Monday, September 5, 2011

Sola Scriptura Quotes of the Church Fathers

Roman Catholics often argue that Sola Scriptura is a doctrine that is foreign to church history and instead only originated with the Reformers. While the Latin term Sola Scriptura certainly arose during the Reformation, most Church Fathers held to the theology encompassed in the term Sola Scriptura. That the Church Fathers rejected the Romanist concept, but adhered to Sola Scriptura is clearly evidenced by the following quotes:

“On consideration...of the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many – alas! – should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures” – Ambrose

“For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?” - Ambrose

“The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth” - Athanasius

“Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture” – Athanasius

“These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me” – Athanasius

“If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.” - Augustine

“Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” - Augustine

“Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures.” - Augustine

“For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” - Augustine

“What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher” - Augustine

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin” – Basil

“The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.” – Basil

“If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth” - Basil

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” - Cyril of Jerusalem

“We endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures.” - Dionysius

“We are not entitled to such licence, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings” - Gregory of Nyssa

“There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source… so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatever things they teach, these let us learn.” - Hippolytus

"I do not, like Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles.” - Ignatius

“We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” - Irenaeus

“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast” - John Chrysostom

“They say that we are to understand the things concerning Paradise not as they are written but in a different way. But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our eyes to all things and follow the canon of Holy Scripture exactly.” - John Chrysostom

“It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments” – John of Damascus

“I revere the fullness of His Scripture, in which He manifests to me both the Creator and the creation. In the gospel, moreover, I discover a Minister and Witness of the Creator, even His Word. If it is nowhere written, then let it fear the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word.” - Tertullian

Having said this, caution must be taken to avoid the dangerous ideal of disregarding everything but Scripture altogether. We must carefully distinguish Sola Scriptura from Solo Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is Biblical, recognising that while Scripture alone is the rule of faith and practise, other authorities do exist (e.g. Synods and Councils) whose decrees are binding on Christians and authoritative insofar as they are consonant to the word of God.

Solo Scriptura: the 'Me and my Bible' mentality, is an unbiblical doctrine and practise wherein each individual views his own understanding as self-authenticating and authoritative. To ignore or reject the creeds and confessions equates to saying "I alone, being immune from error am better equipped than the best theologians of many eras combined". To quote Dabney, "He who would consistently banish creeds must silence all preaching and reduce the teaching of the church to the recital of the exact words of Holy Scripture without note or comment."

In summary, the Church Fathers held to Sola Scriptura. Against Roman Catholicism, they believed that the Holy Scriptures were the self-authenticating perspicuous rule of faith. Against Solo Scriptura, they recognised the existence of authorities additional to, yet in subjection to Scripture.

(C), J. Williams, April 2011.

2 comments:

  1. Thank-you for this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Could I get the reference for those quotes please?

    ReplyDelete