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Sola Scriptura: Every Christian's Defense Against False Teaching

This is the second entry in as many hours in our "Germans Like Latin" category.

This first dealt with the prevalence of "Ad Hominem Attacks" within Christianity today.

We concluded that the ad hominem attack is the most common defense used by false teachers to defend and deflect any criticism pertaining to their false teachings.

Now, I'd like to introduce you to every Christian's defense against false teaching.


 
WHAT IS 'SOLA SCRIPTURA'? 
The phrase sola scriptura is from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings”—referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 
Sola scriptura was the rallying cry of the Reformation. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible. Some examples are prayer to saints and/or Mary, transubstantiation, indulgences, and papal authority. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with excommunication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther's reply was, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”  
The primary Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that the Bible does not explicitly teach sola scriptura. Catholics argue that the Bible nowhere states that it is the only authoritative guide for faith and practice. While this is true, they fail to recognize a crucially important issue. We know that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, and authoritative. We also know that God does not change His mind or contradict Himself. So, while the Bible itself may not explicitly argue for sola scriptura, it most definitely does not allow for traditions that contradict its message. Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines. The only way to know for sure what God expects of us is to stay true to what we know He has revealed—the Bible. We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition. 
The Word of God is the only authority for the Christian faith. Traditions are valid only when they are based on Scripture and are in full agreement with Scripture. Traditions that contradict the Bible are not of God and are not a valid aspect of the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is the only way to avoid subjectivity and keep personal opinion from taking priority over the teachings of the Bible. The essence of sola scriptura is basing your spiritual life on the Bible alone and rejecting any tradition or teaching that is not in full agreement with the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  
Sola scriptura does not nullify the concept of church traditions. Rather, sola scriptura gives us a solid foundation on which to base church traditions. There are many practices, in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that are the result of traditions, not the explicit teaching of Scripture. It is good, and even necessary, for the church to have traditions. Traditions play an important role in clarifying and organizing Christian practice. At the same time, in order for these traditions to be valid, they must not be in disagreement with God’s Word. They must be based on the solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church, and many other churches, is that they base traditions on traditions which are based on traditions which are based on traditions, often with the initial tradition not being in full harmony with the Scriptures. That is why Christians must always go back to sola scriptura, the authoritative Word of God, as the only solid basis for faith and practice. 
On a practical matter, a frequent objection to the concept of sola scriptura is the fact that the canon of the Bible was not officially agreed upon for at least 250 years after the church was founded. Further, the Scriptures were not available to the masses for over 1500 years after the church was founded. How, then, were early Christians to use sola scriptura, when they did not even have the full Scriptures? And how were Christians who lived before the invention of the printing press supposed to base their faith and practice on Scripture alone if there was no way for them to have a complete copy of the Scriptures? This issue is further compounded by the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history. How does the concept of sola scriptura handle these issues? 
The problem with this argument is that it essentially says that Scripture’s authority is based on its availability. This is not the case. Scripture’s authority is universal; because it is God’s Word, it is His authority. The fact that Scripture was not readily available, or that people could not read it, does not change the fact that Scripture is God’s Word. Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. While it was unrealistic for every Christian to possess a complete copy of the Bible, it was possible that every church could have some, most, or all of the Scriptures available to it. Early church leaders should have made studying the Scriptures their highest priority so they could accurately teach it. Even if the Scriptures could not be made available to the masses, at least church leaders could be well-trained in the Word of God. Instead of building traditions upon traditions and passing them on from generation to generation, the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2). 
Again, traditions are not the problem. Unbiblical traditions are the problem. The availability of the Scriptures throughout the centuries is not the determining factor. The Scriptures themselves are the determining factor. We now have the Scriptures readily available to us. Through the careful study of God’s Word, it is clear that many church traditions which have developed over the centuries are in fact contradictory to the Word of God. This is where sola scriptura applies. Traditions that are based on, and in agreement with, God’s Word can be maintained. Traditions that are not based on, and/or disagree with, God’s Word must be rejected. Sola scriptura points us back to what God has revealed to us in His Word. Sola scriptura ultimately points us back to the God who always speaks the truth, never contradicts Himself, and always proves Himself to be dependable. 
[Via]


As Lutherans, we should most certainly be able to agree when it comes to sola scriptura (a phrase we coined ourselves!) as well as what our Confessions have to say.

It's a sad and unfortunate state of affairs when so many within the Lutheran Church cannot come to "unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13), especially when it is clearly demonstrated that we have strayed so far from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) to the point where we're flirting with false doctrine that could have eternal consequences as "some have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19).

This is why sola scriptura is so important to God's people and why we must prioritize preaching and teaching that emphasizes this truth rather than the kind of preaching and teaching that tells you that you can get just as much if not more spiritual truth and wisdom not from God's Word, but from any of the Christian bestsellers in the marketplace today.


John 17:17 (ESV) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.


God sets His people apart from the world by means of His Word.

Earlier, I wrote that sola scriptura is every Christian's defense against the false teachers and their false teaching. That wasn't entirely accurate.

Sure, you can defend yourself from false teachers and their false teachings using the Word of God, but guess what? God's Word was meant to be an offensive weapon as opposed to a defensive one!


Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.


Still, even when we faithfully confess His Word in this world, it's not us that should get any of the credit whatsoever. The Spirit gives the Gospel Word its effectiveness.

I like what Martin Luther sang of the devil and of the power of the Scriptures though: "One little Word can fell him."

Even the sharpest sword can cut only through flesh and bone, but God's Word is "the sword of the Spirit" and it cuts through any spiritual barriers that stand between human beings and God, because God's Word cuts to the innermost part of a human being.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, every Christian's best defense and offense against false teachers and their false teaching is to be firmly rooted in Christ, or in sola scriptura, since Jesus is "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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