First, I want to make clear that I firmly believe all Scripture to be inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). The fallacy is in the concept of Sola Scriptura (Latin for “Scripture alone”). I believe it’s a fallacious argument because there’s no such thing in actual practice.
A fallacy is a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument. What’s unsound about the Sola Scriptura argument is that no matter how you look at it, the final authority still comes from man. In the case of Sola Scriptura, our particular interpretation of the inspired Scripture.
Luther’s answer to finding an alternate source to Papal authority was to appeal to the Scripture text itself. I talked about this in my series titled, “The Jesus Hermeneutic,” so I won’t cover how we got there here.
But when Luther and the Protestants appealed to Scripture as their final authority, the question then became, “How does one know our interpretation of Scripture is the right one?” Their answer was to create systematic theology, build seminaries, learn the original languages, and create tools to help us understand the Bible.
And that’s a good thing, in and of itself. I love all the Bible tools available to us and use them myself. The ideal of Sola Scriptura is vastly superior to blindly following church leaders in total biblical ignorance.
We should read the Bible and use tools are available to us.
But my point is this: it doesn’t move us away from traditions and doctrines of men. They’re just “Bible believing” ones now. We’re still left with the problem of interpretation, which is why we’ve never been more divided in Church history! Case in point: there are at least 33,000 Protestant denominations and growing. (By some accounts, it more like 40,000).
Most of this divisiveness comes from doctrinal disagreement based on our reading of the Scripture we appeal to as our final authority. The Lutherans believe the Bible differently than the Methodists…who believed differently than the Anglicans….then you have the Presbyterians, the myriad of Baptist variations, Holiness churches, Pentecostal, and Charismatic varieties…et al, ad infinitum.
The problem with making Scripture text our final authority is that we risk following the text instead of Jesus. We can end up looking more like the Pharisees than Jesus (John 5:39-40). In effect, we make the text “God” instead of God. The Trinity becomes the Father, Son, and Holy Bible! And because there will always be disagreement on interpretation of the text, there is no corresponding unity in Christ’s body as there is between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So are we left with no standard? Nothing to which we can make our final appeal? As I pointed out in “The Jesus Hermeneutic,” certainly not! We have Jesus Christ, the Living Word! We have His interpretation of Scripture through His life and teachings, and we have the indwelling Spirit of Christ living in us now and forever.
Having a “Jesus hermeneutic” brings us into greater unity with one other than doctrinal agreement, for we are all in Christ.
This was Jesus’ promise with the coming of the Holy Spirit…
20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20 NIV)
This was Jesus’ prayer for unity (emphasis mine)…
23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23 NIV)
Our final authority need not rest in bishops and popes, nor in the Bible text, but in the exact expression and revelation of God Himself—Jesus Christ (Heb.1:3). We no longer need to relate to one another (or split from one another) based on doctrinal agreement (which is mostly disagreement), but in this union in Christ (emphasis mine):
3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph.4:3-6 NKJV)
This works because Christ is God, and we are all in Christ in God!
There is only one “denomination” in the Kingdom of God—it’s called His body, His Church. And it’s Jesus who’s building His church. And when we find ourselves in Christ, we will find each other there, too. And there’s nothing fallacious about that.