How is Sola Scriptura possible?

I know there have been soooooooo many posts about sola scriptura but hear me out.

I have just started reading the Bible a couple months ago. And the more I read it, the more I don’t understand sola scriptura. There are so many places where things are worded ambiguously, or where things are contradicted, or where figurative language was used or worse, where figurative language might have been used or heck maybe it was literal. I just do not understand how it is possible to be so confident in your interpretation of such a confusing book.

I know that there are Protestants who have dedicated their lives to studying the Bible. And that’s pretty impressive. The problem is, I just don’t think a lifetime is enough to understand the Bible. I don’t really believe that a thousand lifetimes would be enough to be sure that you had gotten the Bible exactly right. And I think that proof of that is the number of Protestant denominations out there: Nobody can agree on how to interpret the Bible, because the Bible can be legitimately interpreted in countless ways.

Just as a crazy example: There is one part in the Bible in Acts that says “And everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”. Then there is another part of the Bible that says ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. So which one do you believe??? There are major Christian denominations that say both: Saved by faith alone, or only saved by faith in addition to works.

It reminds me of how in English class, teachers would ALWAYS say “There are no wrong answers”. Because you are interpreting someone else’s mind, and that is literally impossible to get accurately on your own. Words can seem clear, but you still need context of thought. No matter what you say, there is just always another way to interpret it.
For instance, if it was said in the Bible “Apples are good.” You could say “Eating apples is a virtue” or “Eating apples is part of what makes you a good person” or “No, that was just an opinion, not an order” or “He said apples are good because apples are a part of life, so what he is really saying is that life is good” or “You have to interpret this literally. It says apples are good. Therefore, apples are good, and everyone should eat them because you must always do things that are good” or “You have to interpret this literally. It says apples are good and thus you must believe that apples are good. But it doesn’t say anything else so you don’t need to do anything else”. And at the end of the day, no one can agree, and you end up with endless different denominations who can’t figure out what “Apples are good” means because they do not have the context of thought.

That is why Jesus established the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is guided by the Holy Spirit at all times, and that is how we obtain context of thought. The Catholic Church is the only church that can possibly interpret the writing accurately, because the Catholic Church is the only church that has the context of thought: in that, it is directed by the writer Himself, not the third-party readers.

So, how is Sola Scriptura possible? How do you get the right answers? How is it that you know exactly what Jesus meant when he said or did or inspired the writings of certain things? I literally do not understand it at all.
But maybe I will be surprised. I have read threads on the “history argument” against Protestants and I was impressed, so you know, how do you know your faith is true? Why do you believe what you believe?

Lutheran Sola Scriptura is a practice of the church, not of individuals.

I’ll leave the defense of non-Lutheran Sola Scriptura to others.

Which Lutheran church? Any that agrees with the Augsburg Confession or just the one you attend? If there are points that different Lutheran churches disagree on that aren’t covered by the Augsburg Confession, do those points count as “nonessentials” or are some things essential that aren’t covered by the Augsburg Confession? Is there a final Lutheran authority to decide differences on matters not in the Augsburg Confession? Is there a final authority to decide the correct interpretation of the Augsburg Confession?

“Lutheran” is an umbrella term - there are various synods (WELS, LCMS, ELCA, ELDoNA, ELS) that came about to serve various immigrant groups or geographic locations. Each synod may have differences of opinion concerning things like the role of women in the church and these are sorted out at the synod level, not individuals or even congregations. But there is no Lutheran Pope overseeing all Lutherans, nor is there a single “Magisterium.”

We all like Pope Francis though. Would you share?

You are welcome to reestablish communion with the See of Rome if you are willing to accept the teachings of its bishop, Pope Francis. St. Irenaeus of Lyons in 180 A.D. said that all true churches must agree with the Church of Rome under the authority of its bishop. (Against Heresies Book III Chapter 3 Paragraphs 2-3) Catholics take that requirement seriously. How do your churches interpret that requirement? Was St. Irenaeus wrong on this issue? Did the Reformers know better than he did?

Regarding the role of women in the church, from your description it seems to me that Lutheran churches think they can disagree with one another on that issue and still remain in communion with one another. But that doesn’t seem to be what the Bible says. It says, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” 1 Corinthians 14:33-34. Do you think Catholics are following this teaching better than Lutherans?

