- 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: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,450 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)
Too often Evangelicals have allowed a Scripture Alone principle to become a Scripture Only principle that disparages the church's creeds and confessions. Therein lies the invaluable contribution of The Shape of Sola Scriptura. It marks a critical step forward in the renewal of a confessional consciousness among Evangelicals. ---Charles P. Arand, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
This is an important book.... I found it difficult to put down.... It would be hard to think of a better antidote to the confusion of today than this powerful testimony. ---G.I. Williamson, New Horizons
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.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
The only complaint I have is that toward the end it got exceedingly repetitive.
I also wasn't sure if his quotes from the early church fathers were taken out of context or not... I don't really have any reason to think that they were, I only wonder because people seem to use the fathers to support a huge variety of viewpoints.
Overall definitely worth the read, even if you disagree.
The author goes through much of teh history of the question of sola scriptura, tradition, and the Church, quoting many Church Fathers and other pertinent people and documents. One thing that struck me as odd was the quotes of Calvin. I had always thought that Martin Luther resorted to a lot of name calling and poor argumentation while Calvin was quite theologically sound, though flawed. However, after reading many of the quotes in this book, it seems that Calvin as well resorted to many personal attacks, name calling, and sloppy argumentation. Some of the arguments that the author quotes Calvin as having put forth are especially bad. The point of the author, however, was to show that Luther and Calvin had a higher view of the Church as well as tradition than most Evangelicals today do.
Although this is a scholarly work, there really are a lot of claims that do not have a reference, especially many things about the Catholic Church having taught or claimed something at one point or another. Another problem is that many claims that the author does reference are claims that are being made in a quote by someone else, so while that quote is referenced, the meat of the quote is not. This is often a problem in theological studies- where people are not careful to check the original sources and simply assume that those who are quoting it got it correct.
The author begins to get a bit snippy when critiquing the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. When he gives a brief synopsis of all the supposed "contradictions" that popes have made over the years, he has a footnote which says that Catholic apologists try and reconcile these conflicts, but they all fail. Oh, OK, I see. Apologists have tried and failed because you say so. Got it. I didn't see any point to that footnote except to say "don't try and find out how Catholics respond to this; just take my word for it that it doesn't work."
There is a chapter devoted to a critique of common Catholic bible verses used to justify "the papacy" and infallibility. The critique of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 is exceptionally weak. Never once is it critiqued with a reading of Isiah 22 as a background done. The Isiah 22 is what implies a continuation, yet it is never mentioned by the author. While the author quotes from Steve Ray's "Upon this Rock", it is not clear whether he has actually read it because the author claims that the early church never understood Matthew 16 the way the Catholic Church does today, which is just patently false after reading the dozens and dozens of quotes that Ray provides in his book from the early Church fathers.
Unfortunately Hans Kung exists and writes things, and some of his writing is quoted in the book, most notably from his book "Infallibility?" which outlines an extremely false notion of conscience. This is used by the author to try and justify separation from the Church, that even "Catholic theologians" agree that one must follow their conscience. Sadly, Kung is the furthest thing from a theologian that speaks for the Catholic Church, and hence this dangerously false notion of conscience that the author describes must be rejected.
One problem I have with the way many of us in America today speak is our use of the word "contradiction." I think that if one is going to throw the word "contradiction" around every time they see two things that don't seem to quite jive in the surface, they should take a course in modern physics. Rather than blow everything off as a contradiction, it would force them to look at underlying assumptions and be very careful about terms. People don't seem to understand what a contradiction is. "Both A and not A"; that is a contradiction. And this is a problem with this book. The word "contradiction" and "self-contradiction" are thrown around dozens of times with reference to Catholic and Orthodox doctrines. Unfortunately many of these "self-contradictions" can be understood properly if we are careful to define exactly what the Catholic or Orthodox means by certain terms.
The author several times refers to Cardinal Newman's doctrinal development theory in a critical fashion. However, he never expounds upon it nor discusses it. Admittedly, I personally had a hard time with Cardinal Newman's "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" but there was nothing in the current book that lead me to believe that the author had any familiarity whatsoever with Newman's theory. All he seemed to know was that it was a theory about how doctrine develops which gives a good explanation of the Catholic faith, so it must be wrong.
I was confused as to the purpose of Chapter 10. This was the chapter on "answering common objections." True, it is good that the author thought to include possible objections as well as common ones. However, every single answer was "that is solo scriptura, not sola scriptura." Yes, I understand that Catholics have it wrong about what sola scriptura REALLY is, but this chapter served no purpose.
The final chapter deals with where the Church, as the author understands it, can be seen today. Obviously this is a difficult question and the author admits as much. However the answer tends to be ambiguous. Although the author is careful to try and avoid circular reasoning and self-contradictions, his basic answer is that it is those Christians as well as Christian bodies which have always taught the same doctrines, most notably as professed in the creeds. This just seems to go back to the problem that I raised above; that there really is no good way to know that you are a part of the true Church, for who says what it is that has been believed and held at all times? Does the true Church reject contraception? Every single Church did until 1930. What about the true understanding of the Eucharist or Lord's supper? The teaching about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is OVERWHELMINGLY unanimous in the early Church. Devotion to Mary? The reformers had a much higher opinion of Mary than most Evangelicals do today. These and many other issues can easily be argued to be part of the regula fidei, and so who has the final say? While the author's theory is a valiant one and by far the best attempt to make a solid, well-thought out case for sola scriptura, it ultimately does not work.