Prima Scriptura vs. Sola Scriptura

In my view and understanding, Prima Scriptura is far better then Sola Scriptura in that Prima allows us to see God’s revelation not just in the Bible, but also in science, nature, church history/tradition and other things while Sola leave us clinging to the Bible as our main source for everything when not everything in it can answer all our problems. It is of my opinion that we can find truth and God outside of the Bible but as the wiki article for it says,

the Christian doctrine that canonized scripture is “first” or “above all” other sources of divine revelation.

It goes on also to further say that and I feel a lot of us can agree on it.

Implicitly, this view acknowledges that, besides canonical scripture, there are other guides for what a believer should believe and how he should live, such as the created order, traditions, charismatic gifts, mystical insight, angelic visitations, conscience, common sense, the views of experts, the spirit of the times or something else.

As a person who is of the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition we have a thing that we call the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” in which we can understand God, Jesus Christ, and our Christian faith within these four things: scripture, tradition, reason and Christian experience.
So, I want your opinions on this, would the idea of Prima Scriptura or the Wesleyan Quadrilateral make it easier for people to accept evolution and billions of years if they see that all truth isn’t contained within Scripture?

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I think sola might be true in terms of soteriology and with respect to a good number of God’s attributes. Prima is good otherwise, recognizing that truth derived from the reality around us cannot ultimately conflict with the truth derived from the reality revealed in scripture. If there is a perceived conflict, then our exegesis of one or the other or both is flawed.


Thanks for raising some good points here. In the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, does “prima scriptura” mean that even among the four things, scripture takes precedence over any tradition, reason, or experience that seems to contradict it? As in, are all four seen as being on “the same level” or not? I think that even in my Baptist circle, those things might be considered ways to understand God too – but only if they align with scripture. Any whiff of contradiction would throw the whole idea out. How this plays out in real life can get confusing.


That’s what happens with YECism in whatever tradition.

Ideally scripture is the foundation but we try and cross examine all things and see what each say of each other, whether they compliment each other or at odd ends. It varies depending on who is using it and how it is being used. But the main idea of the whole system is that we don’t solely reply on scripture alone, we have other tools given to us to use when understanding God.
How it ideally should work is that we start with scripture, then go to tradition and see what the church has said on the issue (and that could mean looking as many different interpretations) then we look at reason from a somewhat secular (but not always secular) point of view and make sense of it and then we go to (our) Christian experience and see how we personally make sense of it.

I generally feel there is a lot of baggage and red herring issues with many terms. So I may not use them.

But the same issue comes down to this I feel.

Does the Bible contain the complete truth? No. How could it? The Bible never mentions what books are cannon and what books are not. It says test them. Do they flow together. Men , even if they did their best and did a great job, chose what went into the Bible. Some of the books they included mentions other books and stories we don’t have.

The book of Jasher is mentioned. We don’t have it in the Bible though. Jude mentions two things we don’t see in the entire bible except where he mentioned it. We don’t read about Michael and satan arguing over Moses’s body. We also have zero quotes about whatever Enoch said.

So the Bible does not contain all the things.

Secondly it only contradicts if you believe that it’s suppose to be taken as 100% literal. I don’t. So the confliction is not a problem between the various creation accounts because I don’t believe they were meant to actually be taken literally.

But just because I believe that does not mean that anything anyone or faith says that contradicts the world has to be given the same authority.

Take the New Testament. Jesus was not literally scientifically correct about the mustard seed. But maybe to them that was correct and to God it did not matter because it was a parable and not a botany lesson. But some things are lined out in detail.

Take who is qualified to lead a church. The Bible says the elders ( pastors/overseers) are the ones responsible for the congregation. It gives a a list of qualifications. A few of them are that they must be married to one wife with kids ( plural kids). Most priests over catholic congregations are single. Yet they are viewed as the leaders of their congregation. That directly contradicts the requirements of elders.

Secondly, scripture teaches all disciples can baptize other disciples into Christ carrying out the great commission. Priests often teach only they can.

