Is Sola Scriptura ever really practiced?


I’ve heard all the arguments for and against Sola Scriptura and have seen the debates go 'round and 'round.

Forget for a moment the biblical “proofs” and non-proofs. I’d like to point this thread in a slightly different direction.

I know a lot of people say they believe in SS but I question how many actually do.

I’ve seen plenty of tv evangelists, read books and pamphlets by ministers and lay christians, seen plenty of pastors messages on the web----all from proponents of “sola scriptura”.

But what I see and read is really only someone pronouncing his/her own opinions and teachings sandwiched around a bible verse which they deem connected to their message.

Throw in a few *"…And we see from the word of God that…" *
or “We know that the bible tells us…” and then simply add your own beliefs to those statements. That’s the basic recipe. (Doing so with a bible in your hand really adds to the feeling of authority)

Sola Scriptura may or may not be a good concept, but isn’t it really only a concept? I really don’t see it as ever being a viable idea. I don’t really see anyone who actually practices it. Isn’t it really just a label people can use to be able to say “I’m right, you’re wrong” ?


i agree 5000% with this post


When my wife and I went to the Pentecostal Church and our pastor would string together completely unconnected Scriptural passages as raw material for a brand-new 90-minute sermon, I coined the phrase “Bible Bingo” for it.

Of course, after that, whenever he came around to a commonly-used verse, I had to mightily resist the urge to shout “Bingo!”


Yes. When a Bible sits on a bookshelf that is Sola Scriptura.

Once somebody picks up the bible and starts reading it you immediately have Scripture + “Something Else.” Where “Something Else” = all of the abilities, biasis, experiences and traditions of the reader.



Sola Scriptura may or may not be a good concept, but isn’t it really only a concept? I really don’t see it as ever being a viable idea. I don’t really see anyone who actually practices it. Isn’t it really just a label people can use to be able to say “I’m right, you’re wrong

I wonder not only whether we can find somewhere SS actually practiced, but even where can we find the concept itself exactly defined, given that it should exclude a Magisterium ( or it should not, maybe, according to some definitions :shrug: ). Just an example from Wikipedia:

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.

This particular definition almost appears a catholic strawman:
to declare ( authoritatively ?) the perspicuity and self-interpreting nature of Scripture, IMHO, challenges both common experience
and …Scripture itself. I am sure there must be definitions which are far more tenable than this one. So I’d like to ask our Protestant members:
what is, according to your personal views, the real definition of SS,
as practiced by your denomination or by yourself ?

PS I am aware of the relatively recent distinction between SOLA Scriptura and SOLO Scriptura. Here we have an explanation of the seemingly irreconcileable contrast between the two -
While the critique of SOLO we find in this article by a “SOLAScripturaist” is largely and almost amazingly similar to traditional critiques of SOLA, this makes the whole matter even more difficult to cope with, at least for those outside reformed traditions.


whenever I read posts on this site about sola scriptura, I am always distracted and don’t read them because I attended a protestant church for a while and went to bible studies every week, and I can say with 100 % certainty, that the interpretation of particular verses is always based a doctrinal point of view - there are exceptions where one person may have extreme views and may differ from the prevailing doctrinal opinion of the group - but in general the interpretation is always based on the orthodox view of that particular denomination. A good example is matthew 25 - the sheep and the goats judgement - I could never get a satisfactory answer to my concerns about this passage from either my protestant pastor or bible study leader - because the doctrinal opinion (osas) could not explain how we would be judged for what we did and did not do- the only answer I got was that the verse didn’t apply to ‘christians’. yet in my own reading on my own, from looking at the text only I came to a conclusion that our Lord was indeed saying it applied to us - I finally got the right answer when I brought up the verse to the catholic priest that I met with when I went for counseling to get married as a catholic. He looked at me and smiled and said “oh no, course it applies to us -” that got me thinking about interpretation - I began questioning many other verses based on my own reading alone - John 6 - was another troublesome verse. the bottom line being that solo scriptura lead me to no other place than back home to the catholic church I was brought up .


