Sola Scriptura or Sola Jesus?

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You may have never heard of the term “sola scriptura,” but I bet you are familiar with the concept.

It’s the idea that the scriptures contain all knowledge necessary for salvation and is the only final authority in matters of faith and practice. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only  doctrines that are found directly within the scriptures or indirectly by using valid deductive reasoning from them are to be admitted or confessed. Sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it demands that all other authorities are subordinate to and are to be corrected by the scriptures (paraphrased from Wikipedia).

This doctrine first made its appearance during the 16th century in the Reformation, in which Martin Luther initiated a reaction against the ignorance of the Catholic Church regarding some significant issues relating to the scriptures. One such issue was the Catholic doctrine of ex cathedra. This is the doctrine that states that the Pope can choose to “define a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church” (First Vatican Council). In other words, if the Pope says something is true, then it must be accepted as true. A similar idea was probably at work on a practical level as well; only those who were “qualified” could interpret the scriptures. Thus, the declaration of ultimate truth rested within their power of those who were ordained by the ecclesiastical authorities such as bishops.

Seeing the corruption within the religious institutions of their time, the Protestants (those who protested against the practices of the Catholic Church) swung to the other side of the pendulum and decided to place absolute authority within the scriptures and the scriptures alone. The key implication of this move was that interpretations of the scriptures were not given the same authority as the scriptures themselves, no matter who the interpreter was. Hence, the ecclesiastical authority came to be viewed as subject to correction by the scriptures.

This idea was taken further when people began to hold that not only is the bible the Word of God but every part of it too in and of itself, irrespective of context, setting the stage for the idea that individual verses lifted out of the scriptures are true in their own right and can be used to prove a doctrine or practice (“proof texting”). This practice was started around 1600 by Protestant scholastics who took the teachings of the Reformers and systematized them according to the rules of Aristotelian logic (i.e. they relied on Greek philosophy).

Although claiming, as the Catholic church had done, that an “ecclesiastical authority” could declare truth for everyone was silly, claiming that a book could do the same was just as ridiculous. Think about it. A book cannot tell you what is true because it cannot interpret itself for you. Regardless of whether interpretation is done for one’s self or for others, the reader themselves must necessarily do the interpreting. Further, bibles cannot exercise authority over people; they are lifeless books (by the way, if my calling bibles “lifeless” made you think of Hebrews 4:12, it might benefit you to know that it’s talking about Jesus, not bibles).

Selecting a group of individuals or a collection of writings to tell us what is true can never be made an absolutely objective endeavor. We cannot escape subjectivity.

To put it plainly, sola scriptura is a man-made doctrine of the 16th century that was created in reaction to bad church politics. This doesn’t conclusively demonstrate that it’s wrong. But that this idea wasn’t believed for the first 1500 years after Jesus’ time on earth should cause you to seriously question its validity.

Further, although many people claim sola scriptura as a foundational doctrine, it is certainly not universally held among believers and is even rejected by entire believing institutions (for example, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches equally uphold the value of the tradition that was started by the apostles).

So I would like to propose another option: sola Jesus. (I don’t mean the solus Christus of the Reformation.)

What I basically mean by that is that everything that people have claimed that the ecclesiastical authorities or the scriptures are (as they pertain to truth and authority), Jesus and Jesus alone is.

Such a concept is unpopular because, unlike physical people and books we can feel, hear, and see, Jesus is not always objectively tangible. If we say Jesus gets the final word on everything, the application of authority necessarily works subjectively because people hear and interpret what Jesus communicates to us differently.

That’s fine by me.

The Catholic Church has its pope with his ex cathedra, and Protestants have their bibles with its sola scriptura. Both systems ultimately replace the person of Jesus with something else as the final authority. I accept the man Jesus as the subjective basis for truth, and indeed as Truth itself.

Some might say that this is all fine in theory but that it cannot work practically. What could having Jesus as the ultimate authority possibly look like?

In response I would first point out that lacking experience and a conception of how it could work doesn’t invalidate it. Second, sola scriptura (or having ecclesiastical authorities for that matter) is just as “impractical” because it is just as subjective as having a person as the ultimate standard.

I understand that there is for many a significant fear of deception when it comes to being “led by the Spirit.” There are plenty of cults out there that began because somebody “got a revelation.” Yet I can say with honesty that I have no fear of the like because I trust Jesus’ ability to correct me more than I fear my potential to be led astray. Cults are obvious as such because they cease to be centered on Jesus and accordingly cease to look like Jesus.

Please notice that I did not say and understand that I have no intention of saying, “let’s throw out the scriptures!” There may be other things that people think I am saying that I did not explicitly assert. Please refrain from jumping to conclusions about what I believe about the scriptures based on this blog post because that is something that I have not expounded on here. If that’s something you would like to know, I’d love to talk with you about it. Just let me know 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura or Sola Jesus?

  1. I understand what you are trying to say, and i can agree that many religious people who are not in the spirit and who are not led by God cannot rightly understand the scriptures and they can twist them to their own destruction. But remember that the holy scriptures were not of any private interpretation, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and all scripture is given by inspiration of God. It is from God and can only be understood if Jesus is in you, Jesus opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures and he expounded all the OT scriptures concerning himself.

