Now we’ve reached the third of the solas of the Reformation. Sola scriptura, or scripture alone, refers to the idea that Christians hold the Bible as the highest authority. In my last post on sola gratia, I said that it might be the most controversial of the solas of the Reformation among protestants. As I did my research, though, I noticed something else. Whenever I tried to look for other objections to sola gratia, I had to dig through the piles of objections to scriptura. Defending sola scriptura is an important topic and will impact both Christians and non-Christians.
Sola Scriptura in the Reformation
In the context of the Reformation, sola scriptura pushed back against a few big issues in the Catholic church. First, other authorities became the arbiters of truth and God’s word. If scripture is the highest authority, no Pope or human leader would have the power to change or go against the Bible.
Along with that, what was considered scripture needed reform, as the church had begun lumping in other apocryphal texts as part of scripture. This was not always done with innocent motives, either. Thus, it was argued that the church had drifted, and Christians needed to rely on the Bible as their final and highest authority. Even if other books or people can bring insight, their words and authority will neither change nor overpower God’s word.
Why Defend Sola Scriptura?
Why take such a firm stance as scripture alone? First, if the Bible truly is God’s inspired word, nothing can reasonably take priority over that. What could a man say that would be a higher authority than God? Second, having an authority set in stone can be a great source of peace and stability. We don’t have to get lost in which leader we follow. Do you follow Paul or Apollos? Luther or Calvin? Keller or MacArthur? None of that really matters when the only one we truly follow is Jesus. We never have to wake up wondering what our fearless leader will change today because God’s word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Objection 1: Sola Scriptura Leaves No Room for Update
One common objection to sola scriptura is that it limits Christianity in a dangerous way. Compare it to something like the Constitution of the United States. The founding fathers recognized that it might need to be changed down the road, so they left a system in place to amend it. The Bible doesn’t even have that. You can’t remove something that becomes outdated or problematic. There’s no way to add or adjust based on new societal developments.
Simply put, this objection assumes the Bible is not the inspired word of God. As much respect as I have for the Constitution, it’s not a divinely inspired document. If the Bible were just a handbook on how best to live as a Christian written by various early Christian leaders, I would agree with this objection. However, if the Bible is the inspired word of God delivered through those people, it stands to reason that it was built to last, and changing it would be a bad idea. If your new progressive ideas don’t line up with scripture, why assume scripture is the problem?
Objection 2: The Church Comes Before the Bible
A common argument from Catholic audiences used to push back on sola scriptura is that the Bible was made by the church, not the church made by the Bible. Thus, those popes and councils have the authority to decide what is and should be scripture.
Two things here. First, if that is true, then those people who had authority intentionally sealed it. They gave no indication that further revelation would be coming or a process revealed of how to receive it. Nobody said to expect more words or authorities outside of scripture. Further, we are given the expectation from passages like Galatians 1 that this message will not change.
Second, this falls prey to the false narrative surrounding the assembling of the Bible. The council of Laodicea may have canonized the 66 books that became the Bible, but this was not done arbitrarily. They did not instill authority; they recognized the authority that already existed.
More could be and has been said on this topic. Pretty much every objection I have read falls into a category similar to those two objections. If what we read in passages like 2 Timothy 3:15-16 is true, sola scriptura has a strong foundation. Is the Bible the inspired word of God? If yes, no word of man can trump it. If it’s not, we have a lot more work to do than defending sola scriptura.
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