Sola Scriptura

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 4, 2020 3 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The entire Gospel can be summarized in five statements: Our salvation is by “Grace Alone,” through “Faith Alone,” in “Christ Alone,” according to “Scripture Alone,” and for the “Glory of God Alone.” In the original Latin they are: “Sola Gratia,” “Sola Fide,” “Sola Christus,” “Sola Scriptura,” and “Sola Gloria Deus.” These statements were initially coined by Martin Luther during the Reformation, but they are central teachings that have been taught throughout the millennia in the church. While these statements are easy to learn and easy to memorize, the depths of them are inexhaustible. I am going to change the order of the statements around and do “Sola Scriptura” which is “Scripture Alone” first for two reasons: 1) this is the foundational tenant for which all other tenants get their base from, and 2) so that “Sola Christus,” (“Christ Alone”) is published on Christmas morning. So without further ado, let’s dig into “Sola Scriptura.”

First, here’s a little background into how and why Luther coined the phrase “Sola Scriptura.” He had come out of a Roman Catholic background, which at that time was selling indulgences (ultimately a fundraiser for the Sistine Chapel), and people could come to the church to buy an indulgence which would allow them “free sins” by confessing in advance. The practice then, as it is now, is that there are three authorities in the Roman Catholic Church: the Bible, the church Tradition, and the Magisterium, comprised of the Pope and his high council. What Luther realized is the Bible alone gives the authority to all things, not traditions or man-made council.

Todd Friel in his “Drive By Theology” teaching series with Steven Lawson makes the observation that many of the major creeds and confessionals that many churches use begin with the Bible. That means each tenant and statement don’t come from their church traditions or elder councils but from Scripture. I’ll go even further to state that unless we truly believe and operate with “Sola Scriptura,” we cannot believe the other major tenants of our creeds. How do we know that salvation is by grace alone? Simple, because Scripture teaches it. How do we know that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Simple, because Scripture teaches it. In everything, Scripture, the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and superior Word of God, must be the standard. It must give the foundation. It must give the framework. You can see the Scripture and writings on that in the links provided.

Now the skeptic to this will quickly ask: “Are you a geo-centrist?” Just in the past few weeks, I have received this specific question from believers when I speak about Scripture being the authority. Where are they coming from? They are confusing numerous things here. First, the Bible never actually teaches geo-centrism. There is no set of verses that teaches the sun moves around the earth. All we have is observations from the people just as our modern weathermen speak. Yes, Joshua asked the sun to stand still. Does that teach geo-centrism? Actually no, it doesn’t, not any more than your weatherman giving us the sunrise and sunset times. But what are they really aiming at? They are suggesting that we actually use our “modern science” to interpret the Bible on this issue. And they use this with the intention of saying that we can’t use the Bible to dictate the history of the universe. It’s comparing apples to peanuts, not even similar enough to compare both topics to fruit. The geo-centrist debate is a scientific model we use with our observations NOW, and it has nothing to do with the historical account of Genesis. And Genesis is a historical account. The models of how it actually took place are secondary to this. So, the argument doesn’t actually do what they want it to do.

Now, the Bible does not give us the details of the galaxies or microbiology or Newton’s Laws or chemical reactions. It’s not a science book. And those who accuse me and those who believe the historical account of Genesis of trying to make it a science book need to learn what science is and what it isn’t. But that said, the Bible gives us the framework through which we are to see everything. Not every detail, but the framework. Anything outside that framework is not of God and not valid. So when the Bible gives the history of how long God took to create the universe and how much time has passed since and what kind of events took place (sin bringing death, a Global Flood, the Tower of Babel dispersion, the Plagues, the Exodus, the Conquest of Canaan, all the way through Jesus’ birth, death, burial, resurrection, and return), that means that all our studies MUST includes all these factors. If we do not take the Bible’s account as the primary authority, then we are not doing a Biblical study nor operating out of a Biblical worldview.

When I teach about worldviews, I address five major questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Who am I? Where am I going? Who do I listen to? I make an emphasis that each of these questions MUST be answered from the Bible’s perspective or it is not a Biblical worldview. The depth of these questions is bottomless and each one is inseparable from the other. You will always answer one holistically with the others. Origins includes our views of creation, what’s wrong with the world, how did I get here, what is my personal background, etc. Purpose includes my reason for existing, my role in life, and where I belong. Identity is who I am as an individual and who I am in the collective. Destination includes where I am going in 5, 10, 20 years, heaven/hell, how will what is wrong be made right, etc. Authority deals with which voices I will listen to: parents, family, peers, teachers, elders, pastors, scientists, media, God/Bible, etc. If we are not answering these questions by the Bible, then we are missing something and our worldview will be broken, backwards, and more than just “wrong.”

Now, can we include other sources of authority? Science, psychology, math, history, literature, etc. The answer is “Yes!” Without question. However, each one of these must be submissive to what the Word of God teaches or it is a false authority. I love math and when practiced I can do calculus in my head. The Bible doesn’t teach calculus, but it does give the framework that enables calculus to work. That said, I also have learned this phrase: “Math doesn’t lie, but wrong equations do.” If the mathematical construct we derive is not based on the accounts given by Scripture, it is not a Biblical construct, nor will it likely produce anything of real value.

If Scripture does not explicitly talk about it, at the very least it cannot disagree with any statement the Bible makes. That’s why all “Deep Time” models suggesting millions to billions of years of the earth’s history are totally wrong. Not only are they merely mathematical constructs (no science is ever used to show Deep Time, only math is), but they are based on equations that purposefully and intentionally leave the Biblical account out of it, if not intentionally trying to refute it. These models directly contradict what is explicitly given in Scripture (6-day creation, only about 6000 years having passed, and a global flood) and were initially created for that purpose. So, any such model is not part of a Biblical worldview nor is it part of a practice of “Sola Scriptura.”

The Bible must be our authority – our first, foremost, and final authority. When anything is in conflict with the Bible, that anything must go for inspection first. Where is the flaw likely to be found – in the scientific models or the “interpretation” of Scripture? Frankly, I’ll hedge my bets that man’s opinions are the flawed ones, not the clear reading of Scripture. And I’ll be right every time, even when I am the one who doesn’t have the correct doctrine. I’ll be right that the Bible had it right every time. I am wrong often, that’s why I don’t put a lot of weight to my opinions, but I go by what Scripture says. And it is Scripture that teaches that our hope is by the Grace of God alone, and not by any of our efforts. That is for next week.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


MichelleO said...

I look forward to the other installments!

XXEnginerd said...

What are your thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 2:15 where the Bible states to hold fast to traditions?
"Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours."

Charlie said...

Thank you for reading XXEnginerd.

That is a fair question. But it important to note a couple things: this statement comes FROM Scripture, not a "tradition" that is ultimately only for the purpose of being a tradition with no real basis or backing. The other is to look at the whole chapter for context. Paul is warning the Thessalonians of a great apostasy and false teaching to come. He is saying to watch out for the teachings that will redirect the original point or purpose of sound doctrine.

There may have been specific things Paul had that church do that we do not have record of to protect themselves from false teachings, but the statements and letters...are recorded in Scripture that he gave, including the very letter where this came from. Any traditions or sayings that Paul said to hold on to would originate in established Scripture (and the NT was being established as such during the time of). ANYTHING extraneous is subject to investigation and can be discarded if misused. The "traditions" we are to keep are things like Communion, gathering together, fellowship, preaching of the Word, etc. The "traditions" we should not are individual programs that may address a need at a time, but if they are not rooted in Scripture and they cease addressing that need, then boot it out.