Reformation Trust Publishing over at Ligonier Ministries has a blog-for-book offer. Check out the details more closely, but basically, if you write and acceptable review (that does not mean positive) on your blog, they’ll send you a free copy of the book. I’m gamer.
I have read the first couple essays in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, which have been good. I’ll probably review each essay and then the book as a whole. In any event, this post will review W. Robert Godfrey’s essay, “What Do We Mean by Sola Scriptura?”
Godfrey starts with a brief and able statement of the two major differences between Rome and historic Protestantism:
The theme of this chapter is one of the two main issues that still divides us: the source of religious truth for the people of God (the other main issue is the question of how a man is made right with God, which Protestants answer with the doctrine of justification by faith alone). As Protestants, we maintain that Scripture alone is our authority. Roman Catholics maintain that Scripture by itself is insufficient as the authority of the people of God, and that tradition and the teaching authority of the church must be added to Scripture.
This does not mean that we discount the necessary ministry of interpretation that belongs to the church. Godfrey supports this by quoting William Whitaker: “For we also say that the church is the interpreter of Scripture, and that the gift of interpretation resides only in the church: but we deny that it pertains to particular persons, or is tied to any particular see or succession of men.” This is an important thing to nail down. Sola scriptura doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t need the church to interpret it. I wish, however, that Dr. Godfrey had gone a little further and discussed the relationship between the authority of the text of Scripture and the authority and necessity of the interpretation of the church.
After presenting a scant scriptural defense of the Protestant position that “all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible with enough clarity that the ordinary believer can find them there and understand,” he turns to 2 Timothy 3. His handling of this text is wonderful. One point he makes in this section that was powerful to me is that Timothy had access to plenty of apostolic teaching and oral tradition. He’d rubbed shoulders with the Apostle Paul, don’t you know? But even after all that, Paul instructs him to preach the Scriptures (not any kind of oral tradition), as they contain what’s necessary to the perfecting of the man of God. Good stuff.
The remainder of the essay (really, the bulk of it) is profitably spend examining Rome’s responses and assertions in four areas: 1) the Word of God, 2) Tradition, 3) the Church and the Canon, and 4) Unity. The one thing I want to focus on from this section is Godfrey’s articulation of Rome’s view of the Word of God and the church. First, we have the Word of God, by which Rome means both the written Word and the unwritten apostolic Tradition (which is difficult for anyone to define). But over these Rome posits herself. Who, after all, is fit to tell us what the Word (written and unwritten) means? In case you came up with the wrong answer, the Catholic Catechism will set you straight: “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” Godfrey rightly comments that, “for Rome, the only real authority is the church: sola ecclesia.”
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