All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)]
Protestant reformers summarized the essentials of the Christian faith in five short statements, the first of which is “Scripture alone” (Sola Scriptura) which means the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is the sole, definitive, dependable, and essential authority for our faith and practice. While the Bible is not the only place we’ll find truth, the concept of “Scripture alone” means that everything else we learn about God must be interpreted in light of Scripture. When it comes to theology, if an idea doesn’t stand up to the Bible it hasn’t passed the acid test of truth.
Jesus warned of false prophets who would come in “sheep’s clothing,” [Matthew 7:17] Peter warned of false teachers in the community of believers who would slander the truth [2 Peter 2:1-2], and the Apostle Paul continually warned churches of the dangers of those “who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.” [Galatians 1:6-9] The danger of false doctrine has not lessened in this day and age of influencers and mass media where anyone can create a platform to spread his or her version of God. People are looking for a ray of hope in our divisive and often angry world and false prophets often appeal to what we’d like to hear rather than what God said. Subtle in the way they can spin truth into untruth, false teachers are hard to recognize, especially since so few Christians actually have read the Bible!
Scripture doesn’t explain metamorphosis, photosynthesis, or Boyle’s law or tell us the value of pi, how to find a square root, make a perfect soufflé, or write a computer program. While it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know, Scripture does tell us all we need to know to become a Christian, live as a Christian, and mature as a Christian. The Bible may have been penned by human authors but the words they wrote are the words of God and the Bible is the supreme source of truth for what we believe and how we live.
Sola Scriptura, however, doesn’t mean the Bible is the only place where we’ll find truth. People like Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lee Strobel, John Bunyan, N.T. Wright, A.W. Tozer, and Francis Chan are all valuable resources and I’m sure God inspired many of their words. Nevertheless, unlike the words of Scripture, their words are not infallible and, if they don’t agree with Scripture, they’re the ones who are wrong!
It’s good practice to complement our Scripture reading with Bible commentaries, theology books, Christian blogs, devotionals, Bible studies, and sermons, but we must remember those sources are supplements, not substitutes, for the real thing. Let us continually use discernment and be wary of theology that isn’t firmly based in God’s Word. Consider how different it would have been if Eve had stuck with God’s word instead of believing Satan’s explanation of God’s motives! Sola Scriptura: let Scripture alone be the final authority!
For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures. [Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures)]