Aren’t there female lay people who help during Mass…? (Not sure what they’re called — they sing/read Scripture and distribute the Host.)

SS started as a practice to combat corruption by certain people. The only authority left, if not the clergy itself, was Scripture. Then it sort of mutated to what it is now…

Even with sola scripture it should still lead you to the Catholic Church.

And by studying and the Power of the Holy Spirit it has to millions!:thumbsup:

Sola Scripture is possible to use, and quite easily, too, when one wants to support a idea or agenda with scripture out of context.

It gets deeper when folks pick up the Bible like some holy fortune cookie.

For example, if I’m having a difficult car problem and pick up a Bible and read about a stubborn *** who won’t listen to its Master, then I can conclude that God is using the Bible to talk to me on a personal level.
It’s actually creating a experience where God talks to me. Sigh. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but…

My bottom line argument against Sola Scripture is that of Genesis and Exodus are literal, why not John 6?

Yes, but this Scripture doesn’t forbid that. There is evidence that this passage is talking about Church leadership when it says women must remain silent. As long as she isn’t the pastor or priest, 1 Corinthians allows women certain functions, including speaking positions. 1 Cor. 11:5 is an example of this because it mentions women speaking in a way that is permissible. But not as the pastor or priest.

SS started as a practice to combat corruption by certain people. The only authority left, if not the clergy itself, was Scripture. Then it sort of mutated to what it is now…

Even the original intention of Sola-Scriptura wouldn’t make it right because corruption in the Church’s clergy doesn’t cancel the Church’s authority. Jesus talked about this issue and said that we should not follow the sins of Church leaders, but their teachings – Matthew 23:2-3. Sola Scriptura says we should reject the Church’s leaders if we think they are in conflict with the Bible. There’s an incompatibility between what Jesus taught and what Sola Scriptura teaches. What Martin Luther should have done in reaction to corrupt clergy was try to get the clergy to follow the Church’s moral teachings. Inventing a new doctrine and getting condemned for it was the wrong way to reform the Church’s clergy.

I’m not saying it was the right course of action…just the thought process behind it.

This is just one of the issues that keep the synods separate from each other, and also out of communion. At one extreme, the ELCA ordains women as clergy; at the other extreme, the WELS does not permit a woman to have authority over a man - thus she can’t act as usher, distribute communion elements nor vote in parish/congregational matters. The LCMS does not ordain women but does allow them to act as lectors and to vote and hold certain offices in the congregation.

There is no single human source of authority for all Lutherans. To be quite honest this setup makes me uneasy. I find it hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would guide us to such different conclusions about matters that are not adiaphora - such as women’s ordination. The Book of Concord is our guide for the interpretation of Scripture but not all Lutherans accept that in the same way, either. It is messy, yes - humans are like that.

But I’m afraid these messy, dissenting cafeteria believers are everywhere in the Church millitant, not just among the Lutherans.

It is not possible. And why? Because it was NEVER taught in the early church. Precisely what happens when one kicks to the curb the church Christ founded with His authority. Do imagine what it would be like, if the our government had no authority to interpret the laws and Constitution and left in the hands of its citizens to decide? Unity or more chaos and confusion?

Sola scriptura being one who judges by the bible as the final authority right? That they can be compelled by nothing except which scripture says right? I know Lutherans and anglicans and more reasonable protestants do not outright deny the fathers but when confronted with a universal understanding (like say the succession of the bishops) protestants will deny it in favour of their understanding of scripture.

I think the main problem with that position is no one actually agrees on the bible even in their own churches. Even within the Catholic, Orthodox and similar churches there are disagreements yet I think we find more unity in these churches because the people are willing to submit to their authorities.

That doesn’t make the church right in of itself simply because there is unity but the protestants can’t deny there seems to be a much more faithful attitude towards the traditional doctrines and understanding of the bible within these churches than in their own. How can the protestant object to anyone reading the bible, finding no church which agrees with them and being bound by their conscience and the false churches to open up a church down the street which teaches something like resurrection?

Sola scriptura might be right, but there is no limiting factor, there is no submission to authority. Of course the sola scripturist will claim they are submitting to the bible but everyone claims that.

