Sola Scriptura Part Four
Steven Robinson and Bill Gould · July 24, 2007
Part four of a four part series on "Sola Scriptura".
Steve: Good afternoon, and welcome to this edition of Our Life in Christ. I’m your host Steve Robinson, and I’m in the studio with our grinning but hurting Bill Gould. Welcome.
Bill: Christ is Risen!
Steve: He is Risen. And you better stay put.
Bill: I’ll stay sheeted, but He is Risen.
Steve: Bill’s recovering from surgery, and Bill is being a real trooper today by being here in the seat.
Bill: It’s a good thing it’s not television.
Steve: Yeah, I think you’re kind of scary, Bill. I might have to turn the other way while I’m doing the show with you today. But I appreciate you coming in today. I know this is hurting you, but it’s a good thing to have you with us today.
Bill: We’re fine.
Steve: Actually, it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for both of us. You were out of town last week with your kidney stones, and I was out of town the last two weeks partly because of two graduations. It was kind of interesting. I went to Texas Tech University to see my step-daughter’s graduation from her Master’s program.
It was just so interesting, because the graduation itself, I’m watching this academic procession, and there’s this robed person with this innately carved staff with this silver medallion on top of it, leading this procession of robed, garbed, hooded, and mitered academics up this stage, and they all take their place.
And I’m reading this program, and it’s got all this information about how to interpret the robes, and everything means something. And I’m watching this, and I’m thinking I saw something like this when our Bishop visited our mission. That’s exactly what it was. This is the new priesthood of our Western culture. Everything meant something – the robes, the funny hats, the staff, the medallion, everything. It was priestly garb, and it was a procession.
But you know what? They don’t have anything on the Orthodox Church. Our processions go around the building three times, and our vestments are a whole lot nicer. But that really struck me though.
Bill: Well, it shows that people continue to hold ceremony and tradition in high regard in some area of life.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. And I would probably venture to say that most of those guys were probably Protestants. I mean it is Lubbock, Texas, and it is the buckle of the Bible Belt. I went to school there, so I know. And they would be the first ones to yell, “Foul!” if a priest or bishop showed up in those same kind of garments with the miters and the staffs and the things around the neck with the crosses and all of that.
So it was just kind of an eye-opener that we really do have a priesthood. We really do have our ceremony, ritual and vestments. We do honor people, and we do have these ranks, and everybody has to fall in order. And it was just interesting just seeing all that happen.
So Bill, we’re going to wrap up today’s program on Sola Scriptura. This will be part four of our series on the problem of Sola Scriptura, and we’re going to frame that problem again for our listeners here in a few minutes. But we have a saying from the Church Fathers. We’ve kind of cut those out a little bit in the last few weeks, but I think this is one that perhaps we should take to heart.
Bill: Well, this is from St. Arsenius the great, and it says, “I have regretted speaking, but I have never regretted being silent.”
Steve: Well, I think for the next fifty minutes we should probably hold a little time of meditation.
Bill: Yes, should we just stop now? No, we’re not going to be quiet today.
Steve: No, unfortunately. So Bill, when we talk about Sola Scriptura and we talk about the issue of Sola Scriptura, we’ve been talking about this for three weeks now.
And to bring our listeners back to what we’re talking about and what the real issue here is, we left last time with the idea that in order for the Church to survive and in order for the Church to continue forward and stay within the Apostolic teaching and stay within the truth of the Gospel that the Scriptures had to be inscripturated. The Scriptures had to be written in order for the Church to stay faithful.
And without a written document, without something penned in ink and paper, it would have been virtually impossible or may have been impossible for the Church to maintain the Apostolic Tradition and teachings.
Bill: According to the CRI people whose treatise we have been covering, there has to be some clean passing of the baton between a live Apostle or group of Apostles and the inscripturated, infallible, and inspired New Testament. And of course, we’re going to try to explain to our audience further today, that that really wasn’t the way it took place.
