We Stand or Fall on These Truths


The battle cry of the Protestant Reformation is often summarized in five sola statements: sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria.1 Although you often can find these five sola statements written in a different order, the order is significant, and the first and last are always given pride of place. This is not by accident. Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, was the basis of all the other doctrines that follow. Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone) is the result of all that precedes. The Protestant reformers knew that the gospel would become lost, and souls are damned if the church forgets that we must start with the authority of Scripture—and Scripture alone.

The Roman Catholic system didn’t jettison the Bible totally. Instead, it simply added another authority that is placed alongside the Scriptures, assuming authority over the Word of God and its interpretation.2 And although Roman Catholicism’s view of Scripture was the initial impetus to reaffirm the sole authority of the Word of God, it was not the only threat.

Today there continues to exist many outside and inside the evangelical church that threaten the Word of God in differing ways. Many charismatics and Pentecostals, for example, would state that they agree to the Protestant tradition of sola Scriptura as well as affirm that the Bible is without errors. However, their allowance for and seeking after new revelation undercuts the Scriptures. This can be seen in theologian Wayne Grudem’s redefinition of the gift of prophecy to allow for errors, impressions, and impulses from a so-called modern prophet or apostle.3 In addition to the threats of added authority and added revelation, cultists, like the Latter-Day Saints, add their Standard Works and modern-day prophets to the Bible, undercutting the sole authority given by God to His Word. Today, evangelicalism is overrun with charismatic theology even while the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) sought to correct this trend when it stated, “We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings” (Article V).

And although they would not deny sola Scriptura, some of our Reformed brethren have drifted from the Bible as their sole authority when they have insisted that creeds and confessions are necessary for the understanding of Scripture. This hasn’t always been the case. The Belgic Confession states:

Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us, saying, Prove the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house.4

Unfortunately, many within the Reformed community use the term “biblicist” as an insult against those seeking to maintain the authority of the Word of God above all else. I am personally not insulted to be called a “biblicist” but wear such a name as a badge of honor. R. Scott Clark, professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California, maintains that those who refute the authority of creeds in favor of the Bible are not in the historic line of the Protestant Reformers. In his book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, Clark points to “Hermanus Herbertsz, a pastor in Dordrecht and Gouda, [who] refused to preach the catechism.” Dr. Clark sets Pastor Herbertsz as a prime example of the danger of Scripture as our sole authority. He writes,

From 1582 to 1607 Pastor Herbertsz repeatedly promised and then refused to use the [Heidelberg Catechism] as directed by various assemblies in the Dutch Reformed churches. As Donald Sinnema observes, Herbertsz’s objections were not to the doctrine of the catechism but to its authority. He charged the Reformed churches with placing the catechism above God’s Word. He said, “You not only consider [the Catechism] equal to Holy Scripture … but place it above; this I can prove by the following reasons: first, you have divided into fifty-two Sundays, and every Sunday read and explain a part of it from the pulpit as if it were God’s Word … ; second, you also place it so much above Holy Scripture that you make Holy Scripture a servant by which one must explain and interpret [the Catechism].”5

The refusal by Pastor Herbertsz to preach the catechism is disturbing to Clark because he cannot accept biblical teaching that is built solely upon the exegetical study of the Word of God. To him, the faulty errors of men’s interpreting the Bible might, and often do lead to errors in theology—and thus we need to see the authority that is vested in the confessions and creeds as more authoritative than the Bible itself. This begs the question: where did the framers of the creeds and confessions get their doctrine from?

In addition to all the attacks upon the Bible that have been mentioned, theological liberalism has made the greatest attempts and most overt attacks upon the authority of the Bible. Liberals attack the Scripture and undermine its authority by placing themselves as the final arbiter over what is true and what is not. By claiming to come to the text with a purely scientific methodology, the biblical critic places himself over the Bible as a judge. The liberal critic has sought to undercut the Bible through several methods, some of which are covered by other authors in this issue. The methods and arguments may vary, but the ultimate source of the attacks always remains the same. The questioning of the Lord’s authority reaches back in time to the Garden of Eden when the serpent asked, “Indeed, has God said…?” (Ge 3:1).

