Gay Bishops and the Bible

Every year in recent memory has brought yet another mainstream, Protestant denomination into the tumultuous debates and traditional compromises of our present age. Whether the debate is in regards to same-sex marriage or openly homosexual clergy, it seems that such controversies and debates have become the norm.

Interestingly enough, each time such a debate occurs, the same appeals are heard from either side: “The Bible says…”; “Scripture clearly teaches…”; “We know from the Bible that…”

Despite appeals to the same source (the Protestant Bible), neither side is ever convinced of the other’s. The debate continues, and one side will eventually emerge as victorious.

Most recently, the Episcopal Church (USA)—the American branch of the Church of England—saw its markedly “liberal” manifestation emerge victorious in the blessing of same-sex unions and transgender clergy. While the Episcopal Church has been a doctrinal and moral nightmare for years, it seems it is truly nearing the end of its shuffle, as scores of bishops and entire dioceses are looking elsewhere for ecclesiastical fellowship. And yet, despite the “clear” prohibition of such resolutions in the Holy Scriptures, the Episcopalians (among others) are able to debate such an issue and see a position that most “conservative” Christians would consider to be “un-Biblical” win the day.

How does this happen?

Rick Warren has recently speculated on Twitter that this is all due to losing a focus on the Bible:

>@RickWarren Sad news: how America’s oldest denomination has collapsed after abandoning the Bible as the authority.

But is “abandoning the Bible” really to blame? Is that the heart of the issue? I don’t think so.

In fact, the dissenting bishops and clergy of the Episcopal Church both made appeals to the Bible as the authority for their viewpoints. The conservatives, such as David Thurlow, made statements like:

For two thousand years the Church has had clear teaching regarding Christian marriage and Biblical norms of sexual behavior… through previous statements and resolutions the Church has pledged itself not to make any change to this traditional teaching.

On the other hand, the openly gay Gene Robinson (a bishop of the Episcopal Church) has said:

We have allowed the Bible to be taken hostage, and it is being wielded by folks who would use it to hit us over the head…. The sin of Sodom had nothing to do with homosexual sex but was a failure to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans. Scripture is not as plainspoken as some would have us believe.

Indeed, it is not.

And because the Holy Scriptures (at least in part) lack a generous perspicuity, and because they are “capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters” (St. Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium), the Church must rely upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Tradition in order to maintain any semblance of order, apostolic succession and fidelity to the one, true faith of Jesus Christ and His apostles. And again, as St. Hilary of Poitiers once wrote, “Scripture is not in the reading, but in the understanding.” (Ad Constantium Aug., Bk. 2.9) It is not enough to simply possess the Holy Scriptures, or even to regularly read them—one must also be filled with the same Holy Spirit that aided in their composition and collection as the paramount portion of the Church’s sacred Tradition. This “mind of the Spirit” is found alone in the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Back in 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) also passed a resolution that allowed openly homosexual men (and women) with “partners” to serve as ordained clergy. While most “traditional” and “conservative” Christians reacted with disdain at such a decision—also describing it as un-Biblical and an abandonment of traditional, Biblical, Christian beliefs and values—it was yet again a prime example of Sola Scriptura in action (no matter how much those on the “conservative” side of Protestantism would hate to admit it).

For example, the ELCA news release at the time contained this interesting tidbit:

Pastor Richard Mahan of the ELCA West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod was among several speakers contending that the proposed changes are contrary to biblical teaching. “I cannot see how the church that I have known for 40 years can condone what God has condemned,” Mahan said, “Nowhere does it say in scripture that homosexuality and same sex marriage is acceptable of God.”

But others said a greater acceptance of people who are gay and lesbian in the church was consistent with the Bible. Bishop Gary Wollersheim of the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod said, “It’s a matter of justice, a matter of hospitality, it’s what Jesus would have us do.”

Again, nowhere in these statements do we find men (or women) claiming that they have “abandoned the Bible,” as Rick Warren lamented on Twitter. On the contrary, the justification for everything that they’re deciding is that such beliefs are “found in the Bible”—according to both sides simultaneously.

Does this mean that the Bible is openly contradictory? Not at all. Does it mean that we should abandon the Bible? Of course not. In fact, the Orthodox Church has an enormous amount of love for and veneration towards the Holy Scriptures.

