Responding to Objections to Sola Scriptura

Article by Kenneth Richard Samples: Countdown to Reformation Day: Responding to Objections to Sola Scriptura (original source here)

Kenneth Richard Samples is senior scholar at Reasons to Believe (a science-faith think tank) and an adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University. This article is an excerpt from Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 120-27.

The authority of Scripture holds supreme importance in a Christian worldview, especially for Protestant evangelicals who believe that their faith and the way they live depend upon Scripture. Other branches of Christendom and skeptics, such as the convert to Roman Catholicism Peter Kreeft, sometimes raise objections to this crucial distinction. (1) They suggest that this principle is incoherent or unworkable. Responses to seven common objections explain how sola scriptura impacts Christian theology.

Objection #1: Scripture itself does not teach the principle of sola scriptura; therefore, this principle is self-defeating.

Response: The doctrine of sola scriptura need not be taught formally and explicitly. It may be implicit in Scripture and inferred logically. Scripture explicitly states its inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, and its sufficiency is implied there as well. This passage contains the essence of sola scriptura, revealing that Scripture is able to make a person wise unto salvation. And it includes the inherent ability to make a person complete in belief and practice.

Scripture has no authoritative peer. While the apostle Paul’s reference in verse 16—to Scripture being “God-breathed”—specifically applies to the Old Testament, the apostles viewed the New Testament as having the same inspiration and authority (1 Tim. 5:18; Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 3:16). The New Testament writers continue, mentioning no other apostolic authority on par with Scripture. Robert Bowman notes: “The New Testament writings produced at the end of the New Testament period direct Christians to test teachings by remembering the words of the prophets (OT) and apostles (NT), not by accessing the words of living prophets, apostles, or other supposedly inspired teachers (Heb. 2:2-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:2; Jude 3-4, 17).” (2)

Scriptural warnings such as “do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) and prohibitions against adding or subtracting text (Rev. 22:18-19) buttress the principle that Scripture stands unique and sufficient in its authority.

Christ held Scripture in highest esteem. The strongest scriptural argument for sola scriptura, however, is found in how the Lord Jesus Christ himself viewed and used Scripture. A careful study of the Gospels reveals that he held Scripture in the highest regard. Jesus said: “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35); “Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matt. 5:18); and “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17).

Christ appealed to Scripture as a final authority. Jesus even asserted that greatness in heaven will be measured by obedience to Scripture (Matt. 5:19) while judgment will be measured out by the same standard (Luke 16:29-31; John 5:45-47). He used Scripture as the final court of appeal in every theological and moral matter under dispute. When disputing with the Pharisees on their high view of tradition, he proclaimed: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition” (Mark 7:13).

Because Scripture came from God, Jesus considered it binding and supreme, while tradition was clearly discretionary and subordinate. Whether tradition was acceptable or not depended on God’s written Word. This recognition by Christ of God’s Word as the supreme authority supplies powerful evidence for the principle of sola scriptura.

When Jesus was tested by the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, he retorted, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). When confronted with the devil’s temptations, he responded three times with the phrase, “It is written,” followed by specific citations (Matt. 4:4-10). In this context, Jesus corrects Satan’s misuse of Scripture. Theologian J. I. Packer says of Jesus: “He treats arguments from Scripture as having clinching force.” (3)

Christ deferred to Scripture. Jesus based his ethical teaching upon the sacred text and deferred to its authority in his Messianic ministry (Matt. 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). His very destiny was tied to biblical text: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written” (Matt. 26:24). “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:46). Even while dying on the cross, Jesus quoted Scripture (see Matt. 27:45, cf. Ps. 22:1). His entire life, death, and resurrection seemed to be arranged according to the phrase, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56; Luke 4:21; 22:37).

Clearly, Christ accepted Scripture as the supreme authority and subjected himself to it (Matt. 26:54; Luke 24:44; John 19:28). Jesus did not place himself above Scripture and judge it; instead he obeyed God’s Word completely. A follower of Christ can do no less. A genuinely biblical worldview requires Scripture to be the supreme authority.

