Sola Scriptura: Revelation Is Communication

When we acknowledge sola scriptura, we affirm several important truths about the mind, about God, human beings, and the world we live in.

First, Scripture is an act of communication, and this implies intelligence. Intelligence requires a brain or mind. We learn from the Bible that God is a thinker. He understands everything. He interprets and evaluates all things within his realm. God is the standard and criterion for all thought and behavior, which means sola scriptura.

God is the supremely intelligent king. He is also the architect, econo­mist, and philosopher of creation. He is the ontological expert in each of these fields—and any other we might name. He is our transcendent genius, virtuoso, and mastermind. He is the ultimate specialist of every kind of knowledge. He understands in depth and breadth each realm of experience in every language and at each level of development.

Second, God created a world that is understandable and subject to analysis. It is manageable and capable of development. The transcendent scientist, mathematician, and artisan designed and constructed it. In fact, the world was made for thinkers, for a great mind created it. It is the product of a knowing God and a God who is knowable.

Third, the Bible shows that human beings are created in his image. He is a thinker and so are we. We can understand his revelation to us. Indeed, God made sentient be­ings with intellectual curiosity, imagination, and an aspiration for wisdom. Adam and Eve’s stewardship, for instance, was inconceivable without using the cognitive abilities God gave to and patterned for them. In the same way, we must develop and use our intellectual abilities to serve God and bless others.

The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were commissioned in Genesis 1:26 to imitate the creator as apprentice rulers, builders, benefactors, and thinkers. For this reason, perhaps the greatest gift God gave us as the image of God is our mind, our self-consciousness.

Our doctrine of scripture, therefore, presumes that we possess the intellectual capacity to hear and understand revelation. This assumes that the divine communicator exists and is not silent. This doctrine also presumes that we should listen and obey.

Indeed, we must learn from God to be good stewards, for he is the divine teacher. The whole world and we ourselves are the classroom. We must listen to his voice in creation and especially through scripture―which implies sola scriptura.

Sola Scriptura: Our Ultimate Authority

Our concept of scripture affirms that the Bible is the supreme standard of knowledge. It tells us what to think, but also how to think, why, and when. It provides the norms for life, thought, and faith. It teaches wisdom to navigate the complexities of existence.

The Bible is revelation from God. It is his voice speaking to us. It demands our full attention. It requires our complete obedience. The Bible is the revelation of the mind of God with respect to creation. It tells what is real and how to respond.

Consider this brief illustration. In the Old Testament, the central creedal affirmation is called the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–5. It says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The Shema is an example of the indicative-imperative dynamic in the Bible. There are three parts of this formula: an indicative statement, which is a statement of truth or fact; a literal or logically implied “therefore,” which points to the proper response; and then the answer, which is an application or command.

In this case, the indicative is found in verse 4, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The imperative is verse 5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The Shema tells us what reality consists of: an absolute, transcendent, sovereign creator, the Lord our God, and that he is God alone. There is no other. And there is a relationship between the creator and creature: a Lord-servant covenant. This means that we must devote all our being to his honor and service, which he communicates to us through the Bible.

In this passage, therefore, we are told that the proper response to God is total devotion in thought, desire, and behavior. This is an important implication of sola scriptura. God communicates to us with authority, and we must listen and obey because of who he is (creator) and what we are (servants).









Solo Scriptura: “Listen to the Voice of God”

When Israel was about to enter the promised land, Moses taught them the most important lesson for any human being to learn. This is the concept of sola scriptura.

Listen to what Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Consider three important lessons in this verse. First, the generic word for human beings, “man,” indicates that this is a lesson not just for Israel or for the church, but mankind in general. God declares to all people at all times, “Listen to me. I am your creator and Lord.” This is God’s affirmation of solo scriptura to the whole human race, regardless of their religious outlook.

Second, the term “live” has two meanings. It refers to physical existence, such as our need for food, water, shelter, and economic power. But it also refers to our quality of life, signifying peace or Shalom, the ability to flourish and prosper. This means that human beings will truly thrive only when they hear and obey the voice of God speaking to them in creation and his Word (Psalms 19; 119:105, 160).

