(This article was originally posted by Nate Taylor at Reason From Scripture).
Often times Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists object to the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura on the grounds that it is not found in scripture. That is, they argue that this is a self-refuting proposition because the phrase “scripture alone” is itself not in scripture. In this blog post I plan to give a correct definition of Sola Scriptura that avoids these misunderstandings and then I intend on giving Biblical arguments for this definition of Sola Scriptura.
This is what Sola Scriptura means According to Protestant Reformed scholar Dr. W. Robert Godfrey:
“The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”
We can see by this definition that there is no contradiction here because the Bible clearly teaches this proposition in 1 Timothy 3:16:
“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
This verse teaches the sufficiency of scripture for faith and practice. It also seems implicit within this text that if scripture can by itself equip every person for every good action then it seems that we would have to individually understand it. This is not the only text that teaches Sola Scriptura, there are two other texts that I believe imply this doctrine.
1 Corinthians 4:6 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
Paul is teaching that the Corinthians not ought to be judgmental and puff themselves with arrogant pride rather they are to be submissive to what is written and not to go beyond it. If this holds true when Paul is saying this to a church in the first century when the Holy Apostles were alive, then how much more should we follow this principle when there is no more living apostles? This is what Reformed Theologian Michael Horton has argued in his class lectures. If Paul is arguing not to go beyond what is written then it is clear that Scripture is necessary for all things pertaining to our salvation, practicing our faith and he is also presupposing in this that we can understand what is written in Holy Scripture.
Acts 17:11 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
In this text, Luke is saying that it was a noble thing that the individual believers were themselves examining the scripture to see if what Paul the Apostle had been saying was true. This shows that it is a noble task to even check the scriptures even against a Holy Apostle. If that was true then, then it would be true today when there are no more Apostles. This shows that individual believer can sufficiently understand and interpret the things in scripture because Luke says this is a noble task if they were getting everything wrong by their individual interpretations then it certainly would not be noble.
Therefore, I believe to have shown two things from this post: 1) The definition of Sola Scriptura is coherent contra Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologist and 2) this definition is biblical derived.