Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash
BSac 173:692 (October-December 2016) p. 487
By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
“Sola Scriptura in the Strange Land of Evangelicalism: The Peculiar but Necessary Responsibility of Defending Sola Scriptura against Our Own Kind,” Matthew Barrett, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 19 (2015): 9-38.
Barrett is tutor of systematic theology and church history at Oak Hill Theological College in London. In this essay, which was delivered at the Southern Seminary Theology Conference (September 2015) and is part of a book (God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016]), he asserts that many Protestants today “reject that the Bible is God-breathed and truthful in all it asserts” (p. 10). He attributes this shift to “movements like the Enlightenment, liberalism, and more recently postmodernism [that] have elevated other voices to the level of Scripture or above Scripture and [in which] the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture have been abandoned” (ibid.). His article is divided into three sections. An explanation of Martin Luther’s view of sola scriptura is followed by an attempt to define that doctrine. He then addresses what he sees as two pressing challenges to sola scriptura today.
Barrett narrates the conflict between Luther and the authorities and concludes that according to Luther, Scripture “is the norma normans (the norming norm), rather than the normata normata (the determined, ruled, or normed norm)” (p. 18). He then takes Luther’s position to be the view of the Reformers: “Sola scriptura meant that only Scripture, because it is God’s inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church” (ibid.). He helpfully explains that this does not mean “the Bible is our only authority. Sola scriptura is too easily confused today with nuda scriptura. . . . Sola scriptura acknowledges that there are other important authorities for the Christian, authorities that should be listened to and followed” (p. 19). Scripture is “supreme authority,” a “sufficient authority,” and an “inerrant authority” (pp. 19-20). In his view, “because inerrancy is a biblical corollary and consequence of divine inspiration—inseparably connected and intertwined—it is a necessary component to sola scriptura” (p. 20). Although he admits the claim is controversial, he concludes, “Should we divorce the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture from its authority, disconnecting the two as if one was unrelated to the other, then we will be left with no doctrine of sola scriptura at all”...
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