Why Are There Different Interpretations of Scripture?

How it is possible for Christians who really want to obey this Word, and seriously ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten them, to arrive at contradicting conclusions as to the meaning of a certain passage no one can know. The reason is not, as the Catholic churches claim, the lack of an infallible teaching office which through the unfailing enlightenment of the Holy Spirit is able to decide authoritatively which exegesis is right and which is wrong. Otherwise, one should expect that the churches which reject the sola Scriptura, the church of Rome and the Eastern churches, would agree which that infallible teaching office is. The reason is rather to be found in the nature of God's revelation. God's Word always comes to us hidden in his humanity. Thus, not by our own reason, but rather by the grace of the Holy Spirit, can we perceive the divine truth in faith. This applies also to the understanding of God's Word by the Reformers. Thay are fallible like us.

From This Is My Body, Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Revised Australian Edition, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1977) p.232.

This comment occurs towards the end of the chapter which features Sasse's reconstruction of the Marburg Colloquy, at which Luther and the Swiss reformer Zwingli famously failed to reach doctrinal agreement on the Lord's Supper. Such doctrinal disagreements among churches generally classified as Protestant are often pointed to by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox as evidence of the practical failure of the Reformation's formal or scripture principle. Sasse's response is in line with the response of classical Lutheran dogmatics to these criticisms, viz. to draw attention to the difference between the objective clarity of scripture, which cannot be denied, and the degree of subjective clarity gained by the interpreter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which will often be imperfect and even subject to error. For a further, helpful elucidation of the confessional Lutheran position on the clarity of scripture, see the discussion in chapter three of Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions by Ralph Bohlmann (rev. ed. CPH, 1983; pp53-63.)

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The doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Church of Australia on Scripture and Inspiration, which was approved in 1951 and to which Dr Sasse contributed significantly, can be found here: http://www.lca.org.au/resources/cticr/dsto1a17a19.pdf

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