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The Shape of Sola Scriptura

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1885767745
ISBN-10: 1885767749
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The issue of sola Scriptura is not an abstract problem relevant only to the sixteenth-century Reformation, but one that poses increasingly more serious consequences for contemporary Christianity. This work by Keith Mathison is the finest and most comprehensive treatment of the matter I've seen. I highly recommend it to all who embrace the authority of sacred Scripture. --R.C. Sproul (Chairman and President, Ligonier Ministries)

About the Author

Keith A. Mathison received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is author of Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? and Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Canon Press (April 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885767749
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885767745
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert Huffstedtler VINE VOICE on October 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not in a position to speak to how well this book functions as an entry in the debate between Protestants and Roman Catholics over the nature and authority of tradition, as I haven't kept up with either side of the argument much in the last few years. In any case, judging from his stated intent in the introduction, Mathison is not seeking to directly engage parties on the other side - rather his goal is to inform Protestants about the debate and to clear away their misunderstandings about what sola scriptura actually is.
In the process of doing this, he necessarily engages the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views, especially as offered by Sungenis and Schmemann. Mathison recognises that the word "tradition" is being used equivocally, and appeals to Obermann's distinction between two views of tradition to offer a better way forward.
Tradition I, which he asserts is the position of the fathers and the early Reformation, holds that there is an authoritative tradition, sometimes called the Rule of Faith, about what scripture teaches and how it is to be interpreted. Tradition II, which he says is the teaching of Tridentine Catholicism holds that tradition is instead parallel to scripture and has its own content regarding doctrine and practice. Mathison expands on this by identifying a Tradition-0, or solo scriptura, view, which is that taught by the radical reformers, and which has become the dominant view in American evangelicalism. In this view, the authority of the church is denigrated, and each person interprets scripture autonomously.
Having identified this view, he then demonstrates that many criticisms from Roman Catholic apologists are directed at it, rather than the traditional Protestant view.
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I am working on issues in hermeneutics and came to this book as a constant recommendation. It really is a definitive, must read, first book in the field of sola scriptura.

Breezy style, even to the point of being a little choppy. Excellent references, nice bibliography make it a tool to put into the hands of anyone interested in the issues of tradition and Scripture. He uses H. Oberman's tradition 0,1,2,3 as a systematic entry point into the various ideas, which is an excellent way to remember as well as structure the discussion.

I found it a little repetitive, the central chapters on the church and roman & eastern critiques a little slow, so i would certainly start from the back with this book:

chapter 8- Critique of Evangelical Doctrine

and chapter 9-Doctrine of Sola Scriptura

are the two key chapters, next is chapter 3-Martin Luther and John Calvin.....

It is not a hard read, i'd see no problem with giving it to high school students who had the motivation to read and understand their church's doctrine. It is probably a little long for an adult education class, but a few key chapters are certainly a good idea.

I wouldn't stop my education on these issues with this book, but i would just as certainly start it here.
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Format: Paperback
Mathison argues fairly persuasively that when most people today talk about Sola Scriptura, what they really have in mind is Solo Scriptura. "Solo" Scriptura is the idea that we can learn all matters about faith and practice using the Bible alone, plus nothing else. If a group or person studies the Bible, and they think they have found some truth, doctrine, or practice in Scripture, then they should believe or practice this idea, whether or not it was ever believed or practiced previously in the history of the church. This is "Solo" Scriptura.

Sola Scriptura, on the other hand, as talked about by the Reformers, held to nothing of the sort. They believed that Scripture should be studied in conjunction with the rest of the community of the Saints, especially those Early Church Fathers who helped develop the Creeds of Nicaea and Chalcedon.

Keith Mathison defines Sola Scriptura this way:

"The Scripture is to be interpreted by the Church within the hermeneutical context of the regula fidei or rule of faith. The rule of faith has found written expression in the ecumenical creeds of the Church. The Nicene Creed and the definition of Chalcedon are the creedal confessions of all orthodox Christians and serve as the doctrinal boundaries of orthodox Christianity" (p. 337).

Mathison points out in his book that what most Christians believe today is not Sola Scriptura, but Solo Scriptura, and I think I agree with him. However, by definition, Solo Scriptura is an impossible belief. This is what I was trying to say in my previous post. Just to take one example.
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With this book, Dr. Mathison has cleared away much of the confusion concerning the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scripture. Too often apologists from the Roman, Eastern and Protestants churches have debated a false concept of Sola Scriptura. Finally, the doctrine has been clarified and all disputants can point to a definition that will bring greater clarity to the discussion. In this book, he begins by establishing the history of Scriptures place in the church. Traveling from the Bereans in the New Testament through the Early Fathers, Mathison presents a compelling case for the authority of the Bible in determining all doctrinal conflicts. He quotes from the magesterial reformers to show that Sola Scriptura was not new and that they were returning to something that had been lost in the church. He also shows how Protestants have lost the meaning of the doctrine and have embraced a doctrine that would not be recognized by Luther or Calvin. This is a book that should be read by all Christians so that once again the Church can return to the authority of the Scriptures and a hermeneutic that can solve many of our conflicts, if we will only listen.
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