I don’t agree with Bob Dewaay on everything, but he’s clearly gulped deeply from Reformation (and scriptural!) wells on the matters that really count. He’s one of my favorite commentators on current issues facing the church. His recent article Why Evangelicals are Returning to Rome notes:
[W]hy are literate American Christians running away from sola scriptura at a time when searching the Scriptures (especially using computer technology) has never been easier? On this point I am offering my opinion, but there is good evidence for it. I believe that the lack of gospel preaching has allowed churches to fill up with the unregenerate. The unregenerate are not like “newborn babes who long for the pure milk of the word” (1Peter 2:2). Those who have never received saving grace cannot grow by the means of grace. Those who are unconverted have not drawn near to God through the blood of Christ. But with mysticism, it is possible to feel near to God when one is far from Him. Furthermore, the unconverted have no means of sanctification because they do not have the imputed righteousness of Christ as their starting point and eternal standing. So they end up looking for man-made processes to engineer change through human works because they have nothing else. Those who feel empty because of the “pragmatic promises of the church-growth movement” … may need something far more fundamental than ancient, Catholic, ascetic practices. They may very well need to repent and believe the gospel.
I sometimes wonder where pastors who don’t preach the gospel (or the law) regularly think that people are going to hear it. Certainly not from Joyce Meyer (who isn’t a “pastor” anyway) or Joel Osteen. There’s an arrogance behind it, a “we’ve moved beyond the cross” mentality. Compare that to the formidable R.C. Sproul’s observation that although he has studied the cross of Christ for over 50 years, he still feels that he is “barely scratching the surface of the meaning and significance of [it].”
Dewaay helpfully wraps up the article:
Perhaps the best antidote to rejecting sola scriptura and going back to Rome would be a careful study of the Book of Hebrews. It describes a situation that is analogous to that which evangelicals face today. The Hebrew Christians were considering going back to temple Judaism. … The key problem for them was the tangibility of the temple system, and the invisibility of the Christian faith. Just about everything that was offered to them by Christianity was invisible: the High Priest in heaven, the tabernacle in heaven, the once for all shed blood, and the throne of grace. … But the life of faith does not require tangible visibility (Hebrews 11:1). The Roman Catholic Church has tangibility that is unmatched by the evangelical faith, just as temple Judaism had. Why have faith in the once-for-all shed blood of Christ that is unseen when you can have real blood (that of the animals for temple Judaism and the Eucharistic Christ of Catholicism)? Why have the scriptures of the Biblical apostles and prophets who are now in heaven when you can have a real, live apostle and his teaching Magisterium who can continue to speak for God? … Why have only the Scriptures and the other means of grace when the Roman Church has everything from icons to relics to cathedrals to holy water and so many other tangible religious articles and experiences? I urge my fellow evangelicals to seriously consider the consequences of rejecting sola scriptura as the formal principle of our theology. If my Hebrews analogy is correct, such a rejection is tantamount to apostasy.