But that really begs the issue of the very high view of Scriptures, Sola Scriptura, and the really low view of the Church’s ability to maintain the truth unless they have it as this inscripturated package of truth that they get from the Apostles.
Steve: Right, 27 books.
Bill: As soon as the last Apostle dies, boom, you’ve got to have the books, and it’s problematic if you don’t.
Steve: Unfortunately, as we’re going to discuss later in the program, those 27 books weren’t universally recognized by the Church for probably another 300-400 years, and then not completely formally for another 600 years.
Bill: There’s a little problem. There’s a gap.
Steve: And yet, during the first three or four centuries of the life of the Church, we have heretics being declared. We have people being shown to be outside of the truth of the Gospel. How does the Church do that without having the inscripturated 27 canonical books to appeal to?
Bill: And no alive Apostles either.
Steve: Right, to tell them which of those books is in fact canonical and true and right ones in order to be judging who was teaching truth and who was not.
And here again, the issue is there were tons of books floating around claiming Apostolic authority and authorship, and there are books that we have in the canon that are not of Apostolic authorship and yet made it into the canon. How did the Church use these books? How did the Church discern these books, and how did they discern what was in these books to be truth or not truth and the true teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Bill: That’s right. And the truth of the matter is that even though there were no alive Apostles after John the Apostle dies in 90 A.D., according to tradition, the Church didn’t stop being the Church. And the Church was given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by Christ Himself, and the Apostles in fact did lay the foundation for the truth to be carried on and carried forward.
Steve: And the Apostles did in fact teach faithful men who taught others also, as Paul commanded Timothy to do.
Bill: And we’ve already discussed at length that the Scriptures that refer to traditions that were in fact handed down by oral tradition as well as written tradition. And so we have to square this up because, there’s a sort of tenacious and irrational holding onto this idea that the Church somehow, if left to itself, would just mess things up, and there was no way that the Church could convey truth through a period of ten years, much less 400, 500, or 2,000 years and have a high view of the Church and how we carried on and how things were maintained.
Steve: Well, there’s this tension that the Protestant evangelical really has to struggle with, Bill. And you mentioned it with the high view and the low view of the Church and a low view or a high view with the human being. Because what we have here is this tension between both of those.
When you look at how the Scriptures were created, they were created through fallible and fallen human beings inspired the Holy Spirit. So what we have here is this low view of the human being that says, “Without the written, inscripturated truth of God, the low human being is going to become a heretic.”
But on the other hand, we have this high view of the human being, because everybody today will say, “Now that we have these 27 books, inspired by the Holy Spirit, everybody will be able to infallibly interpret that Scripture for himself and come into all truth through that inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
So you’ve got this seesaw back and forth between the low view of the human being who becomes a heretic without the Scripture and the high view of the human being, through the Holy Spirit, which is able to discern all truth. And yet, we’re talking about a high view of the Church, which Jesus promises will be led into all truth and will be guided, guarded, and protected by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Bill: That’s right. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
Steve: So, we’ve got this huge seesaw back and forth. And depending on which end of that seesaw you’re teeter-tottering on, you’re going to have to deny or affirm one end of that spectrum or another.
Bill: You can’t have it both ways.
Steve: So Bill, we’re coming up on our first break here already. So when we come back from the break, we’re going to talk about how did the early Church handle this issue. How did the early Church approach the heretic? How did the early Church approach truth? And how were they able to determine who was of the truth and who had exchanged the truth of the Gospel for the lie? Who had begun preaching another Gospel without the canonical 27 books carved in stone that we have today?
Steve: So Bill, what we’re doing on the program is we’re actually referencing the CRI – the Christian Research Institute’s document by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie. And it’s actually an apologetic against the Roman Catholic view of Tradition and Scripture as a defense of Sola Scriptura.
And what we are doing in this program is we’re referencing that document from the CRI institute, from Hank Hanegraaff’s organization, and essentially giving a third understanding, which is the earliest historical understanding of the Church; when it was catholic with a small c. And this is how the early Church dealt with the tension.
