Dead on Arrival: Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura Book Summary

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Title: Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura
Author: David L. Gray

TLDR: David L. Gray’s book critiques the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, arguing it is unbiblical, leads to doctrinal chaos, and lacks a foundation in early Church teachings.

Chapter One: The First Fatal Error – Martin Luther: An Inauthentic Prophet with an Inauthentic Message


David L. Gray opens the first chapter of his book by addressing the origins and issues surrounding the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which posits that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority for Christians. He asserts that this teaching is not rooted in the early Church or Apostolic tradition but is a later development, primarily credited to Martin Luther.

Martin Luther’s Role

Gray explores Martin Luther’s role in the development of Sola Scriptura. Luther’s assertion at the Diet of Worms in 1521 is highlighted, where he famously stated that he would only recant his teachings if convinced by Scripture or clear reason. This stance marked a departure from the tradition and authority of the Catholic Church, emphasizing Scripture alone.

Apostolic Authority

The chapter underscores the importance of Apostolic authority in the early Church. Gray lists several scriptural references (e.g., Luke 10:16, John 17:20, Acts 2:42) to support the claim that true Christian teaching must align with the teachings of the Apostles, which are preserved and interpreted by the Catholic Church.

Evaluating Luther as a Prophet

Gray argues that to consider Luther’s message authentic, Luther himself must be evaluated against the characteristics of a true prophet of God. He uses four criteria for this evaluation:

  1. Bold Crusaders of Unity: True prophets work towards the unity of God’s people. Gray argues that Luther, instead of uniting, caused division within the Church, making him a false prophet.
  2. Holiness: True prophets are holy and their lives reflect this. Gray points out various personal failings of Luther, such as his involvement in politics and controversial stances, to argue that Luther did not exhibit the holiness characteristic of a true prophet.
  3. Detachment from the World: True prophets are detached from worldly desires and ambitions. Gray claims that Luther was too entangled in secular matters, further discrediting his role as a prophet.
  4. Miracles Confirming Mission: True prophets’ missions are often confirmed by miracles. Gray asserts that there were no such confirmations in Luther’s life, contrasting him with saints in the Catholic Church whose lives are marked by miraculous events.

False Prophetic Messages

Gray then examines the authenticity of Luther’s message using another set of criteria:

  1. Of Holy Intent: Messages from God should bring peace and glorify God. Gray argues that Luther’s teachings did the opposite, leading to division and conflict.
  2. On Time: Prophetic messages address immediate chaotic situations. Gray suggests that Luther’s messages were not timely solutions but created further chaos.
  3. Church Confirmation: True messages are propagated and confirmed by the Church. Luther’s teachings were rejected by the Church, which Gray sees as a clear indication of their inauthenticity.
  4. Persistence in Love and Truth: Authentic messages persist in love and truth. Gray claims that Luther’s teachings, leading to numerous Protestant denominations, resulted in persistent division and scandal.


Gray concludes that Martin Luther was neither a true prophet nor his teachings apostolic. He asserts that Luther’s life and actions demonstrate the impracticality and fallacy of Sola Scriptura. He emphasizes that true Christian teaching must be rooted in the authentic teachings of the Apostles as preserved by the Catholic Church. Gray argues that Sola Scriptura, as introduced by Luther, lacks both scriptural and historical support and has led to significant disunity within Christianity.

This chapter sets the foundation for the book by thoroughly discrediting Martin Luther and his teachings, aiming to demonstrate that Sola Scriptura is a fundamentally flawed doctrine from its inception.

Chapter Two: The Second Fatal Error – Scripture Itself Does Not Claim to be the Sole Authority


David L. Gray begins the second chapter by addressing a critical flaw in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura: the Bible does not claim to be the sole authority for Christians. This chapter delves into the misinterpretation of key scriptural passages that proponents of Sola Scriptura often cite and examines the broader biblical context that refutes this doctrine.

Misinterpretation of Scripture

Gray highlights that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura hinges on certain biblical passages being interpreted in a way that supports the idea of Scripture as the sole authority. However, he argues that this interpretation is flawed and not supported by the full context of the Bible. He begins with 2 Timothy 3:16, often cited by advocates of Sola Scriptura, which states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

Gray points out that while this verse affirms the value and divine inspiration of Scripture, it does not claim that Scripture alone is the sole authority for faith and practice. Instead, it highlights the usefulness of Scripture within the broader context of the Church’s teaching and tradition.