I have no idea whether this is “Sola Scriptura” or not, but from our church’s statement of faith:

The Bible is the Word of God. We believe that the Bible, in its entirety, is the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it is our only infallible rule of faith and conduct.

I could quibble and say that the word infallible can not logically be applied to a document…it only applies to processes…but I know what is trying to be communicated here.


Yes. When a Bible sits on a bookshelf that is Sola Scriptura.

Once somebody picks up the bible and starts reading it you immediately have Scripture + “Something Else.” Where “Something Else” = all of the abilities, biasis, experiences and traditions of the reader.



I just want to click on this thread so that it appears on my subscribed thread list. Thank you.


You are right. “There is an authorised interpreter and it is me” has no credibility, unless you really are someone very special. “This is what the text says in black and white” will fool a lot of people.


Thanks m250.

This is an interesting statement of faith:

The Bible is the Word of God. We believe that the Bible, in its entirety, is the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it is our only infallible rule of faith and conduct.

I think it is a good example because I’m not entirely sure what it means. The part about “in it’s entirety” throws me. Does that mean the bible is the entire Word of God? Or is it an instruction to use all of the bible? The part about “only infallible rule of faith and conduct” mixes me up too. I don’t have a problem with the “infallible” part—I take it as meaning “without error” as in “the bible is without error”.

And now that I think on it a bit—the last part sounds pretty good and I think I get where it’s coming from—“The bible is the only thing we rely on which is an infallible source of direction”. By which they mean there are other influences and things we use to make decisions, but the bible is the only thing which is completely reliable.

That part actually sounds pretty logical, at least initially. (a reminder–this thread is not about “proof” for SS). Where I have trouble is—and this is really the point of this thread—How does that translate into daily practice?

In practice, anything printed on the page is really only as infallible and reliable as the person reading it, at least when it comes to actions and beliefs resulting from reading the text. The bible is especially vulnerable to the whims of man because it is not an actual rule of law or set of exact guidelines on what to believe and how to act, let alone a guide on how to interpet itself.

Consequently—it seems to me, anyway—many of those who “rely” on sola scriptura are really just relying on their own beliefs and opinions and finding a convenient passage to propagate those beliefs, often blatantly ignoring other passages in the bible which don’t fit their sermon for the day.

Not too long ago, I saw a popular pastor on television going over the days subject (i’ll leave out the subject so we don’t start discussing it) and he just basically “explained” “true” “christian” “teaching” using an occassional bible verse to support his sermon. He promotes himself and his church as “sola scriptura”. An evangelical friend of mine, who asked me to watch the show, touts the pastor as “*He only uses the bible! What he teaches comes straight from the bible.” * I think this is a good example of the difficulties of the idea of SS. As I said earlier, it really seems to me to be only a phrase used to prop up one’s beliefs.

If anyone can give me some insight on how it is actually practiced I would appreciate it. Right now I can’t see why it shouldn’t be renamed “Myowna Scriptura”.


The distinction between SOLO and SOLA is very remarkable, for the real practice. With the SOLO version it’s really - or it should be - just the text and me. No teacher, no authority, no tradition(s). Therefore: no creed, no church, no community, if the principle is consistently maintained.

As for its practicability, I guess it depends on how strictly I want and can be consistent. My Bible should not have any commentary, any caption, probably even any map. Then, I realize I have just a translation in my hands. Isn’t that an interpretation ? So I must learn ( and very well) koinè Greek. What about the OT ? I have to learn Hebrew as well, because I can’t trust the Septuaginta. Is that now "the text and me ?"
No, I am trusting those who gave me the Textus Receptus after working for years on the manuscripts. Shall I do all that job again by myself ? If possible, then I should anyway trust some of those humble guys who copied for me those manuscripts …:blush:

I am afraid that SOLO Scriptura, aka Tradition 0, could be known as “Practicability 0” as well, even forgetting the Canonization question and other “minor details”.