Well there wasn’t a tension. Let’s just say that. There wasn’t a tension between the concept of Apostolic Tradition and Scripture within the life of the early Church. The Scriptures were understood to be a part of the life of the Church. The Apostolic oral Tradition was understood to be part of the life of the Church. And these two were held in consensus. They were held together. They weren’t viewed as separable or torn apart or able to be discerned independently of one another.
Bill: That’s right, and that’s because there’s a single author for all of that, and that is God. God is the author of the Scriptures through the Apostles and through those He inspired to write, and God is also the author of the Tradition that the Church held. And so yes we don’t have an issue with any of that.
We left off with Point Eight last time, two weeks ago. We covered that a little bit in the beginning in the first segment. Now, we’re going to jump to Point Six.
Steve: Yes, and this is essentially again what we were just talking about – the attempt to somehow tear apart Scripture and Tradition and the struggle with the Protestant evangelical and the Roman Catholic is which one has preeminence over the other. Can you take one and say that one is dependent upon the other for its proper place, usage, and understanding.
And the Orthodox understanding is, “Is it Scripture or Tradition?” And our answer is yes, because Scripture in the Apostolic oral Tradition are part of one in the same thing that is handed down to the Church within the life of the Church. It is not one over and against the other. The Church has never set over and against Tradition. The Church has never set over and against Scripture. The Scriptures are never set over and against the Church. These things are never opposed within the life of the Church. They are always seen as an organic whole.
Bill: Right. And again we come back to the historical framework under which most Protestants are looking at this, and again it comes with the idea that Rome erred in some ways and declared some things that went against the Scriptures, and this is problematic. And it’s even problematic for Orthodox Christians.
But if you’re whole reference point is that there is this fundamental tension between the infallibility of the Pope and the Scriptures,
Steve: And if your only reference point is the 16th Century,
Bill: And if Western history is all your reference is, then yes, it’s easy to understand how people come into that problem.
Steve: But if we go back to the early Church as we said, there is not that problem and tension. And so what we have here is a quote from Geisler and MacKenzie on Point Six about Scripture and Tradition, and it says, “Protestants, who believe in Sola Scriptura, accept genuine tradition; they simply do not believe it is infallible.”
Well, let’s unpack that a little bit, Bill, because that statement itself has some real issues and problems with it. Now, it comes back to that thing that we’ve referenced over and over again. What good is infallible document without an infallible interpreter? What good is an infallible Tradition or an infallible Scripture without somebody who can sit down and infallibly discern whether or not that is true?
And the idea of having a genuine tradition, the question we would have to ask Geisler and MacKenzie is, “How would you then discern what is genuine tradition?” Well, they would probably say by the Scriptures. Then, the question is by what interpretation of the Scriptures are you going to determine which tradition is genuine? By the interpretation put forth by the Jehovah’s Witnesses? By the Mormons? By the Pentecostals? By the Roman Catholics? By the Orthodox? By the Lutherans? You can go right down the list.
Bill: It’s pretty circular at that point.
Steve: It goes right in a very tight circle, and there’s really no escaping that. So the issue here is that you have this body of teachings that claimed to be genuine tradition, and in the early Church, you had this body of writings that claimed to be genuine Scripture. And the Church somehow, through the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, were able to preserve the Apostolic Deposit of Faith within the inner life of the Church – its prayers, liturgy, worship, teaching, bishops, priests.
It’s being handed down from generation to generation as a whole. The Scriptures were handed down as well as all of these other things.
Bill: That’s right, whether it was oral or written.
Steve: And all of these things kind of come around to an overarching concept, which is called the Rule of Faith. And the Rule of Faith or the Standard of Faith is not just deposited solely within the pages of Scripture, because as we say, the problem with that is that there were tons of scriptures and writings that all claim Apostolic authority.
And so how did the Church then discern what these writings were that ended up being discerned as Scripture and being in the canon? But going back even before that issue is how did the Church discern who was and who was not a bearer of truth within the life of the Church?
