looking for a modern history of sola scritura


Are you fimiliar with the christian connexion, connection movement? They had ties with boston unitarianism. a battle cry of the restoration movement was something like “bible alone”. Can anyone find the Bible Alone mindset in modern history before these movements? I do not see the reformation as being of this mindset because the reformers recognized the earily ecumenical councils as authoritive. Whereas, the modern Bible Alone crowd does not view those creeds and councils as authoritive, but they would call them “man made”. So, has anyone read an intelligent history of the modern Bible Alone movement?

Christian Connexion and Unitarian Relations 1800-1844



follow each of these links, use the edit search page for Bible Alone, Bible, Creed.


" In 1794 a group of Methodist preachers under the leadership of James O’Kelley met at Old Lebanon in Surry County, Virginia. These men had been at variance with the General Conference and especially with the new American Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury. The preceding year they had several relations with the Methodist Episcopal Church, taking the name, “Republican Methodists.” At the Old Lebanon meeting Rice Haggard suggested that they be known simply as Christians. A North Carolina minister, Hafferty, further proposed that the Bible itself should be their only creed. "



The main basis for Smith’s rejection of the Trinity was that he could not find it in the Bible nor would the doctrine sand up when examined by common sense. Smith and Jones affirmed, "I will have nothing but for which I can bring thus saith the Lord, and thus it is written,"32 and they failed to find anything about the Trinity in the Bible. Upon examining Smith’s earliest extant statement expressing his views on the Trinity the reason for his rejection becomes obvious.

As for three persons being one, and one three, it never was, nor never will be. People may think it is so; but they cannot understand it, for there is no Light in it. This is the mystery of the trinity, and not the mystery of Godliness. Let every person remember, that trinity is an unscriptural Word, invented to express an unscriptural doctrine, which has puzzled and distracted the world down to the present day.33

By 1806 Smith was decidedly anti-Trinitarian, but he still did not look with favor on the anti-Trinitarian Congregationalists, as his comments on Buckminster’s ordination sermon of the year before indicate.







He met several of the Christians but felt that they were not following the Bible closely enough.

It was boasted by many preachers in New England and New York that the Bible was their only creed, and that by it alone they would be governed; but unless the production of great excitement, camp meetings, war against Trinitarians, and enunciations against Calvinism be walking by the Bible alone, I cannot see that these Eastern Christians are more under the banners of the Bible than any other sect in the land.101




When these two concepts become blurred, it makes the data come out confusing. Sola scriptura says that the Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice. The “Bible only” movement (a.k.a. the “Restoration” movement) says that nothing but the Bible can be allowed as “Christian.” For instance, if the New Testament doesn’t mention candles, then you can’t burn candles in church.

That’s why the Restoration movement mostly originated in the 19th century, 300 years after Luther. It’s a different idea (and rejected by most of us).

Sola scriptura Protestants allow that many sources contribute to the understanding of God and his will, but we allow that only the Bible speaks with divine trustworthiness. It is the touchstone of truth which stands in authority over all other truth claims.

That’s my attempt to distinguish these two ideas.


Unfortunately I don’t think the two ideas can be distinguished quite so sharply. “Sola scriptura” can mean a lot of things–and as far as I know the term itself was not used by the Reformers. The early Protestant polemic from the 1520s does sound at times as if nothing other than Scripture is of much value. And that polemic had a life of its own. By the time the great Protestant confessions were formed, the version of “sola scriptura” adopted was much more moderate because the Protestants had realized that they were in danger of deconstructing orthodox Christianity altogether. But the more radical approach kept bubbling up, and it got a great boost from 18th-century common-sense rationalism and 19th-century primitivism.

That’s the short version. . . .



You may be right; I don’t know. I know that the “radical Reformation” had its place in the 16th century, but I’m unfamiliar with instances where the Reformed or Lutheran movements were voicing a polemic regarding Scripture that sounded like restorationism does now. In fact, with as much as I’ve read of Calvin & Luther’s handling of the Fathers, it seems unthinkable to me. But I’m arguing from ignorance here, so I’ll suspend judgment.

But even with what you’ve said, it seems that the confessional pattern of regarding Scripture as I’ve claimed would be enough to justify classifying the two approaches separately from then on (at least).

It seems to me that the term “can mean a lot of things,” only when its settled use and the confessions are dismissed. That seems to me to be a perennial problem on this forum: accusing sola scriptura Protestants of some weird belief that none of the ordinary Protestant groups has ever held (although Restorationists might have).


Reformed view:

Catholic Response (responding to the full book by Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura)


bbook mark

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