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Six Myths About Sola Scriptura

The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines I know of. The misconceptions come not only from those who repudiate the doctrine (such as Roman Catholics), but also from those who affirm it. Here is a list of some myths regarding sola Scriptura.

1. Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the only source of spiritual insight.

Spiritual insight can come from any number of sources, both secular and Christian. I remember in 1995, I received quite a bit of spiritual motivation and inspiration from the movie Braveheart. My thoughts and hopes were infiltrated by the idea of a person giving up his life for something bigger than himself. There are many things – songs, wise words, books, and movies (Christian and secular), to name a few – that can be sources of insight and inspiration. Remember, all truth is God’s truth. It does not have to be in the Scriptures to be true.

2. Sola Scriptura means that there are no other authorities in our lives.

We believe that the Scriptures are our final and only infallible authority, but not that they are our only authority. For example, we believe that our pastors and church leaders have authority in our lives. Hebrews 13:7 says that we are to obey our leaders. Wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:2). People are to obey the government (1 Pet. 2:13). Children are to do what their parents say (Eph. 6:1). There can be no excuse like, “Dad, the Bible does not say I have to clean my room, so I choose not to.” Or “Officer, it says nothing specific about running red lights in the Bible.”

As well, tradition (church history) is an authority in our lives. Those who have gone before us in the faith must be respected. Their collective and unified influence creates an authority which, I believe, is second only to Scripture. After all, they had the same Holy Spirit as us, didn’t they? The Holy Spirit does not teach us everything new as individuals, but educates and inspires us in and with those who have gone before us. That is why I love dead theologians!

As I read through John Calvin’s Institutes a couple of years ago, I did so with a fine-toothed comb, underlining every time another source was referenced, especially a source from another church father. One cannot study the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura and come away with the idea that the Reformers ever meant that the Scriptures were our only authority. Ultimate, yes. Only, no.

None of these are our final authority, and if the Scriptures contradict what these authorities say, the Scriptures trump.

3. Sola Scriptura means that if it is not in the Bible, it is not divinely binding.

Romans 1 speaks of the binding authority of the message of creation: “For since the creation of the world, his eternal attributes, divine power and nature have been clearly understood so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). As well, in Romans 2, we are told that our conscience testifies to us about God’s will (Rom. 2:14-16). As Christians, we must be willing to take our cue from all forms of what we call “general revelation”: rationality, moral conscience, and the message of creation all qualify.

Whether it is rationality or the message of creation and the conclusions drawn from it, we cannot turn a blind eye and say that since it is not in the Scripture, it does not make any difference.

4. Sola Scriptura means that the Scriptures are an exhaustive source for us to know how to live our lives each day.

Think about how many things the Bible does not tell us. It does not tell us any particulars about where to work, whom to marry, what to eat, how often to shower, how many elders to have, or how, exactly, to conduct a Sunday morning service. It gives us general principles and then extends lots of freedom for us to use our wisdom to work out the details.

The Scriptures equip us spiritually for every spiritual service (2 Tim. 3:17). There is no knowledge deposit or missing database which contains essential information about how to have a right relationship with God. In this, Scripture is completely sufficient for every spiritual task.

5. Sola Scriptura was invented by Protestant Reformers

While it is true that sola Scriptura is confessed exclusively by Protestants, it is not true that the Reformers invented this doctrine. It was articulated in the sixteenth century to a greater degree than ever before, but this was only because of the abuses of the institutionalized church (primarily beginning with the Gregorian reforms in the eleventh century). Therefore, like all doctrine, it went through a maturation. But we can find the seed principles of the doctrine of sola Scriptura throughout the history of the church. Here are some examples:

Basil the Great (379)

“Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right” (Letter CCLXXXIII, ANCF, p. 312).

In the end, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the final and only infallible source of divine revelation and is, therefore, the ultimate guide for the conscience of the Christian.

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

“We make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet.”

Augustine (354-430)

“In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority.” (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

There are many more examples here.

As a matter of fact, there are some joint declarations between Protestants and Eastern Orthodox which demonstrate that when properly understood (all myths aside), there is great agreement on this doctrine. Roman Catholics, who hold to a dual-source authority (Tradition + Scripture interpreted by the church), are the only ones who outright reject sola Scriptura.

