Sola Scriptura ≠ Nuda Scriptura

Evangelical Christians in North America sometimes misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the Christian’s only theological resource, that it can and should be denuded of its churchly context (hence nuda Scriptura). Such an understanding is altogether incorrect.

Calvin believed that holy Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice should serve as the final authority by which to judge Christian doctrine and practice, but it was not his only resource for theology. Consequently, he regularly consulted and appealed to early Christian documents and church authorities—most notably Augustine—to gain theological insight and clarity on contested doctrinal matters. He recognized the strategic importance of demonstrating the continuity of Protestant teaching with the core convictions of the early Church. Thus, his regular refrain: “The ancient church is on our side!”

In a similar fashion, evangelical Protestants should view the riches of the Christian tradition(s) during and before the sixteenth-century Reformation not simply as an “alien world” or as an unfortunate parenthesis. Instead, they should view them as an important resource for biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and ecumenical dialogue while at the same time insisting that everything be tested carefully by the authoritative Word of God.

—Scott M. Manetsch, “Is the Reformation Over? John Calvin, Roman Catholicism, and Contemporary Ecumenical Conversations,” Themelios 36 (2011): 199–200.

2 comments

  1. HeidelPing: Sola versus Solo Scriptura

  2. ‘Calvin believed that holy Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice should serve as the final authority by which to judge Christian doctrine and practice.’

    Absolutely. The Judge of all belief and action, revealing what is of God, and what is not. And this office of the inspired Scripture was the resource which Peter pointed to, calling it the ‘more sure (infallible) word’, by which God had provided that we might judge all other successively proffered words, spoken or written. When Paul said ‘let the prophets speak and the others judge’ discerning of spirits notwithstanding, the inviolable rule was; “if they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them’.

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