Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

When We Deny Sola Scriptura

Feeding off of yesterday’s post, I want to give some arguments for sola scriptura by showing what happens when we deny sola scriptura. There is no denying that we are setting ourselves up for failure when we deny sola scriptura. J. Gresham Machen saw this within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and thus he split from Princeton Theological Seminary and formed Westminister Seminary as well as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The book The Presbyterian Controversy is highly recommend reading for those wanting to watch this battle between conservative theologians such as Machen and liberal theologians at Princeton. The facts speak for themselves that Machen was in the right to oppose the rise of liberalism within both the PCUSA and Princeton Seminary. In the end, he paid for the fight with his life by working to his death for the cause of the reformation.

What Is At Stake
1. The Christians Source for Theology – When we deny the inerrancy of Scripture and the principle of sola scriptura then we are in essence denying the source of Christian theology. How do we learn about the Lord Jesus? From the Bible. How do we learn about our Creator? From the Bible. How do we learn right from wrong? From the Bible. How do we learn about salvation from sin, death, hell, and about heaven? From the Bible. Yet a denial of the inerrancy of Scripture implies that its possible that God’s Word is wrong about these important topics. What source do we then derive our truths from? Our conscience? Science? Experiences?
Jesus clearly believed in the inerrancy of the Old Testament saying that not even the smallest stroke would pass away (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus said that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). He further used Scripture to teach His disciples about His resurrection and His mission (Luke 24:44-46). If Jesus held firmly to the Scriptures, so should we.
2. Scripture Separates Truth From Error, Facts From Fiction, and Sound Doctrine From False DoctrinesHebrews 5:14 says that through the Scriptures we are able to know truth from error. The gospel of Matthew uses the phrase, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3; 4:14; 8:17; 11:10; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4). Matthew based Jesus’ earthly ministry on the facts not just of what he was seeing and writing but on what the Old Testament prophets had foreseen by the Spirit. Matthew based the life and teachings of Jesus on the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The Bible provides the Christian a tool, a weapon (Ephesians 6:17) to know the truth of God. When we deny the inerrancy of Scripture we are denying that the Bible contains all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). When we deny the inerrancy of Scripture then we open the door for error such as false teachings that are not questioned and how can they be without an inerrant and infallible Word? Mormons claim, for example, that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith and Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon can not be defeated apart from believing that God has spoken to us in His Word and that the Bible is sufficient for our faith (2 Peter 1:16-21).
Jesus Himself confronted error with Scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11) and He said to the Sadducees “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29 ESV). Jesus said clearly that the Sadducees were wrong not because He had an opinion but because they did not know the Scriptures.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 further provides the Christian with the authority to teach and correct and that the Bible makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV). How can this be apart from an inerrant, infallible Word?
3. Scripture Gives Christian Theology Its Unique AuthorityChristianity basis its teachings on the uniqueness of Scripture. We do not merely base our theology on Jesus apart from the Bible that speaks of Him. Unlike Islam, which claims to have an inerrant Scripture but does not derive its authority from it, Christianity basis its message on the Book. We believe that we can send missionaries into the jungles of the Amazon and see lives transformed based on the message contained in the Word of God. In fact, where inerrancy is denied, you will find a loss in mission in every case. Liberal denominations such as the PCUSA or the United Church of Christ or the liberal Lutherans or Episcopals do not send out missionaries. And why should they? They have no message of hope, no promise of salvation, and no basis that God is with them because they deny the unique authority of the Bible.
In fact, where inerrany is denied you will find a slow death of nearly everything Christian from salvation, missions, discipleship, prayer, worship, and ethics. There is simply no authority in the life of the disciple apart from what is given to us from the Scriptures.
4. Our Assumption and Preaching of Truth is Based on the Inerrancy of the Bible – We can preach that Christ is risen because of the inerrant Bible. We can preach that salvation is by grace through faith because of the unique truth given to us in the inerrant Bible. When we deny the inerrancy of the Bible and rejects its authority (sola scriptura), we have no assumption of the truth. How can we proclaim that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead (Acts 10:38) if we deny the Bible? How can we proclaim that Jesus is the only way to salvation if we deny the Bible? How can we promise people that their sins can be forgiven in Jesus if we deny the inerrancy of the Bible?
We Christians believe that we have been given the truth (John 14:6) in the Word of God (John 17:17) and yet if we deny that God created the world out of nothing or that the miracles of Jesus never occurred or that Paul never healed the sick by the power of God then we have no authority to preach from. Our message is dead. And thus that is why liberal churches continue to die. They have no message to proclaim to a dying world (1 Corinthians 1:18-22).
5. We Have 2000 Years of Church History To Speak FromFrom the early Church Fathers to Martin Luther to John Calvin to John Wesley to Charles Finney to B.B. Warfield, the Church has 2000 years of history that shows that we have always embraced the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. While the words “inerrant” and “infallible” are not found in neither the Bible itself nor the early Church Fathers, the same thinking is there nonetheless. Different words but the same thought runs across the historical spectrum.
In fact, I challenge anyone to come up with any great revival or great movement in the Church that denied the inerrancy of Scripture. Every great reformer in the Church from Athanasius to Augustine to Tyndale to Luther to Calvin to Edwards to Wesley and hundreds of others all held to the unique authority and sufficiency of the Bible. They did not agree on all issues theologically but they all agreed that God had spoken to us in His Word and that all doctrines were to be tested by the Scriptures.
