I know this looks like another shameless plug for Father’s blog Seeking the Kingdom, but really, he just keeps on publishing really good articles!
The latest post is about the role of Holy Scripture in the Church’s Tradition. This is an area fraught with pitfalls when it comes to talking to Protestants because “in the Orthodox Church we do not accept the 16th century Protestant teaching of sola Scriptura, that the faith is determined by Scripture alone.” Orthodox Christians have a different position:
The fact that we see Holy Scripture as part of Holy Tradition impacts the way that we as Orthodox Christians interpret Holy Scripture. In the Orthodox Church, we always interpret the Bible from within the context of Holy Tradition. (Feel free to read that sentence out loud a few times. It’s important.) This means, right off the bat, that any interpretation of Holy Scripture that is at odds with the Apostolic Tradition is automatically rejected as false. As Orthodox Christians we are free to read the Bible and try to understand it, but if we choose to trust our own individual interpretation over that of the Church, then we are in serious danger of error. In the Church we have a consensus of voices (the “holy fathers”, about which more later) that help us to understand what we’re reading.
Understanding this is critical to knowing how to talk to Christians outside of the Orthodox Church. You can’t have a rational discussion if you don’t realize that you’re using words and labels that mean different things to different people. Father includes a discussion on the history of the Bible itself (what’s in it and how it got there) which is good to know too. This is a clearly-written and concise article on a subject about which many of us have limited or incomplete knowledge. Check it out!
[Update: God bless these poor little teenage girls who just showed up on my doorstep from X Baptist Church. They had no idea what they’d walked into. I was as nice as I could be, but the youngest one started looking scared when I started talking about the dangers of taking the Bible out of the Church and showed myself knowledgable about the history of the writing of the Holy Scriptures. I promise I was nice (really!) but they almost ran like rabbits when their church bus came back around the block. Poor things. I really should keep tracts by the door for such events.]