Two Paradigms For Adherents Of Sola Scriptura -- By: P. Andrew Sandlin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:4 (Fall 2000)
Article: Two Paradigms For Adherents Of Sola Scriptura
Author: P. Andrew Sandlin


Two Paradigms For Adherents Of Sola Scriptura

P. Andrew Sandlin

The Protestant Reformation unwaveringly emphasized sola scriptura—Scripture alone. Certain portions of the late medieval church had posited (whether explicitly or implicitly) ecclesiastical tradition as an independent source of authority. The reformers opposed this: for example, Mariology, veneration of the saints, purgatory, and indulgences had no part in the Bible’s revelation. To hold, as Rome did, that they comprised ingredients of the Christian Faith was to undercut the Gospel. The Latin slogan sola scriptura meant that the Bible alone is the church’s sole, ultimate authority. All other authorities—Church, state, parents, and so on—do not speak a divine word. Each holds only a derivative authority, subordinate to the Sacred Scriptures.1

It is commonly held by both Protestants and Roman Catholics alike that sola scriptura was an innovation the Reformers introduced into Western Christianity. Actually, this is not the case at all. There was wide acceptance of sola scriptura in certain sectors of the late medieval church.2 Unfortunately, there was also the viewpoint against which the Reformers were reacting—ecclesiastical tradition as a separate, independent authority.

At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic answer to the Protestant Reformation, the Latin church codified the “two-source” theory of revelational authority: both the Sacred Scriptures and unwritten tradition handed down in the Church were deemed equally authoritative.3 It is this

theory which the original Protestants and their successors vigorously opposed. To embrace the “two-source” theory of divine revelation, they believed, was to erase the Creator-creature distinction.4 This is the great error of Tridentine Roman Catholicism, and it is parallel to its twin, salvation by both faith and works. Both erase the Creator-creature distinction. This is a dangerous form of synergism. The Protestants recognized that man and God cooperate no more in salvation than they do in revelation. God’s revelation to man is an absolute revelation in whose origin man does not cooperate. God’s salvation of man is an absolute salvation in whose origin man does not cooperate. Man is the object of both revelation and salvation, not the subject. Sola scriptura guards the Creator-creature distinction as it relates to God’s objective revelation to man in the Bible.<...

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