That might sound like an odd question (the post title)! Let me provide some context to this question, it is rather missiological in nature. What I am getting at with this question is whether or not the Bible is sufficient in and of itself, or does it need theological framing in order to really understand its full message about God’s life and salvation for humanity?
For example, we have organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators whose primary goal is to provide the scriptures in the vernacular for every people group on the face of the globe—this is a necessary step, and indeed, one of obedience (fulfilling the great commission). But is this enough? I have heard of the underground church in China (in fact we have some friends who are involved with this, covertly, as missionaries there), who have the Bible in their language, but do not have access, for the most part to sound theological writings from the history of the Christian Church. The consequence, from what I have heard (from more than one source), is that they certainly have a zeal and fervor (many Chinese Christians) for Jesus; but that often they have developed such ‘folkisms’ about Jesus (e.g. not having access to determinations and articulations of the church through the centuries), that their idea about Jesus and the life of God, would be considered rather cultic by the Western Church (us). I just bring up the Chinese church as one example of an issue (problem) that, I am sure, could be multiplied exponentially to many other bodies of believers throughout the world (even in the ‘West’).
So the above, brings me back to my first question: Is the Bible really enough? Or, should Wycliffe (for example) also focus, just as stridently, on translating documents from the Patristic era of the church; (i.e. the ecumenical church councils: Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon & the Nicene Creed, the Apostle’s Creed, etc.) in order to provide an apparatus and framework for these folks to have sound, faithful ways of approaching the scriptures (and thus the life of God)?
I suppose this all leads to a further question: is the Bible explicit enough, on its own, to yield the doctrine of the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc.? Or, instead, did the LORD gift the Church with ‘teachers’ to lay bare what is only implicit within the text of scripture (e.g. the above listed doctrines, and more)? And if so, is it not incumbent upon the church (esp. missionaries) to not just provide the scriptures, but also the “teachings of the Church” (in the vernacular) to these people groups who have never, before, been exposed to the Gospel (or only ‘nascently’)?
So my question is, really 😉 , and implicitly, is not the tradition of the Church just as sacred as the norming tradition of the Church (the Scriptures); insofar as ‘that’ tradition is inextricably related to the Scriptures, as its presupposition and informing theology (viz. assuming that ‘the tradition’ is actually the inner logic of the scriptural writers’ outer witness to Christ)? Of course one point of clarification, I am not saying that I think ‘the tradition’ is scripture, and thus is debatable at points (which is the theologians’/teachers’ task); but instead, recognizing that there indeed is more (not less) to Scripture (i.e. what is Paul’s theology of how the three persons of God inter-relate, etc.), insofar that there are certain unspoken assumptions about Jesus’ divinity, for example, that often times are taken for granted, by the New Testament authors.
The Reformers spoke of this distinction as the inner and outer clarity of the Scriptures (related to the Scriptures’ perspicuity); while Barth referred to it as: the inner and external logic of the Scriptures.
So tell me, what do you think? Do you think the Bible is really enough? Or do you think that the church needs more? I don’t think I have revealed what I think . . . necessarily 😉 !