Sola scriptura

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Sola Scriptura)
Jump to: navigation, search

Sola Scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone") is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, it demands that only those doctrines be admitted or confessed that are found directly within Scripture or are drawn indirectly from it by valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning. Sola Scriptura does not deny that other authorities govern Christian life and devotion, but sees them all as subordinate to and corrected by the written word of God.

Sola Scriptura is a formal principle of Protestantism (see Five solas). It was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers, who taught that authentication of Scripture is governed by the discernible excellence of the text as well as the personal witness of the Holy Spirit to the heart of each man.

The Westminster Confession of Faith spoke of the use of "the ordinary means" (such as turning to pastors and teachers) for reaching an understanding of what is contained in Scripture and is necessary to know:

Chapter 1, Section VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

Some Evangelical and Baptist denominations state the doctrine of sola Scriptura more strongly: Scripture is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter ("Scripture interprets Scripture"), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine.

By contrast, the Catholic Church teaches that Christ entrusted the preaching of the Gospel to the apostles, who handed it on orally and in writing, and that "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it."[1] "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches."[2] For the Eastern Orthodox too, "the Holy Bible forms a part of Holy Tradition, but does not lie outside of it. One would be in error to suppose that Scripture and Tradition are two separate and distinct sources of Christian Faith, as some do, since there is, in reality, only one source; and the Holy Bible exists and found its formulation within Tradition."[3]

Overview[edit]

Sola scriptura was one of the main theological beliefs that Martin Luther proclaimed against the Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation

Sola Scriptura is one of the five solas, considered by some Protestant groups to be the theological pillars of the Reformation.[4] The key implication of the principle is that interpretations and applications of the Scriptures do not have the same authority as the Scriptures themselves; hence, the ecclesiastical authority is viewed as subject to correction by the Scriptures, even by an individual member of the Church.

Luther said, "a simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it". The intention of the Reformation was to correct the perceived errors of the Catholic Church by appeal to the uniqueness of the Bible's authority and to reject what Catholics considered to be Apostolic Tradition as a source of original authority alongside the Bible, wherever Tradition did not have Biblical support or where it supposedly contradicted Scripture.

Sola Scriptura, however, does not ignore Christian history and tradition when seeking to understand the Bible. Rather, it sees the Bible as the only final authority in matters of faith and practice. As Martin Luther said, "The true rule is this: God's Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so."[5]

The term heretical is commonly used by Protestants who denounce teachings and institutions that they accordingly view as deviating from Scripture.

Characteristics in Lutheranism[edit]

Lutherans believe that the Bible of the Old and New Testaments is the only divinely inspired book and the only source of divinely revealed knowledge.[6] Scripture alone is the formal principle of the faith, the final authority for all matters of faith and morals because of its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy, and sufficiency.[7]

Inspiration[edit]

Lutherans believe that the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but every word of it is, because of verbal inspiration, the direct, immediate word of God.[8] As Lutherans confess in the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit "spoke through the prophets". The Apology of the Augsburg Confession identifies Holy Scripture with the Word of God[9] and calls the Holy Spirit the author of the Bible.[10] Because of this, Lutherans confess in the Formula of Concord, "we receive and embrace with our whole heart the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel."[11] The apocryphal books were not written by the prophets, by inspiration; they contain errors[12] were never included in the Palestinian Canon that Jesus used,[13] and therefore are not a part of Holy Scripture.[14] The prophetic and apostolic Scriptures are authentic as written by the prophets and apostles. A correct translation of their writings is God's Word because it has the same meaning as the original Hebrew and Greek.[14] A mistranslation is not God's word, and no human authority can invest it with divine authority.[14]

"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach..."[15] This illustration is from the title page of Luther's Bible.

