Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Christian's Thermostat - Sola Scriptura

Titus 2:15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

What is the Christian's authority for eternity and daily decision making?  In the passage above, the Apostle Paul is urging a young Pastor by the name of Titus to exhort and reprove with "all authority".  The "authority" in question cannot be in reference to the pastor nor the office he occupies.  There is only one authority that covers every area of life in the church and life - namely the scriptures.  

When confusion arose over the Christian's main authority  
In the period where the Roman Catholicism had developed its heirarchy of Priests, Bishops and Popes, the underlying assumption was that they were the final authority on matters of Eternity and life in the church.  Called "The Majesterium" (Latin for "those who teach) by Roman Catholic theology, the idea was that no one could interpret the Bible for themselves, and that the Majesterium were the only ones qualified to hear "God's voice as He spoke through both the Bible and Church tradition".  In short, the Catholic church of the Middle Ages had adopted a "dual-source" theory for understanding matters of life and eternity through both Scripture and Church Tradition. 

The Movement that got back to the authority of the Bible
On October 31, 1517 a monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses or reasons of protest to a church door in Wittenburg Germany that opposed what He deemed abuses done by the Roman Catholic Church.  Over time, this movement, called "The Protestant Reformation", spread through Europe and used the little Latin phrase "sola scriptura" or "The Bible Alone" to capture the priority of the Bible as the supreme authority for the believer. 

What Sola Scriptura does not mean
When people hear that I advocate the Bible as the final authority on matters of faith, practice, life and eternity, they may think that I only read the Bible and ignore other books or ignore the historic teaching of the church.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When Martin Luther was advocating "Sola Scriptura" (Bible Alone), he was not ignoring the historic teaching of the Christian church nor ignoring other resources such as reason or experience.  If anything, He was returning back to the original teaching of Christ and the Apostles.  He was stating that the Bible alone is the only type of authority that can bind the human conscience.  Without excluding other types of authority, sola scriptura asserts the Bible to be the final authority by which all others are measured.     

What Sola Scriptura does mean
This important principle explains the Bible's relationship to secondary but still important sources of authority that Christians use everyday.  Two terms have been used to unfold the meaning of this principle.  The Bible is first described as the "Norming Norm", meaning "The measurer of all other measurements".  Then the Bible is secondly described as the "First Norm among all other Norms" meaning "The Chief Measurement among all other measurements". 

In other words, the Bible is the standard against which other authorities like reason or experience or Church doctrinal statements are determinedAlso too, the Bible is to be understood as never being separated from those other sources of authority.  I clearly need to use my God-given reasoning abilities to aid in my study of scripture while hearing the Spirit of God speak through their words.  Likewise I need experience to see how well I am applying the scriptures.  With that said, the Bible is still the main authority which judges the conclusions of reason and events of experience.

Illustrating sola scripture - The Bible is a thermostat, other authorities are just thermometers
If we may use the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat, the thermometer functions like other sources of authority (reason, experience, tradition, science, etc).  They tell me information about various aspects about truth and life and and are vital in the process of making daily decisions.  A thermostat on the other hand is a regulator, it changes the climate of things and can influence me to stick around or go another direction.  That's how the Bible functions - it alone can convert the human heart (1 Peter 1:23) and provide binding authority that influences how I ultimately act and live. (Psalm 119:105)  It doesn't merely tell me about aspects of truth - it is God's truth. 

Being that a thermostat works in conjunction with a thermometer, both are needed - however it is clear which one is the determining authority on all matters in the room - the thermostat.  May we come to appreciate the Bible as the Christian's Thermostat through this important concept of sola scriptura (scripture alone)

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