Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sola Scriptura as an Epistemological Principle?

It is objected by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox that there is no verse that teaches sola scriptura. But I tend to disagree with this assessment because I believe that 1 Corinthians 4:6 teaches sola scriptura. But suppose I am all wrong about that and it in fact does not teach sola scriptura, does this entail that I should be a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox? In other words: What are the implications if one rejects that sola scriptura is taught in the Bible? My contention is that there is really no major implication to Protestantism if scripture alone is not taught in the Bible.

So let us suppose for the moment that sola scriptura is not taught in the Bible and that we reject the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic arguments (as I have done elsewhere on this blog) then all we are left with is scripture. So we could modify our view of God's revelation to be as follows: Scripture alone is the only infallible and authoritative rule for faith and practice that we have knowledge of. As for there being additional revelation other than the Bible we should withhold belief that such additional revelation exists. In other words, with respect to the proposition that there is additional revelation other than the Bible we should be agnostic with respect to this proposition.

Once one has accepted this epistemological form of sola scriptura (the criteria given above) then it seems like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims of incoherence lose their weight. This is because the conjunction of reason and scripture warrant the conclusion that these are the only scriptures we know of (this is of course assuming that the other church authority arguments fails). Therefore, there is no logical incoherence with this epistemological version of sola scriptura.


So even if Protestants cannot provide a proof text for sola scriptura this still does not entail that one should be a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. In fact it would appear that the epistemic status of Protestantism is not effected at all if one cannot give a proof text.

Additional arguments must be given and have dealt with those arguments in the posts referenced below.

For the refutation of all the positive arguments that the East and Rome gives for believing their positions see the following blog posts:

Canon Argument:




Infallible Interpretations:


Scripture Alone:


Friday, July 23, 2010

Gerry Matatics and The Sinlessness of Mary

In his debate with James White on the Marian Doctrines Roman Catholic Apologist Gerry Matatics makes the following argument for the sinlessness of Mary:

P1: Honoring your Mother entails that if S has the ability to keep S's mother sinless then S would bring it about that S's mother is sinless

P2: Jesus has the ability to keep his mother sinless

C: Jesus brought it about that his mother is sinless

The problem with this argument is obvious: When Mary was born and inherited original sin at that time she was not Jesus' mother (Jesus with respect to his human nature was not born). So Jesus at that time was not under obligation to bring about her sinlessness. Another obvious problem with this argument is that the commandment says to honor your *father* and your mother. This means that if this argument was carried out consistently then we ought to think that Joseph was sinless, but neither Catholics nor Protestants teach this. All this to say arguments like these are entirely desperate attempts to hide the obvious truth that Roman Catholic churches teachings cannot be justified by scripture and right reason.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Will There Be A Future Divine Judgment By Works?


Historic Protestantism has always taught that the Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone. The Doctrine of justification by faith alone is clearly taught in Romans 3:28 28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” However, there has been in recent years some Protestants that reject the doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of a future justification based on works. This rejection of justification by faith alone can be explicit or implicit depending on who you are reading. This tendency to reject sola fide on the basis of a future justification by works is primarily held by those who are proponents of the Federal Visionists movement. To give a concrete example: Rich Lusk is a Federal Visionists proponent and he says the following from his blog here http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/future-justification-to-the-doers-of-the-law concerning future justification:

“The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone. This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification. But if Joshua is to remain justified — that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity — he must be faithful. Thus, initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience.”

And again Rich Lusk says:

“Again, we find the Bible teaching that future justification is according to works. Final justification is to the (faithful) doers of the law (Rom. 2:1ff) and by those good works which make faith complete (Jas. 2:14ff). Justification will not be fully realized until the resurrection.”

In these two quotations we see an explicit denial of the traditional doctrine of justification by faith alone. Therefore, because of the seriousness of this issue in even Protestant circles now. I believe it is important that we look at the biblical texts that are often used to support future justification by works. It is my position that the Bible does not teach a future justification by works. I shall deal with the Bible passages that are appealed to support a future justification by works and I shall demonstrate that none of these passages in fact teach this doctrine that is incompatible with sola fide.

Romans 2:6-8

The first text I will look at is Romans 2:6-8 which reads “ 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Paul is teaching in Romans 2:6-8 that the only way for us to obtain eternal life is by works. Protestants do not actually disagree with this nor is this principle incompatible with justification by faith. This is because in the doctrine of justification by faith we are legally imputed Christ's perfect work by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). So we will go to heaven by this works principle. However, this is not our works but Christ's works which are legally imputed to our account (Rom. 5:19). Therefore, this text does not disprove justification by faith alone, but it rather this proves the principle behind justification by faith which is this: that in order to obtain eternal salvation one needs to have fulfilled a works principle.

