Monday, June 22, 2009
Certain comments made in the last post (#37) of the PREVIOUS THREAD have prompted me to explore in a bit more depth the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in the writings of early Church Fathers. Those who have read the initial post and subsequent comments of the previous thread should now be cognizant of the reflections of at least two prominent Protestant scholars (A.N.S. Lane and D. H. Williams) who subscribe to the position that the ECFs held to the “coincidence view” of Scripture and Tradition—i.e. that Scripture and Tradition do not differ in content, and that both are equally authoritative. This position differs from the magisterial Reformers’ take (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al.) which is labeled the “ancillary view”. Lane articulates the differences between the two positions:
The essence of the coincidence view is the assumption not just that Scripture and tradition have the same content but also that this content is found in the teaching of the church. The error in attributing the coincidence view to the Reformers lies in the neglect of their ecclesiology. They did allow for an interpretative tradition not adding to Scripture but did not see either this tradition or ecclesiastical teaching as infallible…The Reformers’ attitude to tradition was neither the coincidence nor the supplementary view but the ancillary view. They viewed tradition not as a normative interpretation of Scripture nor as a necessary supplement to it but rather as a tool to be used to help the church to understand it. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, p. 43.)
Herein lies (IMHO), the most important distinctions between the coincidence and ancillary views—though each of the two allow for “interpretive tradition”, the latter position denies that this tradition both is “normative” and “infallible”.
Now, I do not believe that the current understanding of Scripture and Tradition by many important Catholic scholars is identical with the ECFs (for as with all doctrines, there have been important developments), but I do believe that the current Catholic position is much closer to the ECFs than most (all?) Protestant views.
Grace and peace,