After a lengthy side-trip into the Lutheran understanding of conversion, we’re wrapping up the three solas by talking about the last one, namely sola Scriptura. That’s a fancy way of saying that Lutheran beliefs are based on Scripture alone. For us, what’s contained in God’s Word is the final authority when it comes to Christian beliefs. The confessions (like the Book of Concord or Luther’s Small Catechism) are important, but only insofar as they help focus our understanding of the Bible. They are the lenses, not the light itself.
Diving a little deeper, Lutherans have a few other beliefs about the Bible that are kind of important. These may not be exclusive just to us, but we take them seriously.
For starters, we believe that scripture interprets scripture. We don’t consult with tradition or today (or tomorrow’s) newspaper to try to understand what the Bible says. Instead, we believe that the Bible is best at explaining itself. Even more specifically, we believe that the more clear portions should interpret the less clear. In other words, if we find something that doesn’t quite make sense or we have difficulty explaining or understanding, we don’t base a doctrine on that verse. Instead, we turn to the parts of the Bible that we understand better to see if it will help clear up the confusion.
But, more importantly than that, Lutherans believe that all of Scripture is Christocentric. That’s a fancy way of saying that we believe that Jesus is the beating heart of God’s Word. After all, He is God’s Living Word. All of Scripture points to and finds fulfillment in Him. He is the lens that helps us understand the Bible best.
So what if the Bible is silent on a subject? Well, then Lutherans would categorize that as adiaphora. This is a Greek word that means “indifferent things.” If the Bible doesn’t have a clear command for or against something, we consider that a matter of freedom that’s up to the Christian to decide for him- or herself. For example, do we have to use an organ for worship? The Bible doesn’t have a word about organs, pro or con, so it’s up to the individual congregation. It’s adiaphora.
I could probably keep going, but I think this covers it well enough. So next week, we’ll move on from the solas to the Means of GraAuthor @JohnWOtte talks about the third sola of the Lutheran Reformation. Click To Tweetce. Until then, friends!
It seems to me like most of the people who are very serious about only holding the Bible against itself and not using other lenses to interpret it usually end up quite different from Lutherans — no creeds, no catechisms, no veneration of a 500 year-old tradition. I wonder what keeps Lutherans affirming and reverencing their tradition while also maintaining hardcore Sola Scriptura. In fact, I could guess that whatever it is that keeps Lutherans from abandoning tradition while being Biblical absolutists is possibly a large part of the distinction between Lutherans and all the other garden variety Christians you find at your typical Evangelical event.