What does solo sciruptura mean

By Elizabeth Olson,2014-06-17 16:53
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What does solo sciruptura mean ...

    FWS Chairman’s Letter, September 2005

What does Sola Scriptura mean for modern Anglican debates?

Sola Scriptura is one of the 5 rallying cries of the Reformation meaning:

    “Scripture alone”. By this, the Reformers meant that Councils, Bishops and

    Synods have no authority to overrule the Scriptures, for Scripture is to be

    supreme in the Church. For a start, we must say, Sola Scriptura is at the

    heart of the Anglican understanding of the Bible:

    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that

    whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be

    required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith,

    or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (Article 6)

    The concept of Sola Scriptura is particularly associated with Martin Luther who asserted that to hear or read the Scripture is nothing less than to hear

    God (Packer „Sola Scriptura‟ in History and Today, p.122). Most famous is

    Luther‟s statement in 1521 at Worms:

    Unless I am convinced by testimonies of Scripture or evident reason

    for I believe nether the Pope nor Councils alone, since it is established

    that they have often erred and contradicted themselves - I am the

    prisoner of the Scriptures cited by me, and my conscience has been

    taken captive by the Word of God; I neither can nor will recant anything,

    since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help

    me. Amen.

Whilst is it true that Luther did not use the words “inerrant” or “infallible”, RC

    Sproul is surely right to articulate Luther‟s view of Scripture in these terms:

    For Luther, the Sola of "Sola Scriptura" was inseparably related to the

    Scriptures' unique inerrancy. It was because popes could and did err

    and because councils could and did err that Luther came to realize the

    supremacy of Scripture. Luther did not despise church authority, nor

    did he repudiate church councils as having no value. His praise of the

    Council of Nicea is noteworthy. Luther and the Reformers did not mean

    by "Sola Scriptura" that the Bible is the only authority in the church;

    rather, they meant that the Bible is the only infallible authority in the


     thLuther's emphasis was echoed by the 16 Century Anglican Richard Hooker in his teaching that scripture is adequate for its divinely given purpose, namely

    to show the way of salvation, but not to prescribe for all aspects of life, as

    some of the puritans insisted. (Paul Avis,

    0Avis.htm). It is here that modern Anglican debate rages.

The 3-legged stool

This is a phrase that is often associated with Richard Hooker, namely, that the

    doctrine of the Church stands upon the three legs of Scripture, Reason and

    Tradition. However Hooker did not actually use the phrase, but did use a

more subtle analogy of the 3-fold cord, which sees Scripture, Reason and

    Tradition as intertwined and, presumably, inseparable.

Reason, for both Hooker and Luther meant the clarity of Scripture, accessible

    through human thought. Revisionist moderns have taken “Reason” to refer to

    rational thinking over against the implied obscurity or irrelevancy of Scriptures.

    Hooker would agree with the Reformed stance that Scripture is perspicuous in

    everything it speaks about and Church decisions should be subject to the

    “plain reading” of the text. Reason, after all is a gift of God which enables us

    to understand God‟s plan for life through, not separate from, Scripture (see Of

    the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V, 8:2).

The problem with 3-legged stool analogy is that it implies that each leg bears

    equal weight and each are equally indispensable. This is not true for the

    Protestant and Reformed understanding of the relationships between

    Scripture, Reason and Tradition, as the famous Luther quote above illustrates.

    Moreover, because our thinking is fallen, and because our human culture is

    fallen, and because our human experiences are fallen, neither reason,

    tradition nor experience should ever be put over the unfallen and absolute

    trustworthiness of Scripture.

Via Media

This is another phrase, which I think, is read into Hooker by later tractarians.

    It is true to say that Hooker saw Anglicanism, not as half way between Rome

    and Protestantism, but perhaps more finely distinguished between Puritan

    and Reformation thought. The latter would see Scripture as containing all

    things necessary for salvation (hence article 6 above), the former as seeing

    Scripture as guiding all of life. Hence the Puritan “regulative principle” for

    worship, for example.

Nigel Atkinson argues that Hooker‟s reverence for tradition was similar to

    Luther and Calvin. For example, the episcopacy can be argued for, not least

    because it has existed for 1500 years. If it is not proved contrary to Scripture,

    then it should be recognised, not as the esse of the Church, but as the bene

    esse of the Church (Richard Hooker and the Authority of Scripture, Tradition

    and Reason, p.131). But, for example, because Tradition is the consensus of the universal, historic Church it should put the brakes on moves to consecrate

    women to the Episcopacy, not only because Scripture has nothing positive to

    say about women in this position of authority, but also because of the weight

    of Tradition.

Many modern movements, from the standpoint of Scripture, would be, not just

    unscriptural, but irrational (contra Reason) and unconventional (contra

    Tradition). Experience and Reason may never be used to justify unbiblical or untraditional decisions in the councils of the Church.

It concerns me that decisions - or revisions - made in the Church are often

    justified through a misunderstanding of how the supposed “3-legged stool” is

    thought to operate. Of particular concern is the idea that fallen human reason

    seems to think that it knows better than Scripture. In addition, developments in human thinking and tradition appear to be taken to override the Divine order for human life.

