Bible Only

The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God; but it is not the only word of God. Nor is it the source of Christian truth, rather, apostolic teaching is.

Some say the Bible is all that is needed for salvation — maybe this is so. If you were stranded on a desert island with only a Bible; perhaps you would become a Christian. But you would certainly not become a Baptist, or a Catholic, or some other kind of Christian.

Perhaps we should go back to a Bible-based Christianity without doctrines developed over the centuries, a desert-island kind of Christianity, merely reciting Bible passages and letting the power of God's Spirit contained within wash over our thirsty soul.

But that's not Sola Scriptura. It claims, rather, that Christianity was always Bible-based; that Jesus and the apostles taught this; that the bishops and popes of the Catholic Church did away with it to give themselves dictatorial power.

Not so; history says otherwise. Sola Scriptura was not invented until the 1300's by Wycliffe and only became a core doctrine of the Protestant reformation (revolution) in the 1500's. The early church never heard of it.

Sola Scriptura isn't true

Here's why...

Historical fallacies...

  1. The first New Testament writing did not appear for 20 years. The Christians during this interval relied on apostolic teaching, not on the Bible.
  2. The full set of Bible books (the canon) was not determined for hundreds of years. Before this they were reading all kinds of non-Biblical writings in Church.
  3. Is there a Biblically mandated switchover at which time Christians go from relying on the teaching authority of the apostles and bishops, then switch to Bible only, to Sola Scriptura?

Other fallacies...

  1. The Bible doesn't teach it
  2. The Bible contradicts it

I should mention that I believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.

The Bible doesn't teach Sola Scriptura

Unless you twist the meaning.

Categories of passages...

  1. Refers to the Old Testament and not the New Testament.
  2. Stresses the spoken message and not the written Bible.
  3. Refers to the "Word of God" meaning the gospel, and not to the Bible.
  4. Affirms that scripture is useful or beneficial in some way which, of course, is true. But this does not imply the Bible is the only authority in matters of faith.

I prefer to accept these passages as they are; and they don't teach Sola Scriptura.

Passages misused in supporting Sola Scriptura

To "prove" Sola Scriptura, some passages are given a meaning they simply don't have.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

This verse doesn't say anything about "only scripture".

I should mention that all these things are true about scripture (both Old and New Testaments).

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Upon hearing the preaching of the "word" the Bereans compared it with the Old Testament (the "scriptures") and concluded that Paul's message was trustworthy and true. They did not believe Sola Scriptura, rather, they believed Paul.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

The "Word of God" contained in the Bible is all these things. But this verse does not say (1) that the Bible is all that is necessary, nor does it say (2) that the "Word of God" is limited to the written words in the Bible.

As also in all his [Paul's] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)

This verse seems to equate Paul's letters as scripture but it says nothing about scripture being the only thing that is needed. The phrase "other scriptures" refers to the Old Testament.

New Testament calls Old Testament scripture

The New Testament uses the word "scripture" to refer to the Old Testament, not to the New Testament; in fact, not one New Testament passage uses the term scripture to refer to the New Testament (this is not surprising since the New Testament had not yet been written).

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

Scripture = Old Testament.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6)

Refers to the Old Testament.

The Bible contradicts Sola Scriptura

It says that other things besides the Bible are the authority for truth.

The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

The church is the pillar of truth, not the Bible.

And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30–31)

This passage refutes the notion of Sola Scriptura.

Understanding the scriptures requires someone to instruct, but who is qualified? If nothing is needed except the scripture why do we need people to interpret it and to instruct us?

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:19,20)

The word we in the above passage refers to the apostles and the next generation of orthodox church leaders who passed-down the message they received. After this (2 Peter 2:1–2) Peter introduces the topic of fighting false teaching and heresy with this received message, not with the scripture.

Verbal Teaching is Valid

Many verses in the New Testament indicate that verbal teaching is valid. This refutes Sola Scriptura which teaches that only scripture is authoritative. Certainly the writers of the New Testament didn't believe this.

Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. (2 John 1:12) I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee. (3 John 1:13)

These verses should shock adherents of Sola Scriptura; John prefers to share information verbally rather than write it down. Presumably whatever these "many things" are, they are not in the Bible. How can we know about these except by learning what was passed-down to the early church? (and presumably appears in the writings of the early church fathers and the councils).

