The U.S. Constitution and Sola Scriptura

(I thought of this analogy before leaving seminary. I was later very disappointed to find a variation in former evangelical Scott Hahn’s book. Life is hard.)

Imagine there was a man who felt the President was using his executive power in an unconstitutional way. He also thought our Congress and Supreme Court were corrupt. He started a movement telling Americans to go “back to the source—the Constitution.” Not a bad idea. But he took it a step further. 

The man started telling people that all they needed to do was follow the Constitution. “Do we need to register to vote? Do we need to celebrate the 4th of July? Do we need to know our national anthem?” his friends asked. “No,” he replied. “The essentials are in the Constitution. It’s clear as day. Just study the Constitution and you’ll be a great American citizen.”

Though the man thought everyone would agree with his reforms, his friends disagreed. “The Pentagon is not in the Constitution, and neither is the White House.” The friends’ friends disagreed with them. 500 years later there were thousands of groups with their own president, claiming to be variations of America. Every citizen had several copies of the Constitution in different languages, but they simply couldn’t agree. Many of the them lived faithful and patriotic lives as best as they could. Unfortunately, they were living in a flawed system of government.

I know it sounds harsh, but this is what I believe Martin Luther did to the Bible.

What do you think?

(Some would claim I have misunderstood sola scriptura. At the very least this is a critique of evangelicalism. As Joshua Lim’s recent conversion story demonstrates, though, even confessional Christianity reduces to this situation.)

(Photo Source) 


8 thoughts on “The U.S. Constitution and Sola Scriptura

  1. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to make the comparison of a country to a religion. Countries are run by elected leaders who’s job is to support policies for the benefit of the country. Their laws change over time as circumstances change, and they are given power through the consent of the governed.

    A religion on the other hand has its beliefs based on the teachings of God. If God is infallible than these beliefs would not be changing over time. Plus I feel that the argument about their not being a White House is a bit of reductio ad absurdum, it’s not like Lutherans or many other Protestants believe that anything that doesn’t appear in the bible is not allowed.

    My final point is that Luther brought up some pretty blatant abuses of power by the Catholic church at the time, indulgences being the primary one. And he helped get rid of that abuse through his criticism, which I don’t think led to the destruction or even really the weakening of Christianity as a whole.

    I do like your blog though,
    A friendly Lutheran’s thoughts,

    • Hello grandfather nurgle! Ha-ha, yes I think the analogy breaks down at points. Maybe one thing to do would be focusing on the Supreme Court. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church acts as the Supreme Court and rightly interprets the Bible on major issues. In Protestantism, and especially evangelicalism, each pastor acts as a Supreme Court, and even each Christian!

      One thing I’ve noticed is it’s difficult to critique Protestantism because of the many splits and divisions. You come from a “high church” background that stayed closer to the Catholic Church at the Reformation. The Baptist/evangelicals come from a “low church” background that followed the “regulative principle.” That camp historically did follow the “anything that doesn’t appear in the Bible is not allowed” model for worship. Of course, there’s been lots of splits over that.

      Yes, you’re right, Luther’s 95 theses had many good points that Catholics agree with. He initially set out to reform the Church. What resulted was not a reform, but a split. I read the most favorable Luther biography I could find and still was aghast at the haphazard way Luther went from trying to reform the Catholic Church to starting his own church. Catholics believe God has still worked powerfully through the Catholic Church, but the splintering of the Church into thousands of pieces has undoubtedly weakened its message. Some say Protestantism leads to postmodernism–when there’s so many people saying they have the truth, why can’t everything and nothing be true!?

      Thanks for your encouragement and attention friend!


  2. You’re correct that the analogy is weak at points, but we’re also comparing apples with oranges here. I think it does help drive the point home with some very concrete imagery, and I agree with you. While I’m far from being ready to enter the Catholic Church (working on that), the problems with Protestantism that at first irked me, came to my attention more and more, then began shouting in my ear until I could not resist the truth any longer. This point is the one of the more painful realities I could not bring myself to be at peace with as a Protestant.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s