Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sola Scriptura as an Epistemological Principle?

It is objected by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox that there is no verse that teaches sola scriptura. But I tend to disagree with this assessment because I believe that 1 Corinthians 4:6 teaches sola scriptura. But suppose I am all wrong about that and it in fact does not teach sola scriptura, does this entail that I should be a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox? In other words: What are the implications if one rejects that sola scriptura is taught in the Bible? My contention is that there is really no major implication to Protestantism if scripture alone is not taught in the Bible.

So let us suppose for the moment that sola scriptura is not taught in the Bible and that we reject the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic arguments (as I have done elsewhere on this blog) then all we are left with is scripture. So we could modify our view of God's revelation to be as follows: Scripture alone is the only infallible and authoritative rule for faith and practice that we have knowledge of. As for there being additional revelation other than the Bible we should withhold belief that such additional revelation exists. In other words, with respect to the proposition that there is additional revelation other than the Bible we should be agnostic with respect to this proposition.

Once one has accepted this epistemological form of sola scriptura (the criteria given above) then it seems like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims of incoherence lose their weight. This is because the conjunction of reason and scripture warrant the conclusion that these are the only scriptures we know of (this is of course assuming that the other church authority arguments fails). Therefore, there is no logical incoherence with this epistemological version of sola scriptura.


So even if Protestants cannot provide a proof text for sola scriptura this still does not entail that one should be a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. In fact it would appear that the epistemic status of Protestantism is not effected at all if one cannot give a proof text.

Additional arguments must be given and have dealt with those arguments in the posts referenced below.

For the refutation of all the positive arguments that the East and Rome gives for believing their positions see the following blog posts:

Canon Argument:




Infallible Interpretations:


Scripture Alone:



  1. Some Christians claim, "The Bible is all I need," but this notion is not taught in the Bible itself. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Peter 1:20–21, 3:15–16). The "Bible alone" theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church.

    It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The theory is a "tradition of men" that nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of the Bible, and undermines the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1–8).

    Although popular with many "Bible Christian" churches, the "Bible alone" theory simply does not work in practice. Historical experience disproves it. Each year we see additional splintering among "Bible-believing" religions.

    Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians.

    Just open up the Yellow Pages of your telephone book and see how many different denominations are listed, each claiming to go by the "Bible alone," but no two of them agreeing on exactly what the Bible means.

    We know this for sure: The Holy Spirit cannot be the author of this confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). God cannot lead people to contradictory beliefs because his truth is one. The conclusion? The "Bible alone" theory must be false.

  2. Michael, thanks for your comment.

    I'm afraid your line of reasoning is faulty, and also unpersuasive (which is important, since I presume that you actually wish to persuade people that Sola Scriptura is false).

    Notice that I can use the same logic on any group that DENIES sola scriptura. I could say, "Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Mormons, and others all claim to possess the continuing revelation of the Holy Spirit and that their churches are infallible interpreters of the Bible, and yet they disagree on so many things." Notice that as long as I can lump a big group together under some umbrella (in this case, continuing revelation and/o church infallibility) and show that they disagree, I can wave my hand and dismiss any one of them as being false. But of course the statement that I just made does not in and of itself prove that either Catholicism or Mormonism is false. In the same way, putting all the groups in the world together who claim to follow the Bible and saying "look at all the confusion" neither proves that sola scriptura is false, nor does it prove that any of those groups is false.

    Also, you said: "Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians." But of course this statement is also perfectly true of all those groups who DENY sola scriptura. Rome, Orthodoxy, Mormonism, etc all claim that their own interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. So again, this does nothing to disprove sola scriptura.

    Thanks again for the interaction. This is a very important discussion.

  3. I'm afraid your line of reasoning is faulty, and also unpersuasive..

    Dear David,
    It's not my line of reasoning, but the Catholic Church.
    The Catholic Church Stands Alone!

  4. Michael,

    I'm aware that you were arguing the standard position of the Catholic church. That doesn't change the fact that it's a bad argument (as I briefly demonstrated above). And that's why I'm not Catholic.

    If you'd like to interact with my above response, I'd love to discuss it. If not, thanks for the comments.