Sola Scriptura vs. Scripture Solo

Bryan at Principium Unitatis put up a great post on how Sola Scriptura necessarily reduces to Scripture Solo.


13 Responses to “Sola Scriptura vs. Scripture Solo”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Very informative! One quote that especially hit home for me was this one:

    “Protestantism is built on this fundamental contradiction: “We rebelled, but you [Protestants] mustn’t rebel against us. Our rebellion was justified because the Church was wrong, but you must not rebel against us because we are right.”

    How true! And I thought it was just the church we grew up in! Of course, I went the other way with that contradiction, since I believe that “rebellion” against either the Catholic or Protestant churches is fine. It’s interesting how observing one hypocrisy leads us to two different conclusions!

  2. Good to see your blog. I think Keith Mathison does a better job of describing these two different positions in his book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. There is a difference. And the Reformed perspective is very much like the early biblical beliefs. Thanks for the opportunity to post.

  3. As an actual living, breathing reformed guy myself, I must offer first-hand evidence to the contrary. The reformation was built rather on *this* fundamental premise: that there should be no rebellion, and that what had come to be known as the Roman Catholic Church had rebelled (as had so many manifestations of God’s people in redemptive history), and was under obligation to repent reform (as they also had been). What follows from this is not, as has been commonly alleged, a spirit of general rebellion, but rather, a spirit of general fidelity to the rule of law, and God’s law foremost. Argue if you will whether or not Rome had actually rebelled; but there is no warrant for the charicature that the reformers didn’t think Rome had rebelled. Sorry, but that’s just sloppy, and bad on Bryan.

    As a sidenote (but a relevant one), I have heard the claim made by Roman Catholics, something to this effect: “It’s no wonder that protestant colonists rebelled against England, given their underlying propensity to rebelleion which is driven by their theology.” Behind this rather unscrupulous claim is the same kind of revisionist historical charicaturing that occurs in the sola scriptura conversation. For, in point of fact, England had rebelled against her own charters of colonization. England had, in other words, entered into a contract with the colonists, and then broken that contract on several counts (as enumeration in the Declaration of Independence), and supported those violations by force of arms. For many years the colonists pleaded with the King NOT for independence, but rather for him to simply *abide by the terms of colonization.* In other words, they wanted the king to obey his own laws, so that the colonists could submit to him in peace. For the colonists to point out George’s flagrant violations was legitimate and proper, and for them to remove themselves from an already-broken contract was perfectly legally defensible. This was by no means rebellion.

    So yes, the Presby Calvinists that made us the nation we are today (so to speak) did so in a way that reflected their theology, but not exactly in the way some Roman Catholics would like to have it.

  4. Charlie,

    It’s been a while since I read Bryan’s post, so I suggest you take up any disagreement with him, with him. However, I’ll go ahead and say right here that the Catholic Church was in a sad state before the reformation. There had been many calls for top-down reform and the popes had largely ignored them. Many popes leading up to the Protestant Reformation had lived extremely debauched lives and had sold church offices and promoted their own family to the detriment of the Church. They granted indulgences for those who participated in their political wars, and the sacraments were put up for sale. Unfortunately the Church did not reform Herself until She lost a significant limb, without which She is incomplete. However, two wrongs don’t make a right, and the failure of our leaders do not justify our rebellion. There were the Protestant Reformers, who rebelled (sorry, there’s not a better word) against the Church established by Jesus Himself, and there were reformers who worked within the Church and effected a reform rather than a rending.

  5. Prairie,

    When you say “However, two wrongs don’t make a right, and the failure of our leaders do not justify our rebellion,” you’re painting with too broad a brush. Nobody can argue with your statements in a vaccum, but they are truisms too vague to do the situation any justice. Were there really two wrongs? Were the leaders holding legitimate positions to begin with? Did they actually fail in their efforts, or rather succeed? These and many other questions cannot be waved over or settled by fiat as though they were never part of the discussion.

    So I’m suggesting that you’ve assumed certain things to be constants which were themselves hotly contested issues of contention within the context of the reformation. I’d like to illustrate by expanding on one of them which I think is relevant to where this thread is right now, as it has bearing on the “rebellion” issue — namely, the idea that Rome sustains the universal church and is free from heresy.

    The church of God’s elect existed long before being Roman was in style, and for many centuries it was primarily Jewish. The covenantal signs and figures were given to the Jewish people first, because the promises were made to Abraham. Yet, though God’s promises to His elect are sure and eternal, still the Jews as a nation were broken off the covenantal root to make room for Gentile branches, like Rome. In Romans 11 this very thing is discussed by Paul: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” So God removed from the root the entire nation (individual faithful notwithstanding) that had been the covenantal masthead for centuries, and placed that mantle of honor on a people who were formerly not a people. And of all the churches he could have given this warning to, Paul gave it to Rome.