If it is true that we retain the Anglican commitment to Sola Scriptura, I feel

    bound to ask:

    1) Is it clear from Scripture, Reason and Tradition that women should be ordained to the Episcopacy?

    There are many of us who do not believe that it is clear that women should be so consecrated. At the very least, therefore, it requires that we fight for adequate and permanent provision, and I urge you to sign the enclosed petition (more on this in a moment). Wallace Benn has made the distinction between first order and second order issues with respect to the proposals to ordain women to the Episcopacy. I believe he is right to say that, whilst the consecration of women as bishops is a second order issue (in-so-far-as Church polity is not a first order issue), the implications for our view of Scripture and how God continues to guide the Church today, throw up first order issues.

    2) Is it plain from Scripture, Reason and Tradition that the House of Bishops recent Pastoral Statement about same-sex partnerships is right?

    I think that the recent statement from the House of Bishops responding to changes in legislation concerning homosexual partnerships is ultimately unhelpful and adds to the obfuscation caused by the way the debate is handled. For this reason I signed a letter of support to Archbishop Peter Akinola printed below.

    Please take time to read the two items included in this Newslink. First, there is the text of the letter, which we sent to Peter Akinola. Secondly, you will find the wording of a petition, which I hope that you will sign. Please notice that the emphasis of the petition particularly resonates with Article 6 cited above. At the very least, should it not be acknowledged that the debate about women in the episcopacy has not reached clarity from Scripture, Reason and Tradition in favour of women being ordained into the Episcopate? For this reason, I urge you to persuade Synod to make permanent provision for those

    who feel that the Denomination is acting contrary to “consciences bound by the word of God”.

Yours in Christ

Simon Vibert

    Chairman Fellowship of Word and Spirit

Text of Letter to Archbishop Peter Akinola

Dear Archbishop Peter

We want to write straight away to thank you for your wise, strong and

    courageous statement on the Bishops‟ response to the Civil Partnerships Act.

    Your statement expresses clearly the conviction of all those who wish clearly

    to uphold biblical standards of morality and states incisively the inconsistency

    of the bishops‟ position.

Lawyers, parliamentarians, and senior clergy have all hailed your statement

    as “absolutely right”. It has been sent to all bishops of the Church of England.

We did write to all bishops while they were preparing their statement asking

    them not to allow clergy to enter civil partnerships for the reasons you have

    stated. With you we pray that the bishops might not be so proud as to think

    they can never make mistakes and have the grace to rethink what they have

    said and see into what a disastrous situation it could lead the Church of


Please know that there are many clergy and congregations in England who

    will seek to be faithful to the Word of God in this situation and who appreciate

    fellowship with and leadership from you in the worldwide Anglican


With warm greetings in Christ

Prebendary Richard Bewes (former Chair of Church of England Evangelical


    Rev Nick Wynne Jones (Secretary of Church of England Evangelical Council)

    Rev David Banting (Chairman of Reform)

    Gerald O‟Brien (Member of CEEC)

    Rev Simon Vibert (Fellowship of Word and Spirit)

    Rev Richard Farr (Chair of Anglican Evangelical Assembly)

    Very Rev Michael Lawson (Archdeacon of Hampstead)

    Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Anglican Mainstream)

The text of Archbishop Akinola‟s statement can be viewed on the Anglican

    Mainstream website


Text of Petition (also included on a separate piece of paper for you to sign

    and return)

Many Evangelicals will be concerned by the July 2005 General Synod

    decision which will in effect proceed towards the ordination of Women to the


    We urge you to sign the following petition to ensure that Permanent Provision

    is made for those of use who, in biblical conscience, will be unable to serve

    under a women bishop.

Please sign this form and return it to the postal address of Church Society,

    FWS or Reform, or alternatively, sign online at, th 2005.,, by September 30

Yours in Christ

The Right Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes

    The Revd David Banting, Chairman of Reform and Vicar of St Peter‟s Harold


    The Revd David Phillips, Director of Church Society

    The Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Chairman of Fellowship of Word and Spirit and

    Vicar of St Luke‟s Wimbledon Park.

    1. We the undersigned, declare our belief in the faith uniquely revealed in

    the Holy Scriptures, set forth in the catholic creeds, and borne witness

    to by the historic formularies of the Church of England (Canon C15).

    2. We affirm and value the ministry of women within the Church of

    England along the lines of complementary gender roles and

    partnership in ministry, as set out in Holy Scripture.

    3. We believe the decision of the General Synod in July 2005 to proceed

    towards the consecration of women bishops is contrary to the will of

    God revealed in Scripture and appeal to the Synod not to proceed.

    4. We could not in conscience recognise or receive the Episcopal

    oversight of a female bishop, nor swear the oath of canonical

    obedience to a woman.

    5. We regret that adequate time has not been given to theological debate

    about the specific issue of gender complementarity in leadership roles

    in the Church and appeal to Synod to make time for this.

    6. If Synod opts to continue, we urge that specific structural provision be

    made for those who cannot in conscience accept the rightness of this

    change and that this provision should be contained within a Measure

    and be without time limit.



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