Monday, October 22, 2007

Scripture and Tradition

I've been reading Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura (published, ironically, by Canon Press in Moscow). Although some of these these issues have been briefly touched on already, I want to revisit the discussion, especially in the light of the recent debate over at De Regno Christi concerning the relation of Scripture to tradition.

Building upon Heiko Oberman's paradigm, Mathison breaks down the issue of the Bible's relationship to tradition into three views that have been held throughout church history. The view of the early church was that the sole source of inspired revelation is the Bible, which must be interpreted in and by the church according to the apostolic witness, or regula fidei. This view has been creatively dubbed "Tradition 1," and was held virtually without exception throughout the first fourteen centuries of church history.

At Trent, Rome officially codified as dogma the view that the oral tradition of the church is on par with Scripture as a source of inspired revelation. This view is called (you guessed it) "Tradition 2."

The "Radical Reformers," or Anabaptists, took the view that all extra-biblical sources were not only lacking in authority, but were positively unhelpful and even dangerous, for they inevitably impede the voice of the Spirit as he instructs the individual during his own private Bible reading. This position Mathison, echoing Oberman, calls "Tradition 0."

The problem, as Mathison sees it, is that the radical view of the Anabaptists has all but highjacked Protestantism and has falsely claimed the mantle of Sola Scriptura. Rather than being seen as fighting two distinct battles, the Reformers are incorrectly thought to have advocated the staunch individualism that has come to characterize the evangelicalism of our own day.

I hope to look at these issues in more detail in the next few posts, so stay tuned, and comment away....