Bible, Church and Tradition: Thoughts on a James Jordan Quote
A great discussion is going on over at Wayne Olson's site on the nature of the Church and about the use and teaching of icons. One of the comments posted contained the following quote from James Jordan's book "The Sociology of the Church." I thought I'd make a few comments about it here:
"It is not true to say that the church produced the Bible, except in a very limited sense. Rather, the Bible, as the Word of God, produced the church."
Right off the bat, we have our first problem. The phrase "Word of God" is understood both in Scripture and in the history of the Church as a reference, first and foremost, to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. The Word of God is not primarily the revelation of Truth in human language, but Jesus incarnate. It is a mistake to equate the written words of the Bible with Jesus. And it is philosophically impossible (and just plain common sense) that the collected writings of a group of people could pre-date and produce the group of people themselves. The Bible was written for, by, and in the Church! It is just intellectually dishonest to ignore the historical account of the early church on this point. (For more on Sola Scriptura, click HERE).
"It is the Word that calls the church into being. To be sure, churchmen (the prophets) wrote the Bible, but only under Divine inspiration."
Again, this Word that calls the Church into being is the action and love the Trinity, not the Bible. Jesus did not establish a text, but an ecclesia.
"It is sometimes argued that the church has authority over the Scriptures insofar as it was the church that, under Divine guidance, determined the limits of the canon. Even this, however, must be challenged. We must maintain that God's Word is instinctively recognized by His image, man, and thus that His Word is "self-attesting." The fact that some men react against and actively suppress this witness only shows that the witness is real."
The Bible is clearly not "self-attesting" because if it were, everyone who used the Bible as their foundation of truth would agree on how to interpret and practice what it teaches! If you want to say the Bible was divinely inspired, but that the Church who put it together was not, what does that say about God? Why would the Holy Spirit make sure a text was preserved, but not the actual incarnated Body of believers that the text tells us about?
"Thus, as portions of the Bible were written, Godly men immediately recognized them as truth, and incorporated them into the existing canon. The only thing the early church did along these lines was defend the self-attesting canon against heretics."
No, they didn't not "immediately" recognize them...the final canon of Scripture did not appear until the late 4th century. And it took the WHOLE church, clergy and laity alike, to affirm the decision on the final canon. And yes, the early church did defend the truth against the heretics--but how did they do that? By relying on something other than the Bible! In fact, it was the Arians who demanded that the 1st Council be conducted with only Scripture used in the debate! The only way to defeat the heretics was to prove that their interpretation of the Scriptures was wrong because of an already existing Tradition that differed from theirs. (For more on the nature and relationship between Scripture and Tradition, click HERE).
St. Paul tells us to hold fast to the traditions, whether by word or epistle. (2 Thess 2:15). How can we hold fast to traditions that were given "by word" if we aren't connected to the ecclesia that still does that? Especially since even Scripture attests to the fact that it is the ecclesia, not the Bible or personal intrepretation, that is the "foundation of truth?" (1 Tim 3:15).