Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity by James R. White

Scripture-Alone

One Sentence Synopsis

A defense of the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Bible that is scholarly yet accessible, precise yet passionate.

Rating

5 out of 5

Recommendation

An excellent resource for anyone who would like a passionate defense of the Holy Bible as God’s sufficient word for faith and practice. Provides assurance that our faith is based on a solid foundation and a defense against attacks from other faiths and non-believers.

Overview

In his Introduction, Dr. White states that Scripture Alone is a popular introduction to the topic designed to compel his fellow believers to desire to read even more in-depth works on the subject (White, loc. 99).

I write as a pastor/theologian/apologist who believes firmly that man is a singular whole—you cannot divide man’s mind from his heart, his soul. I am passionate about theology, passionate about the faith. I honestly do not understand how anyone can say “I believe the Bible is the Word of God” without being passionate about that confession (White, loc. 101).

Dr. White brings a rare combination of pastoral care, theological depth, apologetic precision, and the unbridled passion of a sinner saved purely by the grace of Christ to this and all of his works. In Scripture Alone we can see each of these aspects of his character reflected in his writing. His passion for truth and desire to encourage that in other Christian comes out in this next excerpt from the Introduction:

I love the Trinity, justification by faith, the Resurrection, and sola scriptura. I do not pretend to be dispassionate about these things, and, as such, I stand firmly on this assertion: Christian scholarship that lacks passion about the truth is not worthy of the name Christian to begin with… A person who has only intellectual knowledge of the sufficiency of Scripture, but lacks a deep, abiding love of the Scriptures and an understanding of how their sufficiency is related to the gospel and to the assurance of salvation, is liable to be led astray by winsome words or the traditions of men. At the same time, a person who professes great zeal for the truth, but does not honor the truth by growing in knowledge of it, can be easily led astray. We need a balanced understanding of and love for the truth of sola scriptura. Divine truths command our undivided allegiance, and this love of divine truth is what I seek to encourage in your heart (White, loc 104).

Chapters

  1. Three Arguments Related to Scriptural Sufficiency
  2. Definitions: More Than Half the Battle
  3. Forever Settled: The Nature of God’s Holy World
  4. Inerrancy and Exegesis: Believing and Honoring God’s World
  5. The Canon of Scripture Considered
  6. Did Thomas Write a Gospel?
  7. Allegations of Corruption
  8. Allegations of Contradiction
  9. Tradition, the Church, and the Development of Doctrine
  10. The Lord Spoke to Me, Saying…
  11. Scriptural Sufficiency: Nothing New
  12. Conclusion: Forever Settled in Heaven … and for Me

Detailed Review

Not surprisingly, portions of the book are focused on the Reformation issue of whether or not the teachings of the Roman Church and her traditions are on a par with Scripture. For example:

However, what is equally clear (though normally ignored by those who promote a form of Scripture + tradition = ultimate authority) is that all forms of tradition, even those that claim divine origin and sanction, are to be subjected to the higher authority of the enscripturated Word. Jesus taught that even those traditions the Jews believed came from Moses were to be subjected to correction by Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:5-13). When Paul tells the Thessalonians to hold to the “traditions” they were taught by word or by letter, it’s obvious in context that he is referring to the gospel itself, which had been both preached to them (when Paul was with them) and written to them (in his first epistle). Tradition is never said to be “God-breathed” and is never exalted to a place of equality with (or supremacy over) the Scriptures (White, loc. 253).

Sola scriptura, like all divine truths, leads us to recognize God’s awesome glory and our desperate need. Just as for salvation we are completely dependent upon the all-sufficient grace of God, so too we are dependent upon His self-revelation for knowledge of our Savior, His work, the gospel, and everything else contained in divine revelation. To believe in sola scriptura is to allow God to speak without interruption. It is to trust His self-revelation, refusing to mix man’s words with God’s, man’s thoughts with His thoughts. (White, loc. 324).

“Refusing to mix man’s words with God’s, man’s thoughts with His thoughts.” Here Dr. White counters the prevailing winds blowing within Christianity today. Best selling “Christian” books like Jesus Calling by Sarah Young not only mix man’s words with God’s words, but openly encourage everyone to look inside themselves to receive supposed new words from God. This is a direct attack on the sufficiency of The Holy Bible.

