Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scripture and Tradition

I've been trying to get my mind around the 4 main differences in approach between scripture and tradition, as represented by the (1) Roman Catholics; (2) Eastern Orthodox; (3) Reformed Protestants; (4) Anabaptist and Modern Evangelical. It is hard to nail it down because every author has a particular position and therefore may be less than objective in describing the position of his opponents. However, from what I can make out the options are as follows (corresponding to the numbers already assigned to the above groups):

Scripture and Tradition are equal sources of authority

The Apostolic Tradition is authoritative, and scripture is part of that

Scripture and Tradition are both authoritative, but scripture is more authoritative

Scripture is authoritative but tradition is not.

The reformed writer Robert Letham seems to agree with this basic way of dividing the views, for he writes: “For the East, the relationship between the Bible and tradition is a living one. The Bible exists within the tradition (in which the seven ecumenical councils are dominant), not apart from it. Here Orthodoxy occupies the position of the church of the first two centuries, as argued by A.N.S. Lane, in which the Bible and tradition (the teaching of the church) were effectively indistinguishable. Later developments in the West placed tradition over Scripture (as in medieval Rome), or pitted Scripture against tradition (the anabaptists and many contemporary evangelicals), or put Scripture over tradition without rejecting it (the Reformation). With Orthodoxy, Scripture is a primary part of the organic nature of tradition.”



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