Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When sola scriptura "fails"

i) As I’ve said before, the primary objection to sola Scriptura is a pragmatic objection: it doesn’t work because it results in “chaos” (choose your favorite adjective).

Therefore, sola Scriptura cannot be the rule of faith which God has enjoined on his church.

By this logic, you can verify or falsify a rule of faith by its consequences. A rule of faith that has undesirable consequences is a false rule of faith.

ii) Now, I think it’s quite possible to answer this objection on its own grounds. One can mount a pragmatic argument for sola Scriptura. Indeed, I’ve already done that:

iii) But let’s challenge the premise of the objection. Take the following verse of Scripture:

”I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live (Ezk 20:25; NASB).”

If we were to apply the high-church objection to Ezk 20:25, we would have to conclude that the Mosaic law was uninspired. This couldn’t be a divine ordinance, for the Mosaic law precipitated a national apostasy.

But, according to this very verse, apostasy was not a merely incidental or unforeseen consequence of the Mosaic law (or some subset thereof), but an intentional consequence thereof. God gave the law for the express purpose of provoking this particular outcome. As one commentator explains:

“Ezekiel seems to have put back the reference from Canaan to the wilderness in line with his theme of Israel’s early rebellion (Heider, The Cult of Molek 373n740). A new set of legislation forced them into a track that was to culminate in death, after their refusal of Yahweh’s life-affirming terms,” L. Allen, Ezekiel 20-48 (Word 1990), 12.

“Theologically the divine policy is akin to the role of prophecy in Isa 6:9-10, where the prophetic word is given to seal the people’s fate by giving them an opportunity to add to their sin by rejecting that word,” ibid. 12.

Did the failure of the people to keep God’s law signal the failure of God’s law? No. To the contrary, God’s law was instrumental in their failure.

Hence, it is demonstrably false to judge a rule of faith by its consequences, for the word of God serves a number of purposes, both to bless and to curse.


  1. Kinda reminds me of Romans 7 too:
    What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead (Rom. 7:7-8)

    I think the biggest problem with the "failure" of Sola Scriptura is due to the fact that those who attack SS continually fail to remember the little issue of sin.

  2. The consequence of Israel’s unfaithfulness, then, was that God decreed events that were not in their favor, and he made judicial decisions that threatened their survival. This resulted in God’s use of forces that devastated Israel, such as war, famine, plague and foreign armies."

    That doesn't sound much like

    I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live (Ezk 20:25; NASB).

    it doesn't say they couldn't figure out what the ordinances were or how to apply them or what it all meant.

    As if that's the problem at hand.

  3. I'd advise any lurkers to read Allen entire discussion on p12 of his commentary, which I already excerpted, where he supplies a detailed argument for the identity of the statutes in question that supports my own intepretation.

  4. orthodox said:

    Secondly, it doesn't say they couldn't figure out what the ordinances were or how to apply them or what it all meant.

    The claim is that sola scriptura is SUFFICIENT for establishing doctrine. But if you're going to claim that God PURPOSEFULLY made scripture for confusing doctrine, then you're in a huge predicament. It may well be that you have fallen into God's intention for scripture which is to confuse doctrine. Ouch.


    A strong man argument since that was never my claim. Your penchant for chronic dishonesty is one reason you've been banned. Good riddance!