What is necessary, however, is to be joined to the fellowship of the one, true Church. Because the Orthodox Church produced and canonized the Scriptures, the right understanding of the Bible is found in the Orthodox Church, and the Church has taken measures to ensure that this is never compromised and never lost—no matter what culture wars erupt and no matter what the spirit of the age might bring.

While the Scriptures clearly teach that actively homosexual behavior and relationships are a sin, we are not left with one’s personal interpretation of the Bible in order to establish and maintain this belief. It is not simply a matter for debate. Joined with the “plain reading of Scripture” are the decisions of bishops in councils and the writings of various Church fathers that help both corroborate this understanding and establish the mind of the Church on such matters. This consensus is the conscience of the entire Church (along with the Holy Spirit), and this ensures that it can (and will) never be changed.

While Rick Warren is right to lament the demise of the Episcopalians and their Christian principles, the issue is not due to their abandoning the Bible. The real issue is abandoning Holy Tradition and the unity of the faith that can alone be experienced in the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

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43 thoughts on “Gay Bishops and the Bible

  1. “>@RickWarren Sad news: how America’s oldest denomination has collapsed after abandoning the Bible as the authority.”

    He’s wrong. Episcopalians never had the Bible as ‘the authority’, so there’s been no abandonment.

    • The Anglican Communion (of which ECUSA is a part) traditionally rests on three pillars of authority: Scripture, Tradition and Reason. This article’s thesis is not that, as Warren claims, ECUSA has abandoned the Scripture, but rather essentially to ask: Whose tradition? Whose reason?

    • Episcopalians never had the Bible as ‘the authority’, so there’s been no abandonment

      That is hardly a fair statement. As a cradle Episcopalian who was raised in the Church in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I can tell you that there is a very great difference between the faith I was taught growing up and what passes for religion in the Episcopal Church today; and the authority of the Bible is a big part of the difference. To describe the change in the Episcopal Church over the last half-century as an “abandonment of Biblical authority” is substantially accurate.

      Here is what the Articles of Religion have to say about the authority of the Bible:

      Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

      While no clergyman or lay person in the Episcopal Church is required to “subscribe” to the Articles, they were the doctrinal standard of the Church of England from which the Episcopal Church came, and they were formally adopted by the Episcopal Church as its doctrinal standard when it separated from the Church of England in 1789. They remained the Episcopal Church’s formal doctrinal standard until the Prayer Book revision of 1979, at which time they were relegated to an appendix of “historical documents” (as if they were a museum piece representing “what we used to believe”).

      It is perhaps a less robust statement of the authority of the Bible than some other Protestants might like; but there can be no doubt that it says that the Bible is “the” authority.

      All of this takes nothing away from Fr Andrew’s main point, which is spot on. But let us be fair and accurate in stating the historical truth about the teachings of classic Anglicanism.

      • So what happened since the 60s? What accounts for the massive shift? How were the people who made the radical changes allowed in?

      • So what happened since the 60s? What accounts for the massive shift?

        How much time do you have?

        Seriously, that is a much more complex question than can be answered in the scope of a comment box. The root of the problem is found all the way back in the English Reformation of the sixteenth century (when “Anglicanism” as a distinct form of Christianity came into being). The decision was made at that time that the unity of the Church was the religious expression of the unity of the nation and of loyalty to the Crown, rather than being based on the common confession of the orthodox Christian faith. This allowed multiple “parties” to arise within the Church of England, all of which had different doctrinal viewpoints.

        Fast forward to the Episcopal Church of the mid-twentieth century, and you still have a Church in which doctrinal unity and doctrinal orthodoxy are not all that important. In that environment, it was easy for those for whom “progressive” political and social causes were more important than fidelity to the Gospel to thrive, and to come to positions of leadership in the Episcopal Church. Once that happened, everything that has happened in the Episcopal Church in the last half-century has simply been a logical consequence.

        That’s a quick, but not inaccurate, summary of how the internal logic of Anglicanism led to the total apostasy of the Episcopal Church. Entire books could be (and probably have been) written to flesh out the details; but that is the combox version.