So a oral and written history , such as the catechism, contradicts those things and so I reject it. If something contradicts the actual message ( not necessarily aspects of it such as conflicting creation accounts).


As a vehement opposer to “sola Scriptura” I find this alternative to be preferable in so many ways, as long as we understand in which areas Scripture does not intend to be authoritative. It is no good claiming Scripture as prima on Scientific matters for instance or science on miracles.
Having been brought up a Methodist I am familiar with the Quadrilateral ideas. However, it would seem that “reason” is not a popular form of Exegesis? The main importance, as I see it is not to confine God and His revelation to Scripture alone and to give “Him” a chance to communicate in the myriad of ways that He does. And to steer away from any notion of inerrancy or God authorship of Scripture.


I am a defender of sola scriptura (along with the other 4 solas of Protestantism) at least according to the following understanding: The Bible is the only authority put into human hands for the contents and teachings of Christianity. In particular God has not given over such authority to sinful human beings. God only gives authority to the written word, for much the same reasons that we have learned to keep the law of the land in written form.

Jesus gives authority to scripture but never explains what texts exactly scripture consists of. It is a situation which is very uncomfortable for the scribes and lawyers (legalists) among us. The presumption seems to be that consensus is enough to identify what should be called scripture and thus it is natural to rely on the earliest ecumenical decision on this. Along with the creed of Nicea this canon simply defines the Christian religion and that is all.

5 solas

"Sola gratia", grace alone: Salvation is by the grace of God alone – 100% a work of God. But salvation is not a ticket to heaven but a transformation of self into goodness - a realization of our true potential and so salvation is not independent of works and thoughts and beliefs. We are not saved by works but we are saved to works. And no there is no condition on this that God only works for your salvation if you are a Christian or if you believe in Him.

In Matthew 19:16, a man came to Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Ultimately Jesus answer is given in verse 26, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This is not something we can do, ever. Asking what is enough and we already going in the wrong direction.

"Sola Fide", faith alone: Faith alone is what God asks of us for salvation. This is not a contradiction because this is not about what accomplishes our salvation, but about the process by which God accomplishes it. But no, faith is not some sort of magical power or belief that God bestows upon us so that by this power or belief we can save ourselves! First and foremost this salvation through faith stuff means that God is not operating on an inanimate object, but with those who have will and choice that cannot be left out of it. So part of the process of salvation is that however much God may have to work to liberate our free will so that we can do so, God requires us to make a choice. Either we can go the way of our own desire or understanding that God’s desire for us is so much better, to choose that instead. This is NOT a surrender of our free will but an exercise our free will to choose the direction which God would lead, and the fact of the matter is that the direction that God would lead us is to the increase of our free will. Life does not suddenly become simpler for the person that follows God’s lead, because it is not about God telling him what to do all the time. It becomes more complicated because God makes him aware of choices he would never have imagined otherwise.

But there is a second part to the salvation through faith business. And that is in answer to the question, how do we know? The answer is through faith. We make a choice and we put our trust in God and that really is all there is to it. So do I know that I know that I am saved? Give me a break! You can keep such invitations to self brainwashing. How can it be salvation through faith to buy into this promise that I never need have faith again because “I know”. Just like love, this is well within the realm where belief creates reality. If we don’t believe in it then it cannot be, but there comes a point where you have to understand that life is not just about objective observation but also about subjective participation.

Romans 10:5 Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). This is the difference between faith and legalism, thinking you have some way to determine who is saved and who is not.

"Sola scriptura", scripture alone: The Bible is the only authority given into the hands of men. God does not give authority to men themselves because God does not do things that are not in our best interest, and the flaws of human beings are such that power corrupt them. So God does not give His word to men directly so that they have authority to speak for Him. God only gives authority to the written word, for much the same reasons that we have learned to keep the law of the land in written form.

