I apologize for the length. Please take it as my respect for your points of discussion. Sorry :-(
I'm going to try and group these together so I can answer them as one (let me know if I butcher your intent):
Fully it is: The holy doctrine of Salvation through Faith in Scripture.
From Ask Jeeves: ... Therefore, instead of popes and councils, the scriptures alone became the source of religious knowledge.
From About.com: ... We enlarge the role of the laity, encourage individual study and meditation, and reject the imposition of other humans as mediators between us and God
Rand Race: My contention is not controversial, the idea of personal interpretation of scripture as a basis of Protestantism has been accepted for centuries.
Ok, so what were we discussing? :-)
Sola Scriptura: what does it mean, what does it not mean? Especially in light of me claiming that the "Christ Killers" sentiment was heresy?
Your contention, as I understand it, is that Luther claims Sola Scriptura--i.e. salvation found only in scripture and that scripture interpretation is founded solely in personal interpretation. Examples of this would be in Luther's elimination of the doctrine of works (sacraments).
Assuming I have butchered your thoughts correctly into an accurate summary, let me respond.
1) Sola Scriptura: meaning and purpose in context; the Sacraments and works for Luther
Sola Scriptura is Luther's attempt to explain why his approach and demands represented the ancient church better than the Roman Catholic church of the time (RC would debate that, but I digress ...). The illuminating tidbit to this part of the puzzle is your own sig:
"This question has no answer except in the history of how it came to be asked." -JJ
Not that this doesn't have an answer, but it does have a more clear answer in the history of why this creed was even put forth. Why did Luther insist on Sola Scriptura, that the only authority for the beliefs and doctrines of the church must be scripture and scripture alone?
The answer is the history of the time. You've mentioned some of your readings, so I'll assume you have a good background of what is going on in the 15th century. But to sum it up for those following along, the Catholic church had some troubling doctrines that led to some inconsistencies in how one lived their faith. Indulgences (purchased "forgiveness" via a gift to the church) are always brought out as the reason, but the fact is that those are only one of the things Luther had an issue with.
The prevading attitude of the time was that "Certainty of salvation was unknown, and to long for such would have been presumptious." (Lohse 159). The sacraments were understood in an Aristotelian fashion, as in "matter" and "substance". The sacraments are understood to "contain grace". They are then broadened to be the only mediator of grace--i.e. one can only receive grace through the sacraments. The definition was refined further to say that the sacraments imparted grace to any who did not "interpose an obstacle" (Lohse 152).
This is the environment, the backdrop for Luther. One cannot know assurance that one is indeed saved, and one is to not seek such assurance. Grace is obtained through the sacraments, and they alone are the mediator, the vehicle by which you receive grace. It should be noted that to state it this way would be extreme, but correct. I.e. it would reflect a good portion of the belief, but it should also be noted that many would point out the need for faith. The question would then become how can one have faith without grace? And how can one know if your faith is true?
The last part, from my reading and understanding, is the part that drove Luther to fits of despair. He knew his own propensity towards sin--so how could he trust in his own actions? How could confession ever be pure? Surely God could see his selfish motives--so how could his confession impart him grace? Clearly he was bringing an obstacle.
For Luther, the concept of receiving grace via sacraments inevitably lead to a doctrine of salvation by works--i.e. that man could be saved via his own efforts. In his examination of the Bible and the early concilar creeds, he saw that this was not possible nor what the church believed. Thus the Sola Fide--we are saved by grace, obtained through faith which is itself a gift from God.
Where did this leave works? To quote Lohse again:
Man is not only spiritual, however, but also corporeal. If he were entirely spiritual, no further efforts would be required of him. As long as man remains on earth, however, the new righteousness, which is imputed to him fully [through faith], according to his spiritual nature, is never present in final form, but always in an incipient and incomplete state. "Here the works begin," writes Luther, "here a man cannot enjoy leisure; here he must indeed take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings, labors, and other reasonable discipline and to subject it to the Spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inner man and faith and not revolt against faith and hinder the inner man, as it is the nature of the body to do if it is not held in check." Those works are not to be done with the idea that through them man becomes righteous and pious in God's sight. Rather they are to be done out of love, freely and graciously. Good and pious works never make a good and pious man, but a good and pious man does good and pious works. (Lohse 163) So for Luther, works were vitally important (his reclaimation of Vocation is wonderful) to faith, as they are a natural outflow of genuine faith. One cannot have true faith without works, and so works become real and done out of genuine intentions instead of trying to curry favor with God.