    • Sorry, I should have said “All of this takes nothing away from Mr Martini’s main point, which is spot on.” Fr Andrew is the founder of this blog, but Vincent Martini is the author of this excellent post.

      • I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I must disagree. Fr. Andrew has it right when he says that: “The Anglican Communion (of which ECUSA is a part) traditionally rests on three pillars of authority: Scripture, Tradition and Reason”

        Ergo, Scripture was never ‘the authority’, but one of many sources of authority, in addition to which I might want to add that how the Bible is read has never been doctrinally determined in Anglicanism as a whole.

        There’s nothing heretical or unorthodox about the Episcopal Church today.
        However, it’s also true that in the religious marketplace that is the USA, the strand of Anglicanism that emphasises the Bible as the primary source of authority has been getting smaller, and splitting away.

      • Perhaps it would be safe to say in answer to Struans, that within Christian Orthodoxy (and true orthodoxy), “tradition” and “reason” have always been understood to be a communal activity led of the Holy Spirit within the one, holy, apostolic and Orthodox Church of Christ as is expressed in the consensus of the Church Fathers, in the Councils, etc. *The Holy Spirit does not disagree with Himself over time.* Since within the Episcopal communion, understandings of the Scriptures today abound that represent not only different, but actually opposed, meanings to what has always been affirmed within the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic and Orthodox Church to be the proper sense of the Scriptures, it cannot be affirmed to be “Orthodox” or even “orthodox”in any true sense of the word.

  2. When I used to teach at an Evangelical Church – when I was only ‘influenced’ by Orthodoxy – I used to argue that what held the Evangelical Churches together was not The Bible itself, but a common exegetical ‘tradition.’ That is really and interpretive framework that was really the authority for the Sola Scriptura churches, the the scriptures themselves. Granted – I think that the Sola churches tend to view their interpretive framework as a given component OF the Scriptures themselves. That is, they view the Scriptures and their interpretation within the Protestant framework as an integrated whole.

    This is less true in rigorous academic circles – but at the pastoral / local body level, you really have a group of folks who view the Bible as a plainly read book without the need for any extra interpretive work.

      • Ummm… to make money?

        In all seriousness – very few EVs look to study Bibles to clarify the types of passages we’re discussing here. They’re mostly used to identify and clarify difficult history / vague passages.

  3. It’s an excellent point, but I wonder if things really are this simple. If recent events in the OCA are any indication, it seems that even (Holy) Tradition is not an impenetrable way of safe-guarding o(O)rthodoxy (not that the deposition of one Metropolitan indicates the fall of doctrinal fidelity, but still…).

    http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/same-sex-marriage-and-the-revolt-against-metropolitan-jonah/

    http://www.monomakhos.com/ineptocracy/

    Where is the disconnect between the great theology (prayer/practice/dogma) of Orthodoxy and the messes in which it sometimes finds itself? Maybe I’m not making some distinction that I ought to be making, but this one has left me confused and some Protestants nearly crowing about the validity of their visible/invisible Church doctrine.

    http://www.geneveith.com/2012/07/13/changes-in-the-orthodox-church/

    • T. Stanton,
      That was my lame attempt at a joke. Scripture is not easy, and instruction for the difficult passages is essential. Those that crusade for private interpretation somehow lose sight of the fact that book stores are filled with Study Bibles that really seek to fill the void of a parish Priest.

    • “Where is the disconnect between the great theology (prayer/practice/dogma) of Orthodoxy and the messes in which it sometimes finds itself?”

      Speculation is not necessarily a “mess,” but the “disconnect” is found in the fact that the Church is a theanthropic entity, and the “humanity” must always be sanctified by the Divinity. Sometimes, certain individuals do a better job than others. The Church has always dealt with “problems,” but that doesn’t deny that she is “the pillar and ground of the truth.”

  4. Vincent, I’d like to offer a few comments. First, thanks for the article. I do want to disagree a bit. I’m not convinced that those in the Episcopal / PCUSA / ELCA who favor the endorsement of openly gay clergy are using the Bible to back up their beliefs. While Rick Warren and others who favor the traditional teachings are pointing to CLEAR passages of scripture to back up their views, those who are trying to change those denominations are only making vague references to things like “Jesus loves all”, “we must accept all”, etc. They can’t point to specific passages that favor their views of endorsing openly gay clergy.

