is Sola Scriptura?
Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is the doctrine that the Holy Bible, being the Word of God, is
the only infallible rule of faith and practice for Christians in the post-apostolic
The Bible is:
The rule (standard, guide) of faith -
teaching us what we ought to believe and how to live for the glory of God.
The infallible rule - incapable of error, certain, not
liable to mislead - because it is the Word of
The only infallible rule - it contains the whole counsel of
God for His people. Christians value religious teachers, but they are fallible (liable to make
mistakes). We also value tradition as long as it is consistent with the Scriptures.
Christians have full confidence in the Holy Scriptures because they are "given by inspiration" or
"God-breathed" - the very Word proceeding from
the mouth of God. What "The Scriptures say" and what "God
says" are the same thing. That is what Jesus believed.
Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the
Scriptures nor the power of God. “For in the resurrection they neither
marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
“But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read
what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God
of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:29-32).
What is read in the Scriptures is God speaking to us! Therefore the
Scriptures are the infallible rule of faith since God can neither
lie nor err. 'The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your
righteous judgments endures forever' (Psalm 119:160). The teaching of the Bible is free from error and we can have
absolute confidence in it.
Moreover, sola Scriptura affirms that all that the Church and every Christian must believe
for salvation and godliness is certainly found in
the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is able to make us wise for salvation
which is by faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15,16). The Bible is also useful for teaching
and correction so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly
furnished for every good work. God's revelation for His Church is fully
contained in the Holy Bible and there is no important information missing
that we should seek elsewhere.
Having indicated what sola Scriptura is, we must also discuss
what it is not. Sola
Scriptura is often misunderstood and misrepresented. I am dismayed and
angered whenever I read Catholic literature on this subject because more
often then not they are attacking a straw man.
Scriptura is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. The Bible does not
give exhaustive details on the history of redemption. John 21:25 says that
not all that Jesus did is recorded in the book; all the books
of the world would not be enough for that purpose. But the Bible does not
have to be exhaustive to function as the sole rule of faith for the
church. We need 'enough' knowledge not 'exhaustive' knowledge. Sometimes
Catholic apologists argue for the need of tradition, saying that Bible does
not record everything. Apparently they do not realize that tradition is
not exhaustive either! Does tradition give
us all possible information about the life of Christ, and all that He
said, and all the apostles did and said? Of course not! In
fact, we would respectfully
challenge our Catholic friends to give us one statement that Jesus said
that comes to us by tradition and not from the Holy Scripture.
Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the church's authority to teach
God's revelation. The Church is 'the pillar and foundation of the
truth' (I Timothy 3:15) because it upholds and teaches the Word of
God. However the church cannot add doctrines of human origin or contradict
the God-breathed Scriptures. The church's authority is subordinate to the
authority of the Bible. Moreover, the church is commissioned to preach the
Word orally, and to transmit the Christian Gospel from one generation to
the next. The most enthusiastic proponents of sola Scriptura do so
eagerly and do their best to make sure that their preaching is consistent
with the written Word of God.
Sola Scriptura is not a denial that historically God's Word came
in other ways other than the written form. Before writing down His message, God spoke through the apostles and prophets, and
personally in Christ Jesus, His Son. During the same time the
Holy Spirit moved holy men to write down His Word to be the permanent
inspired record of His message for the post-apostolic age till the end. The
apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20)
and though they are absent, we can still build our lives on their
teaching which is recorded infallibly in the Holy Scriptures.
Sola Scriptura does not imply that the Bible will always be
interpreted correctly, or that there will not be differences and heresies
among Christians. Jesus was clear enough in His teaching, yet His
disciples often misunderstood Him. The apostles' message was also
perfectly intelligible, and yet all sorts of errors and heresies crept in the early
church. Similarly, the Bible is not written in a mysterious and cryptic
code that needs some infallible decoder to explain its hidden meaning. The
Bible is addressed to the ordinary people of God and it can be understood.
The problem lies not with the clarity of the Bible, but with people who
often ignore the Bible or twist the its meaning because of laziness,
ignorance and prejudice.
'What is the infallible rule of faith?' remains the a major
dividing issue between Catholics and Protestants. And rightly so. We are
building on different foundations.
The Roman Catholic answers something like this, 'God's Word is found in the
Bible and in Tradition. But you can't understand the Bible correctly. As
for Tradition, no one knows exactly what it contains. Therefore you
must submit without reservations to the Pope and the bishops of the
Roman church. The teaching of the Catholic magisterium is the infallible
rule of faith.'
An Evangelical answers differently, 'The Holy Scriptures are able to
make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that God's people may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every