As for the sacraments:
How many sacrements in Catholicism? Seven. How many in Protestantism? Two. Why? The rejection of the doctrine of good works.
The original seven: baptism, confirmation, Lord's supper, repentance, extreme unction, ordination of priests, marriage. The final two of the reformation: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The reason? Primarily, these are the only sacraments instituted by Jesus himself, as accounted in the Gospels. That is really the only reason. A secondary reason would be that these two are the only ones that are really associated with the "substance" understandings of the sacraments. Were they removed in a radical attempt to usurp "Peter for Paul", as you put it? No. The other sacraments were present in one form or another in Luther's practice of faith. But they did not possess the ability to impart grace by partaking simply without "interposing and obstacle".
Yes, they dropped 5 of the sacraments, but they did it in an attempt to be more like the ancient church--as it defined itself in the first three concilar creeds. Sola Scriptura is NOT the source of salvation, but the justification for they reforms--i.e. they were getting back to the original roots of the church. The creeds were the church's explaination of what it thought scripture meant, and Luther endeavored to get back to that.
2) Sola Scriptura: Personal Interpretation
This does not mean the modern meaning. Relying on Reason in the pre-modern/classicist period was something entirely different from relying on Reason in the modern or postmodern period.
I could try to explain this further, but this isn't something I am as well versed in. So I will not insult your intelligence. Clearly you understand the differences in philosophical thought and approaches to rationalism in the 15th century as compared to the 20th century. So I'll not bother with that.
I will point out one more time that Luther (and the Reformers) regarded themselves as getting back to the purpose of the ancient church, especially as expressed via the concilar creeds. Luther accepted and put forth the orginal creeds as correct. And his practice and his movements practice showed that.
Additionally, Luther's actions here are more telling than his polemics. As I mentioned in the other post, Luther was fighting something he saw wrong, so he often took the extreme point to make his argument. He was arguing, not building systematic theology (as later people would). So his writings are geared towards that. But his actions tell a more accurate story.
The Reformation did much as the Catholic Church before it did--i.e. they moderated the beliefs of their church via a definition of orthodoxy. For them, orthodoxy was represented in scriptures and in the understandings of the ancient church on scriptures. So interpretation of scriptures was assumed to be taking place in this framework--one that relied upon and judged itself by orthodoxy.
That's the reality of what Luther did. Much like Paul in Galatians decrying the law, he harangues against justification via works; but just like Paul who in Titus stresses the importance of works, so he practiced works and orthodoxy in how the church was lived with and through him.
3) Heresy: possible with Protestants?
Yes, I believe it is possible to judge orthodoxy from within the Protestant framework; but it is not nearly as simple as it would be under the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches.
As I have said, Luther and the Reformers held to the ancient church creeds. So too has protestantism, and many will often use the Nicean creed in their statement of doctrine. As the ancient creeds are foundational, and in many ways, a definition of what it means to be Christian, you can indeed judge the orthodoxy of a Protestant sect by whether it does or does not hold to these original creeds.
That is indeed fairly simple. Unlike the Catholic or Orthodox church, they can't be pronounced anathema or excommunicated. They can be shunned, to a lesser degree. But you can't stop them from believing--not that anyone can do that really to anyone else.
This Christ Killer heresy--well, that is much harder, but still possible. While not in direct conflict with early church creeds, it violates the intent and spirit of many. So the argument would be much harder, but I believe it would be possible.
Again, can we make them stop believing or saying that? No, we can't. We can try to show them the error and hope that they will yield to reason and insight eventually.
I am getting my facts from every single non-fundamentalist piece of information I have EVER read on the subject.
Hopefully, I have shown myself to be a little more than a raving fundie. I am not a fundamentalist, but I got the impression that you might think I am. Hopefully the discussion has been as worthwhile for you as it has been for me. I have truly enjoyed this.
P.S. Forgive my only citing one source. I am at work and could only bring one book with me.
Lohse, Bernard. A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Fortress Press, Philadelphia. 1978 (translated by F. Ernest Stoeffler)
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
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