We fail to realize that so much of what we believe is what we interpret the scriptures to mean – not what the scriptures themselves say. And this applies to everything I say below – what I say here about scripture is not scripture itself. You have to prayerfully discern if it is Truth or not – to “test all things and hold fast to what is good”…
“Sola Scriptura” is basically a view of the Bible held by Calvinist/Reformed folk – and even generally (though not necessarily by that name) by evangelicals. It is essentially this: scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. But, ironically, this is a circular rationalization. For example – even the selection of “books’ to be included in the Bible is not given us in the Bible itself – but through the judgement of men in ancient councils. They themselves had to appeal to something outside of the Bible itself to come to their conclusions and finalize the “canon” (rule) of what is to be considered inspired scripture. Let me quickly say, though, that I believe they were led of the Holy Spirit in doing this. But the critical point here is there is something prior to scripture: the Holy Spirit and the human heart.
And the problem with “infallibility” is that in the end the scriptures are still subject to our interpretation – and I haven’t yet met any humans (especially myself) who are themselves infallible – hence the over 30,000-plus Protestant denominations.
I was a Calvinist for over 15 years. When you enter into the Calvinist fold – you are not simply taught scripture – you are immersed into a theological paradigm which establishes foundational “truths” by which you interpret all of scripture. These serve as a type of “magisterium” by which all passages that stand in tension with Calvinism are resolved and categorically boxed.
The result of this is that we soon forget that what we believe is NOT what “the Bible says” – it’s what we think the Bible means.
Ironically the Bible teaches that there are many ways that God gives us revelation (and none of this is inherently “infallible” because we, the recipients, are *never* infallible) – and all these ways are used by the Holy Spirit in a dynamic way to lead us into all Truth. One very important way is our own sense of conscience – of what is fundamentally right and wrong. Jesus taught us to “judge for yourselves what is right”. And Abraham did not have to appeal to scripture in order to say, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”.
There is a resonance set up in the human heart – created in God’s image – that allows us to hear “the ring of Truth” – and this comes BEFORE scripture. This is not mere “unaided reason” – but the dynamic relational context of our very being and existence (in God) where God the Holy Spirit does its work within us.
But yet we are led astray from a fundamental sense of moral goodness by the traditions of men – so much so that we embrace the blasphemous view that a Good God – who IS Love – would punish forever those who have not heard the Gospel (see my post: https://sovereign-love.blog/2019/04/21/44/).
But that leads to another point that contradicts “Sola Scriptura”: “Have they not heard?”, Paul says. This is one of the most mysterious and neglected passages in all of the Pauline corpus. Here Paul makes plain that somehow, in some way – the Gospel of Christ HAS in fact been proclaimed to all creation (see Col. 1:23) . But how? NOT by “scripture alone” –
Romans 10:18 “But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,their words to the ends of the world.”
All kinds of explanations are offered by commentaries – but the simple and plain facts are this: Paul is quoting from Psalm 19 – where we are told that the heavens declare the Glory of God – that, “day to day they pour forth speech” – yet, without “words”:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them
That means that what Paul said in Acts 17 is a true possibility – i.e. that even apart from hearing someone explicitly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ – we can in fact still find God with the revelation already given around us and within us:
Acts 17: 27 “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his children.’”
This is in no way to suggest that we neglect evangelism – or fail to preach the Gospel historically revealed in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! This is the Good News: the Eternal Gospel (Rev. 14:6) has been real-ized in space and time – in the historic Gospel! That is the best of news – and now we should respond to the Lordship of Christ (the “man” appointed to judge the world) through repentance.