Sola scriptura cannot be practiced.

there are many reasons why.

  1. There is no firm definition of sola scriptura, that all sola scripturists hold on to. How can you practice something that is not clearly defined?

What is sola scriptura?
Some say "Bible Alone"
Some say “Bible is #1 but other authorities may be used” (this is more along the lines of Prima Scriptura)
Some say "Bible ONLY! Anything outside of the Bible is tradition of men!"
Some say “Bible, tradition and magisterium, but Bible is the only infallible authority” (this is known as prima scriptura and not sola scriptura. Prima Scriptura CAN be practiced.)

The relativism of sola scriptura prevents such a firm definition to take hold. In fact, the correct definition of sola scriptura is not found in the pages of scripture.

  1. You’ll see that Sola scripturists will interpret scripture to come up with a doctrine. This interpretation and doctrine are found nowhere on the pages of scripture. This is known as an extra-scriptural TRADITION. If they were really practicing sola scriptura, they wouldn’t need to deal with extra-scriptural traditions. My favorite example: “Communion is symbolic only” Oh really? Where is this in the Bible? I don’t see the words “Symbolic” or “metaphor” when Christ said the words. Maybe my Bible is a bad version because it doesn’t have those words

  2. You’ll also see that Sola scripturists will make judgments like “That’s not biblical” or they’ll cite their favorite pastor whose interpretation they accept. My personal favorite is when they accept the Jews (and Martin Luther) throwing out the 7 Deuterocanonicals from the Bible. That’s them accepting a MAGISTERIUM’s authority.

Hmm…Scripture…Tradition…Magisterium. That sounds like the Catholic Model instead of sola scriptura

Thus, sola scriptura cannot be practiced.


The Bible is the Word of God. We believe that the Bible, in its entirety, is the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it is our only infallible rule of faith and conduct.

Thanks Mozart-250 ( I guess you mean the 250th anniversary, celebrated in 2006 :thumbsup: ).

Here we have, instead, an example of definition of SOLA. The key word is…“infallible”. It means:

"We do have other rules, we do have our magisterium, our tradition(s)… Therefore we are a church, a community. And Mozart-250, as anyone else, has to accept our magisterium, our interpretation of the Bible, as long as he wants to remain a member of our church, of course. But beware, this church, this magisterium, anything here is fallible. That is precisely what we state, that you can trust only the Bible, and therefore not our church, not our magisterium. This is our creed/statement of faith, that you must accept (since it’s one of our rules). In other words we state that in order to remain here you have to believe that here you cannot, in principle, receive the truth"


There are as many definitions of Sola Scriptura as there are Sola Scripturists. And I am not being rhetorical here. It is the truth.

In terms of what the language itself means:

Solo is an adverb. It modifies a verb.
Scriptura is a noun. Solo cannot modify a noun. Therefore Solo cannot modify Scriptura.

Sola is an adjective. It modifies a noun.
Scriptura is a noun. Sola can modify a noun.
Therefore *Sola *can modify Scriptura.

Here are examples of the use of the adverb and adjective in English:

I only eat beans. I do not drink beans, I do not herd beans, I do not fly beans.

I eat beans alone. I do not eat sponges, I do not eat lettuce, I do not eat sand.

See the difference?

So basically Solo Scriptura is a variant of jaberwocky. Therefore there can be no meaningful distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura.

Which leaves us right back with the problem of Sola Scriptura: If Scripture alone is infallible, then why waste time with tradition and teachers? The point being that even the most ardent Sola Scripturists depend on their pick of traditions and their pick of teachers for interpretation.

If folks were to rigorously and conscientiously apply Sola Scriptura, however, they would listen to no one else’s opinion. No teachers, no tele-crusaders, no friends, no translators, no church policy makers, no apologists, nobody.