Romans 2:13

Romans 2 contains another passage that is used to attempt to support a future justification by works, this is in Romans 2:13 which reads “13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” This is an additional passage that expresses the principle in Romans 2:6-8. The principle is this: In order to be righteous one needs to do the Law of God perfectly. This is what Jesus did for us and it is imputed to us by faith alone in Christ Jesus (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). Contextually, this is the most plausible understanding of this text because Paul in Romans 3:9-20 teaches that in light of human sin no one can be justified by works because everyone has failed to follow the law. So if we were to take this passage in the way that some Federal Visionists do then we would end up contradicting Paul's thought in the larger context of Romans; the Federal Visionist interpretation of this text contradicts Paul's thought on the lack of ability of humans to follow God's Law and on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The best explanation of these two texts in Romans 2 is to understand them as a principle that is behind justification by faith alone.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Another text that is mistakenly used to support a future justification by works is 2 Corinthians 5:10 which reads 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The best way to understand this passage is that it is referring to God's perfect standard of Justice for goodness or good deeds done in the body. The only way we are going to get to heaven is if we are good in our bodies, but we have all failed to do this. So the only option for a sinful person is to have faith in Jesus, so that his goodness is legally imputed to us by faith alone.

Matthew 7:21-23

Now we are going to moving from Paul's Epistles to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of many sections in Matthew that has been mistakenly thought to be teaching a future justification by works, it reads “21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” This verse is compatible with justification by faith alone and it actually teaches against a future justification by works. These people are condemned by God because they are appealing to their good works so that God will let them into heaven. God's response is that what they are doing is against his “will” and that he never knew them. What is God's “will” for sinners so that they can enter into heaven? God's prescribed “will” for sinners is that they are to have faith in Christ so that they can enter heaven. So far from contradicting justification by faith this verse is compatible with it and it teaches against a future justification by works.

Matthew 12:36-37

Another passage that is used in Matthew to support a future justification by works is Matthew 12:36-37 which reads “36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." The context here is that Jesus is condemning the self-righteous Pharisees. The way Jesus is condemning them is by holding before them a perfect standard of speech which they have failed. The principle behind these passages is the same sort of principle we have seen in the previous passages we have looked at. This principle is that God requires perfect obedience and in this case Jesus is emphasizing perfect obedience in speech. The only person who had perfect speech was Jesus Christ himself and we receive all of his righteousness by faith alone.

Matthew 25:31-46

The last passage we will look at is Matthew 25:31-46 and it reads “31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." These passages are not teaching that one is justified by these good deeds, but rather Jesus is pointing out their good works to demonstrate to them that they have been justified by faith alone. The final judgment has an element which is demonstrative. In other words, on the final day of judgment God will speak of your good works to show that you were imputed Christ righteousness when you had faith in Christ. God will give you evidence that you are believer and he will give others evidence that they are unbelievers. This is what Matthew 25 is teaching.


We have seen no good reason to believe in a future justification by works. This view is incompatible with what Paul teaches on justification by faith alone and it is also incompatible with the Gospel of Grace. When we as believers die we should not fear a future judgment by works because we will be judged by Christ's perfect works. Therefore, on that glorious day God will say to us “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Joy of your Master”. The only reason why God will say this is because of Jesus, who was a good and faithful servant in our place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What is Sola Scriptura?

The following post aims to lay out the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Please limit comments and questions to matters of definition and not whether or not Sola Scriptura is true (there are and will be other posts for that).

I. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

A. Scripture is the final authoritative norm of doctrine and practice
"Within the reciprocal nexus of Scripture, Church and the rule of faith then, Scripture occupies an absolutely unique place and role. It alone is verbally and completely inspired by God from its first word to its last. It alone is always and everywhere the very Word of the living God. Scripture alone, therefore, can function as the 'canon,' the rule, the final authoritative standard of truth against which all else is measured. Yes, it is the Church which does the measuring, and yes the rule of faith provides basic parameters of measurement, but it is Scripture and Scipture alone that is that standard norm" (Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, 262).

1. Scripture is inspired (theopneustos)

a. The Holy Spirit selected and influenced certain men and used them for the infallible communication of His mind without overriding their individual styles and personalities. Still, what they communicated, God communicated without error.

b. Some of the verses appealed to are: 2 Pet 1:21, 2 Tim 3:16

2. Scripture is infallible

a. If something is infallible, it is unable to err (inerrancy means there simply are no errors).

b. The apostles and prophets were not inherently infallible (Gal 2:11-13).

c. Since Scripture is inspired and God-breathed, it is inherently infallible.

3. Scripture has unique authority

a. It has the binding authority of God Himself and no man or church shares this particular type of authority (2 Thess 2:4).

b. The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15), but just as Jesus claimed to be the truth itself (John 14:6), so also Scripture claims to be truth itself (John 17:17). There is a qualitative difference between truth itself and the pillar of truth.

4. The supreme normativity of Scripture

a. Because Scripture has unique, infallible and final authority, it stands as the church's supreme norm. Only Scripture can be described as the "absolute norm" because only it is God-breathed. "The supreme normativity of Scripture is the logical corollary of its inspiration, infallibility, and unique authority" (Mathison, 266). If Scripture carries the authority of God Himself then its supreme authority is self-evident.

b. The writings of the fathers, canons, decrees of councils...ect are not God-breathed and therefore are of lesser authority. All of these must submit and conform to Scripture.

