Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bible as First Context - Orthodox Sola Scriptura!

It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that as Orthodox we need to stress more and more the foundational basis of Scripture in our faith. Although we tend to say like Florovsky that "Tradition is Scripture read rightly", we tend to think of it as Scripture being usurped by the authority of Tradition.

I think it is more proper to emphasize our Tradition, and indeed the location of its claim to be the 'fullest expression of the Christian Faith' specifically in the way our Tradition exegetes Scripture.

Many don't realize that our Confessional decisions, anathmatizations, hymns, icons, and prayer and SAcramental/liturgical language are all claims on ways to read Scripture - over and against other ways of reading Scripture. This is why converts into the Church take a vow to "read and interpret the Holy Scriptures as they have been understood and interpreted by the Fathers and life of the Church". It isn't simply a vow to assent to certain dogmas and come to the same conclusions as certain Fathers - it's also a vow to use our methods and not those of others!

Few realize the exegetical dimensions of the Christological debates in the 4th and 5th centuries. there's actually an exegetical difference between Arius and Alexander/Athanasius! It is this exegetical difference that allows both heretics and orthodox to quote the Scriptures. Our decision to side one way and not the other provides but one of our hermeneutics. hermeneutics which are not universal, but rather somewhat particular to the life of our community.

If we start with Scripture as our First Context - the foundation of all else we do in the Church - and we begin to mean this not in some sort of spiritualized way where Scripture creates a 'general trajectory' that we follow up on, but rather in a specific way that all parts of our Church are a particular and often polemical claim on the way we read Scriptures, I think it would greatly illumine how Tradition functions in the Church, and by couching it in Scriptural language it will be much more approachable to those from sola scriptura backgrounds.

It'll also make us take our Scriptures much more seriously. Everything hinges on these books! We are not claiming to be the creators of Scripture so much as we're claiming that we are the best at reading them. We have maintained the decisions of right and wrong exegesis from the Christian body throughout all Christian history in a way others have not. We're not only not a historical/critical Church claiming that we have more historically and more critically read Scripture, but we are a claim of reading them over and against this method.



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