A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.

Sola Scriptura and The Cult of One

The clarion call of the Reformation was to get back to the source of christian faith. A relentless and clear cry to go back to the scriptures, the principle now known as “Sola Scriptura” (by scripture alone). Additionally, another prominent doctrine which was then brought forth is often known as “the universal priesthood of the believer“. Well you see

Many, many, people in the years since interpreted those two doctrines taken-together to mean that each person interprets the bible for himself (and by himself). Unfortunately, this has had the tendency to create novel doctrines over the years, and yes, a proliferation of cults.

I’m not saying that each individual cannot understand the Bible — and thus needs a professional clergy-person to do it for him. Rather, the point of those two doctrines was to emphasize the idea that one needn’t be part of the professional clergy to understand the Bible.

But, equally important (perhaps more so) is the point that while each one may understand the Bible directly, nevertheless doctrine-forming “interpretation” is a community project. That is, whereas in the medieval Church the laity was spoon-fed whatever the clergy decided to give them; in the “reformation period” the pattern was the clergy and the “laity” interpret the Bible together.

Thus, gifted teachers of the body of Christ are held responsible by a studying Church. Consequently, What you then have with these two principles (and others) is mutual accountability as the Church works through theological and practical disputes which do inevitably arise.

When a person (or a small group) quits this communal dialogue with the universal Church they tend to double-down on their novel doctrine, because all broader Church correction is lost, and voila!, you have a cult (or something like it).

There are many Christian people who would bristle at the thought of “starting their own cult” (they would say, ‘only follow Jesus’ — and rightly so). Nevertheless, they insist they do not need to read books, commentaries,, confessions and creeds. They think that “Sola Scriptura” means they only need the Bible, and “the universal priesthood of the believer” means they need no counsel from others (save the “Holy Spirit” — they say).

But, not every idea we get is a spirit-illumined idea. Many spring forth from human imagination. And, a person cut off from dialogue with the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and with only their ownself for counsel, is effectively a “cult of one”.

Excerpt from A Call of One [ Reforming Evangelicals]

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5 responses to “Sola Scriptura and The Cult of One

  1. Committed Christian September 1, 2011 at 14:42

    I’m guilty of being one of the “I only need the Bible and the Holy Spirit” Christians. I admit it’s hard to undo that thinking since for most of my Christian life I did not have very good Bible teachers or pastors. But Christians can learn from each other and even I got help from commentaries, articles, etc.

    • Born4Battle September 3, 2011 at 11:57

      I would agree that in the end, the Bible and the Holy Spirit as teacher are sufficient to live a godly life. However we are to live our Christian lives in community with other believers. That might mean having a few other believers with whom we can connect, or it might mean access to a good bible-believing church as well as other good resources from the past and present to assist us in the ‘way’.

  2. Michael Acidri September 3, 2011 at 12:57

    Thats true. Having the dicipline enough to sit down and learn from what is being eexpounded on in a book or sermon from the word of God is a commendable thing. It shows teachableness and meekness. Moreso if you are able to go back and see if these things are so (like the Bereans in Acts 17). Developing a minimalist attitude to studying the word easily leads to aberrant beliefs and hence ‘the cult of one’.

  3. Micah Burke February 3, 2012 at 20:06

    Hard to obey God’s command that we submit to our elders if we have none.

    • Acidri February 3, 2012 at 20:35

      Now you are making me feel jittery before I attend a house church. 😉

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