Just as man’s pride wishes to insert human actions and merit into the gospel, so that we can boast, at least a bit, in our own accomplishments (thus denying the sufficiency of God’s grace), so too man seeks to enthrone his own thoughts and authority in place of the ultimate authority of God’s Word so as to allow man to control God’s truth. This is the basis of every false teaching, every error the church has ever faced or ever will face. (White, loc. 334).

Exactly right, beginning with that first attack on God’s authority and His word when the serpent asked, “Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1).

The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient infallible rule of faith for the Christian church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement; their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation; their authority is not dependent upon man, church, or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting, and self-authenticating. The Christian church looks to the Scriptures as the only infallible and sufficient rule of faith, and the church is always subject to the Word, and is constantly reformed thereby. (White, loc. 356).

Dr. White consistently reminds us of the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (ESV). We are also reminded that we are “constantly reformed” by Scripture as it reproves and corrects those who would go astray. It is this consistent “rule of faith” that is the guide by which we analyze all other teaching.

As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction. Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s understanding, nurture and discipline. (White, loc. 562).

The current state of apostate “Christian” liberal denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and others) provide confirmation of Dr. White’s claims. Once these denominations abandoned sola scriptura, they lost their integrity, their morals, and their direction:

How one views Scripture will determine the rest of one’s theology. There is no more basic issue: Every system of thought that takes seriously the claims of the Bible to be the inspired, authoritative Word of God will share a commitment to particular central truths, and that without compromise. Those systems that do not begin with this belief in Scripture will exhibit a wide range of beliefs that will shift over time in light of the ever-changing whims and views of culture. Almost every single collapse involving denominations and churches in regard to historic Christian beliefs can be traced back to a degradation in that group’s view of the Bible as the inspired and inerrant revelation of God’s truth. Once this foundation is lost, the house that was built upon it cannot long stand. (White, loc. 581).

Church history has repeatedly and clearly proven one thing: Once the highest view of Scripture is abandoned by any theologian, group, denomination, or church, the downhill slide in both its theology and practice is inevitable. I firmly believe Christian truth requires a solid foundation in the beliefs that (1) God made us, and (2) God has communicated to us with clarity. Without this basis, attempts to establish Christian theology are untenable. (White, loc. 933).

White also tackles the popular notion that the Bible cannot be inerrant because sinful men were the instruments used by the Holy Spirit:

God’s work of inspiration is not limited by every author He used being sinful, imperfect, and ignorant of many things. This is why we must note again that Scripture is “inspired” (“God-breathed”), not those whom God used to write it. Their humanity is not the foundation of the Word; it is a tool God used that did not in any way limit the perfection of the masterpiece that came from His hand (White, loc. 894).

An illustration of the human element that points to Scripture’s accuracy and reliability is provided by the pen of Luke, who introduces his gospel to Theophilus by stating, It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (1:3-4) These words do not mesh well with a postmodern perspective on religion; they sound far more like a scientist speaking about the results of his studies (White, loc. 897).

Dr. White also addresses the oft-repeated claim of Roman Catholics that is the failure of sola scriptura that has resulted in the numerous denominations within Protestantism. Dr. White correctly points out that these churches and denominations have rejected sola scriptura despite their Protestant roots. Both the inerrancy and the sufficiency of the Bible are under attack:

The wide-ranging beliefs in so many churches and denominations are not due to any fault in the Scriptures but rather to people rejecting the ultimate authority of God’s Word, either by denying its accuracy (and hence its teachings) or by subjecting it to a higher functional authority (such as the tradition of an “infallible” group or person). (White, loc. 937).

On the other hand, sound Christian theology suffers a slow and horrible death in those churches and denominations where the theories of men take precedence over the authority of Scripture. When inerrancy is denied (openly or functionally), the foundation of theology is removed, and nothing people have found can replace it. It may take time, but the denigration of Christian truth that flows from the abandonment of the highest views of Scripture is simply inevitable. It cannot be avoided. (White, loc. 1160).