In fact, every great missionary organization has at its root a firm belief that their authority and power for world missions comes from the Bible. From Hudson Taylor to K.P. Yohannan, the burden of world missions comes from the plain reading of Scripture and a firm belief in Acts 1:8. Where inerrancy and infalliblity are denied, world evangelism dries up.
6. The Authority of JesusWhen we deny sola scriptura and deny the inerrancy of the Bible we attack the authority of Jesus in three ways.
First, we deny Jesus His authority since He clearly based His ministry on the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 4:1-11; John 10:35). Jesus acted in authority to the Word of God.
Secondly, we know little of Jesus apart from the Bible. If we deny the inerrancy of the Bible then perhaps the Jesus Seminar is correct to assume that Jesus never spoke what He spoke nor acted the way He acted. All that we virtually know about Jesus is taken from the Bible and if we reject the inerrancy of the Bible, how can we have authority to proclaim any truths about Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection.
Third, Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach His Word (Matthew 28:19-20) but if the Word is not inerrant, how do we know that what we are teaching is truly from Jesus? What gospel do we proclaim? What parts of the New Testament are valid and what parts are not? And who assumes to take such a position of authority to decide such things? The gospel’s power is lost when the Word is not preached (Romans 10:14-17). Notice that Paul told the Ephesians in Ephesians 4:21 that they were taught in Jesus by Paul teaching them. Or 2 Thessalonians 2:15 where Paul clearly showed that the Apostles had unique authority to speak for Jesus. How could this be without the gospels being true?
7. Salvation Is At StakeWhen inerrancy and infallibility are denied then salvation is not to be found in Jesus but in other places and other experiences which are not salvation from sin at all. John 14:6 or Acts 4:12 or 1 Timothy 2:1-6 only give power to the disciple when we know that they are trustworthy and true. Our salvation is not based on personal, subjective experiences but on the redemption given to us by God in His Son (Isaiah 53:3-6; Matthew 26:28; John 1:12-13; Romans 5:1-11; 10:9-13; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 1 Peter 2:21-25). That redemption is proclaimed only in an inerrant Word for if the message is not truthful, how can we know that God will set us free by His grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) apart from the message preached (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38-39).
In fact, where sola scriptura has been denied there has been a loss of our sinfulness before a holy God (Romans 3:10-20). Without the gospel, we are still dead in our sins without hope (Ephesians 2:1-6). When a movement has denied the inerrancy of the Bible, the message of salvation has been lost by traditions of men and by the false teachings of men (Acts 17:30-31).
8. Errors, False Teachings, Doubt, and Disillusionment Follow Denials of InerrancyWhen the Bible is not the inerrant and sufficient rule of our faith we will tend to fall prey to false teachings of men. What do we have to correct false teachings apart from the inerrant Word? Opinions? Experiences? Whenever sola scriptura is denied and inerrancy is not taught, you can rest assured that false teachings and false experiences will follow. Entire doctrines will fall including the deity of Jesus Christ, His sinlessness, His vicarious atonement, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, the person and work of the Holy Spirit will become murky and mystical, salvation will be denied, sin will be ignored or encouraged, prayer will be lost or become ritualistic, idolatry will prevail. Evangelism will be lost and missions will be abandoned. The poor and sick will suffer. Society will become even more wretched as the Church loses its power to confront darkness. The demonic will become the norm. Truth will be abandoned for lies. Men will become the final authority instead of God (which will be a lie from hell).
9. Loss of Inerrancy Leads To Denial of Basic TheologyWithout a firm foundation in the Scriptures, other doctrines will fall including God as our sovereign Creator and Judge, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross, salvation through His blood and by His grace, the authority of the Church to preach the gospel and make disciples, and the presence and power of God in our daily lives. How can we say we believe in these doctrines if we deny the Bible is the complete, inerrant Word of God? Doubts will no doubt arise from such a false assumption.
This has been clearly the case in every movement that has denied sola scriptura. Whether it be the liberal PCUSA to the Mormons, when the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible is denied, there simply is no basis for truth, no basis for deciding what is right and wrong, what is sound doctrine and what is false. The power of God is not found in such movements. Only the false teachings and limited power of men.
Our Only Hope is Inerrancy
Our only sure foundation is to trust that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. If we deny this, we deny our foundation. We simply can not hold to sound, historical, orthodox faith apart from believing that the Bible is the source of our theology and that it is correct in all that it says. There is simply no way around this vital doctrine. We can try to reject sola scriptura all we want but this only leads to the path of destruction, chaos, false doctrines, and a faith based on the false teachings of men and not God.
The hope for world missions, for providing for the poor, the hungry, the destitute, the orphans, the widows, salvation to the nations, healing for those who are sick, etc. is to be found only in the gospel and how can you proclaim a trustworthy gospel if you don’t know for sure that it is trustworthy? How can you proclaim that Jesus is better than life (John 10:10) and that He can wash away all yours sins (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22) apart from the authority of the Bible? How can you reject false teachings apart from the unique authority of the inerrant Scriptures? How can you know that you are truly following Jesus as your Lord and Savior apart from the firm foundation of the Bible? You can’t!
The Bible is our hope (Romans 15:4). The Bible is our sword to cut down the enemy and know truth from error (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 5:14). The Bible is able to save our souls from certain destruction for our sins (Romans 7:14; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; James 1:21). Only when we abide in Jesus’ word can we be set free (John 8:31-32) and this clearly demands that we believe all that Jesus has said from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2008 at 12:25 PM

