In the 1997 Christianity Today article, "Why I'm not Orthodox",
Daniel Clendenin, a western professor in Moscow, writes:
I think this is true. I don't think Evangelicals promote any kind of confession, even without a priest, where they tell God they repent of their sins, although some of them may do this.
I found this to be a remarkable passage counterposing Scripture and Tradition:
When Martin Luther burned the books of Catholic canon law at Wittenberg's Elster Gate on December 10, 1520, he symbolized an important Protestant distinctive. Whatever honor Protestants bestow upon tradition, they deny that its authority is coequal with Scripture. Thus Luther once wrote, "What else do I contend for but to bring everyone to an understanding of the difference between the divine Scripture and human teaching or custom?" Calvin objected to the "tyranny of human tradition which is haughtily thrust upon us under the title of the Church." The Reformers did not reject tradition as a help to wisdom, as a reading of Calvin, Luther, or Wesley easily shows. What they objected to was the elevation of tradition to the status of Scripture.
I assume some Catholic canons had good content, even from a protestant perspective, so burning all of them seems "inflammatory." In any case,
St Peter wrote in the New Testament that reading scripture is not a matter of private interpretation, because scripture came from the Holy Spirit. Instead, St Peter meant that the real interpretation comes from the Church (which would be nonprivate interpretation).
So if you say traditional interpretation of scripture has a lower status than scripture, isn't this comparing apples to oranges, saying that glasses have a "lesser status" than the books they are needed to read?
Besides that, I think at least some traditions would have been divinely inspired over 2000 years- that would be a long time for God to leave alone the Church. And isn't divine inspiration the measuring stick for the kind of status Luther is talking about?
I think so. In my opinion, since the Church Fathers sometimes disagreed on things (like St Augustine's ideas), the Orthodox Church doesn't give equal weight to everything Church Fathers said as the weight given to the scriptures. Rather, the idea is that there is a divine inspiration somewhere within the body of Church Tradition, and this divine inspiration is equal to that in scripture.
I think that the author may be aware of the "apples and oranges" issue, and thus he writes:
One can find Orthodox statements that ascribe a unique authority to Scripture over tradition, but these are few and far between, and they speak of tradition in a narrower than usual sense.
However, the author doesn't give examples or explain what he means here, and I would have encouraged him to pursue this issue. I think understanding the distinction this would lead to him realizing more clearly that Divine Inspiration exists in both, and that the theoretical criticism he makes about "status" is semantic.The author also gives a quote
from a writer named Karmiris, who he never identifies:
Karmiris writes, "Scripture and Tradition are equally valid, possess equal dogmatic authority, and are equal in value as sources of dogmatic truth . …This conception lessens the validity and value of the Holy Scriptures as the primary source of Christian dogma."
I find Karmiris' quote troubling, because I do see Scripture to be the primary written source. But in any case I see Scripture as part of Tradition - a writing that was canonized and passed down- so I think Karmiris and Clendenin are focusing on a false dichotomy.
The topic of private interpretation vs the Church's interpetation reminds me of St Peter's words:2 Peter 1: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies...The article summarizes Orthodox and Evangelical ideas,
but disappointingly it doesn't really explain, in my view, why the author agrees with one view or the other. For example: OK, Martin Luther said Scripture is below Tradition, and Orthodox say "Scripture stands within rather than above the church", but why do you feel that Luther's view was correct? Why isn't Scripture passed down as part of Tradition?
Thus the author concludes disappointingly and didactically:
To my friend who asked why I had not converted to Orthodoxy, the answer was surprisingly easy. I responded by writing back: "Because I am committed to key distinctives of the Protestant evangelical tradition."
Please note the quote's last word.