The issue of Scripture and Scripture Alone (or what Protestants have come to call the principle of sola Scriptura) is a matter that divides professing Christians as to the foundation of their faith and what defines their faith. Back in the days of the Reformation when there were men who felt that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ had been not only corrupted by the Roman Catholic Church, but had virtually disappeared under the mask of human traditions and rituals and things that kept people from actually hearing the good news of Jesus Christ, in order to reform the Church, in order to have the grace of God more clearly proclaimed to people, Protestants realized they had to take a stand not only for ‘Sola Gratia’ (i.e., in Latin, ‘By Grace Alone’ for our salvation), but that had to be proclaimed on the basis of sola Scriptura (‘Scripture Alone’) because the Roman Catholic Church used its appeal to human tradition in the Church (or what they considered divine tradition in the Church) as a basis for its most distinctive doctrines.

When Martin Luther was called before the ‘Diet of Worms’ and there told that he had to recant his teaching about ‘Justification by Faith Alone’ (you may know the story very well), Luther (which was the better part of valor) asked for a night to think it over before he gave his answer to the Council. And then on the next day in appearing before that tribunal which was demanding that he recant of this teaching which really amounted to the purity of the Gospel, Luther responded with those famous words: “Here I stand, I can do no other!” Now what do we make of that? Is that just the stuff of which dramatic movies can be made? Or is there something about what Luther said that is crucial to what it is to be a Christian, crucial to the purity of the Gospel and the truth of the Scriptures themselves? …

I’m not embarrassed by that doctrine [sola Scriptura]. I believe it is absolutely necessary to the health of the Church, and I am convinced (as Luther was convinced) that if we give up sola Scriptura, we will inevitably give up sola Gratia as well. Because the giving up of the Protestant authority (the principle of sola Scriptura) simply opens the door for other ways of pleasing God to enter in that are not based upon His own revelation. And it’s a very short step from thinking that I can follow a religious tradition that cannot be verified objectively by the Word of God to the idea that I can please God by something that He has not provided. It is a very short step from the denial of sola Scriptura to the denial of sola Gratia when it comes to salvation. (Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction?)

Greg Bahnsen