Protestant Reformation

Sola Scriptura–A Simple View

unsplash_leather_Bible
unsplash_leather_Bible

How important is the Bible? How important is it to you and, in general, for all humanity? It depends on your view of it.

As you can imagine, personal opinions abound when it comes to the value of the Bible, within the church and outside of it.

People can get pretty emotional in their opinions both for and against the Bible. But, I've found the Bible doesn't need anyone to defend it.

The Scriptures speak for themselves

When I say the Bible doesn't need anyone to defend it, I have two things in mind—

  1. The Bible has stood the test of time. It is the most well-read, sold, and translated book in the world. Many may reject the Bible as authoritative, but, by and large, it is well-respected and loved throughout the world.
  2. The Bible speaks for itself within its own pages, along with the testimonies of those who know its value.

The Bible has several titles it's known by and here are three of the most common—the Bible, the Scriptures, the Word of God. The first two are often preceded with Holy (sacred).

The word Bible comes from the Greek word for book or papyrus, since the original written form of the Scriptures was on papyrus scrolls. We get the Scriptures from the Latin for writings.

Sola Scriptura

The Latin phrase Sola Scriptura literally means (by) Scripture alone. It is the beginning point and bedrock of why the Protestant Reformation (PR) movement developed.

As mentioned before, the PR started as a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church and return to a biblical foundation for the Christian faith.

The heart of this first Sola is summarized here—

  • The Scriptures (Bible) are the only and final authority in matters of faith, life and conduct, and church practice
  • The teachings and traditions of the church and its leadership must be measured by what is written in the Scriptures
  • The Bible is the sole reliable source of divine revelation above any other forms of human inspiration or direction

The Word of God

The Word of God has a testimony all its own. It declares the writings in this collection of 66 books is God's personal revelation of Himself and truth to humanity.

Here are a few of its declarations—

  • Jesus instructed His closest followers after His resurrection from the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and Psalms (Luke 24:25-26; 44-45)
  • The Law exhorts us to be sustained by God's Word (Deut 8:3) and speaks of Jesus (the human Word of God) coming (Deut 18:15, 18)
  • The Messianic prophet Isaiah declares the Word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8) and prophesied the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Isa 44:6-8; 45:21-23)
  • The Psalms declare that God's Word is a sure foundation and a light that guides us (Pss 119:89, 105) and testifies of the Son of God coming to earth (Ps 40:7)
  • Peter, one of three apostles closest to Jesus, reminds us that the writers of the Scriptures were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21)
  • The apostle Paul told his protegé Timothy that the Scriptures were God-breathed and the foundation for faith and training believers (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

Some final thoughts

As the title of this post indicates, this is a simple view of Sola Scriptura. Whole books are written on the authority and origin of the Scriptures categorized as Bibliology—the study of the Bible.

A few books are listed below if you want to look further into this topic.

Because of Sola Scriptura, I prefer biblical theology over systematic theology. Why?

Biblical theology gives us a unifying narrative of the Scriptures. It's also what I see within the Bible when Jesus quotes and explains Old Testament Scriptures, and later as the apostles Peter and Paul do.

The Bible is an essential foundation of faith. It's been so in my life from the beginning, including my decision to follow Jesus.

How about you?

How has the Bible impacted your life and faith?

Books on Bibliology—

Books on Biblical Theology— (I've included one recommended book for systematic theology)


Here are 2 previous posts that are related—

Why Do You Believe That?

God Won't Fit In a Box, Nor Will I

Why Do You Believe That?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis
Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis

What's the most visited page on a website? The About (Me/Us) page. It's true for my site, as it is for most others. Is it because our culture is so voyeuristic?

While this might be true to some degree, mainly it's because we want to know someone before we trust what they say. Christian believers also need to know the validity of what they say they believe.

Over the next several weeks, I want to take a look at why we believe what we believe. This includes a look at the 5 Solas, the basic pillars of the Protestant Reformation, from my own point of view as a follower of Jesus.

A very brief history

Every evangelical church, or evangelical community of believers, is rooted in the Protestant Reformation. Many people in evangelical ministries may not realize this, or if they know it, may not know why.

