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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Answering a question in regards to Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura and how some protestants historically were able to combat Arianism

Hint: they did so by embracing and using some of the ancient creeds, and not with just scripture only.

This came from this forum(A mostly calvinist protestant christian rap website....well it use to be, a good number of the calvinists left for a different Reformed and Calvinistic music and doctrine site) .

Originally Posted by eternal (a church of God
pastor or assistant pastor)
So, in your
estimation, how much historical viability must there be? For instance, do you
denounce aspects of Catholicism as "heresy" even though it has been historically
acceptable? I think that all claims of heresy will ultimately HAVE to pass the
biblical test, not the historical one.

It should "ultimately" have to pass the test of both History and the Scriptures.........which is nothing more than "Scripture rightly interpreted".

To ignore history as a litmus test is to fall into the trap of "Solo scriptura". At least the classical protestant modal of "sola scriptura" allowed room for subordinate authorities (in modern times, certain forms of solo scriptura also allow for subordinate authorities, but to a much lesser degree. In most cases it is mere lip service).

Now "solo scriptura" and "sola scriptura" are both protestant is Anabaptist while the other is Lutherian and Reformed.

Alister Mcgrath in the book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" said:

The Problem of Heresy for Protestantism

"Heresy" is one of the most ominous terms in the vocabulary of Christendom. The Christian usage of the word can be traced back to the New Testament itself, where it is used to designate a sect, faction, or grouping (see, for example, Acts 24:5; 28:22). Similarly, the great Jewish historian Josephus applies the term (airesis) to the three religious sects prevalent in Judea in his day: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Esenes. At this stage, the term did not have the strongly negative associations that later developed; these, however, were not long in emerging.

By the second century, "orthodoxy" and "heresy" were emerging as significant ideas. The term "heresy" was used to designate deficient, and potentially vulnerable, understanding of the Christian faith that were to be rejected. The identification of heresy was seen as a corporate judgment by the church that rested on a consensus that such views were unsatisfactory, fallacious, and misleading. Yet it is essential to appreciate that heresies were ultimately unacceptable interpretations of the Bible.

This can be seen by considering the fourth-century movement known as Arianism, widely seen as the most important early Christian heresy. Arius and his followers held that Jesus of Nazerath could not be regarded as divine in any meaningful sense of the word. He was "supreme among God's creatures, "but a creature nonetheless. This doctrine was severely criticized by writers such as Athanasius of Alexandria for undermining the internal coherence of the Christian faith. Yet both Arius and Athanasius based their ideas on substantially the same biblical texts, which they interpreted in different ways.

The essence of heresy can therefore be located in flawed biblical interpretation. But who decided which biblical interpretations are flawed and which are orthodox? If all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible as they see fit, how can heresy be identified. let alone combated? If the Bible alone is the supreme rule of faith, how can any authority beyond that text be recognized as its authoritative interpreter? It is at this point that the distinctive approach of Protestantism encounters a seemingly formidabled obstacle, in that it seems to undermine the very idea of an authoritative interpretation of the Bible-in other words, the notion of orthodoxy.

This already significant problem was made acute by the unusual social and intellectual conditions of the sixteenth century, catalyzed by the spirit of inguiry of the Renaissance. This era of science and intelectual restlessness was marked by a determination to explore new options and reevaluate old ones. Some of these were local heterodoxies, whose ideas had little impact at the time, even though they may have caused frissons of intellectual anxiety. Among those, we may include the Italian village miller Domenico Scandella from the mountain village of Montereale, who took the view that the world arose from chaos, just as "cheese is made out of milk, and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels." A surge of alternative viewpoints emerged, posing a powerful challenge to the religious and political stability of late Renaissance Europe. The authorities, political and religious, did what they could to limit their impact by branding such ideas as magic or heresy. Among these new movement, of course, was Protestantism itself-or perhaps we should say, many of the various tributaries that flowed into its vortex.
From its outerset, Protestantism was branded as a heresy by the Catholic church. Protestants responded with indignation, retorting that they had recovered orthodoxy from its medieval distortions. What was Protestantism if not the recovery of the orthodox faith of the early church? Yet Catholics had little difficulty in arguing that, while Protestantism might be perfectly capable of recovering earlier biblical interpretations, it lacked the means to determine whether it had retrieved was orthodox or heterodox. And lacking any such capacity to discriminate between such interpretations, Protestants were obligated to repeat the judgments of the Catholic church on these matters. In their turn, Protestants argued that, since they were committed to restoring the authentic teaching of the early church, this naturally extended to its views on orthodoxy and heresy. In the end, the arguments were not decisive. However, the debate highlighted the potential danger for Protestantism arising from competing biblical interpretations. Who had the right to decide which were orthodox and which heretical?
This led to a further difficulty as divisions emerged within Protestant constituencies. Itself partly a consequence of the intellectual ferment of the Renaissance, Protestantism found that it could not check this innovative and critical tendency within its own ranks. It had merely been relocated, not neutralized. One particular difficulty was the rise of anti-trinitarianism in Italian Protestant circles, a movement that rapidly gained a following in northern Europe. For Juan de Valdes and others, the doctrine of the Trinity was simply not to be found in the Bible, nor could it be defended on biblical grounds. Protestants who were faithful to the Bible not only were therefore under no obligation to accept this doctrine but had a responsibility to challenge it as a distortion of biblical truth. Forced out of Italy by the Inquisition, many anti-trinitarians settled in the independent republic of the Grisons in southeast Switzerland, where their influence upon Reformed Protestantism began to grow.
In this case, Protestantism was able to deal with such heterdox trends by appealing to the consensus of faith of the church, as set out in the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Christianity as a whole had declared such teachings to be heretical; Protestantism thus endorsed this pattern of traditional teaching and, in doing so, rejected anti-triniterianism as heretical. But what of other dissident voices within Protestantism that urged teachings that had never been declared heretical in the past by the church as a whole but were nevertheless regarded with intense animosity within certain sections of the movement?" [1] pages 227-229

If you noticed from the was some of those who held to "solo scriptura" that eventually adopted Arianism. Those who held to "sola scriptura" were able to use the ancient creeds to help keep their people away from Arainism.

In modern times, something similar is happening to those who hold on to "solo scriptura"........the full/hyper-preterists came from those who were adherents of solo-scriptura, and it was able to convert other protestants who leaned more towards a "solo scriptura" view.

[1] pages 227-229 from the book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Dr. Alister Mcgrath, HarperOne @ 2007


あじ said...

I understand the appeals to the ancient councils less and less. Aside from the Anglicans, protestants don't believe in apostolic succession, episcopal governance, or a sacramental priesthood. All the signatories to all the councils believed those things. Why get your doctrine of God from men who have a heretical doctrine of the Church?

Tony said...

あじ - A lot of their apologists claim that the Church Fathers shared in their belief, ie. that they were all sola scriptura guys. Only the really extreme ones, like Dave Hunt, turn to the "everybody between 33 AD and 1500 AD were heretics" belief.

Also, I'm slightly amused this discussion was started on a Calvinist rap website. The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed :)

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