Sola Interpretation

The following is a comment left for me on a blog post I had contributed to ‘On the Pilgrim Road‘. I rarely respond to lengthy comments or jump into long drawn out threads. However, I will respond to personal messages. This doesn’t mean that long comments go to waste. I think that lengthy comments can best be responded to in a post especially if that post can help spread the Gospel or help in Biblical doctrine.

The comment is posted in its full however I have added numbers for points of reference in my response. The comment reads as follows:

(1)Where in Scripture does it say that “the Bible Alone” is the whole of what Christianity consists? I cannot find it to save my life except in the writings of Protestant theologians (ideas of men and not explicit in the Scriptures).

(2)What Scripture does say, however, in uncertain terms is 1 Timothy 3:15 – “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Seems the Church Is the pillar and ground of the truth . . . and being written in Scripture one should accept this without any doubt.

(3)We also see that men are to build on the foundation which is Christ: if they build things that last (traditions) then they will not be burned but if they build of wood and straw they will be burned. This leaves Scripture open to interpretation and development that is sound and which is lasting. Since this word comes to us directly from Scripture, how can we doubt it? 1 Corintians 3:10-15 –“According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

(4)And the Scriptures also tell us that Christ would send the Holy Spirit to the Church to help bring things to mind that were heretofore not known or understood. John 14:26 – “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” And, lastly Christ promised not to leave the Church as orphans for we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

(5)If you want to say that this is spoken to every person who becomes a Christian, who then is right and wrong? It comes down to personal interpretation if not left to an arbiter; the Church (the pillar and ground of the truth). Otherwise chaos ensues and we have a large variety of Churches that disagree on many things . . . which, of course we do in our days. Traditions are essential for they are the works of the saints which have built upon the foundation, which is Christ and His Truth, and endure . . . it is not simply straw and therefore the whole Church is required to accept this as the working of the Holy Spirit which was given the Church by Christ since Pentecost. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 – “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6 –“And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.”

(6)As to the Apocrypha: it was decided by the Church (the pillar and ground of truth) to be part of scripture by the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within Her. How can I doubt the other without doubting Christ Himself? In fact as far as books not accepted in the Septuagint; it was Christ Himself who was certainly reading from the same Septuagint that had permeated all of the Middle East and the Holy Land during the reign of Our Lord.

(7)And Christ did not direct us to quit circumcision and the laws and many traditions of the Jews: but the Church did this. Baptism is now the Rite of Initiation into Christianity decided by the Church.

(8)So what we have read is a work of a man who is a theologian who has his own ideas which may agree with some and disagree with others as well. So that leaves Christians in the predicament of choosing for themselves as to which man or men and their teachings concerning Scripture are right or wrong or simply misunderstood.

(9)I don’t think Christ meant to leave us as orphans to decide for ourselves. He left us a Church to aid us in deciphering the Truth and preserving it for the next generation. When it comes to theologians my mind is taken back to the warning given in 2 Peter 3:14-17 – “. . . So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this[c] as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.” Might that be an appropriate warning to any hard passage of scripture? After all we are not all schooled theologians but the faith was given to even the simple man and he must have an authority to believe or he is lost. As for me, I follow the guidance of the Church knowing that Christ is still its head and that the Holy Spirit was given to it to assure that the faith would not become adulterated . . . but would survive somewhere. Hebrews 13:8 –“Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever.”

Thank for your comment. I am glad you stopped by to read my post. My goal with this reply is to to respond to your comment with care, love, and respect. However, I will be bound to the Word of God and will deliver this Biblical Truth with loving kindness as I try to help you with your concerns on my post.

The Overall Problem

There is much said in your comment, yet one point made.  That is confirming what Pieper said and Mueller restated.  Abandoning Sola Scriptura in favor of the theologians ideas is to take the first step on a road to error.   You see by rejecting Sola Scriptura you have made a large statement that is full of proof-texting the Bible for your own idea that Scripture is not the sole source and norm of all biblical doctrine. You start by saying you don’t have clear Scriptures that state that Scripture is the sole source and norm, this frees you to find proof-texts for support of your own idea that the Bible isn’t the sole source and norm for doctrine.  Thus painting a picture that your view is biblical, bound by Scripture, yet it is really first bound by your idea not Scripture. Now I don’t mean to be harsh, please allow me to explain. Your interpretation of those texts are not based on their clear biblical context but on your ideology.   By tossing out Sola Scriptura, and holding to the opinion that only fallen sinful reasoning of “the church” is the sole source and norm of true biblical doctrine, you are stating some serious things about God and man. Keep reading… 

If the Bibles intended context is not allowed to support the texts that you gave, then your idea, that the “church” is the source and norm of theology, seems credible. Yet, when those verses are defined by their context we see that they don’t support those ideas.  You also failed to define what you meant by the “Church”; I think we would have different definitions as to what the church is and what it’s role and function is. There are many denominations and they all do not agree. Which is the point of the post that you commented on. There is one way to interpret Scripture, that is to let God’s Word interpret itself and not to allow sinful reasoning to reign over Gods Word. You seem to have taken the side that sinful reasoning is better than God’s reasoning.

