A Protestant Decimates Sola Scriptura

Doug Beaumont has a must-read post where he takes down sola Scriptura in dramatic style.

I devote one section of my book to this same idea, though Doug goes into far more depth about the diverse ways in which Evangelicals rely on people and things outside of the Bible, all without realizing it.

Bible-only theology sounds fine as long as it remains an abstract principle (or slogan). The reality is much messier. At least the following authoritative layers would need to be peeled back before a strict Bible-only theological method could even theoretically succeed:

  1. Linguistic – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative translators.
  2. Translational-Interpretational – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative interpreters.
  3. Hermeneutical-Philosophical – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative philosophers.
  4. Historical-Cultural – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative historians.
  5. Applicational – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative teachers.
  6. Mystical – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative personal views.
  7. Textual – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative text critics.
  8. Canonical – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative Church decisions.
  9. Traditional – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative traditions.
  10. Theological – to avoid having to trust non-authoritative theologians.

In the real world, reliance on extra-biblical authority is found at nearly every step of Bible study. Even if our average-Evangelical-in-America-today had the time, materials, and intellect for such an endeavor, he would still realistically have to rely on a host of extra-biblical authorities (teachers, authors, researchers, principles, etc.) to learn all that he would need to know to become a trustworthy [yet extra-biblical, and thus still fallible!] authority himself.

What’s great about this is that N.T. Wright, the lauded Anglican theologian, has come the closest that man can come to becoming an expert on all these different areas. And after all of his learning, he declared that all Protestants and Catholics had gotten the doctrine of justification wrong and that his new idea on justification is the correct one!

The point is that all Christians have to rely on extra-biblical testimony and authorities. Catholics admit this but Protestants don’t because if they did, sola Scriptura would be fatally undermined.

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13 thoughts on “A Protestant Decimates Sola Scriptura”

  1. If you want a good Bible section that pretty much covers all these areas, sit in on a Protestant Bible study on Ephesians 5 & 6 (husbands/wives, parents/children, slavery).

    In a room of 50 people of various age groups, you will get 50 different interpretations of what it really means and whether it is relevant at all because different people have differences on one or more of the 10 factors you state.

  2. Can you reference the NT Wright comment for me please? It’s not that I do not believe you, it’s that I want to read his thoughts! 🙂 thanks!

      1. Hi April! Good to see you over here.

        Wright has some articles online where he talks about his new doctrine of justification (grouped with a movement called the “new perspectives on (st.) Paul). I found this one that has a decent account: http://www.thepaulpage.com/the-shape-of-justification/

        Also, he has written an entire book called “Justification” where he lays out the basis for his new doctrine. The book is a response to Protestant pastor John Piper, who has gone after Wright for daring to propose that Luther and Calvin got justification wrong. So they’re kind of “trading books back and forth” with arguments, which is interesting.

        1. Interesting!!!!
          My philosophy professor at school is a friend of Wright’s. In his class last semester I wrote a paper on Wright’s notion of critical realism and how it relates to disciplines in and out of the church. It was intimidating because my prof would go from discussing my paper with me to chatting on the phone with Wright… haha had to get my facts straight on that one!!

          I’m eager to read this… I struggle with so much of the protestant doctrine (lol or doctrineS ’cause there are so many of them). I have to admit, humbly that my childhood and past church experience also leaves me very skeptical of the rigid authority of the Catholic and Orthodox churches (that might not be the best way to word it, but I think you get my point!). So I am, needless to say, a little torn!

  3. How is wright’s position on justification substantially different than the Catholic position? His What Paul Really Said seems to basically agree.with Trent, though he won’t admit it

    1. Good question, Rob. “Substantially” is used perhaps a bit subjectively here. His doctrine differs from Catholicism’s, even while sharing many aspects in common with it (likewise with Protestantism’s).

      Andrew Preslar at Called to Communion wrote a helpful article explaining the three different “perspectives”–Catholic, Protestant, and Wright’s–that notes his points of alignment and divergence: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/n-t-wright-biblicism-and-the-doctrine-of-justification/

    1. Rob, what are you confused about? I don’t know whether I can clear it up or not, as each of the positions on justification has shades of the others in it, but I’m curious as to what you are having trouble understanding.

  4. So wright has a position in between infused and forensic justification? How is that possible? I don’t see the logical space between them.

    1. Rob, I don’t think I can explain it better than Andrew Preslar did in the article I linked to. If you comment over at that Called to Communion post, I’m sure that one of the guys will respond.

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