5 Responses

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  1. I enjoy reading your blog. I’m always happy to find another Christian blog. Doylene

    Bible Doctrine Study Page

    09/11/2008 at 3:58 PM

  2. Thank you for your kind words.

    The Seeking Disciple

    09/11/2008 at 8:54 PM

  3. I definitely enjoy your blog the few times I hop on. Now I am an inerrantist…a strong one. But I am slightly bothered by some of your words. Now I truly do understand your logic fully (I have used the same in times past), but our “hope” is the Bible? If I am following you correctly, it sounds like our entire faith breaks down if the bible is not inerrant.Now, like I said, I AM an inerrantist to the fullest.But my hope is based on the resurrection of Christ. I can anticipate someone pointing out that “you only believe that because the Bible says so”, but rather the Word was the tool that helped me see the facts. But the reality that overcomes all is the testifying reality of the Holy Spirit residing in me. My faith does not hinge on inerrancy. If that was the case, then we would all end up like Bart Ehrdman who’s faith dwindled because he felt shaken up over the Bible’s inerrancy due to textual criticism.Now I could have been wrong in how I understood your post, but I couldn’t help but think your words implied that you are a Christian because the “Bible says so” and not because you have called on the resurrected Christ and now the HOLY SPIRIT confirms that in you.


    09/12/2008 at 6:54 AM

  4. Jeremiah, glad to know that you strongly hold to inerrancy. Some who comment here do not hold to inerrancy so you and I have something in common. It is true that our faith is in Jesus and His resurrection and apart from Him we do not have eternal life BUT you and I both believe that we learn about the resurrected Lord from His Word and not just from personal experience. We base our faith on what is revealed to us from the Word of God and we believe that God does not lie (Numbers 23:19) and so His truth will set us free. Salvation therefore is both objective based (on the Scriptures) and experiential (born again of the Spirit). The Bible is not our salvation nor is the Bible our Savior but the Bible points us to our salvation and to our Savior and so we must esteem the Word of God. So in one way I am a Christian because the Bible says so in that I believe in the Lord Jesus revealed to me by the Spirit through the Word.Hope this brings some clarity.

    The Seeking Disciple

    09/12/2008 at 4:58 PM

  5. Doesn’t everything we rely on come down to Apostolic witness: the resurrection and ascension, the life and teaching of Christ, the instructions for the church? The Bible is the record of that Apostolic witness, and therefore authoritative for anyone following that witness. Anything derivitive (like tradition or doctrine) could never been seen as possessing the same authority without doing violence to the sense of John 17:20. We always must go back to the well. Inerrancy as to content in the autographs follows from that concept of Apostolic witness and they held the Hebrew Bible (which did not include the Apocrypha) as prophetically authoritative. Inerrancy in transmission is a matter of faith and history, don’t you think?


    09/13/2008 at 5:02 PM

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