Archive for debate

Missing The Mark: Sola Scriptura Does Not Foster Disunity

Posted in Scripture with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by James Polk

I just finished listening to a debate between TurretinFan, (Presbyterian), and William Albrecht, (Roman Catholic), on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. More specifically, “Does Sola Scriptura foster disunity and division within the body?” William Albrecht takes the affirmative position and TurretinFan takes the negative position. You can find the debate here.

The charge that Sola Scriptura leads to disunity is nothing new. It has become a stock objection made by many Roman Catholic apologists. Unfortunately for these apologists, the focus of their objection is completely misplaced. Sola Scriptura, rightly understood, cannot be the source of disunity by definition.

Yes, that is a provocative statement, but I can defend it. I’ll begin by defining Sola Scriptura according to the Reformed Faith, not according to the misunderstandings of those who oppose it.

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. . .

. . .The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.

—1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith – WCF with Parallel Confessions

In other words, the Scriptures alone are the only inspired and infallible standard for all matters pertaining to the Christian Faith. Tradition and extra-biblical writings are not on an equal par with Scripture. The Bible is our final court of appeal. Sola Scriptura means that the Christian Faith has an objective standard that is subject to none.

I think with this definition in mind it’s not difficult to see the absurdity in the idea that having an objective standard leads to disunity. The problem isn’t found in having an objective standard, it’s found in what sinful, fallible men do with it. Just because people misinterpret or even twist the various parts of an instruction manual, for example, doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the manual or that it’s necessary to look for another standard. So it is with Scripture. In the same way that the role of an instruction manual as the final court of appeal in its own realm is not negated by those who misinterpret it, so Scripture’s role as the only infallible standard and final court of appeal for the Christian Faith is not negated by those who mishandle it. Sin and ignorance lead to disunity, not Scripture. The charge that Sola Scriptura leads to disunity misses the mark.

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