Monday, August 1, 2011

The Bible Needs the Church: Part 2

I had already begun to see the logical fallacy in holding to an infallible canon of Scripture (aka, an infallible tradition) while also declaring that tradition could not be infallible. 

But even when I decided to ignore that little inconvenience to my worldview, I realized that there were incongruities between my view of Scripture and tradition within the Bible itself.  Though I wouldn’t have known to call it this, I was an advocate of the doctrine “sola scriptura,” the belief that “only Scripture” is an authority in the Christian life (as opposed to Scripture and the Church, Scripture and Tradition, etc).  In other words, the Bible was the only place we could look for a true and authoritative picture of the Gospel and Christian life.

However, once my eyes had been opened (rather painfully) to the extra-biblical presuppositions I was taking to the text, suddenly I realized that not only was the doctrine of “sola scriptura” itself a tradition, but it was actually a tradition that was incompatible with Scripture.  First of all, the Bible claimed that it is the Church of the living God that is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), not the Bible.  Then, the writers of the New Testament epistles are constantly appealing to an outside authority: that either of themselves (Apostles) or those who have been ordained by the Apostles.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 Paul instructs the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”  Here and elsewhere in the New Testament Paul declares that his written word—the words which would come to be Scripture—had as much authority as his spoken word.  Why?  Because they are both presentations of the “traditions” that had been delivered to him as an Apostle. 

But isn’t the written tradition more secure than the oral tradition?  The oral tradition could have been altered whereas the written tradition is steadfast.  Perhaps; except for the fact that the steadfastness of both traditions depends on the promise of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible isn’t infallible because the Apostles were perfect eyewitnesses.  Scripture could have been recorded incorrectly, as well.  Nevertheless, Scripture is infallible because the Apostles were given the promise that the Holy Spirit would “guide them into all truth” (John 16:13), enable them to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sins (John 20:23), and to make executive decisions regarding doctrines (see Acts 15).  Furthermore, the Spirit would ensure that the “gates of Hades would not prevail against” the Church of Christ (Matt. 16:18). 

The infallibility of Scripture does not rest on the Apostles’ ability to remember and interpret perfectly their experience with Christ, but rather on Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would provide and protect the authority given to the Apostles, by Christ, to lead the Church.  And this authority did not end when the Apostles died; rather, it was passed on to those who were ordained to take the Apostles’ places, as we see in Acts 1:15-26 when Matthias is elected by the Apostles to succeed Judas.

All of these things gave me the uneasy conviction that if I was going to let Scripture be the authority in my Christian life, then I would have to submit to it when it told me to submit to the Church. 


  1. Ruth, Is this your work? wow your so smart- Danielle

  2. Yes it is! :) Which Danielle is this?

  3. I once told a friend, "Imagine that I put together a book and gave it to you. Having received it, you say to me, 'Everything in this book is trustworthy and true, but nothing you say or do can be trusted.'"

    He asked why he would do that and I said, "Exactly."

  4. sorry for the lack of updates to anyone who has been trying to follow my blog--I'm in the process of moving back to school and preparing for my friend's wedding so time has just been escaping me! I'll continue this when I get back to school!