Objection #2: The earliest Christians didn’t have the complete New Testament. Therefore, references to Scripture by Jesus and his apostles apply only to the Old Testament.

Response: This objection fails for four reasons. Continue reading

Understanding Psalm 22

Article: The Suffering and the Glory of Psalm 22 by W. Robert Godfrey (original source here)

Psalm 22 begins with the most anguished cry in human history: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the words that Jesus took on His lips at the depth of His suffering on the cross. His suffering was unique at that point as He offered Himself up for the sins of His people. And so, we have tended to see this cry as unique to Jesus. But such an approach to these words is clearly wrong. Jesus was not inventing unique words to interpret His suffering. Rather, He was quoting Psalm 22:1. These words were first uttered by David, and David was speaking for all of God’s people. We need to reflect on these words and the whole psalm as they relate to Christ and to all His people in order to understand them fully.

The psalm begins with a section dominated by the agonized prayer of David (vv. 1–21). David is expressing in the first place his own experience of feeling abandoned by God. Here is the most intense suffering God’s servant can know—not just that enemies surround him (vv. 7, 12–13) and that his body is in dreadful pain (vv. 14–16), but that he feels that God does not hear him and does not care about his suffering. And this is not just the experience of David. It is the experience of all God’s people in the face of terrible trouble. We wonder how our loving heavenly Father can stand idly by when we are in such distress. Continue reading

Delighting in the Trinity

Article by Dr. Michael Reeves, president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford, England. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity and Why the Reformation Still Matters. (original source here)

“It is not to be expected that we should love God supremely if we have not known him to be more desirable than all other things.” So wrote the great hymn writer Isaac Watts. And of course, he was quite right, for we always love what seems most attractive to us. Whether it be God, money, sex, or fame, we live for and love what captures our hearts.

But what kind of God could outstrip the attractions of all other things? Could any unitary, single-person god do so? Hardly, or at least not for long. Single-person gods must, by definition, have spent eternity in absolute solitude. Before creation, having no other persons with whom they could commune, they must have been entirely alone.

Love for others, then, cannot go very deep in them if they can go for eternity without it. And so, not being essentially loving, such gods are inevitably less than lovely. They may demand our worship, but they cannot win our hearts. They must be served with gritted teeth.

How wonderfully different it is with the triune God. In John 17:24, Jesus speaks of how the Father loved Him even before the creation of the world. That is the triune, living God: a Father, whose very being has eternally been about loving His Son, pouring out the Spirit of love and life on Him. Here is a God who is love, who is so full of life and blessing that for eternity He has been overflowing with it. As the Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes put it: “Such a goodness is in God as is in a fountain, or in the breast that loves to ease itself of milk.” Here in the triune God, in other words, is an infinitely satisfying God, one who is the very fountainhead of all goodness, truth, and beauty.

That means that with the triune God there is great good news. For here is no mean and grasping God, but a Lord of grace and mercy—one, in fact, who offers a salvation sweeter than any non-triune God could ever imagine.

Just imagine for a moment a single-person god. Having been alone for eternity, would it want fellowship with us? It seems most unlikely. Would it even know what fellowship was? Almost certainly not. Such a god might allow us to live under its rule and protection, but little more. Think of the uncertain hope of the Muslim or the Jehovah’s Witness: they may finally attain paradise, but even there they will have no real fellowship with their god. Their god would not want it.

But if God is a Father, whose very life has been about loving and delighting in His precious Son, then you begin to see a God who would have far more intimate and marvelous aims, aims to draw us into His life and joy, to embrace us with the very love He has for His dear Son.

Indeed, this God does not offer some kind of “he loves me, he loves me not” relationship whereby I have to try to keep myself in His favor by behaving impeccably. No, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)—and so with the security to enjoy His love forever. Continue reading

Do the Work of an Evangelist

Article by Dr. Steve Lawson:

In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?

