Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Bible! Mine!

One of the standard arguments one sees used in Orthodox arguments against Protestants is some variation or another of the following:
As if the Bible would or could exist without the Church's authority behind it.

This comes from the blog of Huw Raphael, who is an ex-Anglican-- not that I'm surprised at that. Indeed, one thing that strikes me is how often Anglican converts to Orthodoxy resort to arguing against a theory of scriptural authority which Anglicanism rejects.

See, the bible exists because people wrote it down. In the case of any part of the OT it is laughable to suggest that it was done at the behest of a church which did not yet exist-- at least not in the form of a visible organization. In the NT, the question is at least not utterly rediculous, but it's abundantly clear that the texts were written first and then recognized for their authority, and not the other way around. The New Testament texts were written within the church, but they were not written by the church.

Furthermore, the NT is shot through, from end to end, with the assertion that the church-- by which I mean, anyone or group claiming to speak for Christ-- can be held accountable to scripture. The best one can maintain is that the True Church always passes this test.

The real issue is the naive, hyper-Protestant view that one can interpret scripture outside of any tradition (and thus free of a church). The thing is, Anglicans since Hooker have agreed that this is impossible, so for ex-Anglicans to hang this albatross around their rejected church's neck is disingenious. Spong's error isn't total rejection of tradition. It is his acceptance of the tradition of modernism, and his theses don't hold together at all if that tradition is rejected.

In the bigger picture, anyone who is choosing churches on the basis of correct theology is in fact acting as their own authority. And conversely, Protestantism in the large is precisely the recognition that the Catholic Church departed along the way from the faith-- historic or not-- in ways important enough to justify separation. (And since some of those errors are also held to by Orthodox, similar separation is justified.)

All of this ties into lame ecclesiological disputation anyway. If utter theological obedience to one's church were demanded in Anglican churches, then this conversion would be illegitimate too. The irony, of course, is that Spong was made possible because Anglican churches do just the opposite.

I'm curious as to whether there is a patristic version of the argument, by the way. SO far I've only gotten this as a lay explanation, almost always from converts.

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