Sola Scriptura

National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

Sola Scriptura is a Latin phrase that translates to “Scripture alone.” It is a fundamental principle of Protestant Christianity, particularly associated with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The principle asserts that the Bible, specifically the Old and New Testaments, is the ultimate and sole authority in matters of faith and practice for Christians.

The concept of Sola Scriptura emerged as a response to perceived abuses and doctrinal deviations within the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation era. Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, challenged the authority of the Pope, church tradition, and ecclesiastical hierarchies, arguing that they had strayed from the teachings of Scripture.

According to the principle of Sola Scriptura, the Bible is seen as the inspired and infallible Word of God, containing all necessary knowledge for salvation and the Christian life. It is considered the supreme authority that should be the basis for theological beliefs, moral teachings, and ecclesiastical practices. Advocates of Sola Scriptura emphasize the importance of individual believers’ access to the Scriptures and their personal responsibility to interpret the Bible guided by the Holy Spirit.

Sola Scriptura does not reject the value of church tradition or the insights of Christian thinkers throughout history. However, it asserts that traditions and teachings should be evaluated and measured against the standard of Scripture. If a teaching or practice contradicts the clear teachings of the Bible, it should be rejected or reformed.

It is important to note that Sola Scriptura has been interpreted and applied in various ways within different Protestant traditions. Some denominations emphasize a more strict adherence to the literal interpretation of Scripture, while others allow for a broader range of interpretive approaches. Nonetheless, the core idea of Sola Scriptura remains central to Protestant theology and continues to shape the beliefs and practices of many Protestant Christians today.