Conservatism and Sola Scriptura Part I:
The Principles of Conservatism

The goal of this series is to present a view of Sola Scriptura in relation to tradition and church authority that is biblical, Reformed, and practically beneficial. The secondary goal, and also as an aid to the overall argument, is to present political/social Conservatism as it relates to Sola Scriptura, tradition, and church authority. Thus, this four-part series will consist (1) in a definition of political/social Conservatism, (2) a definition Reformed doctrine Sola Scriptura vis-a-vis tradition and authority, (3) An argument for Reformed Conservatism: a philosophical union of modern Conservatism and Sola Scriptura.

Being a Conservative means, in part, that you revere the deliverances of the customs handed down by our fathers. Custom, as I use it here, refers to traditions which are passed from one generation to the next. They can be contained in institutions, families, or entire societies. Scruton, the foremost philosopher within contemporary Conservatism, argues that custom teaches us how to act in circumstances without which clearly demarcated rules of interaction would be non-existent (Scruton, An Introduction to Conservatism). We should do our best to uphold customs handed down by our fathers unless there is an explicit reason to reject them. In other words, not “having a reason” for keeping a custom is not enough. You must have an adequate reason to reject a custom, something greater than your own personal preferences (a standard like Scripture, political order, or the dignity of persons).

Yet Conservatives also believe in the limited nature of government; Lord Acton taught that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has been a part of the Calvinistic tradition to insist upon the distribution of powers in various spheres in order to limit this evil (Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism. Ch. “Calvinism and Politics”). In the church, Calvinists believe in a plurality of elders, not a Pope. Pertaining to the state, we refuse absolute Monarchies or Dictatorships. Thus modern Conservatives, following the example of the American revolution, insist upon certain fundamental “rights” which are, in part, designed as a check to the powers that be (i.e. the government). If you recall, the freedom of speech is primarily