Divine authority[edit]

Holy Scripture, the Word of God, carries the full authority of God. Every single statement of the Bible calls for instant, unqualified and unrestricted acceptance.[16] Every doctrine of the Bible is the teaching of God and therefore requires full agreement.[17] Every promise of the Bible calls for unshakable trust in its fulfillment.[18] Every command of the Bible is the directive of God himself and therefore demands willing observance.[19] However, many Lutherans do not accept that everything in the Bible is literal, but that it may contain scientific or historical errors or describe events symbolically.[20]

Clarity[edit]

The Bible presents all doctrines and commands of the Christian faith clearly.[21] God's Word is freely accessible to every reader or hearer of ordinary intelligence, without requiring any special education.[22] Of course, one must understand the language God's Word is presented in, and not be so preoccupied by contrary thoughts so as to prevent understanding.[23] As a result of this, no one needs to wait for any clergy, and pope, scholar, or ecumenical council to explain the real meaning of any part of the Bible.[24]

Luther's translation of the Bible, from 1534, with four books placed after those Luther considered, "...the true and certain chief books of the New Testament.".[25]

Efficacy[edit]

Scripture is united with the power of the Holy Spirit and with it, not only demands, but also creates the acceptance of its teaching.[26] This teaching produces faith and obedience. Holy Scripture is not a dead letter, but rather, the power of the Holy Spirit is inherent in it.[27] Scripture does not compel a mere intellectual assent to its doctrine, resting on logical argumentation, but rather it creates the living agreement of faith.[28] As the Smalcald Articles affirm, "...in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word."[29]

Sufficiency[edit]

The Bible contains everything that one needs to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life.[30] There are no deficiencies in Scripture that need to be filled with by tradition, pronouncements of the Pope, new revelations, or present-day development of doctrine.[31]

Prima Scriptura[edit]

Sola Scriptura may be contrasted with Prima Scriptura, which holds that, besides canonical Scripture, there are other guides for what a believer should believe, and how he or she should live. Examples of this include the general revelation in creation, traditions, charismatic gifts, mystical insight, angelic visitations, conscience, common sense, the views of experts, the spirit of the times or something else. Prima Scriptura suggests that ways of knowing or understanding God and his will, that do not originate from canonized Scripture, are in a second place, perhaps helpful in interpreting that Scripture, but testable by the canon and correctable by it, if they seem to contradict the Scriptures.

Sola Scriptura rejects any original infallible authority, other than the Bible. In this view, all secondary authority is derived from the authority of the Scriptures and is therefore subject to reform when compared to the teaching of the Bible. Church councils, preachers, biblical commentators, private revelation, or even a message allegedly from an angel or an apostle are not an original authority alongside the Bible in the Sola Scriptura approach. Even though most Protestants look at Scripture alone and no other authority, some[who?] say that the Bible itself teaches against sola Scriptura. They believe that if a person believes in the whole Bible then that person cannot believe in sola Scriptura. These theologians believe that those following the concepts of Sola Scriptura have personally perverted the meaning of either the Bible or Sola Scriptura. They point to passages in Book of Kings, Book of Chronicles, and Epistle of Jude 9, which refer to writings such as the Assumption of Moses that are not part of the Bible.(See Non-canonical books referenced in the Bible)

Singular authority of Scripture[edit]

The idea of the singular authority of Scripture is the motivation behind much of the Protestant effort to translate the Bible into vernacular languages and distribute it widely. Protestants generally believe each Christian should read the Bible for themselves and evaluate what they have been taught on the basis of it. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, motivated by their belief that authoritative doctrine can also come from tradition, have been more active in translating them as well as the Bible into the vernacular languages, though this has not always been the case. Traditions of these non-Protestant churches include the Bible, patristic, conciliar, and liturgical texts. Even prior to the Protestant movement, hundreds of vernacular translations of the Bible and liturgical materials were translated throughout the preceding sixteen centuries. Some Bible translations such as the Geneva Bible included annotations and commentary that were anti-Roman Catholic. Before the Protestant Reformation, Latin was almost exclusively utilized but it was understood by only the most literate.

According to Sola Scriptura, the Church does not speak infallibly in its traditions, but only in Scripture. As John Wesley stated in the 18th century, "In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church."[32] For this reason, Sola Scriptura is called the formal cause or principle of the Reformation.

