The dispute over the role of Scripture, tradition, and reason as sources of authority for Christian teaching did not begin with the Reformation. It was already a major concern of Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century) in his polemic against the Gnostics.
In the last few years, the terrain occupied by the contending parties has shifted drastically. As recently as 1950 Roman Catholicism was still claiming the authority to pronounce new articles of faith necessary for salvation even if there were no biblical evidence for them: the dogma of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven was announced that year. Today, by contrast, we see the debacle of tradition in the Roman church, from the traditional garb of the religious orders to traditional teaching in the moral sphere. At the same time, different kinds of traditionalism rise and fall within the various branches of Protestantism, sometimes virtually dominating theology, even when they conflict with clear teachings of the Bible. The academic tradition known as the (modified) documentary hypothesis of the origin of the first five books of the Bible continues to reign in general Protestant (and now even Roman Catholic) biblical studies. Despite the devastating objections brought by such substantial scholars as Umberto Cassuto, M. H. Segal, Oswald T. Allis, Edward J. Young, and more recently Cyrus H. Gordon and Kenneth Kitchen, in many circles no serious criticism of this hallowed tradition is tolerated.
Because of the shifting of the ground on which the contenders stand in the centuries-old Scripture-tradition issue, it is worthwhile to take a fresh look at it. Can we outline some fundamental themes to help us identify common ground that Christians can defend against ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more