As promised in months past, I have provided below Jordan McDaniel’s response to my original piece, “My Answer to A Defense to Sola Scriptura” in which I offered a rebuttal to a Facebook post that he had formulated. I wish to thank Jordan for his taking the time to respond and, depending on my availability, I may prepare a response or leave Jordan with the last word in this enjoyable exercise. Either way, enjoy!
A Defense of Sola Scriptura Continued
By: Jordan McDaniel
Let us begin by saying that I want to thank Jaxon Washburn for the chance to respond after all these months. I am a newlywed and my mind was elsewhere and it was only recently that Kevin Taylor (LDS) shared the link again and Esther Gilbert tagged me in her comment. I want to thank them both for bringing it again to my attention. I had completely forgotten about it (that’s not a knock on Jaxon Washburn nor his article).
Before we get started I wanted to say that my original post was a simple Facebook comment. I had been kicking around the idea of writing a very brief defense of Sola Scriptura for quite some time now. Jaxon approached me through Facebook Messenger and he asked if he could offer a rebuttal to my defense. I agreed. I am just now getting to the article and I want to thank Jaxon (again) for his patience.
Let’s start with what Jaxon agrees with me on.
“1) I agree that Truth is ultimately absolute and does not change
2) I also agree that God is the fullest resolution of Truth in existence; He knows all truth and holds all truth” This confused me greatly, I’ll explain.
If Jaxon agrees that God is truth and that God holds all truth, then what’s the reason for our disagreement in the first place? Wouldn’t that mean, that in a sense, we are in fact on the same team?
Or could it be possible that perhaps we are misunderstanding one another, on account of identical theological/philosophical vocabulary – yet there is a difference in understanding and application of said terms. For example:
Both Jaxon & I can affirm the following statement “I believe in God, and Trust in Him alone.”
When my definition of ‘God is unpacked, what I mean is I believe in a God who is eternal, creator of all things, a triune being (3 persons, one being) & my savior.
When Jaxon’s is unpacked, what he likely means is that he believes in a God who was not always eternal in the sense of always being God, who did not create everything (more specifically, matter & intelligences as well) but definitely played a part in organizing it, is a unitarian being and separate from the savior in both person and essence.
Granted, that is a VERY different discussion. However, it is worth noting, as this particular presuppositional conflict that exists between Jaxon & I are undoubtedly in play, and cannot be avoided in this type of discussion to some degree or another.
That being said, we must be clear on this point: When either Jaxon or myself use the term ‘God’, we simply are not talking about the same being – consequently, we cannot be talking about the same ‘truth’ either. Jaxon affirms God is the ‘fullest representation of it in existence’, this language does not seem to be in harmony with John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life…” as Jesus is God, this is a characteristic that is intrinsic to who He is.
Now that these distinctive differences have been laid out, we can proceed!
Let’s define Sola Scriptura.
What it is: Scripture alone (from the Reformation slogan Sola Scriptura) is the teaching that Scripture is the Church’s only infallible and sufficient rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines. While the Bible does not contain all knowledge, it does contain that which is necessary for salvation. Indeed, if something is not found in Scripture, it is not binding upon the believer. This view does not deny that the Church has the authority to teach God’s Word. Furthermore, while tradition is valuable, it but must be tested by the higher authority of the Scriptures. (As you have quoted from the Westminster Confession I know you KNOW this. However, I felt it important to define it so that can be our launching pad into our topic.)
What it is not: Sola Scriptura does NOT mean that the Reformers rejected everything that every Christian in earlier ages has said: indeed, they often cited the early Christians as supporters of their own positions. However, they recognized that those earlier believers were not inspired, were not inerrant, and, in fact, quite often made errors in their judgments and beliefs, just as people do today. The only infallible rule of faith, they argued, is found in the pages of Holy scripture.
Is Sufficiency of Scripture (sola scriptura) a Biblical Doctrine?
I would submit that it is.
To make my case, let us journey back to the Old Testament and consider God’s dealings with His beloved nation, Israel. Deuteronomy 1-3 recounts to the reader how Israel had disobeyed the Lord, and they were refusing to enter into God’s promised land for them. This caused a huge problem for God’s people. As a severe consequence for their rebellion, the Lord sent them back into the wilderness (1:34-36). Let us remember that God’s promises were enough for Caleb and Joshua (1:36-38). The People of Israel grumbled against the Lord. This grumbling which led to further wandering and eventual death. Then, in Deuteronomy 4, Moses spoke to Israel and gave instructions for them to listen and obey the Lord (so that they might “live and go take possession of the land”).
Moses counted the word of the Lord as sufficient, even going so far as to warn the people in saying: “Do not add to what I commanded you and do not subtract from it, but keep the Commands of the Lord your God that I give you” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6).
