Definitions of Sola Scriptura Undermine Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura, the idea that the Bible is our sole source for spiritual truth, is a fine idea, not actually applied by anyone ever.

We should uphold Sola Scriptura as our aim, yet honestly admit that much of our doctrine is based on other stuff.

In fact, many who hold to Sola Scriptura have never reada the whola thinga. How, pray tell, do you claim to base all your doctrine on a book you’ve never read, let alone endeavored to understand?

“My doctrine is based on the Bible,” say all manner of people who disagree with each other on basic doctrines.

How can this be true? Is the Bible this open for interpretation? Is it that confusing? Or are people using other things to decide what they believe?

Peter does say the scriptures contain many things hard to be understood. Above that, people twist them all out of proportion. (You can read Peter’s take on that here.)

The Bible does need to be interpreted, but the authors had one intent in mind and it would serve us well to discover that.

But that’s hard. So we fall back on other authorities while still maintaining the veneer that we hold Sola Scriptura.

Check out these definitions of Sola Scriptura that come right out and say Sola Scriptura isn’t actually a thing other than in word.

By Sola Scriptura Protestants mean that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source for all doctrine and practice (faith and morals).

There is one word in there that shoots this whole definition to pieces. Did you catch it? The word is “primary.” Primary implies secondary. Primary means there are other sources. It just does. Words mean things. Something cannot be primary and absolute at the same time. They cancel each other out. So, this is either an incredibly accurate definition of Sola Scriptura based on practice, or it’s bad writing.

Get a load of this definition I saw. This one cracked me up

For the Reformers, “Scripture alone” did not mean “Scripture all by itself.” Rather, Scripture was “alone” as the only unquestionable religious authority, not the only religious authority.

Oh, that’s too much, you guys are killing me. Sola doesn’t mean Sola. Again this is either a really honest definition recognizing reality, or it’s bad writing. I think it’s actually being honest. They know Sola Scriptura is just words without meaning, because they just denied the meaning with their words.

Again, Sola Scriptura is a nice idea, but no one does it. There are some who at least admit as much.

We don’t like Sola Scriptura because it puts the Bible in the hands of the reader, which is out of our control, and who knows what they will come up with.

If you let people find out what the Bible says, they’ll probably disagree with you and cause problems. So it’s best to leave the door open for other authorities so you can smash those who veer out of the way. Welcome to Church History.

Sola Scriptura: it’s a nice idea that no one does. Feel free to be the first.

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John Wesley on John Calvin’s Interpretation of Salvation

Our blessed Lord does indisputably command and invite “all men everywhere to repent” [Acts 17:30]. He calleth all. He sends his ambassadors, in his name, “to preach the gospel to every creature” [Mk. 16:15]. He himself “preached deliverance to the captives” [Lk. 4:18], without any hint of restriction or limitation.

But now, in what manner do you represent him while he is employed in this work? You suppose him to be standing at the prison doors, having the keys thereof in his hands, and to be continually inviting the prisoners to come forth, commanding them to accept of that invitation, urging every motive which can possible induce them to comply with that command; adding the most precious promises, if they obey; the most dreadful threatenings, if they obey not.

And all this time you suppose him to be unalterably determined in himself never to open the doors for them, even while he is crying, “Come ye, come ye, from that evil place. For why will ye die, O house of Israel” [cf. Ezek. 18:31]? “Why” (might one of them reply), “Because we cannot help it. We cannot help ourselves, and thou wilt not help us. It is not in our power to break the gates of brass [cf. Ps. 107:16], and it is not thy pleasure to open them. Why will we die? We must die, because it is not thy will to save us.” Alas, my brethren, what kind of sincerity is this which you ascribe to God our Saviour?
–John Wesley
In
Predestination Calmly Considered

The Apostle Paul’s Use of “Faith”

The Apostle uses the word “faith” in his own peculiar and pregnant sense. But this is naturally led up to by the way in which it was used by Habakkuk. The intense personal trust and reliance which the Jew felt in the God of his fathers is directed by the Christian to Christ, and is further developed into an active energy of devotion.

“Faith,” as understood by St. Paul, is not merely head-belief, a purely intellectual process such as that of which St. James spoke when he said “the devils also believe and tremble”;

neither is it merely “trust,” a passive dependence upon an Unseen Power; but it is a further stage of feeling developed out of these, a current of emotion setting strongly in the direction of its object, an ardent and vital apprehension of that object, and a firm and loyal attachment to it.

Ellicott’s Commentary on Romans 1:17

A. W. Tozer: The Freedom of the Will

IT IS INHERENT IN THE NATURE OF MAN that his will must be free. Made in the image of God who is completely free, man must enjoy a measure of freedom. This enables him to select his companions for this world and the next; it enables him to yield his soul to whom he will, to give allegiance to God or the devil, to remain a sinner or become a saint.

And God respects this freedom. God once saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. To find fault with the smallest thing God has made is to find fault with its Maker. It is a false humility that would lament that God wrought but imperfectly when He made man in His own image. Sin excepted, there is nothing in human nature to apologize for. This was confirmed forever when the Eternal Son became permanently incarnated in human flesh.

So highly does God regard His handiwork that He will not for any reason violate it. For God to override man’s freedom and force him to act contrary to his own will would be to make a mockery of the image of God in man. This God will never do. Our Lord Jesus looked after the rich young ruler as he walked away, but He did not follow him or attempt to coerce him. The dignity of the young man’s humanityforbade that his choices should be made for him by another. To remain a man he must make his own moral choices; and Christ knew this and permitted him to go his own chosen way. If his human choice took him at last to hell, at least he went there a man; and it is better for the moral universe that he should do so than that he should be jockeyed to a heaven he did not choose, a soulless, willess automaton.

