Common Evangelical Attacks Against Sola Scriptura

As I reflect over the last 10 years it is striking that most of my defense of the Bible does not have to do with its truthfulness but its sufficiency.

The bottom line is that while we may often say that the Bible is sufficient we far too often shelf sola scriptura for what I labeled sola experienca. Sola experienca does not promise to sanctify anyone–in fact it only stirs up division. When we trade out sola scriptura for sola experienca we not only lose the power to sanctify but the essence of what it means to live as a Christian.

 

When I first began in full-time ministry I remember thinking that it would be important for me to spend significant time studying apologetics, especially the defense of the Bible. This was an unexpected blessing in so many ways. The most substantial blessing was that my faith was strengthened to cling to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Of course, I found myself more equipped to defend the Bible against those who sought to undermine its authority. While I enjoyed many evangelistic opportunities, I was not, after all, primarily an apologist. I was a pastor in a local church.

As I reflect over the last 10 years it is striking that most of my defense of the Bible does not have to do with its truthfulness but its sufficiency. And further, the context for these discussions has been among professing Christians. Does this surprise you? The more I talk with other pastors the more I find this to be true: the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is under attack both explicitly and implicitly.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture simply means that the Bible is enough. The Scriptures contain “all of the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.” (Systematic Theology, Grudem,) p. 127. You can see this doctrine taught in passages like 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and Psalm 19:7ff.

Most evangelicals don’t often have issues with the first of these 3 spheres that Grudem lays out. Salvation is revealed to us “outside in” not “inside out”. We hear, understand, and believe the gospel—that external word. However it is the other two that become more difficult to nail down.

Here are 3 common attacks upon the sufficiency of Scripture over the years.

The dangerously deceitful but nevertheless authoritative “Lord Feeling.” Let’s say that someone wants to do something—even something good like be a pastor—and they encounter objections from members of the congregation. What do they do? Well, they have to evaluate the objections. Should one listen to those who know him best? Should they evaluate his character and gifting of ministry? Yes, it would seem so. There must be some evaluation of a man’s character and gifting for ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1). But let’s say that the perspective pastor does not like the answer he is given so he packs up and moves down the road to another church to pursue the ministry. Instead of feeling like submitting to the biblical authority he submits to “Lord feeling”. He feels like doing something else. What does this say about his view of the sufficiency of Scripture? It would seem to indicate that he is not fully on board with this doctrine.

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