Book Review: “Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible” by Reformation Trust Publishers (2009)

Image result for sola scriptura reformation trustAs the subtitle suggests, this book is as much an apologetic for Protestantism’s stand on Scripture as it is an argument against Catholicism’s. The debates are full, and the format of each chapter is theologically and historically heavy, but the evidence for Protestantism and the errors of Catholicism are so clearly articulated throughout this book, one cannot help but leave it with a strengthened faith in the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word above all else.

The roots of the debate between Protestantism and Catholicism described in this book begin with an either/or scenario: either sola scriptura or sola ecclesia. Is the sufficiency of Scripture enough for a common believer, or is the teaching of the Church required for individual understanding? Even though I automatically cling to the Protestant view because of both my upbringing and the words of Scripture Itself, I still find a similar debate raging within my own heart. I desire to go to foreign lands and teach the Word to fellow believers who haven’t the means or access to seminaries or Christian schools. Does that mean that I believe not in sola scriptura but rather in o sola mio? Would these fellow lay-people fail in understanding God if I did not go? The answer to this question is certainly “No,” though an explanation is required. While the believers in foreign lands can learn of God from Scripture without me or another teacher to help, the fact remains that they would learn of God much faster with our help. Just as scientists build off the learning of those who go before them, so we Christians can also learn from those who go before us. God did not design that all His children start their Christian education from scratch, that every believer discover covenant theology (or dispensational theology) or the tenants of Calvinism (or Armenianism) on his own. Such things can and should be taught by knowledgeable believers so the advance of each individual’s understanding of God (though small it may be) can come that much more speedily. The problem for the Roman Catholic Church comes when they teach that the Church is necessary for individual understanding, thereby destroying the sufficiency of God’s Word. With their hold on both written books and unwritten tradition, they believe “Sola ecclessia or death” (of the strength of the Church).

This book also discusses at length the original establishment of the canon of Scripture and documents the views of said Scripture by early Church fathers. Some of this information was new to me, for example how Dr. John Gerstner distinguished between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant views of the canon by writing: “Roman Catholic view: The Bible is an infallible collection of infallible books. Protestant view: The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books.” Such a statement, though shocking at first, even to a Protestant, asserts the full infallibility of Scripture, while giving none to the Church who historically brought the books together. Rather than weakening the authority of the Scripture we trust today, it emphasizes the fact that it was through sinful yet regenerated humans that the final, already widely-accepted canon of Scripture was agreed upon, not through an infallible Church.

The book goes on to describe so much more that is essential to upholding the Protestant view of the sufficiency and authority of God’s Holy Word, though I personally found the final chapter titled “The Transforming Power of Scripture” to be the most practical. Written by Joel R. Beeke and Ray B. Lanning, this chapter utilizes Scripture in order to teach how one can use Scripture. With fantastic clarity, the authors build of the foundational logic of the beginning chapters by describing how preachers can and must return to the authoritative preaching of the Word, and how all Christians can become “intensely Word-centered in preaching, praying, worshiping, and living.” R.C. Sproul concludes his own chapter with the comforting words that, despite the arguments that perpetually surround the authroity of Scripture (or versions of it), our optimism about the future “is grounded in our conviction of the providence of God” Who first gave His Word, and Who has since preserved His Word faithfully and permanently.

[I received this book free for review from Reformation Trust Publications]

©2011 E.T.

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