I am delaying work on other thread projects to address, yet once again, the issue of sola scriptura. I have already produced 34 previous threads on sola scriptura here at AF, but it seems that if a given topic is not on ‘this weeks front page’, it is either forgotten or ignored, as evidenced by comments that have been made in THIS RECENT THREAD over at James Swan’s Beggars All blog.
In the above referenced BA thread, I urged others to read the 34th installment (Scripture and Tradition) of my Sola Scriptura series.
But judging from comments that have been made subsequent to that request, it seems that few (if any) of the BA readers have taken the time to read the post; there may also be some conflicting notions concerning what is meant by sola scriptura. To clear up any possible confusion, I would like to suggest that one must distinguish between the doctrine of sola scriptura, as formulated in the 16th century by the magisterial Reformers, and the principle of sola scriptura which does not include the polemical qualifications of the 16th century doctrine. When the consensus of patristic scholars (SEE THIS TRHEAD for examples) state that “the notion of sola Scriptura” did not exist in the ante-Nicene Church, they are referring to the very specific doctrine of sola scriptura formulated in the 16th century by the magisterial Reformers, and NOT the principle of sola scriptura. As there exists many differing views/formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity which range from the ‘neo-modalism’ construct (e.g. Rahner/Barth) to the ‘social’ concept (e.g. Brown, Erickson, LaCugna, Plantinga), so too with the principle of sola scriptura, which vary from “a Catholic sola scriptura principle” (see Catholics and the material sufficiency of Sacred Scripture for examples), to the ‘bare-bones’ principle of sola scriptura embraced by many non-creedal Evangelicals.
And further, just as the doctrine of the Trinity has undergone significant doctrinal development since the 2nd century, so too has the principle of sola scriptura; as such, one needs to refrain from the temptation to read back into the earlier theologians/writers the much later developed formulations (i.e. anachronism).
I sincerely hope that I have cleared up at least SOME of the confusion on this issue.
Grace and peace,