First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace. Continue reading

The Essential Marks of a Preacher

Article by Dr. Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He writes regularly at (original source here)

“How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). With airtight logic, the Apostle Paul sets forth the indispensable human link in fulfilling the Great Commission—the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, he instructs us in the way of the kingdom, that in every generation God is calling out preachers to serve His church.

Paul’s timeless question is especially relevant for the twenty-first-century church. Evangelical churches are in the midst of a massive generational transition, with vacant pastorates and empty pulpits dotting the landscape.

Vacant pulpits ought not induce the wringing of hands. Christ is building His church. He does not hope for ministerial volunteers; He sovereignly sets apart pastors to serve His church and preach His gospel.

Nonetheless, the church is to call out the called, and every qualified man of God should consider if God is calling him to pastoral ministry.

How might one know if God is calling him to the ministry? There are four essential marks.

A Burning Desire

The leading indicator of a call to ministry is a burning desire for the work. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul begins the list of ministry qualifications by asserting, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” In fact, Paul testified that he ministered as one “under compulsion,” fearful of God’s judgment if he did not peach.

In his Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon argued, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to be a true call to the ministry, there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls.”

Those who have been most used of God carried this weight of the soul. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Spurgeon owned this inner compulsion that, like an artesian well, continuously poured power and urgency into their ministries.

The preacher may not feel every Sunday what Richard Baxter felt when he famously resolved “to preach as a dying man, to dying men; as one not sure to ever preach again.” But the one called of God knows a constant, ongoing desire for the work of ministry.

A Holy Life

First Timothy 3:1–7 offers a clear and nonnegotiable list of character qualifications for the ministry. This list is prescriptive, not descriptive; it is regulative, not suggestive. In summary, the minister of God must be above reproach.

Before a church evaluates a pastoral candidate’s gifting or talent, it must first evaluate his character. To be sure, for a man aspiring to ministry, it may help to be winsome, to be eloquent, or to possess a magnetic personality. Yet, before one looks for these secondary—and tertiary—strengths, one must first meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3.

What is more, the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications do not simply represent a one-time threshold to cross. Rather, they are a lifestyle to be maintained, a character to be cultivated, and an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and God’s people. One’s call to ministry is inextricably linked to one’s biblical character. The two cannot—and must not—be decoupled.

A Surrendered Will

The Apostle Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb and testified that he “became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me” (Col. 1:25). Paul chose to preach because God chose him to preach. Every call to preach originates in heaven. Our response is total surrender.

In fact, “surrendering to ministry” used to be common parlance in evangelical churches. We would do well to recover that phrase, because that is how one enters the ministry—through surrender. God’s call to ministry comes with the expectation that you will go whenever and wherever He calls you. His ministers are His agents, deployed for service according to His providential plan.

An Ability to Teach

Finally, the one called to the ministry must be able to teach the Word of God. In 1 Timothy 3, this is the distinguishing qualification between the office of the deacon and elder. There are a thousand ways a minister can serve the church, but there is one, indispensable, and nonnegotiable responsibility—to preach and teach the Word of God.

Does the preparation and delivery of sermons fulfill you? Do the people of God benefit from your ministry of the Word? Does your church sense your gifting and affirm your ability to preach or teach about God?


Any man can choose the ministry, and too many unqualified men have. Only a select few are called by God. Discerning between being called of men and called of God is urgently important.

If God is calling you to be His servant, then realize, in the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “the work of preaching is the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” If God has called you to be His preacher, never stoop to be a king of men.

Unity and Doctrine

While I do not hold to pre-millennialism (as stated below) this is an excellent article by Pastor Anthony Wood of Mission Bible Church, Tustin, California, regarding doctrinal unity (original source here).

Evangelicals Can Have Doctrinal Discussion in a God Honoring Way

“We must know when to wield the sword mightily and when to keep it sheathed!” prince of preachers Charles Spurgeon once exclaimed.

On Twitter we find two types of evangelical Christian… One group steers clear of any biblical truth that may challenge or offend. The second type tends to live in a polemic bubble of red cap and exclamation mark. One day we’ll die on the hill. The next day we post jelly memes and dandelion post cards. This is true of us pastors too. At times we may even live in one camp for a day and then cross over. However, there are some prudent things we can do to prevent from virtualized doctrinal schizophrenia.

