Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Considering the prominence of the works of popular authors like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and prominent theologians like Augustine and others in various Christian circles. Is there Biblical support for basing your beliefs on those who've come before?

Said another way, what different perspectives are there among notable Christian groups regarding the use of non-Biblical works for informing beliefs, and what Biblical support do they give for their perspective?

share|improve this question
1  
@Alain it's hard on purpose. Just a note. Using "update: x" is bad form. Instead edit like you would a document, just do it, there are edit summaries to not the changes you make. One of the spoken goals of Stack Exchange is to stealthily make our users betters writers. –  wax eagle Aug 7 '13 at 23:16
1  
See the edits I've done for an example. I've taken your edits and integrated them into the post and I think it's OK, if still quite broad. –  wax eagle Aug 7 '13 at 23:21

5 Answers 5

When you think about it, this question is based on circular reasoning.

Is there Biblical support for basing your beliefs on those who've come before?

The Bible authors "came before." So lets imagine that there's an imaginary Bible verse that says:

Thou shalt base thine opinions on those whom came before.

2 Chemicals 8:15

Who wrote 2 Chemicals? Saint Heisenberg. Why should we trust Saint Heisenberg?

"But the Bible is canon!" you might say. Yes, that's true... Christians, by and large, agree that the Bible is "special." But why? Because other Christians decided they were, and we agree with them.

So even believing the Bible is inherently basing our beliefs on those who came before.

share|improve this answer

Since the question asks "what different perspectives", let me present one perspective. The answer would be "Only if those extra-Biblical texts are in harmony with the Bible" for it is written

"To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)

However it is written

"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

And

"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." (Joel 2:28-31)

So in the last days some would prophesy truthfully, or there would be a true prophet even in our time, before the coming of Christ, but that true prophet must be in harmony with all the Bible.

share|improve this answer

The extra biblical texts could be compared with a sermon. Just like a good pastor or sermon doesn't teach from their own knowledge or wisdom but teaches the Scriptures, a good christian text teaches and explain the Scriptures. The purpose of such kind of literature isn't to add to the words of the Scriptures, but explain them and apply them. If a text adds extra biblical ideas we should reject that text.

share|improve this answer
1  
Of course, that's not the case from a Catholic or Orthodox point of view, in which Sacred Tradition is a source of authority equal to Sacred Scripture. –  Matt Gutting Aug 22 at 19:39
    
In all respect, why does the longer one does something make it more authoritative? Why is Sacred Tradition, well, Sacred? –  Hand of Don Aug 22 at 23:57
    
I'll be glad to discuss that in chat at some point, probably not till Monday. That's not really what comments are for. –  Matt Gutting Aug 23 at 2:34
    
The answer of @Flimzy about circular reasoning is ignoring (or is simplifying) deliberately or unconsciously the process of getting agree, that involves grammatics, history, geography, text's context (related to the internal environment), social/political/economic context (related to the external environment), author, purpose of the book, date of the book, witness, etc. The agreement process is kind similar to the legal process to determine historical facts. –  Cristián Munizaga Aug 25 at 17:15
    
For instance, for the King James Version was required the best brains of that century on that field, involving institutions like Westminster, Oxford and Cambridge. –  Cristián Munizaga Aug 25 at 17:26

The question asked here seems to be trying to imply something is happening which in virtually every case is not.

Restricting myself to Protestantism for the moment, the implication seems to be that because Lewis and Chesterton are widely read, somehow people are basing their doctrine on them. I think it's pretty safe to say they are not.

Lewis and Chesterton would never claim that their writings were authoritative, and mostly would make it explicitly clear that they were not. So if anyone is taking them as authoritative then they are going against the authors intent. I know plenty of people who really like Lewis, and find him really helpful, but I have never heard of a single one who says that what Lewis writes is 'doctrine' and you have to believe it.

Writings like this are either interpretations of Christian ideas that might make them more understandable to some people, or they are ideas that help explain Christianity that might or might not be actually the case, but are a helpful way of looking at things.

Remember that there is a big difference between 'doctrine' - stuff which is core Christianity - and other things you happen to believe.

share|improve this answer

Is there Biblical support for basing your beliefs on those who've come before?

Yes. Think about how much the New Testament references the Old Testament -- all over the place! Here is just one of many sites that list New Testament references to Old Testament prophets.

The same could be said of any Old Testament prophet who referenced a previous Old Testament prophet. All of the prophets after Moses referenced the Law revealed by God through him.

This doesn't really answer the second part of your question, but serves to illustrate the process of unfolding revelation over time that occurred from Adam to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles. The need for a renewal of revelation was due to the rejection by the people of previous prophets. Further, each prophet gave specific guidance and counsel for their time, as when Isaiah advised kings in Jerusalem on matters of war and politics.

Latter-Day Saints believe this pattern has continued -- or rather, that God has continued this pattern -- to our day, calling new prophets/apostles in the same manner and for the same purpose as before: to renew and reaffirm and clarify previous revelations and also give timely guidance for the current time. (I think that answers your second question about a denomination that uses non-Biblical sources).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.