His communication was verbal, not written. If Sola Scriptura were correct there would be nothing more for him to say: the written word would be sufficient.

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2)

Not everything that Paul preached to them was written down yet he considers this information to be essential to salvation. How are we to hear about all of this just from the Bible?

Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

Notice they "heard from the beginning" before the Bible was written. This demonstrates that the verbal message is valid. Notice John doesn't repeat what they heard, he merely assumes they know it or that they will continue to hear it from orthodox church leaders.

Other authority besides the Bible

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

The criteria we must use for testing all things is goodness, not scripture. This contradicts the doctrine of Sola Scriptura which claims that scripture is the final authority.

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. (1 Peter 4:11)

We should preach the words (plural) of God; these are not limited to the words of Bible — God has other words besides the Bible.

It's easy to mock Sola Scriptura

A deep-thinking Protestant friend told me he couldn't prove Sola Scriptura was true but merely assumed it. This was the most honest statement I've heard; after all, everyone must assume some set of primal truths to build our reality upon. The Bible is an excellent choice. (I almost do the same myself but I include doctrines and practices from the early church, those that are clearly apostolic.)

Protestants have spiritual authority other than the Bible; they say they don't, but they do. A few examples...

  1. The list of books in the Bible (the canon) is not contained in the Bible (the early church fathers and the church determined the Canon).
  2. The rules for determining the Canon of Scripture are not contained in the Bible; nor that the canon was closed after the book of Revelation (no new books can be added).
  3. The rules for the principles of interpreting scripture are not specified in the Bible.
  4. The rule that some passages are easy to interpret and others difficult. But the Bible doesn't say this.
  5. The many Protestant doctrines contained in books of systematic theology (such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ) are not in the Bible. The Bible doesn't state these doctrines yet Protestants accept them as true.
  6. Many Protestant beliefs and practices are not taught in the Bible.
  7. That church governance (as one example) can be determined without the Bible (as long as it adheres to Biblical principles). But the Bible doesn't say this.

These facts don't disprove Sola Scriptura, they merely demonstrate that Protestants don't really wholeheartedly believe it.

Flawed assumptions of Sola Scriptura...

  1. That the New Testament talks about all important topics.
  2. That the New Testament gives a proper emphasis on each topic (but why so much emphasis on genealogy [Matthew 1] and virginity [1 Corinthians 7], for example?)
  3. That doctrine does not develop (but the Trinity did develop, for example)

Sola Scriptura is typically supported by citing evidence from the Bible itself. But this is an invalid circular argument. (The book of Mormon and the Koran make similar claims.)

Protestant teachers and preachers don't agree how to interpret the Bible and they regularly contradict each other on important issues. More disturbing, they contradict the Bible. Because of this I abandoned them, looking elsewhere, to church history, the early church, the early church fathers, the Catholic Church, and finally settled-in on my current views.

Protestants might object that the early Christians didn't have the New Testament, and so, all they had was verbal teaching, but that is exactly the point — not one Bible verse teaches that some day in the future the Bible was to be the only authority. Apostolic teaching was always the authority from the beginning; this should be every Christian's authority.

Why do the various Protestant interpretations contradict if the true source of authoritative interpretation is the Holy Spirit who does not contradict himself? The best they can do is claim their view is the correct one.

The Deuterocanonical books (called Apocrypha by modern anti-Catholics) were discarded from the canon of scripture during the Protestant Reformation (the first edition of the King James Bible included these books). Yet the foundational Christian doctrines such as the deity of Christ and the Trinity were originally derived using this flawed, so-called, set of books.

Closing thoughts

The Old Testament can never be the authority for Christianity unless combined with the New Testament.

At the time of the apostles verbal teaching was authoritative but this is no longer true; too much time has passed because information passed down from generation to generation via word of mouth is not trustworthy. This argument also invalidates Catholic claims of apostolic succession in which what they call "big-T" Traditions are authoritative. Nonsense.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura was only possible after the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. when the canon of scripture (list of books) was defined. (Before this time many people accepted non-inspired books, the so-called Apocrypha, as divinely-inspired.) Without a clear definition of which writings are truly the Word of God, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is impossible.