Do Charismatics Deny Sola Scriptura Due to their View of Prophecy?


While I am not a charismatic, I am around them all the time. In fact, I think that I have more charismatics that work for me than non-charismatics. It’s quite a bit of fun. While I ban the “power of the Spirit” being manifest in speaking in tongues during work hours at the Credo House, I certainly don’t ban the power of the Spirit in anyone’s personal life. Everyone is free to believe whatever they are led to believe in this area here at Credo. We are very open and encouraging of this type of diversity. It has only gotten weird a couple of times. (Maybe I will write about that someday!)

I often tell people that I am the most want-to-be-charismatic non-charismatic they will ever meet. I long for the gifts of the Spirit to be manifested in such a way. To see people healed of serious ailments would be a taste of heaven. But more than anything else, I desire prophecy. I want to hear from God in such a way. I want God to speak directly to my situations. I would love to experience this type of communion with God. It would be so encouraging.

The other day (not at Credo), I had someone chase me down and prophesy over me. I was so excited when they approached. I think it was a husband/wife team. They said that when they saw me, they had a vision from God. It was a vision of me writing checks. “We saw you writing check after check.” I almost thought they had it right (considering how many bills I have to pay!), but they were talking about something else. They saw me giving money all the time to people in need. They talked about how generous I was. Now, as much as I would like to make such a claim, I certainly don’t have anything that would stand out in that area. Normally, my only version of giving significantly is taking a pay cut so Credo can move forward! Then they said that they saw the nations all around me in the form of various people groups, especially those with different languages, I was influencing. Again, they did not have the right person. Yes, this ministry is international, but their description of the type of influence I was having was much different. In the end, I was very deflated. Whatever visions they had of my identity, they either had the wrong person or the wrong spirit talking to them. It was not God talking to me.

As this encounter ended, I found myself attempting to assess my thinking about such things. I was kind to them and, right to wrong, I did not rain on their prophecy by saying they were incorrect in their visions. I just thanked them for their kindness and went my way. But I wondered about their “prophetic” gift and about my view of prophecy in general. In essence, I began to relate this, once again, to my Protestant heritage. Here are some of my thoughts: If charismatics have prophets who can directly speak God’s word, doesn’t this deny the Protestant principle sola Scriptura? If the Bible is the only infallible source of revelation, there cannot be prophets who speak on behalf of God, since their prophecy would also be infallible. If the Bible alone is the ultimate source of revelation, how can there be people today who receive “words from the Lord” which would be, by definition, another ultimate source. After all, God’s word is God’s word. One cannot be truly prophetic, and thus, contingently God’s word, while the other is the true standard. That would make the former simply a matter of opinion. It is either God’s prophetic word, whether written or spoken, or it is not.

Therefore, it is my contention that Charismatics are not truly Protestant as they deny one of the two central doctrines of the Protestant movement, sola Scriptura (the other being sola fide). In fact, they have fallen into the same trap that the old Papists have in the past. They have an authority alongside the Bible that is equal to the Scripture in the Christian life.

A little harsh? I think so. Again, I am not charismatic, but I am not fully persuaded that their belief in the continuation of prophecy necessarily denies the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura.

I suppose the most important thing for us to do at the beginning is to define our terms. Do a little research and you will find that the little Latin phrase sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) is not easy to define. Here are some of the possible definitions I have discovered:

1. Scripture is the sufficient source of revelation.

2. Scripture is the only infallible source of revelation.

3. Scripture is the ultimate source of revelation.

All of these are found in the writings of the Reformers. And then there is the common mis-definition that is so popular among twentieth-century American Evangelicals and fundamentalists that Scripture is the only source of authority in the life of the Christian (often termed nuda or solo Scriptura). But this is not a serious definition as, if nothing else, sola Scriptura has always allowed for other authorities.

If I look back over my personal notes (as well as in some of my published writings), I have always defined sola Scriptura in this way: Scripture is the final and only infallible source of revelation.

I am changing a bit here I think. While I believe that Scripture is the sufficient and ultimate source of revelation, I am not sure that it is the only infallible source we have available.

Think about this: isn’t creation infallible? Both Romans 1 and Psalm 19 tell us that creation itself is revelation of God, “pouring speech” about his attributes and divine nature. So authoritative is creation as a source of revelation, Romans 1:20 says it renders a person “without excuse” in their refusal to acknowledge God. And if  creation is truly a revelation from God, it, by definition, must be infallible. Yes, we can misinterpret and misunderstand creation and yes, it is fallen. But this does not mean it pours forth speech with a lisp. And if creation is infallible, then Scripture is not the only infallible source.

