In this series on how Scripture has been understood in the history of the Church, we will be reading through J.S. Holcomb’s Christian Theologies of Scripture. Today’s post will make brief remarks about Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, the Catholic Reform (Counter Reformation).
Scripture communicates a “kind” of science (scientia): knowledge God has of God’s self, the wisdom that transcends human understanding that satiates human desire for wisdom, the ability of Scripture to lead/guide the reader to the beatific vision.
Scripture “traditions” God’s wisdom to humans who, through the Spirit, can be conducted toward the beatific vision.
Scripture has four senses: letter, allegory, morality, and anagogy. The literal sense is “thicker” than how we understand literal today.
“To follow Thomas as a reader of scripture, then, is to confess that one is not the master of truth, and that one must give oneself over to the pedagogy of desire, to the long road of the transformation of the soul. Scripture may be mysterious, but it is not a mystery; rather it constitutes the route by which the soul might be led toward union with the mystery who is its Author” (78, by Candler).
Famous statement at the Diet of Worms shaped Luther: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God” (95, by Mattox; from LW, 32, 112).
Scripture was for Luther something for the Church and for ordinary people; he was a pastor with the Bible. Scripture is about Christ and it is not interpreted aright until it points toward Christ. Scripture is clear – externally and internally (when believer is in tune with the Spirit).
To read the Bible means: beginning with prayer, meditation of the whole person, and being put to the test in real life. He believed in methods and tools; learn the languages.
Scripture is about Law and Gospel.
Tradition is fine so long as it does not contradict Scripture (as he understood it).
Calvin dedicated his life to restoring Scripture to the Church and training future pastors for Church ministry.
Scripture comes from God: until this is confessed and believed, Scripture cannot become what it is. It is therefore normative for the believer, and it can establish certainty if the believer is instructed by the Spirit (witness of Spirit). Scripture is self-authenticating.
Calvin was committed to the value of teachers and interpreters of the Bible. It begins with learning a basic theology around topics; then the interpreters reads the text as both humanly and divinely authored; accommodation by God to humans is big for Calvin (along with the progress and development of revelation). He was committed to textual criticism and to awareness of the history of interpretation. Alongside this, Calvin knew that interpreters did not agree.
Calvin was committed to lay persons daily reading the Bible.
The approach to Scripture is to be docile and obedient; it is written – God accommodating himself – for edification, not for theological disputes.
Luther was closer to the medieval methods and Calvin to the historical-critical method.
Not a long chapter, but what needs to be understood is that reform on how to read the Bible and the relation of the Bible to tradition was pre-Luther and pre-Calvin. This chp sketches lots of names and issues: textual criticism, relationship of Scripture and tradition, a greater commitment to the literal sense.
Trent made decisions on canon (included the “deuterocanonicals”), tradition (“these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions” and rejection of sola scriptura), and a commitment to the Vulgate and its gradual reform by investigating best readings.