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October 04, 2008



I have heard many of these arguments before but unfortunately, McNight still suffers from the Evangelical presupposition of sola scriptura, meaning "by scripture alone."

What American Evangelicals fail to acknowledge time and time again is that the church existed for three hundred years before the canon was officially verified. Eastern and Roman churches view scripture through Tradition because it was Tradition that chose what was going to be scripture in the first place. The councils chose which books were going to make up the canon based on what Tradition was already practicing. There were many epistles and gospels that did not make it into what we call the New Testament today, precisely because they did not support what the Church leadership already considered its identity.

It seems silly to me to argue that God gave Christian leaders in the 4th century the supernatural ability to make one good decision, (that is, the selection of the canon), and yet let them be way off on a lot of the other weird "ritualistic stuff" that Roman and especially Eastern Christians still practice today. A better argument might be from a "historical viewpoint." Are the Eastern and Roman churches what Jesus and the original disciples originally had in mind? But unfortunately, I'm not sure that modern American Evangelicalism would hold up to that scrutiny very well either.

It's no coincidence that the doctrine of sola scriptura didn't really start catching steam amongst protestants until after Vatican I when Catholics started pushing the infallibility of the pope.

While not yet a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, I do feel the need to play devil's advocate to what I see as McNight's wounded argument. The truth is, this is merely one side of the larger debate for authority in the Church, and something I've not yet fully resolved for myself. In the end, which has the greatest authority? Tradition, Scripture, or History? I'm not sure if a clear answer exists.


(Incidentally, a proper Eastern Christian would probably argue that they never lost "the spirit" in their worship and theology and that it was the western church—and its later protestant offshoots—that lost the Holy Spirit when they made their faith too Christological in focus rather than trinitarian.)

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