Jesus invested authority in the scriptures, because as the consumate example for how we should live our lives, Jesus contantly turned to the scriptures Himself as the source for what God says to human beings. This tells us that the Scriptures are a product of the work of God, and thus He is the author using the events of history and human writers as His intruments. This means the scriptures say exactly what God intends and does not require correction by the work of an interpreter. This does not mean that the Bible is self-interpreting, or that people cannot twist the words to mean things contrary to God’s intent. But it does mean that for a person who sincerely seeks God, the Bible is where He should look to see what God would say to Him.

But we must also understand that the purpose of the Bible is not to teach us the truth about all things (it will not tell you how to fix your computer). It is not your savior and you will not find eternal life by studying them, for Jesus tells us its purpose in John 5:39-40, which is to bear witness to Him, so that we may come to Him. He is the savior and it is only in a relationship with Him that we will find eternal life.

"Solo Christo", Christ alone: There is only one mediator between man and God and that is the Christ. All over the world there are religions that promise salvation if you will believe what they say and do what they tell you to do. All over the world you will find gurus and priests who will offer to mediate between you and God, telling you what God has to say to you, accepting your confessions on God’s behalf, and hearing what you would ask of God. But the gospel is telling you that all of these promises and offers will mislead you even if it is not an intentional deception, for God desires to have a personal relationship with you in the person of Jesus, who is God Himself. God does not require a human being in order to speak to you, hear your confession or answer your prayers. So do not believe it when they tell you what you have to do or to believe in order to be acceptable to God. If religion has been made into a means by which people manipulate you then you have been deceived.

Ephesians 5:23 Christ is the head, leader, organizer and authority over His own church, with a personal relationship with every member of that church and so no matter what services may be offered and accepted between two members of that church, no authority is given in such relationships to any person by God, but only by the members themselves according to mutual agreement.

"Soli Deo gloria", glory to god alone: In Matthew 23:8-11, Jesus said to call no human being teacher, for we are all bretheren, and to call no human being father because we have one Father in heaven, and to call no human being master, because Jesus is our only Lord. If we would acheive greatness – if we would seek to be like our God, then we should humble ourselves to serve one another just as God has humbled Himself to serve us by becoming a human infant and dying on the cross.

Jesus said in 18:19, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” This tells us three things. First is if Jesus points to God as the only example of what is good then certainly we should only point to God in the same way. He is showing us that no matter how righteous in thought and action we may be, it is not good for us to allow ourselves to be the example which people hold up to follow. Second, He is showing us that part of being good is about seeing the goodness of God and the goodness in others rather than in yourself. It is to love others and live for the sake of others. Thirdly it is telling us about the character of God (For I ask you to remember that Jesus said that when you see Him you see the Father). It is God Himself whose character it is to see goodness in others and live for the sake of others. So although we should indeed give all the glory to God, “Glory to God alone” does not mean that God does all things for His own glory, for I do not think this is the case. Indeed, I believe that God does all that He does for the sake of others also, and that all He does in His dealings with mankind is only for our benefit and not for His own aggrandizement.

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With sola scriptura though how does that view fit with books like the book of Jasher mentioned in te OT and how Jude mentions prophecies made by Enoch not found in scripture or how does that fit with the story he mentions of Satan and Michael arguing over the Moses’s corpse that is not found. It seems to show that there was other books and stories now lost or not accepted that they had.

It also brings up if we go by scripture alone what verse teaches a council of men would be worthy to determine without question what books are supposed to be there and what books are not.

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The meaning of words is always a matter of consensus. It must be so for the words to serve the purpose of communication.

Of course that raises the question of consensus in what group? Varies. After all, many words have meanings specific to particular groups.

Hey @Sealkin, Thanks for starting this interesting and helpful topic.

It might be worth having a look at what the historic Reformed Creeds and confessions say (if you haven’t already) and how that helps (or should help!) form the concept of Sola Scriptura in Reformed traditions. One thing I find helpful to notice is that it is nearly always expressed pragmatically in questions like ‘Where should I go to find out how to glorify God?’ or ‘What should I believe about God?’ I’ve posted some examples a past topic here:

I have to say, I’m always grateful for topics like this because I think it brings to attention just how much Sola Scriptura has been hijacked over the last several decades. To the point where it is now deployed as a weapon in the ongoing culture war. But Sola Scriptura has never meant that Scripture is the only authority through which we can gain knowledge of God, world and the Christian life. Yet given how clarelessly it gets banded around in YEC circles, I’m not suprised people are looking for a new term.