Examination of 2 Timothy 3

Gray then examines the entire chapter of 2 Timothy 3 to provide context for the often-quoted verse. He emphasizes that St. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, was addressing the broader issue of false teachings and the importance of adhering to the teachings Timothy had received, which included not just written Scripture but also oral teachings and traditions handed down by the Apostles.

The Role of the Church

One of the central arguments Gray makes is that Scripture itself points to the Church as an authoritative interpreter of God’s word. He references several passages, including Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus commands the Apostles to teach and baptize all nations, and 1 Timothy 3:15, which refers to the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Gray argues that these passages indicate that the early Christian community relied not solely on written texts but also on the authoritative teaching of the Church. The Church, through its Apostolic succession, maintains the authority to interpret and teach God’s word accurately.

Other Sources of Authority

In addition to the Church, Gray identifies other sources of authority recognized in Scripture. He points out that the Bible itself acknowledges the authority of traditions and teachings passed down orally. For example, in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul urges the believers to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

Gray emphasizes that these traditions are not separate from or in opposition to Scripture but are complementary sources of divine revelation. The Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church work together to preserve and interpret God’s word.

The Canon of Scripture

Gray also addresses the issue of the biblical canon—the collection of books that make up the Bible. He argues that the process of determining which books were included in the canon was guided by the Church’s authority. The councils that established the canon of Scripture, such as the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, were guided by the Holy Spirit through the Church.

This, he asserts, is evidence that the Church’s authority is essential for understanding and preserving the true content of Scripture. Without the Church’s authoritative role, there would be no definitive way to know which books belong in the Bible.


Gray concludes that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is fundamentally flawed because it is not supported by the Bible itself. He argues that Scripture, while divinely inspired and authoritative, does not claim to be the sole source of authority for Christians. Instead, the Bible points to the Church and Apostolic Tradition as essential components of God’s revelation.

By relying solely on Scripture, proponents of Sola Scriptura overlook the vital role that the Church has played in preserving, interpreting, and teaching God’s word throughout history. Gray’s analysis underscores the importance of recognizing the Church’s authority alongside Scripture, as both are integral to the Christian faith.

In summary, the second chapter of “Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura” by David L. Gray provides a comprehensive critique of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, arguing that it is not supported by the Bible and fails to acknowledge the authoritative role of the Church in interpreting and teaching God’s word.

Chapter Three: The Third Fatal Error – An Ineffectual Understanding of What the Word of God Is


In the third chapter of “Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura,” David L. Gray addresses another critical flaw in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura: the misunderstanding of what the Word of God truly is. He argues that the Bible alone cannot encapsulate the fullness of God’s Word and that this doctrine misrepresents the nature and purpose of divine revelation.

The Evolution of the Bible

Gray begins by tracing the historical development of the Bible. He emphasizes that Jesus did not leave a written text as the sole guide for His followers. Instead, He entrusted His teachings to the Apostles, who were guided by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, and eventually write down the revelations they received.

The early Church relied heavily on oral tradition and the authority of the Apostles and their successors. The need for a written record arose as the Apostles and other eyewitnesses began to die, prompting the Church to preserve their teachings in written form. Gray highlights that the canon of Scripture was not finalized until several centuries after Christ, indicating that the early Christians did not rely on the Bible alone but also on the living tradition of the Church.

The Triune Nature of Sacred Scripture

Gray presents the concept of the triune nature of sacred Scripture, reflecting the Holy Trinity:

  1. The Church: Represents Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is always present and guiding the Church. The Church, being the Body of Christ, has the authority to teach and interpret God’s Word.
  2. Sacred Tradition: Reflects God the Father, who has spoken to His people throughout history. Sacred Tradition includes the oral teachings and practices handed down from the Apostles.
  3. Sacred Scripture: Symbolizes the Holy Spirit, who inspired the human authors to write down God’s revelations. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church in understanding and interpreting these Scriptures.

Gray argues that these three components are inseparable and mutually supportive, forming the complete Word of God.

Misinterpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16

Gray revisits 2 Timothy 3:16, often cited by proponents of Sola Scriptura. He emphasizes that this verse, which states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” does not claim that Scripture alone is sufficient. Instead, it highlights the value of Scripture within the broader context of the Church’s teaching authority and sacred tradition.

