Friday, October 26, 2007

Scripture and the Church: The Dual-Source Theory of Infallible Authority

I debated whether or not I wanted to devote an entire post to what Mathison, echoing Oberman, calls "Tradition 2," and in the interest of fairness I decided to go ahead and do it. Plus, there is something attractive about this position if you think about it long enough.

Mathison argues that in the first few centuries of church history one finds no hint of a two-source theory of inspired revelation. With Augustine and Basil, however, the idea that church tradition is co-equal with Scripture is first broached, and though it is debatable whether these men actually held to a dual-source theory, they would eventually be claimed by Rome as the initial proponents of what became official church dogma at Trent - the ex cathedra declarations of the Roman Catholic Church are, along with Scripture, infallible and authoritative.

If only....

I wish it were this easy. If Jesus had left behind an inspired and infallible individual, office, or institution that could just tell us exactly and perfectly what the Bible says concerning every possible issue, then we could all stop fighting, we could all attain visible unity, and we could all hold hands and sing "It's a Small World After All."

Maybe it's just me, but if the way most Catholics and evangelicals frame the debate were actually correct, and our only two options were Tradition 2 or hyper-individualism, I'd bypass Wheaton for Rome in a heartbeat.

The weaknesses of this position are easy enough to list, but what are its strengths?