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As a follow-up to my previous question What is the difference between Sola Scriptura and the belief in a closed canon?, I would like to know now about the implications that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura might or might not have over one's position in the debate between Cessationism & Continuationism.

Does Sola Scriptura entail Cessationism? (And if so, to what extent?)

Is it possible to believe that the Bible is "the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice" and be simultaneously open to extra-biblical divine means of revelation and guidance such as:

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  • It was Martin Luther who coined the phrase “sola scriptura”. His bible, called “Luther’s Bible”, also included seven apocryphal books. Anglicans in early 19th century removed them from the Bible, while coining the phrase “prima scriptura”. The Prima Scriptura doctrine acknowledges that there are other secondary inspirational sources, besides the primary source, the Bible. Feb 4 at 6:18

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It does not seem that it would be logically possible to hold Sola Scriptura as the truth and simultaneously to hold that cessationism is not true, at least as cessationism relates to new teachings (prophecies, doctrinal developments, etc). If a true prophet were to speak today, guided by the Holy Spirit, then his words would be binding, since He is speaking for God. Hence, there would be some other infallible authority besides Scripture. Namely, that man's prophetic words. Hence, one could no longer be an adherent of Sola Scriptura were one to believe that man's prophecies.

Therefore, as long as one holds that it is possible for prophecies or other infallible teachings to be handed down by the guidance of the Holy Spirit today (ie not cessationism), one cannot hold that Scripture is the final and sole authority for Christian faith (Sola Scriptura). From this, we can derive the conclusion: if one adheres to Sola Scriptura, one is implicitly a cessationist, at least with regard to new infallible teaching.

Beyond infallible teaching, there is no reason why those who adhere to Sola Scriptura cannot believe that the Holy Spirit sometimes acts to bring about miracles, etc, but nothing He brings about could be new doctrine, nor could it be doctrinal development, as these would require extra-biblical means of conveying Divinely revealed truth.

It should be noted that the converse is not problematic. One might be a cessationist without being an adherent to Sola Scriptura. For instance, one might believe that the Apostles handed down the full deposit of faith through both letters and oral teachings, and that no new infallible teachings will come down until the Last Day, which would entail cessationism, but would put authoritative stock in Early Church oral traditions that were not written in the canon of Scripture.

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  • Adherents to Sola Scriptura would say there are no new supremely authoritative prophecies, but that doesn't rule out any prophecies at all. As I wrote in another answer, "Just as the political principle of separation of powers isn't needed and wouldn't make sense in an absolute monarchy or a dictatorship, so too does the doctrine of sola scriptura assume and require that there are actually other sources of divine inspiration alongside the scriptures. ... Sola scriptura governs how we understand and use the spiritual gifts of prophecy."
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7 at 1:32
  • Whether new prophecies are "infallible" is a trickier question. They come from God and so are infallible in that way, but are repeated by humans and so are fallible for that reason. Some modern prophets may claim to be repeating the words of God verboten (like the dictation theory), but they can't prove that's the case. So I think it's better to talk about whether a prophecy is supremely authoritative or not. I think God could give an infallible modern prophecy without intending it to be authoritative for all churches in all times.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7 at 1:35
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    @curiousdannii if a prophecy truly comes from God, it can't be fallible. If humans repeat it faithfully, I don't see how it could suddenly become fallible.
    – jaredad7
    Feb 7 at 15:51
  • When humans repeat a true prophecy to others then they may twist and distort it, even unintentionally. Think of Caiaphas in John 11:50. That's probably the clearest biblical example.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7 at 22:01
  • @curiousdannii they may twist it, but that's why I said "if they repeat it faithfully." Even if people distort a true prophecy, that doesn't change the fact that the original was infallible, as it was given by God.
    – jaredad7
    Feb 8 at 15:11

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