We want Scripture to be at once a rule of faith for all time and a historical document. This is an extraordinarily odd and strained demand: historical documents are descriptive and tailored to the needs of a particular community; rules of faith for all time are normative and not particularized to the needs of any given community. In order to make Scripture both we need, at minimum, hermeneutic of transformation that can spin regulations from historical facts. This hermeneutic has to rest on some more or less articulate theory, of which there seem to be four kinds:
1.) We take the first century Christians as some community at a Hegelian end-of -history state who are somehow empowered to live out what Christianity will be for all time.
2.) We posit the work of the Holy Spirit infallibly tells us the relevant normative facts, personally, by our faithful reading of the text.
3.) We posit a Church that infallibly testifies to the same truth that expressed itself in the history of the first century Christians.
4.) We construct a patchwork account that draws from multiple streams (tradition, reason, Church communities, civil authority, etc.)
In the face of the difficulty of the problem and the simplicity of the solution, option 4 is the most attractive, though it really amounts to abandoning the whole point of a hermeneutic. Even if we construct orders of authority in our patchwork account, any one authority will have competing and conflicting testimonies about the relevant transformations and so will demand some additional hermeneutic to arbitrate the conflicts, which proceeds ad infinitum. The first option is just silly, as much as we would like it to be true. This leaves us having to identify some definite, unchanging, single domain in which the Holy Spirit does hermeneutical work. Any other possibility either denies the historicity of the text (as happens in 1) or denies the regulative character of the text (which also has its representatives in modern theology) or is left wishing for an ultimately impossible patchwork theory of multiple or changing sources of the action of the Holy Spirit.
If this is right, then the logic of the demands we place on Scripture pushes us towards the two most radical options, sc. the radical Protestant (as opposed to historically Anglican) option 2 or the Catholic/ Orthodox position 3. I’m in the latter camp and so it would make sense that I’d see it as more reasonable. That said, I could suggest at least one argument in favor of my camp which follows from the way I’ve set up the problem. Remember that the whole problem is how one and the same text could be both really particularized, limited, and historical and yet somehow regulative for all times and persons. But what I here call option 2 does not account for how Christianity is historical. According to 2, Christianity goes from being really historical in Apostolic times and then proceeds to immediately jump to to moment when the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. True, the spirit might have spoken to others too, but there is no value or even necessity for anything to happen between the Apostolic time and the speaking of the Spirit to the self. The Church is not historical but occurring at discrete quantized moments that are not bound together by any continuous process, i.e. by history.
This is why the closest Catholic /Orthodox analogue to the Protestant idea that the Church is Scriptural is the C/O idea that the Church is apostolic. For the Catholic, the Scriptural documents have value as apostolic, and this apostolic character is essentially historical since “Apostle” is an office that is handed over to successors. This is why the common Catholic apologetic debating point that Protestantism is Scriptural while the Church is Scriptural and traditional is either wrong or too vague. “Tradition” requires only that something be handed over, but Apostolic history is something richer than this, since while there is an element of something merely being handed over it is handed over to someone who shares in the authority that made it in the first place. Tradition could be preserved by mere tape-recordings, with copies being made over time. This does not allow for a real creative, adaptive power that could develop the original dispensation over a continuously unfolding history.