    The very saving gospel that Paul preach 1 Corinthans 15:1-5 was according to the scriptures. The first first wisdom comes from the scriptures to make them wise unto salvation, to show them Gods plan and to use the law lawfully. The law is made for a sinner and ungodly man. Gods Light will convict them when they hear and see the truth and draw them to himself. But then when they believe the gospel by faith God comes into their hearts and they can know him inwardly. But Paul said to keep in memory what he preached unless they had believed in vain.

    I know we all think we will not go astray as believers because we have Jesus in us. and if we abide in him by faith and walk in his word he will keep us. But Jesus said if we keep his sayings. Those sayings are written in scripture, and though he is in our hearts we still fall sometimes and can be led astray. Peter the might apostle was led astray in Galatians. he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel and Paul had to rebuke him. The words of Paul and his message to peter are written down for us in holy scripture, for all those who would be brought into a similar bondage. And if Peter could be confused and go away from the truth, even though he had Jesus in his heart and knew him, then all of us should be sober and take heed also.

    But I agree that it is not scripture alone, we need the Spirit of God to understand scripture and the scripture has certain functions. But when we know Jesus in our hearts we are able as we are led by the spirit to use scripture aright, and to rightly divide the word of truth. This is needed to exhort the gainsayers and cults and false Christ out there that seek to confuse and toss about with every wind of doctrine the saints. But the rule is to live in Christ , to live from the new creation and to take heed unto ourselves and to the doctrine to continue in them, for in so doing we shall save both ourselves and them that hear us.

    The danger of men using scripture alone. Is that they forget Christ in them and to be led by the Spirit. The holy scriptures were given by the Spirit and the same Spirit that is in believers will direct them to all truth and the holy scriptures are the scriptures of truth. They meet face to face and are only seen in the spirit. The natural man cannot know them and use them aright. This is where all false doctrines and cults come from. from en who are not in Christ and who are not led by the Spirit. But always remember Jesus was in the men that wrote the scriptures for the church.

    we also see in the scriptures the fruits of the two trees , the good tree and its fruit and the bad tree and its fruit. If we examine ourselves to see if jesus Christ is in us, then we should be able to see the fruit of the Spirit that is defined and shown in scripture. But if we are not in the Spirit and see the fruit unto death, as paul shows us in 1 Cor 6:9,10 etc, ten if we think we are ok we are deceived. Paul writing to believers warned them often of being deceived, and he even warned of another jesus and another gospel, which some had gone after. Even though they once had Christ in them. We should study to show ourselves approved workmen that need not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.

    One use of holy scripture is for correction. When you meet a Mormon, or a JW or man other cults and those who claim to have the true jesus. They will often use scripture and say they have jesus in them. But their gospel is false and if men believe it they will be cursed. How do we know this?, well, we have paul who defined the saving gospel in 1 Cor 15:1-5.

    Paul says to overseers to be able to convince the gainsayers with sound doctrine, as they have been taught.

    so if we only look at the scriptures as a law or just another book, we miss the God breathed inspired aspect of Christ speaking in the hearts of the men who wrote the words. Jesus, paul, Peter, john and man others used scriptures to reprove, rebuke and exhort, and to convince the gainsayers, to teach doctrine and instruction in righteousness. jesus even rebuked the devil when he was tempted.

    When yu have men who disagree in the church and both claim to have Christ in them, and the directions they go are very different and they are both seeking to influence the body, how do we show them clarity? Do we just say, “well, I think I agree or I don’t agree, and give our opinions saying that Jesus is in us”. What if one man said, ” I think Jesus is not God in the flesh, and another man in the gathering said I think he is. What if the one who said jesus is not God said he is in me only as an idea or I create him in my mind. How would we be able to correct that and show the truth. Well we use holy scripture and the words of jesus through the writers. I believe Jesus, Paul and Peter and the things they said more than mans ideas or opinions. I would just show the man what John said, if any man does not confess that Christ came in the flesh he is not of God, he is the spirit of antichrist. One section of scripture would clarify that. John even said about what he wrote that if men didn’t listen to him they were not of God. Jesus said , he tat is of God heareth Gods words, ye there fore hear them not because ye are not of God. So we can know that those of God will hears Gods words, in whatever way they come to us. We may hear Gods word in our heart by him speaking directly, or we may hear his word in the holy scriptures from things he has said, and the witness is in ourselves.

    all this must be looked at in the light of the Spirit in us and the Spirit that gave forth the holy scriptures

    • I didn’t say it’s impossible to be led astray (and therefore that I am infallible :] lol), only that I’m not worried about it. Also, I highly value the scriptures. So I think we’re on the same page 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts in detail, Bruce

      • anytime brother.

        I have just met so many other groups and people who try to say they have Jesus and know him and they twist scripture to such a destructive horror, that we need to really know the Lord and what he has taught us about all things from holy scripture also.

        God bless, and I am glad you highly value scripture. I see scripture as jesus speaking to us and the churches about things of vital importance and to help us in so many things. This is all seen and known in the Spirit. And the doctrines that Paul and Peter and John and others spoke in holy scripture, come from knowing the Lord and doing his will. Jesus said anyone who would do his will would know the doctrine.

        what city do you live in by the way. I am near Toronto Canada

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  4. The primary reason this idea of sola scriptura may not have been widely believed early on was because Bibles in the hands of individuals was rare to non-existent. Thus it still came down to trusting whomever had a Bible to interpret and teach it correctly. However, as BIbles became more available to individuals, this belief spread, because it was written for men, not for masters and the Lord, through study, prayer and preaching, makes its meaning available for all. Sola Scriptura is surely true.

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