Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Word and the Church

In the last few weeks, in preparation for the next round of the national Lutheran / Roman Catholic dialogue, I’ve been reading on the place of Scripture in the life of the Church. One key passage from Vatican II sums it up this way:
“It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (DV II 10)
As the dialogue process proceeds, I look forward to hearing what the Catholic participants have to say in their understanding and explanation of these words. It seems to me that one could accept this teaching while at the same time holding that the Church is ‘under’ Scripture. We’ll see.
In looking through the Book of Concord, I’ve been surprised to find how few references there are to the place of Scripture in determining doctrine. There are, however, some important passages that deal directly with the issue, including this one form the beginning of the Formula:
“1. We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone, as it is written Ps. 119, 105: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And St. Paul: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed, Gal. 1, 8.” (FC Ep. I 1)
What interests me about this passage is the use of the passives ‘should be estimated and judged’. Estimated and judged by whom?
A typically protestant answer might be ‘estimated and judged by each individual Christian’. But is this the way that Lutherans, at least as we expound our confessional teaching, would rightly answer?
It seems to me that the next round of dialogue will be interesting.

4 comments:

Bob Catholic said...

Just one small insight: DV has an order which is important. It speaks about revelation (the Word of God) per se (ie incarnate Word, Jesus) and then (NB!!) the handing on of that Word of God. Me thinks that distinction is sometimes overlooked in the discussions.

One book to read on the theology of revelation is Dulles' Models of Revelation. Putting aside questions of theological method and the end of theology, his approach of modelling is not a bad one. His first model, Revelation as Doctrine, is maybe the closed to contemporary Protestant idea of revelation (as Dulles points out). Yet the basic philosophical assumptions are shared by neo-scholasticism (alas, no longer as popular among Catholic theologians).

Schütz said...

Another book is Aidan Nichols' "Shape of Catholic Theology" (I am sure Aidan still thinks nicely of you everytime he enjoys a roast dinner).

Marco is right. To put it another way, the real issue is "Is the Word of God to be exclusively identified the Scriptures?".

Catholic Theology sees Jesus Christ foremost as the "Word of God", and "sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church" as the way in which this revelatoin of God's Logos is mediated to us today.

The Formula of Concord, on the other hand, by using passages such as Psalm 119:105, demonstrate that they understand "Word" to literally and exclusively mean the "written Word", ie. Scripture.

To open up the question a little more, how could the Reformers us Gal 1:8 as a proof text for sola scriptura? Not even modern day Lutherans would limit "the Gospel" to the Scriptures, but would immediately want to include preaching, and hymn singing, and absolution, and the mutual consolation of the brethren.

Charles said...

yawn, I preferred it when there were more posts and more kid photos. This blog seems to have become more of a theological bog!

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