Is Sola Scriptura an essential to the faith?
"Of the five Solas, Sola Scriptura best encapsulates the heart throb of the European Reformers. A key question posed by Martin Luther was, what is the final and ultimate authority for life, faith and worship? Has God given a sufficient and final decree through which all activities of human existence are to conform? Or does the Church along with tradition have the right and authority to impose binding legislation upon the hearts and minds of people, even when such legislation clearly violates Scripture? We hold that the Bible and the Bible alone is the only ultimate and reliable source of God’s personal revelation to mankind."
Does Scripture teach Sola Scriptura?
That seems like a basic question. If you hold strongly to Sola Scriptura, yet don't see Scripture teaching it, do you need to believe it? I see irony if it is only a tradition handed down from the reformers...
There are certain themes in Scripture that are certainly central to our faith. Love and Unity are two that come to mind. How many verses are there that support the position of Sola Scriptura? If Sola Scriptura is less essential than Love and Unity, it may be a good topic for discussion, but not worth creating or maintaining divisions over.
So, are there lots of verses that support the idea? There seems to be one verse that comes up in every discussion of Sola Scriptura.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, "
All Scripture... which Scripture? Was Paul talking about the 66 books we now call the Bible, some of which were not even written when he was writing this letter to Timothy? I think not.
But even if he was holding our leather bound book in one hand while he made this statement, he never said it was the only authority or revelation of God to us.
And let's not forget the main point of this verse... the point is that Scripture is useful ... "so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (vs. 17)
So what's my concern? Are we missing something by holding tightly to Sola Scriptura?
My concern is we've placed less value on the things Jesus did leave with us to guide us. He did not write a book and leave it with us saying "follow this book". But he did leave us his Holy Spirit to guide us. His followers are also called His body, and we are to allow members of Christ's body to encourage, teach, build up, instruct, and submit to each other.
John 14:15-21 (NIV)
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."John 14:26 (NIV)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
OK... so what I am left to hold on to? I think the early church confirmed that these books were the best books describing the life of our Lord, and the life and teachings of the early church. There are other early christian writings that may also shed light on the early church. But there was reason for enough doubt and they were excluded from the canon.
I believe the 66 books we cherish do point us towards knowing the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. I believe it is possible that God spoke clearly to the authors as they penned the books in the Bible. I hope all of it is 100% accurate. It would make sense that a loving God would want to preserve an accurate written account of who He is. But even if it isn't 100% accurate, I am thankful that I hold a book that reveals to me who God is, and that He wants to relate to me in a personal way. In that relationship I can hear God's words to me.