Mark Byron has ventured a stab into the discussion concerning Sola Scriptura, the Church and interpretation that I started on his blog. His comments can be found in his 4/7/03 post.
He makes several interesting remarks. Here is one:
"However, the Protestant in me insists on making the Bible the Constitution; we can only have doctrine that passes Biblical muster."
John D. Craton, in a marvelous essay entitled "A Journey of Fear and Joy" has this to say in regards to this issue: "There is today a great debate going on within our nation�s judicial system about how to interpret the Constitution of the United States. Some are claiming that the courts are reading into the Constitution many �rights� that the original architects of our country never intended or envisioned. Some are saying we are drifting far from the original intents of our Founding Fathers in many areas of our nation�s life.
A reasonable way to try to decide the answer to this contention would be to go back to the writings of those who drafted the Constitution, to look at their lives, and to examine the way the Constitution was understood by the first few generations of our national leaders who succeeded the Founders of our country. Instead of continuing to read the Constitution only through 21st-century eyeglasses that are colored by the thinking and conventions of our own age, we might reasonably suggest going back to see how the early American Fathers interpreted its meaning.
Is it not just as reasonable to take a similar approach in trying to understand the meaning of Scripture?"
Later on Mark writes, "Individuals tend to be more heterodox in their theologies than churches, who have a longer track record of hacking theology." That is true. Would that be an argument for those churches who have been around the longest, perhaps? The "oldest is the best" argument is a techincally a philosophical fallacy, but it still provides an interesting way of looking at this issue.
Mark concludes with this point: "When a church isn't guarding the truth, believers may have to walk away from it, but that should be a last resort when a church has become clearly heterodox."
This sure seems to be a question-beggar and here is why: How does one know when a particular church, practice, or teaching is "heterodox?" By what set of principles or guidelines does one reach this conclusion? Why those and not another? Who defines "heterodoxy"? How can an "invisible church" (as Mark puts it, "the collection of all believers") point me away from heterodoxy and towards orthodoxy?
John Craton writes later in his essay, "One of the cardinal precepts of most fundamentalist churches is �No creed but the Bible.� [This, of course, is a creed!] Christians are encouraged to accept the Bible and the Bible alone. But we have seen above that no one truly accepts the Bible alone.....We must always accept the Bible plus our understanding of it; we all have our own way of interpreting the Bible. As a result, we have groups as divergent as the Church of Christ, Jehovah�s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, ad infinitum, all who claim to accept nothing but the Bible. But in fact we all � every last one of us � accept the Bible plus our own understanding."
We can't escape having our own biases come into our interpretation when we read Scripture. So the question becomes, not how do I get rid of my biases, but what context can I place them so as to make sure I am not being led by them alone?
Craton answers this: "If we claim to accept the Bible alone, then we do not, in fact, accept all the Bible, because the Bible does not ask to be accepted alone and does in actuality affirm that the real source of all truth will be found in the Body of Christ on earth � His Church, �the pillar and foundation of the truth.� (1 Tim. 3:15). Here and here alone will we find the true interpretation of Scripture, when we find the One to whom Christ�s Spirit has been given � the One Holy Church."
So maybe the questions we should find ourselves moving toward are less about why we should need the Church, but *where* can this church be found?