6. Those who hold to sola Scriptura are uncertain about the canon of Scripture.

The whole idea here is that if the Scriptures are the only infallible authority, then there are no Scriptures since there is no infallible authority who can tell us which books belong in the Scriptures (since the table of contents is not inspired). While it is true that there is no infallible canon or list of books that comprise Scripture, this does not mean we have to be forever uncertain about what books belong in the Bible. We can have strong and binding conviction without having infallible knowledge of many important things. We don’t have infallible knowledge that our interpretation of  Scripture is correct; however, when the Scriptures are clear there is no need for an infallible interpreter.

But, more to the point: even if we have an infallible definer and interpreter of Scripture (e.g. Pope, Watchtower, Councils, church, etc.), this does not mean we infallibly interpret these sources. For example, who interprets the Roman Catholic catechism? How does one know they are interpreting it correctly? As well, while there is no infallible canon of books that belong in the Bible, there is also no infallible canon of dogmas the Pope has made. Even Roman Catholics can’t agree about when the Pope has spoken infallibly. Therefore, having an infallible interpreter has not solved as many problems as people like to think. In short, we don’t need an infallible list of books in order to be convicted that we have the right books.

I think this is an accurate way to put it:

The Bible is carried by reason, aided by experience, guarded by tradition, but ruled by none.

52 Responses to “Six Myths About Sola Scriptura”

  1. Sorry, your sixth point is as clear as mud.

    Jesus acknowledged the authority of “the scriptures” in some of His conversations with the Pharisees. So, at the very least, what they understood to be “the scriptures” (what we call “the Old Testament”) is clearly part of the canon of scripture and Jesus understood it as such. As for the New Testament, we know from Peter that Paul’s letters were considered scripture (note Peter’s reference to Paul’s letters and “the other scriptures,” clearly indicating he equated Paul’s letters with scripture). Thus, we know that a Church authority (one of the original Apostles) considered Paul’s letters to be part of the canon of scripture. As for the remainder of our Bibles, the Church council that determined which books would be in the canon had clear criteria that they used as a guide to help them. That’s how they determined the canon of scripture – though I don’t doubt for a moment that the Holy Spirit was directing the process and leading the Council to the right decision.

    • Chancellor,

      Sorry about the mud. I must correct you though. The church did not “determine” the canon. That is too strong of a word. The church recognized the canon. And the tests do not represent an infallible process, yet one that can be trusted. But we must continually be going back to the sources to increase our confidence, both personal and corporate, about the canon of the Scripture. No doubt God was in the traditions that recognized the canon, but did you know that these same councils also affirmed the deuterocanonical works (they were very influenced by Augustine).

  2. #3?
    “3. Sola Scriptura does means that if it is not in the Bible it is not divinely binding.”

    Is that supposed to be:
    “3. Sola Scriptura does not mean that if it is not in the Bible it is not divinely binding.”?

  3. Sorry, I disagree with this whole article. The Bible is the one and only source for all truths and spiritual insight!! Everything else we have or experienced MUST be tested against the Bible. Sure we can obtain spiritual insights and understand truths through things outside of the Bible but they ALL must be tested against the Word of God.

    Yes, it was compiled by humans. But, who do you think directed and guided that whole procedure? God uses all kinds of events and people to fulfill His will. It does not matter who or what compiled the Bible. It does not matter what was left in or what was left out. It matters that God was in control. As an example, Daniel 10:12-14 shows us that God works with believers and non-believers to fulfill His will. (12Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”)

    When you don’t believe that the Bible is THE ONE AND ONLY source for all truths and instructions even for your daily life, then it is you that have a problem with your faith and belief. God has provided us with an instructional manual for our everyday lives. How can we deny it or even doubt it even a little??

    18For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this…

  4. Michael, about your point #6,

    I think you are saying that we don’t need an infallible authority in order to be sufficiently certain about the canon. Ok, for the moment I’ll go with your certainty from a fallible authority. Precisely what is this fallible authority, and on what basis does this fallible authority make judgements?

  5. In your response to Chancellor, you said the tests and processes that recognized the canon were fallible yet could be trusted. Then you in effect contradict yourself by implying the decision to canonize deuterocanonicals should not be trusted. On what basis do you decide to trust or mistrust the outcome?

  6. Oh boy. I realise there can be arguments about what the fathers believed, but I always throw up my hands when you claim Basil (of all people!) believed sola scriptura. Anytime someone quotes Basil for Sola scriptura, all I can think is, TOTAL FAIL.

