by Dave Armstrong
No belief is more central to Protestantism than sola Scriptura, which says the Bible is the only infallible, authoritative source of Christian faith and practice. It was a main rallying cry of the original Protestant Reformers and remains so today. While Catholics root their authority in the three-legged stool of Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the teaching magisterium, Protestants pledge ultimate allegiance only to the first—the Bible.
What this means is that on that leg, Protestantism stands or falls. If sola Scriptura is true, Catholicism is false—or at least contains excess doctrines, like barnacles on a ship. But if sola Scriptura is false, Protestantism is completely undermined.
As a Protestant apologist, Dave Armstrong understood this dilemma. So once he discovered that sola Scriptura was a man-made doctrine he converted to the Catholic Church. Since then, through his blog and many books, Dave has helped others spot the holes in sola Scriptura. And in a new book, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura (Catholic Answers, paperback, 134 pages), he compiles all the arguments in one place.
One common objection you’ll hear from Protestants whenever sola Scriptura is under attack is that the attacker misrepresents the doctrine. There are, admittedly, several nuanced definitions of sola Scriptura among various Protestants. For instance, some groups differentiate between solo Scriptura, the notion that Scripture is the only authority, and sola Scriptura, the notion that Scripture is the only infallible authority while other lesser authorities exist. (However, the guys at Called to Communion show how both systems ultimately reduce to the same thing.)
To counter this objection, Dave makes clear in the Introduction that the sola Scriptura he demolishes is not a straw man, but the real thing as advocated by its strongest supporters. He defines sola Scriptura by quoting its definition from three reputable Protestant teachers including Norman Geisler, Keith Mattison, and James White, and it’s their common definition he disproves.
Dave’s book reads like an onslaught. He shoots holes in sola Scriptura from several angles from Jewish tradition, to Greek etymology, to first-century culture, to biblical theology. He holds nothing back and leaves sola Scriptura hopelessly slain into pieces. To his credit, Dave does all this very charitably, while steering clear of the polemical tone you’ll find among some apologists. But he’s ruthless and complete in showing how sola Scriptura ultimately comes up short.
Surprisingly, Dave saves the most devastating argument for #55 where he points out sola Scriptura’s Achilles’ heel: the doctrine is not explicitly found in Scripture. Therefore you need an outside authority to confirm the doctrine, which in turn violates its very principle. To say it another way, sola Scriptura cannot be proved by Scripture alone.
As an aside, it should be noted that the book’s title is a bit deceiving. Several arguments are less “biblical” and more based on logic, reason, or history. Also, some are a bit of a stretch, and probably wouldn’t stand on their own. Nevertheless, collectively, these 100 arguments build an airtight case against sola Scriptura which should trouble any Protestant. After all, it only takes one to topple the whole sola Scriptura tower.
In 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, Dave delivers plenty more than that and shows sola Scriptura proponents that they are in fact two legs short of a full stool.