Friday, September 28, 2007

More Objections Answered

A friend wrote as follows about my last post:

"I think that your revised position avoids some of the circularity of your earlier explanation, however, I still see some logical problems with it. First, where does "tradition" get its authority? You cited Paul, but didn'tgive a specific citation. I know that he does mention 'traditions' in hisletters, but in context, he is referring specifically to his teachings(embodied now in his letters), or to the teachings of Christ (preserved forus now in the Gospels). It would be anachronistic to apply his statementsto later traditions of the church."

I would say in response that when Paul urges Titus to hold firmly to the traditions that have been handed down, he is referring to his teachings or the teachings of Christ which were later embodied in scripture. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul praises the Corinthians for holding firmly to traditions he had taught them orally. But that doesn’t mean that once the New Testament was completed that we can now dispense with the authority of the church. Jesus promised that He would never forsake the church. Though the Bible is the ultimate authority, we are also told to heed the wisdom of parents (Prov. 1:8-9), the elders in the church (Heb. 13:7, 17) and all godly counsel (Prov. 12:15, 19:20, 20:5; 27:9). That is where tradition gets its subordinate authority. Its authority is derived from scripture. This is not circular for the reason I gave in my previous post.

My friend also raised the following objection:

"Secondly, you still have not addressed the issue of redundancy. Is theresome essential piece of information that the creeds provide that is notgiven in Scripture? If your answer is yes, then the creeds would beteaching something that is not directly taught by scripture. Since theirauthority is based on Scripture (the final authority), then they wouldessentially 'lose' their authority on that matter since they would no longerbe in alignment with Scripture. (Using your earlier analogy, this would belike the babysitter telling your kids to do something that's not on yourlist and that you didn't tell her to tell them). On the other hand, if your answer is no, then you cannot claim that they are necessary - one can accessall of the same information in the Scriptures alone."

Good point. The answer would be no, there is not some essential piece of information that the creeds provide that is not given in Scripture. But are they still necessary? Before I can answer that I must ask, “necessary for what?” In the sense that the Holy Spirit is free to work outside the creeds they are not necessary. But they are necessary in the sense that they are part of a church invested with legitimate subordinate authority. This is similar to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not give us any new doctrinal information that isn’t in the Bible and yet we need the Holy Spirit to properly understand scripture. One of the ways in which the Holy Spirit works is through the subordinant authority of the church and the early creeds (in particularly the Apostles' creed and the Nicene creed).

"Lastly, you also haven't answered how you know which creeds and councils define the essentials of Christianity and which ones don't. For instance, I don't think you would accept the Council of Trent, but how do you know thatit is qualitatively different than the Council of Nicea? You mentionedaccess to apostles, but I'm pretty sure that there wasn't anyone at either of those councils that directly knew any of the apostles..."

I thought I addressed that indirectly in my previous post when I said that because the scripture is the final authority, we have a mechanism with which to evaluate the creeds. Secondary authorities (such as church tradition and parents and pastors) should be used to help us understand what the primary authority of scripture is saying. Because these are not our only means for understanding Scripture, we are also able to evaluate these secondary authorities on the basis of Holy Writ. When we do this we find that church tradition, as represented in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, is entirely in keeping with what the scripture teaches, while the tradition represented at Trent is not. This allows a balance between the Catholic position which elevates tradition to the status of scripture, and the modern evangelical tradition which does not recognize tradition as even a subordinant authority.

I hope this helps to clarify things.
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