Theology: February 2004 Archives

Sola Scriptura

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By reader request, I have some comments on some arguments against Sola Scriptura, as presented by Daniel Silliman. Here are the arguments:

1. Neither the creed-like phrase nor the doctrine of sola scriptura are found within scripture and thus must be rejected by the doctrine itself. Sola scriptra is internally unsustainable.

2. Scripture does not posit it's authority alone, but does tell us to obey the unwritten teachings of the apostles and that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth.

3. The apostles never taught such a doctrine. Indeed, it was no part of Church teaching before the Reformation.

4. The historic touchstone of Church teaching and Christian belief was not scripture but liturgy.

5. We cannot have a canon without canonization.

6. Sola scriptura is a product and a perpetuation of individualism, contorting the reading of scripture from a place within the Church and Christian community to a private, solitary and self-authoritative act in contradiction with the communal nature of the Christianity Church.

7. No heresy has ever been stopped by sola scriptura. Legions have been started by it.

I'll work my way through all the arguments but in a different order, starting with the most glaring errors and then seeing how thinking more carefully about those will help with the more subtle problems.

God and Morality

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I've been recruited to talk about God and Morality at a Christian conference for college students this weekend. I've consolidate and updated some of my previous class notes on this issue on Moral Arguments for God's Existence for an introductory course dealing in part with God's existence and then a more ethics-focused discussion of issues about God as a Basis for Morality in an introductory ethics class. So here are my newly organized, though largely not new, notes consolidating the two, sometimes simplifying and sometimes expanding.

Old Earth and Death

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I've often heard young-earth creationists complain to old-earthers that their view doesn't fit with the biblical chronology of sin and death. After all, death came as a result of sin in Genesis. Yet the old-earth view that our best science teaches says that animals were around and dying before there were any humans. Rusty Lopez and New Covenant addresses these concerns in an even-handed way that seems to me to be faithful to the scripture.

Romans 5 talks about human death as a result of human sin. It talks about the death that comes from sin entering the world through, of all things, sin. It doesn't necessarily mean that death for anything other than humans came that way. Death spread to all humans because all sinned. The topic is sin and justification. Then he turns to Romans 8, where Paul says that all creation was subjected to futility by God. It doesn't say this was an effect of sin after sin occurred. It just says that God did this and that the hope of the gospel is looking forward to a time when that is over. Given God's foreknowledge of sin and sovereign plan to restore all things at the end, the futility implied by the laws of physics could very well have been in place even before human sin.

So it seems the theological objection from animal death before human sin does little to outweigh the clear scientific reasons to believe the earth is much older than young-earthers want to admit.

It's nice to see someone expressing my thoughts so well. David Heddle has a good post on why the insistence on what too many people in Reformed circles call "literal six days" is just silly. (Side note: for why I think this phrase is inappropriate, see my comments on David's blog. There's more on that in the extended entry below, but I suppose an explanation of my choice of words is important here if you just want to see a briefer picture and then continue reading.)

Quick summary (from the post, the comments, and the follow-up post):
1. Reformed thought generally frowns on what is often called over-literalness (though I would question that term) in other places.
2. Some of these people take it so far that they would have to exclude revered church fathers and Francis Shaeffer from being deacons.
3. It's a "misguided attempt to combat evolution" but not necessary and relatively modern as a plank of legalism.
4. Old-earth views don't necessarily (or even usually) deny inerrantism but are too often treated as if they do.
5. "Regarding the literality of Genesis: Perhaps the most important verse in Genesis is the first Messianic prophecy of Gen. 3:15. That critical verse, as we all know, was not fulfilled literally. Christ defeated Satan on the cross, but He did not literally crush Satan's head nor did Satan strike His heel." (Though, again, I would say that within the account of the prophecy the terms are being used literally -- i.e. it really is a picture of one person crushing someone else's head, but the prophecy itself isn't trying to describe physical events but spiritual realities.)
6. Then he gives some reasons not to bother wasting your time with the so-called creation science sites, which I won't bother wasting my own time (and yours if you, like me, don't need further reason to distrust them) by repeating here. If you're interested in his reasons, read his post.

I'm largely in agreement with all that. I do want to give some more depth (than my above-linked comments gave) to my big pet peeve with virtually everyone who comments on this issue.



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