Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. It was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s and 1600s.
Christians of various denominations have some common ground. We all believe that scripture is the inspired inerrant word of God. The problem is that we don’t all agree on how to interpret it. Doesn’t it seem that if God were going to give us an infallible book he would also give us an infallible interpreter to help us understand it through the ages as cultures and languages change? If God protected His word from error, then wouldn’t He also protect the interpretation of His word? What if He did?
Consider this example that comes from national radio personality, Patrick Madrid. Ask yourself what the following sentence means:
“I NEVER SAID YOU STOLE MONEY”
It seems easy enough to interpret, right? Now consider the fact that interpretation has a lot to do with the spoken word and that it’s easy to misunderstand the written word. The above sentence can be interpreted in 5 different ways depending on which word is emphasized in speech.
Here’s what I mean:
- I never said you stole money. (Tom said you stole the money, I didn’t.)
- I never said you stole money. (I implied it, but I didn’t say it.)
- I never said you stole money. (I said someone stole the money, I didn’t say it was you.)
- I never said you stole (I said the money was gone, it could be lost or destroyed. I never said it was stolen.)
- I never said you stole money. (I didn’t say you stole the money, I said you stole something else)
Which would be easier to misinterpret… the simple six-word sentence above or the entire canon of scripture? How in the world can we expect to accurately interpret all of the books of the Bible without the Holy Spirit’s help? And if the Holy Spirit was helping each of us, then why do we have 30,000+ denominations fighting over the interpretation of scripture? There has to be something more.
Martin Luther’s doctrine of Sola Scriptura has resulted in more than 30,000 Protestant denominations in the last 500 years. That’s more than one new denomination a week since the Reformation… each breaking off and claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit in interpreting scripture. But why would the Holy Spirit allow for confusion and contradiction amongst Christians? What happens when these denominations disagree with each other? The church splinters.
Many Christians reject the Catholic Church’s doctrine which is based on both scripture and a 2000 year Tradition (evidenced in the writings of the early Church Fathers). Instead, they hold to the more recent Protestant tradition of “sola scripture”… looking solely to the Bible for their doctrine and discounting the interpretation of the early apostolic church. Ironically, in order to adopt the “Bible alone” doctrine, they have to first have accepted the Catholic Tradition of which books go into the New Testament canon of scripture because nowhere in the Bible does it tell us which books belong in the Bible.
VIDEO: Patrick Madrid on Sola Scriptura: This video discusses the irony of accepting the Bible as the authority but discounting the authority of the Church who produced the Bible.
VIDEO: Is Sola Scriptura Logically Coherent? Such a compelling and well-researched video!