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Jun 03

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth


"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." – 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

This verse seems to be a favorite among Evangelicals. It's an essential part of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. It occurred to me yesterday that sola sciptura has not only the exegetical and hermeneutical consequences, with which most are already familiar, but also ecclesiological.

If there is a right way of dividing the Word, i.e. handling (RSV) or imparting without deviation (NAB), there must also be a wrong way (or several wrong ways). Obviously, Protestants do not believe that Catholics rightly divide the Word. We reject sola scriptura. In their eyes, that doctrine is essential to correct interpretation.

So I find myself wondering whose version of "scripture interpreting scripture" is to be believed? If sola scriptura is so right, shouldn't there be a single obvious Protestant counterpart to the Catholic Church? Why are there so many competing denominations today? Why are there thousands of new groups appearing every year? Shouldn't there be only one right division of the Word?

One of the key problems with sola scriptura is that it robs Protestants of a proper sense of ecclesiology. They have no unified Church to maintain and protect the Deposit of Faith. When only scripture can interpret scripture, there can be no authoritative external interpretation. For Catholics and Orthodox, this external authority is Sacred Tradition. It's what helps the Church maintain unity and orthodoxy. Heresy is relatively easy to identify and counter.

Protestants have no such authority to which they can appeal. One denominations's heresy is another's doctrine. Don't like what you're hearing? Find another place to hang your hat. Don't like any group you've tried? Start your own.

Why is sola scriptura a bad doctrine? By its fruits you will know it. One of those fruits is division in the Body of Christ.

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