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Sola Scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone") is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, Sola Scriptura demands only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from Scripture. However, Sola Scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola Scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today (see Five solas).

During the Reformation, authentication of Scripture was governed by the discernible excellence of the text as well as the personal witness of the Holy Spirit to the heart of each man. Furthermore, per Sola Scriptura, the relationship of Scriptural authority to pastoral care was well exampled by the Westminster Confession of Faith which stated:

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.

Here the phrase "due use of the ordinary means" includes appeals to pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-14). As such, Sola Scriptura reflects a careful tension between the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture necessary for its role as final authority, and the occasional need for its meaning to be revealed by exposition (Hebrews 5:12).

Beyond the Reformation, as in some Evangelical and Baptist denominations, Sola Scriptura is stated even more strongly: it 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 and Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches teach that the Scriptures are not the only infallible source of Christian doctrine. In their view "the Church [...] 'does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture andTradition

 must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.' [...] The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition."[1] These churches also believe that "'[t]he task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching officeof the Church alone[...]'",[2] in part because it was the Church that selected which books were to be in the Biblical canon. Protestants believe instead that the Church passively recognized and received the books that were already widely considered canonical.[3] Contents

  [hide

                              1 Overview

o                                     1.1 Characteristics in Lutheranism

                                              1.1.1 Inspiration

                                              1.1.2 Divine authority

                                              1.1.3 Clarity

                                              1.1.4 Efficacy

                                              1.1.5 Sufficiency

o                                     1.2 Prima Scriptura

o                                     1.3 Singular authority of Scripture

o                                     1.4 Scripture and Sacred Tradition

                              2 Legacy

                              3 See also

                              4 References

                              5 External links

 

Overview[edit]

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]

Lutheranism

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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]

Luther's translation of the Bible, from 1534

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 Confessionidentifies 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 theFormula 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]

Main article: Clarity of Scripture

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]

Law and Grace, by Lucas Cranach. The left side shows our condemnation under God's law, while the right side presents God's grace in Christ.

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.[25] 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.[26] Scripture does not compel a mere intellectual assent to its doctrine, resting on logical argumentation, but rather it creates the living agreement of faith.[27] 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."[28]

Sufficiency[edit]

The Bible contains everything that one needs to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life.[29] 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.[30]

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, angelicvisitations, 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 Scripturahave 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."[31] 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 which Roman Catholics deny but Protestants affirm), its authority would be negated. Therefore, the early Protestants argued for the elimination of traditions and doctrines they believed were based on distortions of Scripture, or were contrary to the Bible, but which 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 Timothy2:2). 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.

However, this view of Scripture and tradition was not universally accepted. Throughout the history of the Church, movements have arisen within the Church or alongside of it which have disputed the official interpretation of the Scriptures. The leaders of these movements were sometimes labeled heretics and their doctrines were rejected. According to Irenaeus, the Judaistic Ebionites charged less than one hundred years after the Apostles that the Christians overruled the authority of Scripture by failing to keep the Mosaic Law (see also Biblical law in Christianity). Later, Arius (250-336), once he had been made a presbyter in Alexandria, began arguing that the teaching concerning the deity of Christ was an invention of men not found in Scripture and not believed by the Early Christians.

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]

 

, and

Legacy[edit]

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

See also[edit]

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Christianity portal

                    Bibliolatry

                    Ex cathedra

                    Ijtihad, the Islamic concept of interpretation of religion and law not limited by tradition

                    Qur'an alone, an Islamic movement influenced in its theory by sola scriptura.

                    Wesleyan Quadrilateral

                    Prima scriptura

                    Cessationism versus Continuationism, where Sola Scriptura is discussed with regard to the issue of charismatic gifts

References[edit]

1.                              Jump up^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 82-83

 

2.                             Jump up^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 85

 

3.                             Jump up^ W. Robert Godfrey. "What Do We Mean by Sola Scriptura?"

 

. In Don Kistler. Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible. Soli Deo Gloria. ISBN 1-56769-183-8. Retrieved 2008-07-10.

4.                             Jump up^ Michael Horton (Mar/April 1994). "Reformation Essentials"

 

. Modern Reformation. Retrieved 2008-07-10.

5.                              Jump up^ Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles II, 15.

6.                             Jump up^ 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, seeInspiration, Doctrine of

 

[dead link] in the Christian Cyclopedia.