That should be sufficient enough (ha!) because you would agree that God is truth and He holds ALL truth. If He holds all truth then we (should) agree that His word is enough. We take God at His word. However, I will provide one more example from the Old Testament. 😁
In Deuteronomy 8:3 we see a very similar situation. This is a very famous passage for many reasons. Israel is again commanded to do & obey all that the Lord had commanded so that they might possess the Land. God reminds Israel of His faithfulness, specifically how He provided manna for them to consume while they were sojourners in the land. It is no accident that the people are told: “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord”. Yet again, we witness the utter sufficiency of God’s commands. As we all know, once Israel took possession of the land they would turn away from God to other idols. God words are not literal food but spiritual and God’s commands were not treated like the sufficient spiritual food that they were intended to be.
We see this verse pop up again as Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4. This is on purpose. Jesus was in the wilderness as Israel was. The symbolism is dense but the main truth that we take away from it is that even when the devil tempted our Lord Jesus, He quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 to show Satan that God’s word was sufficient food for us in the time of spiritual testing. If anyone had the authority to add to God’s word, it was our Lord. However, Jesus remained true to God’s word and showed us that God’s word is binding upon all. Furthermore, Jesus said in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” This again is pointing back to the manna & the water that came out of the ‘rock’ (See Corinthians 1:10-4 for Paul’s explanation of this truth)
For your consideration:
1) Jesus believed the Old Testament was inspired By God and Jesus attributed the OT writings to the Holy Spirit:
– Please consider Mark 12:35-37 where Jesus is teaching in the temple when asked the question, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the messiah is the Son of David?”. (Jesus then quotes from Psalm 110:1) “David himself, speaking BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’” David himself calls him “Lord.” How then can he be his son?”
– To be fair, this passage is far more about Jesus and His deity than with the Spirit, but we cannot miss what Jesus says about the spirit. Jesus did not deny that David was the author of Psalm 110. However, Jesus says that David DID NOT SPEAK on his own, but he spoke “By The Holy Spirit”. In other words, Psalm 110 was NOT a mere product of David’s imagination or invention but he (David) was moved along by the Spirit to write these words.
2) Jesus assured us that He, being the TRUTH (John 14:6) tells us in John 12:49-50: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” In John 17:17 Jesus says: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth”
Why this matters:
- Jesus makes some very strong statements about His words (that come from the Father as seen above) and that the Word of the father is in fact Truth.
- Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
- Luke 21:33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
- Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
- Jesus leaves no room for doubt here, being the Way, the Truth, and the Life and leads by example in the New Testament. In Matthew 4:1-11 he resists the Devil with scripture. Some other examples where we see Jesus using it towards hostile crowds, pharisees/sadducees & his disciples:
(John 5:46, Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6-8, Matt 24:37-40, John 8:56, John 7:22, Matt 22:32, Mark 12:26, Matt 5:38, Luke 18:18-30, Mark 7:10, John 3:14, John 8:17, Matt 13:13-15, Mark 2:25-26, etc.)
- Not only are the scriptures written by the Holy Spirit through human authorship, but Jesus ALSO identified them as God-breathed scripture.
- Let us consider Luke 4 where Jesus walks into the synagogue on the Sabbath and reads from Isaiah 4. After he read it he sat down and said “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. Yes it is astonishing to the Jews that Jesus claimed to be the long-awaited messiah BUT DO NOT MISS THE FACT that Jesus called Isaiah “scripture” I could give you MANY more examples but let’s assume you want to know about the New Testament as well (i’m sure you do). I will cover that in the next section.
3) The New Testament Writers Believed Their Own Writings Were Scripture:
– Let’s begin with Paul. Paul on several occasions makes mention of the fact that what he has passed along is not his own but is from God himself.
– Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3-2 “…assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that WAS GIVEN TO ME FOR YOU, how the mystery was made KNOWN TO ME BY REVELATION”
– Paul is making this perfectly clear. Let’s not miss it: “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was NOT made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been REVEALED TO HIS HOLY APOSTLES AND PROPHETS by the SPIRIT” (Ephesians 3:4-5). And what is this mystery? That the gentiles are fellow heirs (Ephesians 3:6). This is not something that Paul came up with on his own merit but something God almighty revealed to him by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Paul believes what he is passing on is of divine origin.
– In His closing statement at the end of Romans, Paul says: ” Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages , but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith” – Romans 16:25-26
– There are a few things to take away from this. First, Paul is being EXTREMELY bold here and is asserting here that God will strengthen the church, “according to my gospel”. Why does Paul attach his name? Because Paul believes this gospel is the same one revealed to him by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Damascus road (explained in Galatians 1:11-12). This same gospel is being communicated to the nations. Where did this authority come from? Paul says it was revealed in the Old Testament through the prophetic writings. Not only does Paul assert the inspiration of the Old Testament in this passage, BUT HE TIES HIS OWN MESSAGE TO THE OLD TESTAMENT REVELATION.
– Additionally, Paul asserts “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are commanded of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized”(1 Corinthians 14:37-38). Paul even refers to his own writings as a “command of the Lord” and therefore equal in authority to the Old Testament.
– Lastly, in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 he says, ” And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” Paul does not think his words are merely human words. He has not delivered to the church the “words of men” but instead the “word of God”. Paul’s letters have scriptural authority.
