Protestant affirmation of biblical teaching
The biblical text is well-preserved, sufficient in itself to communicate the message of salvation. This is encapsulated in the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).
(The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I: Of the Holy Scripture) “VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”
William Whitaker, in A Disputation on Holy Scripture (1588), concisely stated the view of the Reformed churches on the matter of Scripture’s inerrancy: “The sum of our opinion is, that the Scripture is autopistos, that is, hath all its authority and credit from itself; is to be acknowledged, is to be received, not only because the church hath so determined and commanded, but because it comes from God; and that we certainly know that it comes from God, not by the church, but by the Holy Ghost.”
The earliest Reformed confessions are united in teaching the same view. Article 5 of the French Confession (1559) says regarding Scripture: “We believe that the Word contained in these books has proceeded from God, and receives its authority from him alone, and not from men.”
Article 19 of the Scots Confession (1560) affirms: “As we believe and confess the Scriptures of God sufficient to instruct and make the man of God perfect; so do we affirm and avow the authority of the same to be of God, and neither to depend on men not angels. We affirm, therefore, that such as allege the Scripture to have no other authority but that which it hath received from the church, are blasphemous against God, and injurious to the true church.”
Article 5 of the Belgic Confession (1561) explains the authority of Scripture in the same fashion: “We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundaition, and confirmation of our faith; believing, without doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.”
The seeds of sola Scriptura were planted by the early church fathers. Circa A.D. 350, Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in his Catechetical Lectures 4:17, “Have thou ever in your mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.”