Yet, I do think that one of the things the Reformers had in mind was the issue of infallibility. The Reformers were distinguishing themselves from an institutional authority that claimed infallibility. The Reformers believed that the Pope, the Magisterium, and the councils had all erred and were therefore fallible. To them, the Scriptures we not only the final, all-sufficient source of revelation, but were the only infallible source.

So, unless I am misunderstanding original intent of sola Scriptura, I think that we all must deny that the Scriptures are the only infallible source of revelation. If prophecy is continuing today and God is still speaking through people, I don’t know how one can deny it the status of infallibility. It must be tested by the previously revealed truths of Scripture (as Scripture is the ultimate source) and it will never include intel about salvation that reveals the Scriptures insufficiency (as Scripture is sufficient), but there is no reason why the presence of infallible Scripture means the absence of infallible prophecy.

So, do Charismatics deny sola Scriptura due to their view of prophecy? It all depends on whether you believe the phrase “only infallible” is part of the definition of sola Scriptura.

What do you think?

27 Responses to “Do Charismatics Deny Sola Scriptura Due to their View of Prophecy?”

  1. But Michael, non-enscripturated oral prophecy was NEVER infallible, neither in the OT era nor in the NT era. This is what Deut. 18:20 tells us, though oddly that passage is frequently used to teach precisely the opposite. The prophet was held responsible for speaking only God’s words–and THEY would be infallible. But any time a prophet spoke, he might or might not be fulfilling his responsibility correctly. There is no guarantee. Therefore his prophecy is not infallible. By contrast, the Scriptures, we are told, are certified to be theopneustos, God’s words, and therefore infallible. And this is why they are the ONLY infallible revelation.

  2. david carlson June 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    popcorn, get your popcorn.

    It should be amusing to see the comments in this post….

  3. Marvin The Martian June 3, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Hi Michael,

    This is OT I realize, but your blog is busted brother. Every time I open your blog, the “most recent post” showing is still the “Unashamed to be a Non-Profit Like Twitter” post from May 9th. I have to navigate to the comments and then find the “recent posts” feed near the bottom of the web page to actually get to the real recent posts. Just thought you would like to know.

  4. Hey Mike,

    I don’t think most protestants believe in sola scriptura anyway. Look at your view on charismatic gifts for example. I believe you stated in a old post that it would be hard to arrive at your position from reading scripture. Instead, your experience trumps scripture. In another example, try and point out something to someone from scripture that disagrees with their tradition. Typically you won’t get very far.

  5. C Michael Patton June 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I agree that most don’t know about or hold to sola scriptura. However, I would not say that your example from my view qualifies. I would never say experience trumps scripture. When Scripture does not speak to an issue (like the canon) or It is unclear, we must look to other sources to guide us (tradition, experience, reason, creation, or emotions). Concerning the cessation of certian gifts, I said the Scriptures do not teach it. Therefore I turn to tradition and experience. They have a voice here that is pretty loud.

  6. Charismatic here (though I doubt I speak for all)

    1. I think you judged the word you got incorrectly. The point of prophecy is not, “God knows you and told someone about you to prove Himself and His gifts.” I look at these words as, “You may or may not know it but this is your potential.” There is a gift of giving and by the way you feel compelled to write and give away knowledge, you are probably wired to be a generous person. God was letting you know you can expect, and look for ways to be financially generous. But that’s my $.02.

    2. I always giggle when I think about how Sola Scriptura is not in the Scriptures. Since it is not in there, you have to believe they are not complete to hold to the teaching.

  7. I have a couple of questions and comments to make.

    One of the hallmarks of the Protestant movement in regards to Sola Scripture is that of being obedient to Scripture. To be obedient to Scripture is being obedient to God. If we truly understand Scripture as being God’s word – we will obey it, even if we don’t understand it.

    Anything that is contrary to God’s word becomes repugnant to us. So the idea and practice of Papist authority and other doctrines and theologies outside of Scripture become rightly repugnant to the Protestant movement.

    Within the scope of being obedient to Scripture, Scripture calls for us to eagerly desire the Spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy. Within that frame work, Scripture clearly shows us that dreams and visions are some of the ways God may cause the prophetic word to come upon us.