God will take nine steps toward us, but He will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but He cannot do our repenting for us. It is of the essence of repentance that it can only be done by the one who committed the act to be repented of. God can wait on the sinning man; He can withhold judgment; He can exercise long-suffering to the point where He appears “lax” in His judicial administration; but He cannot force a man to repent. To do this would be to violate the man’s freedom and void the gift God originally bestowed upon him.

Where there is no freedom of choice there can be neither sin nor righteousness, because it is of the nature of both that they be voluntary. However good an act may be, it is not good if it is imposed from without. The act of imposition destroys the moral content of the act and renders it null and void. For an act to be sinful the quality of voluntariness must also be present. Sin is the voluntary commission of an act known to be contrary to the will of God. Where there is no moral knowledge or where there is no voluntary choice, the act is not sinful; it cannot be, for sin is the transgression of the law and transgression must be voluntary.

Lucifer became Satan when he made his fateful choice: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Clearly here was a choice made against light. Both knowledge and will were present in the act. Conversely, Christ revealed His holiness when He cried in His agony, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Here was a deliberate choice made with the full knowledge of the consequences. Here two wills were in temporary conflict, the lower will of the Man who was God and the higher will of the God who was Man, and the higher will prevailed.

Here also was seen in glaring contrast the enormous difference between Christ and Satan; and that difference divides saint from sinner and heaven from hell. But someone may ask, “When we pray ‘Not my will, but Thine be done,’ are we not voiding our will and refusing to exercise the very power of choice which is part of the image of God in us?” The answer to that question is a flat No, but the whole thing deserves further explanation.

No act that is done voluntarily is an abrogation of the freedom of will. If a man chooses the will of God he is not denying but exercising his right of choice. What he is doing is admitting that he is not good enough to desire the highest choice nor is he wise enough to make it, and he is for that reason asking Another who is both wise and good to make his choice for him. And for fallen man this is the ultimate use he should make of his freedom of will.

Tennyson saw this and wrote of Christ,

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, Thou;
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.

There is a lot of sound doctrine in these words—”Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.” The secret of saintliness is not the destruction of the will but the submergence of it in the will of God. The true saint is one who acknowledges that he possesses from God the gift of freedom. He knows that he will never be cudgled into obedience nor wheedled like a petulant child into doing the will of God; he knows that these methods are unworthy both of God and of his own soul. He knows he is free to make any choice he will, and with that knowledge he chooses forever the blessed will of God.

–A. W. Tozer
The Freedom of the Will
Chapter 7 of That Incredible Christian

Blamires on The Church’s Hardest Task

“Here is perhaps one of the church’s hardest tasks in the pseudo-Christian climate of our country today. It has to deal with people who are quite ready to admit that there may be a God, but who have never felt the slightest impulse to abase themselves before Him.

“There are men and women who feel positively virtuous in having mentally allowed for a God in the scheme of things. One may well ask how the church can stir them to that sense of dependence, creatureliness, gratitude, and unworthiness without which, christianly considered, their pretense to reckon with God is a mockery–a living rebellion.

“For the Christian God is something much more than the author of the answer-book to that volume of problems we call ‘The Mystery of Life.’ God is not the bolsterer of our human wisdom, the buttress of our self-sufficiency.

“He is the despoiler of our human self-reliance.

“His Name does not head the list of contributors to the fund for extending our empire of mastery, rather His Signature seals the death-warrant of our egotism.”
–Harry Blamires

Adverbs and God

Although it may not be obvious, I try to get better at writing. I will read a couple books on writing every year and I’m always a sucker for “5 Ways to Write Better” blog posts that authors create.

One main reason why I blog regularly is to practice writing and communicating.

A rule of writing I have seen frequently is “avoid using adverbs.”

adverbs

Adverbs are words that describe verbs. Good writing skips adverbs and uses stronger verbs. For instance:

She loudly put the book down.

is better said

She slammed the book down.

Most adverbs could be eliminated by using a stronger verb. I’ve had this rule beaten into my head since most writing advice will bring it up. I may not do it, but I at least know the rule, which is half the battle.

Adverbs are the enemy. Adverbs are bad. Avoid adverbs. This is the first thing my brain brings up when hearing the word “adverb.” Which is why it struck me the other day when I read this quote:

God loveth adverbs

Are you suggesting that God is a bad writer? What giveth?

It’s an old Puritan quote. As far as I know, the idea behind it is that God wants to know how we do things, not just whether we did it.

I Corinthians 13 seems an easy passage to back that up. You can give all your goods to feed the poor, but if you didn’t give it lovingly (adverb), it profits you nothing.

Being alive in this present world? Not the main issue. Living soberly, righteously, and godly is the big issue.

The adverbs have it. Maybe God could have used stronger verbs? I don’t know. I hesitate being His editor.

G. Campbell Morgan on Asking Questions

Do not believe any preacher, or any man who claims to be a prophet, who tells you that you have no right to ask questions. You will never find bedrock for religious faith until you have learned how to ask questions.

It is equally true that the right to ask questions involves the responsibility of considering the evidence. You have no right to ask questions and then imagine that there is no answer. You must listen to the answer. You are not bound to accept it, but you must listen to it.

That is to say, the man who asks a question does by such action indicate the fact that his mind is open, and that he desires an answer. If not, then the man who asks questions is a trickster, and we have no time for him, and no patience with him.
–G. Campbell Morgan
Has Man Anything to do With God?