Now, there was this saint, and his name is what St. Vincent of Lérins. And he struggled with this just as everybody today is. And we’re going to talk a little bit about St. Vincent of Lérins, because he has a great statement, and I’m going to just read it, Bill. And we’re going to unpack this for our listeners.
But listen to this, and you’re going to hear the modern problem. This is why if St. Vincent of Lérins lived today, he would be the Bible Answer Man. He would be the Hank Hanegraaff of today. Well, just listen to this statement here. He says:
But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?
Well, he’s asking that question. What need is there for Holy Tradition, if the Scriptures are sufficient for all things?
For this reason,–because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense,
He’s saying what St. Peter said in 2 Peter 3:21. Some Scriptures are difficult to understand, and they lead some people into untruth. So he says:
but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another.
Bill: All heretics.
Steve: All heretics, exactly. And these are all modern heresies. You can take any one of these early heretics, and you can find a parallel heretic in today’s Christian world.
Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and universal interpretation.
Now, he uses the word catholic with a small c, and that’s the Latin universal interpretation. That is the ecclesial and universal interpretation of the entire Church.
Moreover, in the catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.
And that is called the Vincentian Canon or the Vincentian Rule. And anytime you approach a doctrine, a teaching, or interpretation of Scripture, St. Vincent of Lérins’ Canon was what was held up to that teaching – his rule and his standard by which all things and all teachings must be measured. We hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.
Bill: Wow. And this is the thing. The Scriptures do, in terms of our personal devotions and so on, speak to us individually. God does have His relationships with us, and in fact, we do feed on that. That’s not an illegitimate source for our edification is our own study of the Bible and by what those Scriptures teach us.
Steve: However, how do we know when we’re being led astray? How do we know if we’re in error? How do we know if we’re approaching one of those Scriptures that Peter talks about is difficult to understand? How do we know that we’re not one of those people that’s twisting the Scripture to their own destruction? That’s the big question. This is an issue that we all have to wrestle with as we approach the Scriptures
Bill: And ultimately, it’s a matter of humility. It’s a matter of our own personal humility in submitting to what St. Vincent of Lérins says that we should believe also what is believed everywhere, always, and by all.
Steve: Now Bill, when we come back from the break, we’re going to unpack this a little bit more and talk a little bit more about the Vincentian Canon. We’re going to talk about how he applied this in his teachings against the heretics.
Steve: So we are talking about Sola Scriptura, and while we were on our break, we had a caller and she was asking how she can get copies of the program, and how she can donate to the program.
We generally don’t ask for money on the program, but we do want to let our listeners know that all of our shows are archived on the Internet at our website www.ourlifeinchrist.com. You can go there, and all the programs our free. And there’s a place you can donate. You can donate either online, or there’s an address there that you can mail a check to, if you would like to. We would like to say that we would really, really appreciate any help we can get right now.
Bill: Money for us is a good thing. We need that.
Steve: We’re in pretty desperate need of it to be honest. We’re not building a new house in South Carolina or anything with it. We’re paying for airtime with it, so thank you for that call.
So Bill, Sola Scriptura. We were talking before the break about St. Vincent of Lérins and what’s called the Vincentian Canon and how do we discern what is true. What is a right and proper interpretation of Scripture? And St. Vincent said that we have to test it three ways.
We have to test it by universality. Has it been taught and believed by the whole Church throughout the world? Now, universality is preferable. It’s nice if the whole Church believes something. But during the Arian heresy, the saying was that the whole world has gone after Arius. There was a very slim number of Christians that still believed the truth of the Gospel. Almost the whole Church was basically Jehovah’s Witnesses under Arius.
Bill: Yeah, their Christology was in jeopardy.
Steve: And so what Athanasius and what Vincent of Lérins would come back and say is that this fails the test of antiquity, because Arius, using only Sola Scriptura and denying the inner life, prayer life, liturgical life, and Tradition of the Church, denied the teachings of the nature and person of the Son of God. And so St. Athanasius says that this fails the test of antiquity, because you cannot find an Arian teaching in the Church that is universally held from the beginning, so it fails at that sense.
