Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Hermann Sasse once remarked wryly that the only reading matter available in Hell would be official church newspapers. Update to the 21st century and we might add official church websites. An exception to the rule might be the website of the Sydney Anglican Archdiocese, where instead of the usual banalities that are left up for months on end a selection of discussions takes place each week based on the lead of several 'columnists'. This past week the lead item has been a discussion on sola scriptura (click on post title to be taken there) led by Moore Theological College lecturer Michael Jensen. Jensen contends that the historical understanding of sola scriptura is not that scripture is the only authority in the church (a position more properly designated solo scriptura) but that it is the primary and only infallible authority - tradition - in the form of creeds and confessions, also plays an authoritative role in church life, albeit always subordinate to scripture.
For many evangelical Anglicans, and evidently some Lutherans (not to mention Presbyterians), this is apparently a revolutionary idea, so far have they departed from the roots of the confessions of the Magisterial Reformation. Perhaps in the case of the evangelical Anglicans this is at least understandable, since for Anglicans the 39 Articles of Religion long ago lost their confessional authority, and more recently the evangelicals seem to have have jettisoned the Prayer Book tradition entirely and replaced it with non-liturgical worship, as well as making common cause with evangelical descendants of the Radical Reformation, from whence solo scriptura derives.
Lutherans, however, with their distinction between scripture as the norma normans (the "ruling rule") and confessions as the norma normata (the "ruled rule"), which assumes the existence of these primary and secondary authorities in the church and sets out their relationship to each other, would seem to have no such excuse for their ignorance.