The doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which translates to “Scripture alone,” is a fundamental belief held primarily by the Protestant and Evangelical tradition of Christianity. This doctrine asserts that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice and that it alone is sufficient for guiding and instructing believers in all aspects of their lives.
This belief is rooted in the conviction that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and that it contains all the necessary information for salvation and spiritual growth. The Westminster Confession of Faith, a key confession of the Reformed tradition, states that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (1.6).
The Bible is self-attesting, meaning that it carries its own weight of evidence and requires no external verification to establish its authority. Scripture repeatedly teaches that it is the word of God, given to humanity for the purpose of revealing God’s nature, will, and plan for salvation. For example, in 2 Timothy 3:16 it says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” This passage teaches that the Bible is not the product of human effort but is the very words of God.
In addition, Jesus himself affirmed the authority of the Old Testament, the foundation of the Bible, as the word of God. In Matthew 5:18 he says “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” This verse emphasizes the eternality and the completeness of the Scriptures, and how it is the foundation of God’s plan for humanity, and it will not disappear until everything is accomplished.
Furthermore, the Bible is able to test its own claims and teachings, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who convicts and bears witness to the truth of the scripture. In John 16:13 Jesus says “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” This verse teaches that the Holy Spirit, who is the one who indwells the believers, will guide them into all the truth of the scripture, and will bear witness to the authenticity of the scripture.
From an apologetic standpoint, it is necessary to conclude that the Bible is true because, without it, all other beliefs and perspectives on reality would be arbitrary and capricious. The Bible provides the foundation for the intelligibility of the world and the ability to reason and make sense of our experiences. Without the Bible, there would be no objective standard for truth, morality, and rationality. The Bible establishes that there is an objective and unchanging reality that we can know and understand. It also teaches that human beings are created in the image of God, with the ability to reason and think logically. Without this foundation, there would be no grounds for claiming that our thoughts and experiences have any meaning or significance.
Despite this, foolish people, according to Romans 1, continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Calvin famously stated that “Scripture is like a pair of spectacles which dispels the darkness and gives us a clear view of God.” The Bible presents a coherent and consistent worldview that gives explanation to the origin of the universe, the nature of humanity, and the purpose of life. It is only through accepting this biblical worldview that we can make sense of our experiences and the world around us. Without the Bible, our understanding of reality would be nothing more than a collection of subjective opinions and personal preferences.
This belief in the sufficiency of Scripture is in contrast to other traditions that hold to the authority of tradition, or the teachings of the church, in addition to the Bible. The Reformed tradition, however, maintains that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority and that any traditions or teachings of the church must be in accordance with and derived from the Bible. The Belgic Confession, another key confession of the Reformed tradition, states that “For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one—even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says—ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. ” (Article 7).
The belief in Sola Scriptura, one of the “Five Solas”—the five basic foundations of the faith that arose out of the Protestant Reformation sparked by Martin Luther—is rooted in the conviction that the Bible is the only source of revelation from God. The Lutheran creeds, in agreement with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as stated above, affirm that “the only rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with all teachers ought to be estimated and judged, is the Word of God.”
It bears mentioning that while the Protestant and Evangelical tradition holds to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, it does not reject the role of tradition, reason, and experience in the interpretation of the Bible. Rather, it holds that the Bible is the final authority and the standard for testing these other sources.
Sola Scriptura is not only important for determining correct doctrine and beliefs, but also for guiding and instructing believers in all aspects of their lives and providing a coherent and logical foundation for intelligibility. For some, the Bible is seen as merely a guidebook for living a godly life, containing all the necessary instructions for holy living. But for the true, born again believer, it is the living and active Word of God sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)