One of the main issues surrounding the Reformation was the infallibility of the Pope. According to the Council of Trent, only the "mother church" (the papacy) could properly interpret Scripture. The word of the pope was considered to be inerrant, infallible, and authoritative.
At the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther stood firm on what he considered to be the only source of infallibility.
“Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments. Since I believe neither the pope nor the councils alone, it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant any thing against the conscience.”
The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura holds that the Bible alone is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word. This is one the foundations of the Reformed Faith, as the Bible declares that the church is built on the foundation of the Word of God. (Ephesians 2:20). This is the most important of the "Five Solas" of the Reformed Faith, for Scripture is the ONLY means by which man may obtain an adequate knowledge of God unto Salvation. Oh, man will conclude that there is a God by means of "natural revelation", for "...The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20) However, as we see, this kind of natural revelation is only profitable to make man to be "without excuse". Many religions, through “natural revelation”, have come to the conclusion that there is some sort of Divine Being. But it is only through Scripture, either read or preached, that can bring about knowledge of the true God who save a soul from "the wrath…[which] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18).
Thus the preaching of the Word is of utmost importance. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:13-17)
One of the big issues in American churches today is the popular belief in continuing revelation. Pentecostalism and their charismatic offshoots hold that the modern "gifts of the Spirit" include these special revelations through tongues and prophecies, which are to be considered "words from the Lord" in addition to Scripture. (It is no wonder that many mainline Pentecostal Churches are at the forefront of the modern Ecumenical Movement. If men can still receive special revelations from God outside of the completed canon, why exclude the Pope?) Thus churches today are plagued by “lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) of God’s Word, seeking instead to find Divine Truth through feelings and personal revelation. The issue is quite sensitive, and those who hold to Pentecostal doctrines will suggest that those who object to them are being “divisive”. Maybe so, but as we discussed in an earlier blog, unity is a poor substitute for truth. (Of course, when faced with the true definition of prophecy in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:18-22), charismatics are forced to try and redefine it to meet their own ends.)
According to Scripture itself, vision and prophecy would be "sealed up" for good at the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Daniel 9:24). Nothing is to be added to or taken from the Scriptures by any means (Rev. 22:18-19), whether it be done by popes, charismatic prophets, or Joseph Smith. There is only one authoritative Word from God, and that is the Holy Bible itself. There is no need for any more “prophetic revelation” in the post-Apostolic age, “for the faith … [has] once for all [been] delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The church is called to “[build] on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20), not to try and lay them anew.
Lest one may think that I’m overstating the case with Pentecostalism, consider this insight from Tommy Tenney in his introduction to “The God Chasers”:
“A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth; he must have present truth. God chasers don’t want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; they’re anxious to see what God is doing.”
While most Pentecostals don’t have such a low view of Scripture as to refer to is as “moldy pages of history”, they nevertheless agree with the need of new revelation in order to understand “present truth”, thus denying the sufficiency of Scripture.
Such a low view of Scripture has had it’s ramifications on the Bible itself. Not satisfied with the content of sola scriptura, modern “bibles” (and I use that term lightly) have been designed in the mold of fashion magazines. Consider the “Revolve” bible for teenage girls, with important theological notes like “Are You Dating a Godly Guy?" and “Guys Speak Out”. Not to leave the boys out, the “Refuel” bible addresses important doctrines like “Extras: Girls, Cash, and Cars” and “Girls Spill it All!” (not to mention it’s new commandments like “Don’t ever pick your friends nose” And “Don’t grope”). How about one for adult men? Get the “Align” bible, with a feature article advertised on the front page entitled “Sexcess: Success with the Opposite Sex!" A common theme occurs in the ads for these “bibles”. “With an edgy, techo-savvy style and content that makes Biblical truth fresh and relevant.” Good for them. God must be relieved to find that His “moldy pages of history” have been given a much needed face-lift by mortals promoting youthful lusts and crude commandments. I’m afraid to see what the new Bible makers come up with next. Thomas Nelson should be ashamed.
A true revival will only be accompanied by a return to the Reformed Doctrine of Sola Scriptura, not only in repect to it's sufficiency, but for it's esteem as the Words of life, an esteem that seems to be fading. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).
For further study, I would recommend:
What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul
The Sufficiency of the Written Word by John MacArthur
Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur
The Final Word by O. Palmer Robertson
Charismatic Gifts: Critical Study Package by Kenneth Gentry