+ The Reformation’s Evangelical “Sola Scriptura” +
Below is a set of theses from the late Dr. Marquart, posted here in honor of the Reformation. Originally written for class and perhaps a conference, they speak of what exactly Sola Scriptura means and what it means for the church. Blessed Festival of the Reformation! Verbum domini manet in aeternum.
- The two focal points of the Reformation conflict were the Gospel’s core content (justification) and the Gospel’s authority (Scripture alone—sola scriptura).
- “Sola scriptura” means to assert the sole authority of Christ over His church, to the exclusion of all other powers and authorities. IESOUS KYRIOS (Jesus is Lord, I Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). See also Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:8-10, etc.
- “Christ rules His Church through His word.” This means for the Reformed that Christ rules through the Bible understood as God-given rules and regulations—Law. For Lutherans it means that Christ rules His church, the Kingdom of grace, through His Gospel—with the Law, as God’s “Strange” or “alien” work (Apology, XII, 51-54, Tappert, p. 189) always presupposed. Gal. 3!
The distinction between law and Gospel is an especially brilliant light which serves the purpose that the Word of God may be rightly divided and the writings of the holy prophets and apostles may be explained and understood correctly (Formula of Concord, SD, V, 1, Tappert, p. 558).
The maxim stands: He who does not have the power to promise and give future and present life, cannot make articles of faith (Luther, propositions against the whole synagogue of Satan, WA, 30, II, 420).
See Luther’s Galatians commentary re. Gal. 4:26 ff. (LW, 26, pp.439-461), on the church as our free mother (not like Hagar, the slave), giving birth to children through the Gospel, not the Law.
- Christ built His church on the foundation of His chosen apostles and prophets, Eph. 2:20, cf. St. John 14:26; 15:20; 16:13; 17:8, 20.
- The Holy Scriptures supply us today with the only reliable, divinely guaranteed access to the apostolic-prophetic foundation of the church, St. John 20:31; II Tim. 3:15-17.
- To bind Christian consciences to other and further authorities, beyond what God himself has given in His written Word, the Scriptures, is insolence and sacrilege, Gal. 1:8, 9; II Thess. 2:4; St. Matt. 15:1 ff.
- “Sola scriptura” opposes not tradition but the wrong use of tradition. See Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, v. I, re. Eight classes of tradition (pp. 219-307)! Orthodox creeds and confessions do not compete with, but implement the Sola Scriptura, the properly understood Scripture! See Formula of Concord, Rule and Norm, etc.
- “Sola scriptura” demands reason as servant, but rejects reason as judge or master over Scripture. Three stages of rationalism: (a) scholasticism, (b) Zwingli-Calvinism, (c) modern liberalism. See Luther’s theology of the Cross (LW, v. 31, p. 40) vs. Tillich’s “Protestant Principle”!
- “Sola scriptura” necessarily presupposes a qualitative distinction between “divine and human writings” (FC, SD, Rule & Norm 9) such that Scripture is fully and directly God’s Word (verbal or plenary inspiration).
I beg and really caution every pious Christian not to be offended by the simplicity of the language and stories…but fully realise that, however simple they may seem, these are the very words, works, judgments and deeds of the majesty, power, and wisdom of the most high God…Simple and lowly are the swaddling clothes, but dear is the treasure, Christ, who lies in them (LW, v. 35, p. 236).
- Without strict inerrancy, rejected by historical criticism, all talk about “inspiration” is an empty sham.
My neighbour and I–in short, all men–may err and deceive, but God’s Word cannot err (nec errare nec fallare potest). Large Catechism, Baptism, par. 57.
13 April 1986