“Sola Scriptura” would have failed


The early Church’s first heresy it encountered was Gnosticism; a belief that declared the material world evil and the spiritual world good. The body was seen as an obstacle to the earnest strivings of the soul. Also produced by the Gnostics were the “Gnostic Gospels” which were composed of the gospel of Judas, Thomas, Phillip, and Mary Magdalen.

How would the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (The Bible Alone) have dealt with these Gnostic gospels? The New Testament, as authorized scripture, was not around. A few books of the New Testament were in use by the early Church, but they were not compiled authoritatively or binding to all. In fact, there were some real concerns about the book of Hebrews (Eusebius the Church historian mentioned this).

So, some books were fraudulent, some were in question, and some were accepted. If the early Christians had believed in Sola Scriptura, how would they have dealt with this problem? There was no formalized set of books for Christians to draw the line because the line had yet to be drawn. The Church leaders took upon themselves the authority to carefully determine which books were credible and authoritative and which were not. They had to consult the authorship, interpretation and meaning, and the truthfulness of each book’s substance. And, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the books they chose were established into the New Testament Canon.

How foolish therefore, to look back on such an authority and tradition and reject it in the name of Sola Scriptura; a doctrine which could never have produced the very thing it relies upon. “Sola Scriptura” declares “I accept your New Testament, but in the name of the New Testament I reject you.”

If Sola Scriptura would have failed the early church, why do we think it successfully reforms the modern church?

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2 thoughts on ““Sola Scriptura” would have failed

  1. An interesting question. Do you have an answer?

    This is the old “chicken or the egg” question. The struggle between the Pharisees and the saduccees. Only the Torah or do we include everything written since that somehow claims to speak for God?

    I have very little problem with the idea of the Church established the canon and then, over the centuries becoming corrupted, violating the ideas and doctrines it insisted were divinely inspired. It happened to Israel almost off the bat! And it was because it had accepted, at least, the authority of the Torah that the people had a plumbline for the prophets to judge them against.

    One thing you can always count on is man’s ability to violate his own, agreed upon standards.

  2. An interesting question. Do you have an answer? Personally, I don’t agree with your premise, that sola scriptura would have failed the church because they did have scriptures to work from. The Old Testament. They were not beginning with nothing. They had a lot to go on.

    Nevertheless, this is still the old “chicken or the egg” question. The struggle between the Pharisees and the saduccees. Only the Torah or do we include everything written since that somehow claims to speak for God?

    I have very little problem with the idea of the Church established the canon and then, over the centuries becoming corrupted, violating the ideas and doctrines it insisted were divinely inspired. It happened to Israel almost off the bat! And it was because it had accepted, at least, the authority of the Torah that the people had a plumbline for the prophets to judge them against.

    Establishing a standard, say a moral standard, is not hard to do. But one thing you can always count on is man’s ability to violate his own, agreed upon moral standards. And although it may have been harder to establish a canon, it is still very easy then violate it seven ways from Sunday! But you can also always count on God to “provoke us all to jealousy” by giving His blessing to others after we have strayed away.

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