Friday, January 8, 2016

Ratzinger on Scripture without revelation

Here. A taste:
... Revelation cannot be pocketed like a book one carries around. It is a living reality which calls for the living man as the location of its presence. In view of what has been said, we may, therefore, affirm that revelation goes beyond the fact of scripture in two respects: as a reality deriving from God it always extends upwards into God’s action; as a reality which makes itself known to man in faith, it also extends beyond the fact of scripture which serves to mediate it. This non-coincidence of scripture and revelation makes it clear that quite apart from the question whether scripture is the sole material source or not, there can never really, properly speaking, be a sola scriptura in regard to Christianity. ...
I want to say this reminds me of my recent readings on the Quakers. The written word proceeds from the Spirit and is thus secondary to it. The Spirit is a wordless Word.

Though there is an older tradition of something similar that preceded the Quakers. And that's Christian mysticism, which existed in the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Thinkers like Meister Eckhart and closer to today Thomas Merton.


Bill Fortenberry said...

Ratzinger's comments are similar to some of the teachings of the Quakers, but they are contrary to the teachings of the Apostle Peter. Peter presented his personal experience in seeing the glorified Christ and hearing the very voice of God give witness to the fact that Jesus is His Son. Then Peter contrasted this experience with the witness of Scripture, and declared that the testimony of the written Scriptures is better than the direct verbal communication of God Himself.

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (II Peter 1:16-21 KJV)

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura against which Ratzinger is arguing is based largely upon this passage of II Peter. It is not the claim that God has made no other revelation than that which is found in Scripture but rather that the revelation of Scripture occupies the sole position of supreme authority - so much so that the written word of Scripture occupies a higher place of authority than the audible voice of God.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Scripture also says the letter kills.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Jon--the article has a typo and meant to say 2 Corinthians 3:6

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But Pope Ratzinger isn't endorsing the Quaker method either, which is still "Protestant" in that the ultimate authority is not the Church but the individual. What he does not mention in this brief passage is the Catholic Church's claim to "magisterium," the authority to interpret and explain revelation for the greater mass of men.

Protestants reject this authority, but OTOH, without it we have dozens or hundreds or even 1000s of denominations of the Christian religion. I think this is why Ratzinger references "the early Reformers" [Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, etc.] who never envisioned the grab bag "Protestantism" would become.