Sola Scriptura Contra Mundum I: The Bible Alone as a Mental Foundation

Historically, Theologians formulated Sola Scriptura as a dogma of protest. The Protestants were united less by their adherence to a common creed and more by their adherence to a unified descent against the Roman communion. And though their creeds differed, sometimes in significant ways, a substantial substratum connecting the various factions resided in their adherence to the belief in the authoritative nature of the Holy Scripture as the sole special revelation of God. That is, the Anabaptists (save the spiritualist-continuationists), the Lutherans, and the Reformed all believed that Scripture, not human tradition, is the specially revealed voice of God to His people, given as an instrument for their salvation and as a rule for their lives.

The great importance of this revolution lay primarily in its underlying logic, not simply its historical origin. Though the salvation of the Protestants from the Roman whore is a grace from God to be marveled at, the underlying logic of the Reformation, as a form abstracted from its historical origins, is a system for Christian men to base their lives upon at all times everywhere. In other words, the rebellion of Sola Scriptura manifests itself not only to the Roman Catholics, but to any other supposed authority which, whether explicitly or implicitly, claims the dignity, authority, and exclusivity as the voice of God Himself.

Positively, Sola Scriptura claims to present men with the voice of God. Scripture is a product of God wherein, by the Spirit’s power, He so guides the hands of men so as to produce a book which is both the true work of the human writer and a real work of God. It is not as though the Scripture is simply the work of God wherein He possesses the human subject as a passive agent (Mechanical Inspiration). Nor is the Scripture simply a work of men wherein their passions are aroused by the providence of God (Dynamic Inspiration). Rather, mysteriously, the human subject is so acted upon by God that the Bible is truly the words of individual men and truly the Word of God (Organic Inspiration, 2 Tim 3:16-17).

Negatively, Sola Scriptura claims that it is the only specially revealed Word of God. Though God, in a sense, speaks through the created order; it is in the Scripture alone where men read His revelation necessary for salvation and sanctification. Therefore, as a rule for life, Sola Scripturites necessarily reject the Traditionalists (the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) who regard their traditions as the specially revealed voice of God. They reject the Rationalists, who regard their own fallen reason as the infallible rule for their lives. They reject the Positivists who regard “science,” communal observation of natural trends, as the authoritative rule for life. They reject the Continuationists, the spiritualists who insist God’s immediate voice being presently communicated to human persons apart from the Scripture. Finally, they reject the Authoritarians, the Islamic communion which, through the initiation of force and social unity, seek to establish the reign of their god on earth. In short, they reject all claims to ultimate authority save the Scriptures.

The provision of Sola Scriptura, Philosophically, is an epistemic base for worldview construction (see footnote). Sola Scriptura, as an existentially appropriated doctrine, provides the adherent with a two-fold benefit: (1) Positively, it gives the adherent an authoritative Word from God which is substantial as to its matter and intelligible as to its scope. It’s deliverance consists, epistemically, in its provision of a coherent worldview fit with cosmological origins, creation’s teleology, and a Theological-history of the world. (2) Negatively, the subscriber to Sola Scriptura is, at the outset, given a barrier to all other claims to specially revealed knowledge. Though he is free to increase his knowledge of general revelation regarding penultimate truth (and thus of science, psychology, political theory, philosophy and the like), the most substantive aspects of his worldview are defined by the Scriptures themselves (questions of God and Metaphysics, the origins of the universe and basic cosmology, Psychology and the nature of fallen men having been born on the backside of the covenant of works, and ext). Thus, insofar as he is correct in his adherence to Sola Scriptura, he is free from all other claims to authority on ultimate matters. The Sola Scripturite is, through Sola Scriptura, given a basis for the construction of his entire intellectual edifice (his worldview) through the revelation of God regarding ultimate matters. And the Sola Scripturite is provided freedom from all other potential claims to epistemic authority through that same dogma.  

The importance of this doctrine cannot be overstated. In today’s cultural climate, with its rampant relativism, it is absolutely necessary to have an epistemic base which is both substantial and final. Being substantial, Sola Scriptura provides the believer a context for cultural engagement and belief construction. Being final, Sola Scriptura provides the Christian a basis for the rejection of other worldviews. The attractiveness of Sola Scriptura, as the basis of a worldview, lies in its deliverances in its subject matter; it teaches us of God, the true nature of man, and salvation. The attractiveness of Sola Scriptura, as the sole authority for the Christian regarding ultimate matters, consists in the freedom it provides from other claims to authority. The Christian man should rejoice, therefore, in Scripture alone. He should rejoice in Sola Scriptura against all other mental authorities. He should stand on the rock of God’s Word, Sola Scriptura, against the world.

Sola Scriptura Contra Mundum!


Footnote:  I am saying that Sola Scriptura is a basis for a fully formed worldview; an epistemic base for worldview construction regarding ultimate matters like original sin, the antithesis, the Trinity, justification by faith alone, the inspiration of Scripture and ext. I am not conflating epistemic base with epistemic bedrock. The former refers to the necessary existentially appropriated belief in the Word of God in order for the individual to construct a coherent system regarding ultimate matters as revealed by God in Scripture, for his flourishing. The latter refers to the point of departure, epistemically and existentially, for men created in the image and likeness of God born on the backside of the covenant of works; God fits them with logic, knowledge of His existence, and the ability to abstract form from sensible data that they might know Him. Through His revelation of Himself and their sinful estate in general revelation, He reasonably moves them to belief in Special Revelation, and the Christ therein. Men move, reasonably and sensibly, by the power of the Holy Spirit, from God in natural revelation to God in special revelation. This is the basis for linear apologetics. for more see “The General to Special Revelation Dynamic” in my article “Ten Principles for a Distinctly Reformed Apologetic.”


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