Christians are people of the Holy Scriptures. We order our lives and beliefs according to the teachings of Scripture. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly asks and answers, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” The Scriptures are the only rule. This truth lies at the center of the Protestant faith. Without this principle, the entire house of the Reformation crumbles.
It is important to note that the Reformers held to sola Scriptura, not solo Scriptura. Solo Scriptura advocates a radical individualism that rejects the church, creeds, confessions, and tradition as having any authority while embracing private judgment above all else. This view radicalizes the Protestant ethic and undermines it. Such an approach finds no credence in the teaching of the Reformers or the early church. Conversely, the Reformers taught the Apostles’ Creed and stood upon the truths articulated at Chalcedon and Nicaea. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Henry Bullinger, and Martin Bucer all wrote catechisms and confessions for their people. They viewed an anti-creedal and anti-confessional theology as anti-Christian. None of the prominent Protestant Reformers advocated solo Scriptura.
On the other hand, they were all fierce advocates of sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura acknowledges the authority of the church and its tradition, including creeds and confessions, but always as subordinate to, and only as they agree with, the Scriptures. R.C. Sproul is helpful in explaining the place of sound church tradition within the sola Scriptura position when he states: “Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If upon reading a particular passage you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation” (The Agony of Deceit, 34–35). Orthodox confessions and creeds articulate the faith in comprehensive ways and provide important boundaries for identifying what the Scriptures teach.