JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


Leave a comment

Sola Scriptura or Solo Scriptura?

“All Scripture is God-breathed …” 2 Timothy 3:16. The inspiration of Scripture should never be a matter of dispute among Christians, but are the Scriptures the only source for theology?

Some Christians (mainly Catholics) insist that both Scripture and church tradition, as given by the Holy Spirit, are the source for theology. Others (mainly Anabaptists and Quakers) insist that Scripture, and the Holy Spirit speaking new revelation to the individual, are the source for theology. Yet another group of Christians (mainly Evangelicals) insist that the Bible alone, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is the source for theology.

Each group of Christians cites the work of the Holy Spirit to legitimize their position, yet each of the views is problematic. When it’s assumed that God is the author of both Scripture and tradition equally, what happens when tradition clashes with or contradicts what the Bible says? When it’s assumed that an internal voice along with Scripture is authoritative, what happens when the internal voice says something the Bible doesn’t say? And when it’s assumed that there’s no authority other than the Bible, what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says?

In considering the last question, it’s helpful to know that Protestant reformers made a distinction between the principles of “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone) and “nuda Scriptura” (bare Scripture). “Sola Scriptura” has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as the Christian’s supreme authority in all spiritual matters. “Nuda Scriptura” is the idea that the Bible is the Christian’s only theological authority in all spiritual matters. The best transliteration for “nuda Scriptura” today is “solo Scriptura” (just me and my Bible).

The distinction between “sola Scriptura” and “solo Scriptura” is important. The two are not the same and shouldn’t be equated. The emphasis in “sola Scriptura” is on theology being ultimately subject to the Scriptures. The emphasis in “solo Scriptura” is narrower. It gives prominence to personal interpretation removed from the Church.

“Solo Scriptura” naturally appeals to people who are suspicious of authority or individualistically inclined. The revivalist preacher Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) captured the essence of “solo Scriptura” when he said, “I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me, and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.”

People are in error if they outright reject the theological insights of others in favour of their own interpretations. They’re also dangerous and divisive. Dangerous because “solo Scriptura” subjects theology to the whims and frailty of subjectivism, and divisive because “solo Scriptura” has no court of appeal for theological disagreements.

“Sola Scriptura”, on the other hand, depends on a communal reading of the Scriptures. It does this by interacting with the theological insights and understanding of Christians past and present. No man or woman is an island to himself or herself. “Sola scriptura” recognizes that while Scripture is the final authority to judge Christian doctrine and practice, it’s not the only resource for theology. That is, “sola Scriptura” identifies that the core convictions of the Church, as long as they don’t compete with or supplement the Scriptures, are essential resources for biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and interdenominational dialogue.

So what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says? While there are no easy answers, it’s naïve to think that just me and my Bible is more than enough. We need one another. We need, with the Scriptures as the primary authority, to tap into the exegetical insights, doctrinal clarity, and pastoral perceptions of Christians through the ages.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


6 Comments

Reboot

The coronavirus has shut down the system. Everything has been disrupted, upended or unsettled. Isolated from one another, we’re uncertain, disorientated, anxious, overwhelmed, or sorrowful. As the storm surges, we’re scrambling to adjust. As we struggle to understand, we’re trying to figure out what to do.

COVID-19 is one of the most dangerous diseases that we’ll face in our lifetime. Things are going to be different for some time. Yet it’s not all bad news. While a vaccine is being developed, it’s a chance to reboot.

Reboot is a computer term. When a computer malfunctions, the operating system is shut down, fixed, then restarted to get it back up and running.

Opportunities to recalibrate are usually rare. The limitations imposed by COVID-19, while devastating, open the door to new prospects and possibilities. Now that we have some time on our hands, what will we do with it?

To begin, we shouldn’t waste time trying to explain the unexplainable. Asking why God has allowed this pandemic to happen won’t make much of a difference. Instead of looking for reasons, we should recover the biblical practice of lament. As the Anglican theologian, N. T. Wright reminds us, “it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”

We should also recognize that along with the world, we’re all broken. When the Israelites returned to Judah after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, they detected, despite the fact that they had rebuilt Jerusalem, that something was still broken – themselves. This pandemic has brought us face to face with a harsh reality, despite everything humanity has built over the centuries, something is still broken – ourselves.

We are in exile because of COVID-19, and we need healing – physically and spiritually. Spiritual healing doesn’t come from a needle. An anti-viral injection can’t give us immunity from the darkness that plagues our souls. Resurrection comes through crucifixion. The healing we need in our inner being comes from embracing the Healer, Jesus Christ.

With our usual routines and hectic pace interrupted, the coronavirus enables us to ask, “What is God saying to me/us at this time?” Asking and answering this question could become a turning point for individuals, the Church, and the nation.

If there’s going to be a turning point, there needs to be a starting point. The starting point is to engage and reengage with Jesus. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 1:3 (NIV).

To return to the Lord we must return to the Bible. In these days of uncertainty and disorientation, we need certainty and orientation. God’s Word is sufficient for all our needs. As the pandemic surges, the Scriptures are the anchor in the squall. Those who abide in the Word will ride out the squall.

When the post-Babylonian Israelites realized their brokenness “they told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book … and He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” Nehemiah 8:1-2 (NIV).

Note the phrase “listened attentively.” The beginning of something new will begin when we open our ears to hear the Word of the Lord.

Finally, we should pray. A new normal will emerge when the pandemic is over. The new normal will be an outcome of how we do or do not pray. COVID-19 is an invitation to pray. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV).

Reboot. When we engage and reengage with Jesus there is “a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). Bad news will become good news. Life will blossom from death. What’s broken will be made whole again.

Resource:

Praying When You Don’t Have All The Answershttps://www.facebook.com/kensymes7/videos/2976801189041940/

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5