The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays God’s handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals God’s greatness.
There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
When the Protestant Reformation was solidifying as a major movement, many of its proponents adopted a series of phrases which are now known as “the Five Solas.” These are Latin phrases, each beginning with “Sola,” which means “only” or “alone.” Each one highlights a major aspect of a reformation theology of salvation. They are:
Sola Fide (By faith alone)
Solus Gratia (By grace alone)
Sola Christus (Through Christ alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory)
Sola Scriptura (By Scripture alone)
The first four are straightforward enough in their own way – they are basically a distillation of one of the main talking points of the Apostle Paul, which shows up in most of his letters. Salvation comes by grace, through the faith of Christ, so that no human can take any credit for the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:16-21, and others).
But that fifth one is a little trickier. The idea of “Scripture alone” has been used – and misused – in a lot of different ways in the centuries since the reformation. It’s been used to justify claims that anyone who has not read the Bible is going to ‘Hell,’ or that Scripture ought to be the basis for our legal system (well, the punishment parts, anyway. Most of those legal systems tend to ignore the radical approach to economic law contained in Scripture… but I digress).
The worst outcome, though, has to be how Sola Scriptura has been used to deny science.
Much of the opposition to evolutionary theory which sparked the Scopes’ trial, funded the Kentucky Creation Museum, and makes sites like “Answers in Genesis” popular comes from Sola Scriptura.
The most strident opposition to the mountains of evidence regarding anthropocentric climate change originated with a Sola Scriptura mindset.
Sola Scriptura is the driving force behind ongoing gender inequality in our country and throughout the world.
I could go on.
This might be considered a good argument against Sola Scriptura. But it’s not. The culprit isn’t the Bible. It’s people who twist the Bible to fit their preconceived notions, and then hide behind it any time those notions are challenged. The truth is, a Sola Scriptura mindset ought to be enthusiastically in support of science. Why? Well, the Psalm passage above is a great example of why, and it’s not alone. Time and again, the Bible points beyond its pages, to the universe around us, and tells us to examine it closely, because it is in the universe that we will see the handiwork of God. Not just in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Scriptures, but in the entire cosmos.
It’s the difference between reading a book about an artist, and going to a museum where their art is hung. The book gives us information we might not find simply by looking at a particular work, but the work contains mysteries the book does not describe.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays God’s handiwork. The universe is God’s work of art; the more we understand it, the more we’ll understand God.