James White, in my opinion, is today’s leading apologist for the Evangelical, Reformed faith. He has engaged in numerous debates with Muslims, Roman Catholics, Mormons, JW’s, Arminians, liberal “Christians,” and skeptics. It is no surprise, therefore, that he would write a book that seeks to clearly delineate and defend one of the most important, and oft attacked, biblical doctrines – sola Scriptura (or Scripture alone). This is a foundational teaching of the true Church, and when it is denied or neglected, it eventually leads to the introduction of man-made traditions and/or the entrance of other so-called “authoritative” books/writings.
White supplies a thorough explanation of what Scripture alone means (as well as what it does not mean):
Sola scriptura literally means ‘Scripture alone.’ Unfortunately, this phrase tends to be taken in the vein of ‘Scripture in isolation, Scripture outside of the rest of God’s work in the church.’ That is not its intended meaning; again, it means ‘Scripture alone as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church.’ As mentioned previously, it is a positive assertion of the nature and traits of Scripture as well as a negative statement indicating that only Scripture possesses its unique capacities as the rule of faith. A rule of faith is that which governs and guides what we believe and why. One work, placing the phrase in its historical setting (the Reformation), defines sola scriptura as [quoting David F. Wright, “Protestantism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology] ‘the freedom of Scripture to rule as God’s word in the church, disentangled from papal and ecclesiastical magisterium and traditions.’
In short, Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) teaches that the Bible (God’s word) is inspired (God-breathed), inerrant (without error), and sufficient for guiding God’s people into all truth. It is the ultimate and final authority (no authority stands over God’s word). Councils, traditions, and anything else must be viewed and tested by its sound and perspicuous measure.
White not only demonstrates this truth by observing key passages on Scripture’s inerrancy and sufficiency, but he also discusses the proper method of studying the Scriptures – exegesis – as a necessary practice of honoring God’s word. According to White, exegesis is “the process of seeking to understand the written text of Scripture in its own context.”
Further, White interacts with various religious groups that deny the teaching of Scripture alone, such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholicism. He also provides numerous conversational scenarios, based heavily on his many years of evangelism and apologetics, which one is likely to encounter with adherents of these groups. White deals with the issues of canon, gnostic writings, allegations of corruption and contradiction, and tradition. Such speaks to the apologetic theme of the book, but such is certainly needed in our day, as the church faces attacks from all sides and all angles. We as the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15) must be ready to respond with reasoned arguments grounded in God’s word.
One of White’s most engaging chapters is Chapter 11 (Scriptural Sufficiency: Nothing New), where he demonstrates that numerous early church fathers believed and taught sola Scriptura, viewing Scripture as the alone and authoritative guide for the church. One example will suffice (quoting Basil of Caesaria; c. 329-379):
We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but is sin.
In his concluding chapter, White states the importance of Christians to study these matters with earnestness, and to master them as best we can. It is important for elders to discuss these things with their congregations, to not only affirm sola Scriptura, but to practice it. He says, “When we hold firmly to God’s truth, work through the difficult issues and challenges, and become clear in our understanding of the whys and the wherefores, we can truly say, without fear and without embarrassment, ‘God has said this in His Holy Word.”
This is an introductory work to the doctrine of sola Scriptura. If you are not familiar with the issues surrounding this subject, then I highly recommend you begin your study by reading this book. We cannot afford to remain ignorant of these issues, nor can we remain silent as our enemies continue to attack the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Scriptures.