Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bryan Cross - Critique of a particular form of "sola scriptura"

With regard to notion of "sola scriptura" characterized thus:

We deny that the Bible can be rightly understood by any hermeneutical grid not derived from the Scriptures themselves.

Bryan Cross writes:

[I]f that statement is true, then either there is a missing exception clause for the first hermeneutical grid one uses to interpret Scripture (in which case the statement is ad hoc), or "the Bible cannot be rightly understood."

Just so. If the proper interpretive framework for the Bible can only be found in the Bible, and if the Bible cannot be properly understood apart from this framework that can only be found therein, then it is impossible to extract this proper framework from the Bible. You would have to have this framework in hand already in order to be able to have a means for extracting it from the Bible; else it would not be possible to extract it. Hence, as Mr. Cross says, the one holding to this view necessarily must grant an exception to the rule given for the sake of extracting the grid from the Bible. But there's no principled reason for doing so. The only alternative is to concede that the Bible cannot be interpreted properly because we lack the framework for doing so.

The whole paper is worth reading. I commend it to you.

[Update, later in the day] Further casual digging at Mr. Cross' blog rewarded me with a brief interaction between him and Clark (whose views are the subject of Cross' paper, linked above). Unfortunately Dr. Clark has not replied to Mr. Cross' followup yet, though it has been a few weeks.

Among other things, Dr. Clark says: "Protestants believe that Scripture is able to transcend our epistemic and other philosophical problems." I'm not fit for him to quarrel with, but this seems like rather obvious special pleading.


Paul Hoffer said...

Not only do folks who adhere to the notion of sola scriptura fail to explain how it is that they arrived at the framework they use to "understand" the Bible, they also have a problem cogently explaining how it is that they come to believe that the Bible is a book worth understanding in the first place or how sola scriptura can accurately determine which books belong in it. In other words, what got them to read the Bible to start with? Unless it was the Bible itself as opposed to some other force-parents, church, etc.-calling out to them to do so, then the notion of sola scriptura doesn't really have any foundation at all.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Yep. There's a whole swarm of assumptions and presuppositions that never get addressed or even acknowledged.