The four sources of theology that Alister McGrath lists in Christian Theology – An Introduction (2011, p.120) are as follows: scripture, tradition, reason and religious experience.
What follows is an account on these sources according to the Book of Concord (which is the base of the organisation of the Lutheran protestant churches) and thus the Church of Sweden (taken from Svenska Kyrkans Bekännelseskrifter, 1985). Not surprisingly, what I am going to write below is quite similar to what I wrote previously as Luther’s view .
Scripture, i.e. the books of the Old and New Testaments, is the only authority over Christians and the Church. Other writers, like the church fathers of old and newer Christian thinkers, have tried to explain Scripture as far as their realisation and capacity permits them. They may have gotten revelations from God… Scripture, as the first and foremost revelation of the Word, is the judge of that.
In addition to Scripture, in order to re-establish an uncontaminated Christian faith free from the deviations of the Catholic Church, the Apostolic, Nicene and Athanasian creeds, the Augsburg Confession (1530) with its Apology (1537), Luther’s small and large Catechism (1529), the Smalcald Articles (1537) and the Formula of Concord (1577) has been accepted as governing the Lutheran protestant church.
The main function of tradition is to maintain and preserve the correct teachings. Other traditions, those established by men, are only to be upheld as long as they are corresponding to Scripture and furthers salvation.
Much in the Book of Concord condemns reason. It is considered to be in enmity with God and His word, and to not understand the truth. But under the guidance of faith it can be a good instrument to keep the faith correct to the Word.
Without reading the whole Book of Concord, what I can discern is that it puts stress on faith and conformity to Scripture in all fields. Any experience that enhances faith and is in line with Scripture is good.
In conclusion: The Lord’s Mercy
According to the Book of Concord, tradition, reason and religious experience are not sources of Christian faith. They may, in their correct state, enhance one’s faith, but the ultimate source of the Christian Faith is God’s mercy, which comes to us through the Word. Thus the Word of God is our faith’s only source.
Please stay tuned for subsequent parts!