Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Respond to C.R.E.D.O 500's "Scripture and Tradition"

Overall the essay attempts to answer this question: How should the Reformed views the relation between scripture and tradition? Basically the author argues that (1) the Reformed must realizes the impossibility of being tradition-less in interpreting Scripture, and (2) the supreme authority of Scripture.

The essay rightly points out that no one can read the Scripture without tradition. Yet it falls short to recognize the entire arrangement of the proposal itself misses the point. If traditioned-ness is a given as the essay thoroughly affirms (p.6, 11, 16), then to peg the given vis-a-vis scripture is creating an unnecessary category mistake and not asking the right question. The question is not over the relation between scripture and tradition as the essay puts it. Rather it should be over the compatibility of a particular tradition with a particular interpretation of scripture. The essay entirely muddles over the universality and particularity relationship between scripture and tradition. The Reformers did not have problem with tradition as a universal concept (p.1-3) but only over some particular traditions which they deem had astray from orthodoxy. In short, the essay universalizes that which supposed to be treated in its particularity.

The essay highlighted correctly the supreme authority of the scripture, but such elevated categorization undermines scripture's own purpose. The scripture is presented as the "sole infallible and supreme authority over all matters of faith and life" (p.1, 7-8, 16), yet such statement is ambiguous at best. What are the criteria to consider which matters are of "faith and life"? Cardiology, as the study of the heart and its functions in health and disease, surely is a matter of 'life', so does the scripture has the supreme authority over this study? If yes, in what way it contributes to the enterprise?*

Secondly if canonical scripture cannot exist or understood except through tradition (for eg. the apostolic tradition and the regula fidei, p.1-3), then the essay fails to distinguish the former from the latter. A way to do that is to recognize the scripture as the 'written and canonized tradition' while all other channels of religious knowledge as 'post-written-and-canonized-tradition', in a broad sense. The matter of fallibility and infallibility of these two classifications is always provisional as constrained by the givenness of the progression of our collective learning.

*Though not so sure about 'faith', but it is meaningless to say that there is faith when we have no 'life'.

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