The Rule of Faith – an Excerpt from Reformed Catholicity

The following is an excerpt from Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.


The rule of faith offers a promising orientation or starting point for the reading of Scripture, an orientation within which our understanding of Scripture can grow.

Cover ArtMoreover, because it summarizes scriptural teaching on God and God’s unfolding economy of salvation, the rule of faith not only provides readers with a starting point for exegesis, it also identifies the goal of exegesis, which is to expound each particular text with an eye toward the broad horizons of scriptural teaching as a whole. In other words, the rule of faith serves as a benchmark for canonical exegesis.

In this regard, the rule of faith also helps readers guard against a theologically reductionistic exegesis which would turn every text into the occasion for teaching a favorite doctrine—or for engaging a favorite controversy.

The question for the Christian interpreter therefore is not whether or not to read Holy Scripture in light of the rule of faith. The question is whether to read Holy Scripture with a right faith (i.e., orthodoxy), oriented toward the Triune God, drawn from the main contours of biblical teaching, and confessed by Scripture’s faithful servant the church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15), or whether to read Holy Scripture with a wrong faith (i.e., heterodoxy), drawn from some other purported source of wisdom and knowledge, and governed by the ends of some other community.

Reading Scripture in light of the rule of faith is a way of acknowledging that, when it comes to biblical interpretation, sola Scriptura (Scripture’s status as the sole supreme authority for faith and life) cannot function appropriately as an interpretive norm apart from tota Scriptura (Scripture’s teaching in its entirety). And Scripture’s teaching in its entirety includes teaching about divinely authorized, subordinate authorities that have a role to play in biblical instruction and interpretation. The sacred script not only announces the saving drama that has unfolded “behind the text,” it also directs the ecclesial drama that unfolds “in front of the text.”

©2015 by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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