Essay / Theology

Sola Scriptura: “Only Such Objections as May Rather Be Turned Into Cautions”

The wise William Burt Pope, asking about whether it is right to confess sola scriptura:

Q: What objections may be urged against the general principle that the Bible is the sole rule of faith?

A: Only such objections as may rather be turned into cautions; such as the differences in the confessions of the churches, and the irregularities of private judgment.

From his Higher Catechism of Theology, p. 66.

Sure, some people preach sola scriptura and their denominational distinctives in the same breath, giving the impression that the two go together necessarily. Sure, some people preach sola scriptura with no awareness that anybody ever read the Bible or had the Holy Spirit before this particular sermon started. Sure, some people preach nuda scriptura, scriptura solo, or wacko scriptura. Sure, some people think sola scriptura means that it is impossible to derive any bad ideas from the Bible (!).

And how many young thinkers defect from a clear confession of sola scriptura over such mis-apprehensions of the doctrine, and take what should be cautions as, instead, objections?

Pope goes on, with equal density and deftness, to deal with even these objections which are really cautions:

Q: And what is to be said as to these?

A: (1) That the rule of faith is only the standard by which all confessions are to be tested. (2) That as to the essentials of Christianity there is a wide range of evangelical unanimity. (3) That the individual is responsible for his private judgment, and has the promise of the Teaching Spirit.

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