7.                             Jump up^ 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.                             Jump up^ 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.                             Jump up^ "God's Word, or Holy Scripture" from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II, of Original Sin

 

10.                         Jump up^ "the Scripture of the Holy Ghost." Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Preface, 9

 

11.                         Jump up^ The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, "Rule and Norm", 3.

 

12.                          Jump up^ (Tobit 6, 71; 2 Macc. 12, 43 f.; 14, 411),

13.                         Jump up^ See Bible, Canon in the Christian Cyclopedia

 

[dead link]

14.                         ^ Jump up to: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.                         Jump up^ Revelation 14:6

 

16.                         Jump up^ 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. 89. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

17.                         Jump up^ 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. 810. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

18.                         Jump up^ 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. 89. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

19.                         Jump up^ 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. 811. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

20.                         Jump up^ "Bible: Literal or Inspired"

 

. The Lutheran. Retrieved 13 October 2012.

21.                         Jump up^ 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. 1112. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

22.                         Jump up^ 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.                         Jump up^ Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology

 

. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 11. ISBN 0-524-04891-6.

24.                         Jump up^ 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.                         Jump up^ 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.

26.                         Jump up^ 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. 1112. 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.

27.                         Jump up^ 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.

28.                         Jump up^ Smalcald Articles, part 8, "Of Confession"

 

29.                         Jump up^ 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.

30.                         Jump up^ 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.

31.                         Jump up^ 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]

                    Articles on Sola scriptura

 

 from a Reformed perspective

                    Bible verses on Sola scriptura

 

 from a Catholic perspective

                    Scripture & Tradition

 

 from a Catholic perspective

                                Proving Inspiration

 

 refers to "sola scriptura"

                                Scripture and Tradition

 

 and "What's Your Authority?"

 

 argues against "sola scriptura"

                    The Shape of Sola Scriptura (2001) by Keith Mathison

 

 (himself a Calvinistic evangelical)

                    A written debate on Sola scriptura

 

 between Douglas Jones and Gerald Matatics from Antithesis Magazine

                    A formal written debate on Sola scriptura

 

 between Julie Staples and Apolonio Latar

                    A Catholic assessment of Sola scriptura

 

                    An Orthodox Christian assessment of Sola scriptura

 

                    Orthodox Christian Responses to Protestant Apologists on Sola Scriptura

 

                    "Paradosis: The Handing On of Divine Revelation"

 

 from a Catholic perspective

                    "A Disputation on Holy Scripture" by Puritan William Whitaker (1588)

 

                    Citations from the Early Church Fathers on "Sola Scriptura"

 

                    Sola Scriptura - The Sufficient and Final Authority of the Scriptures

 

, from an Anabaptist Brethren perspective

Categories: 

                              Protestant Reformation

                          Latin religious phrases

                          Lutheran theology

                          Christian theology of the Bible

                          Heresy in Christianity

 

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Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, "by scripture alone") is the assertion that the Bible as God's written word 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.

Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the reformer Martin Luther and is a definitive principle of Protestants today (see Five solas)

Sola scriptura may be contrasted with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teaching, in which doctrine is authentically taught by the legitimate teaching authority of the Church which draws on the Deposit of Faith which consists of Sacred Tradition, of which Sacred Scripture is a subset.

Contents

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[edit] The principle of sola scriptura in Protestantism

Sola scriptura is the third of the five solas. The key implication of the principle is that interpretations of how to understand and apply the Scriptures do not have the same authority as the Scriptures themselves; hence, the ecclesiastical authority is 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 added-on tradition as a source of original authority in addition to the Bible (which did not have any Biblical basis and/or contradicted with Scripture). The Apostolic Church's teaching authority is in the Scriptures alone.

"The true rule is this: God's Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so." (Smalcald Article II, 15 - Martin Luther). (See Galatians 1:8).

[edit] Prima scriptura and sola verbum Dei

Sola scriptura may be contrasted with "prima scriptura," which holds that even though the Bible is the primary source of doctrine it is improved by reference to other sources. Also "Sola Verbum Dei," (by the Word of God alone), which is the Catholic position,[citation needed] contrasts sola scriptura, as Catholics consider that the Word of God is formed by Scripture and Tradition and when they refer to the "Word of God" it is not only to Scripture that they are referring as some other Christian groups might.

Yet a third position, often confused with sola scriptura, is that of solo, which is the belief that it is up to the individual to interpret the Bible, discarding all conciliar and ecclesiastical authority. Sola scriptura is one of the five pillars of the Protestant Reformation.

