Sola Scriptura or Solo Scriptura:
About 500 years ago the Reformation sparked a momentous time in church history. In that time, a major split took place between the Church of Rome (Roman Catholic Church) and those that opposed the Church of Rome. These were named Protestants because of their protest of some of the beliefs and traditions set up by the Church of Rome. 3 “Sola” phrases resulted from this protest: “Sola Scriptura,” “Sola Fide,” and “Sola Gratia,” or “Scripture alone,” “faith alone,” and grace alone.”
Sola Scriptura was a response to the claim that believers needed to receive the word of God through an intermediary. The priests of the Roman Catholic Church took on the role of interpreting the words of Scripture for the people. No person was allowed to make an interpretation of a Bible reading apart from the authority of a priest. The protest arose because the reformers went public with the idea that the Bible itself contradicted this view. While the reformers sought to liberate people by liberating the Scriptures, the Church of Rome had been holding people in a place where they were dependent upon the Church for forgiveness and the knowledge of God.
The loosening of the Scriptures for every man, along with the invention of the printing press, has been invaluable to the continuing development of the worldwide Christian church. But some have taken this to a level that was not intended by the reformers–nor is it intended by Scripture itself. This is what’s known as “Solo Scriptura,” that is, “nothing but the Bible.” This sounds like a biblically noble idea, honorable to the Christian, but it is in fact unreasonable. Just think of how much you do in your standard Christian walk, even during church services, that is not directly laid out in the Bible.
Why might someone choose to believe in Solo Scriptura?
Reason #1: It can seem very convenient to limit what people do and say to what is already laid out in the Bible. There has been a long history of the misuse of “divine revelation.” Many man-centered/ prophet-centered cults have arisen out of the leaders claim to receive divine revelation. The knee-jerk safeguard from this could easily be to completely avoid claims of divine revelation.
But is this response completely appropriate? Someone could do (and has done) the same thing with Scripture. They claim to be teaching the authentic word of God, but proceed to deceive their listeners. Therefore, the frequent use of the Bible is not enough.
Reason #2: Solo Scriptura may be chosen as an overcompensation to the vitriol pushed against the Bible. Basically every group that opposes Christianity has some kind of criticism against the Bible. In a way it feels appropriate to respond to these extreme criticisms with extreme counter-points. We want to show these opposing worldviews that the Bible is God’s word. But in doing so, one may be tempted to make claims that Scripture itself doesn’t intend to be made (i.e. “When my car doesn’t start, I just smack my Bible against the dashboard 3 or 4 times, and try it again.” “I keep my Bible under my bed at night, so that my mind is always on God’s word.”).
Reason #3: Solo Scriptura may be used as a short-cut to avoid critical thinking. When there are cultural issues that we Christians want to address, we often try to find a verse to make our point for us. Sometimes this is appropriate; other times the issue requires that we think critically and problem-solve constructively. (Very few church budget disagreements will be resolved by a Bible verse.)
Before reading the conclusion, think about what your position is on these things. What do you use the Bible for? What do you not use the Bible for?
Conclusion: I believe that Scripture presents us with, among other things, all things essential to establish foundational Christian belief and a broad safeguard of Christian practice.* The instructions in the Bible give us the broad standards that can apply to all people across time.The point of the Bible is not to tell us all the things that we are supposed to do in every situation. On all its pages, the Bible points us to God. By pointing us to God in very powerful and multi-faceted ways, we are taken to the source by which we can make all particular decisions. These decisions can and must be gauged against the eternal standard of truth in Scripture. Leadings or intuitions that contradict Scripture can be determined to not be from God.
Solo Scriptura–that we may only glean truth from the Bible–is an unnecessary stance on the Bible. Such a position has an outer veneer of holding the Bible in high regard, but by doing so actually goes against the essence of what it teaches. Sola Scriptura–that the Bible is the final authority on all matters of the Christian faith–seems closer to the correct and intended use of Scripture.
*There are optional Christian beliefs and practices that are left open biblically (i.e. the option to refuse to eat certain foods or recognize certain holidays).