Biblical fundamentalists have one authority—the Bible. We have one way to read the Scripture—the literal, grammatical-historical method. We have one purpose as we read the Bible—to hear from God. We agree with J. I. Packer in Fundamentalism and the Word of God,

What Scripture says is to be received as the infallible Word of the infallible God, and to assert biblical inerrancy and infallibility is just to confess faith in (i) the divine origin of the Bible and (ii) the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God.6

But in case any reader thinks that the “Battle for the Bible” has been won and we need to move on to more pressing issues, please remember that this battle is for the heart of everything we hold dear. Like the Reformation solas, the Bible is the starting, middle, and ending point for all the fundamental doctrines of our faith—and our enemies know this.

Norm Geisler fought valiantly for the Word of God and so he understood what was at stake. Dr. Geisler warned of the danger of thinking the attacks on Scripture are unimportant,

It has been said that a table must have at least three legs to stand. Take away any of the three legs and it will surely topple. In much the same way, the Christian faith stands on three legs. These three legs are the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. Take away one and, like the table, the divine authority of the Christian faith will surely topple. These three “in’s” complement each other, yet each expresses a slightly different distinction in our understanding of Scripture.7

We stand or fall with our doctrine of Scripture. To confess and allow that the Scriptures contain one error would be devastating because there would no longer be any reliable way to prove that there are no other errors, including those doctrines we place all our hope and trust in. No doctrine would be safe if we denied inerrancy.

We also must cling tenaciously to infallibility as well. If the Bible fails in anything it teaches, even one small thing, then like a façade, our faith will crumble, and we would no longer have reason to believe that even the things that remain are trustworthy. If the Bible fails in prophecy, history, science, or any of the myriad of things it speaks to, how can we continue to place our faith in the God who wrote it? And if God is unable to keep His written word from becoming corrupted in the hands of His prophets, how can we be certain He can keep us eternally from hell, or that the errors introduced by the human authors are not critical, damning errors?

We must cling to the inspiration of the Word of God, knowing that “…no prophecy was ever made by the will of man, but men being moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2Pt 1:21) and that “all Scripture is God-breathed…” (2Ti 3:16). Our commitment to the Bible must be built upon the ultimate commitment that this book we preach is God’s Word and not man’s. From this truth we derive all our authority to proclaim the matters of life and death to the Church and the world (2Co 2:16). Ultimately, we trust in the inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration of the Bible because we trust in the God within who tells us that His Word is inerrant, unfailing, and inspired.


Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash.

1 Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone.

2 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington D.C., Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2016); https://www.usccb.org/sites/default/files/flipbooks/catechism/[Accessed 3/14/23]. The following quotations from the Catechism (CCC) show that despite claims that any Catholic can interpret Scripture as they understand it, the only valid interpretation of Scripture according to the Vatican is that which is given by the Magisterium of the Church as understood in their interpretation of sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture:

“It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (CCC, 95)

“The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone” (CCC, 85)

“The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” (CCC, 100)

“It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books.” (CCC, 120)

3 F. David Farnell, The Master’s Semi­nary Journal, “Fallible New Testament Prophecy/ Prophets? A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis,” https://tms.edu/ wp-content/uploads/2021/09/tmsj2h.pdf [Accessed 3/14/23]. For a helpful critique of Grudem’s view and clear examples of how this does damage to an orthodox understanding of the infallibility of Scripture, see The Cripple-gate post by Nathan Busenitz, “Five Dangers of Fallible Prophecy,” https://thecripplegate. com/five-dangers-of-fallible-prophecy/ [Accessed 3/14/23).

4 Belgic Confession, Article VII.

5 R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice, Kindle ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), loc. 436.

6 J. I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958), 95-96.

7 Norman L. Geisler and Shawn Nelson, “What Is Inerrancy and Why Should We Care?” in Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate, F. David Farnell (ed.), Norman L. Geisler, et. al (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2016), 20.