Now, the other one is if it is unanimously believed. So you have universally, but even universally has to be held to the test of unanimity. And that is, does the entire Church – its bishops, priests, hierarchy, and laity – all hold to this same teaching?
Bill: Not just by one group of the Church.
Steve: Right, not just one particular group of people in the Church. So Bill, we have a guy named Andreas Osiander. This is a Reformation guy. We’re going to give you a real practical example of how this plays out in the life of a real life person who was a real hardcore Sola Scriptura guy; a very rational person; a very learned person, and how he approached the Scriptures as his own infallible interpreter.
And this is a real guy. This is someone that lived in the 15th Century, and he wrote what was a parallel Gospel. A lot of people have attempted to do that – to take the Gospels; put them side-by-side and figure out how they all fit together.
Bill: Well, the premise of this of course is that if the Gospels are inspired and they are infallible, then basically they should all say the exact same thing.
Steve: Yeah, and they should all harmonize together. And all the bits and pieces should give us one continuous historical and complete story of the life of Christ. So Osiander comes along, and he starts doing this. Well, what he came across was a whole lot of minor differences in the Gospels.
Bill: Thousands of them apparently.
Steve: Well, that’s what they said. It says:
As a result of tens of thousands of slight differences among the Gospels, Osiander created a picture of Christ’s life and ministry filled with repeated events. Jesus was tempted three different times. He cleansed the Temple three times. He healed the Centurion’s servants once, twice, and thrice. He gave the Sermon on the Mount as well as the Sermon on the Plain in two different places. He was betrayed twice by Judas, anointed by three different women, ate two Last Suppers.
And so on, and so on, and so on. Now everyone sitting here is thinking that’s ridiculous.
Bill: That’s right.
Steve: But is it really all that ridiculous?
Bill: It’s not ridiculous if you don’t have another standard by which to measure some work like that of Osiander.
Steve: And it’s not ridiculous if you take a hardcore Sola Scriptura, rationalist, “Me, God, and my Bible” approach to things. If Osiander had the Holy Spirit, and you can’t do the circular thing back around saying he was obviously wrong and was obviously not led by the Holy Spirit, because this is obviously really stupid. But what if he was the only guy in history who was really led by the Holy Spirit? What if he does have it right? How are you going to know? What’s to keep Osiander from doing this?
Bill: Well, nothing.
Steve: And if anybody wants to approach the Scriptures as fiction, mythology, pure history, mysticism, or whatever, what’s to keep anybody from doing that and claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit; to have a correct, right, proper, and maybe new never head before interpretation of the Scriptures.
In fact, I heard a guy on another radio station, 1280 I think, that claimed that he’s the first person in church history to receive this new teaching from the Holy Spirit about the end times.
Bill: Oh my.
Steve: Except he was wrong, because he predicted the end of the earth back in 1998, but now a new, new teaching has come along. And he says, “Well, my heart wasn’t completely open to the Spirit last time I was taught, and so I’ve been corrected.”
Bill: I see.
Steve: So how do you know whether or not these guys are bogus or not?
Bill: Well again, it just substantiates St. Vincent’s Canon, doesn’t it? We hear these things, and they sound sort of ridiculous, because they are but again, if you take this logically out to its conclusion, you reach this. You either have to go back and say that the Church has in fact a mind and a rule and a way of properly interpreting the Scriptures, or you have to let everyone interpret the way that they want too.
Steve: And again, Osiander fails on all three tests of the Vincentian Canon here. So essentially what we’re seeing is Sola Scriptura doesn’t let you really discern who your true friends are. And Sola Scriptura doesn’t assist you in slaying your real enemies.