    “Concerning the teachings of the Church, whether publicly proclaimed or reserved to members of the household of faith, we have received some from written sources, while others have been given to us secretly, through apostolic tradition. Both sources have equal force in true religion. No one would deny either source – no one, at any rate, who is even slightly familiar with the ordinances of the Church. If we attacked unwritten customs, claiming them to be of little importance, we would fatally mutilate the Gospel, no matter what our intentions – or rather, we would reduce the Gospel teachings to bare words.” – Basil the Great, on the Holy Spirit

  7. “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about ME” (John 5:39).It is good to search the Scriptures, but first and foremost it’s best to to believe in Christ. Only God in Christ [not the Bible] is the infallible and inerrant authority: “All authority has been given to ME in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19).
    Christ in His Body, the Church [not the Bible], is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth: “These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly; but if I wait long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the Pillar and Ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
    Christ in and through the Church is the infallible authority that established the canon of Scripture 350 years after the Church was founded. The Church thus existed and flourished for 350 years by the power and authority of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – without the full Bible as we know it today.
    As the article states, the doctrine of sola Scriptura was developed “only because of the abuses of the institutionalized church (primarily beginning with the Gregorian Reforms in the eleventh-century).” The unified Church of the first ten centuries still exists today, not by a so-called infallible Roman pope, nor by a paper pope – the Bible – to ensure its unity. She is held together in the unity of the Holy Spirit by councils of bishops whose decisions are ratified by all the people of God in the Holy Orthodox Church.

  8. This “myth” is glaringly absent from your list:

    7. Sola Scriptura is unbiblical.

  9. Greetings,

    It sounds to me like you’re talking about the textbook definition of Prima Scriptura, not Sola Scriptura. Per your understanding of Sola Scriptura, is Prima Scriptura different?

  10. What is this truth that you speak of, of which there are allegedly more than one (all) and which allegedly belong (?) to God?

  11. Another myth:
    8. Sola Scriptura means we should not expect God to speak in extra-Biblical ways, such as prophecy, in dreams, or by angelic visitation.

  12. I can’t think of anyone on here who has posted about scripture being infallible or not being infallible, was physically present when the decisions about what books should be included and what books should not in the Bible. The only name that I can mention as being there is God. This is the same person who created the world in 6 literal days, He parted the red sea, He caused an entire city to collapse except for where a Red hanky was dangling from, He allowed a big fish to swallow a little man, and somehow this fish swam directly to Nineveh of all places, He healed the sick and raised the dead. If the Bible is the primary source other than prayer for God to communicate with us, than I believe during that process where fallible men made decisions about the books of the Bible, that my infallible God could miraculously make sure that the books that are in the Bible are the precise ones that should be. And what gives credence to this fact is that the message in every book of the Bible is the same, God’s love for sinful people and His sovereign grace towards mankind in His plan of redemption.

  13. CMP is right on here! ‘The church did not “determine” the canon. That is too strong of a word. The church recognized the canon.’ Surely the Church is “the pillar (pillar is used metaphorically here) and support of the truth,” and has too a “common confession” (1 Tim. 3: 15-16), as a “common salvation”, (Jude 3). But surely the Church is never “Infallible”! Either East or West!

    Funny, when ever the doctrine of the “sola Scriptura” comes up on the blogs, ya get just about every doctrine and so-called definition, but the true one! And I have shared this many times, but rather than say it again, I will point people to one of the better Protestant statements here, and that is in Richard Muller’s book, (now surely classic like for us Reformed) and that book: Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, (Baker Book House Co., 1985)… See page 284. This again classic book has become one of my favorite tools for sure! As Richard Muller has become perhaps the greatest Reformed living scholar and historical theolog I can think of!

  14. Fr Robert,

    Why then do you not accept the canon that the church recognized?

  15. @Irene: I have accepted the canon of the “Church” that I follow (the church of the via media) the Anglican Communion, and the English Reformation; note here is the Article of Holy Scripture from the Irish Articles 1615…

    IRISH ARTICLES OF RELIGION.

    Of the holy Scripture and the three Creeds.

    1. The ground of our Religion, and rule of faith and all saving truth is the word of God contained in the holy scripture.

    2. By the name of holy scripture we understand all the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, namely:

    Of the Old Testament.

    ◦The 5 Books of Moses.
    ◦Joshua.
    ◦Judges.
    ◦Ruth.
    ◦The first and second of Samuel.
    ◦The first and second of Kings.
    ◦The first and second of Chronicles.
    ◦Ezra.
    ◦Nehemiah.
    ◦Esther.
    ◦Job.
    ◦Psalms.
    ◦Proverbs.
    ◦Ecclesiastes.
    ◦The Song of Solomon.
    ◦Isaiah.
    ◦Jeremiah, his Prophecy and Lamentation.
    ◦Ezekiel.
    ◦Daniel.
    ◦The 12 Minor Prophets.