    However we are also called to judge all Prophecy and to weigh it up against Scripture and to discern the Spirit behind it – was it of the devil, human imagination or indeed that of God.

    The question I ask is why is it that some who claim to be protestant, only give lip service to obeying the Scriptures? Does Scripture really give us that option, if indeed Scripture is the “Word of God?”

    Since 1997 I have prophesied over others and have been given a number of prophesies. Yes I have got it wrong over that time… but, that is why we are called to judge all prophesy.

    Yet, within the great tradition of the Protestant movement we have many instances of individuals / movements translating, interpreting and teaching Scripture in a wrong way. Lets take the Left Behind type eschatology as a example – will we toss those adherents out of Protestantism because they plainly get it wrong?

    I have 3 practices when it comes to Prophesy given to me.

    1.) It gets filed into the round filing bin on the floor… (waste paper bin)

    2.) I don’t understand it, It doesn’t ring true to me, but, there is something in it that could be true..therefore i record it and leave it in Gods hands.

    3.) Other times I grasp its significance to me immediately as being the word of God encouraging me in a way that it speaks directly to me. One case in point is the story I have shared with you already about a vision I had of God holding me by my hand… fast forward 9 years when doo doo had hit the fan.. well meaning Christians had told me I had lost my salvation.. indeed I felt like cain – not that I killed my brother.

    A friend rang me out of the blue saying they felt God wanted me to now he still had me by the hand, walking with me.

    Again the comment I make is if we truly believe that Scripture is God’s word to us.. why don’t we actually put it into practice and obey it? Could it be that those in the cessationist camp are the ones who are being disobedient to Scripture..and therefore because they run on the tradition of their movement… they are more like the papist movement and that the Charismatic movement is indeed more protestant – because they seek to obey the Scriptures in a higher level?

  8. At any rate sola Scriptura means the Scriptures are the only infallible authoritative word for faith and practice. Even if you receive a prophecy that is infallible, inerrant and true, and is genuine revelation from God, that does not mean it has the authority of Scripture, especially not the general authority of Scripture. It is not part of the infallible rule which God has established in the Scriptures. People make remarks about Continuationists in regard to Sola Scriptura and the related concept of Sufficiency of Scripture, but with considerable imprecision, in my humble opinion. Extrabiblical revelation is in conflict with neigher.

  9. C Michael Patton June 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I think the obedience of desiring that we may prophecy is a great point.

  10. Well Michael, I guess you’re not Protestant either because I remember you saying that tradition is some kind of secondary authority. You never do clarify that one though.

  11. I made a whole blog entry to respond to your post.

    But I think there are 3 keywords here:
    1. Only.
    2. Infallible.
    3. Valid.

    And this is what I believe:

    1. (sola Scriptura) The bible is the only valid and infallible mode of revelation.

    2. The bible is NOT the ONLY VALID mode of revelation.

    3. Other mode of revelations are VALID yet not infallible.

  12. Tim (not Kimberley) June 4, 2014 at 3:04 am


    There’s quite a difference between “a prophet can lie” or “a prophet can speak and attribute something to God when God hasn’t spoken” on the one hand and “a prophet who is speaking at the prompting of God can report the prophecy incorrectly” on the other.

  13. I’m not a charismatic, and I’m kinda uncomfortable with people prophesying today because I’m a bit of a skeptic by nature. However, that doesn’t mean those prophecies aren’t truel. To me, it’s a matter of if I see it fulfilled, then I’ll know it was true.

    As far as modern prophecy vs. sola scriptura, I don’t see that as an issue for personal prophecies that have no doctrinal significance. Paul mentioned a prophecy given to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14). The prophecy itself is not in the Bible. I see today’s personal prophecies as fitting into this category.

  14. Tim (not Kimberley),

    “a prophet can speak and attribute something to God when God hasn’t spoken” and “a prophet who is speaking at the prompting of God can report the prophecy incorrectly” may be different in intention, but the consequences may be just as serious.

    Let think of it this way, if one prophecies unreliably, and everything he/she says must be taken with a grain of salt, then then what good are those prophecies? I want to witness prophecies as much as anyone, but I just can’t get over how the prophecies we experience today are so consistently inconsistent from how the Scriptures present them.