And again, we kind of have to come back, Bill, and say that there are some things in the Scriptures that we can rightly interpret and are plain in a lot of things. And we would be the last people to say that somebody sitting on a desert island with the Bible alone, we’re not saying you could never be saved without entering the doors of the Orthodox Church with your Bible in hand to get the right interpretation from a priest or something like that. No, no, we’re not saying that at all.
Bill: If you believe that Christ is risen from the dead, it’s pretty plain in the Scripture that He did. If you believe that He was born of a virgin, that’s pretty plain from the Scriptures that He was.
Steve: It is plain, but on the other hand, it’s not so plain that it hasn’t been challenged by somebody in Church History at some time or another. And today the Scriptures are under attack, and the only way that they can be defended by the modern mind is to say that the Scriptures have this perspicuity of their own; that they are somehow plain on their own. And that there is this quality about them that is so self-evident and so obvious that anybody who sincerely approaches them will be able to discern that this is truth.
Bill: Well, here’s a couple of very fundamentals for the Orthodox Faith that come out of this. One is that the Church and the Scripture really are not separable. You cannot have this Church without the Scriptures. You can’t really have the Scriptures without the Church. And that’s very important for our listeners to know that this is what the Orthodox Church feels, teaches, and is the Tradition of the Church. The other thing is that the author of both the Tradition and the Scripture is the one in the same God.
Steve: The one in the same Holy Spirit guided the Apostles to teach both orally and in writing. And they delivered the same Gospel by word of mouth and in writing, but not everything that they taught is in writing. I think that’s the big blip. That’s the big hang-up, Bill, is how then do we discern and know what part of that mysterious oral Tradition that got handed down, how can we discern and know what parts of that have been maintained faithfully? How can we know what parts of that have been kept true and have not been tampered with and turned into heresy and all of that?
Bill: Well, that’s the thing. The Orthodox Church we affirm that it is possible for any individual person to be fallible, even the Apostles themselves.
Steve: Well, we have this saying. “100% of the Church Fathers are 85% Orthodox.”
Bill: Well, that’s the thing. We understand that any individual person has a possibility for error. And this is true of Arius and the early heretics. It’s even true of the Apostles if we look at the arguments that Peter and Paul had with each other. Somebody wasn’t right. But the fact is that collectively, the Church, truly is the Body of Christ on earth. It is protected and guided by the Holy Spirit. It is, dare I say, infallible.
Steve: And it’s universal, and that’s the beauty of St. Vincent of Lérins, “By all, at all times, in every place.” And that’s the universality and the catholicity of the Church and the mind of the Church, as the one Body of Christ in all places, at all times, and in every person who joins themselves to that body. Bill, we’re coming up on our last break. When we come back, we’re going to wrap up this series.
Steve: Bill, let’s wrap up this whole thing about Sola Scriptura, and again one of the primary issues is what is Scripture? We’ve talked a little bit about this. We’re going to have to do a whole series on the canon of Scripture. But basically what we have in the early Church, and we mentioned that the St. Vincent of Lérins of the Church were able to condemn heresies without having the 27 canonical books of the Scriptures nailed down, set in stone, carved in concrete at the time that the early Church was wrestling with a lot of the heretics that he listed in his letter.
So from the 2nd Century, there were canons that were attempted to be put together, i.e., lists of books of the New Testament or list of books not just in the New Testament, but writings that were circulating at that time that people tried to say, “These are Scriptures, and these are not.”
Now, we look at the Muratorian Canon, Muratorian lives out Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, 3 John, and James, but he adds the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocalypse of Peter. So we can go back into Church History and we see the early attempts to form a canon of Scripture included and excluded a lot of things that we do not.
Bill: Yeah, they’re not in the current canon.
Steve: And so what we have is this wedding in the Orthodox and Eastern mind of the Church and the books of the Church. The books were not written outside the Church to be delivered to the Church. The books were written within the life of the Church. They were written by the Apostles, who were part of the Church, to the Church. It was correcting the Church.
Bill: Well one of Geisler’s and MacKenzie’s statements and this is Point Seven, and this is the last one we’re going to cover says:
In fact, God determined the canon by inspiring these books and no others. The church merely discovered which books God had determined to be in the canon.