    Of the New Testament.

    ◦The Gospels according to
    ◾Matthew.
    ◾Mark.
    ◾Luke.
    ◾John.
    ◦The Acts of the Apostles.
    ◦The Epistle of S. Paul to the Romans.
    ◦Corinthians, 2.
    ◦Galatians.
    ◦Ephesians.
    ◦Philippians.
    ◦Colossians.
    ◦Thessalonians, 2.
    ◦Timothy 2.
    ◦Titus.
    ◦Philemon.
    ◦Hebrews.
    ◦The Epistle of S. James.
    ◦Saint Peter, 2.
    ◦Saint John, 3.
    ◦Saint Jude.
    ◦The Revelation of S. John.

    All which we acknowledge to be given by the inspiration of God, and in that regard to be of most certain credit and highest authority.

    3. The other Books commonly called Apocryphal did not proceed from such inspiration and therefore are not of sufficient authority to establish any point of doctrine; but the Church doth read them as Books containing many worthy things for example of life and instruction of manners.

    See also the earlier (1563) Anglican Thirty-nine Articles, #1.

  16. Btw, “The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed” for the they may be proved by certain warrants of holy Scripture.” (Anglican Article VIII.)

    And that was *#VI, not 1, for the 1563 Anglican Thirty-nine Articles, Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation.

  17. Fr Robert, thanks for the response. I did actually google and skim the rest of the Irish Articles of 1615, as well.

    Do you continue to remain in what the Anglican Communion teaches today?

    I won’t beat around the bush and waste your time. . . . My point is, I believe you don’t follow all of what the Anglican Church teaches anymore, correct ? I believe you have even labeled yourself eclectic in some respects? If the church is pillar and support of the truth, yet someone rejects what it says as false, then he is making himself the pillar of truth, rather than the church, by judging the church’s proclamations of truth, rather than accepting them.
    I see an inconsistency problem.

  18. @Irene: I am very much a classic Anglican, which is certainly more Protestant than Catholic, especially on the doctrines of grace and salvation, (Evangelical). If you read the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles, I really do ascent generally there. For they are most certainly Reformational and Reformed! The place that I tend toward my kind of eclecticism, is on the Eschatological. I am most surely Historic Premillennial, (post-trib.), a certain “Biblical” and Christian Zionist! The latter is not all that radical, there were actually many Anglican rectors, and theolog’s that were Historic Pre-Mill, and pro-Israel in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century. The list is rather profound, but just not that well known today, save with guys like me! For example, see the Anglican Henry Alford, early-mid 20th century, and his well-known Greek NT Commentary.

    Also, the best of the Anglican Communion has always been part of the Church of the via-media (middle way), both “Catholic” & “Reformed”. It is here btw, that I have become somewhat close and friendly, in places (Christology and the Trinity of God) with the Orthodox, and EO. I read and like many of the more modern EO theolog’s: Georges Florovsky, Vladimir Lossky, Timothy Ware, (this guys were basically 20th century men), But today, I also like John Anthony McGuckin, (an Anglo-Irish EO) a bit younger than me. See btw, the latter’s newest book on The Orthodox Church, An Intro to its History, Doctrine, etc.

    So in reality, I like to think I am a “historic-churchman”! But surely a Calvinist on soteriology (salvation), but closer to Luther on the Sacraments, and in classic Anglicanism, this is not all that eclectic here.

    And btw real consistency must be theological to my mind, and too with a conservative ecclesiology, and here I would also place a Luther, with the best of Word & Sacrament! :)

  19. @Fr Robert

    Ah, now I see what you mean by the middle way. I’ve always kind of thought the Lutheran church had a plot there, too.

    “real consistency must be theological”
    There’s the key, isn’t it. Whether the Church is found with the physical successors of the apostles, or with whomever happens to be teaching “correct” doctrine.
    Whether St Ambrose is right,
    “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”,
    or Martin Luther is right,
    “That denomination is the true visible Church which has, teaches, and confesses the entire doctrine of the Word of God and administers the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution.”

    In either case, I think it would be correct that the Truth supports the Church, but only in the first case does it make sense to say the Church is the pillar of the truth.

    If the second case is true, we ourselves, in effect, become the final arbiters of truth, because we must constantly discern whether our own denomination/visible church has the truth or has fallen into error. The individual believer must become the “pillar of truth” in the midst of history’s sandstorms of reformation, mergers, churchplantings, etc. And we know that no prophecy is a matter of one’s own interpretation.

