Question about Sola Scriptura


I have a question that has been bothering me because I don’t know the answer.

I may have the wrong idea of what protestants believe, but it was my understanding that everyone was supposed to read the Bible and the Holy Spirit will guide them to the correct intepretation.

If protestants believe in Sola Scriptura, why do they have churches where they go and listen to a preacher tell them about what the scripture says? Why don’t they just read the bible and let the Holy Spirit guide them to the right interpretation?


This, of course, is where Protestantism is headed (so-called nondenominationalism) and is the natural consequence of such a relativist idea. You cannot sell Sola Scriptura and then say that we have the correct doctrine and interpretation of Scripture.


Although that’s how many “bad Protestants” behave, it’s not really what Sola Scriptura means.

What Sola Scriptura means is that everything that it is necessary to know and believe in order to be in right relationship with God is to be found in the Bible either clearly stated or necessarily inferred.


What you are describing is material sufficiency of Scripture, which a Catholic does not have to have a problem with. *Sola Scriptura *is the belief that the Bible is the final rule of faith.


The problem arises when people come away with different, often mutually-exclusive, interpretations. Who’s correct? This is why the Church’s understanding is critical.


When I say “everything” I mean everything, there is no need for any other authority.


Then whose interpretation is correct? Which of the thousands of Protestant denominations has it “right”? Can the Calvinist AND the Arminian both be right even though they are in disagreement?

The truth is indeed in scripture. The only way to discern it is through the Church. Otherwise you have hermeneutical anarchy.



I honestly didn’t know I was beating a dead horse. I guess I should say I’m sorry. I’m sorry. My heart was in the right place…



You mean there is no need for Catholic authority. This is the problem, we have the inerrant word of God with no infalliable teacher. So what road does that takes us down? Well for example a church of Christ member will tell me you need baptism to be saved and a baptist will tell me that the very thought of that is a works type salvation and it is a slap in the face to what Christ has done for us on the cross. Then you point out to these two bible christians that St. Peter commands us to be baptized and my baptist friend will say what that verse means is that Baptism is important and you should want to get baptized not that is neccessary. Scripture says when we have a disagreement we need to take it to The Church, now in 2006 what church would you pick to settle this question?



Oh, it’s nothing personal…I probably shouldn’t have posted in this thread thus inviting the wrath of all ye apoloborg.


I lived and died by sola scriptura for 25 years when I was evangelical. Lots of “baggage” I guess.

I’m not my fault.

Thanks for the clarification though…


We are lazy!

I have asked many other Protestants this question, and, ultimately, it boils down to that.


But even this definition you’ve given appears to fall apart upon closer scrutiny.

Ultimately, it is claimed, that when the Church fails the Scriptures provide a failsafe from God to bring them back to God.

But the Church cannot do anything against the truth. Even the Scriptures are clear on this: The church cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.


He might have been, if not for the “clearly stated” and “necessarily inferred” parts. Material sufficiency does not mean that the material is easily understood; in fact, Peter seems to indicate otherwise (regarding Paul’s writings) in his second epistle.



What’s your biblical argument in support of this “clearly stated or necessarily inferred” claim? I’ve read the Bible for years and I’ve never run across this “necessarily inferred” criterion, in those words or in others.

Is this an argument?

Don’t apologize; Steadfast just chose to substitute a picture for an actual argument. He’s actually the one who ought to be apologizing (for wasting his and our time with childishness :))

You’re in a non-Catholic forum on a Catholic website. Honestly, what do you expect in response when you assert unsubstantiated falsehoods?

Merely asserting your non-Catholicity is boring. Support it with an actual argument, and we can talk.



That would be formal sufficiency of Scripture. Which as you can imagine, a Catholic would have a problem with.

The Dyslexic Apologorg
"Resistance is floor-tile!"


There are Protestants (mostly American) who believe this, or at least say they do. Baptists are particularly famous for this attitude. However, as you note, even they obviously think that going to church is valuable. The preacher is supposed to help them know how Scripture fits together, and they are supposed to have their Bibles handy and check to see that what the preacher is saying is true. In other words, they still think that guidance is useful.

This is a more radical version of the view held by older, more historic versions of Protestantism (Lutheran, Reformed, etc.), which would say that yes the Holy Spirit does guide individuals, but that normally speaking the Holy Spirit uses certain means to do so, and the preaching of the Word is one of the principal such means.

In other words, you’re setting up an either/or that doesn’t really work. It’s not that the Spirit guides independently of preaching (though as I said the more radical Protestants can sound like they believe this), but that the Spirit guides the individual through an abundance of means, of which preaching is one of the chief.

The basic difference with Catholicism is that for all Protestants it is possible for a layperson to be guided by the Spirit to a truth that contradicts not just what the local pastor says (something that Catholics obviously believe as well) but what is officially taught by the organized church body to which the person belongs. All church structures or organizations can err. That doesn’t mean they are useless, simply that one can’t assume that the Bible teaches X because the Church teaches X, or even necessarily because the Church has historically taught X (though to some extent most Protestants–and some Protestants to a very great extent–would say that the more ancient and universal a teaching of the historic Church, the less likely it is that the teaching is wrong; even some Baptists will say this).



Well, if that’s “formal sufficiency,” then “formal sufficiency” is not part of historic Protestantism.

Unless by “no need” you mean that the Spirit could possibly dispense with everything else. In that case Catholics believe it too–Aquinas thought that God could possibly reveal the truth to someone who had never heard of the Church. But this is not the normal means by which God works. Protestants agree, although some modern evangelicals do come pretty close to saying that the Church is not even a normal means of grace. They are certainly not representing historic Protestantism, however.



I don’t see that your post shows anything of the kind. The “argument from misunderstanding” is an extremely flimsy one. Protestants do not claim that the Bible is immune from misunderstanding. As I’ve told you before, you’re attacking a straw man.

Ultimately, it is claimed, that when the Church fails the Scriptures provide a failsafe from God to bring them back to God.

But the Church cannot do anything against the truth. Even the Scriptures are clear on this: The church cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

It seems to me that you are taking this verse out of context and making it mean something it doesn’t necessarily mean.

You assume the Church’s infallibility on the grounds of your Church’s teaching. I do not see anything in Scripture that clearly teaches or necessarily implies the infallibility of the Church.

I do not think there is any way for Catholics or Protestants to prove each other wrong on this. Both assumptions–that the Church is infallible, and that only Scripture is infallible–are compatible with Scripture itself. Neither of them is proven from Scripture. That means that we as Protestants are obliged to consider the disagreement an inessential one. You obviously think differently, and that’s to be expected. We can’t do anything about that. We can do something about the folks on our own side who hold up “Sola Scriptura” as one of the essentials of the Faith, which it obviously isn’t.


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