Which is where your road eventually led you. The road led you to make some serious doctrinal statements about God and man. Allow me to explain that Holy Scripture is the Word of God. It is God Spirited (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus, in the flesh on earth, attests to this (John 6:63, John 17:17, Matthew 4:4). The NT is full of these statements (Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, etc…). John was clear that He is the Word made flesh (John 1:1). If the Bible is the Word of God but isn’t the source of theology, then God is flawed and cannot speak clearly and we are the ones who are more intellectual than He and our sinful reasoning is better than His knowledge.  You see how placing the theologians sinful fallen reasoning over scripture is utmost idolatry? Second, if you want to say that the Bible isn’t the Word of God, then we can never really know what God wants or says either because he is incapable of speaking clearly to his subordinate creation or because he doesn’t exist. 

These two problems are the major issues in placing fallen human reasoning over and in place of Scripture.  It places the theologian as God.

Breaking it all down

Now, in order to help you and my readers, I must address your eisegetical proof texting in full. However, I first must address your rather startling conclusion. You end with…

“And Christ did not direct us to quit circumcision and the laws and many traditions of the Jews: but the Church did this. Baptism is now the Rite of Initiation into Christianity decided by the Church.”

This is simply not true.  I’m unsure where you attained this information but much of that can be cleared up by reading Galatians.  God instituted Baptism as a means of grace, not the church (Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19). Yet, you would have to submit to Scripture as the source and norm to agree with what God has said. Which again 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that ALL of Scripture is Gods Spirit given to us to correct our sinful thoughts about Him (doctrine) and to give us Christ (faith for righteousness).

16 Every Scripture is God-breathed (θεόπνευστος; God Spirited) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness

  1. You said you couldn’t find verses stating that the Bible is the sole source and norm. It is full of it, OT and NT, and I gave you enough verses above to show that Scripture is the Word of truth. If Scripture is God’s Word then trying to base doctrine on anything else is to depart from what God has revealed and to follow something that came out of our sinful fallen reasoning.
  2. The Church in the context is a Church that would be subject to God’s Word not one that would overthrow it with human reasoning.
  3. That foundation is faith in the Gospel of Christ. It is faith in Christ alone for salvation. What is built on that foundation of Christ Crucified for you, is solid doctrine from Gods Word. If it is biblical doctrine then it stands, if it is false and based on human reasoning, it will fall, but the sinner will still be saved if the foundation is in nothing other than faith in Christ alone. All doctrine is important but the chief doctrine is Justification in Christ alone.
  4. Not sure how you define Church but in that verse Jesus was talking to the disciples. Yet, this is also true for Christians though as in that the Spirit comes from the Word. This is because the Word, Scripture, is God Breathed. Further proof that the theologian should submit to the Word and not place his ideas over and beyond what Scripture says.
  5. Stems from (4) but you seem to interpret traditions differently than the biblical text you quote. Traditions, παραδόσεις, is the teaching of the pure Word of God, not a new interpretation of Scripture based on fallen human reasoning. See Galatians for how seriously Paul takes this.
  6. I have no idea as this wasn’t in my post. I have no qualms with the Apocrypha.
  7. was discussed above.
  8. No, please re-read the post. He leans not on his own ideas. He lets scripture interpret itself. Having the utmost respect for Gods Word not wanting to break the 2nd Commandment by misusing or lying in Gods name.
  9. No, He left us His Word that should not be modified or interpreted by sinful reasoning but to be left pure and holy, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, in its proper context, using basic reading comprehension skills.

Putting it Together

I hope I was able to clear up some of the confusions of my post. John Mueller was not stating that all interpretations are the same, and he was not intending to “poo-poo” on everyone else. He was presenting how a proper theologian should approach Scripture as nothing other than God’s Holy Word. If one approaches Scripture in any other way, he will be led astray into his own ideas and thoughts because he is still a sinner, even though the theologian is saved by faith, original sin will cause anyone to be led astray through unbelief. That is the importance of a solid theologian, one who wont be led astray by his own thoughts and sinful desires because that is the first sin of the Garden and it is the only lie the devil uses. Doubt for God’s word is all Satan needs to lure us away and he does it in so many ways.

Though, this is why proper theology is important, false doctrines can exist on top of the foundation of faith in Christ and one will be saved, sure. However, that is not a reason to be lazy or to give the Old Adam in us free reign over biblical doctrine, because as Scripture attests to over and over again, our sinful nature is prone to want to place works over faith in order to please God. That is false worship, false theology, it leads us away from faith in Christ alone (sola Fide and Sola Christus); which is the solid foundation one needs for salvation. Again, in love, I hope I was able to be of some help. Speaking the truth is never easy and I do hope you can see it was delivered with love. Feel free to comment or send me an email for any other questions. May the peace and comfort of God in Christ Jesus given by the Spirit of truth be with you always.