-Notice this doctrine does not claim that Scripture is our only authority. There are other authorities that are subordinate to Scripture.

B. Scripture is the only source of normative revelation after the apostolic era

1. Scripture has the quality of perfection

a. Scripture in itself is a perfectly complete and adequate source of revelation. It contains "all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly" (Grudem, Systematic Theo, 127).

-Notice this doctrine does not teach that Scripture is the only thing needed for the Christian faith and life...Scripture fulfills the revelatory role.

-Verses proponents appeal to are: Deut 29:29, Luke 16:29, 2 Tim 3:15

2. Scripture has the quality of sufficiency

a. "Our final authority is Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone...[it] is inspired and inherently infallible...but Scripture does not exist in a vacuum" (Mathison, 259). The Bible cannot preach or teach itself and the church must read and interpret it.

C. Scripture is interpreted in and by the church

"There is a reciprocal relationship between the Spirit-inspired Word of God and the Spirit-indwelt people of God" (267).

1. Ecclesiastical authority

a. The church is a subordinate authority recognized by the early church and the Reformers. Furthermore, Jesus Himself gives the church the authority to bind and loose...something not given to every individual member within the church (Mtt 18:18).

b. The church has the authority to teach and make disciples of all nations (Mtt 28:18-20) and is described as the body and bride of Christ (Eph 1:22-23, 5:32, Rev 21:9). It is the instrument God uses to make His Word known (Eph 3:10).

c. Many of the Reformers (Luther and Calvin) also held that it is only within the visible church that one can find the gospel and forgiveness although many protestants now hold that all that believe and put their faith in Christ are part of the church. Some call this the "invisible" church.

d. The fallibility of the church does not make her authority invalid. One only needs to look at human mothers to see this is true. It is up to the church to look at and correct herself according to the infallible word of Scripture.

e. Francis Turretin lays out three essential aspects of the church's authority: 1) articles of faith 2) ordaining or making canons/constitutions for good order 3) the judicial and exercise of discipline (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3:281).

f. The church's authority derives from and depends upon her conformity with the inherently authoritative Word of God. "The Church may be likened to a court of law, but she is not to be confused with the source of law" (Mathison, 270).

2. Private and Corporate Judgment

a. There is a difference between the role of the conscience in the individual and in the church. Individuals should read Scripture, but final ecclesiastical authority does not rest in the individual member. The Individual however, is ultimately responsible before God.

b. The individual should not study the Bible in isolation from the rest of the church (past and present). One can read the Scriptures by themselves, but should not read it individualistically.

c. "Excommunication is an authoritative judgment of the communion of saints as the covenantal body of Christ. And teaching the Word is the authoritative duty of the communion of saints as the covenantal body of Christ" (Mathison, 271).

D. Scripture is interpreted according to the regula fidei

1. Tradition: The Rule of Faith (regula fidei)

a. Tradition was the doctrine committed to the Church by Christ and the apostles through oral and written forms. The content was identical. What was once primarily an oral tradition was gradually written down in the canonical Scriptures.

b. The regula fidei was a summary of the apostolic doctrine that was taught and preserved by the church. It functioned as a hermeneutical context for the church after the deaths of the apostles.

2. Creeds and Confessions

a. Creeds and confessions aim to establish boundaries within the church. They are beliefs held to by the church (corporate).

-Many evangelicals have an aversion to established creeds because they misunderstand the way in which they are authoritative and/or their summary nature. They might agree with everything in a particular creed while denying the ultimate authority of a human summary of Scripture. Also, some find individual church creeds are needlessly divisive when they require adherence to denominational distinctives (Calvinism, Views on the last days, age of the earth..ect). Some may believe creeds are good and necessary, but that individual members should not have to sign statements that go beyond the rule of faith.

-Almost all churches (even ones that think of themselves as non-creedal) require members to be interviewed and affirm the basic tenants of the Christian faith.

3. The Perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture

a. The authority of ecumenical creeds is held to in light of the belief in the perspicuity of Scripture on basic and essential matters. They are a confession of what the church as a whole has read in the Scriptures.

b. Charles Hodge says, "If the Scriptures be a plain book, and the Spirit performs the functions of a teacher to all the children of God, it follows inevitably that they must agree in all essential matters in their interpretation of the Bible. And from that fact it follows that for an individual Christian to dissent from the faith of the universal Church (i.e., the body of true believers), is tantamount to dissenting from the Scriptures themselves" (279).

c. There can be new insights into the Scriptures (perhaps unnoticed or not articulated by previous eras), but these need to be consistent with the rule of faith.

-This doctrine does not claim that every part of Scripture is clear and easy to understand-- a point many Protestants, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox misunderstand about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

-Many modern evangelicals who advocate a tradition 0 approach try to affirm the perspicuity of Scripture while rejecting the use of creeds!

Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura informed most, but not all of the explanation of Sola Scriptura in this post.

Many Protestants find 1 Cor 4:6 to be an important principle for Sola Sriptura. "Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, 'Do not go beyond what is written.' Then you will not take pride in one man over against another."