Scripture and the Church

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I recently encountered a use of Scripture in a web posting that was alarming to a degree. The writer (who was not apparently a believer) sought to use Scripture to prove that God was a murderer and that the Bible was an immoral book. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on why certain approaches to Scripture will never be productive of a proper understanding and why the Bible is not a “user-friendly” source of information on God and His will for man.

I think, first off, of an event recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel. It is the story of the encounter of two of Christ’s disciples with the risen Lord, on the afternoon of the resurrection. After not recognizing the risen Lord, they begin to instruct Him on the things that had just taken place in Jerusalem and which they, as yet, did not understand. Then we are told an interesting thing:

And [Christ] said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

It is obvious that three years (or so) discipleship with Christ, eating and sleeping beside Him, listening to His teachings, watching the miracles – were simply not sufficient to provide what was needed to understand the most fundamental things about Christ within the Scriptures (at that time, meaning the Old Testament). Only with personal instruction from the Risen Lord, and later continued instruction by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), do the disciples – those first disciples – begin to understand the Scriptures. Their instruction to those who followed after them, as well as the continued instruction of the Holy Spirit (which in Orthodoxy is the proper meaning of Tradition), remain essential elements of the interpretation of the Scriptures – by the Christian Church.

Anybody can read the Scriptures. Anybody can do what they want when it comes to interpreting the Scriptures. But what the Scriptures mean to the Church, is a very particular interpretation, given to it by Christ and the living Tradition within the Church.

Thus, it is a more or less meaningless statement when someone outside the Church says: “the Bible says,” or “the Bible teaches.” Books are not self-interpreting, and this is most certainly the case for the Scriptures, or is at least the case for the Scriptures as they are understood by the Christian Church.

To a degree, this ecclesiastical position of the Scriptures can be a weakness in the classical protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura (meaning the Scriptures alone). There is indeed a sense in which nothing can speak as clearly or authoritatively as the Scriptures for a Christian. With this, the Orthodox would never argue. But the Scriptures must speak in their proper context – which is in the living Tradition of the Body of Christ. Removed from that context, and the Scriptures remain problematic – subject to misuse and abuse – to misinterpretation (which simply means “not the Church’s interpretation”) – and to confusion.

Thus when a non-believer, or lone believer, takes up the Scriptures and begins to make them say things about God that the Church has never said about God – or uses them against themselves as though it were a book of perfect syllogisms to be tested by a process of non-contradiction – it is simply an absurd case of someone using something that does not properly belong to them and of remaining in at least as much darkness as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus prior to their encounter with the risen Lord.

The Church does not have to defend Scripture to those outside the Church – for the book is not the book-outside-the-Church. St. Paul wrote letters to Churches, or letters to leaders of the Church. The whole of the New Testament, in every instance, is addressed to believers only. Others may read it, and may even come to faith by reading it (God is sovereign and may do whatever He pleases), but they do not and cannot read it authoritatively. That reading – is and has been given to the Church and to the Church alone. It’s not a unique appropriation of a book – it is simply defining what the word “Scripture” means.

Now it is also the case that the ecclesiology of various groups of Christians will understand what the word “Church” means in different ways and will understand the relationship of “Church” to “Scripture” in different ways. What I have offered here is the classical understanding of the Orthodox Church – that understanding which is common to the Fathers of the undivided Church of the early centuries – and remains the understanding of the Orthodox Church today.

The Bible has come to hold a unique place within English-speaking culture, and American culture in particular – a place that is far removed from its proper ecclesiastical position. Everybody can own a Bible now and carry one around in their pocket. Everyone is free to study and to quote. Everyone is free to misunderstand the Scriptures to their heart’s content – but not everyone is free to speak in a manner that is authoritative for the Church. The Scriptures, as they are to the Church, is sui generis, a case unto itself. As such, there can be no “objective” discussion of the meaning of Scripture, or a discussion on its meaning in which the grounds of that meaning are something other than its meaning “to the Church.” Of course, such discussions take place all the time, but, to a certain extent, they are of no concern to the Church.

