Sola One: Sola Scriptura
I decided it would be of good use for me to work my way through the five solas of the Reformation. They are too often shoved aside, and as doing the posts on denominations made me think a bit deeper about the issue of church governance, I hope that this too will prove a useful exercise. I do not even hope to create a comprehensive consideration of the five solas, nor will I claim everything I say about them is correct; I am just throwing my thoughts out on the table, and I invite you to do the same in the comments.
The five cries of the Reformation are Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria. The beauty of the five solas is that they express the essence of faith in a way that is simple and easy to remember, while providing a massive depth of implications.Sola Scriptura
“Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3.16 (WEB)
This is probably the most often recalled of the five cries. Scripture Alone. What do we mean by this? Do we mean that the church ought to cast off everything other than the Bible as garbage? This does not seem to be what the reformers meant. The two giants of the Reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both produced massive amounts of works to complement the Bible. The key here is that everything should find its root in the Bible.
Now some Protestant groups have gone too far with this, in my opinion. We ought not say that we should only do what is permitted in the Bible, but rather that everything we do should not be is discord with the literal word and and spirit of the Bible. That is why I am perfectly fine with worship music and potluck dinners, despite their lack of mention in the Bible. More importantly, that is why I am fine accepting the early ecclesiastic councils' creeds, such as the Nicene Creed; I would argue that everything within them can be justified with the Bible. I also see the usefulness of newer creeds such as the Westminister Confession, and see every reason why the average believer who does not take the time to justify every nuance of the Faith themselves ought to find the creeds authoritative. At the same time, if it is found that the creed does not agree with the Scripture, then the creed should be thrown out immediately. Creeds should exegete the Bible, never ever eisegete.
Now, of course, in some areas of theology we may try to interpolate on a subject (such as the Trinity) which is not explicitly nailed down in the Bible. The important thing is that a reasonable person, given enough time, would come to the same conclusion using Scripture alone. It isn't enough that I can quote verses to support my favorite doctrine for almost anything can be justified in that way, of course. I also emphasize reasonable time here because few people are going to be able to just open a Bible and immediately come up with orthodox theology, but not everyone's purpose is to be a theologian. As such, those of us who do not have enough time to start from scratch can carefully put our trust in “authority,” but should also test the fruit of that authority constantly against Scripture.
Let's take predestination. I've struggled with this, as many of you know, because I find it hard to get predestination to fit with God's love, for if He predestined some to be saved, it logically means he predestined others to be condemned. If I have no choice in the matter of being saved, then why would God not save everyone? This is difficult. The reason I struggled with predestination and did not throw it out in favor of outright Arminianism was that it continued to be the most logical way I could read many passages. It would be nice just to forget about it and find something easier, but instead, this has lead me to my attempts to harmonize predestination with God's love and freewill (see here and answer to question 4, here).
Back to the point — it is okay to move beyond the Bible, because the Bible simply does not cover everything. From contemporary worship music, to church governance or even some of our core beliefs, we will likely find that we must combine the revelation of revealed Scriptures with the ability to reason that God has given us. This is good and proper, so long as we don't let our reason or any theologian's reason take precedence over God's revealed Word, for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23) and therefore our reason is fallen reason.
In the end, adhering to Sola Scripture means merely that we place the Bible as the ultimate authority above other authorities. It is my duty as someone with a personal relationship with Christ to go directly to His Word whenever possible to insure that my beliefs are based on a good foundation. Just as I should never do something illegal because someone in a higher authority in life (such as a boss) tells me to, I should never accept something theologically wrong just because a higher authority (such as my pastor or a great theologian) says to. Ultimately, just as committing a crime for my boss will bring consequences to me, following heresy because my pastor advised me to would bring consequences to me.
Join the Conversation
Re: Sola One: Sola Scriptura
This is not really a comment on what you wrote, I just wanted to say that I find this important and a really interesting subject. Lately, I’ve been reading McGrath’s book on Christian Theology, and these issues are a constant act of balance, it seems. (Did that make sense?)
Re: Sola One: Sola Scriptura
Yup, it sure did, Flip!