Five Eternal Gifts from God - Scripture 2
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) means that Scripture alone is the believer’s preeminent authority. It is the final influence by which the Christian’s conscience is bound. It is the believer’s understanding and commitment that anything besides Scripture including feelings, passions, church traditions and teachings, along with personal convictions are secondary to God’s Word being the ultimate authority within the believer’s life. Dr. Michael Horton writes, “Scripture not only has the final say, but it is the formal principle of everything we believe about doctrine and conduct” (Sola Scriptura xvi).
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey explains that “the Protestant position is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand” (Sola Scriptura 3). Dr. John MacArthur adds that, “Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture” (Sola Scriptura 165).
God has established many institutions of authority. These include government (Romans 13), family (Ephesians 6:1-2), employers (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; I Timothy 6:1-2), and the church (Matthew 18:15-20; I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:7,17; I Peter 5:1-4). However, all of these authoritative structures are to be subordinate to the foundational authority of the Scriptures.
The two-source tradition of authority arose in the sixth century through the writings of Basil and Augustine. It further entrenched itself in the twelfth century, and later still in the fourteenth century with the writings of William of Ockham. “From the fourteenth century onward, then, we witness the parallel development of two opposing views: either Scripture alone is the preeminent authority which the church interprets or that the church is a second source of authority that supplements biblical revelation” (Modern Reformation 16:2). In the Protestant Reformation, we witness the Reformers embracing the former and the Catholic Church then, and later at the Council of Trent, committed to the latter.
Additionally, Sola Scriptura is fundamentally opposed to relativistic individualism. In a culture wherein the individual reigns supreme, and churches pander to “keep the customer satisfied,” the doctrine of Sola Scriptura states that all individual ideas and behaviors must be in submission to, and aligned with, Scripture. This opposes those in the church, and the culture, who justify their sinful behavior, and consequently their disobedience to Scripture, with a self-centered perspective wherein the individual’s desires are preeminent.
The inherent problem with relativistic individualism in the church, especially as it pertains to Scripture, is that the final authority does not rest with the Word of God but rather with the individual. “Every doctrine and practice is measured against a final standard, and that final standard is the individual’s personal judgment of what is and is not biblical. The result is subjectivism and relativism. The reformers appeal to ‘Scripture alone,’ however, was never intended to mean me alone” (Modern Reformation 16:2).