07 September 2010

IS SOLA SCRIPTURA DEAD?

Jody Harrington is a Presbyterian Church (USA) Ruling Elder and former Moderator the PC(USA)’s New Covenant Presbytery, located in south Texas. She is the author of a nationally known blog, Quotidian Grace. For any who have never read Jody’s thoughtful and entertaining blog—where she covers everything from dogs and Texas recipes to deep theological discussion and trenchant book reviews—I suggest that you give her a read. You’ll be hooked within a few sentences. (She is also running for the “Mom of Congress.” They need one! See her platform on her blog page.)

A few weeks ago, she wrote a blog entry entitled Sola Kerfuffle, where she reported that

The newly-installed Vice Moderator of the PCUSA, Landon Whitsett, was recently quoted in an interview saying:

Sola Scriptura is dead most places and dying rapidly in others. So where do we lodge the authority of our faith? That's the real battle we see fought in the church.
For those of you who are not Reformation scholars, the "Five Solas" are five Latin phrases that summarize the theological distinctions between the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church of the Reformation era.

They are:
Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone)
Sola fide (by faith alone)
Sola gratia (by grace alone)
Solus Christus (through Christ alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)


One of Jody's readers, Jessi commented on Sola Kerfuffle with a really good, succinct explanation of the five solas. She said

They are explaining different aspects of salvation.

Who/what is the authority on knowing God and having salvation: Scripture alone. (We can't add/subtract from it.)

How do we come to have salvation: Faith alone. (Faith, and not works.)

How does one acquire faith: Grace alone. (For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Eph 2:8)

What/who is the object of our faith: Christ alone!

Why: For God's glory alone, [which] means that God's own glory is why he chose to create us and then save us!! It is nothing in us, but his love for us. It is not me being kind, so God grants me faith through grace. No, grace is unmerited!!! I did nothing. I wasn't nice, I was mean. I was God's enemy!! But it brings him glory to make beauty out of rubble. I was worthless. I did not earn his love. "He loved us while we were yet sinners!"

Since we have lost a lot of the history with the solas, and other truths discovered during the reformation, I thought I should explain the God's glory part. Not that it'd be wrong for God to be interested in glorifying himself--he is God--but that is not exactly what Glory alone means. It means that we bring glory to God when we come to him--but not because we are these glorious creatures. Rather it's because it shows what God does with sinful man!!

In Sola Kerfuffle, QG (as she is affectionately known in the blogosphere) commented, probably correctly, that many (most?) Ruling Elders in the PC(USA) today might not know about the Five Solas. She recommended that they be included in elder training, a wonderful idea in my opinion. And in the Sunday School curriculum, too.

This morning, she followed up with a new blog, Sola Kerfuffle: The Podcast with the Moderators!

She reports that she was contacted by GA Moderator Cynthia Bolbach, who asked her to participate with Rev. Whitsett and Moderator Bolbach in a podcast discussion about the authority of Scripture. The podcast can be found here.

I listened to the discussion with fascination. If I understood Rev. Whitsett correctly, I am glad that God led us out of the PC(USA) and to our new home in the EPC. If I understood him correctly, his position is central to the troubles that continue to afflict the PC(USA), a denomination that many of us feel has lost its bearings.

I’ll start with one picky little comment about the format. I noticed that the podcast did not open with prayer. In the EPC, frequent prayer is an integral part of every meeting. In the GA, the Committee reports are invariably shorter than the prayers that mark the start of each such report. As a result, I have seen that opening with prayer in even the smallest, most informal endeavors adds to the discussions that follow.

Rev. Whitsett spoke first. He “likes”, even “reveres” the Bible, but cannot say what is its “level of authority.” He is “tired of hearing people use Scripture as a trump card.” I think I heard him say that the Bible is not the Word of God—only Jesus can claim that title.

True, he conceded that the only way to find out about Jesus is to go to Scripture, but Scripture “is not a foundational truth.” He implied that Scripture needs to be interpreted in a context, PC(USA)-speak for “we are oh so much smarter than those 1st Century fishermen and peasants.” Because he is unsure of what level of authority the Bible has, he suggests that we should also consider “history and traditions” to make Scripture “fit into the community.”

That’s a problem: The Reformation came about because the Roman Catholic Church had allowed man-made stuff to become co-equal to, or even trump, Scripture, hence the Reformation adoption of Sola Scriptura.

Moreover, that is exactly why many of us had to leave the PC(USA): we were told that when reading the Bible, we should “listen for the Word of God” (maybe it is there, maybe not) rather than “listen to the Word of God.” We were condemned for being too conservative rather than bending the Word to the world. We were told that sin is an out-moded concept and just because some sins are now acceptable in our “community,” i.e., adultery, homosexual practice, and perjury, we were bigots for insisting that sin is sin.

QG stood her ground. She was “troubled” by Rev. Whitsett’s opening remarks. She rightly said that we must struggle with Scripture to understand it. She agreed that simple proof-texting is not enough, but said that we must do the really hard work of delving into and prayerfully immersing ourselves in Scripture in order to understand God’s will for us.

I suggest that we often avoid that struggle because we know that the result of our study may, and probably will, lead us to do things that God wants, but we don’t.

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven, the report of the NWAC Strategy Team to the New Wineskins Association of Churches,identified two faithful options for members of the PC(USA)struggling with the drift of the PC(USA)'s national leadership. When Rev. Dr. Rick Wolling and I wrote the introductory chapter of that report, we summarized the findings in this way:

•Those who were called by God to leave the PC(USA) could faithfully do so.

•Those who were called by God “stay where they are and be a prophetic witness” and “to strive to reform, renew and repair the old homestead so that it can once again be a vibrant and welcoming lodging for those who are lost and hungry for the Word” could also do so faithfully.

We said one other thing: “That being said, we implore all to whom this report shall come: there must be a new thing, wherever it may occur. To simply stand fast. . .” is not a faithful option. See A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven at pp 15-16.

QG is clearly a prophetic witness. I envision her, toolbelt strapped in place, hammering and sawing and painting at the old home place.

We who left the PC(USA) felt that no one in the presbyteries and the GA were listening to us. In taking on the role of a spokesperson for the many in the PC(USA) who feel that they are never heard, QG has once again witnessed to the power of the servant-leader.

Bravo Zulu, QG.

2 comments:

val said...

It is written in Jer 31:22 that the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man.
The man is Satan (Isa 14:16).
It is written in Gen 3:15 that a woman will bruise Satan at the heel of time.
The heel of time is of the feet of Dan 2:33 a time not long before the return of Christ. Check out the bruising of Satan at http://thegoodtale.blogspot.com Satan has deceived the whole world until now. The true word is now delivered to the world Rev 12

Quotidian Grace said...

Thank you Mac, for the link, the kind words about my blog, your encouragement and your very thoughtful comments on the subject.

If my participation in this podcast can stimulate more discussion on this important subject, then I am humbly grateful for the opportunity.