“Sola Scriptura” was one of the central tenants of the Protestant Reformation. Literally, it means “Scripture Alone,” not ironically the title of this book. James White has written a unique treatise on an issue that is heavily under fire in today’s world that harkens back to this principle that the reformers understood: that the Christian faith rests finally on the Bible. In the days of Martin Luther and John Calvin, these men were fighting against the traditions of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. At the time, the Catholic tradition had added numerous doctrines to the Christian faith that are nowhere to be found in scripture. Because of this, the reformers saw that the Church needed to return to the Bible as the sole agent of what is to guide the Church through the murky waters of existence. James White has rightly recognized that we are in a time that needs to hear this message more urgently than ever. With attacks from liberal theologians, the media, the uneducated, and the proponents of the sexual revolution, we too are in an age where we need to return to the idea of sola scriptura.
I had to read Dr. White’s book as part of my Systematic Theology I class. In this class, we discuss the prolegomena of theology, bibliology, and theology proper. Much of what is covered in this really vast subject of bibliology (in theological terms) is present in subsequent lectures. Therefore, this text is not for those who seek to understand all the nuances of bibliology. For a more comprehensive text, I’d recommend a book I read last year by Norman Geisler, “From God to Us.” But what Dr. White neglects is in terms of the complicated issues of textual criticism (among other more academic considerations), which is the practice of examining manuscripts to locate the most accurate among all the various manuscripts we have from the 2nd century onward. The goal of this book is much less academic, but not less smart. Dr. White himself in the preface describes this book as a “passionate introduction” to bibliology. So if you’re looking for a bite sized grasp on the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture, this is your book.
The Bible is central to the Christian because it follows this pattern of logic: if there is a God, then we would only know Him if He has revealed Himself to us; God has revealed Himself to us in the form of the Bible; because the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself, it must be critical to study and know this text in order for us to know God and what He desires. This is why those who reject Christianity often attack scripture first: if they denigrate the foundation of the revelation of God, who He is and what He asks of us and most importantly, how to get right with Him, then the whole system collapses onto itself. Dr. White says, “Almost every denial of biblical sufficiency finds its root in a misunderstanding of, or more likely, a direct rejection of, the true nature of scripture” (White, Kindle Location 623). The opponents of Christianity must first attack the basis of Christian belief in order to dismiss the whole system. After all, if God’s revelation to man is flawed or wrong, then it would be likely to assume that this god really isn’t god. So this is an important point that we, as Christians, get right; we DO believe that God’s revelation is correct and that He is God. Most surprisingly, even those who would recognize the possibility of God, as liberal theologians do, there has been a tendency in recent years for even this group of people to deny the sufficiency of scripture. Starting with the liberal theologian movement at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th with Karl Barth and the neo orthodox movement, scripture is in no doubt under fire from those who even profess there is a god.
Dr. White proceeds to debunk a lot of myths concerning the Bible. His first chapter is entitled “Three Arguments Related to Scriptural Sufficiency.” After setting the groundwork of what the Bible is, Dr. White moves onto what the Bible is not. In chapter two, he speaks about how definitions that we have coined in the context of the study of bibliology is where 85% of the errors related to the Bible come from. One of the most interesting of these objections is the inerrancy debate. In chapter 4, Dr. White addresses this question and he makes an excellent point: “Without a firm foundation, a discernable standard, an unchanging and unchangeable rule, we are left to construct a theology that can ascend no higher than majority opinion, that cannot claim divine authority (though this may not keep such a system from claiming such), and that can only replace the divine consistency of Scripture with its own suppose inherent authority” (White, Kindle Location 1027). There has to be a fixed point in which we receive truth that cannot be moved, or else we merely cater to opinion. For a good portion of the book, Dr. White responds to allegations against the Bible and it’s sufficiency. He address such topics as: the role of tradition, the “Gospel of Thomas”, the canon of scripture, modern day accusations that one can receive revelation from God, and allegations of contradiction.
This is a necessary book in our day and age. While not comprehensive in scope, it fulfills its duty in packing a punch to those objections that laymen, seminarians, and Church goers can appreciate and utilize. One of my most favorite quotes from this book says,
“Church history has repeatedly and clearly proven one thing: Once the highest view of Scripture is abandoned by any theologian, group, denomination, or church, the downhill slide in both its theology and practice is inevitable” (White, Kindle Location 1000)
Indeed, true words that need to be heard.