I have a dear Christian “friend” who loves to discuss spiritual things with me. I have come to believe, however, that such discussions are basically pointless due to her reliance on “solo” rather than “sola” scriptura. My main frustration is summed up in the following quote:
In terms of hermeneutics, the doctrine of “solo” Scriptura is hopeless. With “solo” Scriptura, the interpretation of Scripture becomes subjective and relative, and there is no possibility for the resolution of differences. It is a matter of fact that there are numerous different interpretations of various parts of Scripture. Adherents of “solo” Scriptura are told that these different interpretations can be resolved simply by an appeal to Scripture. But how is the problem of differing interpretations to be resolved by an appeal to another interpretation? All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture. The only real question is: whose interpretation? People with differing interpretations of Scripture cannot set a Bible on a table and ask it to resolve their differences. In order for the Scripture to function as an authority, it must be read and interpreted by someone. According to “solo” Scriptura, that someone is each individual, so ultimately, there are as many final authorities as there are human interpreters. This is subjectivism and relativism run amuck. The proponents of “solo” Scriptura rightly condemn the hermeneutical tyranny of Rome, but the solution to hermeneutical tyranny is not hermeneutical anarchy.
Here is a fictional example of how this plays out in our conversations:
FRIEND: What is your understanding of Passage A?
ME: I take Passage A to mean X. [Please note that “X” here equals the traditional, historic Protestant understanding of Passage A].
FRIEND: You’re wrong. That’s not what it means.
ME: Oh? What do you understand Passage A to be saying?
FRIEND: I’m not going to tell you what I think. I’m going to let the Bible show you what it says.
ME: Okay…but what I’m telling you is what the Bible has shown me it says.
FRIEND: Well, you don’t read your Bible enough.
ME: Okay…well I’m not sure how you come to that conclusion just because we have a difference of opinion. It’s a little hard for me to know how to respond to you when I don’t know where you’re coming from. Why don’t you just tell me what you think Passage A says?
FRIEND: It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what the Bible says.
ME: I appreciate that but let me explain to you why I think Passage A means X….
FRIEND: [interrupting me and dismissing what I’m trying to say]. That’s wrong. You don’t know how to study your Bible properly.
ME: Okay…well let me read you something Matthew Henry had to say about Passage A.
FRIEND: I don’t care what Matthew Henry says. I just care about what the Bible says. [At this point I am thinking of Proverbs 18: 13, 17 but I don’t know how to bring these verses up without sounding like I’m being insulting].
ME: Well, I’m happy to discuss what the Bible says with you. The problem is that you can quote Bible verses to me all day and we will not agree on what they mean because we are each approaching them from a different framework of understanding. Now there are many people throughout history who have written on Passage A who can explain X understanding far better than I…
FRIEND: I’m not interested in reading what they have to say. I am only interested in reading things written by people who agree with me. [At this point I am thinking my friend is rather anti-intellectual but there’s no way of saying that politely without being accused of worshiping intellect and reason].
ME: Okay…well then I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help you see what I’m trying to tell you.
FRIEND: Your problem is that you’re listening to other people when you should just be studying your Bible. You need to get into your Bible more and then you will see that your understanding is wrong.
ME: Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.
I have not, as of yet, been able to surmount this difficulty with my “friend.” She is of the impression that I just don’t have enough respect for God’s Word and that I mishandle and abuse it. I, on the other hand, can see that she has misunderstood something in her studies but cannot determine what that is and bring my friend to a point where she is willing to listen to what I have to say. If anyone has any suggestions on talking to someone who thinks this way, please let me know!
Note: On re-reading this, it occurs to me that someone reading this might think I am talking specifically about them and become offended. Please note that my “friend” a composite of people I have talked with and is not meant to be taken as a reference to any particular person.