In my eyes, if teaching on scripture leaves a believer with the impression that they are “clinging to the Bible as our main source for everything when not everything in it can answer all our problems”, then they have not been taught Sola Scriptura. They’ve been taught biblicism (for more on that see the second half of the linked post above).

Personally, I unashamedly affirm and teach Sola Scriptura. Which means I affirm and teach that science, philosophy, history, art, engineering, tradition, personal reflection, etc. can all reveal things about humanity, God, and the universe he has made. They are all tools we can use to unearth truth; truth planted in this world by God’s common grace. On that, I’m sure we all agree regardless of the terms we use. :slight_smile:

However, when those things appear to be in contradiction with Scripture then, assuming our interpretations are accurate, Scripture gets the last word. I’d also say that Scripture alone reveals what we must believe to be saved. Perhaps, those last two that might be the bones of contention for some. Which I’m happy to acknowledge.

Thanks again for bringing this up, Quinn.

Blessings, Liam

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I am saved by works!

But not my works.




Though to be fair to @mitchellmckain, I think he was saying “we are not saved by our own works, but we are saved to do works of our own.” :slight_smile:

I had some similar questions about the quadrilateral. One of my first reactions was to take offense that the Spirit was not even represented in any of the quadrants. But then maybe that’s appropriate because the Spirit should be seen as the carrying container or foundation for the entire quadrilateral (and not merely one of its members). I.e. whether we are making use of tradition or reason or experience or scripture, our use of each of those things should be Spirit-guided. I can admire the wisdom of such an arrangement, but it does strike me as a particularly western-enlightenment way of parceling up the Christian life. Very analytical and thought-based. Contemplatives and mystics might have a thing or two to add - like prayer or faith or trust or even “unknowingness”. But then again, the contemplatives aren’t the ones who probably feel any great need to get stuff organized and inventoried into Venn Diagrams and quadrilaterals. So they are probably content to leave such potentially reductive analysis to others.

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We hope and belive that the Spirit of God guides us in our search for truth. We rely on both the Spirit and human logic to search for truth. John Wesley was an Oxford student before his calling to ministry, so that probably explains the Enlightenment type style of thinking within it. He was a scholar and wanted Christians to think using not just the Bible but also tradition and reason.


I can appreciate that, and I think in my own circles I wouldn’t mind seeing more acknowledgment of the role that our own reason plays in scriptural interpretation. Too often it is seen as a competitor or some hurdle we have to overcome to reach the “purity” of scripture, rather than a gift that God really does want us to use.

Remember that our reading of scripture always, always, always involves some act of our interpretation. We always bring some form of our assumption to our act of reading. Even “plain reading”, or “scripture is its own interpreter”, so often idealised in the world of ‘sola scriptura’, are themselves our choice about our method of our interpretation. Our interpretive layering may be entirely subconscious, but it is nevertheless always, inescapably present.

If we say our reading has no interpretative bias, then we deceive ourselves and the truth may not be in our reading.

We can never simply “cling to the Bible”. In such clinging, what we cling to is not actually the Bible, but rather the Bible as we read it through our interpretive lenses.

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I would agree, yet I suspect you also would agree that certain interpretations are much closer than others. I do not go so far as to echo my pastor in saying there is only one interpretation, and there should be no books like the Counterpoints series…rather, discussion helps us get not only a better interpretation, but a better application (or understanding that there is no relevance)… Thanks.


Thanks. All I’m saying is that interpretation of our choice, and that we apply, is always somehow present… including when we say “plain-reading, therefore no interpretation necessary”, as this is, itself, an interpretive decision!


That is very well put. I agree. Thanks.