In the first article of this series, we defined Sola Scriptura and delved into why someone would want to believe in the doctrine at all. In the second article, we looked at Sola Scriptura as a system; what it is and how all its various parts constitute the doctrine as a whole. This third installment is intended to provide a brief (an extremely brief) interconnected argument for the rationality of believing in Sola Scriptura. In one sense, the argument is intended to convince the reader that Sola Scriptura is, in fact, rational to believe. The second intent of the article is to persuade the unbeliever to believe in Sola Scriptura. My methodology for Apologetics broadly, and in arguing for the rationality of Sola Scriptura in particular, is what I call a Synthetic approach (this is not to be confused with “Cumulative Case Apologetics”). Without delving too much into the method, it attempts to integrate systemic, circular, worldview forms of reasoning with fact-based, linear, common sense forms of argument (for a brief outline of the method I and TheReformedAnalytic have developed, read my article “Ten Principles for a Distinctly Reformed Apologetic”). The basic thesis of the argument is that Sola Scriptura is justified on the basis of reason; and that Sola Scriptura, more particularly the worldview contained therein, is the basis only rational basis for the concept of “fact” at all. Sola Scriptura is based on fact; fact, as a coherent concept, is only consistently justified on the basis of the Christian worldview.
General Revelation and Sola Scriptura
All men are born into sin (Rom 3:23). Being born into sin, all men are, by their very nature, enemies of God. They are against Christ, being children of hell. Being born in sin with hearts set against Christ, the natural man attempts to twist and distort every fact of God’s revelation against its original intent (Rom 1:30). In other words, they ascribe the cause and purpose of all of creation against its natural intent as substance created by God for His glory (the principle of Presupposition). Due to the fact that men are, necessarily, either for against Christ, bound by their fallen nature in Adam, or in Christ, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, there is no place for neutrality in the totality of their existential operations (mind, body, and will; this is the principle of non-neutrality). Though men suppress the truth of God’s revelation in unrighteousness and furnish for themselves mental idols, they, in the deepest recesses of their being, retain knowledge of God, His righteous decree, their state before Him as sinners, and the wrath which they will ultimately receive. Due to this contradictory estate, wherein man furnishes for himself intellectual idols, yet has the true worldview contained within him, the Apologist is called to utilize God’s sword of reason in the deconstruction of these his purported worldview (Prov 26:5, 2 Cor 10:5). Simultaneously, the Apologist is to utilize God’s general revelation re-framing the rationality implicit within the created order in the form of rational arguments, using God’s gift of reason to bring forth the revelation he suppresses, in order to bring him to special revelation and the Christ therein (Acts 17, Rom 1; this, we refer to as the Deconstructive/Constructive Approach to Apologetics). Within the Constructive aspect of this approach, the apologist is to appeal to the certain facts of God’s general revelation, using these facts in order to persuade the unbeliever to belief in Sola Scriptura, and, more particularly, the Christ contained therein (The General Revelation to Special Revelation Dynamic). The unbeliever knows that God exists. The unbeliever knows the righteous moral requirement of God. The unbeliever knows that he has failed to fulfill the righteous moral requirement of God. Therefore, the unbeliever knows that he is condemned, ultimately, by God. Eternity is in his heart. Therefore, he has a sense of the depth of the condemnation to come. In light of these facts, it is the requirement of the Apologist that he appeal to the clarity of the unbeliever’s ensuing condemnation. Since God exists and He is a Holy judge, he will condemn you who are made in His image, bound to reflect Him, that have failed to uphold His righteous decree in your personal life. You are unable to save yourself. Being condemned by a holy God, only a holy God could save you from Himself. The only provision historically, religiously, and theologically which correlates to the fact of His existence, His righteous decree, and your abysmal failure is the righteousness of God made manifest in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. You, in your natural estate, are under the wrath of God. You, in your natural estate, deserve an infinite penalty for having transgressed the law of an infinitely holy God. And you will certainly receive that penalty unless God Himself provides a remedy. He has provided a remedy. And the only place wherein you can know of that remedy is contained within the Christian Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. They coherently and consistently testify to Jesus Christ of Nazareth; the Old Testament in promise, the New in fulfillment. They proclaim that, in a mysterious way God the Son took upon Himself a human nature thus constituting the God-man Jesus Christ. Being truly man, He can represent a redeemed humanity. Being truly God, He is an infinitely worthy person. The infinite penalty of hell which the redeemed deserved was thrust upon the infinitely worthy person of Christ 2,000 years ago on a roman cross, as recorded in the Gospels. Only the infinitely worthy God could be an infinitely worthy sacrifice. Only a truly human man could bear a punishment at all. And He, the infinitely worthy, has cancelled the debt of His people by standing in their place, receiving in Himself the due penalty for their error. More than that, the Infinitely Worthy has lived a perfect life for us, fulfilling the law which we transgressed. Based upon His perfect life and atoning death He offers to us a right standing with God. He commands only that we revoke all claims to personal righteousness and trust Him, as the resurrected Christ having triumphed death for the remission of all of sins. This, the blessed Gospel, is the only message of salvation for men who know the fact of God’s existence, the fact of His righteous decree, and the fact of their own horrid failure. This Gospel is preserved only in the sacred Scripture; therefore, as a depository of truth for the antidote for your many problems, and your chief problem of being at enmity with God, you should believe in Sola Scriptura and the Christ contained therein.