    Bringing this back around to CMP’s #6,
    If we accept the NT canon on the Church’s authority, we must also accept the OT canon on the same authority. If we deny the Church’s authority to set the OT canon, then it is really by our own authority that we discern the NT canon. If we have ability to discern the canon, we also have the ability to interpret Scripture without serious error. Then every Tom, Dick, and Sally come up with conflicting interpretations, and divisions multiply, like cracks on thin ice.
    Not very pastorally wise of God.

    I believe God, the wisest pastor, gave us man to man succession, with the Spirit’s protection, so that we poor believers may always find His Church.

  20. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NKJV)

    always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (II Timothy 3:7 NKJV)

  21. @Irene: Indeed the best of evangelical Catholic types, with the ecumenical types of the EO (as Michael Frost btw), and hopefully a few of us classic Anglican types, there is hope for better Christian fellowship within elements of the High Church aspect! I am open here! But sadly, not with the “emergents”, or the Hyper-pure EO’s!

    And btw, I don’t see much Body-life with many evangelical apologetic types sadly, yes many are Christians doctrinally, but they lack in the visible Church life: of Christ Risen & Ascended, and in fellowship with those in 1 Cor. 1: 2! It is here that I am somewhat drawn towards “some” EO or Orthodox (as the Antiochian American Orthodox, and too some of the Coptic Orthodox, British). Indeed the Mystical Body-life of Christ is much more important than we realize!

  22. I mention the Coptic Orthodox, some I knew in Israel, but of course too those in Egypt are suffering badly! I have found many of these Orthodox Christians to be profound lovers of Christ! We surely need to pray for them! (Heb. 13: 2)

  23. Well Yes, and No. I agree with the overall thrust here, and I’m glad you’ve done it. However, the title might better be “Six reasons for the doctrine of Prima Scriptura”.

    #1 – I wonder if we might not be able to drop the “spiritual” tag and just say scriptural is not the only source of insight. Would that still be making your point? Or maybe we want define specifically spiritual insight? Seems it has something to do with inspiration, but I’m not sure that’s always the same as spiritual.

    #2 – Yeah, but we’re referring to the authority of scripture here to authenticate the authority of these other sources, so…

    #3 – Hmmm, Maybe, but this is where “scripture alone is infallible” becomes really critical.

    #4 – Yes. Now this I wish more Christians would get!

    #5 – I didn’t know that. Thanks.

    #6 – Probably more could be said on this given more space, and more has been said I suppose, but this makes a good enough point.

  24. You get a lot of comments, C. Michael! I just found your blog. I don’t know if you have time to read all the comments, but …

    Well done on this article. Well-written, and despite some of the complaints in the comments, simple and clear and irrefutable.

    I hope this adds value, but the canon of Scripture in the west was determined by Jerome. He didn’t do it on purpose. He simply translated the Bible into Latin and his Latin Vulgate became the standard for the next thousand years or so. The canon was determined by default.

    In AD 412, Augustine–a contemporary of Jerome and bishop of Hippo–published _On Christian Doctrine_. There he said that a good student would be familiar with which books were accepted by all churches and which by some churches only. He recommended giving higher priority to books accepted by large, apostolic chuches, and less priority to books accepted only by other churches.

    Obviously, Augustine didn’t think the canon was absolutely set even as late as AD 412.

    No council with any authority ever set a canon until the Council of Trent, which began in 1546. The synod of Hippo in AD 393 is often cited, but if the bishop of Hippo didn’t think the canon was set in 412, then the synod of Hippo obviously did not have authority anywhere but in Hippo.

    I imagine we all know that there were not many books in dispute even in the late 2nd century, but obviously some remained in dispute until the fifth.

    You can see the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Apocrypha for more information. They obviously didn’t have a set canon, either, for their article says that most Catholic scholars rejected the Apocrypha as (full?) Scripture until almost the time of the Reformation.

    Hoping that’s helpful and interesting.

  25. Hello Michael,

    your points might very well be entirely true, this changes nothing to the fact that the god of an inerrant Bible ordered soldiers to slaughter babies.

    Since God is perfect, this means for me the Bible cannot be inerrant.

    Lovely greetings from Germany
    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  26. C Michael Patton,

    Great article. A simple yet profound clarification of the Sola Scriptura. A favor, if you would, please: could you provide some links to these “joint declarations” between Protestants and our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. I was unaware of their existence, and would very much like to read some if you could link them (a quick Google search failed me).

