Some time I'm going to write a disciplined, well-thought-out post on how useful but imprecise labels are; on how traditionalistically hidebound we "Reformed" people can be -- when we're the last who should be; and on how glorious it is to be a Biblical Christian not chained to repeating the mistakes of the past. I may even throw in some of my thoughts on what is really terrific, and really bad, about denominations.
This isn't that post. In fact, that will probably be three or more posts, won't it?
Over at Pyromaniacs, I just posted an essay titled The laziness of unbelief. In doing some reading on Matthew 11 and Luke 7, I came to find that older commentators seemed to have a different "take" on the question John the Immerser asked Jesus via his students. I was actually a bit startled to find a respected commentator take the line that John wasn't asking for his own benefit; he was actually asking for the disciples' sake. So Jesus' answer was directed to them, not John.
In fact, I found that our man Calvin seemingly took that line as well.
Now, if we were Romanists, and Calvin our magisterium, I'd have to choose between Calvin and my lying eyes. I'd have to explain away the context, explain away how Jesus directs His answer to John (not the students), explain away how He then talks about John (not the students), explain away how the students are barely mentioned, and then only in passing....
But I don't have to do any of that, because I agree with Luther: my conscience is bound to the Word.
But sometimes we "Protestants" have to remind ourselves that sola Scriptura means more than just that we're not bound to the Roman magisterium; we're not strictly bound to the "Reformed" magisterium either. With us, it's pretty well a "duh" -- thank God -- that we're not chained to repeating the mistakes of the Roman past. It's somewhat less of a "duh" that we're equally not bound to repeating the mistakes of the "Reformed" past, either. Calvin, Owen, various Hodges, Warfield, Spurgeon, Edwards, Machen -- all wonderful men, all heroes, all exemplary, all probably our betters, all our teachers, all being dead yet speak, true true true.
But all men, and not masters. They help, they help direct, they inform our faith. But they don't and shouldn't lord it over our faith.
Too many seem to see no middle ground between unquestioning thralldom to history on the one hand, and arrogant indifference to it on the other. Seems to me that there is only one cognitive source to which I owe absolute submission: God's Word. Wisdom lies somewhere betwixt the two extremes.
(I have some more thoughts on this in Mapping the path towards Biblical Christianity.)