[edit] The singular authority of Scripture

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 him or herself and evaluate what he or she has been taught on the basis of it. 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. Tradition includes 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 was considered controversial, sometimes anti-Catholic by the Catholic Church. In the Western Church, Latin was extensively utilized in time periods when it was a lingua franca and understood by most literate persons.

The Catholic Church rejects sola scriptura because it believes that "'The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.' This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."[1]

The Catholic Church is also clear that it is not above Scripture by believing that "[The] Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."[2]

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."[3] 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 which Catholics deny but Protestants affirm), its authority would be negated. Therefore, the early Protestants targeted for elimination traditions and doctrines they believed were based on distortions of Scripture, or were contrary to the Bible, but which the 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 is the head of the Church on earth.

[edit] Divisions of Protestants

The Reformation proceeded in three general directions: the Lutheran exclusivists, the Reformed and the Anabaptists. The Lutherans aimed at establishing an evangelical consensus immediately, but the Reformed brought diverse groups into international association with one another on more liberal principles, which damaged hopes of union with the Lutherans. Meanwhile, the Anabaptists espoused an alternative view of history in which the true Church became hidden or lost through a apostasy dating from Constantine. From that time forward fragmentation based on sola scriptura has predominated within Protestantism, although rare movements toward union have achieved success.

[edit] Scripture and Tradition

The Roman Catholic Church against which the Reformers 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 Tradition (see 2 The 2:15, 2 Tim 2:2). Accepted traditions were also perceived as cohesive in nature (). The ones receiving the scripture trusted the people from whom they received it and their accompanying teachings. 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 Acts 15:28-29). The meaning of Scripture was seen as proven from the faith universally held in the Catholic Christian churches (see Phil 2:1, Acts 4:32), and the correctness of that universal faith was seen as proven from the Scriptures and apostolic tradition (see 2 The 2:15, 2 The 3:6, 1 Cor 11:2). The Biblical canon itself was thus viewed as part of the Church's tradition, as defined by its leadership and acknowledged by its laity.

However, this view of scripture and tradition was not universally accepted within the Church. Throughout the history of the Church, movements have arisen within the Catholic Church or alongside of it which have disputed the official interpretation of the Scriptures. The leaders of these movements were often labeled heretics and their doctrines were rejected. According to Irenaeus, the Judaistic Ebionites charged less than one hundred years after the Apostles that the Christians overruled the authority of Scripture by failing to keep the Mosaic Law. Later, Arius (250-336), once he had been made a presbyter in Alexandria, began arguing that the Catholic Tradition concerning the deity of Christ was an invention of men not found in Scripture and not believed by the early Christians. The Catholic Church held that when disagreements over Scripture arise, the correct interpretation of the Bible will be consistent with how the Church authorities have believed in the past (see 2 Tim 2:2, 2 The 2:15, 1 Cor 11:2) , as revealed by the Ecumenical Councils, the writings of the Apostles of Jesus and Fathers of the Church, the decisions of the Bishops of Rome and similar sources of Tradition.

However, the Reformers believed some Catholic 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. (For more on a Protestant perspective, compare The Shape of Sola Scriptura.)

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 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."

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, argue that attention to tradition is taught in the Scriptures themselves (citing for example, 2 Thessalonians 2:15: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."), and therefore ultimately lament that by rejecting the Church's authority in tradition, Protestantism is ironically not scriptural enough. Catholic critics also argue that, sola scriptura has been used for ends that are contrary to the Scriptures themselves, by contradicting the Church's legitimate authority, so that individuals have been encouraged in their conceits to destroy the unity of the Church (Rom 11:25, 1 Tim 6:4, see Gal 5:20-21, 1 Cor 1:13, Eph 4:3-6, Phil 2:1).[citation needed] This is sometimes a misunderstanding as some proponents of Roman Catholicism do not understand the actual meaning of sola scriptura. 2 Timothy 3,4 along with other verses in the Scriptures seem to strengthen the position of Sola Scriptura. However, reading carefully one finds that it strengthens Scriptura i.e the Scriptures and not Sola Scriptura i.e. Scripture Alone.

[edit] Legacy

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

The conception of sola scriptura has changed over time. In addition to being a method of reforming church authority and tradition, sola scriptura now often implies an additional antithesis between the authority of the individual and authority of the Church. In addition to contesting and reforming traditions negatively attested to in scripture, many Protestants also remove traditions that the Bible doesn't positively and clearly support.

[edit] References

1.     ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church #85

2.     ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church #86

3.     ^ Popery Calmly Considered (1779) in The works of the Rev. John Wesley, vol. XV, p. 180, London (1812), digitized by Google Books

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura"

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