    But my main point/question is this. As a person who is still Protestant, but is very open to and quite interested in Orthodoxy, I have to say that I would have been much more receptive to your article two short weeks ago. That was before Metropolitan Jonah was forced out of the OCA for his views in support of the Church’s centuries old teaching on marriage. I’ll be honest. Even as a Protestant, when I’d look around and see the PCUSA cave in, then the Episcopals, then the ELCA, and on and on, I would think to myself, well at least the Orthodox won’t change, because they don’t change anything. I mean that as a compliment. As I started to read about and discover the Orthodox Church, possibly the most appealing thing to me was the Church never changes. It’s held fast to the truth for two thousand years. And then last week, I read the news about Metropolitan Jonah, and in a sense, my “safety net”, if you will, came crumbling down. I feel like now, even the Orthodox are in the same boat as everyone else, capitulating to the culture. Honestly, I’m not in a very good place anymore, wondering if any church will hold fast to the truth.

    • Your feelings about what happened in the OCA aside, there is no proof other than what Metropolitan Jonah stated in his resignation letter that his leaving had anything to do with marriage or any other political stance he may/may not have taken. It’s all conjecture. The last time I checked the OCA still exists; meaning the supposed signed death warrants are null and void. Praise the Lord.

      • Thanks Jason, I come with an honest question, and you respond with a snarky, “protect the turf” response. And all this time I naively thought the Orthodox were exempt from the “bury your head in the sand” mentality. Sure, Metropolitan Jonah quit so that he could go sell used cars. I mean, Metropolitans just quit all the time, right? Or I guess ALL of the Orthodox bloggers who have commented are all wrong. Glad you take solace that the OCA stil exists. Newsflash my friend, the PCUSA, the ECUSA, and the ELCA all still exist as well.

        • A few moderatorial points:

          1. Gentlemen, chill out.

          2. No one’s faith should be shaken by the Metropolitan Jonah situation. He’s just one man. This sort of thing (whatever it is) has happened before.

          3. I really have no idea why Metropolitan Jonah’s situation has been brought up here. There’s rather a big difference between the particulars of Orthodox ecclesiastical politics and the radical evolution of doctrine and morality that has taken place in ECUSA.

          4. There are a quadrizillion other places online to discuss the Metropolitan Jonah situation. Please make use of one or more of them, should you feel led. Further comments on this won’t be published here.

          5. Thanks!

          • Fr. Andrew,

            I apologize for bringing up the Metropolitan Jonah situation. My main point though was to point out that Orthodoxy faces the same sorts of problems (hopefully on a smaller scale!) than the ECUSA. Of course the point of the original post still stands. Still, it is puzzling that a communion with such a long and solid Tradition faces these modernist problems as if She were born yesterday. I just don’t get it, is all.

            • Sin and variations in opinion (even heretical opinions) aren’t particularly modern problems. These things have been with us since NT times. The difference here is that the ECUSA is not moored to a corrective tradition.

              In any event, the OCA’s particular troubles, while of course troubling, are only one tiny corner of 0.1% of Orthodoxy. That’s not quite the same as an entire province of the Anglican Communion spending decades going off the rails.

              I have my doubts that “modernist” issues are really what’s troubling the OCA. Are there people with some heretical opinions? Yes, sure. But the Tradition corrects such people and limits their influence. That’s not how things work in the Anglican Communion, which was founded from Day One on a foundation of doctrinal pluralism.

      • If anyone in the OCA had an issue with Met. Jonah’s stances on gay marriage and abortion (for example), it was his tendencies to over-politicize the issues — but NOT being in favor of gay marriage or abortion (at least, to my knowledge). In other words, we’re the Orthodox Church. We don’t need to sign a “Manhattan Declaration” or join in parades to prove our orthodoxy.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my take.

        Either way, these things are for the Lord to sort out. The Faith soldiers on.

