A Review of Sola Scriptura












Sola Scriptura

Edited by Don Kistler


This book was an explanation and defense of the Reformation cry sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone.” In the book, the various authors argued that nothing, including reason or tradition, should be placed on the same level as Scripture. Although the book focused on the nature of Scripture (it contains chapters on the authority, sufficiency, and power of Scripture), much of the book is focused on refuting Catholic challenges to the concept of sola scriptura. W. Robert Godfrey summarized the differences of Protestants and Catholics as it relates to Scripture in the first chapter, writing:


As Protestants, we maintain that Scripture alone is our authority. Roman Catholics maintain that Scripture by itself is insufficient as the authority of the people of God, and that tradition and the teaching authority of the church must be added to Scripture (1).


The remainder of the book focused on defending the Protestant view, with each author briefly addressing Catholic views of Scripture.


I enjoyed reading the book, particularly the chapter by John MacArthur on “The Sufficiency of Scripture.” MacArthur made several comments that challenged the notion that tradition is equal to Scripture. He wrote, “The Jews of Jesus’ day also placed tradition on an equal footing with Scripture. But in actuality they made tradition superior to Scripture, because Scripture was interpreted by tradition and therefore made subject to it” (72). He continued, “Whenever tradition is elevated to such a high level of authority, it inevitably becomes detrimental to the authority of Scripture. Jesus made this very point when He confronted the Jewish leaders. He showed that in many cases their traditions actually nullified Scripture” (72). He noted that the Jewish leaders were not the only ones who elevated tradition to the same level as Scripture. Roman Catholicism also elevated tradition. He said, “Tradition is not only made equal to Scripture, but it becomes the true Scripture, written not in documents but mystically within the church herself. And when the church speaks, her voice is heard as if it were the voice of God, giving the only true meaning to the words of the ‘documents and records.’ Thus tradition utterly supplants and supersedes Scripture” (76). He closed with these words:


No man, no church, no religious authority has any warrant from God to augment the inspired Word of Scripture with additional traditions or to alter the plain sense of it by subjecting it to the rigors of a “traditional” meaning not found in the Word itself. To do so is clearly to invalidate the Word of God—and we know what our Lord thinks of that (Matt. 15:6–9),” (89).


MacArthur certainly defended the Reformation cry of sola scriptura in his essay.


I would certainly recommend this book to others. Protestants will benefit from the arguments presented in the book for the supremacy of Scripture. Each essay argues that Scripture alone is our guide in spiritual matters. Catholics will benefit from the book as well. They will gain a better understanding for the Protestant position on Scripture and become familiar with Protestant arguments regarding the nature of Scripture.

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