The communal interpretation of Scripture

Great quote from Michael Horton (via Justin Taylor)

The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age.

That is the best explanation I have read yet as to how “sola Scriptura” differs from “solo Scriptura”. “Sola Scriptura” is not just “me and my Bible” deciding everything. Understood properly, it anchors our interpretation and use of Scripture within the worshipping and proclaiming community of the church, both past and present, and in particular within the church’s proclamation of the gospel through the word and sacraments.

This entry was posted in Augsburg Evangelicalism, Cracking Quote, Gromit, Gospel and Sacrament, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The communal interpretation of Scripture

  1. Pingback: Communal Interpretation of the Scriptures « life in mordor

  2. Phil Walker says:

    Compare: getting told by a deacon (they function as both elders and deacons chez nous) last week that he didn’t know much about the Reformation because “he was interested in more important things.” 😦

  3. Ben says:

    That sounds rather close to my understanding of tradition as a Catholic; the “democracy of the dead” as Chesterton called it, the “wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age” as Horton puts it.

  4. John H says:

    Ben: I think it’s a useful reminder that sola Scriptura is not at odds with “tradition”, but instead an attempt to reform the church’s understanding and practice of tradition.

    However, as I understand it, the Lutheran/Reformation understanding of tradition differs from the RC in at least two key respects:

    1. Tradition is an interpreter of Scripture, not a separate (or wider) source of authority. In other words, extrabiblical traditions (such as the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception) are rejected.

    2. Tradition is not an infallible interpreter of Scripture. It is the democracy of the dead, not the autocracy of the dead. We are to listen to those who have gone before us, but we can also talk back to them and tell them they were wrong on some things!

  5. Pingback: tfl: The Flatiron Life » Blog Archive » Meteor Shower

  6. Ben says:

    Not to go into dime-store apologetics, but 1. The canon of Scripture is an extrabiblical tradition. 2. Tradition at the very least must be an infallible selector of Scripture, yes?

    But anyway, I accept the critique of autocracy vs democracy. One of the epistemological puzzles that faces a Catholic is determining which magisterial pronouncements are binding and to what extent. This doesn’t seem to create quite the same welter of divisiveness within Catholicism as biblical exegetical differences do for Protestants, but it’s a problem none-the-less.

  7. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Proclamation vs printing

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