October 31, 2004

95 Theses

Everyone knows what today is -- Reformation Day. The day good little Christians go door to door, nailing tracts to the front of their neighbor's houses.

Ok, not really -- and I've just about run that joke to death this year -- but today is one of those pivotal moments in history. The Reformation has made an impact on every aspect of society -- not just religion.

I really don't have much new to add to the discussion. So I'm going to check out the old blogroll, and show you all the Ref. Day posts that everyone else has made today. You can find the theses at Phil Johnson's place.

  • Matt Hall points out that Luther probably wasn't looking for a direct conflict with Rome -- he most likely wanted some dialog on the subject of the theses. He also recommends a couple of books on the Reformation for further reading.
  • Tim at Challies Dot Com talks about the lack of awareness among many evangelical churches that today is Reformation Day -- or at least the lack of commemoration. I know that it wasn't mentioned at our church this morning, and there are probably a lot of non-Lutheran churches that pass by the day altogether. I agree with Tim -- this needs to change. We don't have to agree with all of Luther's theology to be thankful that he had the courage to stick with his convictions.
  • Sundays at Rebecca Writes are neat anyway -- there's always a sermon and a hymn, but this week is special.
  • Semicolon has A Mighty Fortress posted as well, and makes a great point about politics and Christians.

And y'know -- those are the only posts I found on it today -- even on the League of Reformed Bloggers list. Maybe Tim's right. If I missed yours, let me know, and I'll make up for it by giving you a post all to yourself.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:38 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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October 13, 2004

What IS Sola Scriptura, Anyway??

If there is one thing that I am tired of hearing from people it's this:

Sola Scriptura is inconsistant. You SAY that the Bible is your only authority, but that teaching isn't even in the Bible! You Protestants are idiots/morons/heretics/insult-of-the-day.
The sad thing is, people who should know better even perpetuate the misunderstanding of what sola scriptura is.

Sola Scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the final authority. It is the only thing that is ultimately authoritative -- that is, it is the final authority in matters of faith and practice. This actually ties into the idea of inspiration and inerrancy. IF we believe that the Bible is inspired (breathed out) by God, then it carries with it the authority of God -- it's teachings are God's teachings, because what it says is what God said. IF that is true, then Scripture is the final authority, just as if God Himself were speaking -- because He is.

Protestants do not deny tradition. Luther and Calvin quoted from Augustine extensively. Calvin quoted from Bernard of Clairveux. Both used patristic texts. The difference is that Luther and Calvin both tested these early fathers against Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, they are wrong. If you want to find out about the early Fathers being wrong, do a study on Peter Abelard. (If anyone knows of an available edition of Sic et Non, let me know. I REALLY want to get one.)

Protestants also do not deny that Scripture must be interpreted correctly. Baptists teach that the believer is responsible for their spiritual health (priesthood of the believer), but we stress (or we SHOULD stress) the need for a correct foundation for interpreting Scripture. That entails study -- including the study of historical theology. We want to know what has been believed before -- but we judge all belief in the light of Scripture.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 09:01 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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October 06, 2004

Is Inerrancy Important?

From the 1689 London Baptist Confession:

1._____ The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20 )
So, is it important that Scriptures are inerrant? After all, the word doesn't show up at all in this confession.

The word infallible means: "Incapable of erring". That is actually MORE than just inerrant. Inerrant says that the Bible doesn't contain errors. I can write a report that is inerrant, as long as I do my research carefully and make sure that someone else proofreads it. Infallible, which shows up in pretty much every major confession in early Protestant history, says that the Bible is not capable of making a mistake. I can't write an infallible paper -- anything I write is capable of being mistaken, whether it actually is or not.

But is it important that Scripture contains no error? Yes, because if we find any error in it, how can we be certain that we have caught them all? What I'm trying to say is that if there's one error that we know of, how can we be certain that the things we believe in Scriptures aren't actually errors? If we cannot trust that God has given us a reliable, error-free book, how can we base something as important as our eternal destiny on anything that is in that book?

Some would say experience. We have to experience God, and we can do that through the Bible. How can we know what we are experiencing if we cannot trust the medium we are experiencing it through? Without a Bible that I can trust, how do I even know that Christ really has risen from the dead? I cannot experience that historical event -- unless someone is hiding a time machine that they haven't mentioned before. I can only know about that event through the historical record. If the Bible is not trustworthy, I have no reliable record to turn to.

If I have to trust experience, how do I judge what is a good experience? Experience is subjective, so I can't judge based on what others have experienced. How can I tell what I am encountering, without a reliable guide to show me? How do I discern that it is the Holy Spirit guiding me into knowledge if I have no guidelines to show me what the Holy Spirit's job is?

I know people who sincerely believe that they are being led by God in directions that are contradictory to the Scriptures. Is their religious experience any less valid than mine? Is mine any less valid than theirs, for relying on the Bible rather than on experience? Does it even matter, as long as we each have a meaningful religious experience?

Experiential revelation, that is, revelation based solely on personal experience or encounter, can be very meaningful and life changing. But if it contradicts the Scripture, how do we know what the source of that experience is? God is not the only spiritual being in existence, after all. Satan is a great deceiver, and our perceptions are not always the most reliable ways of gaining information, even about the physical world. Objective rvelation is a must, if we are to seriously contend that Christianity is God's Truth.

If we are to take seriously the Reformation idea of sola Scriptura, we have to believe that the scriptura is without error, and is totally trustworth.

This is the first of (probably) several posts about the idea of inerrancy, infallibility, authority, etc. of Scripture. I'll end up talking about what sola scriptura actually means, vs. what people think it means, theories of inerrancy, and maybe even a little translation theory and the original autographs. yeah, I'm being ambitious. I figure it will make up for the weenie posts I've had here recently.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 09:10 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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