I will continue during the next segment some more words of Paul and other disciples of Christ.
The last letter of Paul’s I discussed was 1 Thessalonians 2:13, this time we will begin with examining Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, in which he emphatically warns them:
“If anyone DOES NOT OBEY WHAT WE SAY IN THIS LETTER, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with them, that he may be ashamed” – 2 Thessalonians 3:14
– Let us pause, and take note of the fact that Paul’s letters have authority, and were intended to. As a disciple of Jesus Christ who saw the risen Lord and was converted by the Messiah Himself, who’s life was undeniably transformed forever and resulted in Him dedicating his days to the furthering of the gospel – even at the expense of his own comfort, time, and ultimately his life – Paul still knew that the letters he was passing on was from God and was not his own invention. We ought not be hasty to dismiss his authority here as an inspired vessel who transcribed anywhere between 8-13 books of the New Testament (depends on the scholars you ask) we can conclude the following:
1. Paul was used by the Lord to give us scripture.
2. Paul’s words are true, as he was not speaking as a mere man but was carried along by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the will of God. (See 2 Peter 1:21 to contrast with the prophets of old who likewise were as well)
– Paul’s opening greeting to Titus also captures the authority of the Apostle Paul:
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our savior” – Titus 1:1-3
– Paul was not the only one who believed that his preaching and writings were given to him by God….Peter did as well!
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16
– Not ONLY DOES Peter say that Paul wrote to the CHURCH with the wisdom that God gave him, but Peter implies that Paul’s writings are scripture when he implies that there are others who twist Paul’s words “as they do the other scriptures”.
– Paul also views the writings of others as God-given scripture as well, in 1st Timothy 5:17 Paul reminds Timothy that the elders who rule well are worth “double honor” and to support his claim, Paul quotes from two sources:
“For scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages’ (1 Timothy 5:18). Where might these two quotations be from? The first one is from Deuteronomy 25:4. What is surprising and shocking is that the second quote is from Luke 10:7. What is implied here is that Paul considered Jesus’s words as well as Luke’s written statements of Jesus’s words TO BE SCRIPTURE. According to Paul, Luke is not merely recording a Gospel account, but his writings are God-breathed. To reject the gospel of Luke is to also reject the testimony of the Messiah & the Apostle Paul, it’s a slippery slope. It really is ALL (tota scriptura) or nothing (sans scriptura)
Not only are Luke’s writings considered God-breathed scripture, but Peter verifies that what he passed along is also from God as well. In light of false teachers questioning the second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:3-7), Peter tells his readers:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” – 2 Peter 1:16-18
– In other words, what Peter declared concerning Christ’s future return was, IN FACT, the truth! It was not some made up story but anchored in history. His readers could be certain of this since Peter (as well as James and John) heard the voice of the father with their own ears and saw Jesus transfigured with their own eyes.
Peter goes on to explain:
” And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” – 2 Peter 19-20.
– By the “prophetic word” Peter is referring to the Old Testament scriptures, specifically Old Testament prophecies concerning the future day of the Lord. The transfiguration VERIFIED these OT prophecies about the second coming of Christ as interpreted by the Apostles. This is why Peter can say we have the prophetic word “more fully confirmed”.
– Verse 21 of the same chapter brings everything to a beautiful climax, arguing that prophecy is not man’s invention but comes directly from God himself. They are God’s words and they are given to us through his appointed prophets (the apostles).
– Finally, consider 2 Peter 3:2 where Peter asks his readers to simply remember the “predictions of the holy prophets the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles”.
– Peter ASSUMES the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament Prophets but he also alludes to the authority of the apostles. Not only does Peter place the apostles (himself included) as equals to the prophets (as does Paul in Ephesians 2:20), but Peter is clear that Jesus himself, who is Lord and savior, speaks through his apostles.
– We can not only trust the Old Testament but we can obviously trust the New Testament as well.
Let me entertain the possibility of the contrary for a moment by turning to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”
(Let us pause here and take note of the fact that Paul affirms Christs life & resurrection were both foretold by and were in accord with Holy scripture)
Let’s then jump ahead to verses 13-19:
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Jaxon, if nothing else PLEASE DO NOT MISS THIS POINT!
– We cannot testify of Christ’s life, death, or resurrection without testifying of the absolute sufficiency scripture. Scripture is ABOUT Jesus, the entire story is about Him coming and rescuing us from ourselves! Rescuing us from the very best that we have in us, and dying for it. If the scriptures cannot testify of the Messiah’s life, death or resurrection then we have no basis for the gospel, no basis for hope, no basis for forgiveness of sins, no basis for ultimate justice, no basis for faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it’s all meaningless. If scripture is not telling the truth, if it’s not the standard of faith and practice that we should hold to, we have no reason to believe the accounts recorded therein.
I submit that this is an impossible. Because Christ is risen, and Christ’s church has not been prevailed against by the gates of hell in the past present, and never will be in the future.