Mark Driscoll recently tweeted: “The Bible alone gives us the insight we need to understand what’s going on in the world…and what’s going on in us.”
I realize a single tweet isn’t a full expression of systematic theology, but the idea expressed in that one sentence sums up much of what is wrong with modern American evangelicalism.
Sola scriptura is one of the foundations of the Reformation — but Driscoll’s tweet doesn’t affirm sola scriptura, it affirms solo scriptura or nuda scriptura.
Sola scriptura is the belief that the Bible alone is the final
and infallible authority in matters of Christian faith and that tradition, reason and emotions, though important, must ultimately be evaluated in light of Scripture.*
Solo scriptura is the belief that the Bible alone is authoritative in determining matters of Christian faith — that the Bible, by itself, is totally sufficient for guiding our faith and practice.
At first glance this distinction may not seem important, but I think it is vitally so. As soon as we assert that “the Bible alone” is our only authority, we’re essentially saying that 2,000 years of God’s work in the lives of other Christians doesn’t matter, that the wisdom of our peers, our mentors and our leaders doesn’t matter, that the work of scholars and archaeologists doesn’t matter and that our own intuitions and emotions and reasoning don’t matter. When we reject all those things we are, in a very real way, rejecting God. We’re making an idol out of our own personal understanding of the Bible — we’re substituting our idiosyncratic experience of reading Scripture for the full revelation of God through history and in the world around us.
Maybe all of this isn’t what Driscoll meant. I wouldn’t have had any issue with his tweet if he had omitted the word “alone.” But he said what he did and in doing so he’s perpetuating an understanding of the role of Biblical authority that is not only dangerous and irresponsible…it’s also downright unbiblical.