Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue

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So, bearing those caveats in mind, feel free to proceed. I have carefully read both your response and the attachment you sent. So, always desirous of brevity, I have decided to respond to each major point with which I either have further questions or a disagreement. On the disagreements, see me as not speaking alone for Adventist thought on this issue.

I am puzzled by this. You seem to be suggesting that the Jewish and Christian communities would not canonize such writings if they were making the choice in a vacuum. They chose some materials and rejected others for criteria and that do not fully understand, though eyewitness accounts or secondary accounts sourced in eyewitnesses seemed to be at least one criterion.

Your binary choice is a false one. The events that created and nurtured the community I authority? A better analogy, I think, would have been the process often used in library-building. One must choose between those books that clearly demonstrate lasting importance and those that do not, even if they address the same subjects. It had to do with the relevance of the writings to both the events behind them and to the future before the community.

What I am pleading for is an inductive methodology which begins by allowing the Bible to speak as it wishes to speak.

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Yes, that is a presupposition, but unless you are going to insist that there is almost no truly human contribution to these materials in recording, editing, transmitting and translating which is false on the face of it. That is indefensible and historic Adventist tried arduously to avoid inerrancy, but often flirted with plenary despite its weaknesses, even for Ellen White. No doubt, but that is precisely the issue in question.

If I were to rehearse for you the history of why we are where we are, you would see that where we are was not decided by wide open councils as in the early Church but by closed meetings with few participants who used the PM approach to reassure administrators that our doctrines are in jeopardy without it. Your added claim that this best resonates with the trajectory started by the pioneers ignores many decades of Scriptural and Ellen White research.

One of the following three, you suggest, must be viewed as the ultimate authority: the Church, the Scriptures, or the Holy Spirit. You say that if all three of these are rejected, Christian theology becomes arbitrary.

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One goes around similar to a potluck picking whatever their personal tastes dictate. This is why we have so many denominations, you assert. The rest of your admittedly very brief summation covered centuries and movements at such a surface level that no one, including myself, who has studied most of these materials in a serious way, could take your summation at face value. The SE "cannot follow this approach since, in this model, there is no higher authority between conflicting parts of the Bible.

A Dialogue with a “Bible-only” Christian on Sola Scriptura

The model must therefore assume that all these unique parts of the Bible were somehow nonetheless orchestrated by God to paint one distinct picture. Just like a mosaic where different shapes of different colors come together to form a single portrait, so the Scripture must be seen as one story told by a collection of authors under the guidance of the principal Author. There is a lot here which needs to be clarified.

No philosopher or theologian would ever argue that they have a model providing certainty for what God has revealed to us that comes from anything other than a leap or commitment to believe, even if one that respects relevant evidence. Furthermore, the notion that 'conflicting" I prefer various which do not necessarily conflict in ways that would jeopardize the persuasive clarity of the Biblical story books cannot rely on some other authority to determine what they mean.


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One must assume that there are many authors or writers, but one Author. Does not every believer accept the Biblical story as a whole, even if a believer questions why there are historical inaccuracies in the Bible? If I told you the story of my life, it would be accurate in all the essential element, but not so in details or even understanding the meaning of those events.

Sola Scriptura in Dialogue | Alpha and Omega Ministries

If the essential element of the resurrection accounts is that Jesus is alive, why bother about the textual mistakes? And why assume that such mistakes mean God failed in his effort to provide a story with high certainty? Your concluding assertion that the SE is the only way to claim that Scripture is the ultimate authority suffers from your passion to preserve Adventism in its current form at the expense of being honest about Scripture, I fear.

Your model seems to deny that possibility, which may preserve the view that under no circumstances may any text or Biblical idea be challenged since no authority on earth is higher. That would seem to leech the Scripture from any threatening error, but at what cost? Scripture is a divine-human achievement which we, by faith, accept as authoritative for faith and practice as we follow Jesus.

Why can we not honestly face and grapple with the human elements in Scripture, including its mistakes, weaknesses and historical confusions, and still affirm its authority in what truly matters to the church? First, I am going to stop speaking on behalf of Dr. Regarding my attached article, yes, it is essentially an attempt to summarize 3 millennia of Judeo-Christian history in short enough a space that someone with a modern-day attention span might possibly be willing to read it. None the less, it is precisely because it manages to organize enormous amounts of data into a few manageable categories that I believe it to be very useful to furthering the conversation.

There is definitely a breakdown in communication that we will have to find a way to resolve if this conversation has any hope of making progress. As of now, the best I can do is to try to present the ideas from a slightly different angle, hoping that this will clarify things. I will arrange things by letter in a logical sequence so that, if you disagree with something in A, we should resolve that before moving on to B. Under this scenario, the only means at our disposal for learning about the nature of this reality are our reason and our senses.

Our senses however are limited and prone to error think of a stick that looks bent when submerged in water. Our reason does allow us to go beyond the reach of our senses via imagination, but to do so it relies on presuppositions that cannot always be verified. The most we can do is hope that technology will improve enough for us to verify those presuppositions someday. That of course only applies to material reality. If there is something beyond the material, a metaphysical reality, this would be entirely outside of our reach. Again, we could guess possible scenarios, but we would have no way to differentiate between them.

Thus, under a god-less scenario, access to knowledge would be limited and therefore, the only reasonable position for anyone to take would be that of an agnostic. This can be a sort of epistemic baseline in relation to which we can evaluate our claims to knowledge. If a God does exist however, we are no longer alone in our quest for knowledge. The possibility exists that this God will provide additional guidance beyond what we can gather on our own.

We can take that point for granted and jump to the next question of how we can know which version of God and reality as expressed by different religions or denominations is the correct one. So again, for the sake of saving time, I am raising the epistemic baseline from pure agnosticism to a sort of theistic agnosticism. How do we move beyond basic belief in God?

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As mentioned in point A, this would only be possible if God intervenes and somehow provides us with information we would not be able to acquire on our own. Thus, anyone claiming that Christianity is superior to other worldviews is also claiming access to divinely provided knowledge. Divinely provided knowledge implies a method by which this knowledge is communicated to us initially and then how it is preserved for future generations.

And, it implies that there must also exist some trust factor or credential helping us to discern between competing claims. In Christianity, as explained in my other article, there are several hypotheses regarding how Christian knowledge is formed and preserved:. God revealed certain things in antiquity and that knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next: Tradition.

God gives every believer the Holy Spirit which then guides the individual to a correct understanding. All these hypotheses make use of Scripture and the other elements in some form, but the question is which element calibrates the others. Moreover, all these hypotheses are built on a starting assumption regarding how God communicates; i.

So my question for you is how you build your knowledge beyond a basic belief in God? What element do you use to calibrate the others? Imagine a very complicated piece of IKEA furniture that comes with a set of written instructions just text; no pictures. We can set up controls at both ends of the spectrum.

In this experiment we will focus on everyone else. Most people will be able to accommodate some degree of error and still manage to build the unit.


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There comes a point however, if sufficient errors are introduced, that a significant number of people will no longer be able to complete the task. Adventists have never been inerrantists; we have never advocated a form of divine dictation or verbal inspiration. To go with the analogy, we have never expected the instructions to be perfect. But we expected them to be good enough for people to still be able to build the unit. Whenever someone claims that the degree of error in Scripture is higher than that, they are left with only two options:. To choose another element tradition, magisterium, contemporary prophet etc.

In this case the question is, do we have good reason to trust this other element? To distrust all these elements, in which case we must ask if they have really moved beyond the theistic agnosticism baseline?