A meditation on: How Evangelical conservatism has increasingly weaponized the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura.” And the resultant increasing prevalence of willful ignorance and magical thinking in church culture.
Sola Scriptura is prima facia a self-referential claim: The authority of scripture being its own authority. The issue should be obvious. The absence of counter-representative witnesses produces all sorts of doctrinal problems. These range from literal interpretation of impossible facts to out-of-context rules, regulation and dogma.
Evidence of the popularity of Science denial traditions in church culture is but one example. (Take for instance Anti-Vax cults.) Politics is impacted, health care… down the line. Nationalism and racism have also found homes in evangelical cults.
“Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone in English) is a theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice.“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura
Academically finer points on this from 2009…
“… the Bible does teach implicitly and logically, if not formally and explicitly, that the Bible alone is the only infallible basis for faith and practice.“Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie:
When Jesus,defends himself before men: He cites witnesses in John chapter 5…
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me.”John 5:31-37
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.”
First, we notice that the self-referential witness is condemned by the Lord Himself.
Where are the witnesses for God? Here are some suggestions that point the way to understanding how the Bible itself suggests we categorize them… pardon my use of latin, I’m not a scholar, but I respect the manner of definition.
Testis Testimonium. The Testimony of Many Witnesses.
The preface for each is Testis – as in Testimony.
- Testis – Latin for “the testimony of witnesses”
- Sciptura – God’s witness in Scripture. 2Tim. 3:16-17
- Cosmos – God’s witness in Creation. Job 28 – 30, Romans 1:19-20
- Oraculum – God’s witness in Prophecy. 2 Peter 1:20
- Plainly: The historicity of prophetic fulfillment
- Pneuma – God’s witness via the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:16
- Qui Spem – God’s witnesses (believers) attest the hope within in them. 2 Peter 1:18
Explanation as follows:
1.) Where top evangelical theologians prescribe systematic theology they almost invariably ride above their own doctrine.
With the finger pointed outward at heretics and pagans, such pharisees fail to comprehend that Jesus is witnessing to them. All of us are subject to judgement. But especially, pharisees. Because they should know better. By denying the simplest understanding all men are granted directly by God, they will answer for being deaf and blind.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.John 3:10-11
Paul says it this way:
“… since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”Romans 1:19-20
This applies to all men including Biblically ignorant ones. An example: No pagans assert a literal six day creation. Instead, with universal agreement, the un-indoctrinated intuitively understand the earth to be very old.
They are NOT wrong. Because these things are “…clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”
2.) When questions arise, expositors also disregard biblical instruction in the formation of answers:
“Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”2 Corinthians 13:1
The truth of any matter must be established on the testimony of witnesses. And witnesses cannot testify of themselves. Sola Scriptura – citing only scripture – is therefore, unbiblical… according to an a-priori theorem that scripture itself instructs requires witnesses. And this is corroborated because these instructions are of Jesus himself.
Ultimately there is no “Biblical basis” for either Prima Scriptura or Sola Scriptura (the latter as held by Evangelicals) Each are, ultimately, “Doctrines of Men.” (Another scope.)
3.) God cannot lie.
“God is not a man, that He should lie…”Numbers 23:19
4.) God’s witness of Himself in scripture is Creation and God reveals himself to us in Creation.
Thus, Creation cannot lie.
5.) God reveals himself to us in Scripture. And Scripture cannot lie
- Since: The testimony of multiple witnesses corroborates the truth, And since: Scripture and Creation cannot be in conflict (neither can lie.)
- It must follow that: Any literal interpretation of scripture that is in conflict with what can be known by observance of Creation (nature) is false.
My experience is that Evangelical leaders (holding Sola Scriptura), particularly, are blind and deaf to this simplicity. I haven’t heard from the Lord that it’s my job to debate the issue with them. I have heard from Him that I can leave it to Him and Grace. This blog is my outlet.
By the way, there are more witnesses for God than just these two – and all will be found to be in agreement.
You’ll note I don’t try to explain why nature says one thing, and scripture another – Nature says the earth is old vs. Scripture says not so much. That’s another scope.
An open-hearted reading of the article above will demonstrate that Sola Scriptura is simply self-serving Pharisaical rigidity. Just as Jesus was criticized for answering from the spirit and not following the doctrines of men – so we are as well.
The book / author’s premise and assertions are false. And therefore all of the derivative reasoning is errant.