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What happens when we, as the church, don’t agree about the correct interpretation of the Bible? This situation creates a stunning dilemma for a church that trusts in sola Scriptura, the authority of the word alone.
There are many instances in church history where competing factions debated, sometimes bitterly, the proper meaning of biblical texts. Sometimes contests over the interpretation of Scripture led to schism. Other times, after a period of turmoil, to the emergence of new paradigms and new consensus.
The Reformers were confident that God’s word would guide the church to truth. Martin Luther argued for the priority of the literal sense of Scripture over other symbolic approaches that had gained prominence. In the medieval church the literal sense was considered inferior to the allegorical, moral or anagogical senses. Luther, however, insisted on the normative meaning of the literal sense: “… we must look and see to whom it has been spoken, whether it fits us.”
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