There is a danger, always present, that the Bible will be viewed as a “Holy Book” by itself – ripped from its context within the Church. The danger is that when Scripture is removed from that context it almost invariably comes to take on other meanings or to be used in a manner that seeks to give it an authority somehow unrelated to the Church. Christians are Baptized “into the Body of Christ,” and “into the death of Christ,” according to St. Paul. He nowhere says that we were Baptized into the Scriptures. And although we are taught by the Scriptures to “desire the sincere milk of the word,” we are also taught by Christ to “eat His flesh and to drink His blood” in the Holy Eucharist. Indeed, we are told that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no Life in you” (John 6:53). The living Body of Christ, the Church, is the proper context of all Christian activity.

The Apostles who were taught by Christ and who wrote the Scriptures of the New Testament, themselves gave instructions that go beyond the Scriptures:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

And thus it is that in the life of the Church, the living Tradition is both the mind of Christ in the Holy Spirit, manifest particularly in the understanding of Scripture, as well as in those matters which have been handed down to us from the beginning (such as the sign of the cross, etc.).

I do not generally care for the phrase that says “the Bible is the Church’s book,” if only that it may make the Scriptures to seem to be less than they are. But it remains the case that the Scriptures are inherently ecclesiastical – they belong in the Church and are themselves, as Scripture, a part of the Church’s life. Torn from that context they become something else – which, as St. Peter warned (speaking of St. Paul’s epistles): “There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

May God give us His grace.

 

37 Responses to “Scripture and the Church”

  1. Carl Says:

    Ironically(?) there’s a lot of scriptural support for a non-solo scriptura position:

    Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

    “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

    Acts 8:30–31

    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

    Romans 10:14–15

    Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    2 Peter 3:15–16

  2. Carl Says:

    I sometimes wonder if Solo Scriptura isn’t in somehow based on the Islamic understanding of the Koran being put onto the Bible in the Scholastic period. People seem to forget that unlike the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita, Christians have never claimed the Bible to have a miraculous origin in its compilation (though the individual books are, of course, inspired). The Koran and the Gita are purportedly manifestations of the Eternal, but the canon of scripture was fixed by the Church after having been written for the Church by human beings working at the behest of the Holy Spirit. It seems bizarre to believe that the Church was able to write the Scriptures and establish which books are canon, but it is no longer the means by which to interpret them.

  3. parchemente Says:

    Carl: I do not believe Sola Scriptura is based on an Islamic notion. Rather this construct had to be created in order to sustain protest against the (then) conventional church authority. Scripture’s meaning and church authority had to be divorced in order for Luther to be consistent to his own principles.
    The Protestant teaching of the self-suffiency of the Scriptures further illustrates this point. Self Suffiency puts the ultimate authority in the seat of the reader (the interpreter) — not in the Church where it belongs.

    Thanks to Fr. Stephen for posting this insightful article.

  4. Hartmut Says:

    Thank you father for these clear and persuasive words.
    You have been given the gift to get straightforward to the heart of things with clear and convincing words. Thank you for sharing your insights with us!

  5. Margaret Says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for taking time to say these things that need to be said.

  6. fatherstephen Says:

    Fr. thomas Hopko said in a conversation I had with him that Sola Scriptura is indeed borrowed from Islamic scholarship dating to the scholastic period of debate with Islamic scholars. He was going to send me citations for this, but I’ve not yet seen them. It’s possible – for many Protestant users of Sola Scriptura speak about the Bible in terms almost precisely like those used by Islamic scholars.

    I do not argue against Scripture as authority – that would be utterly un-Orthodox – but they are authoritative within the Life of the Church or when read within the Life of the Church. Outside the Church they cannot be properly interpreted. It’s all too obvious.

  7. November In My Soul Says:

    Carl’s remark seems to strike at the heart of the matter, “It seems bizarre to believe that the Church was able to write the Scriptures and establish which books are canon, but it is no longer the means by which to interpret them.”

    I have a Protestant friend who strongly endorses the concept of sola scriptura. It will be interesting to see what he says concerning this idea.

  8. fatherstephen Says:

    November,

    I well understand the desire to uphold the authority of Scripture, and know it is not intended towards anything wrong. If such authority were rightly understood and not seen as somehow in opposition to the Church (how can God’s word be in opposition to God’s body?).

