- Sola Scriptura
- One of the core ideas of the Protestant Reformation was that the Bible remained the sole authority for the teachings of the Christian church. The reformers needed an alternative authority in order to challenge the pope and his bishops, who claimed that authority resided in the traditions of the church.At first, when he challenged the pope in the Ninety-five Theses, Martin Luther did not specifically raise the issue of a counter authority. But after he asserted, in his 1518 debate with Catholic theologian John Eck (1486-1543), that a church council had erred, the entire medieval church authority system was in doubt; Luther needed to firm up his position concerning the authority of the Bible. in 1520, in one of his three treatises, the Appeal to the German Nobility, he rejected any special authority of the pope to interpret scripture and called on Christians to follow the Bible if the pope acted contrary to its dictates. Then, in his address to the Diet of Worms, he made a radical appeal to scripture and to reason, and insisted that any refutations be based on them.Luther's position implied that the Bible could be read and understood by the average person, and that it should become readily available to anyone in the church. After his appearance at Worms, Luther completed a translation of the Bible and saw to its publication. The first paragraph in the Formula of Concord (1580) stated what was by then the firm Lutheran doctrine: "We believe, teach and confess that the only rule and standard to which at once all dogmas and teachers should be esteemed and judged are nothing else than the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament."This affirmation was not meant to do away with church tradition entirely, or to reject the binding authority of the ancient church creeds. such statements as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Augsburg Confession of Faith, and the Formula of Concord set out the major teachings of the Christian church in a brief and straightforward fashion and are useful in refuting heresy. But by making the Bible the standard anyone could use to appeal against the authority of the church, Luther paved the way for the present reality, in which a multitude of interpretations has become the basis of a wide variety of separate Christian communities.Further reading:■ Harold J. Grimm, The Reformation Era (New York: Macmillan, 1954)■ J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, 2 vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988, 1994)■ David Steinmetz, ed., The Bible in the Sixteenth Century (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.