Today, after venturing off on a number of essays, articles and books quoted by Mathison work, I finally finished reading The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison. It is a truly great read.
This is the most important book that I have read in a least five years, and very likely a number of years more than that. Mathison’s book is vital for the Christian today. Most importantly, to my mind, Mathison places the classical Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura in an historical context, that is vital to a right understanding of it. Just as importantly, He contrasts the classical Protestant teaching of "Sola Scriptura " with the truncated modern evangelical distortion that passes as "sola scriptura" in the minds of most Evangelicals today. The modern position is a far cry from the historic view of the Reformers.
On page 280 Mathison writes “How can we proclaim the perspicuity [i.e. clearness] of Scripture and at the same time promote doctrines that no one in the Church ever taught for eighteen or nineteen centuries? Evangelicals criticize Roman Catholics for the creation of new dogmas unheard of in previous centuries, yet Evangelicalism has created far more novel doctrines than Roman Catholicism.” The Evangelical criticism is valid, but hypocritical, when Evangelicals too are doing similar things; the invention of dispensationalism in the 1820's and it’s subsequent wide acceptance by evangelicals in the 20th century is a case in point.
I believe his dealing with the modern evangelical distortion of sola scriptura to be one of the most important aspects of this book, because the view that has gained the majority position in evangelical circles is a far cry from the Sola Scriptura that was taught by the Reformers and it is very dangerous.
The modern distortion that passes for Sola Scriptura is radically individualistic and takes place in an historical, theological and doctrinal vacuum. This view of Scripture makes biblical doctrine to be highly subjective, relativistic, and in so doing it virtually makes each individual to be his/her own Pope who infallibly interprets the Scriptures in his or her own subjective vacuum.
In the book Mathison also deals masterfully with the Roman Catholic views of Scripture and tradition. He points out that the view of the Protestant Reformers (the classical Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura) clearly harkens back to the view of tradition and Scripture that was held by early Church and most of the Church during the early Middle Ages. This is plainly seen in St. Vincent’s Commonitory , which I wrote about earlier.
Mathison also sets his sites on the Eastern Church's views in this book as well, and handles their arguments handily.
I can not recommend this important book to strongly.