Gray notes that the early Christians did not have a complete New Testament but relied on the Apostles’ teachings and the Old Testament, which were interpreted and taught by the Church. This context is crucial in understanding the true meaning and application of 2 Timothy 3:16.

Getting to Know God Through His Full Word

Gray asserts that to fully know God and His will, one must embrace not only the written Word (the Bible) but also the oral traditions and authoritative teachings of the Church. He points out that Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13), indicating that divine revelation is an ongoing process, not confined to a single book.

He argues that by relying solely on the Bible, adherents of Sola Scriptura miss out on the richness of God’s revelation as preserved and transmitted through the Church’s living tradition. This limited approach can lead to misinterpretations and a fragmented understanding of Christian doctrine.


In conclusion, Gray reiterates that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails to grasp the full scope of God’s Word. The Bible, while divinely inspired and authoritative, is part of a larger framework that includes sacred tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. By separating the Bible from this framework, Sola Scriptura presents an incomplete and ineffective understanding of divine revelation.

Gray’s analysis highlights the importance of the Church’s role in preserving, interpreting, and teaching God’s Word. He argues that true understanding and fidelity to God’s revelation require embracing the triune nature of sacred Scripture, which encompasses the Bible, sacred tradition, and the authoritative teaching of the Church.

This chapter builds on the previous critiques by showing that Sola Scriptura not only misinterprets key biblical passages but also fundamentally misunderstands the nature of God’s Word and the means by which it has been revealed to humanity.

Chapter Five: The Fifth Fatal Error – Too Many Inauthentic Interpreters & Too Many Inauthentic Interpretations


In the fifth chapter of “Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura,” David L. Gray discusses the problematic nature of Sola Scriptura leading to numerous interpretations of Scripture. He argues that this results in a multitude of conflicting doctrines and interpretations, undermining the idea that Scripture alone can serve as the sole authority for Christians.

The Problem of Multiple Interpretations

Gray begins by highlighting the inherent contradiction within Sola Scriptura. If Scripture is the sole authority, it should not require human interpretation to be understood. However, in practice, individuals interpret Scripture differently, leading to various conflicting doctrines. This multiplicity of interpretations is problematic because it suggests that Scripture alone is insufficient as the sole authority.

An Example of Conflicting Interpretations

Gray uses the example of Acts 16:15, where it is mentioned that Lydia and her household were baptized. He imagines a scenario where a pastor interprets this to mean that infant baptism is necessary, while some members of his congregation disagree. Both the pastor and the dissenters claim to be guided by Scripture and prayer, yet they arrive at different conclusions. This raises the question of whose interpretation is authoritative.

The Protestant Landscape

Gray observes that the Protestant movement is characterized by a plethora of denominations, each with its own interpretation of Scripture. He points out that various Protestant groups such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals often disagree on key issues despite all claiming to follow Scripture alone. This diversity of beliefs and practices within Protestantism is a direct result of Sola Scriptura.

He notes that these denominations hold conferences where they vote on doctrinal issues, which can lead to changes in teachings over time. For example, positions on issues like surgical abortion, embryo research, in-vitro fertilization, capital punishment, divorce and remarriage, the ordination of women, and homosexuality can vary and change. This fluidity and inconsistency highlight the inadequacy of Sola Scriptura in providing a stable and unified doctrine.

The Catholic Church’s Approach

Gray contrasts this with the Catholic Church, which has a single, authoritative interpreter of Scripture: the Magisterium. The Magisterium, consisting of the Pope and bishops, is considered infallible in matters of faith and morals, ensuring a consistent and unified interpretation of Scripture. This prevents the doctrinal chaos seen in Protestantism and provides Catholics with clear and authoritative teachings on various issues.

The Issue of Authority

Gray argues that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura inadvertently creates a new source of authority: individual interpretation. When individuals or groups interpret Scripture and establish doctrines based on their interpretations, they effectively become the authority, contradicting the premise that Scripture alone is the authority. This leads to the question of which authority should be followed: Scripture alone or the doctrines derived from its interpretation.

He emphasizes that this dilemma exposes a fundamental flaw in Sola Scriptura. If doctrines derived from Scripture are not binding, then Scripture alone cannot provide a complete guide for faith and practice. If they are binding, then the interpretation process introduces human authority, contradicting the principle of Sola Scriptura.

Historical Context

Gray discusses the historical context of the Reformation, noting that Martin Luther’s rejection of the Catholic Church’s authority led to the fragmentation of Christianity. Luther’s insistence on Scripture alone opened the door for countless interpretations, resulting in the denominationalism and doctrinal diversity seen in Protestantism today.

