Sunday, January 28, 2024

Can sola Scriptura save us?

Before you rush to condemn me, I am not at all suggesting that we abandon the idea of Scripture alone or the sufficiency of the Scriptures or that God's Word is infallible or efficacious.  My point is this.  You cannot save Christendom with phrases and bywords of another era that you do not intend to honor in belief and practice.  The Bible in itself -- infallible and inerrant as it is, cannot alone ensure orthodoxy unless the Church affirms, consents, and lives by this Word.  The Church does not make the Scriptures reliable but the reliability of Scripture in providing the message of salvation requires the attention of the Church and her voice to proclaim what God has said.  It is not enough to repeat the old phrases if you do not intend to live by them.  

Every time we gather as churches we tend to repeat what we have said before and to honor the past at least with our lip service.  In my own tradition we do this regularly at every national gathering.  We affirm that Scripture is without error and efficacious, in close(d) communion, weekly Eucharist, the office of the ministry, preaching, catechesis, etc. . .  But no matter how often we affirm what we have always believed and confessed, the reality is that we are not sure what to do with those who repeat the mantra without really meaning what those words say.  In a shrinking church you are not likely to find much support for actions that would shrink that church more anymore than you are want to find people wearied of yesterday's battles who wish to fight more.  We are wearied not simply by the changes and chances of this fast paced life but also by the cost of those changes and chances in the tensions within our relationships on the congregational level and every level above that. 

The reality is that bishops cannot save us from heresy or apostasy but good ones can certainly help.  The liturgy will not preserve us from such heresy or apostasy either but faithful liturgy will help.  Saying that the Scriptures are God's infallible Word and efficacious in bestowing what they say will not alone preserve us but it will help.  Bishops must act like bishops and teach and discipline us in the faith or they are merely eye candy.  The liturgy must be our prayer and our proclamation or it is merely an external form for those who like such things.  Sola Scriptura is a nice slogan but it must be more than a slogan in order for it to matter to us and help us to remain at anchor within God's pale while the rivers of change flow away from Christ and Him crucified and risen.

Honestly, I am weary of the slogans and phrases that we drop to let people know who we are but then do not really mean to keep them.  Why do we still have to say the weekly Eucharist is the norm for us  unless we really do not think it is?  Why do we need to affirm that the Table of the Lord is for the Lord's people (baptized confessors of the faith) unless we really do not think it is?  Why do we need to say sola Scriptura unless we just want to keep the image without having to be bothered by what that Word says?  We do not benefit from holding these things in theory unless we are ready and willing to have them norm our practice as well.  God help us not only to say what we mean but to mean what we say!


Carl Vehse said...

It's easier for synodical conventions and administrative officials to issue doctrinal slogans and phrases, especially in resolutions and videos, than it is to enforce such positions on those who claim to be in the synod but do not really mean to adhere to such doctrinal positions.

The Synod may have passed a convention resolution against the demonic D.I.E. propaganda, but the Synod has yet to purge D.I.E. from its university campuses and, after 700+ days, force one of its universities to return a professor, who warned about D.I.E. in LCMS schools, to his teaching position from which he was wrongfully suspended.

Wurmbrand said...

Lutherans often get this wrong because they sound like Protestants. Protestants talk as if the Bible were God's message to humanity for each individual to pick up and read. I don't understand sola Scriptura that way any more. Church and Bible go indissolubly together. The Church is custodian of the canon, and She points to Scripture alone as authenticating Her message of Law and Gospel. Lutherans are not Protestants -- as the word is now used -- and the re-Lutheranizing of the Lutheran Church is needed (and, I believem is happening). We are not Roman Catholics or Orthodox who point to tradition outside the Bible to show that our doctrine is the true Faith, that is, the whole counsel of God, His Word that stands forever. We are not Protestants with a "leave a Gideon Bible in a hotel room" idea -- not to say that leaving Gideon Bibles per se is wrong as a help towards bringing people to the saving faith, which is found in Holy Church. I would be grateful for comments that show me to be wrong if I am wrong.

Dale Nelson