Someone recently commented on my Reformation Day article that I was speaking hatefully of the Roman church. After a few private emails, I would hope that she would realize that although I have very few positive things to say of the Roman church (their advocacy for the rights of the unborn being about it), my grievance is not with individuals in that corrupt institution, but the institution itself, and that any “hatred” exhibited is directed solely against the hatred of evil and deception inherent in it.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
There are five statements that summarize the grievances that the Reformers had with the Roman Church. These are known as the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (For the Glory of God Alone).
I will purpose to speak of each of these over the course of the next five days (excluding the Lord’s Day on which day I do not intend to blog).
Sola Scriptura means “Scripture Alone.” This stance was taken in response to the Roman doctrine of the Bible plus “sacred tradition” in determining doctrine and practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxy). If tradition has equal say in determining doctrine, then how can there be any stability? It reminds me of the argument on those who would claim, “There are no absolutes!” (Is this statement absolutely true?) My point is that scripture alone is the sole authority in determining our doctrine as well as how we live our lives.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Nowhere do we see in scripture to do things in worship or living simply out of tradition. From Sola Scriptura we get the doctrine of the regulative principal of worship. This Reformation doctrine says that God ordains how He is to be worshiped according to scripture. Anything that is not explicitly commanded in scripture is not allowed in worship. God has ordained the means in which He is to be worshiped, and when we presume to add to, delete from, or generally change things up, we are in error. Consider the following scriptural examples of these sins. In these passages, the Lord is angry not because they did something they were commanded not to do, but rather they did something they were not commanded to do. In a sense, they “added to” the commandments of scripture.
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.
There are numerous cases where people directly violated the commands of scripture, and were punished. Yet, we do not see a single instance where God disciplined His people because they failed to uphold the “sacred tradition” which had never been written in His Word. Yet the Roman church holds this tradition to be on equal footing to the scripture! All of this tradition is man-made and subject to the total depravity in us all, including the Roman pope.
When we take the Bible as the sole authority for how we live our lives, it helps clear up so many practical “orthopraxy” issues, as well as all the orthodoxy issues we face. My Roman Catholic friend who took issue with my comments noted that the Catholic church has consistently stood for life and against contraception, whereas many modern Protestant churches have abandoned their stances in this area. While I would agree with my friend that the Catholic church has done a much better job in maintaining their stance on the life of the unborn that most modern churches, I would point out that the Reformation fathers were all very much opposed to contraception and abortion. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura does indeed show that many modern Protestant churches are apostate in this area. For if they used only the Bible as their guide, they would read that children are a blessing of the Lord, and that barrenness is a curse for which no one should desire. However, just because the Catholic church is right on this issue, this does not make up for the lack of foundation for which they build their doctrine. After all, a broken clock is right twice a day. Romanists would make a much better argument not in saying their position is right, but rather than modern Protestants are hypocritical in applying the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. At which accusation, I would have to bow my head and agree with them.
So, the answer, then, is not in abandoning Sola Scriptura, but rather to reform, once again, a church universal that has abandoned its commitment to this teaching.