He argues that Luther’s actions set a precedent for rejecting established authority in favor of personal interpretation, leading to further divisions and the creation of new denominations. This historical perspective reinforces Gray’s argument that Sola Scriptura is inherently flawed and divisive.


Gray concludes that the fifth fatal error of Sola Scriptura is its reliance on individual interpretation, which leads to conflicting doctrines and undermines the unity of Christian teaching. He asserts that the Catholic Church’s authoritative interpretation of Scripture provides a necessary safeguard against the doctrinal chaos seen in Protestantism.

This chapter emphasizes the importance of a unified and authoritative interpreter of Scripture to maintain doctrinal consistency and unity within the Christian faith. Gray’s critique of Sola Scriptura underscores the need for an authoritative Church to guide the interpretation and application of Scripture, ensuring that the teachings of Christ and the Apostles are faithfully preserved and transmitted through the ages.

Chapter Six: The Sixth Fatal Error – Sola Scriptura Inevitably Leads to Christian Relativism and Individualism


David L. Gray begins the sixth chapter by arguing that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which claims Scripture as the sole authority, inevitably leads to Christian relativism and individualism. He asserts that without a central authoritative interpretation, individual believers and denominations create their own interpretations, resulting in a fragmented and subjective understanding of Christianity.

The Nature of Relativism and Individualism

Gray defines relativism as the idea that truth is not absolute but varies from person to person. In the context of Christianity, this means that different individuals or groups may interpret Scripture in ways that suit their preferences, leading to a multitude of conflicting beliefs. Individualism, closely related to relativism, emphasizes personal autonomy and self-reliance in understanding and practicing faith.

Historical Context of Sola Scriptura

Gray provides a historical overview of the development of Sola Scriptura. He explains that Martin Luther’s rejection of the Catholic Church’s authority and promotion of Scripture alone was a reaction to what he perceived as the Church’s corruption. However, this rejection of centralized authority laid the groundwork for individualistic and relativistic interpretations of the Bible.

Gray notes that before the Reformation, the Catholic Church provided a unified interpretation of Scripture through the Magisterium. This ensured consistency in doctrine and practice. With the advent of Sola Scriptura, this unity was shattered, as individual reformers and subsequent denominations interpreted Scripture independently.

Examples of Relativism and Individualism

Gray illustrates his argument with examples of how Sola Scriptura has led to divergent interpretations on key issues within Protestantism. He points out that various Protestant denominations have different teachings on baptism, the Eucharist, predestination, and moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality. This doctrinal diversity, he argues, is a direct consequence of the lack of a central authoritative interpreter of Scripture.

For instance, Gray highlights the differing views on the Eucharist among Lutherans, Calvinists, and Baptists. Lutherans believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Calvinists hold to a symbolic presence, and Baptists view it as a mere memorial. These conflicting interpretations demonstrate the relativistic nature of Sola Scriptura, where Scripture alone does not provide a definitive answer without authoritative interpretation.

The Role of the Catholic Church

Gray contrasts the Protestant approach with the Catholic Church’s understanding of divine revelation. He emphasizes that the Catholic Church upholds both Scripture and Sacred Tradition, interpreted authoritatively by the Magisterium. This ensures doctrinal unity and prevents the fragmentation seen in Protestantism.

He argues that the Magisterium, consisting of the Pope and bishops, serves as the authentic interpreter of God’s Word, guided by the Holy Spirit. This authority is necessary to maintain the integrity of Christian teaching and to protect it from the subjective interpretations that lead to relativism and individualism.

The Impact on Christian Unity

Gray asserts that Sola Scriptura undermines Christian unity. He points to Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers in John 17:21: “That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The proliferation of denominations and conflicting doctrines within Protestantism, he argues, stands in stark contrast to this prayer for unity.

He also references Ephesians 4:3-6, where St. Paul urges believers to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and emphasizes one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Gray contends that the Catholic Church, with its unified doctrine and authoritative teaching, is better positioned to fulfill this call to unity.

The Obligation of Truth

Gray concludes by stressing that definitive and authoritative truth is not only knowable but obligatory for Christians. He argues that the search for truth cannot be left to individual interpretation, as this leads to confusion and error. Instead, Christians are called to adhere to the truth as preserved and taught by the Catholic Church.

