- 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Shape of Sola Scriptura
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Mathison begins the book with a historical survey of the church and draws out the varying views of Scripture and Tradition and describes essentially four different approaches that have been taken historically to the debate. He takes two of these from Heiko Oberman and adds two positions within the terminology of Oberman. The approaches are as follows:
Tradition 0: This position is solo scriptura rather than sola scriptura. It involves the total abandonment of creedal and ecclesiastical authority. All opinions on the matter of interpretation are equal in terms of their weight of authority. Mathison describes this position as being aligned historically with the radical reformers such as the Anabaptists and is also the prevailing approach found within evangelicalism today.
Tradition 1: This position Mathison describes as the position of Sola Scriptura. This was the prevailing position held to in the early church, most of the medieval period, and was the Reformation doctrine. This position teaches that the sole authority and only revelation of God is the Scriptures and that these Scriptures must be interpreted in the context of the church and by the rule of faith which is the apostolic faith preserved for us in the creeds and confessions of the church.
Tradition 2: This is the position of much of Roman Catholicism and teaches that there are two sources of revelation for the church. The first is the Scriptures and the second is the unwritten oral traditions passed down through the centuries in the writings of the fathers. This was the position elucidated by the Council of Trent in opposition to the Reformers and began to take shape around the 5th century A.D. Mathison puts Eastern Orthodoxy in this camp though with a mystical element not present in the Romanist doctrine.
Tradition 3: This is a later Roman Catholic development which ascribes revelation to the church itself in its pronouncements of faith. This is a position common among Roman Catholics and is completely unknown until about the twelfth century.
These four traditions have developed over the centuries of the church with the most novel being Tradition 0 and Tradition 3 representing evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism respectively. Mathison describes the history of these various traditions showing the position of Tradition 1 as being the faith of the ancient church and preserved through the medieval church until about the twelfth century. The Reformation recovered this doctrine and stressed its importance against the Romanist errors. Mathison points out the major issue found in all the traditions but Tradition 1. This error common amongst Romanist, Eastern, and Evangelical thought is the error of autonomy. In the case of the Romanist and Eastern systems, the church is made autonomous and in the case of evangelicalism the individual is made autonomous. The proper balance of Scripture, ecclesiastical authority, and creedal authority has been lost in all of these positions. A Biblical position retains the Scriptures as the sole revelation of God interpreted in the hermeneutical context of the church and with the common faith of the saints throughout the centuries as the regula fidei or the rule of faith. Mathison's book goes a long way in restoring the importance of confessionalism in the church to guard against the errors of the tyrannical system of Romanism and the anarchical individualistic system of evangelicalism. This is an extremely helpful book restoring the balance of authority between Scripture, tradition, and the church.
In end, I feel Mathison's position leaves me in a catch-22; One needs the church to interpret the Bible for him but in order to decide which church to listen to, one must decide FOR HIMSELF what Scripture is actually teaching.
I gave this book four stars instead of five because I pray there will be a second edition to address some issues:
1) I think the author should find a better way to organize the material, reduce some redundancy, and clarify some points.
2) While the seriousness of his charges cannot be overstated, he sometimes uses emotionally charged language which may affront the very people that need to read his book the most. (Think 1Co 13:1)
3) The book lacks a general index
May God bless you in your quest for truth, and to Christ be the glory.