Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sola Scriptura

I've heard it said that sola scriptura implies accepting only what the scripture says about God and godly things, while rejecting everything else; but I don't think that's what the term means--certainly not to me. Sola scriptura is the declaration that scripture--God's inspired word--is the ultimate, infallible authority on spiritual matters. All else should defer to the Bible. It is not a suggestion that extraneous material is contemptible or unworthy of consideration.

For example, if someone writes an insightful biblical commentary, or a book discussing the Gospel's effects on one's life, or an apologetic treatment--each of these are valid forms of illumination or elaboration upon the scriptures, as it were.

The key to determining the value of extra-biblical content is the degree to which it complements the Bible, rather than attempts supplanting it.

Take the oft-discussed and debated concept of Tradition. Is Tradition valuable and acceptable? Sure, as long as it supplements scripture and doesn't contradict it. This is where the Catholic Church gets into trouble. Rather than a harmonious support of God's word, Tradition becomes a distinct entity all its own, of equal gravity to scripture in many scenarios, and of even more relevance in others. Human sayings and traditions and opinions should never seek one-upping Christ and His teachings for humanity. When they conflict with His revelation to us, we should fall back upon scripture as our bulwark, setting it above the others and understanding it as the authoritative voice of God, speaking to us for our betterment. God's thoughts are higher than ours, and He knows His creation best. Learned men like Augustine of Hippo or Thomas Aquinas cannot hold a candle to His awesome majesty, nor should we treat their words with more reverence than His.

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