At Sunday School, we’ve been in the midst of a series of lectures on the bare bones basics of classical Calvinism with some notions of where modern theologians might have moved on. There’s a tremendous amount of food for thought. And that “theology stuff” which is so much harder for my brain than exegesis on biblical stories. The first strand of the first lecture was about the bible. Not the familiar — there are 66 books over more than 1000 years, untold authors, oral traditions, cultural milieu, etc. — not that sort of information about the bible. This lecture was explaining that in the reformed tradition, Sola scriptura is one of the principals that from Luther on has been what reformed means. Scripture alone has authority over all — not a Pope, not a council, not tradition, not scholars (while all such things may inform the reading of scripture and be important, scripture is first). This is a fundamentally different way of approaching Christianity than the medieval Catholic church (or for all I know many modern “non-reform tradition” churches today). It was a perfect storm event in history — without the printing press and rise of literacy would sola scriptura have taken off? Without sola scriptura would literacy have spread like hotcakes — even educating women and children and ordinary folks? The course of history might be different.
Yet the terrible danger is that if everyone reads scripture for him or herself, errors and mistakes will be made. Dr. Douglas was crystal in his lecture that sola scriptura didn’t mean and doesn’t mean magical or superstitious thinking; and that education and church and studying together is important. Nor is the bible, in the reformed tradition, going to tell you which job to take or who to marry.
It means the bible is the way that God/Holy Spirit uses to bring us knowledge of “the fundamental things of salvation”. What do we need to know about God? What is our relationship to God? How might forgiveness and reconciliation work? How might God talk to us? How might we learn about God and “God stuff”? Those sorts of questions.
Somehow this was new information for me; or I’d never listened before? I certainly am inspired by scripture. I love studying it, praying it, imaging it, arguing with it, studying it…. I had not really thought of this as being such a part of history. And frankly now I am feeling — properly scared?
Dear God, let me always try to read your Word with all my heart, all my mind, all my strength, all my soul. Let me be alive as I read your Word and never be asleep or afraid of your Word. Let me rest in your Word, and feast on it, and find it richer than honey! Amen.