Monday, March 31, 2014

According To Whom? Edition 9000

I read this today. I like Derek; he writes good stuff every single time. This piece however remains oblivious to the crushing tyranny of Sola Scriptura. Read Jonathan Edwards's final thoughts in this piece. Isn't the "pope of self" exactly what this debate or discussion is entirely about? To whom are you actually submitting when you purport to test everything by the word of God? You might even be clever enough to defer to the community of which you are part. But that only intensifies the question: from whence did their interpretation come? I might be happy as a clam to defer to the doctrinal and juridical decisions of a Presbyterian General Assembly someplace, but unless you are prepared to imbue them with infallibility, you are simply delaying the inevitable conflict between "what the Scriptures say [according to me]" and what the Scriptures say according to them. But if we recall Jason's favorite axiom, "One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time," we will be forced at a minimum to inquire about the divine sanction of the community to which we defer. At that point, a clever Protestant will appeal to some long-established "historic orthodoxy" like an ecumenical Creed. When this occurs, he will be forced to explain, to himself first and then to others, why he has the right to glean from the determinations from the ancient Church in an ad hoc manner. It had already been ad hoc to decide which portions of the ancient expression of Christianity had properly conformed to Scripture-according-to-him, and now, he has before him an entire authority structure that has not been examined or tested. If he is honest, he finds that he cannot establish one Council as the paragon of orthodoxy and reject another according to a particular reading of Scripture, without asking himself what right he has to do so. He must ask himself the question, "How do I distinguish what God says from what I say?" It's a shorter, more practical version of my axiom, and everybody must face it. When a young, passionate Baptist takes to the Internet to denounce the United Methodist Church for instance, for softening its stance on abortion or gay marriage, isn't he really saying, "I can see that this decision was for human expediency, human comfort, and not for spiritual reasons"? But what do you do when this baseline orthodoxy that you are thrashing around to articulate in the face of obvious concessions to the zeitgeist of the day, comes from a community whose authority you have rejected? What if the only difference between you and Bart Ehrman in this highly arbitrary individualist process of picking and choosing, is that you believe God actually revealed himself? I'll just say it, and leave you to pick up the pieces: Ehrman is a Protestant without a God; you might be a Christian without the Church.

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