In This Issue

Ryan Glomsrud
Monday, November 1st 2010
Nov/Dec 2010

The doctrine of sola scriptura was recovered for the church universal at the famous Leipzig Disputation in 1519. Against Johannes Eck, Luther returned every quotation from council or canon law with Scripture passages from memory. Biblical truth and the clarity of the gospel were then and are now the foundation of the church. Every modern reformation must therefore begin and continue always with the recovery of the Word of God, for there we find the gospel of Jesus Christ for every age until his return. As with Luther in Leipzig, the topics in this issue revolve around the question of authority. To whom do we listen to find the truth? Ourselves, a word within, a "church" that places itself over the Word, or perhaps one of the other familiar "authorities" in the broad world of evangelical Christianity?

Christian George, a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews, offers us a taxonomy of younger evangelicals that highlights the multiple and varied sources of authority at work among the teeming crowds of "relevants, reconstructionists, revisionists, and reformers"Â?the four groups he thinks comprise the wide evangelical spectrum. George sets us up for a provocative question: Do evangelicals really profess Scripture alone, or do these extra sources leave them with an oxymoronic "sola scriptura, etc."?

Perhaps surprisingly, authority and freedom should come together when we discuss the doctrine of Scripture. Presbyterian historian John Muether expounds upon the spiritual liberty that flows from a recognition that "God alone is Lord of thy conscience." No one, not even the church, has a right to impose upon us any spiritual "teaching, commandment, or ordinance that is contrary to or cannot be deduced from Scripture," Muether explains. It is ultimately the Spirit who convicts the heart and conscience, the Spirit who always works through and with the Word. Jonathan Mumme elaborates on this point by letting Luther speak to us in his own words, showing how the great Reformer thinks differently, employs alternative categories and vocabulary, and in his way challenges our thinking with insights from the Word of God.

But there are always lingering questions about the misuse of power and authority, especially where it concerns the formation of the Bible. New Testament scholar Lawrence Hurtado explains the surprising but ordinary way the Bible came to be. He contends against the notion that the process of canonization was about the exclusion of competing texts rather than the opposite, namely, the gradual recognition and inclusion of authors and multiple Gospel perspectives. The Bible is larger than what we would otherwise have had without the providential work of the Spirit to open our hearts and minds to recognize Scripture as Scripture.

Michael Horton then offers us a rich theological reflection on the relationship between sola gratia (grace alone) and sola scriptura (scripture alone). The timely importance of his comparison between Rome and Protestant enthusiasm becomes evident later in the issue when we offer an extensive dialogue with Bryan Cross, a former Presbyterian pastor who converted to Roman Catholicism. Thanks to Bryan's gracious participation, you will see how a debate about sola scriptura plays out in real time. As the stakes are high when these Reformation basics are in view, we also called on apologist Ken Samples to lay out a number of objections and responses with which we should wrestle in order to better know what we believe and why. The recovery of Scripture must be our rallying cry, as it is for church reformers of every age.

Ryan Glomsrud
Executive Editor

Monday, November 1st 2010

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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