And you would end up with as many opinions as there are Reformers. Lots of opinions, but zero church, because a group of individuals does not equal a team.

Big questions in my mind:

  1. Did Jesus not say he was building a Church? Where would that church be among strict Sola Scripturists? Invisible?

  2. Did Jesus not say he would like unity? Where is the unity among strict Sola Scripturists? In the invisible church?

Point is that Sola Scriptura is a catch-22. It is a logical contradiction. It cannot be practised.


We all need teachers to guide us through the Bible if we want to understand it correctly.

Mark Shea makes this point in the Introduction to his book Making Senses Out of Scripture.

As a child, Mark had no church background. At age 13, he found an old King James Bible. He decided to read the book of Revelation and recounts the experience:

Once again, therefore, I plunged in and made my way for a while through the angels, plagues, battles, and beasts. I was taken aback by the thought of Jesus with a sword sticking out of his mouth. I was grossed out by the description of a Lamb with seven eyes. I gave up when it came to the part about the Number of the Beast. I had figured I’d be able to work it out because I was pretty good at puzzles. But I couldn’t.

“Weird book,” I shrugged. I put it down and did not read it again until I became a Christian at the age of twenty.

At age twenty, Mark converted to Christianity and began reading the Bible again:

With the help of the group of Christians on my dorm floor, I came to encounter Jesus Christ through his word in a living way and to discover with new eyes the truth of Scripture. I owe them an unpayable debt.

But I also learned from them a deeply mistaken notion. For within a few months of my accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, I had incorporated into my outlook a sort of offhand belief which flatly contradicted not only my own experience by common sense: namely, I had adopted a blithe certainty that Scripture was simple, clear, and obvious to all, and that anyone can just pick it up and understand it lickety-split. Given my previous history, you would think I would have noticed the ironly. For, in fact, I had gone from one extreme to another; from the notion that Scripture was utterly incomprehensible to the notion that Scripture was so crystal clear that I, alone and without the help of anyone else, could master its depths.

But I didn’t notice the irony. Instead I continued for about seven years, both learning about the Bible with the aid of other Christians and yet, curiously enough, imagining “Scripture alone” was sufficient for me to discern the revelation of God.

you can read an excerpt from Mark’s book here:


Yup you got it.

I actually do quibble with the word “infallible” there. If you think about it “incapable of being incorrect” can only apply to a process, not a document. I would prefer the word inerrant myself.

However my quibbles are not enough to make me become Baptist for example.

Entirety means that the Bible not only contains the written word of God, it is the written word of God

Let’s use the word reliable here and reserve the word infallible for a process that is guaranteed to be error free.

It all goes back to what did God design. I think we can agree that God did design the church and that God designed believers to read the Bible under the tutelage and guidance of the church.

The point of disagreement really is whether it is impossible for the church to err.

And I do note that documents that are read by readers that are subject to error can still be reliable. And readers can still get it right. Hey I as a fallible reader just assembled a gas grill from such a document.

It can be that way…but not necessarily.

It all depends what comes first…the chicken or the egg.

You can start with your beliefs and opinions and then force the Bible to fit your beliefs and opinions. But you can start with the Bible and (under the tutelage and guidance of the church) form your beliefs and opinions from reading the Bible.

But how do you know that this popular pastor started with his own beliefs and opinions and forced the Bible to fit his beliefs and opinions rather than the opposite. I don’t know this to be the case. In fact being a Christian who would rather believe the positive about other Christians rather than the negative (including y’all) I would start with the opposite assumption on this unnamed popular pastor.

It would seem to me that unless you know this to be the case, you are making a premature judgement.


Yeah, thats absolutely correct! :rolleyes: We put it under our pillows and absorb the scripture.:shrug:


Yup…I joined here in 2006. I am not about to change my nickname to Mozart-251.:wink:


A pillow magisterium? :confused:

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