Sola Scriptura, NOT Solo Scriptura

Today I read an excellent article by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon on the blog A Puritan’s Mind. This article explained the problems presented by an erroneous system of understanding the Bible.

Those who wish to interpret the Bible for themselves, apart from the consensus of godly church leaders of the past, practice something called Solo Scriptura. Some express this point of view by saying things such as, “No doctrine but Jesus.” In an extreme form, those who hold to Solo Scriptura interpret the Bible for themselves, totally apart from the accepted Confessions of Faith of the church.

In the article, Dr. McMahon defines and explains the orthodox system of understanding the Bible, which is called Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is harmonious with the regula fidei of the Church, or the basic summary of the orthodox position of the Bible.

Here is a portion of Dr. McMahon’s article:

We know that everyone who reads the Bible can find life and truth there. Salvation is contained therein, and even the ploughboy can understand it. All things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (II Peter 3:16; Psa. 119:105, 130; Deut. 29:29; 30:10-14; Acts 17:11) This is true. But that does not argue that everything in the Bible is clearly understood. Otherwise, we would have no need of teacher or pastor to teach us or have pastoral oversight to us.

So, how do we know someone has interpreted the Bible rightly? How do we know our interpretation of a given passage is right? We cannot simply shout Sola Scriptura. That would be bad stewardship. Rather, we would want to know what the church thought about such issues through its history.

Here’s just one more great quote:

When someone disregards the regula fidei, or the testimony of the early church, or the traditional interpretation of Scripture, or the corporate judgment of the church, they are creating a kind of schism that ought never to be, but has crept into the mindset of current evangelicalism as Sola Scriptura. It is nothing of the kind. Rather, it is an appeal to Tradition 0. The enlightenment has done a number on modern evangelicals in that they say that no generation should be bound by the creeds and dogmas of the church. This again is an appeal to Tradition 0. It rejects authority at it root and base. Tradition 1 must be defined as the rule of faith that nothing contrary to it can be true. Christians, as Hodge said, cannot stand isolated from one another having their own selfish creeds. Rather, rejecting the creeds of the church is to reject the fellowship of believers at its core. We must continue to have a corporate, not individual, witness of common doctrine of the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or we will forever become islands to ourselves. That is not the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which is the banner of schism.

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