One of my favorite professors liked to say, just to ruffle up some feathers, that while the Church cannot make it without the testimony about Jesus, it can survive without the New Testament. “We did it for a few hundred years” he would say.
Consider this, for the first centuries it would have been the norm, not the exception, that an individual Church might have only one or two of the Gospels, perhaps the undebated Pauline letters, and perhaps some other book which acted authoritatively but is now not considered “scripture”, say The Shepard of Hermas.
What might “scriptural authority” have looked like in a Church which perhaps only had access to the Johannine Corpus (yeah, that’s latin guys, whatcha gonna do about it?)? Would their theology have been different or incomplete compared to us who have the “whole” New Testament? If to be a Christian one has to “believe” the right things, what of churches which did not have Hebrews, and so missed out on believing Jesus to be the Great High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek? What of a Church which only had the Gospel of Mark? Does it matter that the Revelation of John was hotly contested as a canonical book all the way up to the formation of the Canon? Or that much of the “Deuterocannonical Books” would have been widely used, even by Paul and John.
This is not even to mention other smaller yet significant details such as; what if the text of the book they had differed from the one we have? Mark without the extra endings, John without the Adulterous Woman?
I would tend to agree with Dan, although of course, I would nuance his argument; Scripture and Tradition are intertwined, and to look at the New Testament without taking into account it’s history as individual documents, spread variously throughout the Churches, and its long and complicated history to Canon is to mistreat Scripture. We make it our safe haven. It’s easy when different interpretations happen to just sigh and say “I believe in the Bible,” but I feel that that road is fraught with peril. How can we simply retreat to a bare belief in the Authority of Scripture when we know that the New Testament did not just fall from the sky. It was a bloody and political battle to the leather clad, red Lettered NIV Study Bible we have in front of us. Even the most conservative among us do not adhere to the belief, like that of Muslims, that the writers simply were dictated our Holy Books; yet we treat them as if they were. That this is a shallow understanding of our Scriptures is confirmed by the progress in Redaction, Canonical and Narrative Criticism; the best of which is being done by Evangelicals! I believe that kids like us will have to take on ourselves the huge battle to make our Scriptures honest if we are to continue to preach the Good News, and, even if we affirm orthodox Christianity, to “demote” the Bible will garner much scorn.
But neither do I believe the way forward is like the RC’s or the Orthodox. The Bible is not simply a product of “The Church,” who has the “authority” to declare what is wills, even if that “authority” is from God. This is where I think the Pentecostal’s have got it made, and a robust Pneumatology is the way forward. The Holy Spirit is amongst his people even to this day. The same Spirit that gave Peter a vision gives our own Missionaries visions. The same Spirit which directed the leaders in Jerusalem directs ministers now. I am much too unlearned to attempt to plot a detailed way forward as of yet, but these are the questions that need to be asked, and answers will not be easy in coming or in gaining acceptance.