Sola Scriptura Defined


#1

Let me begin by defining what the doctrine of *sola scriptura *does not say.

First of all, it is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge.
Secondly, it is not a denial of the Church’s authority to teach God’s truth.
Thirdly, it is not a denial that God’s Word has been spoken.
And, finally, *sola scriptura *is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church.

What then is sola scriptura?

The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fide, the “rule of faith” for the Church. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture and in no other source. That which is not found in Scripture is not binding upon the Christian conscience. To be more specific, I provide the following definition:

The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement. Their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation. Their authority is not dependent upon man, Church or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting, and self-authenticating. The Christian Church looks at the Scriptures as the only and sufficient rule of faith and the Church is always subject to the Word, and is constantly reformed thereby.

*Sola scriptura *is both a positive and a negative statement.

Positively, the doctrine teaches that the Bible is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith for the Church. Negatively, it denies the existence of any other rule of faith as being necessary for the man of God.

+++

Non-Catholics, is this an accurate definition of sola scriptura or not?

Thanks in advance.


#2

except the bible states in 2 Thess. “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Basically Paul, when writing to the church in Thessalonica, states that, yes, you should follow the teachings we have given yu in our letters (the epistles) but ALSO follow what we have taught you orally. This statement here shows quite plainly that oral tradition AND scripture is used. Yes, scripture is God breathed, but it’s not EVERYTHING we need. It can be done, barely, but it would be like trying to live off bread and water. In my own exerience, sola scriptura in protestantism left me starved (spiritually) to death, and I had to seek something else for nourishment. Enter the catholic church with her rich traditions that makes worshipping and having faith, and walking with God MUCH easier.


#3

Thanks for the poll, Randy!:clapping:


#4

That definition was close enough, so I voted “Yes, and I’m Catholic”.

I would say simply that scripture is the sola rule and norm of Christian doctrine and leave it at that.

I don’t know exactly what “self-interpreting and self-authenticating” mean. I would strike those phrases out.


#5

Angainor, just curious, your descriptive at the bottom of your post says you’re Lutheran? so why would you vote “yes and I am Catholic?” when you could have posted “yes and I am non-Catholic?”

I like this poll because we need DEFINITIONS!


#6

Angainor-

I know this is a sidebar, but why would you profess to be Catholic when as a Lutheran, you neither accept the primacy of the Bishop of Rome nor all seven sacraments of the Church - specifically transubstantiation of the Eucharist?

:shrug:


#7

I voted as a Catholic. I’m a Catholic Christian. If you want to be more specific I’m an Evangelical Catholic Christian.

The poster should have been more specific with a category of non-Roman or non-papist if that was the category I was supposed to use.


#8

I see.

Well, here is an opposing argument:

The term “Catholic” was applied to the Church at the beginning of the second century by Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch. During the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117) Ignatius was taken to Rome to be executed. The exact year of the journey is uncertain, but most scholars estimate it was around 107 or 110. On the way to his death, Ignatius wrote letters to churches he was passing by or through. In his letter to the church of Smyrna, he wrote:

“Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there, just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”[Epistle to the Smyrneans 8:2.]. This is the first recorded use of the phrase “Catholic Church,” but its usage almost certainly precedes Ignatius’s letter. He assumed his readers would be familiar with the term, and he uses it in an off-handed manner, suggesting he was not coining a new term, but picking up one already in use.

Protestants often see such early references as teaching nothing more than that there is a “universal church” that is not necessarily identified with any particular body of believers. While this could be claimed for Ignatius’s reference, it cannot be true for all early references. The term “Catholic” very quickly became a designation for a particular body of Christians.

One Protestant author who is honest about this is the renowned early-Church historian J. N. D. Kelly, who has written, “As regards Catholic,' its original meaning wasuniversal’ or `general’ … As applied to the Church, its primary significance was to underline its universality as opposed to the local character of the individual congregations. Very quickly, however, in the latter half of the second century at latest, we find it conveying the suggestion that the Catholic is the true Church as distinct from heretical congregations. . . . What these early Fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important between a visible and an invisible Church” (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 5th ed. [San Francisco: Harper, 1978], 190f).

The attempt by non-Catholics to claim “catholic” for themselves is not new. Heretics and schismatics in the fourth century tried to claim the term, yet their attempts proved unsuccessful. In 397 Augustine pointed this out using an illustration from everyday life. "[T]he very name of Catholic . . . belongs to this Church alone . . . so much so that, although all heretics want to be called catholic,' when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" (*Against the Letter of Mani CalledThe Foundation’* 4:5).

from the article, “Catholic” by James Akin

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


#9

There are many situations that arise which aren’t explicitly covered by scripture. For instance we’ve got to respond to things like the discovery of new continents, the problems that arise when the Church becomes a centre of power and wealth, new scientific theories like evolution, unprecedented social movements like Marxism.
In practise I think Sola Scriptura can only be a denial of the Church’s authority to teach in response to these sorts of events. If it is all in Scripture but only the Pope can interpret it correctly, then it might as well all be in the Pope’s head, and Sola Scriptura is juat a meaningless theory. However if it is all in Scripture and the Pope is not the sole intepreter, then anyone can buy a copy of the Bible and set himself up as an alternative source of authority. Which in practise they do.