Another common objection raised within Roman Catholic circles is that the canon of Scripture (i.e which books are part of our Bible) must be defined by the supposed infallible church. Dr. White’s decades of experience debating Roman Catholic apologists allow him to provide solid, concise, and clear rebuttals to these false claims:

One can confess the instrumental nature of the church in being used of God as the primary means of establishing canon without violating Scripture’s teaching by investing in the church some notion of infallibility. Many have argued that unless the canon is defined “infallibly” by the church, then no one can truly know it, but we are now in a position to recognize the error of such an assertion. The foundation of the certainty of our knowledge of the canon is based upon God’s purposes in giving Scripture, not upon the alleged authority of any ecclesiastical body. God did use the church, the gathered body (not later ecclesiastical developments regarding unbiblical structures and positions), as a means to establish widespread knowledge of canon so that Scripture will function as He has decreed it to function. But to locate the certainty of the canon in an ecclesiastical body is to miss the glory of the truth: The canon’s certainty is found in its author and in the outworking of His purposes for Scripture itself! God’s sovereign power stands behind the revealing of canon2 over time through the work of His Spirit, which led to a nearly unanimous view of the New Testament canon (White, loc. 1592).

The Holy Spirit provides the canon for the church; the church does not establish the canon by her own authority. Does the Spirit do this by new divine revelation? No, by His work among the people of God, in whom He dwells (White, loc. 1620).

Continuing on, the amazing consistency and diversity of Scripture is highlighted by Dr. White:

The body of writings that make up the New Testament presents a consistent, harmonious worldview and message. From the four gospels through the epistles of Paul to the revelation given to John, a consistent, noncontradictory message of God’s truth is provided for us. Again, that message is contained in different types of writing, and the authors used by the Spirit used different styles to communicate that body of truth. God used the concerns of each writer in the context of his own life and ministry to give us a fully orbed presentation of His truth. While different authors bring different life-experiences to their writings (Paul’s experiences as an urbane Pharisee color his words, just as Peter’s experiences as a Galilean fisherman influence his), their worldview is consistent: They all present to us one God, the Creator of all things, manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one gospel centered in the cross of Christ, one sacrifice for sins, one Christian faith. Their outlook is thoroughly consistent with Judaism’s emphasis upon monotheism, belief in one God. Nothing in their writings suggests a conscious break with the worship of the one true God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (White, loc. 1799).

Christians of the Reformed persuasion, as is Dr. White, are often accused of denying modern miracles and the working of the Holy Spirit. But, Dr. White shares his joy in understanding the miracles that have impacted the life of every Christian including himself:

It takes a pretty special miracle to get spiritual truth through my thick skull! I know it’s not the kind of miracle that would get aired on “Christian television,” but yes, I think it’s downright miraculous how the Spirit works in concert with the Word in the believer’s life. I mean, He takes an inspired, inerrant Scripture,  preserves it over time, raises me to spiritual life, gives me a nature that longs for His truth and His Word, draws me to it, sheds His light upon it, teaches me through its words and precepts, writes its truths upon my heart, and then brings those truths to my mind when I need His wisdom. If that’s not one amazing set of miracles, I don’t know what is. (White, loc. 2913).

Finally, Dr. White turns to the writings of the early church fathers to demonstrate that Scripture alone was rediscovered during the 15th century Reformation, not created. First, he appeals to Athanasius:

“Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things” and “The sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth.” (White, loc. 3001).

When Athanasius wrote his Festal Letter he listed the canon—excluding the freestanding books of the Apocrypha, by the way—and then said: These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.” And He reproved the Jews, saying, “Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.” (White, loc. 3006).

Dr. White also turns to one of his “favorite quotes” from Basil of Caesaria:

We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but is sin (White, loc. 3047).

Scripture Alone is clearly a work born out of the passion of an individual that loves God and his Holy Word. I highly recommend it.

References

White, James R. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity [Kindle Edition]. Bethany House. October 1, 2004. Print Length, 228 pages. ISBN: 0764220489

NOTE: Kindle locations are identified by “loc.” for location in place of the traditional p. for page numbers from a printed book.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. 2001.

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