Sunday, March 04, 2012
Reformers Before the Reformers #3: The Sole Infallible Authority of the Scriptures
Below is a section from John Brevicoxa (14th Century) found in Heiko Oberman's Forerunners of the Reformation (pp. 70-71). Here Brevicoxa outlines succinctly a position on authority he doesn't agree with. I find it fascinating that he fairly outlines a position on authority he said existed during his day. He calls it "Tradition I".
Some say that only those truths which are asserted explicitly in the canon of the Bible or which can be deduced solely from the contents of the Bible are Catholic truths and should be believed as a condition for salvation. For example, the assertion, "Christ is true God and true man," falls directly into this category because it follows necessarily from the contents of Sacred Scripture.
One can prove this position by the following authorities and arguments :
1. By the authority of Solomon: "So do not add to his words lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar."
2. It is argued by the authority of Saint Augustine, who says in a letter to Saint Jerome, "I have learned to give this regard only to those books which are called canonical so that I can firmly believe that no error crept into them as they were being written down. Even if I find something in them which appears to be contrary to the truth, or if I find a corrupt textual tradition, or if the exegesis is not faithful to the actual text or is not clear to me, I do not hesitate in my belief. But I do not have such a regard for other books or writings."
3. Speaking of the writings, which are later than the Old and New Testaments, Augustine says, "The authority of this kind of writing ought to be distinguished from the authority of canonical writings. The former ought not to be read as determinative witnesses against which no conflicting theological opinions are permitted."'
4. No one is required as a condition for salvation to believe the truths taught by Augustine as he himself testifies. And since Augustine grants this about himself, it is clear that no other writings which are not found in the Bible need be accepted as a condition for salvation. The conclusion stands because it is supported by Augustine, who is of as great authority as any of the biblical writers.
5. According to Saint Augustine, "In Divine Scripture, everything useful is found and everything harmful is condemned." Therefore, no Catholic truth is found outside of Holy Scripture.
6. It is argued by the authority of Saint Jerome who, speaking of Holy Scripture, says, "An assertion not based on scriptural authority is as easily discarded as it is proved."
No assertion which can be as easily discarded as proved ought to be counted among Catholic truths. Therefore, only those truths which have authority from Divine Scripture, that is, which can be plainly deduced from Scripture, ought to be counted among Catholic truths.