HT: Ben Myers
Monday, March 31, 2008
Scripture and Confession
Chris Terry Nelson of Disruptive Grace, provides a good 10 point summary from Edmund Schlink's Theology of the Lutheran Confessions about the relationship between Scripture and Confession. My favourites were # 5 and # 9:
"(5) Dogmatics is bound by the Confessions as exposition of Scripture. This means again, obligation to Holy Scripture as the sole norm - obligation not so much to a specific exegesis as rather to Scripture itself. Not what men say about Scripture constitutes the sole norm, but what Scripture says to men. A Confession has no binding force apart from the fact that it correctly expounds Scripture. If we were bound to the Confessions simply because they claim to see the propriety of this claim on the basis of Scripture, the Confession would be, like the tradition of the Roman church, a second norm for dogmatics alongside Scripture. Doctrine cannot be bound to the Confessions in the sense of a fides implicita, that is, independent of a clear exegetical understanding of their scripturalness. The truth and binding force of a Confession does not rest simply on its claim - no matter how much that claim may be supported by respected church fathers at various times - but in its actual agreement with Scripture which ever anew discloses itself to exegetical study."
"(9) From all this it follows that we must carefully distinguish between a theology of the Lutheran Confessions and a text in dogmatics. If by a theology of the Lutheran Confessions we mean a faithful preproduction of their content in systematic order, this endeavor is not dogmatics. Again, dogmatics is not simply a repetition or repristination of the Confessions. Two facts must be considered: (a) The Confessions are the model of all church doctrine, including all dogmatic endeavor, which teachers of the church undertake and the results of which they present orally and in writing. As the voice of the church Confessions have more authority than the voice of an individual. (b) On the other hand, the norm for dogmatics is not the Confession, but solely the Holy Scriptures. Dogmatics, like the Confession, must teach the summary of Scripture. The possibility must be conceded from the start that dogmatics may, in the process of exegesis, question some of the confession formulations. Unlike a theology of the Confessions, dogmatics must, furthermore, review the consensus of the Confessions with the ancient church as well as the consensus of the Reformation age, develop them further, even call them into question."
In other words, the confessions of the church are not infallible, and Scripture always, always, always trumps the confessions!
HT: Ben Myers