    Thanks,

    Ryan Landes

  27. Funny, when we can think that OUR moral ethics are greater than GOD’s Purpose & Will! And GOD did not “slaughter babies”, but did He allow it for HIS sovereign purpose & will, (which is always quite beyond us). But God is NOT the author of evil, but somehow.. HE is the great Sovereign of the Universe!

    *Even now God allows US (sinful humans) to kill the unborn! But surely GOD is still GOD and Sovereign and “perfect”!

  28. Dr Robert Hosken, I really like your post, I pretty much have the same view especially about Jesus being the sole authority, the Word. The only issue I have is with the last part where you narrow it down to the Orthodox church. I respect the Orthodox church very much, I’m a semi-catholic, semi-evangelical person but I think this discredits everyone else who is not of your faith. I have the same reaction when the RCC says the same things, claiming to be the only source or truth. I think the Christian landscape has been corrupted enough that true believers can be found everywhere and that no one body encompasses the whole truth.

  29. Ahhh…the age old question of how can God be so perfect and yet still allow innocent deaths. But, more specifically in this case, the ordering of killing babies.

    One must understand and agree that if God is perfect and omnipotent then He must be all knowing. If He is all-knowing then shouldn’t He know the hearts of ALL men? And if God knows the future, then should He not know the ultimate result of anybody’s heart? Then surely, God will know how a person will turn out. Unfortunately or better yet, fortunately, He can show His mercy and perfect judgement and end that person’s earthly life for the betterment of all and to fulfill His will.

    Imagine that you are on a helicopter overlooking a highway. You know that there is a huge semitruck speeding down one side of a tunnel. And, you can see a family in a sedan speeding into the opposite end of the tunnel. You know that it will not end well. What would you do?

    Since we are not God and do now know the things of God, all we can to is have faith and trust His judgement.

  30. Fr Robert,

    It seems to me in an instance like I Samuel 15, God did more then “allow” the killing of infants, He ordered Saul through the prophet Samuel, to kill men, women, babies. Even the animals of Israel’s enemies.

  31. The hearts of all men are sinful, so thank God He does not leave that choice with me, for I would not choose God, nor really would anyone else! GOD chose His elect people fully Himself, and for Himself, and In Christ! Indeed “foreknowledge” is more than just foreknowing in God, the foreknowledge of God is the basis of His foreordaining counsels! (Prognosis, Gk.)…1 Peter 1: 2 is such a tremendous verse here: “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father (His decree & council), by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

    This verse surely shows that God the Father is the “First” person of the Godhead, the regal & monarchy in Himself, who is the eternal source of the Godhead, and from whom the Son is begotten eternally and also from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally. Indeed here is fully our grace and peace in fullest measure!

  32. @cherylu: Yes, in the OT and the New God is concerned with His “Covenant” will and purpose, in the Old Testament it was literal “Israel”, as the Israelis and Jews were surrounded by the pagan nations, and often GOD sent them out to kill the enemies of both God and Israel! It is just about as simple as that! We will never be able to peer behind a Sovereign God!

  33. Sola-alone, Scriptura- the scriptures.
    That’s simple enough we just have to define what constitutes “scriptures”.
    Arguably all references to the scriptures are to the Old Testament. I didn’t forget 2 Peter, we can argue that another time.
    The Bereans searched the O.T. scriptures to find truth, Acts 17 v 11. Paul preached from the scriptures, Acts 17 v 2 and all Jesus references are to the O.T. “scriptures” Jesus gave them his STAMP OF APPROVAL. John 5 v 39.
    Any arguments against are mute because you cannot refer to something that either hasn’t been or is still being written, and probably not widely read for decades after the fact, and for that matter “canonized” for centuries.
    Bottom line regardless of the intentions of the people that coined the phrase “sola scriptura” all doctrine in the N.T. has to be measured against the Old, not the other way around.(Acts 17 v 11). Creeds are definitely NOT scripture so they are definitely NOT inspired 2 Tim 3 v 16, here Paul is referring BACKWARDS to something written before his time! There are many who will argue otherwise for their pet doctrines have no support in the O.T. Warning, Warning!!!!

