What is transpiring is that the sola (“sole” or “only”) definition of Scripture as the authority for faith and practice is diminished and quite abrogated by adding that which is being strongly embraced by many Christians in denial of biblical principles and truths. Scripture cannot be sole authority if cultural ethics are either added to or take prominence over biblical truth. Syncretism always weakens the more important truth and adding group identities to faith and practice is a form of syncretism that weakens sola scriptura.
For Reformed Faith Christians, one of its bulwarks and beloved tenets is sola scriptura—Scripture alone is authoritative for faith and practice for the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Does this remain true today for Reformed Faith Christians?
For some, if not many, it appears the word sola is being replaced with the word et (and) after scriptura followed by racial identity, gender identity, and more. Sorry, I’m not sure of the Latin for those and other cultural ethics words being added to what has been treasured for centuries, that is, “Scripture alone or solely Scripture” as authoritative for Christians.
We are seeing where instead of doctrine informing ethics, ethics are beginning to shape doctrine. And if it isn’t doctrine alone being shaped, practice is definitely being shaped.
An important question for Reformed Faith Christians and any other Christians, in fact, is are we willing to lose an important word—“sola”—and an important principle? As it is under attack, the realization comes to the fore of its being a very potent and powerful word. We may have missed that point previously because it is in Latin, but now it is being clarified how important and powerful the four-letter word is by additions diminishing it.
In one of the identities—racial identity—it involves an ideology and teaching that divides people into separate groups emphasizing one to be victim and oppressed and the other perpetrator and oppressor. With its growing assimilation in some churches and in the minds of too many Christians, its divisiveness is negative. And this divisiveness takes us back into tribalism. Basically, the emphasis is on blacks and whites more so than other races. What is lacking in this perspective is a historical overview and record seldom communicated or aired, and that is blacks as well as others were as much oppressors as whites in the issue of slavery.
In an article written by Dr. Rollin Grams, Professor of Biblical Theology and Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, entitled “Tribal Victimhood, the Changing Face of Justice, and Paul’s Words to the Roman Church,” he reveals the non-biblical problems with this ideology.
He states: “Tribalism is decidedly not Christian . . . Tribal justice is not blindfolded. . .” He further states: “Tribalism is also decidedly not Christian in that there is no room for forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. Identity matters: once you admit to the crime of ‘white privilege,’ you will not be forgiven. You will begin a lifelong sentence of self-flagellation for your whiteness.” Again, he states, “Tribalism is decidedly not Christian, although it is common for Christians to race to confession for crimes they do not quite understand but for which they are willing to do penance.” He also deals with being male and remaining shamed for life unless adopting a transgender identity.
As to tribal justice not being blindfolded, he uncovers the incredible injustice being promoted by becoming inequitable to all. “Laws need to work the same for all—otherwise Lady Justice has removed her blindfold. If Christians believe that there is racial justice, they need to call for an equal justice.” Murder is murder regardless if victim and perpetrator are of different races.
In another article he relates that “In tribal justice, the other tribe is always wrong. There is no objectivity that stands above both tribes.” We have to remind ourselves that when it comes to justice and judgment, God is impartial. Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs we are commanded and encouraged to practice “righteousness, equity, and justice.” In thinking of those principles and traits, it appears to me there is a development or evolution that takes place. If one is righteous, it leads to one being equitable to all, which results in justice for all.
Dr. Grams points to the epistle to the Romans as the biblical mandate for Christians, specifically in Romans 12:17-19; Romans 12: 20-21; Romans 13:1-4; and Romans 13:6—each section dealing with various principles of justice Christians are called to exercise.
What does this all have to do with sola scriptura, you might ask? What is transpiring is that the sola (“sole” or “only”) definition of Scripture as the authority for faith and practice is diminished and quite abrogated by adding that which is being strongly embraced by many Christians in denial of biblical principles and truths. Scripture cannot be sole authority if cultural ethics are either added to or take prominence over biblical truth. Syncretism always weakens the more important truth and adding group identities to faith and practice is a form of syncretism that weakens sola scriptura.
The time is appropriate and of essence in light of this assault on Scripture alone as authoritative for faith and practice to pose an important question: Reformed Faith Christians—and any others believing the same about Scripture—are we willing to cede and lose the potent word and term sola? I’m not, and I hope you aren’t either.
Discernment and vigilance are desperately needed today in this subtle battle that originates with the “world” and the “devil,” and not from our Triune God—not from the Father, not from the Son, and not from the Holy Spirit.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.