It seems to me the only solution is to have both church and scripture. That if we cannot trust the laying down of hands in those the apostles trusted from generation to generation, what hope do we have exactly?

Q: How is Sola Scriptura possible?

A: Easy! Isn’t it obvious? Sola Scriptura is proven in the Bible! It’s there for everyone to see. Just turn to… Hmm… Umm… It’s here somewhere.

Just give me a minute and I’ll find it… (furiously flipping pages)


Darn. Where did I see it? I’m sure it was there on Sunday, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it.

I’ll reply again when I find Sola Scriptura in the Bible. :wink:

Thus dyeth another thread on Sola Scriptura.

Great post, as it provides the venue to dispell the misconception that all practices have to be found explicitly in scripture, a notion not part of sola scriptura.

From James Kiefer, an Anglican:

. OBJECTION: The doctrine of Sola Scriptura contradicts itself. For if the doctrine is true, then it ought itself to be stated in Holy Scripture. But in fact it is not.

REPLY: We are offered an argument of the following form:

(1) Sola Scriptura = “All true propositions are stated in Holy Scripture.”
(2) Sola Scriptura is not stated in Holy Scripture.
(3) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is not a true proposition.

But in fact, the argument should be of the form:

(1) Sola Scriptura = “All truths necessary to salvation are stated in Holy Scripture.”
(2) Sola Scriptura is not stated in Holy Scripture.
(3) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is not a truth necessary to salvation.

And to this conclusion I, for one, have no objection. I cheerfully look forward to seeing many of my Roman Catholic friends in Heaven, despite their regrettable error in holding certain propositions to be true, and their still more regrettable error in holding them to be essential parts of the Catholic faith.

Sola scriptura is not an article of faith. No believer’s conscience is bound to it. It is simply a method by which (for Lutherans) the Church holds doctrines accountable to scripture as the final norm. The idea that sola scriptura needs to found explicitly in scripture is a misconception of what sola scriptura actually is and does.


I’m sorry if you didn’t like my reply. Perhaps my new post won’t be so offensive.

Thanks for the props, Jon.

As a newcomer to apologetics, and having only REALLY studied the Faith for a couple of years; there is one thing (besides Sola Scriptura never being mentioned in the Bible) that seriously disproves Sola Scriptura in my opinion…

Most Christians agree that the very last Apostle (John, by most accounts) died c. 100 AD.

Also, most Christians will agree that the Bible as we know it today came into existance sometime between 393 and 400 AD.

Even if we give the Bible the benefit of being compiled in 393 AD; that STILL leaves 293 years without ANY Christian authority whatsoever. I feel silly typing this because Christ is ALWAYS our Authority; but how could we - His loving disciples - know what to do, how to act, and how to worship without the Bible?

True… we have ALWAYS had the Old Testament, and most of the New Testament writings were written fairly early on; but the Church didn’t have ALL the Scriptures available to ALL communities.

If I were a Protestant, I think that 293 year gap would bother me. A lot. I would be curious to know how Sola Scriptura governed the Church between 100 and 393.

The teachings of the Apostles, first oral then written, we available during this time frame, and they were used by the early Church, depended on by the early Church, leading up to the councils. So, in that way, I am not bothered.
But further, ISTM that the narrowing of scripture to be a final norm is in large measure a response to, what Luther called contradictions in councils and popes, something we see in the differing understanding of Sacred Tradition between the CC and EO.


I don’t think I intended that last part to be directed at Lutherans and Anglicans per se; as we have a similar take on the roles of Scripture and Tradition in the C/church.

About two weeks ago I stumbled across a Protestant website and have been “lurking” there ever since. At times I have been alternately shocked, bewildered, stunned, enraged, and even amused. THEY hold to a concept of Sola Scriptura far more “reformed” than you Lutherans do. Of course, as a Catholic “heretic” I am forbidden membership on their board, and thus cannot defend our position. And I refuse to lie about being Catholic just to join. I have read their “rules”; and Lutherans aren’t welcome, either.

It is to THOSE Protestants that I would direct my last post. However, not many of them will see it because they refuse to join CAF; or their time here runs it’s course quickly if you know what I mean.

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