Sola Scriptura and the Limits of Special Revelation

Darryl has a great post at Old Life featuring a quote from Ken Myers on the limits of Scripture. A lot of non-confessional evangelicals and too many ostensibly confessional evangelicals misunderstand sola Scriptura.They think it means either that, if the Bible doesn’t speak directly to something that we can’t know anything about or they find a way to make the Bible speak to things to which it does intend to speak. Both of these misunderstandings are forms of biblicism (“Just the Bible, Maam”) The first misunderstanding is silly because it denies “good and necessary inference” (WCF 1.6) and needlessly leads to agnosticism. The other misunderstanding seeks to make the Bible speak authoritatively about things to which it does not intend to speak. The first approach is a favorite of certain broad evangelicals whole like to sequester Scripture so that they can exercise autonomy in ways that are contrary to Scripture. The second version of biblicism, a kind of fundamentalism, however, is even more insidious because it claims the authority of Scripture for everything. It puts the Bible interpreter in a place of authority and power (which makes it all the more difficult to give up). The problem is that at least some of the claims are not actually “good and necessary” inferences and are based on poor, de-contextualized biblical exegesis or are not confessed by the churches but have become practical orthodoxy in some circles.

The confessional Reformed way is neither the way of latitudinarian evangelical biblicism nor is it the way of fundamentalism rationalism (i.e., the claim to know what God knows even if he has revealed himself thus to the rest of us). The confessional Reformed way is to read Scripture with the church. To confess those good and necessary inferences (e.g., the continuing moral obligation of the Sabbath, the Regulative Principle of Worship, the due use of ordinary means) without binding the consciences of God’s people where the churches have not found a good and necessary inference.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Dr. Clark, what is your opinion on “implications” in the Bible?

    For example, the Bible does not say where our kids should be taught, but it does imply certain things in Deut. 6, as well as many verses in Proverbs.

  2. Though I’m a life-long learner, my formal education (as a child of the 60’s era) doesn’t extend beyond being a first-year college drop-out. But Ken Myers has done more than anyone else to open my mind to thinkers and authors and also to help me understand the importance of common grace, especially as it relates to the culture at-large.

    I read the essay that Darryl refers to several years ago and it pinpoints much of what lies behind the QUIRC error that you identify in your book. Thanks for drawing attention to his work. I’m sure he can always use new subscribers to his audio journal, and they won’t be disappointed.

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