Sola versus Solo Scriptura

The creeds, confessions, and writings of the past can be a healthy corrective against the errors of my day.

While believers should be Bereans and search the Scriptures for themselves, we don’t do it in a vacuum. Our study of the Word is not disconnected from what has transpired in church history. Even the means by which and the theological grid through which we interpret the Word are influenced by those who have gone before us. 

 

Sola Scriptura: the teaching that Scripture is the Church’s only infallible and sufficient rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines.

A friend on Facebook posted a link to the Heidelblog – Sola Scripture ≠ Nuda Scriptura. I wasn’t familiar with the term, Nuda or Solo Scriptura, so I read the post, which says:

Evangelical Christians in North America sometimes misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the Christian’s only theological resource, that it can and should be denuded of its churchly context (hence nuda Scriptura). Such an understanding is altogether incorrect…. Calvin believed that holy Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice should serve as the final authority by which to judge Christian doctrine and practice, but it was not his only resource for theology…He recognized the strategic importance of demonstrating the continuity of Protestant teaching with the core convictions of the early Church.

While believers should be Bereans and search the Scriptures for themselves, we don’t do it in a vacuum. Our study of the Word is not disconnected from what has transpired in church history. Even the means by which and the theological grid through which we interpret the Word are influenced by those who have gone before us.

So given the potential for deception if one is left to one’s self, I wondered if any cults or erroneous teachings were conceived via Solo Scriptura. In my reading, I happened upon:

– Caleb Rich “insisted that his own interpretation of Scripture should not be mediated by any other authority, historical or ecclesiastical – a conviction steeled by the competing claims of rival denominations and a new openness to visionary experiences.” He begin “having  a series of visionary experiences in which celestial persons counseled him to avoid all other denominations and all other human advice.” Rich became the main leader of Universalism in New England at the end of the 1700’s. 1

– Lucy Mack Smith came to the following conviction: “I said in my heart that there was not then upon earth the religion which I sought. I therefore determined to examine my Bible, and taking Jesus and the disciples as my guide, to endeavor to obtain from God that which man could neither give nor take away… The Bible I intended should be my guide to life and salvation.” She eventually “sealed this individualization of conscience by finding a minister who agreed to baptize her as a solitary Christian without any attachment to any congregation.” Perhaps she isn’t very well known, but her son is – Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons. 2

I would hasten to add that believers may find themselves in isolated situations because of persecution. A person in a previously unreached group may be the first and only Christian in the community. There may be situations where a believer needs to leave an unhealthy or even abusive church environment and take time to recover. I get that, and my recovery took seven years. But spiritual isolation in the present and from the past can be a dangerous thing.

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