Monday, May 22, 2006

The Solas of the Reformation - Sola Scriptura

The Bible Alone!
At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church taught that the laity should not be allowed to read the Bible. Only the Pope and the priests and officers of the Church could interpret the Word of God. The official Catholic interpretation of Scripture is called the Magesterium. The Catholic Church elevated its traditions to the level of Scripture. It held that there were seven sacraments, not two. It taught that the faithful should pray to Mary and the saints. It offered indulgences for sale for the forgiveness of sin.

The Protestant Reformers rejected all that. Luther saw that the basis for Christian truth is the Bible only. Tradition is valuable. The Reformers often quoted from Augustine and the other Church fathers. But the Bible alone is authoritative. When Luther was urged to retract his criticisms of the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms, he said, “My conscience is bound by the Word of God. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”

Luther was being entirely biblical,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16.)

On this basis, Evangelical Protestant Churches give central place to the Bible. The Reformation rediscovered preaching. The pulpit took central place in the Church-building and people gathered to hungrily devour the preached word. All the Reformers were first and foremost preachers of the Word.

We admit no continuing revelation either from the Pope’s “infallible” directives or from the experiences or visions of mystics who claim that the Spirit has spoken to them. We will not allow liberal Theologians to tell us what parts of the Bible we can believe today. We allow the Bible to judge our age, not the other way around. We hold to the total reliability and inerrancy of the Bible as the unique Word of God.

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20 & 21)

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy has been criticised by some influential Evangelical scholars. They are unable to confess that the Bible is without error. Such people claim to hold a high view of the Bible without holding to full inerrancy. Evangelicals who have moved away from the older position are in danger of jeopardising the gospel that is based on the testimony of Scripture. Iain Murray warns us,

A person who believes the gospel and is yet uncertain about the whole Bible will get to heaven in spite of the inconsistency of thought. But we cannot stop there. That same inconsistency, if condoned, has the potential to undermine all saving Christianity. Belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture is essential for the preservation of the Christian faith as a whole. (p. 312 Evangelicalism Divided, Banner of Truth Trust, 2000)

The Bible alone! This principle gives us a sure objective guide in our confusing world of post-modern thinking where anything goes. The Bible makes us wise unto salvation and is a sure guide to heaven.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple
(Psalm 19:7)
Kevin Vanhoozer on inerrancy here
The Bible and the future of Evangelicalism here
Today's Roman Catholic teaching on Scripture here
Word and Spirit in Reformed & Puritan Theology here
This is part 1 of a series on the "sloas" that arose from a couple of posts on Biblical Protestantism (see below)

1 comment:

Steve said...


Are you a creationist? I hadn't realised? That woudl be interesting.