First, we shouldn’t be so hard on the concept of multiple denominations. One sad hallmark of modern evangelicalism is the tendency to get frustrated by the idea of denominations. Many who are new to the faith ponder why there are so many different versions of Christianity. However, what they miss is that denominationalism, although not perfect, is better than what existed before it! Up until the reformation, Christians had no choice but to participate in the papal system of Roman Catholicism. If they refused, they could be killed as dissenters.

Even the Anglican Church attempted to force conformity up until the 1680’s when the birth of pilgrims in a new nation (America) provided the right to disagree and depart based on matters of faith. As early as the Westminster Assembly (1642-1649) independents were pushing “congregational” principles, including the following statements:

1) Due to man’s inability to fully comprehend truth, differences about the outward form of church are inevitable.

2) Differences may not involve fundamentals of the faith but they are important and a Christian is obligated to practice what he believes the Bible teaches.

3) Because no church has a final and full grasp on divine truth, the true Church of Christ can never be fully represented by one single ecclesiastical structure.

4) Separation does not itself constitute schism, it’s possible to divide at many points and still be Christian.

We take these items for granted but they were world-changing in 1640. Historian Bruce Shelley summarizes the role America played in denominationalism:

“The religious diversity of the American colonies called for a new understanding of the church. We may call it the denominational theory of the church. Denominationalism, as originally designed, is the opposite of sectarianism. A sect claims the authority of Christ for itself alone. It believes that it is the true body of Christ; all truth belongs to it and no other religion. So by definition a sect is exclusive. The word denomination by contrast was an inclusive term. It implied that the Christian group called or denominated by a particular name was but one member of a larger group – the church – to which all denominations belong. The denominational theory of the church, then, insists that the true church cannot be identified with any single ecclesiastical structure. No denomination claims to represent the whole church of Christ. Each simply constitutes a different form – in worship and organization – of the larger life of the church.”[1]

One of the powerful opportunities both the reformation and pilgrimage to America gave Christianity was freedom to have true scholarly discussion about the Bible without risking life and limb! And, this should convict us… Instead of taking our freedoms for granted we must take full advantage, properly defining what we believe and how we will practice it. And, we must be prepared to sit and discuss what we’ve learned with our neighbors in Christ, regardless of what church they have attended previous. Continue reading

N. T. Wright the Heretic

Dr. R. C. Sproul on N. T. Wright:

Dr. John MacArthur on N. T. Wright:
(begins at the 17:38 mark)

Phil Johnson on N. T. Wright:

The following is an insightful article entitled “N.T. Wright’s Long Farewell” by Ron Henzel (original source here)

If you want a quick-but-tedious way to separate some of the shallower evanjellyfish from the more theologically-serious evangelicals in your circle of friends, here’s a simple method: call N.T. Wright a heretic. It’s quick because the blowback you will surely experience can be timed in microseconds. It’s tedious because you will be subjected to a series of overweeningly shrill diatribes, accompanied by confident insinuations that anyone who says such a thing is a divisive dolt. But a more effective method is difficult to find.

N.T. Wright is a heretic. There, I’ve said it. Let the ranting begin.

John Piper is a trailblazer when it comes to serving as a punching-bag for online ranters. On February 26, 2011, he tweeted a response to Rob Bell’s promotional video for his hell-denying book, Love Wins.1 It read, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Three words that aroused the theological snowflakes and buttercups of the Internet to levels of digital rage usually reserved for political street mobs. I can only dream of such notoriety.

More than a year later Piper was asked about that episode. It turns out that his comment was not about Bell’s view of hell. He pointed out that he also disagreed with John Stott’s view of hell, but never tweeted about it. Rather it was Bell’s “cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son.”2 I and others like me now have the same issue with N.T. Wright. But for any of us to go into our Twitter accounts and tweet, “Farewell, N.T. Wright”—well, that would be so six years ago, now, wouldn’t it? Continue reading