The Protestant Reformation (PR) started when men such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, Huldreich Zwingli, and John Calvin, over a period of 200 years, objected to the sale of indulgences (kindnesses) and other practices of the church.

As a means of raising money, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) provided a way to pay for forgiveness, even for people already dead. There's more to what paying for indulgences includes, its origin and history, but it worked like a get-out-of-hell-free card.

The reform movement formalized

This led to a movement that set out to reform the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). When it was clear the church—the only recognized church at that time—would not change, the Protestant movement separated from the RCC.

Initially, three primary churches developed, then a fourth, for mostly the same reasons—

  • The Lutheran Church— started by followers of Martin Luther's leadership and influence
  • The Reformed Church— started by John Calvin's followers
  • The Presbyterian Church— started by John Knox in Scotland
  • The Anglican Church— this included the Reformers in England, but was formalized when King Henry the VIII broke away from the Pope

Luther's 95 Theses

Although many people had similar concerns, Martin Luther is most well known for his Ninety-five Theses posted on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther was a monk who taught moral theology at the University of Wittenberg.

The original intent for his 95 Theses was to promote discussion not dissension, but the church didn't see it that way.

There's much more to the story, but the essence is that Luther and other reformers challenged the authority of the pope and certain practices of the church that were not biblical.

The driving force of the Protestant Reformation was to bring the church back to its biblical roots. The Scriptures are to be the final authoritative basis governing all doctrines and practices of the church, not the pope nor other church leaders.

The roots of Protestantism

Protestantism is a broad term that includes churches or communities of believers who are not part of the RCC, but who hold to a biblical foundation of faith.

Other churches grew out of the four primary ones mentioned above because of other distinctions in theology, doctrine, and practices, but the essentials of the Christian faith remain the same.

The primary tenets of the Protestant Reformation are summarized in the 5 Solas (originally in Latin)—

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone – The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice.
  2. Sola Gratia – Grace Alone – “Salvation by Grace Alone.” Salvation is proof of God’s undeserved favor; we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone, not by any work we do.
  3. Sola Fide – Faith Alone  “Salvation by Faith Alone.” We are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by the works of the Law.
  4. Sola Christus – Christ Alone  “In Christ Alone.” Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone; no one and nothing else can save.
  5. Soli Dei Gloria – Glory of God Alone “For the Glory of God Alone.” Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone.

Why we need to understand what we believe

Pure and simple devotion

We need to be aware of deceptions perpetrated by the enemy of our soul (the devil). As Paul points out, we need a pure and undivided devotion to Jesus.

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. (2 Cor 11:3 NLT)

It's always about Jesus! He's the Head of the Body of Christ—the church. He's the Core of the Gospel. He's the Alpha (first) and Omega (last). He's the only Son of God—Savior, Lord of Lords, and Returning King.

A strong and deep relationship

Our relationship with the Lord Jesus needs to deepen so we're not so vulnerable to clever arguments, deceptions, or anything else that would draw us away from a pure, uncomplicated commitment to Him.

I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments... And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him... Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Col 2:4, 6, 8 NLT)

Spiritual maturity

We need to pursue spiritual maturity, not by gathering more theological knowledge, but through deepening our understanding of Jesus—who He is and what He's done to redeem and restore us.

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. (Eph 4:13-14 NLT)

It's who you know, not what you know

We need to be rooted and grounded in our relationship with Jesus, not just gain more knowledge about Him. We need to understand what He says.

The four gospels are the bedrock for our faith, as they were for the early church. Jesus is the one who interprets the truth of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms for us. He did this personally for the apostles (Luke 24:44), and He will do it for us by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27).

Jesus is the Cornerstone of our faith (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:4-6).

Jesus is our plumb line, our spiritual point of reference. As Jesus said to His closest followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

If the truths we hold about Jesus and the Christian faith don't line up with what He says, then we're on shaky ground.

Do you understand why you believe what you believe?


Helpful links for the history of the Protestant Reformation and the 5 Solas—

Protestant Reformation

Protestant Reformation History

5 Solas

Cambridge Declaration–Alliance–Confessing Evangelicals