Saturday, May 19, 2007

Is sola pragmatica replacing sola scriptura?

What is Sola Scriptura? "It is Latin for 'scripture alone'. It means that the Bible is the sole source for determining doctrine and practice. It means we determine what is right and wrong, what we do or don’t do exclusively by the Scriptures..." (from the Blog "Frequently asked questions") Other ways of putting it might be "the Bible is the sole spiritual authority...the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice." This may also be understood in contrast to Catholic and Orthodox belief, in which the Bible is interpreted by church teaching and tradition.

What is Sola Pragmatica? It is "made-up" Latin for "pragmatism alone."1 It is a term to describe the tendency of some churches and believers to overrule the Scriptures in favor of what is deemed popular, practical, expedient or otherwise useful (regardless of what the Bible says). It means pragmaticism is the "sole source" for determining doctrine and practice. Everyone thinks it is someone else who believes and practices sola pragmatica!

I coined this term in a comment I made on Bart Barber's post Martin Marty on Evangelical Doctrinal Wanderings. There the subject was divorce. Another subject that makes me think of pragmaticism over Scripture is the idea of classes for baptismal candidates, that must be passed before one is baptized. Nathan Finn discusses that thorny question here.

"....allowing changing cultural norms to define our interpretation of Scripture automatically opens the door to radical contextualizing and thus dismissal of...biblical statements." -- Malcolm Yarnell III, "Which Denomination, Which Convention?" in SBC Life, December 2004

Is sola pragmatica replacing sola scriptura?

1. The actual meaning might be more like "skill alone"? Also "sola pragmata" might be better; I'm not a Latin student. Are there any Latin students reading this? Also the "sola" is used in contrast to the one in "sola scriptura". In actual practice it may be more like "prima pragmatica" -- the expedient trumps the Scriptures and becomes the main source of practice.

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