by C Michael PattonJuly 17th, 2008 6 Comments
Now I will start to give a brief positive defense of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura.
The Scripture implicitly and explicitly speaks of its unique authority and sufficiency.
2 Tim. 3:14–17
“You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”
Notice here that the Scriptures are sufficient to give Timothy “wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So they are sufficient for salvation. Notice as well that the Scriptures are to be used for “training in righteousness” so that the person dedicated to God may be capable of “every [pan]good work” (emphasis added). If Paul truly believes that Scripture is sufficient for every good work, then this gives much credence to the basic foundational principles of the doctrine of sola Scriptura. This says that the Scriptures are sufficient for sanctification as well as salvation. The Scriptures are sufficient and,therefore, lacking in nothing.
Three things this passage teaches us:
This Psalm is an acclamation of the Scriptures, made up of 176 verses (longest chapter in the Bible) mentioning the Word of God 178 times using 10 different synonyms. The Scriptures are presented as being totally sufficient for the follower of God in all matters pertaining to instruction, training, and correction. It is significant that though Scripture is mentioned 178 times, the concept of unwritten Tradition is never mentioned once. In fact, there is no acclamation of or meditation on unwritten Tradition in such a way anywhere in Scripture. This would be problematic if one were to believe that the concept of unwritten Tradition is on equal footing as Scripture, yet the Bible never mentions it. It would be the greatest case of neglect that one could find unless one could present the case that Psalm 119 is speaking of the Law which includes both the written and unwritten form. This is possible, though difficult to maintain for many obvious reasons related to the previous posts.
“The brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea at once, during the night. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.”
This is a clear illustration of a commendation and example of the sola Scriptura method in practice. The Bereans were praised for testing the Apostles’ teaching against the witness of Scripture. Don’t miss this significance. It was not merely the theoretical magisterial authority in succession with the Apostles, it was a living authoritative Apostle they were testing—and Luke commends them! This is the very essence of sola Scriptura and perhaps the most significant example of the doctrine in practice.
What is interesting is that Roman Catholics are forbidden from testing the bishops according to Scripture, but they are required to do just the opposite—test the Scriptures according to the bishops—since they are told that they don’t have the ability to responsibly interpret Scripture. It must be noted that the twentieth century saw some great and encouraging developments in the area of personal Bible study among Roman Catholics. However, they are still required to interpret Scripture in light of the Magisterium, not vice-versa as the Bereans were.
- Can Catholics Affirm Sola Scriptura?
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part Eight – What about all the divisions?
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part Three – An Argument for the Dual-Source Theory
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part Five – What is Tradition?
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part 10 – A Historical Defense