Did Sola Scriptura lead to Verificationism?

They seem to be very similar concepts:

Sola Scriptura: “The Bible is the final authority, you should only believe in what it says, even though the Bible doesn’t tell me this itself. It’s just an axiom we need to make to do away with unbiblical bable like rosaries and popes.”

Verification Principle: “Only statements that are logically necessary or empirically verifiable are meaningful, even though this one isn’t either of those things. It’s just an axiom we need to make to do away with unscientific babble like metaphysics and ethics.”

I know that the protestant revolt that gave us Sola Scriptura began in Germany, and so did the philosophy that lead to Logical Positivism and Verificationism. But do you think there is a legitimate historical connection between the two?

Not really. Verificationism was an aberrant philosophical principle that stemmed from the scientific method. It really was a form of scientism and is inherently contradictory and not logically coherent. Thus it was abandoned by most legitimate philosophers. It’s really kind of a joke. If a person espouses that, then just ask them how they can verify the statement itself that, in order for any statement to be valid, it must be empirically verifiable. Verificationism contradicts itself.

I would argue it comes from the elevation of science into a religion (scientism). In science, it is true that a physical claim about the universe ought to be empirically verifiable. But that’s a very constrained set of statements, not all statements. Indeed, if it were expanded to all statements, it would eliminate the scientific method itself, since the scientific method depends upon axioms which are assumed and not strictly proven.

I am not sure it is accurate to argue that Protestantism led to positivism either.

While the bolded may be true, the blue part of the “definition” of sola scriptura that you have given doesn’t particularly match that of Lutheranism, or the Reformed AFAIK, but more the later morphings of the practice, particularly by American evangelical groups. The red part is at best someone’s opinion of it.


I think I can understand where you’re coming from, Estevao. Many Catholic bloggers have made similar comments about Sola Scriptura. Personally, though, I tend to disregard the bloggers and focus on e.g. dialogues sponsored by the Vatican.

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