Steve: Well again, this low view of the Church and high view of the Bible is that the Bible sits outside the Church over and above the Church, and the Church somehow approaches it and by some mysterious mechanism was able to determine were in fact canonical. Well, again this sets up a false dichotomy and false conflict.
We would say that the Church manifested the canon within its life, just as it manifested the truth of the Gospel within its life through the teachings and the Apostles and their writings and the worship and the prayers.
Bill: Did God in fact lead the Church into all truth, as Christ promised? Absolutely.
Steve: And so what we have here is again the high view of the Church and the Scriptures within the life of the Church. It’s not an either or; it’s a both and. And the Church has been and still remains the guard and guarantor of the Scriptures. If the Church of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Centuries were corrupted, like so many believe, then so was the canon, because the books they chose stem directly from the faith and their beliefs and their understandings of the person, nature, and work of Christ as it was delivered and as they understood it by the Apostolic Tradition both in writing and in oral tradition.
So, the two are inseparable. If we cannot trust the Church, then we cannot trust the Bible that that early Church in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Centuries determined to be canonical Scripture. If they were corrupt and subject to heresy and deluded, then they would have chosen books that were heretical and didn’t teach what they allegedly did not believe.
Bill: Right, there are all kinds of interesting books that didn’t make it in like 1 Clement and Barnabas and Hermas and the Prophecy of Peter.
Steve: And the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary. I mean, who more than Mary? The early Church revered Mary. Why didn’t her Gospel make it in?
So all of these things are things if you go back to Church History and go back to the mind of the early Church and you see how the early Church understood itself and how the Church understood its relationship to the Gospel and how it understood its relationship to Jesus Christ and how it understood how the Holy Spirit worked within the life of the Church.
If you understand how the Church views this dynamic relationship between the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the believer, then none of this is really mysterious. We don’t have to set up these opposing dichotomies and these kinds of tensions between these two things that the Church has always embraced fully within its life and has always held universally, everywhere, at all times, and in all places to be what is the truth of the Gospel, the truth of who God is, the truth of who we are, the truth of our salvation, and the truth of our life in Christ.
And it just becomes so magnificently simple. It becomes so elegantly plain that we don’t have to wrestle and struggle with this notion of Sola Scriptura or Tradition or an infallible pope or not. How do I know if I’m deluded? How do I know if the Jehovah’s Witnesses are really wrong? Can I stack up enough Scriptures against the Oneness Pentecostals or these others groups of people or the Mormons?
All we have to do is just go back to the early Church. All these things have been dealt with. All these things have been addressed. All these things have been determined in the first seven to eight centuries of the life of the Church. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We don’t have to create the whole thing over again with me and my Bible and Hank Hanegraaff and my seminary professor and the latest on whatever down at the bookstore.
Bill: That’s right. Or submit ourselves to men who might say that they are now receiving new revelation that has never been heard before in the Church.
Steve: And have Scriptures to back up that new revelation. That’s the key there. This guy has book, chapter, and verse to say, “This is the truth. Nobody ever saw this before, but I’ve got it now.”
Bill: That should send up a lot of red flags for anyone out there.
Steve: So we would encourage you. I know this is challenging stuff, but try to step back into history. Step back away from the 16th Century. Step back away from Rome-aphobia and from all of these issues that came up in a specific time, in a specific culture, within a specific conflict in Church history. And go back to the place where the Church was one Church and the Church was the Body of Christ and the Church understood itself to be guided and guarded and directed by the Holy Spirit with the mind of Christ, and it sought the salvation of every person that came under its wing.
Bill: That’s right.
Steve: Not because it wanted to lord it over people, but because it saw itself as the Body of Christ; as the way that we come to an understanding of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
So thank you for listening today. Next week, we’ll begin a new topic. Have a blessed week.
Bill: God bless everyone.
Steve: We’ll see you next week.