I plan on including this in my book, and I'm hoping you guys can critique it and help me fine tune it. Thanks!
Protestants will argue that the Scriptures came directly from God, and that the Church was founded upon the Scriptures. They assert that the Church was established by the words of Christ, which are recorded in the Holy Bible. And this is not necessarily incorrect. But Orthodoxy rightly points out that the Bible came to us in
the institution of the Church; and thus apart from the Teachings and Traditions of the Church, the Scriptures will never be correctly understood.
The 27 books of the New Testament were not compiled until 367 A.D., by St. Athanasius. So, how did Christians of the first four centuries grow in the Faith without the New Testament? The answer is apostolic Teaching and Tradition. Even after the New Testament was compiled and canonized, most people did not have access to it, and many people were illiterate and could not read the Scriptures even if they had them.
The doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (The Scriptures Alone) was contrived by Martin Luther in the 16th century. Seeking a way to circumvent accountability to ecclesiastical authority (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church, which incidentally had apostatized from the apostolic Faith in 1054 A.D.), Luther up and declared that the “Bible alone” is the only authoritative source of Christian truth and spiritual instruction. Besides being a purely subjective doctrinal innovation, Sola Scriptura also casts aspersion on 1500 years of preceding Christian history, during which thousands of Saints and Martyrs gave their lives for the apostolic Faith, “which was once for all delivered unto the Saints."[Jude 3]
Until the invention of the Gutenburg Printing Press in the middle of the 15th century, the Bible was essentially unavailable to the masses. Thus, Christian faith was primarily shaped and informed by 1500 years of unbroken and unaltered apostolic Teaching and Tradition. The era that secular historians disparage as the “Dark Ages” was actually an era illumined by the Orthodox Christian light of the Saints, Martyrs, and Fathers of the Faith. Thus if Luther was correct in maintaining that Scripture alone is the only authoritative source of Christian understanding, then what does that say about those Christians who lived in the centuries when the Bible was not available to them? If “Sola Scriptura” is correct, then the Christians who did not have the Scriptures must have been following mere superstition or mere human tradition. Their saintly struggles and martyrdom were only in vain. This is one of the blasphemous but logical conclusions of “Sola Scriptura.”
When the subjectivity of “Sola Scriptura” is pointed out to them, Protestants will often cite the mantra, “Scripture interprets Scripture.”
But the Bible is not able to actually interpret itself. Although the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired (“Inspired”- Greek: “theo-pneustos;”i.e. “God-breathed” - II Timothy 3:16), the Bible can only be interpreted by people
. And each individual person will interpret it differently. So there are only two options: 1) Submit the Scriptures to the endless subjective interpretations of individual men or groups of individuals; or 2) Allow the divinely established apostolic Church of Christ to interpret and explain the Holy Scriptures for the edification and enlightenment of the Christian people.
Although the Church is comprised of individual persons, its objective holy Teachings have been divinely instituted and preserved through apostolic succession. Thus, Orthodox Christians are not susceptible to the errors of a subjective and individualistic biblical hermeneutic. Instead, we corporately rely upon the divine apostolic interpretations that have been given to us in, through, and by the infallible Church of Our Lord.
Consider Acts 8:26-39, which records the encounter of the Apostle Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian eunuch was a devout man of the Judaic Faith who was returning from Jerusalem where he had travelled to worship. St. Philip encountered the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot reading aloud from the book of Isaiah, and he asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian replied, “How can I unless someone guides me?” [Acts 8:31]
St. Philip then “preached Jesus to him”
[Acts 8:35]. The Ethiopian eunuch’s understanding of the Scriptures was enlightened by the Apostle’s guidance, and he was consequently converted and baptized by St. Philip. (Acts 8:36-38)
This account demonstrates the necessity of ecclesiastical instruction in regard to the interpretation of the Scriptures. The Ethiopian’s conversion teaches us that individual efforts to understand the Scriptures are inadequate apart from the guidance and interpretation of apostolic authority. The Ethiopian’s humility and his willingness to submit to apostolic instruction enabled him to enter into a relationship with Christ and His Church. His sincere faith and obedience to apostolic guidance also enabled the entire nation of Ethiopia to subsequently embrace the Christian Faith. And this ancient and authentic Orthodox Christian Faith continues to form the essence of Ethiopian culture to this very day.
We must remember that the gates of hell may prevail over many things: individuals, families, denominations, governments, tribes, or nations; but the gates of hell shall not prevail against The Church
. (St. Matthew 16:18) Therefore, Orthodoxy is founded upon that divine institution which Christ has eternally established, preserved, and protected. We do not subscribe to “Sola Scriptura;” instead, we hold to the Teachings and Traditions of the Church, apart from which the sacred Scriptures will never be truly understood.
To seek the meaning of the Scriptures outside of their proper ecclesiastical context is to demean and disrespect their sacred purpose. Those that truly love the Word of God (St. John 1:1; Hebrews 4:12-13) will submit to the Teachings and Traditions of His Church. Professing Christians who reject apostolic Teaching and Tradition prove that they love not the Bible, but rather their own subjective interpretations and fallible human opinions. And ironically, the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” is simply not Scriptural; for nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to base our Christian Faith on the Bible alone
Selam,Gebre Menfes Kidus