  34. Paul also knew he was God’s Apostle, prophet, preacher & pastor-teacher (especially to the Gentiles), again: “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains…” (1 Cor. 13: 2). The spiritual formation of Paul’s message came from the OT, but much of his revelations came directly from God! (Gal. 1: 11-12, noting too, Gal. 2: 7-8), WE really have the birth of the NT and “Covenant” in the ministry of St. Paul! (2 Cor. 3)

  35. “Regarding the relation of Scripture and Tradition, for centuries there seemed to have been a deep difference between Orthodox and Lutheran teaching. Orthodox hear with satisfaction the affirmation of the Lutheran theologians that the formula sola Scriptura was always intended to point to God’s revelation, God’s saving act through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore to the holy Tradition of the Church . . . against human traditions that darken the authentic teaching in the Church.”
    —Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue:
    The Agreed Statements 1985–1989
    (Geneva: Lutheran World Federation, 1992), 11

  36. “Any disjunction between Scripture and Tradition such as would treat them as two separate ‘sources of revelation’ must be rejected. The two are correlative. We affirm (1) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of the Holy Tradition or not; (2) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scriptures in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message.”
    —Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue:
    The Dublin Agreed Statement 1984
    (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), 50–51

  37. These are very strong statements that, unfortunately, almost no one knows exist, Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestant.

  38. “The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines I know of.”

    Yes, indeed. Too often, Protestants just take sola Scriptura as a given, without thinking about why it might be true or how one arrives at that conclusion.

    Here is a list of myths about sola Scriptura, yes even solA Scriptura, from another perspective.

    1) Sola Scriptura is Biblical.

    2) Sola Scriptura is historical. The doctrine of sola Scriptura has been present in seed form and therefore does not conflict with the history of the Church of Christ.

    3) Sola Scriptura is common sense.

    4) Sola Scriptura leads to pure doctrine.

    5) Sola Scriptura is a solid basis for interpretive methods such as ‘Scripture interpreting Scripture’ and canonical exegesis.

    6) The uncertainty accompanying sola Scriptura is both unavoidable and acceptable.

  39. I was around during most of these, and I was part of an Anglican and Orthodox (EO) fellowship and dialogue group, many years back now. Sadly now these have for most part moved on, or just gone away. But of course Anglicanism has spiritually and theologically fragmented, and too there are the Ordinariates of the Anglicanorum Coetibus, of course this came from Pope Benedict/Ratzinger for Anglicans that wanted to move into Rome. And too the Lutherans have also fragmented somewhat. These are hard times and days for conservative and classic Anglicans, as too for many Lutherans of the same. And the EO or Orthodox have not changed much on paper, but they too are feeling the effects of modernity & postmodernity! And always of course the historical effect of their “autocephalous” nature (independence, and self-governing nature) of many EO groups, especially many different ethnic groups.

    So again sadly one can make or look back at “confessions” and theological type statements, but if all we have is mere recitation of them, it does little to preserve theology, at least spiritually!

  40. @Irene: Of course sola Scriptura correctly understood, is simply biblically & theologically part of the Reformation and the top-tier Reformers! And for the most part, at least classic Anglican statements, as the Thirty-nine Articles, (1563), with the Irish Articles 1615, have a good basic understanding here! Sadly today, the Church in every quarter, is under the siege and effect of modernity & postmodernity, and yes even Roman Catholicism! (And this has been slow and sure actually since the Enlightenment, 18th century) Perhaps the least effected here are the Orthodox, but then they too are feeling some of the effects, especially from the culture, as simply the so-called laity are being pulled! If any of us in the West, especially, deny this, we are fooling ourselves!

  41. Protestantism has always had one major problem; namely, that of authority. Sola scriptura does not provide that authority since any reasonable person understands that the canon had to be assembled and authenticated in the first place. Now, just whom might that be? Marcion? The Diatessaron by Tatian? Early Luther? Perhaps the Gnostics? What about an ecumenical council? Not a bad idea, if you ask me.

    Now, that solves only part of the problem. Who’s going to interpret Scripture? Luther? Calvin or the Pope? What about Scripture interpreting Scripture? Not bad; but hold on—someone has to do that, too—that is, tell us what Scripture is actually saying about Scripture? A conundrum, right? So, authority must be introduced at some point or we are left with just a pick and choose approach based on which theology fits our fancy; or am I mistaken here?

    So, this begs the question: “Whose authority?” Authenticity (canon of Scripture) is always subservient to authority; whether that is the authority of history, a magisterium or whatever.

  42. @James: Indeed myself having been raised and somewhat educated early R. Catholic, and then being close too to some degree to Eastern Orthodox (over the years), I am as a classic Protestant Anglican in the best of both worlds I feel. Save of course the outright apostasy of so much modern and todays Anglicanism! The authority of the Church must always be Jesus Christ, His Lordship.. and here of course is where the Holy Spirit must come into His place as “spirit and truth”! Indeed HE is the “Vicar of Christ” on earth! And it is here that Karl Barth has been helpful. And as I have said many times, I see Barth as a modern Church Father to some degree. His friendship with Von Balthasar (and note Von B, wrote a classic book on The Theology of Karl Barth, -Ignatius Press in English, 1992).

