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Reformed and in need of Reformation (part 2)


Last week I looked at the need for the Church to examine the legacy of the Protestant reformation and to ask the question “whether we are in need of reformation again?” To do that I took a look at the long-term impacts of what has become an extreme (and individualistic) interpretation of sola gratia (by grace alone) and sola fides (by faith alone). This week I want to dive into the third big sola of the reformation, sola scriptura (by the scriptures alone) and ask if we have taken the good ideas of the reformation past their intended points of correction and into the realm of absurdity. And to assist me in this I’ve asked Pastor Jenn if she would share with the church her paper on this very topic from her ordination requirements. Jenn has penned one of the best scripture papers that I have ever read in my four-plus years on the ordaining council and I have distilled it down to the core argument of her paper here for your edification.

At its heart, what Jenn’s paper argues for (and what I want to argue for as well in this blog) is that we have taken the idea of scripture being the infallible bedrock of our faith, and twisted it to a point where our opinions of scripture instead become the infallible bedrock of our faith. In a turn that Christian sociologist Christian Smith (who Jenn relies heavily on in her work) calls biblicism. Biblicism, quite simply, is a worship of the Bible in an idolatrous manner. It happens when we take a text about God, and turn it into a god. Even if that sacred text is from God (i.e. it is divinely inspired), it does not become itself divine. Moreover, when we ignore the fact that scripture can (and has been) interpreted many different ways (one of the legacies of sola scriptura and the Protestant reformation was the throwing off of the magisterium – the official, authorized interpretation of scripture by the Catholic Church), we fall into the trap of believing this idol to be infallible while forgetting that our interpretation of the text is just as fallible as ever in and of itself. Much like the other two solas that we examined last week, sola scriptura is a concept that itself is once again in need of reformation. Until we are able to untangle our non-authoritative opinions about scripture from the text itself, and dialogue with one another from a place of humility and openness, sola scriptura will continue to be something that is a dangerous weapon in the hand of an overly modernist, individualist church.

So I would invite you to read Pastor Jenn’s paper to get a handle on why 500 years on from the Protestant Reformation, when it comes to the Bible, we still have a long way to go.

Read Pastor Jenn's paper here

#Reformation #Scripture #Theology #LongForm

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