The Protestant Reformation was, in many ways, a simple debate about the nature of Scripture. The material cause of the Reformation was certainly over the matter of justification. Luther, Calvin and the like were all jealous for the biblical gospel. Their gospel was and is the right gospel. However, they knew that they did not discover this gospel nor did they created it. Paul said that his gospel was right and the rest were all wrong. Not only are all other gospels wrong, according to Paul, but anyone who preaches the wrong gospel should be accursed. Why was Paul so confident in the gospel he preached? Simply put, it was from God and not man. It was good for Paul to confer with the other Apostles about the gospel but the other Apostles did not inform his understanding of the gospel. Instead they agreed with him and they gloried that they all knew and loved the same message of Christ and Him Crucified.
Now that gospel comes to us. Maybe not directly from God but yeah kinda. The Bible is the Word of God. It is no popular to say this but it is correct to say that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. There is a human author of all the Scriptures but the Scriptures themselves show that the main author of the text was God, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit has inspired the Bible in a way that glorifies Christ by lifting Him up in the gospel to the glory of the Father. This gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The Christian and indeed the Christian church is only as faithful as it sticks to the biblical gospel.
That is what the principle “sola scriptura” deals with. The Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice, as the Westminster Standards state. Just as in the beginning it was the Word of God that called forth light, so now the Word creates the church. The Catholic church said that tradition and the Word created the church. Actually, it may be that they said that tradition infallibly informed the Word so that the two become equals with regards to life and practice.
Today, I think we may be seeing a new form of the Catholic doctrine of the Bible. This post is a response to a discussion we had in a class. The question was on authority. What is the hierarchy of authority in the Church as far as it’s doctrines are concerned. The class was adamant about the community’s role in the authority of the church. The community decides what is good and becomes a kind of equal with Scripture. This subjective view of Scripture is found a lot today. We have to “belong to believe” instead of “believing to belong.” In short, we have decided that the church creates the Bible. We say we have no creed but Christ when in all actuality we just have our own creed. Let me be clear, we all come to texts with preconceived notions. The real question is if our preconceived notions are biblical ones or not. We all have systematic theolgies, we are all confessional. Is your systematic/doctrinal theology good or bad? Is it the Bible that really creates your theology? Is this theology the basis of your community? Is your community more about you than the gospel?
We must see that the Church is a creature of the Word. We, as a body of the redeemed, have been called out of sin and into a life of glorifying God by enjoying Him forever. The same gospel that saved us stays as our common bond. Scripture alone is authoritative because Jesus alone is authoritative. Sola Scriptura for soli deo gloria.