BACK TO BASICS – SOLA SCRIPTURA

Sola Scriptura – only Scripture. Scripture alone.

The first discontentment with the word of God in Genesis 3 began a long history of humans wanting more than God’s word. Human ideas have been added to the word of God, placed beside the word of God as its equal, and even substituted for the word of God. It seems that we are so full of our own self-importance that we do not like to simply believe, trust and obey God’s word; we would rather fabricate a ‘word’ ourselves, and then call it ‘the word of God’.

Consider these texts:

‘These people ... honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’ (Isaiah 29:13).

‘I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? ... every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God’ (Jeremiah 23:25, 26, 36).

‘Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” – when the LORD has not spoken’ (Ezekiel 22:28).

‘... you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition’ (Matthew 15:6).

‘They exchanged the truth of God for a lie ...’ (Romans 1:25).

‘I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine sounding arguments ... See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world’ (Colossians 2:4, 8).

‘The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’ (2Timothy 4:3, 4).

The Bible repeatedly warns us not to get our ‘truth’ from human sources, whether collective human traditions or mystical human experiences.

Prior to the Reformation of the 16th century, Christianity had, for the most part, lost connection with the Bible. On top of the Bible, smothering the Bible and its grand liberating truth, were church traditions and dogmas (generated by humans) and a plethora of reported visions and other miraculous occurrences. These traditions, dogmas and experiences redefined the truth so powerfully that the authentic word of God became lost and inaccessible to the ordinary person and to the ordinary clergy. (In addition, the church forbade the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people.)

The Reformation reaffirmed the Bible as the only trustworthy source of truth. It discredited and discarded those church dogmas and traditions that did not agree with the Bible, and denied the validity of human experiences as a means of defining truth. The reformers also encouraged the translation of the Bible into the language of the people.

Hence the Reformation cry: Sola Scriptura. Only Scripture. Only the Bible.

Today many Christians find themselves in a similar situation to that of the pre-Reformation era:

Human beliefs and traditions (either informal and personal or formalised into statements of belief) add to or re-define truth.

Human experiences are used to define or redefine truth.

The Bible is viewed as obsolete, not sufficient for 21st century humans, and God, it is said, is revealing new truth through ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ whose words have at least the same authority as the Bible.

And, in addition, the Bible is regarded by many in the church as just a human book, without divine inspiration and authority; it is therefore seen as just one among many possible sources of truth.

Just as in the original deception, there is discontentment with the word of God, such discontentment that some Christians have stopped reading the Bible and depend solely on mystical ‘revelations’ as their source of truth.

We do well to remember that all cults and sects (at least all those I have researched), and one major world religion, began because a human person believed they had received a revelation from God. But to step beyond, beside or away from the Bible, is to step into error, to exchange the truth for a lie.

Let us return to this Sola Scriptura of the Reformation, and, like Jesus and the apostles, ground our lives and our understanding on the written word of God alone.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020