Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rome Vs. Wheaton, Round Three: Scripture

Francis Beckwith, in discussing with Christianity Today his recent return to the Roman Catholic Church of his youth, highlighted the relationship of the church to Scripture. The former president of the Evangelical Theological Society remarked:

"At some point, there has to be some connection between the church and its role and the phenomenon of Scripture.... In a weird way, there's an assumption [within evangelicalism] that all authority is authoritarian. I deny that assumption. I think that the church was given the authority to make these judgments, and that the Holy Spirit allowed them to make those judgments.... So [the Bible’s canonicity and the church’s authority to interpret Scripture] are not inconsistent with each other."
Keith Mathison, in a recent article in Modern Reformation, very helpfully pointed out that what often masquerades as "the Protestant view" of the Bible’s authority is actually a distortion of the Reformation position. The latter has been called Sola Scriptura ("Scripture Alone"), while the view more common in evangelicalism has been dubbed Solo Scriptura ("Just me and my Bible").

While the confessional Reformed position argues that Scripture is the church's only source of divine revelation, it also maintains that the Bible is the church's Book, and her interpretations—expressed via creed, confession, or catechism—do carry a secondary kind of authority that should not be trumped by fresh revelations, divine whisperings, or still, small voices.

As expected, the classical Protestant position is a tertium quid (a third thing) in distinction from both evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. But when the debate excludes Geneva and leaves us to decide between Wheaton and Rome, we may still disagree with Dr. Beckwith’s decision, but can we blame him?