  5. Fr. Andrew, thanks.
    1. Point taken. My apologies to you and to Jason.
    2. I hope you’re right.
    3. I guess It’s hard to respond since you said in #4 that there will be no more discussion on the matter of MJ. I guess that’s kind of a discussion stopper, but it’s your blog, so that’s your call. But to your last sentence in #3, you of course realize that the ECUSA (or any of the others for that matter who have gone down that path) didn’t just show up one summer to the conference and make all these radical changes at once. One can wonder if those situations began a long time ago with an “ecclesiatical political” issue.

    • Arianism didn’t arrive or go away over night, either. Whether these things have their origins in politics really is immaterial. The point is whether there actually is the possibility within a tradition for it to correct those who depart from it, even if that correction may take a while. The Anglican Communion doesn’t really have that possibility, because from the beginning it enthroned reason (and sometimes, experience) as an authoritative source of Christian teaching. Pluralism has been there the whole time.

      Orthodoxy has no such provision. Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy. Those handful who reject the Church’s moral teachings really have no leg to stand on within Orthodoxy. They can only import ideas of doctrinal development from elsewhere. But such transplants can’t take root, because they’re from alien soil.

    • Alan,

      Ask the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian — who attempted to remove an Icon of the Lord Jesus Christ from the Chalke Gate in Constantinople in the year 726 — how far these un-Orthodox reforms tend to go in the Orthodox Faith.

      Long story short, the “little old women” of the Church beat the crap out of the Roman soliders who tried to take it down, and a riot spread through the city.

      Extreme of an example as it may be, Orthodoxy has a way of correcting itself when any heresies (such as Iconoclasm) arise and attempt to take hold. It always works out in the end, and this is indeed a major part of our ecclesiology and Faith — the “Gates of Hades” will never prevail against the Church, no matter how bad things seem to get.

      • I have a few honest questions (and please remove if this gets too far astray back into the OCA’s particular circumstance today):

        Three cheers for the “little old ladies” who guard the Tradition of the Church! I pray for grace to be one of those (I’m a woman, I’m not very tall and I’ve entered the “golden years,” so I have a fighting chance at least). In reflecting on how a lay person (or member of the clergy) should respond who sees heresy and hypocrisy troubling a particular institution of the Church, I’m asking myself, besides fervent prayer and moral courage and clinging to the true Tradition (as best one can), what ought one do when faced with this circumstance? How can one discern when an act of personal moral courage is called for?

        It is certainly true that the Church will withstand all assaults upon her. That does not hold true for all of her various institutions; however, nor all her local expressions. Witness the decimation of the Christian populations of the Middle-East, for one example. A similar decimation occurred under Communism in the former U.S.S.R.

        We rejoice that the Church has withstood these assaults, but ought we not also mourn the consequences for those who have inherited the relative spiritual wasteland that resulted? I have been challenged by others to recognize that what is a very appropriate and joyful confidence in the Church’s stability in Christ should not become an excuse for shirking an act of moral courage when it is called for to preserve the fullness of the Church’s witness in a particular local circumstance. Indeed, it is upon such acts of self-sacrifice and moral courage that the Church has been built up from its Foundation.

    • Alan,
      No apology necessary. I wasn’t attempting snark at all. I should have been more charitable in my response, which was probably more affected by all of the recent speculation regarding that situation and my frustration with all of that; specifically those who are so quick to write the OCA’s Obituary – some even inside the Church, which I simply don’t understand. So, please forgive me for being rude. The point I wanted to make toward your comment, is that despite these bumps, shortcomings and dire predictions, Orthodoxy; of which the OCA is a part of; will continue to live on and indeed thrive in this country – for there’s really only one direction to go. Others have made this point far better than I have but hopefully this clears the air here a bit.

  6. True story, in a rather long conversation, I had a Protestant pastor (Reformed), tell me once that a church based on the Bible, like all Protestant denominations are, is far better than a church based on tradition/authority like the Orthodox, even if the Orthodox tradition provides the correct interpretation of the Scriptures.

  7. Fr. Andrew and Mr. Martini, thank you for your responses on the idea that truth will prevail in the Orthodox Church. They are quite helpful to me and I’m appreciative. Mr. Martini, regarding your point that we’re the Orthodox Church, we don’t need to sign the MD to prove our orthodoxy, I don’t believe anyone was trying to prove anything. It was simply a statement to the culture at large that we stand for certain things, and we’re not shifting with the political winds. What’s the harm in that? I for one was glad to see Bishop Basil and Met Jonah (along with some other Orthodox if I remember correctly) boldly stand up for what they believe.

