by Leland Ryken
Basic to religious belief is the question of what constitutes the authority for belief. Historically there have been three main views of what constitutes the ultimate authority: the Bible, church tradition, and human reason, either alone or in combination. The Puritans, following the lead of the Continental Reformers, claimed Scripture alone as the final authority for religious belief. "The rule according to which conscience is to proceed, " wrote Cotton Mather, is "what God has revealed in the Sacred Scriptures." "This is the glory and sure friend of a church," added John Lightfoot, "to be built upon the Holy Scriptures...The foundation of the true church of God is Scripture."