The principle of “sola Scriptura is sometimes called the formal cause of the Protestant Reformation. What does this Latin phrase mean? Today, Derek Thomas addresses the authority of God’s Word, the Bible.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Ligonier Teaching Fellow Dr. Derek Thomas is joining us this week. Dr. Thomas, what does sola Scriptura mean?
DR. DEREK THOMAS: Well, this is one of the five solas, or "onlies," that emerge out of the Reformation. There's no precise historical date that we can attribute to all these five. There comes a time when all of these five are recognized: by faith alone, by grace alone, by Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, and by Scripture alone, sola Scriptura. And in the context of the Reformation, it had a very specific meaning"namely, that the proof that something was true or false was not the sayings and statements and councils of men, and even less the pontifications of the pope speaking ex cathedra, but the veracity"speaking of theological matters"the veracity as to whether something was true or false was Scripture alone. The final authority is not a council and certainly not the pope speaking ex cathedra but Scripture alone. So in the sixteenth century, coming out of the reign of Catholicism for a thousand years, sola Scriptura was really a negative statement about the power of church councils and the power especially of the pontiff, of the pope speaking ex cathedra.
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