  9. handmaid Says:

    by Archpriest Georgy Florovsky:
    “Therefore the New Testament is not a community-book in the same exclusive sense as the Old Testament surely was. It is still a missionary book. Yet it is no less fenced-off from the outsiders. Tertullian’s attitude to the Scriptures was typical. He was not prepared to discuss the controversial topics of the faith with heretics on the Scriptural ground. Scriptures belonged to the Church. Heretic’s appeal to them was unlawful. They had no right on foreign property. Such was his main argument in the famous treatise: De praescriptione haereticorum. An unbeliever has no access to the message, simply because he does not “receive” it. For him there is no “message” in the Bible.”

    here is the link to a great page:
    http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/revelation_interpretation.htm

    Thanks Fr. Stephen.

  10. Jeff Says:

    Somewhere (on this blog?) recently I was reading a reminder that when you enter an Orthodox Church you would be hard pressed to put your hands on a Bible per se (exceptions being those parishes, like mine, that have pews and pew bibles – an unfortunate modernization). You could approach the altar and find the Gospels there. You could approach the chant stand and find the Apostolos and Psalter there. You could find other liturgical books with the Old Testament dispersed throughout. But you cannot find just a Bible.

    I think that points to the fact that the Scriptures are intertwined with the Church. You cannot separate the two without harming both.

  11. fatherstephen Says:

    Thanks for the quote. I was aware of it, but unable to put my finger on it. It’s nice to have other fingers out there helping! Tertullian is not among my favorite early Church writers (especially considering his end) but he occasionally puts things about as squarely as you could ask for.

  12. fatherstephen Says:

    I should add, that I would have serious discussions with other believers who hold to a Sola Scriptura position and want to be respectful – I have a huge concern with the use of Scripture by non-believers and their acquired sense (it can be implied from some versions of Sola Scriptura) that the Bible can be read and understood by just anyone.

  13. fatherstephen Says:

    Jeff,

    And yet, during Holy Week, the entirety of the Gospels is read aloud in the Church. As again the Passion narratives from all four gospels are read aloud yet again during that week. The Psalter will have been read through numerous times during that week. The Book of Jonah in its entirety as part of 15 readings on Holy Saturday. I can think of no Church that actually reads as much Scripture in the course of its services.

    Of course, you’d have to be at a monastery to get “all” the services. But even in a fairly active parish, a huge amount of Scripture is read.

    Strangely enough, in Christ’s day, there would have been only the scrolls in the front of the synagogue for public reading. Learning Scripture included going to synagogue a lot and listening, as well (especially for men) learning to read (as in a Bar Mitzvah).

  14. JFred Says:

    The theologically conservative PCA, of which I belong, is undergoing a serious internal theological struggle now pitting a small but influential group of sacramentalists against those in the majority who are faithful to the Westminster Confession. Both claim fidelity to the Bible of course.

    Now more and more churches are beginning to practice weekly communion, but our pastor is on the record saying that weekly communion would diminish the importance of it.

    So, where in my church do I go for the truth on this matter? The conventional wisdom is that we don’t need to major in the minors, but I can no longer accept that communion is not a major issue.

    Coming around to the view that we read the Bible through the interpretation of the Church is making more sense to me all the time as I see the cracks getting bigger in my “Bible-based” church.

  15. Benjamin Says:

    “The whole of the New Testament, in every instance, is addressed to believers only.”

    Father,

    I think I understand what you are getting at – and I agree – but can you elaborate and the above sentence in light of the four Gospels, which are written for the Church but also as a witness to the world concerning Jesus. Obviously, many have been converted by reading the New Testament. How do you understand the relationship between their “outside” reading that led them to move “inside” the Church?

  16. Matt Says:

    It seems to me that Sola Scriptura is, to some degree, the foundation upon which all of Protestantism stands and falls. Apart from that one doctrine, every innovation of every Protestant denomination (including the concept of denominationalism), from Lutheranism to the “Emerging Church”, would be fairly clearly manifest as errant. It is only through the appeal to “Scripture alone” that anyone can claim that his error is, in fact, truth. It is only due to this doctrine that certain more radical (as in “Radical Reformation”) groups can throw out 1500+ years of Church History and claim to be “in the tradition of the Apostles.”

