The Word of God, and Scripture alone.
If we take the scriptures to be non-competitive with the Tradition for guiding the faithful based in the idea that there was a rule of faith before the mosaic covenant, using St. Paul’s own theology, the rule of Faith goes back to Abraham, who composed no books, but was part of the oral tradition. Oral tradition was an immense part of Judaism, and should be an immense part of the Christian witness as well, if we intend to retain continuity albeit reinterpreted continuity with Israel.
The Church refused to hypostatize scripture into a stand alone source for the rule of faith because even in the earliest churches debates raged about the inclusion of gentiles and the nature of the coming day of the Lord. Without an apostolic tradition, transmitted to the faithful, surely there would be no orthodoxy, no nicene creed, or continued development of church experience as we know it. Either we trust the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit leading and guiding the Church, protecting her from error, or we may as well be cessationists. At least in my mind, it will not do to be a Charismatic who has no concerns for the way the Spirit has shaped and worked through the Tradition. Even in Israel’s scriptures, the Spirit worked to create the tradition, despite the unfaithfulness of many of the people. Despite the abuses of some kings Israel endured, and failing to understand how the kingdom stands despite idolatrous kings has led to the problems we face. We assume that a bad pope makes for a corrupt religion, but that’s not the case. When Israel failed, God was so faithful he kept Israel’s end of the bargain in Jesus. The papacy is in continuity with this, because despite the abuses of some, the kingdom endures. The popes are in continuity with what Israel was and is. The Christ came to fulfill the law, and in so doing allows for a proper continuity between prophets and the Church.
The Church never allowed the scriptures to stand alone because of the things we see in Protestantism today. Whose scriptures are they? Is the pastor the interpreter, or the reflection of what the local laity believe? Is he even supposed to appeal to scripture at all? Why can’t Christianity fit with culture and be socially acceptable? Why can’t Christianity be difficult, so difficult no one can rightly enter since we’re all totally depraved anyways? Why evangelize if the elect are elect? If God’s purpose prevails, what’s the point? He’s desired the salvation of all humanity, why not just let Him do it? Sorry to go on ad nauseam, but the point needs to be made. Interpretation has caused serious divisions. Without some sort of unified authority, the Church will continue to splinter into nothingness.
I once thought liberal Christianity was so cool, with rock music, guitars, flashing lights and pop songs for worship. But I quickly realized that this Church did nothing but affirm everything culture told me was ok anyways. I mean, sure they told me not to sleep around, and to be loving, and even taught me important ways to make that love a reality. But at the end of the day, it was just something that I could hear if I were part of a social activism movement, or smoking weed with some buddies who wanted the world to be a better place. It didn’t change anything, it didn’t demand anything, in fact it wanted to let me be who I already was. But I wanted to change, I wanted to grow. I wanted to be something more.
The bible can’t bear the burden of being a rule of faith, because it stands divorced from the very life of the church that created it through its experience of God. We’ve done violence to the text in trying to make it absolute. It stands as part of a multifaceted whole we call revelation. Jesus Himself is what God has revealed to us. The God of Israel speaks to us through His Son and His Son’s continued presence among His people via their Spirit. When we make the text absolute, we can’t help but end up with cessationism, and though there are sola-scriptura protestant churches that are Charismatic, were they to hold the two together and look well at their beliefs, they’re paradoxical, nonsensical, and the experiences in many of these churches is quickly declining into some free for all mass hypnotism.
The bible alone doesn’t tell us what the order or worship looks like and I’m sure it doesn’t call for our use of popular rock music as worship. We basically say sola scriptura, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the presuppositions we’ve brought to the text and the way we want to go about worship according to our opinions. We say sola scriptura, but ignore teachings on divorce, forgiveness before making an offering at the alter or taking communion. We say sola scriptura but invent revelations on the offering to steal more money, we say sola scriptura but add radical heresies to the text. We say sola scriptura, but replace the Bible’s words with our own, because we’ve lost the Jesus culture that the tradition gives. We say sola scriptura, but we really mean, sola ego. Only me. Only my interpretation, only my comfort, only my tastes and desires. Only I will suffice as the author and finisher of my faith and its contents, damn everyone who gets in the way of that.
Sola scriptura isn’t an act of humility it’s an act of hubris. Cut off the scriptures from their rightful place in the Church and the only thing you can get is violence. Double predestination and other thoughtless doctrines have come about as extended forms of theological violence, they’re two sides of the same coin, ultimately pride, rebellion and a lack of the centrality of love.
That’s not Good, True, or Beautiful. It’s not Loving. It’s not the Church of Jesus Christ.
I’ve chosen to abstain from meeting my own desires in pursuit of something far more excellent, a living word, carried to me through the faithfulness of holy men and women dedicated to Christ for 2000 years. I’ve given up my ideas of what Church should be, to trust in the Spirit’s work through people far holier than myself. I’m freer for it. I have found the Good, the True and the Beautiful, and it’s in the work and witness of my Christian neighbors and the Spirit that infills them with the Life of the Messiah, God’s Anointed King forever, this man Jesus.