Arminian Today

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How Important Is Sola Scriptura?

Since the dawn of the Protestant Reformation the Church has held to the principle of sola scriptura (Latin for Scripture Alone) that holds that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that while the Bible does not contain all knowledge, it does contain all knowledge that leads to salvation and that all things are to be tested by the very words of God as contained in the sixty-six books of the Bible. From Martin Luther to John Calvin to James Arminius, the Church has held that the Bible is the Word of God and that our doctrines, traditions, and experiences should all fall under the watchful eye of the inerrant Word of God.

Without a doubt James Arminius held to the authority of the Bible and he taught the reformation principle of sola scriptura. For instance Arminius wrote three large portions in his works on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible that you can read here. John Wesley likewise supported the principle of sola scriptura and he held both the inerrany and final authority of the Bible for faith and practice. Wesley said, “The Church is to be judged by the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures by the Church.”

The principle of sola scriptura needs to be preached once again. With the rise of so many false teachings on the Bible and false philosophies of men coming into the Church, sola scriptura is the only sure foundation that we have to safeguard us against errors. So many claim today to speak for God, to have revelations from the Spirit, to have seen angels, demons, and others speaking to them. So many claim that we need deeper more mystical experiences to experience the depths of Jesus Christ. So many look now to eastern mystics (both Christian and not) for their writings and experiences and seek to model them. So many now teach contemplative prayer using books such as those by Buddhist/Catholic monk Thomas Merton or New Age Catholic priest Thomas Keating which has been endorsed by men such as Richard Foster or Larry Crabb.

We need to test all teachings and doctrines by the Word of God alone. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “But test everything; hold fast what is good” or 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Attacks Against Sola Scriptura

I have listed several key attacks used by the enemy to attack sola scriptura but I believe that when we stand for the Bible alone we will face certain attacks by even good people deceived by the lies of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). What are those attacks specifically:

1. Tolerance – The politically correct word of our day is tolerance. Tolerance in this regard means that we allow anyone to believe or teach what they want without question. What is good for me is not good for you and vise versa but we seek to live in peace with one another and we don’t dare question whether there is truth or error. The only thing that tolerance is not tolerant of is the truth. There is no such thing. Therefore, if someone wants to teach that contemplative prayer is for disciples of Jesus then we don’t question that. We allow any and every teaching without question all in the name of tolerance.

2. Postmodernism – The emergents love this word. Postmodernism is simply another false philosophy of men in the long line of others that have followed it and will proceed after it. Postmodernism embraces mystery and ambiguity. The Bible then, within emergent movements, is not a Bible of divine truth but is a story of God’s dealings with people in the past and we can learn from their stories while adding our own. The Bible is not a book of facts or systematic doctrine but is a mysterious book containing kernels of truth. In fact, I don’t know one emergent who believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that it is infallible for faith and practice. I don’t know of one emergent who holds or defends sola scriptura. In fact, emergent Doug Pagitt attacks sola scriptura and calls it a lie.

3. Mysticism – Many modern charismatics are dangerously embracing false mysticism without question. Mysticism attacks sola scriptura because it does not use the Bible to judge their experiences such as angelic appearances, prophecies, mystical elements in prayer, mystical worship, visions, dreams, etc. that all are not questioned by the Word of God or Scriptures are twisted to fit a certain paradigm promoting mysticism.

Mystics such as Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Richard Foster, and various Catholic mystics such as Madame Gunyon are all endorsed by many evangelical leaders. Everything from prayer to singing to reading the Bible are all now being twisted with teachings from mystics.

How To Safeguard Yourself

1. Read, study, and memorize your Bible! Psalm 119:104 says, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I have every false way” (ESV). Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (ESV). The Bible alone can show us errors (Hebrews 5:11-14) and we can judge all things by the Word of God but we must know the Scriptures to do so (1 John 4:1-2).

2. Question Every Teaching. Acts 17:11 says, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (ESV).

3. The Bible is able to save our souls! James 1:21 says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (ESV). Jesus warned us to hold fast to His Word (John 8:31-32) and that the enemy will come to try to snatch away the Word of God from our lives (Matthew 13:18-23).

4. The Bible is our sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (ESV). Through the Bible we are able to cut to our hearts (Hebrews 4:12-13) and able to discern truth from error.

5. Renew your mind by the Word of God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV). If we renew our minds we can filtrate the false teachings of this world by our knowledge of the perfect word of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/09/2008 at 10:15 AM

