Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:00 pm
The Messenger, January 17, 2013
By REV. BILLY L. MCGARITY
Special to The Messenger
In the introduction to this series, John Jones provided an adequate definition of the first sola considered in this article, “Sola Scriptura,” meaning “Scripture Alone.” However, after the meaning of the term is given, seldom are the implications considered.
The statement designates a seat of authority, one seat, scripture. From our earliest stages of being, the concept of authority seems reprehensible. We are born rebelling against authority, many times at our own peril. Authority seems oppressive and is continually in the way of keeping us from having what we want and desire. The original temptation in Eden from Satan to Eve was of this nature: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’ (Genesis 3:1)?” God’s spoken authority was called into question. The serpent planted doubt in Eve’s mind concerning the good intentions of God’s authority.
The question may soon arise, “How far does the authority of God’s Word extend?” It stands to reason that if God exists and has spoken, and those spoken words have been recorded, then His words — by nature of His very being — would be binding in all areas of life and thought.
Dr. Gordon Clark, the well-respected theologian/philosopher of the 20th century, built a complete system of epistemology (theory of knowledge) on the statement, “The Bible alone is the Word of God.” Clark understood the implications of possessing the Word of God in scripture. All practice derives from knowledge, secular and religious, and possessing the Word of God gives a sure base from which proper actions may flow.
The Protestant Reformation, in which all Christian communions outside of the Roman Catholic fold find their heritage, was a movement based on the statement Dr. Clark found so profound and basic to humanity: “The Bible alone is the Word of God!”
Accordingly, “Sola Scriptura” is the first in the ordering of the five solas. Our knowledge of the remaining solas depends upon the first, scripture. It is in this sense that historians have considered “Sola Scriptura” to be the formal cause of the Reformation.
It is of little importance whether you consider yourself to be Reformed in regards to the content of this article. A seat of authority will exist for knowledge and practice; it will be either of man’s personal preference, or from an almighty, all wise, perfect, eternal Being, God. The question must be: Upon what authority would you rather construct your life? Under what authority would you have your leaders govern? God has given to humanity a sure basis of truth, an authoritative truth upon which all of life must be constructed. “The Bible alone is the Word of God!”
It may very well be that you have experienced the uncomfortable implications of a culture that believes itself to be its own authority. Or, this may be the case in churches you’ve attended, as you have experienced preaching and worship created in regards to man’s authority versus that of God. If so, remember there are people in this modern culture that still believe that the Bible is authoritative and they desperately seek to order their lives accordingly. These people meet in various places weekly, worshiping God as He has commanded in His Word.
Editor’s note: The Rev. Billy L. McGarity is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy.