Is Scripture the Only Legitimate Norm for Christian Theology?

10 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2015

See all articles by Matthew Cavedon

Matthew Cavedon

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: February 28, 2014


According to Karl Barth, Jesus Christ is God’s Word, and this Word is the Church’s foundation. However, the ultimate norm for Christian theology is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus Christ promised would reveal truth through the Church’s teaching authorities. The Church’s teaching authorities have discerned the Holy Spirit outside of Scripture.The Holy Spirit is the pope’s aid in discerning and proclaiming the truth faithfully, “promised to the successors of Peter… that, by [the Holy Spirit’s] assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation… transmitted by the apostles.”

Once the promise of divine aid in the Holy Spirit for the Church is recognized, the question of what norms legitimately guide Christian theology becomes a historical one: what are the norms that the Church’s teaching authorities have used in prayerfully discerning the Holy Spirit? There is apostolicity, or genuine continuity with the beliefs and practices of those who first heard, proclaimed, and otherwise responded to the Gospel. As the Second Vatican Council put it, “the Church… perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes”—not merely the Scriptures.

Keywords: revelation, Christianity, Catholicism, tradition, Scripture, Karl Barth, Holy Spirit, pope, Second Vatican Council, theology, norm

Suggested Citation

Cavedon, Matthew, Is Scripture the Only Legitimate Norm for Christian Theology? (February 28, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Cavedon (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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