4 Responses

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  1. Seeking Disciple,Hello again. I think over all the Protestant reformation was a good and necessary thing. But I also think the views like “scripture alone” was an overcompensation. It makes sense why they moved that direction as they lost total confidence in the church in its institutional corrupt form and where “authority” came from offices of that institution. It should be noted from an historical perspective that the idea of “infallibility” first originated from this corrupt institution that used religion to have power over others and did not want to be questioned about it. They claimed their views as the church were “inerrant”.Luther reasoned that these church offices could not be inerrant, particularly because they had changed their own position about things over the years. He therefore reasoned that scripture must be, even though he himself question the validity of books like James, Hebrews, and Revelations. The point is, he simply transferred this idea of inerrancy of the church office he was protesting against to scripture and this shows that ironically he did not come to this conclusion by “scripture alone”.Still, one of the great benefits of the reformation was that it put the testimony of the early church, our scriptures, in the hands of all believers as part of the royal priesthood and not just the religious elite. This gave both the early founding church we can read of in the NT (which bears the most weight), along with the body of Christ in the present world, an appropriate voice as part of the living church. This brings us much better accountability than a church dominated by just authority according to “office”.The reformation was a movement of people, and a movement of the church. Not, the institutional bureaucracy the reformers had conflict with but a grassroots movement of the living church. The reformation took place in the context of community that agreed together that the organized institution that called herself the church in their world were out of bounds in some critical areas.What did this grass roots movement of the church base such discernment on? Well they decided to base it on scripture. And what is scripture? Scripture is our oldest testimonies from the early church, and I believe as such it speaks with the authority of the living church today as much as ever. Is the church infallible? Of course not. Is scripture inerrant? It doesn’t need to be. Scripture is the reliable and trustworthy testimony of the body of Christ. As the first testimonies of Christ presence in our world it provides a baseline for the body today as we continue to be the presence of Christ in the world as his body. Your concern over “scripture alone” came from a reactionary position to a very corrupt institution. Scripture is far more valuable and authoritative as the witness of the early church than the corrupt offices of the 16th century institutional church considered it; because they put themselves ahead of it. On the other hand, the reformers overcompensated and forgot that scripture came from the church community. It was even their church community of the reformation and Protestants followers of Christ that emerged from it that made the determination to look back to scripture for an appropriate baseline.Thanks for letting me share a different perspective.Peace,James

    James Diggs

    09/09/2008 at 11:33 AM

  2. hmmmm…sola scriptura is illogical and self refuting. i.e. Where in scripture does one find the basis for sola-scriptura? Nowhere.i.e. The Church and the authority vested within by God decided the canon of scripture (and then Luther took out a few books). Without another source or foundation of divine authority, a canon of scripture would not be available to be “sola” today.


    09/09/2008 at 4:19 PM

  3. Nate, I disagree. Its not illogical nor is it self refuting. The Scriptures themselves testify to their own unique authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and the basis for Christian theology, all that know about Jesus and His gospel are all based on the Scriptures. The Church’s authority flows from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ so it is only natural that it derives its source of truth from the Bible alone. Further, the Church did not decide the canon of Scripture but merely affirmed the Canon. A good book to read on this is F.F. Bruce’s THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE as well as Roger Olson’s THE STORY OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY. Luther felt that James was not to be included in the Canon but his assumption was his own and has no historical basis. The source of Scripture is God Himself who breathed out His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Even Peter understood this in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The source is not the Church nore the interpretations of the Church but the Church rests on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20) as our chief cornerstone and where do we learn of Him? From the Bible (John 20:31; Ephesians 4:21).

    The Seeking Disciple

    09/09/2008 at 4:56 PM

  4. SD, I respect your opinion and all your posts…let me make that clear. I too am wary of the postmodernist moral relativity being preached in the church.I have both the book by Olson and Bruce (I got an MA Theology from a pentecostal seminary…of course these would be in my library).Luther wanted to take out James on his own leanings, yes…no historicity. Under the same leanings he also took Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, Ecclisiasticus, Baruch, and the 2 Books of Maccabees. These books and the rest were “affirmed” (canonized) at Trent, but had been solidified previously at hippo. I can agree with much of what you said, but I feel interpretation is off…To say that 2 Tim 3:16-17 is stating that all inspired writing has it’s uses is one thing, but to read the doctrine of Sola Scriptura into is eisegesis. Besides, when this was written to timothy, Paul is speaking of the scriptures taught to him in his infancy. The NT had yet to be completely written, let alone compiled. So if This verse IS demonstrating the principle of Sola Scriptura, we must throw out the NT.John 20:31 just tells me that the the bible was compiled so that we may aided towards the true belief that Jesus Christ was the messiah…not the idea/doctrine of sola scriptura. The early Christians had no written material to appeal to. They learned from oral, not written instruction. Yes, the epistles were floating around, but very few eyes soaked in their words.Yes, Christ is the cornerstone of the Church…but what Church? Sola Scriptura is a rebellious notion, resisting God given tradition and authority. (2 Th. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:2). Sola scriptura breeds contempt and division…even Luther exclaimed in frustration at the monster he had created, “every man has become his own pope!!!”A great speech you might want to check out was made at the 1910 Baptist Congress by Gerald Birney Smith, professor at the University of Chicago…this fundamentalist baptist lovingly and logically revealed the fallacies of Sola Scriptura.It is my opinion that NO ONE is truly an adherent to Sola Scriptura. We all appeal to someone for interpretation, whether that be Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bruce, Bauer or Gingrich. Sure, everyone says, “well I appeal to no one, only the Holy Spirit for insight,” and in the process they make the HS out to be a fool. For if the HS were truly guiding all the adherents to sola scriptura, who proudly hold on to their RIGHT of self interpretation, then the HS must be telling different folks, different things as they approach the sacred text.Peace man…I hope you don’t take this as me being divisive. Like I said, I love your blog…read almost every post, and almost every post resonates in some way. This is just my opinion. Granted, I take history into account way more than the rest, but I do feel like God has His watchful eye on history. I am burdened for the church, ashamed at what she is doing to morality.


    09/09/2008 at 5:38 PM

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