Friday, April 16, 2010

David Waltz on Scripture and Tradition, and Richard Bauckham


David Waltz on Scripture and Tradition:

"Once again, Scripture is CLEAR, but only for those who have embraced the true regula fidei. This was THE view of the majority of the early Church Fathers, and has been recognized as such by a consensus of patristic scholars; the following are but a few selections from this overwhelming consensus."

Here's a citation he used for support:

The ‘ancillary view’ is Lane’s term for the sixteenth-century Protestant view, in which tradition functions as an aid, but not a norm, for the interpretation of Scripture… In spite of claims to the contrary, the Reformers did not return to the ‘coincidence view’…The Reformation posited a degree of discontinuity in church history… (Richard Bauckham, “Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason”, in Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, ed. Drewery & Bauckham, p. 122.)

So, this quote from Bauckham is used as scholarly evidence that the Reformers posited a "discontinuity in church history" because they rejected the established God-given relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Since the Reformers rejected this, they therefore rejected the true regula fidei. The true regula fidei embraces the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Compare this citation to how it reads in context:

Richard Bauckham:

The ‘ancillary view’ is Lane’s term for the sixteenth-century Protestant view, in which tradition functions as an aid, but not a norm, for the interpretation of Scripture. The Reformation principle of sola scriptura was not primarily directed against tradition, but against the teaching of the contemporary church. But it was therefore a rejection of those understandings of the role of tradition which served to justify the teaching of the contemporary church as apostolic and to permit no appeal to Scripture against it. In other words, it was a rejection of both the ‘coincidence’ and the ‘supplementary’ views. In spite of claims to the contrary, the Reformers did not return to the ‘coincidence view’, and could not do so, because that view depends on the harmony and continuity of the contemporary church’s teaching with both Scripture and tradition. Once the contemporary church’s teaching is judged to be unscriptural and therefore dependent on corrupt tradition, it is no longer possible to identify true tradition in the way that the ‘coincidence view’ requires, by means of the Vincentian canon. True tradition can now be distinguished from corrupt tradition only by testing all tradition according to the standard of its faithfulness to Scripture. Scripture inevitably becomes the norm for the identification of true tradition, rather than tradition the norm for the interpretation of Scripture. The Reformation posited a degree of discontinuity in church history—the possibility and the fact of serious and long continued doctrinal error by the authorities of the church—which necessarily deprived tradition of the normative status it had in both the ‘coincidence’ and the ‘supplementary’ views. If Scripture can be pitted against tradition to reveal its corruption, then Scripture must be not only materially (as in the ‘coincidence’ view) but also formally sufficient.

The great respect which the Reformers had for the Fathers, and especially for the creeds and the councils of the early church, does not contradict this belief in the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Certainly they could appeal to the true tradition of the early church against the corrupt tradition of the medieval period, but in a way which ultimately presupposes the independent authority of Scripture. Only by judging tradition according to the standard of Scripture could they evaluate the first five or six centuries as relatively pure and the succeeding centuries as progressively corrupt. No other principle (such as the notion of an undivided church) made the tradition of the patristic period especially authoritative, since, as article 21 of the Church of England’s 39 states, even general councils ‘may err, and sometimes have erred.’


See Richard Bauckham’s chapter, Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason,” in Benjamin Drewery and Richard J. Bauckham, eds., Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, A Study in the Criteria of Christian Doctrine, Essays in Honour of Richard P. C. Hanson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), pp. 122-123.

Bauckham isn't making the point David said he did. In the citation from Waltz, the Reformers are caricatured as departing from the universal established truth concerning Scripture and Tradition. Perhaps Waltz saw this because of his previous Romanist worldview.

In context though, Bauckham says:

"The Reformation principle of sola scriptura was not primarily directed against tradition, but against the teaching of the contemporary church. But it was therefore a rejection of those understandings of the role of tradition which served to justify the teaching of the contemporary church as apostolic and to permit no appeal to Scripture against it."

The Reformers rejected "both the ‘coincidence’ and the ‘supplementary’ views" of Tradition.

He then states "The Reformation posited a degree of discontinuity in church history" because:

"the possibility and the fact of serious and long continued doctrinal error by the authorities of the church—which necessarily deprived tradition of the normative status it had in both the ‘coincidence’ and the ‘supplementary’ views. If Scripture can be pitted against tradition to reveal its corruption, then Scripture must be not only materially (as in the ‘coincidence’ view) but also formally sufficient."

And then finally:

"The great respect which the Reformers had for the Fathers, and especially for the creeds and the councils of the early church, does not contradict this belief in the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Certainly they could appeal to the true tradition of the early church against the corrupt tradition of the medieval period, but in a way which ultimately presupposes the independent authority of Scripture. Only by judging tradition according to the standard of Scripture could they evaluate the first five or six centuries as relatively pure and the succeeding centuries as progressively corrupt."

Since the citation Waltz used is from an older post, the question becomes, what is now the true regula fidei for Mr. Waltz? Now that he's abandoned Romanism, perhaps a re-reading of some of his older blog entries is in order.

"True tradition can now be distinguished from corrupt tradition only by testing all tradition according to the standard of its faithfulness to Scripture."

4 comments:

Shammah said...

I agree with your interpretation of the Bauckham quote. I object to his use of one word: "only."

I think the Reformers would agree that true tradition can be distinguished by corrupt tradition perhaps primarily by Scripture, but consulting the early church fathers--especially those before the councils--and the councils helps.

Even wildly and blindly Protestant groups like the Christians Research Institute appeal to creeds to justify their interpretations of Scripture (even though the most well-known creed contradicts their interpretation of Scripture).

Both Tertullian and Irenaeus argue for the authority of Scripture, but they appeal to tradition as well. Anyone who appeals at all to "the historic Christian faith" is not leaning on Scripture alone to distinguish between true and corrupt tradition.

Which I think is good.

Joe said...

Does anyone have any recommedations for books on church history that mainly concentrate on the patristics?

I have JND Kelly's Early Christain Doctrines and am reading through it right now.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Shammah said...

I do. _Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up_ by David Bercot is the best book I've seen at introducing the early Christians in such a way that you want to read them yourself.

JND Kelly irritates the stew out of me. Every time I read him I wonder how he comes up with some of the things that he does.

David Bercot used to recommend Philip Schaff's _History of the Christian Church_. Volume I is on ante-Nicene Christianity, and it's way better than Kelly.

The owner of this blog ought to like that suggestion, too, as Schaff is from a Reformed background.

Oh, almost forgot. Even better than Schaff would be anything Everett Ferguson has written on early Christianity.

David Waltz said...

Hello James,

I have responded to your musings

HERE.