thessalonians were already acquainted with these apostolic instructions delivered to them to obey (2 Thess. 3:6). We have yet to read or hear a single Roman apologist today who can identify and define what these apostolic traditions were, apart from one who has informed us that they refer to “the basic teachings of the Gospel.” The problem of how any of these instances in the New Testament can support the dogmas peculiar to Rome is utterly ignored by Roman apologists, in spite of the fact that these proof texts are repeatedly cited by them.

Now this being the case, none of these three instances support the modern Roman view that “tradition” in the New Testament can refer to some kind of future unfolding of doctrinal development, or unidentified dogma awaiting future definition. Why? Because of the simple fact that the Church was already in possession of these traditions. They were already “keeping” them, “holding” them, and “walking” in them. These verbs describing the relationship of these traditions to Christian observance make no sense at all if these traditions were not already identified, defined, believed, and being practiced. In other words, all of the references to “tradition” in these passages were doctrinal or moral rules which had already been delivered. They had an objective content to them which had already been identified, defined, and were being obeyed! As Leon Morris points out while commenting on 1 Cor. 11:2:

The reference is to that oral teaching which formed such an important part of early Christian instruction. The article [τὰς παράδοσις] points to well-known Christian traditions.4

With reference to these three passages (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6), C. K. Barrett identifies the nature of these traditions in this manner:

The traditions . . . were the central truths of the Christian faith, handed on at this stage (before the emergence of Christian literature) orally from evangelist and teacher to convert. The context suggests that training in Christian conduct was included.5

Unlike modern day Roman apologists who often assert that tradition refers to an explanation of what is written, the early Church father Chrysostom asserts that these traditions are explained by Paul in his epistle.

“That ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.” It appears then that he used at that time to deliver many things also not in writing, which he shows too in many other places. But at that time he only delivered them, whereas now he adds an explanation of their reason: thus both rendering the one sort, the obedient, more steadfast, and pulling down the others’ pride, who oppose themselves.6

This being so, not one of these proof texts can support the paradigm described by Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Newman knew that it was an act of sheer anachronism to carry back every significant feature of the Roman communion to the Apostolic age. This is why he admitted that Vincent’s rule (Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est) was unworkable.7 He hoped by means of his theory of development to unburden Rome of the historically untenable proposition of Vincent’s rule so that the way would be cleared for a more convincing defense of its dogmas by simply describing them under the guise of a legitimate development from the original deposit guided by an infallible authority. Newman shared a commonality with the evolutionist, given enough time one can create anything. However, the apostles did not command these early Churches to identify, develop or refine these traditions, but to keep, hold, and obey what had already been delivered. It is a case of special pleading when Roman apologists attempt to read into these passages the concept of tradition held by the modern day Church of Rome. They cannot point to any occurrence of the noun παράδοσις in the New Testament, and justly claim support for those traditions peculiar to Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy.

1 Bruce M. Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, reprinted 1998), p. 34.
2 From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 as cited in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 151. See also the translations in Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992), Vol. 1, p. 143; and Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, trans. Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia, 1971), pp. 228–229.
Latin text: Sed et alia quae absque auctoritate et testimoniis Scripturarum quasi traditione apostolica sponte reperiunt atque confingunt, percutit gladius Dei. Commentariorum In Aggaeum Prophetam,1:11, PL 25:1398.
3 Charles Hodge, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p. 206.
4 Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), p. 151.
5 C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 247.
6 NPNF1: Vol. XII, Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily 26.2.
7 John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1927), p. 27.

DTK
 
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