    Ironically, I have yet to meet a Protestant who practiced Sola Scriptura. Even back when I was a Baptist, I was struck by how often a person making a case for this-or-that doctrine would resort to invoking such-and-such a pastor or so-and-so’s commentary and so on. In fact, I identify a particular discussion on eschatology way back when as seminal in my ultimate realization that “Sola Scriptura” is impossible.

  17. fatherstephen Says:

    Benjamin,

    As I noted, God is certainly sovereign, and can use Scripture for the conversion of any. I’ve also known Him to use a sunset, a chance meeting, an icon, tragedies, any number of things. I think reading “outside” the Church and reading “inside” are very different matters. And I think most “inside” would agree that once they entered the Church, the Scriptures opened to them as never before.

    I truly want to be careful not to make an outright onslaught on Sola Scriptura, lest the Orthodox be misunderstood as taking Scripture lightly. We do not. It’s just that we take it for what it is and do not remove it from where it belongs.

    St. Seraphim of Sarov read one of the gospels everyday (in its entirety) and recommended this practice. This kind of pious use of Scripture, rather than suddenly setting oneself as a teacher of doctrine and reading Scripture for doctrine, per se, is something I strongly encourage. One should know many Psalms by heart. According to Canon Law, Bishops of the Church should no the entire Psalter by heart. This canon is frequently ignored by necessity, by I still think it is a proper goal. One of my parishioners is currently setting and working on a goal of memorizing the Psalter.

    The Old Testament is indeed salutary, but must, above all, be read within the Tradition, which, for Christians, would mean a Christocentric interpretation – which, to some degree must be taught.

  18. fatherstephen Says:

    JFred,

    The practice of weekly communion is by far ancient and universal (in the early Church) as it is today in Orthodoxy and in Roman Catholicism and many other places. On the other hand, to receive sacraments as some less than truly Christ’s Body and Blood is problematic. Also, by what authority do Protestant ministers preside at the Eucharist?

    It is good that the PCA is discussing these sacramental matters. Perhaps such discussions will lead them ever closer to the truth.

  19. Jeff Says:

    “Of course, you’d have to be at a monastery to get “all” the services. But even in a fairly active parish, a huge amount of Scripture is read. ”

    One more point, if I may, directed to those who might be only exploring at this point (granted that I’m still a newcomer by any measure – unless you count 12 years of foot dragging). You will not always hear Scripture read as specifically “Scripture” as you would, say, in the Episcopal Church where the lector/lay reader would stand at the lectern and say, “the Old Testament lesson is written…” or “the New Testament lesson is written…” For sure that is done, but often times there are Scriptural gems and allusions peppered throughout the prayers and hymns. It would be interesting to know what percentage of everything said during the course of the year is either direct Scripture quote (called out or not) or allusion to a Scriptural event. I imagine the percentage would be extremely high.

  20. Richard Barrett Says:

    I can think of no Church that actually reads as much Scripture in the course of its services.

    And yet, ironically, we have this combox comment left in response to Fr. John Fenton’s December post asking, “Why are you not Orthodox?” (http://conversiaddominum.blogspot.com/2007/12/im-just-curious-why-are-you-not.html)

    …because the Byzantine liturgy seems designed to obfuscate the message of the gospel. Yes, multiple chapters of Scripture and prayers are chanted during the service, but in such a way that it becomes a monotonous drone. Preaching is almost never, or only peripherally connected to the Scriptures. In short, the common person never learns anything. For instance, I recently spoke to a fiercely Greek Orthodox family, who had attended church for decades upon decades, who had no idea why Jesus died, or what being born again meant, etc.

    I certainly don’t find that comment to be justified — but I have to acknowledge that perception exists, and that we have to combat it.

    Richard

  21. fatherstephen Says:

    Such anecdotal comments are useless. We can all stack up members of various Churches who don’t know anything. Scotland, with 400 years of Reform, has less than 5% Church attendance. It’s beside the point. If Orthodoxy does a bad job of being Orthodox, I’m sure some would have to plead guilty. But everyone has plenty who do a bad job of whatever they are. It just proves that some have done a poor job.

    On the otherhand, more Orthodox believers died for the faith in the 20th century, than likely all other centuries combined. Must have done something right for there not to have been wholesale apostasy behind the Iron Curtain.

