“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NASV)
This is the main passage that Protestants use to demonstrate the concept of “Sola Scriptura” (“Bible Alone”). Just as a reminder, Sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is the only infallible Rule of Faith (or spiritual standard) for the church today. And it is therefore the final authority in spiritual matters.
We want to point out that there is a relentless attack on this Protestant interpretation of the passage above from many today (especially Catholics) who try to avoid its clear and simple message, and they use several common arguments. So, the purpose of this series of articles is to deal with these arguments by demonstrating their weaknesses.
Now, from the outset, we want to say that no single verse in the Bible contains ABSOLUTE PROOF of Sola Scriptura. The concept of Sola Scriptura is something that is derived from many verses. However, the passage above strongly implies this teaching.
Having said that, each of these articles will deal with only one specific argument at a time, mainly those surrounding 2 Timothy 3. So, let’s begin. Today’s specific argument is:
ARGUMENT #1 – “THE PASSAGE SAYS THAT ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED, BUT NOT *ONLY* SCRIPTURE. SO, SOMETHING ELSE, LIKE “SACRED TRADITION,” COULD ALSO BE INFALLIBLE.
While it is true that the word “only” is not there, the context reveals that it is indeed Scripture that is able to equip each believer for every good work. The context is about an inspired (“God-breathed”) and infallible Rule of Faith to which the believer can turn in times of difficulty (3:1), persecution (3:12), and deception (3:13). If this Rule of Faith is able to equip someone FOR EVERY GOOD WORK, then it must be, by definition, sufficient as a Rule of Faith, and therefore, it is the only infallible source needed. This is just plain logic and common sense.
Consider this analogy: If a particular math book (as a tool for learning math) is profitable for simple math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, and it will equip you to handle every math problem, then, logically, it is the ONLY one you need, as math books go. No one should have a problem with this logic.
But in the same way, Paul tells us that the Bible (as a Rule of Faith) is profitable for doctrine, etc., and will equip you for every good work. So why wouldn’t the same logic apply? How can it NOT be sufficient if it equips you for ALL good works? And if we need another infallible source for the post-apostolic church, why does Paul not mention it here, in the context of a Rule of Faith? Notice that Paul never says, “Scripture equips you for every good work, EXCEPT for those works found in Tradition.” No, he doesn’t say anything like that. The Bible’s principles are sufficient for what the church needs to know and how the church needs to behave. He mentions no other infallible source here, but only points to Scripture.
Now, there are indeed other legitimate authorities, or rules of faith, in the church. For example, church leaders, theologians, the writings of the early church fathers, Bible commentaries, traditions, creeds, councils, catechisms, etc. But these are all lesser authorities and are subject to and tested by the Bible, since it is “God-breathed.” Thus, the Bible is the FINAL authority. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 not only implies sufficiency in its immediate context, but this sufficiency lines up with the whole of Scripture. The Bible is God’s blueprint for our lives and our spiritual roadmap, our infallible “toolbox” which equips us for EVERY good work. There is no rule of faith greater than it, nor is there one equal to it.
So, the fact that a particular word (i.e., “only”) is not in the passage is irrelevant. Context shows us that the CONCEPT is there.