The doctrine of Sola Scriptura was a foundational principle of the Reformation and is a view held very strongly by most Protestants and especially evangelicals. Put simply the doctrine states that the Bible is the only inerrant authority for Christian faith and that it contains all knowledge necessary for salvation. Evangelicals generally go further and state that scripture is clear to the rational reader, self-authenticating, “scripture interprets scripture” and that no doctrine is to be admitted that cannot be found in scripture.
This principle is ingrained in Evangelical thought, including Pentecostal theology. It can be seen in the arguments on sites like this one, the constant question is “Is it Scriptural”. If the idea, practice, doctrine etc. cannot be lined up with scripture then it is seen to be worthless, or indeed of the devil. In general this is a very helpful way of critiquing many Christian doctrines and practices.
But are there problems with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? What is the authority for the doctrine of Sola Scriptura itself? It does not appear to me to be stated clearly anywhere in the Bible. 2 Timothy says that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for correction and teaching but there is no statement excluding other authorities. If Sola Scriptura is not in itself scriptural does it not contain a contradiction as it states that we should not follow any doctrine that is not in the Bible?
Another major problem is in defining the books that make up Scripture. The Bible we have now is a collection of books that have been accepted through the ages by Christian communities as being inspired by God and that comprise the canon of scripture. We must accept this only by the authority of Christian tradition, there is no book in the Bible which says “These are the books which make up scripture … Genesis, … etc. etc”. Even if there was, there would have to be some authority for this table of contents, presumably another book which authenticated it as scripture, and so on ad infinitum.
The Protestant reformation has made us all individuals when it comes to our faith. We are to discern the voice of God through the scriptures, ourselves, and we are not to be swayed by the weight of institutions and traditions. But does this exclude the fact that we come to faith within communities and we need the faith and authority of others in community if we are to grow?