#10

I didn’t vote in the poll as I’m not certain if the definition is correct. It certainly seems to convey what the doctrine means, but I’m curious… was it Luther who first defined sola scriptura formally? Or one of the other reformers? Does anyone know if there’s a formal reformation definition of the doctrine? Does anyone know who defined it? Or by what authority they proposed to define it?


#11

Still, the Bible alone is ‘not sufficient’ as a rule of faith. If it were, the Protestant
movement would not be a myriad of orthodox, heterodox, and evangelical
Churches which widely vary in key doctrines. Are such divisions the result of
the guiding movement of the Holy Spirit? And what served as the sole rule of
faith in the early Church of the first century before the scriptures were compiled
and put into writing, and finally canonized in the late fourth century? Jesus
commissioned his apostles to establish the one, holy, apostolic, and universal
Church which he founded, not to write the Bible. Sacred Scriptures are
necessary, but not sufficient. Sacred Tradition and the Sacred Magisterium
of the Catholic Church are also necessary. It is through the infallible teaching
office of the Catholic Church that all true doctrines and dogmas based on Holy Scriptures
are promulgated by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Fallible interpretations
can lead to disaster: heresies, schisms, supposed reformations, and division among
dissident theologians and mortal religious founders. :rolleyes:


#12

Gee, where are all the Protestants?

No one wants to support this doctrine?


#13

(if the Bible Alone were sufficient, then…)

I’m guessing the answer is: All the Protestant groups that do not agree with my understanding of the Bible are not led by the Holy Spirit–those people were not pure of heart, or were bad-willed–some defect which prevented them from being truly led? My Protestant church, however, is Spirit-led, and I know that because…

well, here I falter…


#14

Non-Catholics, is this an accurate definition of sola scriptura or not?

No.

Almost, but no.

This addition should be removed to be more accurate:

“The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement. Their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation. Their authority is not dependent upon man, Church or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting, and self-authenticating. The Christian Church looks at the Scriptures as the only and sufficient rule of faith and the Church is always subject to the Word, and is constantly reformed thereby.”

Some accuracy here, some not.

Too many loaded terms to make any real sense, IMO.

Other than that, at first glance it seems accurate to me.


#15

Hi Randy,

Just curious if you intended to let the audience know the source of this definition? From what I recall, this is a transcription of a subset of the opening remarks of a debate on the topic held between Patrick Madrid and a Reformed Baptist polemicist. Did you get permission to quote it from either source?

Bill


#16

That all seemed pretty accurate from my evangelical days. We do need more non-Catholics though. So far we’ve only got one for and one against. The thing is that in my experience this is a liquid doctrine.


#17

Hi Randy,

This text of this “definition” seems to be a verbatim transcription of a portion of the opening statement made by a Reformed Baptist apologist in a debate on this subject over a decade ago. Any intent to attribute it? Did you ask permission to post it?

Thanks,
Bill


#18

Utter nonsense. This is a classic example of adding to God’s Word. Where do you get “oral tradition” from the Greek “logos”. Impossible. You are incorrectly assuming that what they preached IS DIFFERENT from what they wrote. Pay attention to the words!


#19

I must have missed something, if bible Christians only go by what is in the bible then where is this definition of sola scriptura in the bible?

Since sola scriptura is not in the bible, then who has the authority to define it?

Where did the statement defining sola scriptura come from? Which protestant denomination came up with that? Was it given the okay by all of the other protestant denominations? Or is anyone who believes in sola scriptura allowed to define it?

If scripture is “self-interpreting” then why does each protestant denomination interpret the same scriptures differently?

It is so much easier being Catholic than protestant, so much less confusion.

PeVee


#20

2 Thess. “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”…
This statement here shows quite plainly that oral tradition AND scripture is used.

We can also use the King James translation, though, because M Oliver will like that better…

Why the heat, MOliver? It’s not utter nonsense. If we lose the “of mouth” part, which I understand cannot be supported in the Greek, we are left with the KJV “word”. That still gives us, stick to the teaching we gave you whether by word or letter.

It is not only not nonsense, it is sensible. Verbal and Written Tradition. You do not need to agree to this in order to at least agree that it is a reasonable reading of the verse.

Delphinus doesn’t need to be “incorrectly assuming that what they preached IS DIFFERENT from what they wrote” in order to read as verbal and written Paul’s reference to word and letter. He only needs to be accepting that there are two things in Paul’s phrase, two kinds of teaching.

Why don’t you accept that there are two kinds of teaching going on here?

Because it might contradict Sola Scriptura?


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