The Shape of Sola Scriptura, part 2

Many Evanglicals believe that Luther and Calvin taught solo scriptura, but this is not true. Mathison points to “On the Councils and the Church,” where Luther claims the authority of the early councils and fathers. Calvin did too: “[T]hose to whom He is Father the church may also be Mother.” Mathison sums it up:

The Reformers were convinced that the Church must be reformed, not by being created from scratch, but by returning to her ancient beliefs and practices. The sentiment was not that of an antihistorical revolt but that of a desire for preservation and continuity.

The Anglican Alister McGrath concurs:

The notion of tradition as an extra-scriptural source of revelation is excluded, the classic concept of tradition as a particular way of reading and interpreting scripture is retained. Scripture, tradition, and the kerygma [early church understanding of the Gospel] are regarded as essentially coinherent, and as being transmitted, propogated and safeguarded by the community of faith. There is thus a strongly communal dimension to the magisterial reformer’s understanding of scripture, which is to be interpreted and proclaimed within an ecclesiological matrix. It must be stressed that the suggestion that the Reformation represented the triumph of individualism and the total rejection of tradition is a deliberate fiction propagated by the image-makers of the Enlightenment.

The Reformers believed in Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone. The Church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15), and has authority because Christ gave it to her. “The Christian who rejects the authority of the Church rejects the authority of the One who sent her.” (Luke 10:16, Rom 3:2, Acts 15:6-35, Eph 3:10).

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