THE CONCEPT OF SCRIPTURE
Hereís a cool term. "solo scriptura" What does this mean? Basically it is a Latin term that means "Scripture alone". I donít know when the term was coined but to the best of my knowledge the concept had its start with Martin Luther. The meaning which I will summarize as this. "Any assertion I make I will ground in Scripture." (I generally try to do this.) The Anabaptists came along and modified the concept further. I will summarize their view of the concept as this, "Any concept I cannot discern from Scripture, I will forbid." Later on the Puritans took the concept somewhere between the Anabaptist and Luther. The Baptists, who grew out of the Puritan movement, tightened the reins even more. Then Alexander Campbell, who came out of the Baptist movement, took it another step beyond and so on. In the fundamentalist movement the "solo scriptura" concept, whatever itís various forms, is generally embraced. I believe in a primacy of Scripture and some will call this "solo scriptura" but this is no where near the radicalness held by my fundamentalist friends. Letís look at the proof asserted by many on this subject.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works," II Timothy 3:16-17.
A common summery of this passage is as such. "We are fully furnished by Scripture". With this in mind, letís put it to the test of B.S.H.#1 (Every Scripture has a context)
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them from
(I believe Paul is talking about himself here)
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
(Notice the "that from a child". Paul is talking about the Old Testament, for the bulk of the New Testament did not exist at that time.)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." II Timothy 3:14-17
So if I am fully furnished by Scripture, as our friends would have us believe, I am fully furnished by the Old Testament and would have no need of the New. Hmmmm. Allow me paraphrase an interpretation.
"Continue in the things you have learned from myself and others in the Church, but donít forget about the Old Testament, which you have known since you were a child, for its information prepared you for the revelation of salvation which occurs through faith in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament comes from God and is useful in teaching, rebuking, correction, and teaching that which is righteous. That with this, a man of God may be complete, and fully equipped unto every good work."
Now letís go back and look at "thoroughly furnished". According to the fundamentalist, Paul says a man of God is thoroughly furnished by Scripture. But if I take the fundamentalist interpretation to be true, a man of Satan would also be thoroughly furnished by Scripture. Also, I would have no need for the Holy Spirit, the Church, etc. for every thing I need is contained in Scripture. Hmmmm. I will assert that a man of God is thoroughly furnished with Scripture and not so much by Scripture for there are many ingredients that make up a man of God. (More on this later in the book)
Now letís move on to the next proof text.
"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." I Corinthians 13:8-10
The interpretation of this passage is "that which is perfect" refers to the completed canon of the New Testament. With its advent, the spiritual gifts were no longer needed because at that time we would be "thoroughly furnished". This is a doctrine that was developed in large part to disprove the claims of the folks in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements (who were undoubtedly stealing away many members from the more mainstream fundamentalist communions). What is important, though, is to see if this doctrine can stand up. My view of the verse (which is shared by most Pentecostalists and Charismatics) is: "that which is perfect" is talking of the age that is to come with the Second Coming of Christ. The typical counter to this by those who have the former view is usually a claim that "that which" is a neuter term, it is not the Second Coming of Christ because that would be a " he who". Although I think they err in claiming that "that which is perfect" would have to reference Christ personally and not to the new age that will be ushered in at his Second Coming, I will play their little game.
So, can Christ never be referred to as a "that which?" Letís put it to the test of Scripture.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 1:20
Well, well, well. It looks like our friends didnít do their homework. You can tell, because this is the very first time "that which" occurs in the New Testament. Letís go back to our I Corinthians chapter 13 proof text and subject it to the context test and see what the next few verses say.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly;
(I could not put it any better. This is still true today. Why do you think none of us can agree?)
but then face to face:
(Look at every time "face to face" occurs in the NT Acts 25:16, II John 1:12, III John 1:14, it is always a personal term.)
Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known." I Corinthians 13:11-12
Now look at the last phrase. Paul says when this day comes; he will be a participant. Reliable history states that Paul died somewhere between 64-68 AD Reliable history also states that the last books of the New Testament were written about 95 A.D. I have never read or heard a disputation of either of these assertions. This would make Paul good n dead at the completion of the canon, but he asserts that he will be alive. Hmmmm. I believe Paul is talking about his resurrection, not a completed cannon. Look at I Corinthians 4:
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."
If we are fully furnished by Scripture, then what need is there to bring things to light when our Savior returns? I hope you can see as I do the concurrence of these two Scriptures.
Here is another verse I have seen that is alleged to support our subject.
"Do not go beyond what is written"
This is a phrase that appears in a few of the modern translations of I Corinthians 4:6. It is sometimes presented as proof for the "solo scriptura" practice. For if we didnít "go beyond what is written" we would not need any of that messy tradition stuff etc. Lets look at it in context using the King James Version.
"And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another."
The King James is much truer to the Greek text than many of the Modern translations. From this we can see that Paul is not saying everything you need is written so donít go beyond it. What he is saying is donít get puffed up in pride so you think that you know better than what is written. This is something we all must heed to because it is popular in our modern times to have a "high view" of Scripture not to mention that we all tend to pick and choose Scriptures to go by and Scriptures to ignore.
When it comes to Scripture, there is no easy formula. Like it or not, "sola scriptura" is a human concept. Those who diligently practice this are following a human tradition and not a godly command. This is somewhat of a paradox because this concept was developed to avoid human tradition. Whoíd a thunk it!
PS After this diatribe I need to note that "sola scriptura" does not mean the same thing every time it is used. Many hold a "sola scriptura" doctrine that is quite acceptable. This doctrine states that "Scripture alone" has highest authority. It does not deny the authority of tradition or the Church. Scripture is best interpreted through the eye of tradition under the auspices of the Church. Tradition or the Church can never contradict Scripture. If there is a conflict, Scripture is the final court of abritration.