    When my Archbishop was visiting Russia back in the 70’s, he was taking part in a service, and was to read the gospel (in Slavonic). He asked to look at it ahead of time to familiarize himself. The host Bishop thought for a moment and said, “No, I better read it. The congregation will know it by heart and if you stumble, they will be scandalized.” That’s quite a statement.

    But again, all anecdotal.

  22. Isaac Says:

    Indeed. Coming from a fundamentalist and evangelical background I can assure you that Bible churches are replete with people who haven’t the foggiest notion of even the “fundamentals” of their faith. Anecdotal stories are not the plane on which any of these issues should be discussed.

  23. Jeff Says:

    Of course, there is also the problem that an Evangelical speaks a very different language than Orthodox. The phrase being “Born Again” does not have near the import in traditional Christianity as it does in Evangelicalism. Not that the concept doesn’t, but we don’t run about asking people if they were born again, or when they were saved. I would wonder first and foremost if the commenter was simply not getting the appropriate Evangelical response from the Orthodox family.

  24. fatherstephen Says:

    Jeff,

    Good point. Strange as it may seem, most Orthodox Christians are not Evangelical Christians, and might flunk an Evangelical catechism. But does an Evangelical know what takes place at a Pannikhida?

  25. kevinburt Says:

    Jeff,

    I can’t remember where I found this short piece, but I think it is the one to which you refer. It is entitled “There never was a Bible in the Orthodox Church”. You can read it here: http://kevinburt.wordpress.com/2008/02/07/there-never-was-a-bible-in-the-orthodox-church/

  26. Richard Barrett Says:

    I don’t know that I completely agree the anecdotes are useless. I’m by no means suggesting that we need to extrapolate from said anecdotal sources a basis by which we entirely revise our liturgical approach. I am frequently railing against anything which even comes close to that kind of mindset. What I am saying is, simply, the perception exists among some that we present scripture in a manner that obscures its meaning. I agree with this perception in no way, but I’ve encountered it in more places than just that single solitary post — among my own family members, for example. “I didn’t have any idea what was going on, so by the time I realized it was the Bible being read it was over!” “How was I supposed to know that was a Psalm? I don’t have them all memorized, and it wasn’t announced!” “It just sounded like somebody reading it for themselves — I don’t understand what we were supposed to get out of it” etc.

    If I’m saying this should tell us anything, maybe it’s just that we shouldn’t assume that the pervasiveness of scripture reading in our services will be obvious or comprehensible to people for whom it is the individual reading, rather than the public proclamation, of scripture that is the dominant paradigm. (Even in public, it’s still a public individual reading, not a proclamation by and to a community.) Not that this should change a jot or tittle about our services, only that we should get used to having to explain it until they get it.

    Or, even more simply, we’ve got to be ready to have compassion for those folks.

    Richard

  27. Richard Barrett Says:

    Drat. Missed an italicization closing. Apologies.

    Per http://dangreeson.tumblr.com/post/25623914 (who himself hat-tipped Orrologion), the source for “There never was a Bible in the Orthodox Church” is the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver Bulletin: March 1995, Volume 3, Number 3., pp. 14-17.

    Richard

  28. Steve Says:

    Here’s something I heard recently that I’d never heard as a Protestant:

    We are (sons of God) by grace what Christ is by nature (Son of God).

    It’s not a new saying, even for the West. Yet how fundamental to the faith. I seriously wish someone had told me this years ago.

  29. Isaac Says:

    Richard,

    I understand your concern, but I think what is needed there is a paradigm shift. I think approaching church as a Bible study is a very problematic paradigm that tends to make Christianity merely intellectual assent to a set of doctrines. I just don’t find the mindset that seeks to “get something out of it” to be the right one in the first place.

  30. Richard Barrett Says:

    I think what is needed there is a paradigm shift. I think approaching church as a Bible study is a very problematic paradigm that tends to make Christianity merely intellectual assent to a set of doctrines. I just don’t find the mindset that seeks to “get something out of it” to be the right one in the first place.

    I don’t disagree in the slightest. All I’m saying is that we have to be prepared for those who take longer to make that adjustment.

    Richard

  31. jacob Says:

    Now more and more churches are beginning to practice weekly communion, but our pastor is on the record saying that weekly communion would diminish the importance of it.

    Would he say the same thing about praying and reading the Bible – i.e., regularity and familiarity begets diminishing returns?