  15. Tim (not Kimberley) June 4, 2014 at 10:30 am


    Read Marv’s first post, in which he says that Deut. 18:20 means that prophecy has never been infallible.

    My point was to disagree with him.

  16. Having roamed the halls of the renewal movement, seen its strengths and massive weaknesses, been prophesied to and prophesied to others and now have shed much of what was considered charismatic I have a little experience with this subject.

    I think for charismatics (im not defending, only explaining) there is an idea that we are fallible in understanding and delivering something to another person. I can tell you as someone who has delivered many a “word” to my fellow believers, it is not very clear at all when you start. More often then not, you get an impression, a sensing, a picture or thought. And there may not be much more with it. You go to the person and say “Hey, I think God might (< how do I bold ital?) be telling me something for you. From there its like turning on a faucet. First there might be some sputtering and definitely not at the temperature you want. But if you let it run (keep talking to or praying for the person) it will eventually start to run better.

    There is also an idea that prophesy and the prophet have been changed by the cross. Prophets in the OT played some major roles in the history and direction of nations. Getting things right was of biblical, eternal proportions. As was the whole of the Law. But as Paul says now of prophesy, its for edification, exhortation and comfort. OT prophets would have laughed at that idea. For many years "Prophets" in charismaticism taught that NT prophets did not "judge" believers like the OT prophets. Take that for whatever its worth.

    Further more Paul said in 1 Cor 13 that we know in part and prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. I'm no scholar, but it sounds like Paul is saying the tools we have now are incomplete.

    Which brings me to the point of the prophecies given to you CMP. At first it surprised me that you interpreted them words so literally. Very often prophecies have a lot of imagery, icons and symbols in them. But then, as I thought about you, it made sense why you would interpret them that way. Money represents a valuable item. Like the bible saying "living waters." This of course is not literal. I have never actually gotten wet from the Spirit. But water is life giving, thats the meaning. Nations are not literal, most likely. They probably represent different kinds of people, you have a diversity in your audience.

    Thats my opinion, hack away.


  17. I believe you have to prove that God has chosen to stop speaking to us to say that the usage of prophecy is in error. Just like if you throw a ball into space it will keep going until something stops it. I think the same goes for prophecy. All through out the old and new testament we see prophecy being inspired by God and used to the glorification on the Lord and instruction for his people. Now remember that before the scriptures were written there was no Solo Scriptoria because there were no scriptures. They had oral traditions back then that served as direction from God. Why should it be any different with prophesy. Gods original communication with his people was not written but verbal. I don’t recall God losing his voice do you?

  18. it must be tested by the previously revealed truths of Scripture

    amen,examine everything carefully 1 Thess 5:20-22

    appreciate this example the Lord gives us Acts 16:9-10…Paul in this case “concluded”

    also…re david carlson says: popcorn, get your popcorn. It should be amusing to see the comments in this post…
    a prophesy: do not be deceived..revilers..will not inherit the kingdom of God; such were some of you but you were washed,sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:9-,11 and again 1 Thess 5:22

  19. CMP

    How about “Prima Scriptura”?

    I heard that term on ancient faith radio dot com as the word that probably best describes how the EOs place the Scriptures at the center of our tradition.

    I bet in practical ways most Protestants have moved from Sola to Prima. Prima meaning the fountainhead of belief is the Bible, but certainly not the only source.

  20. Thank you for your post. Very interesting. For me scripture is the plumb line that we measure all other tradition, experience, reason, creation, or emotions by. If it doesn’t measure up to scripture then it probably isn’t correct. If scripture doesn’t make a matter clear then prayer and talking to Christian friends may help. I have Pentecostal friends and we pray together but they do not force me to speak in tongues which I am thankful for!

  21. Tim (not Kimberley) June 6, 2014 at 3:07 am


    In order to dismiss the possibility of modern prophecy out-of-hand, yes, someone needs a biblical proof that God has chosen to stop speaking through prophecy.

    But it’s a bit different if someone says, “None of the modern alleged prophecy actually meets the biblical standard or fits the biblical definition of what prophecy is.”

    There, you don’t need to prove biblically that God has chosen to stop sending prophecy. Rather, you need to show what the biblical standard & definition for prophecy is, and then test modern claims against that. (Everyone should agree that one of the most important questions is, “What was prophecy, in both the Old and New Testament eras?”)

    Also, “we don’t see God sending new prophecies” wouldn’t be the same as “God losing His voice”. Don’t undervalue God’s voice in Scripture.

