Explanatory Functions – 2 – Sola Scriptura and Semper Reformanda

xExplanatory Functions

Hopefully from my last post you can see each successive explanatory function is an increasingly better fit with the original series of numbers.

Unfortunately, once a group emerges that produces a new explanatory formula they become quite stubborn and refuse to upgrade to better functions. image00To do so would be to admit to their peers they were wrong on some things.

Polemics between groups arguing for different explanatory formulas quite frequently appeal to different parts of the series and interpretations in their arguments. Its not unusual that some appeal to their explanatory function and their creating leaders as a source of authority.

What do you believe is the authority we should be holding to?

Index 0 1 2 3 4 5
y = 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
y = 2x + 2 2 4 6 8 10 12
y = x² + 3 3 4 7 12 19 28
Original set 4 5 8 13 20 29

My example is an attempt to explain by analogy, the bible has been interpreted a number of different ways over history. The systematic theology (explanatory function) of various leaders has influenced how we read and interpret the scriptures (the series of numbers). Various systematic theologies have been employed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches over history. Because of its influence, the interpretation of Paul and Romans has played a large part in how those systematic theologies have developed.

“Sola Scriptura. A Latin phrase (literally “Scripture alone”) describing the Protestant theological principle that Scripture is the final norm in all judgments of faith and practice. Church traditions and customs, pronouncements of church officials, civil law or any other purely human source, including human reason, must yield to clear scriptural pronouncements.” (Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)

If I apply the concept of sola scriptura to my example. It is the original set of numbers that has the final authority in all judgments of faith and practice.

Original Set: 4, 13, 4, 20, 4, 5, 5, 8, 4, 13, 29, 8, 5, 4, 20, 8, 5, 4, 13, 5, 8

Index 0 1 2 3 4 5
Original set 4 5 8 13 20 29

The validity of each of the explanatory functions should be measured against the original set. Quite often explanatory functions are validated by a selective use of the certain scriptures over others. For example;

Index 0 1 2 3 4 5
y = 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Original set 4 5 8 13 20 29

People adhering to y = 8 would tend to focus on numbers 5 and 8 of the original set because their explanatory function makes sense of numbers (with some fudging). But they would tend to shy away from 4, 13, 20 and 29 because they don’t corroborate.

Again the same could be applied to y = 2x + 2.

Index 0 1 2 3 4 5
y = 2x + 2 2 4 6 8 10 12
Original set 4 5 8 13 20 29

People adhering to y = 2x + 2 would tend to focus on numbers 4, 5 and 8 of the original set because their explanatory function makes sense of numbers (again with some fudging). Notice they are taking into account a greater amount of numbers in the original set. But they would tend to shy away from 13, 20 and 29 because again they don’t corroborate with their explanatory function. But their audiences may not know this and think they can now understand the whole set of numbers by the function.

How easy would it be for a leader to convince their audience of the validity of their explanatory function when the audience is not exposed to the whole set of numbers?

Again the same could be applied to y = x² + 3.

Index 0 1 2 3 4 5
y = x² + 3 3 4 7 12 19 28
Original set 4 5 8 13 20 29

Obviously this is a very close match and it is close to all the numbers in the original set.

Hopefully I’ve made another couple points which complement the first.

  • The validity of the explanatory functions should be measured against the whole original set.
  • The better explanatory functions have a better understanding of a larger proportion of the original set.

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Semper reformanda is a latin expression that means “always reforming”. Normally it is associated with applying scripture to the church so it becomes more like Christ. The expression can also be applied to our understanding of the scriptures. Using the analogy I have drawn above. Better understandings of scripture as a whole require the occasional paradigm shift in which we view all scripture.

Do you think it is easy to give lip service to sola scriptura, yet refuse to improve an explanatory theology because of peer pressure and church tradition?

Bear in mind, sometimes people switch between paradigms without knowing it. That is they have a default paradigm in mind (e.g. y = 2x + 2), but when challenged with some passage or verse quickly switch to another (e.g. y = 3x + 2). Sometimes people’s interpretation can be inconsistent without them knowing it. This can make it difficult convincing them of a better way.

In the next post I consider the evolution of interpretations through history.


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