Protestants argue that the Scriptures are guaranteed to remain true to their divine source—and thus, only insofar as the Church retains Scriptural faith is it assured of God's favor. Following such an argument, if the Church were to fall away from faith through Scripture (a possibility Roman Catholics deny but Protestants affirm), its authority would be negated. Therefore, early Protestants argued for eliminating traditions and doctrines they believed were based on distortions of Scripture, or were contrary to the Bible—but that the Roman Catholic Church considered Scripturally-based aspects of the Christian faith, such as transubstantiation, the doctrine of purgatory, the veneration of images or icons, and especially the doctrine that the Pope in Rome is the head of the Church on earth (Papal supremacy). (Roman Catholics[citation needed] point to verses such as John 6:51 (transubstantiation), 1 Cor 3:15 (purgatory), Numbers 21:8 (icons), John 21:17 (Papal supremacy) to argue these are biblical doctrines.)

However, the Reformers believed some tradition to be very seriously in conflict with the Scriptures: especially, with regard to teaching about the Church itself, but also touching on basic principles of the Gospel. They believed that no matter how venerable the traditional source, traditional authority is always open to question by comparison to what the Scriptures say. The individual may be forced to rely on his understanding of Scripture even if the whole tradition were to speak against him. This, they said, had always been implicitly recognized in the Church, and remains a fail-safe against the corruption of the Church by human error and deceit. Corruptions had crept in, the Reformers said, which seriously undermined the legitimate authority of the Church, and Tradition had been perverted by wicked men.

Sola Scriptura is a doctrine that is not, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6 "expressly set down in Scripture". However, it is claimed that it passes the second test of being part of "the whole counsel of God" because it is "deduced from Scripture" "by good and necessary consequence", citing passages such as Isaiah 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.". Jesus is also typically understood by Protestants as expressly nullifying unscriptural traditions in the (Jewish) church, when he says, for example in Mark 7:13: "thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

Scripture and Sacred Tradition[edit]

The Catholic Church whence the Protestant Church broke away, and against which they directed these arguments, did not see Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the faith as different sources of authority, but that Scripture was handed down as part of Sacred Tradition (see 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2). Accepted traditions were also perceived by the Church as cohesive in nature. The proper interpretation of the Scriptures was seen as part of the faith of the Church, and seen indeed as the manner in which Biblical authority was upheld (see Book of Acts 15:28-29). The meaning of Scripture was seen as proven from the Faith universally held in the churches (see Phil 2:1, Acts 4:32), and the correctness of that universal Faith was seen as proven from the Scriptures and apostolic Sacred Tradition (see 2 The 2:15, 2 The 3:6, 1 Corinthians 11:2). The Biblical canon itself was thus viewed by the Church as part of the Church's Tradition, as defined by its leadership and acknowledged by its laity.


See also the recent Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Catholic Dei Verbum and Providentissimus Deus by Leo XIII and Divino Afflante Spiritu by Pius XII, [1], [2].

Critiques[edit]

Following the Reformation, Sola Scriptura has come under serious critique by Catholic Christians. Modern critics pointing to the considerable number of Protestant sects as the unfortunate result of this belief, arguing that since Scripture is held as the only source of infallible teaching, that the interpretation thereof is subject to fallible interpretation. That without an infallible interpreter, a certainty of Christian belief is not possible.


Sola Scriptura is also regarded as self referentially incoherent, as the Scriptures themselves to not teach Sola Scriptura, and therefore the belief that the Scriptures are the only source of Christian belief is self contradicting given that it cannot be supported without extra-scriptural doctrine.


It is also pointed out that both Jesus and Paul Accepted Non-Biblical Oral and Written Traditions within scripture. Some examples of these are: The reference to "He shall be called a Nazarene" cannot be found in the Old Testament, yet it was "spoken by the prophets" (Matt. 2:23). Therefore, this prophecy, which is considered to be "God's word," was passed down orally rather than through Scripture. In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus teaches that the scribes and Pharisees have a legitimate, binding authority based "on Moses' seat," but this phrase or idea cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament. It is found in the (originally oral) Mishnah, which teaches a sort of "teaching succession" from Moses. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul refers to a rock that "followed" the Jews through the Sinai wilderness. The Old Testament says nothing about such miraculous movement. But rabbinic tradition does. Lastly, "As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses" (2 Tim. 3:8). These two men cannot be found in the related Old Testament passage (cf. Ex. 7:8ff.) or anywhere else in the Old Testament.


