Historians and theologians alike have long recognized that at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation were five declarations (or “solas”) that distinguished the movement from other expressions of the Christian faith.
Five hundred years later, we live in a different time with fresh challenges to our faith. Yet these rallying cries of the Reformation continue to speak to us, addressing a wide range of contemporary issues. The Five Solas series will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and how to live out the relevance of Reformation theology today.
In God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture, scholar and pastor Matthew Barrett looks at the historical and biblical roots of the doctrine that Scripture alone is the final and decisive authority for God’s people. He examines the development of this theme in the Reformation and traces the crisis that followed resulting in a shift away from the authority of Scripture. Barrett shows that we need to recover a robust doctrine of Scripture’s authority in the face of today’s challenges and why a solid doctrinal foundation built on God’s Word is the best hope for the future of the church.
God’s Word Alone is both a fitting tribute to its Reformation sola namesake and a constructive contribution to the doctrine of Scripture in its own right. Sola scriptura has become something of a whipping concept in contemporary theology, but Barrett’s book goes a long way to correcting modern and postmodern caricatures of the doctrine. I particularly appreciated the chapters on the Reformers’ own understanding of Scripture as the supreme and final authority for the church and how this is rooted in its being the only wholly reliable authority, a consequence of its nature as divinely authored and inspired. Barrett here covers all the theological bases – biblical, historical, and systematic – as one might expect of a home run. – Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology,Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Perhaps the greatest crisis in the evangelical world today is the loss of any meaningful commitment to the functional authority of Scripture. While lip service is paid to biblical ‘inspiration’ and perhaps even some sense of the Bible’s ‘infallibility,’ the final, functional authority of inerrant Scripture to govern both our beliefs and behavior has gradually disappeared. This alone makes Matthew Barrett’s book on Sola Scriptura so essential to the church in our day. If the Bible, and the Bible alone, isn’t our final and determinative authority, the church will have lost its bearings and be cast hopelessly adrift on the sea of personal subjectivity. It is a massive understatement to say this book is much needed today. I cannot recommend it too highly. – Sam Storms, Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK
The 500th anniversary Luther’s nailing the ninety-five theses to the door of the chapel of the Wittenberg Castle provides an eminently suitable occasion to remind ourselves of one of the five ‘solas’ of the Reformation: sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. Matthew Barrett takes his readers through some of the controversies surrounding the Bible that have arisen across this last half-millennium, and competently demonstrates the relevance of the doctrine of Scripture in our day. In the final analysis, the issue is revelation: what is the locus of God’s gracious self-disclosure – God generously giving up his privacy, as Carl Henry used to say? – D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
The Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura teaches that the Bible is the only infallible and sufficient rule for Christian faith and practice. Matthew Barratt’s new study provides persuasive evidence that this doctrine is firmly rooted not only in the Reformation but in the Early Church and in Scripture itself. In very readable prose Barrett graciously provides thoughtful and nuanced responses to the objections of critics of this doctrine. Moreover, he demonstrates that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has resided as a central teaching of the Western Christian churches since the Patristic era. This is a welcomed and much needed resource for Christians in a day in which much confusion exists regarding the doctrines of sola Scriptura and biblical inerrancy. For this reason, the volume belongs in the libraries not only of teachers, seminary students and pastors but laypersons as well. Highly recommended. – John D. Woodbridge, Research Professor of Church History and Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
This book—what a feast! Appetizing opening chapters recount how the Bible’s authority came to be trashed in the modern West, even in many church circles. Then comes the main course: how God’s saving work and presence have always intertwined with his written Word. Lastly, dessert: tasty slices of Scripture’s truth, clarity, and sufficiency. A world awash in error and self-destruction cries out for meaning and direction. This book shows why skepticism of Scripture is a bad idea, and why devoting ourselves to studying, living and spreading the Word of God written—inspired, inerrant, and authoritative—holds such promise, for this world and the next. – Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary
Without belief in Scripture alone as our supreme and trustworthy authority, the very faith of the church must totter. Dr. Barrett has mounted an impressive defence of the key Reformation doctrine of Scripture, demonstrating just how vital it remains today. This book will do great good in grounding the faith of a new generation. – Michael Reeves, President and Professor of Theology, Union School of Theology, Oxford, England
Sometimes the doctrine of Scripture is treated as separate from the other doctrines of Christianity—as a sort of preamble to the faith. Helpfully, Barrett draws in the Bible’s own Trinitarian, covenantal, and salvation-historical themes to offer a persuasive alternative to various attempts to evade scriptural authority. It’s an argument, to be sure, but also an edifying essay that helps us to understand what we’re doing when we submit our reason to God’s judging and saving speech. – Michael Horton, J. G. Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
I welcome this fresh study of the formal principle of the Reformation—the belief that God’s written Word is the inspired norm by which all other religious authorities and traditions must be judged. Evangelicals are Gospel people and Bible people, and this book shows why adherence to the latter is crucial for the advance of the former. – Timothy George, Founding dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University
Every generation must think afresh what the foundations of its faith are. The Bible is the unchanging Word of God but our perceptions of its role and relevance deepen as we confront new challenges that our mission to the world throws up. In this clearly presented and closely argued book, Dr. Barrett takes us through the main issues of our time, showing how and why they have arisen and offering ways and means by which they may be addressed. This is a key work and a valuable resource for pastors, teachers and students alike. – Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
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