1. The sources and norms of Christian Theology I understand scripture, tradition, reason and experience as the sources and norms of Christian theology. Revealing the knowledge of God, guides us to know God, and inform our action and practice as believers, they are the sources as witnesses that points to the knowledge of God. At that same time, they are norms by which we can judge our understanding of God and correct our behaviors as children of God 2. Understanding of the source and norms Scripture is the witness of God’s revelation through Jesus Christ.
This is crucial source not only to form academic study within Christianity, but to use in public worship, meditate the word of God, and transform Christians’ life and the world. There is New Testament and Old Testament. For a long time, putting the center as the point of Jesus Christ, church tradition considered that Old Testament point forward and New Testament point back to Jesus Christ. However, we need to understand that both of them are not only the account to testify of God saving action throughout history, but also the expectation of Christians’ hope confirmed by God.
In terms of the Old Testament, it is important, first of all, because it reveals the essential characters of God who reveals in Christ: through the story of Israel, we can see God who is faithful, promised to his people, delivered them from bondage, and keep promising hope. Secondly, Old Testament also anticipates the same future with which New Testament anticipates. That is hope confirmed by God. The New Testament is important in that it tells Christ in different ways. It is not only story looking back, but that looking forward in which Christ will come again and God’s unfulfilled promise will be fulfilled.
Tradition is the proclamation of the word of God in which believers in communities of faith understood, taught, preached, meditated, and shared the world of God at different ages with various ways. There are three views of relevance of tradition. The first is magisterial view in which tradition as DUAL SOURCE has the same authority with scripture. In this view, scripture is the written form of apostolic witness of Jesus Christ, personal revelation and tradition is the oral form which is communicated hand out by apostles and witnesses generation to generation.
The example is devotion to Mary, the central role of Bishop or Room. With Magisterial authority it has been very successful at maintaining the visible unity in church. However, it was challenged by Protestants to give the authority to only scripture. The second is diaconal (service) view in which tradition as ONE SOURCE subordinate to and measured by scripture. In this view, like Nicaea creed and Apostle Creed, does not communicate with the true of scripture, but hear in scripture and summarize it with new and fresh language.
On balance, diaconal view seems to be best able to honor the past and the evangelical impulse to measure everything against Scripture. However, it still gives us question where the tradition communicate in which the scripture silence? In this vein, Martin Luther who denies dual source view also did not agree with single source view. It is because that traditions treated with respect and values where the scripture silence and did not contradict scripture. The third view is diabolical in which tradition is dangerous and misleading.
Insisting that only authority encountering revelation is through the word of God, Free Church and Baptist part of radical reformation have non creedal tradition. As a distinguish character of human beings, reason is a tool of thought that we use to understand. It question Christians if Christian faith is self-consist and it consist with other things we believe. There are three approaches to understand the relationship of reason to the knowledge of God. The first is that reason is no role to understand the knowledge of God.
It is not necessary to be Christian faith self-consist. As a human instrument, there is no value at all in reason dealing with divine. Without reason, we simply believe. The second is that reason completely adequate to understand the world and God. According to this view, reason tells us everything reliable, and the fact that we can know about God is the fruit of reason. Enlightenment, Deism, Thomas Jefferson approached reason into a magisterial level. In this view, reason helps us to have consistency with the others we believe when they are reasonable.
However, if there is conflict between reason and faith because faith is something beyond reason, this view couldn’t provide consistency. The third view is that reason is wonderful gift from God, relevant to things of the world, things of God. However, it is not sufficient for understanding things of the world and God. In this view, faith and reason is not a relationship of contradictory, but two wings of a bird, where reason provides first, faith provides second. Faith is root and reason is stem. Reason by itself is fully inadequate, but helps deepen our understanding of Scripture, tradition and ourselves.
Experience is to experience God in personal life. It is not usually listed the source and norm of theology with other three (ex, Episcopal Church), but it is very typical in Methodist. Because it played very roles in different theology, it is interesting source and norm. McGrath suggests two models of experience. The first is that experience provides a foundational resource of Christian theology. It means that 1st hand encounter is the surest from of knowledge and self-explanatory; other things become more intelligible because of that experience.
Second, theology is a framework to interpret human experience. In this view, experience is not capable of interpreting by itself, but interpreted by theology. For example, Wesley emphasized experiential dimension of Christian life and experiential faith. He thought his great experience reversed as tied up as a sense of joy and assurance in which the gospel became true for him. Lots of liberation theologian also interpreted their experience as hardship, injustice and oppression in light of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.
However, here is question, if experience becomes a identify mark and determined whether or not disciple, what happens feel more, less, or dried up? In addition, one’s experience can be revised and transformed. In that sense, Karl Barth said that experience is relevant, so not equally easy to receive the gospel. 3. Difficulty to understand scripture, tradition, reason and experience as norms and sources of theology As I mentioned in the beginning, scripture, tradition, reason and experience are the sources and norms of theology.
As sources, they sustain Christians’ life so that their understanding and knowledge become nourish to know God. At the same time, by using them as norms, we can measure other testimonies. One of difficulty is that we easily want to make them norms; we are not accepting them as sources. We need to receive them as sources which inform our action and practice in Christ. 4. Relation with the personal word of God, Jesus Christ. In Barth’ three folds of the word of God, the center is the personal word of God, Jesus Christ. The second circle is apostolic witnesses about Jesus Christ.
Then the third is proclamation in which literal word of God proclaims today through various ways and activities. Reflecting these four sources on the three folds of the word of God, scripture is witness of the personal word of God, Jesus Christ. Tradition is in between scripture and proclamation. It is because that tradition is witnesses of the personal word of God as well as proclamation of the word of God today. Finally, reason and experience have dimension of all three dimensions; scripture, tradition, and proclamations.