In addition to these inconsistencies, it is also mentioned that since the 27 books that make up the New Testament Cannon of Scripture aren't based on a Scriptural list that authenticates them to be inspired, their legitimacy would be impossible to distinguish with certainty without appealing to another infallible source, such as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is noted for having assembled and authenticated this list at The Fourth Council of Carthage in 419 A.D. Before which, a compiled and authenticated Bible as it is now known did not yet exist.

Legacy[edit]

Sola Scriptura continues to be a doctrinal commitment of conservative branches and offshoots of the Lutheran churches, Reformed churches, and Baptist churches as well as other Protestants, especially where they describe themselves by the slogan "Bible-believing" (See Fundamentalism).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 75-78
  2. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 97
  3. ^ Orthodox Outreach, "Holy Tradition"
  4. ^ Michael Horton (Mar/April 1994). "Reformation Essentials". Modern Reformation. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  5. ^ Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles II, 15.
  6. ^ For the traditional Lutheran view of the Bible, see Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 3ff. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. . For an overview of the doctrine of verbal inspiration in Lutheranism, see Inspiration, Doctrine of[dead link] in the Christian Cyclopedia.
  7. ^ Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 7ff. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 29. 
  8. ^ 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Corinthians 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 3:2, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Samuel 23:2, Hebrews 1:1, John 10:35, John 16:13, John 17:17, Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 26. 
  9. ^ "God's Word, or Holy Scripture" from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II, of Original Sin
  10. ^ "the Scripture of the Holy Ghost." Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Preface, 9
  11. ^ The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, "Rule and Norm", 3.
  12. ^ (Tobit 6, 71; 2 Macc. 12, 43 f.; 14, 411),
  13. ^ See Bible, Canon in the Christian Cyclopedia[dead link]
  14. ^ a b c Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 27. 
  15. ^ Revelation 14:6
  16. ^ Matthew 4:3, Luke 4:3, Genesis 3:1, John 10:35, Luke 24:25, Psalm 119:140, Psalm 119:167, Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 27. , Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  17. ^ 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Luke 24:25-27, Luke 16:29-31, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Jeremiah 8:9, Jeremiah 23:26, Isaiah 8:19-20, 1 Corinthians 14:37, Galatians 1:8, Acts 17:11, Acts 15:14-15, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 8–10. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  18. ^ 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 1:20, Titus 1:2-3, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Peter 1:19, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  19. ^ Deuteronomy 12:32, Deuteronomy 5:9-10, James 2:10, Joshua 1:8, Luke 16:29, 2 Timothy 3:16, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 8–11. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  20. ^ "Bible: Literal or Inspired". The Lutheran. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Psalm 19:8, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:130, 2 Timothy 3:15, Deuteronomy 30:11, 2 Peter 1:19, Ephesians 3:3-4, John 8:31-32, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, John 8:43-47, 2 Peter 3:15-16, Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 29. , Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  22. ^ Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 11. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  23. ^ Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 11. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. 
  24. ^ Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  25. ^ Luther's Treatment of the 'Disputed Books' of the New Testament
  26. ^ Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 11. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 27. 
  27. ^ Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Psalm 119:105, 2 Peter 1:19, 2 Timothy 1:16-17,Ephesians 3:3-4, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  28. ^ John 6:63, Revelation 1:3, Ephesians 3:3-4, John 7:17, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 12. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  29. ^ Smalcald Articles, part 8, "Of Confession"
  30. ^ 2 Timothy 3:15-17, John 5:39, John 17:20, Psalm 19:7-8, Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  31. ^ Isaiah 8:20, Luke 16:29-31, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 13. ISBN 0-524-04891-6. , Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 28. 
  32. ^ Popery Calmly Considered (1779) in The works of the Rev. John Wesley, vol. XV, p. 180, London (1812), digitized by Google Books

External links[edit]