Ken Samples on Sola Scriptura

I was rereading through some of Ken Samples’ book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test and found his chapter “God’s Written Word – Scripture” to be an excellent summary.  He makes several points about Sola Scriptura but I thought I’d share two of them here:

Objection #1: Scripture itself does not teach the principle of sola Scriptura; therefore, this principle is self-defeating.

The doctrine of sola Scriptura need not be taught formally and explicitly.  It may be implicit in Scripture and inferred logically.  Scripture explicitly states its inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (discussed previously) and its sufficiency is implied there as well.  This passage contains the essence of sola Scriptura, revealing that Scripture is able to make a person wise unto salvation.  And it includes the inherent ability to make a person complete in belief and practice.

Pgs. 120-121.

This reminds me of an excellent review by Peter Leithart responding to Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible:

He [Smith] doesn’t think that there’s a “hint of sola Scriptura” in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.  He rightly notes that Paul reminds Timothy of the people who taught him Scripture.  Sure enough.  But he doesn’t admit or recognize that Paul speaks of Scripture as a “God-breathed” text, which, one might assume, makes it quite different from other texts.  He also ignores the final clause of the passage, where Paul tells Timothy that the Scripture is useful to equip the man of God “for every good work.”   Is there a good work that Scripture fails to equip us for?  Paul says No.  That’s the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture in a nutshell.

Both of these quotes nicely compliment this excellent little read about the biblical idea of using “good and necessary consequence” as an appropriate tool for theological reflection.

I also liked what Samples had to say about the canonization of scripture:

Objection #7: The original biblical manuscripts did not contain a table of contents to designate exactly which books were canonical and which were not.  Therefore Protestants relied upon Roman Catholic tradition in order to even produce the canon of Scripture.  This dilemma is self-defeating for the principle of sola Scriptura.

Response: The process that the Christian community went through in deciding which books should be included in the canon is open to historical investigation.  It seems unreasonable that a Protestant must rely upon a Catholic tradition (as some type of revelation) to objectively investigate this historical process.  The canonical debate is not part of what Catholics consider “apostolic tradition.”

Pg. 126.

Samples’ response couldn’t have been stated better.  For a more thorough description of the actual historical process, be sure to check out William Webster’s exhaustive study.  If you’d like to hear more from Ken Samples, be sure to check out his blog and his latest book 7 Truths that Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas.

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Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (Anaheim, CA)