  32. Mark Says:

    The rest of the story of the road to Emmaus furhter illustrates your point. After Jesus had spent the day interpreting the scriptures to Cleopas and the other disciple (probably Luke himself), they still did not recognize him. He only became known to them in the breaking of the bread.

    Sola Scriptura was not enough, even when coming from the lips of the Lord himself! We must have all of Christ, His Body and Blood, to truly know him.

  33. Isaac Says:

    On a side note, I believe that the phenomenon of using the Bible to bash Christianity is being driven, at least in part, by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They have picked up the fine art of citing isolated proof texts–a habit not uncommon in American Christianity. When my priest mentioned over a year ago that the Orthodox would normally not evangelize by merely handing out Bibles to strangers, the concept was a little hard to swallow coming from the background I did. Now, it actually makes good sense.

  34. fatherstephen Says:

    Indeed, Richard, we should practice such patience. The worship of God is not immediately apparent to those who see it (think how many questions St. John had in his trip to heaven).🙂

    But an Orthodox Christian worship service, though welcoming to others, exists primarily for the worship of God. Participants have to be taught how to participate.

    I have a small edition of the Divine Liturgy with commentary (and pictures in some places) on each opposing page. It’s too much information to look at during the service, but is useful to take home and study. Many people have commented on its helpfulness. It is not currently a publicly available booklet.

    Isaac, I agree about this relatively new phenomenon we are seeing of agressive atheism and the use of Scripture. But I’d go back to Tertullian on that one.

  35. Richard Barrett Says:

    But an Orthodox Christian worship service, though welcoming to others, exists primarily for the worship of God. Participants have to be taught how to participate.

    Indeed — no disagreement from me. Someone has to want to be taught, however, and many people are coming from a paradigm that says it should be otherwise, and that’s a perception which I merely suggest we ought to be able to address. Not bow down to — I’m not saying that in the slightest.

    Richard

  36. Ioannis Freeman Says:

    “Sola Scriptura” was one of three Latin phrases that Luther used to distinguish his arguments from those whom he called “Papists.” The three phrases were: (1) Sola scriptura,
    (2) sola fidei, (3) sola gratia. Combined the three phrases form something akin to modern sound bytes for media junkies.

    Once that Luther had borrowed these from Aquinas and Augustine in the early 16th-century, these abbreviated and curtly packaged methods of inquiry and bases of “Christian authority” (cf. Smalcald Articles) became transformed into identity politics after Luther’s death but still within the latter half of the 16th century.

    Such transformations distilled the juice of historical contexts from the early 16th century, leaving nothing more than residue for hucksters to banty about as if anyone could still taste or appreciate the original juice.

    My points:
    (1) There have been many Reformations that trace their roots to one or more reactions to the See of Peter
    (2) “Protestants” hold numerous if not competing opinions about sola Scriptura, and it misleads to coalesce the rich diversity of opinion.
    (3) Several responses on this thread appear to be focused on a diverse tribe of evangelical voices concerning Holy Scripture from the 19th-century, who either lived in one of the Protestant-diaspora nations in the new world such as the USA, or garnered support among the diaspora while staying put in Europe.
    (4) I suspect that Luther, Melanchton, other Lutheran leaders to retain seven sacraments such as those around Nurenberg as well as the Church of Sweden, and even John and Charles Wesley might not recognize sola Scriptura in an evangelical North American context.

    Later, throughout the span of 200 years from 1600-1800, the three “sola’s” underwent re-interpetations by multiple reformations within and outside Luther’s native Saxony.

    My points:
    (1) sola Scriptura means less today than ever due to lack of agreement across the last five centuries.
    (2) sola fidei in the Augsburg Confession may be the principal “sola” of Luther that most resembles Father Stephen’s point concerning “for whom” the Holy Scriptures were written, as well as the collective authority of the Church to “…read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”
    Book of Common Prayer (1662), Collects. 2nd Sunday in Advent

  37. Hartmut Says:

    Excuse me, I’d like to add the fourth of the luth. solas: “Solus Chistus”.
    Some add even a fifth: “Soli Deo gloria” – but usually there a mentioned only the four.
    (I just found this: http://www.fivesolas.com/5solas.htm )

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