  22. Interesting discussion.

    I do the believe all that is needful is contained in Holy Scripture.

  23. Couple of things

    1. I’ve been taught that prophecy doesn’t just mean foretelling… It also means forth-telling – giving understanding of the scriptures. And there is alot of the latter going on these days as scholarly tools develop. What happened to CMP makes me skeptical because prophets in the Bible didn’t go around doing stuff like that. (Similar to the tongues with Peter in Acts. He spoke in his language and people heard in theirs – not what I’ve seen when people speak in tongues today.

    2. If we are all indwelt with the Holy Spirit why does the Holy Spirit tell Bob to tell Martha something when He could tell Martha Himself because He is in Martha too? The Israelites didn’t have God in them so they need a messenger. It implies that the person receiving the prophecy is deaf to the Spirit or unsaved. (Yikes!)

    3. Finally, thanks for the comment on Romans 1:20. This verse is my path to Christ and my anchor when the doubts come. I use creation to help me understand Scripture all the time and vice versa.

  24. OK I left the Sola camp back in the late 90s, so I don’t see this as a negative.

    But I think it is a little unfair based on what I’ve studies when I was in the thick of the non-demominational Charismatic movement, and that includes spending time in “prophetic churches”.

    Most works on “judging prophecy” are very Sola orientated, the Spirit of scripture on different issues is the main litnus test for judging the prophecy.

    Also in fairness, was the Early Church really that into Sola Scriptura?

    There are similar counter charges you can make of the early church as well. And While not a Sola Scripturist anymore, I will note that Keith Mathison, author of the Shape of Sola Scriptura”, seems to present an evolving paradigm. So much, that a Holy Tradition/ Paradosis guy like myself might be included according to some definitions of that construct…..

  25. Another definition of Sola Sciptura that I find useful is that Scripture is (with the exception of when Christ Apears to Judge the living and the dead) the most reliable Yard Stick to judge other theological truth claims.

  26. “Another definition of Sola Sciptura that I find useful is that Scripture is (with the exception of when Christ Apears to Judge the living and the dead) the most reliable Yard Stick to judge other theological truth claims.”

    As someone who does NOT subscribe to sola scriptura, I agree with this statement.

  27. Greetings, I’m only commenting on this because I have been considering going to a church that believes in the Sola Scriptures and I’ve been reading more on what they believe. I just hope you will have an open mind with my thoughts on your story.

    When the charismatics prophesied over you, they were prophesying how God sees you much as God told Sampson he was a strong and mighty warrior when he obviously wasn’t yet. God sees into the future. God sees our potential. His sense of time is limitless.

    Remember we are made in God’s image and God spoke the Earth into existence! We are made in God’s image and we have power in our words! This is a law of the Earth and not simply contained to Christian’s alone as all are made in the image of God.

    Any way, when someone delivers a word from the Lord, it is the persons job, in this case your job to take that prophecy to the lord in prayer. He will reveal and confirm to you what he wills. The couple that prophesied over you have clean hands because you supposed to test the spirits.

    All in all when we receive a prophetic word, and we chew on it through scripture. Scripture will help reveal to us if its true. The thing is we are believers in Christ, I don’t think it should be odd that Jesus does speak to us directly. It’s the same thing as feeling or thinking there is a call and then praying it out, expecting confirmation from the body of Christ, and so forth. Prophecy is normal but will always be confirmed just like anything else.

    I was told there was a Grace over my life to have a bible study, and to teach women their countenance. The man told me he he saw me maybe in a college dorm. He didn’t know me and I have no desire to teach women their countenance.

    Guess what I’m chewing on it with the Lord. First off, I don’t have a church home right now and I know I need to be under some sort of church head to do any bible study, secondly the Lord will provide confirmations within the body of Christ. Third of all, I consider God might know what I want and who I am better than I do. Maybe having a bible study is where I would feel most alive. If he doesn’t show me through his word or through confirmation in the body of Christ any truth to this prophecy, then the prophecy was false and that’s okay, there is Grace for that.

    I hope you will consider in your alone time praying God to reveal to you more truth about that word. If that’s how God sees you and that’s what he wants with your life, that’s amazing. It sounds a lot easier to believe it was false than to test the spirits and find out it was actually true.

    Any way blessings to you and yours!

    I apologize for run on sentences as it is late.

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