Musing on Sola Scriptura

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As a Christian born in the heritage of the Protestant tradition, I was raised under the teaching of the Five Solae:

  • Sola Scriptura – “Scripture Alone”
  • Sola Christus – “Christ Alone”
  • Sola Fide – “Faith Alone”
  • Sola Gratia – “Grace Alone”
  • Soli Deo Gloria – “For God’s Glory Alone”

Of these, Sola Scriptura is a hot point of contention between the Protestants and the hierarchical traditions of the Orthodoxies and the Church of Rome. What this simple creed asserts is that the Protestant Christian recognizes no authority for teaching of God’s will above the Holy Bible. That is, the Protestant Christian does not accept teachings of any man, whether he be Pope or Pastor or fiction writer or child, to match the Scriptures.

Now, as I have come to understand it, that does not mean that God cannot and does not continue to speak. And it certainly does not mean that, confronted with God’s Holy Spirit, we are not compelled to listen and obey. However, what it means is that there is no man who possesses inherent authority to rival that of Scripture.

This tradition can be found in the book of Acts, when the people of Berea sat and listened to Paul then checked the Scriptures each night to see whether what he said was true. Paul’s authority as a leader, to them, was not based on his titles or testimony but on his absolute alignment with the Scriptures. Were he to deviate, he would be shown his error and rebuked.

In the same way, Martin Luther spoke to the Diet at Worms: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and by plain reason, I do not accept the authority of the Popes and Councils, for they have frequently erred and contradicted themselves…Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Himself a student of the Catholic traditions, and both a monk and professor of the Scriptures, Luther had come to realize that the Pope was merely a man endowed with earthly authority, and not all Popes were themselves gifted with the Spiritual gifts of prophecy or apostleship (and many, it could be argued, weren’t even Christians).

Again, I say, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura must never be interpreted to mean that we deny any other mechanism by which God may speak to us. We trust in the Holy Spirit to reveal all the truths of Scripture to us, and not merely Spiritual truths but also earthly truths; for the Spirit is truth. We also trust that God will not send to us a prophet which we do not recognize, by the Holy Spirit, to be a prophet. Indeed, as one who has been given occasion to prophesy, I do attest that a Christian who is truly spoken to will find that his prophecy is not only consistent with Scripture, but also the Spirit works in him so that there is no measure of doubt.

But we have seen many false teachers and false teachings. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were topics for discussion among the scholars of the church derived from apparent contradictions between the traditions of the Catholic Church and the Scriptures. Thousands of writers have made claims to special revelation over the centuries, and many have even today (as the young boy who claimed to have been to heaven, but whose testimony contradicted what little we know of heaven from the Scriptures). Many false teachers have come preaching a Christ other than he the Apostles preached, as Christ and the Apostles prophesied they would.

Sola Scriptura is a doctrine to shield the Church from such false teachings. For this reason, I have elected to orient this church around the same basic principle. I am not averse to all manner of conversation, whether it be inquiry or writings outside of Scripture or testimony or prophecy, but in order that we should be assured of that which we teach we must always call back to the Scriptures.

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I have been a false Christian and a pagan, but now I seek to serve the Lord.