Does everything – creation and salvation – start with the Word of God or the Church? False dichotomy.
Insofar as Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh, things clearly start with the Word, since we are created beings. On the other hand, the Word certainly used those united with Him in faith to proclaim His words and to write the Scriptures which God’s people recognize and assent to – so it also starts with the Church.
Yet on the other hand again, the Holy Scriptures, breathed by God’s own breath, cannot be set against the Church as a source of authority, for they were created by this very Church, and God’s loving intentions do not change. Of course, there is the matter of interpretation: the Scriptures, read apart from the “rule of faith”, can be, and surely are, often mangled. However, Lutherans have never claimed that the rule of faith is unimportant – for “the rule of faith”, actually, is created by, is comprehended by, and in fact is the Gospel itself, imparted to living persons who pass it on, or “tradition” it (they pass on “faith” and “the faith”). This is the primary and foundational hermeneutical principle. In fact, it is this very rule of faith that drives us back to the voices of the earliest prophets, priests and teachers of the Church preserved in the Scriptures.
And what is this Gospel? It is the fact that God promised to (O.T.), and now in these last days has, *reconciled the world to Himself*: it is His victory in the crucified and risen God-man Jesus Christ over the enemies of sin, death, and the devil.
The infant, who does not rationalize, freely receives this powerful Gospel – the forgiveness, life, and salvation won in Christ Jesus, who is the Logos, the Light, the Bread, the Life, the Lamb – slain from the foundation of the world. It freely receives the Word of God that creates new life in Christ and His Church. The infant, though sinful, freely trusts when the faith-creating Word is heard. The “rule of faith” lives, and grows, as it is nurtured within from without.
And again – since this treasure passed on to us in the Church’s historical voices is so important, it is right for persons to be instinctively driven back to the Scriptures time and again to test all things. These are those who are truly driven by the rule of faith – which often has been formed and grown in them from their infancy. Such are the Church, whether or not they are recognized as being so, and the Kingdom of God is theirs in Christ.
Pastor Will Weedon: “It was because she clung to Him who alone is truth, allowed His Word to judge everything she taught and submitted herself to Him, Truth Incarnate, the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is not that her saying so makes things so; it is that she speaks the words of God faithfully.”