Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scriptual Critique of Solo Scriptura

by Keith Mathison @
(please note that this is a critique of solo scriptura not sola scriptura)

The modern Evangelical doctrine of Scripture, or solo scriptura, is untenable for a number of reasons.21 Aside from the fact that it is a novel position based upon rationalistic secular philosophy, and aside from the fact that it is dishonestly presented as if it were the Reformation position, it is also unbiblical, illogical, and unworkable. At this point we must examine carefully some of the many reasons why solo scriptura fails.


Scripture itself indicates that the Scriptures are the possession of the Church and that the interpretation of the Scripture belongs to the Church as a whole, as a community. In particular it has been entrusted to specially gifted men. This has already been examined in some detail in the previous discussion of the Bereans and the Jerusalem Council. The Apostles did not tell every individual believer to take their Bibles and decide by themselves and for themselves whether the Judaizers were correct. On the contrary, they gathered in a council as a body and discerned the truth of the matter. Their decision then was given to the various churches. The fundamental point is that Christ established His Church with a structure of authority that is to be obeyed (Heb 13:7). Even in the first years of the Church, there were those who were specially appointed to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:2-4). In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul indicates that a special teaching ministry was to continue after his death (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 8:5-9). The modern Evangelical doctrine of Scripture essentially destroys the real authority of ministers of the Word and the Church as a whole.

Adherents of the Evangelical position also ignore the positive scriptural references to tradition. The Gospel was preached for at least 15-20 years prior to the writing of the first book of the New Testament, and that preached gospel was authoritative and binding. This apostolic tradition was the faith of the churches who received the first books of the New Testament, and it was the context within which these books and the books of the Old Testament were to be interpreted. This is the tradition to which the churches were commanded to adhere (e.g., 2 Thess 3:6). We have already discussed the manner in which this apostolic kerygma was taught to every catechumen and recited from memory at baptism. It is important for our purposes here simply to note that this hermeneutical context of Scripture was not abrogated once Scripture was completed. The Scriptures were written to already existing churches, and this means that these churches had the Gospel before they had the completed Scriptures.

Click here for HERMENEUTICAL Critique of Solo Scriptura

21. In one sense this section has already been covered by virtually every published Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox critique of what they term solo scriptura. These published critiques tend to focus only upon Tradition 0 or solo scriptura.


Keith A. Mathison received the Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is the author of Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? and Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope. This article is taken from the author's book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID 83843, Canon Press, 2001) pp. 237-253.

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