I have been reading Greg Allison’s Historical Theology and refreshing my mind on some of the early thinking of the Church on the Scriptures.
Beyond the topics themselves, revelation, canonicity, inspiration, inerrancy, and the authority and clarity of Scripture (all fascinating discussions), what has struck me most is consensus. These subjects were not much under debate, as the NT authors, early Fathers, Nicene and Post Nicene thinkers and early medieval writers all shared a high view of Scripture (as a collection of 66 canonical books) verbally inspired by God and so without error, intended to speak clearly and be understood as truth and the final authority in all that it addressed.
For about 1300 years the church spoke with one voice on these issues, and then a shift occurred resulting in the Roman Apostasy and the rise of the Reformation. Rome began to argue for two sources of authority, Scripture and Church authority. This was largely rooted in an attack on the clarity and authority of the written Word.
Among the Protestant, these doctrines were essential and once again largely agreed upon, until really the 19th century, when liberal humanism challenged the historic consensus. They largely attacked the authority of the Scripture. But due to critical theories of inspiration, canonicity etc., they also made an assault on the clarity of Scripture. Evangelicalism arose to counter this rooted in a return to a high view of Scripture.
Today, even the evangelical church is only partially aligned with church history on these subjects. The Charismatic wing of the Church elevates two sources of authority, personal and Scriptural revelation, often effective an attack on the authority and clarity of Scripture.
Evangelical Academics now often apply a two authority approach again, this time with secular science and the Scripture sitting on equal footing. This is considered necessary, because the Bible is not seen as clear enough or Authoritative in matters if history and science.
“The early church,” Allison demonstrates, “was united in its conviction that nothing could be considered true unless it could be demonstrated from the Bible” (144). However “as the third millennium of the Church begins, evangelicals are faced with an important debate about the sufficiency of Scripture” (161). Will we apostacize, or reform?