    So indeed I see the place of the Reformation, especially the Reformed…Ecclesia semper reformada (always reforming), as the historical reality for early Anglicanism. Sadly now the “elect” people of God, in the visible church is moving toward almost a remnant-like place. The visible church is surely under siege today, High Church, Low Church, it matters not what “Church”. Just the or any “faithful” people of God!

    But yes surely the teaching and somewhat authority, of a Luther, Calvin… the whole of the Genevan Reformers! With too something of the Swiss Reformers too… Bullinger , etc. But the Eucharist simply must return to a central place in the life of the Church, and here Luther’s position appears to be a most biblical and theological place… a spiritual, theological “real presence”: Christ, ‘in-above & around’ the elements!

  43. @James-the-lesser

    You said that Scripture interpreting Scripture is not bad, if only there was an authority to do it. Well, not only is designating a proper interpreter a problem, but how is Scripture supposed to interpret Scripture when you can’t even say for SURE what that Scripture even is? What if there is an OT book somewhere that would put doctrine in a different light? What if Romans is actually not inspired? Why not interpret Luke in light of the Gospel of Thomas, or is it actually correct to interpret the crucifixion in light of Exodus? No way to be sure with a fallible canon. Scripture cannot reliably interpret Scripture if the canon is not defined. Canonical exegesis loses force without a canon.

  44. I have mentioned this book before on the subject of the Canon, it is simply THE book today on the Canon: Canon Revisited, Establishing The Origins And Authority of the New Testament Books, and by a Reformed NT professor: Michael Kruger Ph.D. University of Edinburgh (he is the academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. The book is 2012, Crossway, 362 pages).

    Both John Frame and Mike Horton have written very positively on the back of the book. Indeed Frame says of it: “This is the definitive work on the subject for our time.” Indeed both the Canon and the Holy Scripture are self-authenticating in themselves, Scripture with Scripture, which IS Canon, authority, and truth itself! (The last sentence is my own.)

  45. And btw, as Kevin Vanhoozer has said: “History alone cannot answer the question of what the canon finally is; theology alone can do that.” Indeed Scripture defines Canon, and Canon defines Scripture. As Jesus said: “But the hour is coming , and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4: 23) So indeed God calls those to see and know His “spirit and truth”! And this is in God’s Son Jesus, who is both the “Logos” and the “Rhema”!

  46. It was Luther who related Holy Scripture to personal existence, this was the essence of his hermeneutic, i.e. “conscience”! And following Augustine he used the Christological principle in the NT interpretation and exegesis. (This is a personal quote of my own from one of my own Luther essays.)

  47. My pastor talks about point #1 this way: “The Bible contains all we MUST know, but not all there IS to know.”

  48. Grayson Pope’s pastor says: “The Bible contains all we MUST know…”

    …which is, of course, a human tradition which nullifies the word of God.

    The big problem is that people insist on using the Old Testament, the topically-specific letters of Paul, James, Jude, John, and Peter, an Apocalypse, and “the memoirs of the apostles” as if this collection somehow equated to a catechism: That is to say, as if it stated all the fundamental required doctrines and practices sufficiently plainly that no honest-of-intent, sufficiently-educated, Spirit-led Christian could possibly misunderstand.

    But that’s not what the Bible is, at all. Using it that way is only slightly more sophisticated than “playing Bible roulette” by opening the book to a random page, putting down one’s finger with one’s eyes closed, and taking the verse thus selected as a personal message in Magic-8-Ball style. It is not that God cannot communicate with His children through this method, mind you! He stoops to conquer, and puts up with all kinds of ignorant tomfoolery to get man to hear Him. But “Bible roulette” is not reliable in the least.

    And neither is “Bible as catechism.”

    Firstly, the “Bible as catechism” approach is anti-scriptural: Peter plainly states that there are things in Paul’s letters which are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction. But these folks didn’t know they were ignorant; they thought they understood. Peter is warning us: Some bits of the Bible are explicitly LIKELY to be misunderstood. Not all parts. But we have no guarantee that the hard-to-understand parts don’t include critical doctrine.

    So we have a book here which speaks nothing but the truth. Wonderful! …but some of the truth is so obscurely written, hinted at, or alluded to, that if you don’t already know it from another source, you’re unlikely to derive it from the Bible without error. That’s the deal.

    And we know, from experience, that…

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