Third, throughout the Old Testament, a mind that listens to God practices sola scriptura. The Hebrew verb for “listen” is translated in three ways, depending on context: “listen to,” “hear,” or “obey.” The same verb often appears with a particular direct object, “voice” or “listen to the voice of.” The Hebrew idiom “listen to the voice of” means acknowledging a speaker with authority who expects his instructions to be followed. In Deuteronomy, “listen to the voice of the Lord” appears twenty times. Other phrases include “listen to”: “the command of the Lord,” “my words,” and “the statutes and laws.”

Just as ancient Israel was expected to use their minds and hear God’s voice, we in the church must think and listen also. Remember what God said about Jesus, “This is my Son, my Chosen one; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35). Jesus, of course, is our model for practicing sola scriptura (Luke 2:46).

Clearly, we must pay attention to God’s instruction and learn to understand it. Indeed, the doctrine of sola scriptura implies that we are perpetual students. Always learning. Always curious to learn more about God, his world, his word, and his plan of redemption. To put it another way, sola scriptura implies semper reformada, which means “aways reforming,” “always learning,” “always repenting,” as we listen to the voice of God’s alone.






The importance of insight―knowing the truth about reality and oneself―is universal, present in very culture, worldview, and religion. Leyland Ryken describes “archetypal plot motifs” that occur universally (Words of Delight, 49), such as “the movement from ignorance to epiphany” (insight). For example, the following is a Hindu parable about an adult tiger who encounters an orphaned tiger cub eating grass among the sheep:

One day the Bengal man-eater comes stalking through the woods. He has just eaten a gazelle for breakfast, but he is always hungry. His spring is impeccable. The goats all flee—except for the wanna-be goat. The tiger inspects the cub in astonishment. “What are you doing here?” “Maaaaah,” bleats the wanna-be goat. “We don’t bleat,” growls the man-eater. Confused, the cub nibbles grass. “And we do not eat grass!” roars the man-eater. “We are not vegetarians!” The tiger seizes the cub by the scruff of the neck and carries him to a reflecting pool, to show him his true face. When the wanna-be goat sees his true face, he squeals in terror.

Enraged and disgusted, the man-eater grabs the cub and drags him back to his lair, where he is hoarding the remains of the gazelle he had for breakfast. He pries open the cub’s jaw and forces down some of the raw meat. As the blood trickles down the wanna-be goat’s gullet, he opens his jaws. And he roars. Whereupon the tiger says, “Now that you know who you are, we can begin to discuss how you ought to behave.”

The motif of transformation, from ignorance to insight, is a recurring theme in popular film as well. The first “Matrix” movie concerns the initiation of Neo, who discovers that the human race is totally manipulated by computers. What he thought was real was only an illusion, created to enslave mankind. The “Truman Show” is about coming to know that reality, as it presents itself, is a total façade, designed to entertain others and sell products. “The Island” depicts human clones, brainwashed to embrace an illusion, but whose only purpose is the provision of body parts for others.

Why is “the movement from ignorance to epiphany” ubiquitous? Why is insight about reality so important? Why should we know the truth about God, the world, and ourselves? Because God created the world as a school. Every aspect of creation, the natural world, ourselves, and our relations are revelatory. All facts speak to us. Everything, every encounter, and everyone is an invitation to think and learn.

God, the great teacher, created human beings as his pupils―in his image. We are homo discens, the being who learns. Humans were designed for intellectual curiosity and insight. We were created to serve God and mankind with our minds.

Dru Johnson in his book, Biblical Knowing (p. xv), says: “The Christian scriptures could be theologically described as beginning and ending with an epistemological outlook.” He added: “The first episode of humanity’s activity centers on the knowledge of good and evil. The final stage of humanity is pictured by Jeremiah as a universally prophetic and knowing society (Jer 31:34).”

Knowing, understanding, wisdom, and insight, in other words, are crucial features of the world as God created it.

The movement from ignorance to insight is a central feature of the Bible. Consider these two passages, for example:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28–30)

Please note that the most important commandment includes learning and loving God with the mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

Our goal as followers of Jesus Christ is to know God and to make him known. This involves a process of diligent study, moving from ignorance and illusion to epiphany and insight. Or to paraphrase the last sentence of the Hindu parable, our transformation means: “Now that you know who you are, we can begin to discuss how you ought to think!” As Christians, we must stop consuming intellectual “milk” and eat the “meat” of God’s word (Heb 5:12–14). We should enroll in God’s school and seek insight.