    I say all that to say this: If the branch of Rome has usurped the title of “Root,” then the fact that other branches don’t fall for it doesn’t necessarily make those other branches rebels, nor does it suggest that protestantism is built on rebellion.

    I know we disagree *on Romans 11*, but that’s precisely my point — I’m a big fan of letting the disagreements be where they really are, not where it might be convenient to say they are at a particular time.

  6. Charlie,

    You said, “…you’ve assumed…that Rome sustains the universal church and is free from heresy.” Spot on. I think I’ll plan to do a post on this because it’s getting unwieldy for a comment thread.

  7. Prairie,

    I look forward to the post. In the mean time, I appreciate that you’re honest about your presuppositions. Of primary concern to me in this thread was the quote from Bryan (appearing in Elizabeth’s comment above) contending that protestantism is based on the fundamental self-identity of rebellion. That is patently false, regardless of whether Rome’s claims to supremacy are true or not.

  8. Charlie,

    It is not “patently false”. Many people more intelligent and educated than either you or I believe it.

  9. Prairie,

    Is that how you know it’s not patently false? That smarter folks believe it? Not to stir the pot, but by way of illustration: I know of a lot of smart guys who truly believe that since Rome’s formulation of justification is essentially works-based, Catholics don’t believe in grace. Do their education and sheer numbers prevent their representation of Roman thought from being false?

    But that aside, please remember, I didn’t say that Rome’s claim to supremacy was patently false (although I believe it is), or that it would be patently false to say the Reformers were rebels (although I believe it would be, with a few exceptions). Rather, I said that a particular caricature of reformed *thought* was patently false — namely, that the reformation was based on the fundamental *self*-identity of rebellion. This is emperically demonstrable — all you have to do is read the writings of the reformers and you will know their mind. Nobody every hinted at anything like Bryan’s representation.

  10. Charlie,

    When you state that someone’s opinion is “patently false” you suggest that he (and the myriad of people who agree with him) is either too stupid to see what’s at the end of his nose, or that he is willfully ignoring facts, or that he is deliberately misleading others. That’s an ungrounded insult I saw a lot in my childhood and I won’t tolerate it here. Not everything is so easy to figure out that if we just opened our eyes we would all agree. Intelligent and educated people believe a lot of different things, and remain intelligent and educated. On my blog I expect commenters to treat others with courtesy: no insults.

  11. Prairie,

    I did not say a word about Bryan’s “opinion.” He made an assertion about an emperically varifiable/falsifiable fact, without any supporting ctations, and he was incorrect. Furthermore, his assertion was not about what a people DID, but rather, what they THOUGHT, which can only be determined by reading expressions of their thought. By reading such things, one is able to determine as a matter of cold, impersonal fact that he has misrepresented the truth. I have to assume that he was simply unaware of the facts (I mean, hey — people make mistakes, no sweat), but that’s irrelevant — the facts are available, and they show a reality contrary to his representation of it, and I pointed this out.

    If what you want to do in this blog is be free to caricature dissenters without impunity or accountability, then you certainly have the freedom to do that. Maybe that stipulation should go on your front page, but that’s your call. But if sincere discourse is what you’re after here, you might consider the possibility that disagreement isn’t a de facto insult to anything except, perhaps, pride. If this is unaccaptable to you, then I’ll cheerfully rid you of my troublesome comments.

  12. Charlie,

    You are welcome to disagree. You are not welcome to impugn others’ intelligence. If you can comment within that parameter then you are welcome to continue our discussions.

    To clarify: You may say that a certain position necessarily reduces to or is fueled by a particular error, but you may not imply that if your opponent simply went to the trouble to look at the facts he would know better than to hold the opinion he does. And you are expected to recognize the difference in the arguments of others.

  13. Prairie,

    Just to make sure I understand you correctly: a charge of hypocrisy — would that be an acceptable criticism in the context of a discussion like this, or would you consider that an insult?

    Or, perhaps, if I were to say about one of your commenters, concerning topic “X”, the following: “Anyone who has seen any kind of actual topic X has no leg to stand on when it comes to saying what they say about topic X. It just shows their complete lack of knowledge and experience with topic X, which gives what they say little to no weight at all!” If I were to say something like that, would that be okay, or would it fall under the category of, as you said, “but you may not imply that if your opponent simply went to the trouble to look at the facts he would know better than to hold the opinion he does”?

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