  8. Here is a quote from an article on ECUSA Bishop Schori that I think helps make the point of the original post (found at the Anglo-Catholic blog):

    “The bishop said that much of the conflict over sexuality among Episcopalians and Anglicans — and more widely, among Christians — comes from their differing interpretations of scripture. She warned against taking a strictly literal approach to the Bible.

    “The best of scriptural interpretation is about looking at the whole document and the direction in which it is moving rather than pulling out pieces that point to your point of view or prejudice,” she said. “When Christians read their scripture that way, they have much more fruitful conversations with Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs who read their scripture that way.”

  9. The old Anglican triad is not how we do theology; it is how theology is done, by anyone. Those who say they do it otherwise are incorrect.

    When Gene Robinson says what he says, one can reasonably check what he says against what scripture actually says. One is not required to take his assertions as given. It doesn’t take a lot of examination to determine that the bishop’s side of this argument relies for its authority first on the opinions of homosexuals that there is nothing wrong with them, and second on a secularist moral viewpoint on sexuality whose objective support is, in my opinion, rather weak. Saying that this side “has abandoned the bible” is a shorthand way of saying that they have a hermeneutic which allows them to blunt scriptural texts which do not fit into the secularist viewpoint which tends to function as a stronger authority.

    Finally, I do not agree that the bible gains its authority because it comes form the church. First, this does not seem to me to be a historically accurate representation of canon formation. But far more importantly, the only authority of the gospels that is adequate is that they do reflect the words and acts of Jesus with sufficient accuracy, and the church cannot make this be so or not be so.

  10. I would think that the drastic changes we’ve seen in the ECUSA since the 1950s or so are more a reflection of societal changes and the apparent traditional of the ECUSA to keep up with changing societal beliefs. The ECUSA is not a leader — it is a follower, essentially a mirror of society.

    Even though America has never had a state church, the Episcopal church in this country has historically been the most influential and possibly the most wealthy. Countless influential Americans in politics, business, industry, government, etc. have been and continue to be members of the Episcopal church. Even the presiding bishop’s church is the “National Cathedral” in DC (… but I thought that America did not have a state-sponsored “national faith”)? So influential was the ECUSA in America that President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the “National Cathedral.” The famous first world war General John J. Pershing led fundraising for the cathedral after World War I.

    The ECUSA has always been at the front of American popular society. With the drastic changes in popular societal beliefs that began occurring in the 1960s (in terms of beliefs concerning marriage and sexuality, for example), wasn’t the ECUSA faced with the need to change its own teachings in order to continue to be at the forefront of popular America, lest it be behind the times and left out?

    The ECUSA is more a reflection of modern cultural thought than a leader in forming popular beliefs — I think this was as true in conservative America back in 1920 (when the ECUSA was known as the “Republican party at prayer”) as it is today in a much less conservative 21st century America. I’ve heard that these days, one could accurately refer to the ECUSA as “CNN at prayer.”

    • This shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering our English heritage as colonies. Despite the widespread Deism and Freemasonry among the founders of our nation, there was still a nominal adherence to the CoE (if for no other reason, than for the fact that we were “English”).

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  12. I can personally attest to what Mr. Martini is saying. I’ve seen people use Romans 13 to argue for a pacifist position – and their arguments are quite sound! On the other hand, I’ve seen people use this same passage to argue the Bible permits ‘just war’, Again, their reasoning is also sound. I once held both ideas at different times, convincing myself of the merits in each position. Now, I just say that the passage on its own is simply too ambiguous to support either position. No wonder Protestants have +20,000 denominations!

    I was raised Evangelical and taught to believe in sola scriptura fanatically. However, now I see that the problem was not ‘insufficient Bible study’ or ‘x denomination isn’t Bible-based’ or ‘so-and-so doesn’t read their Bible’. Rather, the problem is sola scriptura itself. Glapion, a contemporary of Luther, compared the Bible to soft wax, which the hand could mould and stretch at will. How prescient he was!

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