Sabrina Reyes-Peters

Sola Scriptura & Spiritual Personalities

I kinda said to myself that I wouldn’t write anymore reactionary posts, but the latest Challies post to ruffle some feathers has me thinking.

It has me pondering a) why I’m careful about the term sola scriptura and b) how many people actually believe (and feel horribly when it’s not working) that they must experience God only through Scripture.

As much as I disagree with Challies on some issues, you gotta admire his consistency with his standard Reformed definition of sola scriptura, which he derives from 2 Peter 1.3. I disagree with his interpretation, which is that the scriptures are sufficient for every part of life. They're not. You can't learn how to make cookies by reading the bible. You can't learn how to drive by reading the Bible, and you certainly can't provide good psychological counseling with just the Bible. Those are just a few hyperbolic examples.

I try to be careful with how I use the term sola scriptura, because those who use the term either a) take it quite literally or b) say they acknowledge it but really don't. For example, some who use the term actually appeal to a certain biblical interpretation as authoritative, most of the time a traditional biblical interpretation, when, strictly speaking, the point of sola scriptura is to eschew tradition altogether as an authority. I like to use the term prima scriptura. That is, the scriptures are the primary authority for believers. Experience is helpful, tradition is helpful, reason is helpful.

Prima scriptura still acknowledges the authority of Scripture. I acknowledge the final authority of scripture, but I also acknowledge that mystical experiences are possible and not against Scripture. I firmly believe that our personalities wire us to commune with God in unique ways. If one is going to acknowledge how personalities shape an individual's approach to work, relationships, leaderships, and all the rest of life, why wouldn't that relate to spirituality, as well?

Some believers have mystical experiences (maybe even the Apostle Paul or a friend of his?). Some believers need a rosary or other prayer liturgies. Some believers feel closer to God in the forest, while others in an art gallery. Some believers prefer to write prayers. Some believers prefer spontaneous prayers. Some believers prefer to meditate on Scripture, while some prefer rigorous study (meditation is hard!). It makes me sad that Challies seems to ignore the uniqueness of each person, insisting that Scripture reading and prayer, as only defined in Scripture, are the only ways to commune with God.