Worldview and Sola Scriptura
Man, in his natural estate, is at enmity with God without the illumination of God’s holy Word. He is in darkness. He is, as to his constitution, dead in sin. He is, as to his worldview, living on borrowed capital, without justification, ultimately, for any of his beliefs. And he is, as to a guide, devoid of the lamp unto his feet which is the Word of God. Being made in the image and likeness of God, placed in the garden, and given God’s promises and threats through His verbal revelation, we note that man was never made to live apart from the Word of God. He is not to live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Being destitute, having fallen in Adam, he lives by his own autonomous reason, being a law unto himself as an instrument of Satan. His foolish heart is darkened. His reason diminished. His affections distorted. He is, as it were, in a cave of his own creation without understanding. Blinded by Satan, he is, ultimately, restless and unsatisfied. The Synthetic Apologist enters the confrontation regarding Sola Scriptura on the firm belief that his debate opponent is fundamentally handicapped. He is not to live as a law unto himself (this whole principle is referred to as the principle of non-autonomy). The unbeliever is rationally deficient as to his worldview. He is emotionally deficient, being unsatisfied. And he is volitionally distorted, twisting God’s creation against its original intention. His soul, though he suppresses the thought of it, needs the Scripture of God and the Word of God contained therein. His soul, though he hates it, longs for Christ. He attempts to fill the void of Christ’s love, salvation, forgiveness, and peace with idols of his own creation: his own strength in morality (self-righteousness), the authority of another man (Traditionalism), or by convincing himself of the non-existence of the certainly existent God (Atheism). In all of this, he reasons, feels, cares, judges, and lives within a world that he can only consistently affirm through the Philosophy contained within the Bible. He believes in morality without a moral law-giver. If he does believe in the moral-law giver, he deceives himself as to his own constitution, that he can fulfill God’s law. If he denies morality by positing the non-existence of God, then he must also deny the existence of the same transcendent logical axioms necessary to make that doctrine meaningful in the first place. He is, in the final analysis, a poor wretch mentally, spiritually, emotionally, – totally. Incoherent, unsatisfied, – a pure contradiction. He is, in other words, wholly defiled. Have compassion on him therefore! He needs a Word from God. He needs the God of all. He needs the Bible. Because it is in the Bible that He comes face to face with Jesus Christ, the God-man who has fully paid for all the sins of those who’d trust in Him. It is in Jesus that in the satisfaction of His soul He might find rest. The rivers flowed from Eden and satisfied our first parents, yet they fell; and one day in heaven they will flow once more through the Lamb; for our blessed temple has left for us a sure testament when the blood and water flowed from his pierced side. The testament is this, that His grace would flow, and flow, and flow; joy would be ours, and our hearts, in Him, satisfied. For the Lamb has overcome. He has overcome Satan, sin, and death. In Him, joy. In Him, rationality. Outside Him, darkness. Outside Him, forever wanting. In Him, forever satisfied. And it is in that Bible where He is found (John 5:39). He has given you a nature fit to read it. Read it therefore and believe in Jesus. Find your all in Him and say with vigor in your heart:
Sola Scriptura Contra Mundum! For in His Word, I have found the Christ!