I believe in certain areas (idolatry) they have done a much better job at adhering to the 10 Commandments than Christianity has done.
I know you said you know all the arguments re: iconography etc, so I won't make them. Instead I'll just ask: how do you feel about the rabid anti-incarnationalism espoused by Islam being the driving force behind their iconoclasm? Does this cast any doubt upon the validity of their influence on iconoclastic Christian confessions?
Here I agree with you but don't you think it might be 'safer' to stick with Scripture alone? I've been looking at Church History and it's a real train wreck at times. There isn't all that much clarity there. Different groups fighting one another anathamas going back and forth from one group in power and then from another. I don't see the work of the Holy Spirit among them. Do you?
Honestly, if that's the criteria, I don't see sola scriptura
as being a 'safe' alternative at all. I look at the early years of the Reformation--heck, even all the way up to today!--and the protestant millieu is a train wreck all its own, to be honest. Different groups would burn each other (never mind the Catholics!) at stakes, run each other out of town, etc, for differing interpretations of Scripture regarding such basic things as baptism, free will, communion, keeping or losing salvation, and more. Churches would split over issues about the millenium, or whether this or that move of the Holy Spirit was supported by Scripture, or whether salvation was one-time or ongoing...all these issues, however, are solved since the beginning of the faith within those groups who take into account the tradition of the Church which was universally agreed upon. I guess it all depends on what you classify as chaos. At least if there's one Church a council can be held to settle the debate; with sola scriptura there's no end to it...both sides just need a Bible verse to be on equal footing and keep on going as valid denominations.
Well before we go down this road let me say that I really appreciate your point of view and I think you've got a really good head on your shoulders
Why, thank you. Likewise.
but I don't think that Sola Scriptura was or is a doctrine of authority but one of necessity. I believe devout God fearing individuals looked at the Traditions and Corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and Church History and simply reached the conclusion that we simply can't trust Tradition as it is presented to us.
I absolutely agree that, when presented with the idea of tradition as it was presented by the medieval Roman Catholic Church
, the Reformers reacted in the only sensible way it knew how: by rejecting what they perceived as the tradition of the Church. Orthodox would say, however, that not only did the Roman Church seriously need some straightening out (hence our sympathy with the first protesters), but the Protestants needed to be exposed to the tradition of the Church as originally lived by the Eastern Fathers and Church
. The fact is, imo, that the often-subtle-seeming differences between eastern and western takes on certain ideas or practices have ramifications that, ultimately, would have made non-issues out of many of the things the Protestants initially were repulsed by. Unfortunately, this exposure didn't happen until ideas had already solidified and dichotomies already been drawn in the minds of Reformers to where, when they heard something that sounded Roman, they automatically took it to mean the same thing that the Romans meant
So the pitting of Scripture against Holy Tradition (and a western caricature of it, at that) really is, in our eyes, the greatest strawman argument ever made. If Protestants could see what the Tradition really originally meant to convey, most if not all of their beefs could be put aside, and Tradition embraced (as it should be) as a perfectly harmonious companion with Holy Scripture.
When I look at the mingling of pagan practices with Christianity my Protestant alert light just go crazy. I have no other way to explain it.
I understand your concern; truly I do. Yet, how do you feel (honestly, this isn't an attack; I want to know your honest reaction) about the fact that the Arians in the first Ecumenical Council rejected St. Athanasius' idea of Christ's sharing a divine essence with the Father simply because St. Athanasius' argument centered on an extra-biblical, originally pagan philosophical term, homoousious
? This would most definitely seem to be an incorporation of pagan philosophy with Christian thinking, yet it is the most thorough explanation of what you and I both believe about Christ that is out there; no biblical term is sufficient to describe it.
Another example, if I may (and, again, I'm interested in hearing your reaction to it): How would you feel if someone accused the apostles, due to their geographical proximity to polytheistic Greece and tendency towards hellenic Judaism, of a sort of Judeo-Greco syncretism due to their belief in a dying and resurrecting deity? As pensateomnia has pointed out elsewhere, Tammuz, Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus and Hades are all myths where the deity dies and is resurrected, yet we would not dare to jump to the conclusion that simply because there exists physical proximity and cultural influence that the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus was not a genuine event, nor that it was not a legitimate continuation of the Jewish tradition (even though Old Testament Judaism barely stressed bodily resurrection at all!). If, then, we are able to give the apostles the benefit of the doubt concerning this belief, even in the light of their geographical, cultural, linguistic and mythological similarities to certain pagan contemporaries, is it so unrealistic to at least concede the same benefit of the doubt to the Christians who followed them?
Yeah I think you are talking about our Hermeneutic. Sure we bring a particular Hermeneutic to Scripture but I also believe that that Hermeneutic should use Scripture to interpret Scripture which is the Protestant way of doing things.
Well, I think you're missing something here...using Scripture to interpret Scripture doesn't escape the fact that you are, in fact, using a tradition (or hermeneutic, if you like) to tell you which Scriptures to use to interpret which other Scriptures. For example, a hermeneutic may, if it is fueled by rationalist, enlightenment ideals, reject outright the possiblity of the mystical real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This causes the words of Christ, "This is My Body" to be automatically read in the same way one might read His words, "I am the Door": in a non-material, merely "spiritual" or invisible, symbolic way. When one uses this reading to deal with John 6, where Christ says to eat His flesh and drink His blood, the automatically "unclear" verse 54 is seen in the light of the verses before that that simply say to believe in Him (which is automatically seen as an internal, invisible decision in the heart, made rationally by the mind), and the verse after which says that "the Spirit gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing," which fits in quite nicely in a sort of psuedo-gnostic approach many rationalists find attractive. When all is said and done, however, it's clear that all of this "Scripture-to-Scripture" interpretation has as its fundamental basis
certain assumptions that the interpreter may not know s/he is even bringing to the table when s/he works with Scripture! In reality, said reader of Scripture is, quite unknowingly, using his/her own philosophical traditions to interpret Scripture instead of impartially reading it "as is" (the latter of which can never actually be done, imo).
My question, then, returns: Which
set of philosopical assumptions, then, do we adopt in order to even begin reading the Holy Scriptures, since we are bound to do so? Those of our own, modern age which are separated by the authors of the texts by time, culture and language, or those of the people who were separated by none of these things, who sat at the feet of the authors themselves and were trained by said authors for extensive amounts of time? My vote is with the latter, obviously. It just makes good sense to do that.
Philosophies like Neo-Platonism should be left at the door not incorporated into our faith. Doesn't that just scare you?
Not as much as the western, rationalist, enlightenment syncretism as seen in the teachings of the Reformers!