Recently a segment of evangelicals has been pushing for the abandonment of sola Scriptura in favor of a theological approach that relies on both Scripture and Church Tradition.
D.H. Williams is a key figure moving some evangelicals this direction. Here’s a quote that captures some of his concerns and hints toward his proposed solution:
Despite the recent attempts of a few evangelical writers to inculcate a theory of sola scriptura as the real intent of the early church, there was no question in believers’ minds that Scripture could or should function in the life of the believer apart from the church’s Tradition. Were it to do so, there was scarce assurance that an orthodox Christian faith would be the result. While many parts of Scripture were inherently perspicuous and able to be understood with little outside assistance, post-apostolic Christians would have anathematized the principle set forth in Buswell’s systematic theology, ‘The rule is then give the Bible an opportunity, in you own mind, to interpret itself,’ as setting the stage for heretical aberrations.
D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 98
The October 2008 issue of First Things contains an article which reveals the difficulty of using tradition rather than Scripture as the touchstone of orthodoxy. Richard John Neuhaus’ article, “What Really Happened at Vatican II” evaluates two books about Vatican II that present different visions of the council.
Included in the article is this section which focused on a quote from Benedict XVI about the council:
The question is one of hermeneutics, says the pope. There are, he suggests, two quite different ways of understanding the council: ‘On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject, the Church that the Lord has given us. She is a subject that increases in time and develops, yet always remains the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”
This of course raises the question: If the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church struggles over the interpretation of a church council, how can it solve the problem of rightly interpreting Scripture. Or to put it another way, how does an authoritative interpretation of Scripture help when people can’t agree on the interpretation of the interpretation.