He emphasizes that the Catholic Church, through its Apostolic succession and guidance of the Holy Spirit, provides a reliable and authoritative interpretation of Scripture. This prevents the doctrinal chaos and moral relativism that result from Sola Scriptura.


In summary, Gray argues that Sola Scriptura inevitably leads to Christian relativism and individualism, resulting in a fragmented and subjective understanding of faith. He contrasts this with the Catholic Church’s approach, which maintains doctrinal unity through the authoritative interpretation of Scripture and Tradition by the Magisterium. Gray calls for a return to this unified and authoritative understanding of Christianity to preserve the integrity of Christian teaching and promote true unity among believers .

Chapter Seven: The Seventh Fatal Error – The Summation of it all: Sola Scriptura Just Doesn’t Work!


David L. Gray opens the final chapter by summarizing his arguments against Sola Scriptura. He asserts that, after examining the doctrine from various angles, it is clear that Sola Scriptura is fundamentally flawed. According to Gray, the doctrine was “dead on arrival” because it lacks a solid foundation and practical applicability.

The Analogy of the Defective Car

Gray uses an analogy to illustrate the impracticality of Sola Scriptura. He compares it to buying a car that looks good on the outside but lacks an engine and tires. This car, despite its appearance, is non-functional. Similarly, Sola Scriptura may seem appealing, but it does not work in practice. It fails to provide the necessary tools for a cohesive and unified Christian faith.

The Lack of Scriptural Basis

One of the main points Gray reiterates is that the Bible does not support the idea of Scripture alone as the sole authority. He points out that nowhere in the Bible is there a list of the books that should be considered canonical. This omission alone is a significant flaw in the Sola Scriptura doctrine. If the Bible cannot define its own content, it cannot be the sole source of authority.

The Role of the Church

Gray emphasizes the essential role of the Church in defining and interpreting Scripture. He argues that the early Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, determined the canon of Scripture and has preserved the teachings of Christ through Sacred Tradition. This authority is necessary to maintain doctrinal unity and prevent the fragmentation seen in Protestantism.

The Consequences of Sola Scriptura

Gray outlines the negative consequences of adhering to Sola Scriptura:

  1. Doctrinal Chaos: Without a central authority to interpret Scripture, Protestantism has splintered into numerous denominations, each with its own doctrines and practices. This division contradicts Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers.
  2. Relativism and Individualism: Sola Scriptura leads to a subjective understanding of faith, where individual interpretation takes precedence over communal and historical understanding. This results in a relativistic approach to truth, undermining the objective reality of divine revelation.
  3. Moral and Theological Inconsistency: Protestant denominations often change their stances on moral and theological issues, leading to inconsistency and confusion among believers. This instability is a direct consequence of lacking a central, authoritative interpreter of Scripture.

The Infallibility of the Church

Gray reiterates the Catholic teaching on the infallibility of the Church. He argues that for the Bible to be considered infallible, the Church that compiled it must also be infallible. A fallible body cannot produce an infallible text. Therefore, the Church’s authority is necessary to uphold the truth of Scripture.

The Summation of Errors

Gray summarizes the seven fatal errors of Sola Scriptura:

  1. Martin Luther’s Inauthenticity: Luther’s personal failings and rejection of Church authority undermine his credibility as a reformer.
  2. Scripture’s Claims: The Bible does not claim to be the sole authority, and key passages used to support Sola Scriptura are often misinterpreted.
  3. Understanding the Word of God: The fullness of God’s Word includes Sacred Tradition and the Church’s teaching authority, not just the written text.
  4. Defining Scripture: The Bible does not define its own canon, relying on the Church to do so.
  5. Interpretation Issues: Sola Scriptura leads to numerous conflicting interpretations, causing doctrinal chaos.
  6. Relativism and Individualism: The doctrine fosters a subjective approach to faith, leading to moral and theological inconsistency.
  7. Practical Failure: In practice, Sola Scriptura does not work, as evidenced by the fragmentation and doctrinal instability within Protestantism.


Gray concludes that Sola Scriptura is a defective doctrine that cannot sustain a cohesive and unified Christian faith. He calls for a return to the Catholic Church, which, through its Apostolic authority and Sacred Tradition, provides a stable foundation for understanding and living out the Christian faith.

By dismantling the arguments for Sola Scriptura and highlighting its practical failures, Gray aims to show that true Christian unity and truth can only be found within the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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