Skip to comments.Brief Reflections on the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, and the Protestant idea of Sola Scriptura
Posted on 08/16/2006 7:47:20 PM PDT by Teˇfilo
Folks, I want to add some further, yet brief reflections that I think are connected to those I did about the Holy Trinity last week (here and here). I belief there are a few connections between the process which resulted in the Trinitarian settlement in the 5th century AD, the settlement of the Canon of Scripture, and the Protestant idea of sola scriptura. First, let's define a few key terms:
Once again, I don't delude myself into thinking that the few words of this essay will solve 500 years of Protestant controversy or over 1,000 years of anti-Trinitarian objections. All I can do is to witness to the soundness of Catholic teaching and to hope that someone, somewhere, would be moved by grace to accept this teaching and be thus empowered to attain eternal life.
- Sola scriptura is a Latin phrase meaning "Scripture Alone" and refers to the foundational Protestant tenets that the Bible, and the Bible alone is to be the sole rule of faith, belief, and discipline for the Church and that the traditional Catholic hermeneutical dialogue that existed between the reading of the Bible, the celebration of the Liturgy, and the living Magisterium of the Apostle's Successors in communion with the Successor of Peter, had to be deemphasized or rejected altogether.
- Tradition is the entire "set" of God's revelation or "self-disclosure," some of which was written down in Scripture, some of which was preserved in the liturgical and sacramental action of the early Church, and some of which was preserved in the hermeneutical method preserved by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church down to the present age.
- Hermeneutics is the name given to the science and art of textual interpretation, in other words, the study of all those elements found in any piece of literature that makes it intelligible to the reader. These elements include language, the messenger, the audience, literary devices, culture, worldview, etc.
- The Canon of Scripture refers to the authoritative list of books constituting the Christian Bible's Old and New Testament. The study of the Canon is the study of the Bible, but also the study of how the Bible came to be in its present form.
- The Holy Trinity is the foundational belief, still held by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and most Protestant Christians, stating that Three Persons, co-equal in dignity, share one single divine life or nature within the single, One God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Protestant apologists go to great lengths to defend Sola Scriptura, which is, after all, central to their conception of Christianity. Posts such as this one found in the Free Republic Religion board (Can traditions contradict God's completed Word? - Is the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura Really Biblical?) offer a case in point.
In fact, what struck me about this post is the circular reasoning of its author. The author assumes the validity of sola scriptura and then proceeds to "prove" it through Scripture, while seeking to "debunk" Traditionrather, the author's own understanding of what Tradition is, which is another fallacy, a straw man argument. Implied the author own argumentation is the assumption that Scripture is a text book containing propositional arguments which can be lifted out of its literary context, stringed to other such "propositions" to build, or support, the Protestant conclusions in matters of faith and discipline.
The author falls in what I refer to as the problem of the interpreter. For Protestants, or at least to traditional Protestants who hold to the magisterial consensus of the classical Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Melanchthon, etc.), the individual believer is to approach the Bible alone, alone. If the interpreter is docile to the promptings of the Holy Spiritthey reasonthe believer will attain a working knowledge of the Truth that will lead him or her to Salvation, quite apart from the teachings of the Roman Churchin this they all agreed. This is what is referred to in Protestantism as free examen.
In this scheme, the interpreter, prompted by the Holy Spirit and rightly guided by the Protestant foundational axioms, becomes an "honest broker" of salvific information to other believers and to the unbelieving masses, with no other agenda than self-perfection and the salvation of other fellow souls. In this purported state of grace and election, the Protestant believer becomes a true interpreter and prophet of God's Word. That's what Protestant apologists argue in principle. The reality has been quite another.
History shows that Protestantism has been unable to produce an interpreter free from bias, prejudice, and completely aloof from the historical process that could serve as a transparent prism for the Holy Spirit's communications. Most defenses I've seen of the classical Protestant tenets fail to examine the scope, focus, and limitations of the interpreter as he or she approaches alone Scripture Alone.
The ability and authority of the individual Protestant interpreter to bind his conscience and that of others to his interpretation of Scripture remains largely unexamined by Protestant apologists. It seems that in their rush to define themselves against the historical Church, the Reformersand their apologistsexacerbated the problem of interpretation by unwittingly multiplying authorities, believing their stance would facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit to explain and the individual interpreter's ability to receive from the Spirit binding interpretations of Scripture in matters of faith, morals, and discipline. Protestantism, in its revolt, compounded the problem without solving it. The immediate consequence could be seen in Protestantism' rich tendency to fracture and divide into sects that compete with each other for the souls of men.
In the end, the appeal that a Protestant interpreter of Scripture makes is not to Scripture alone, but to his ability to interpret Scripture rightly based upon questionable suppositions, strawmen, and circular reasoning.
The Canon of Scripture
Another matter contradicting the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura is the origin of the Canon of the Bible. How do we know that the Bible is, well, the Bible? How do we know that the books we see in the Bible belong to it? How do we know that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)?
The Canon of Scripture is not in the Bible. We don't know from the Bible which books belong to it and which do not. That information comes from outside the Bible, hence, the Bible cannot be the sole rule of faith, morals, and discipline for the Church. There is a preceding, discerning, and selective authority of the canon of Scripture: the Holy Spirit acting through a visible, historical, very human instrumentthe Church.
We know which books are inspired because of the Church. Lovingly, carefully, exactingly, the Church examined, listed, debated, and listed again the list of books through which God spoke to men. Hence, the Church's discernment and teaching powerher magisteriumform a more proximate rule of faith, so to speak, than Scripture.
So there is more than one rule of faith, one depending on the other to be certain, but both impossible to separate without ruining the other. The relationship between the Church and Scripture is symbiotic; though is true that Scripture judges the Church it is also true that the Church rightly interprets Scripture. Scripture can't stand separate from the Church.
How often are we confronted by Protestant apologists who are keen to separate us from the Catholic Church with the claim that Scripture judges the Church? Because they do not consider, as we have seen, the role of the interpreter, what they really mean in practice is that they, the interpreters, judge the Church.
Has Public Revelation Ended?
Similarly, Holy Scripture never unequivocally states that public Revelation from God, binding on the consciences of all His children, has ever ended. How do we know that Revelation, that is, God's self-disclosure in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, came to an end with the death of the last Apostle? We know because the Church tells us, because our ancestors in the faith believe it and the successors to the Apostles so declared it.
Based on Sola Scriptura, Protestants cannot close the canon! Oh, they can accept convention or the words of the Reformers to that effect, but the Reformers were sticking to the classical Catholic canon with little explanation as to the exact end of public revelation.
The fact that Sola Scriptura allows for open-ended revelation has not been ignored by myriads of sects, from Montanism way back in Tertullian's time to the ecstatic sects of the Middle Ages to Seventh-day Adventism and Mormonismthis last one even has three more books of "sacred scriptures" besides the Bible! But the contradiction has been passed in silence by Protestant apologists.
A Protestant, if he or she is consistent, can't criticize others who add their revelations to the Bible simply because the Bible is silent on the subject. The answer to this dilemma comes from outside the Bible, from the all-encompassing Tradition maintained, treasured, and explained in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Stay tuned for the conclusion!
I read it. You still haven't proven he worships the Virgin Mary. You are assuming he does.
there were five points in the reformation
Solo deo gloria
Likely my conjugations are off.
Didn't Jesus say to the thief, "Today you will be with me in Purgatory...?"
By his own words he is guilty. If you can't see it you are as blind as he is.
He didn't say he worships the Virgin Mary. You assumed it, and haven't proven it, and you assume I am as blind as he is. You do a lot of assuming.
You assumed first, neener, neener, neener.
Well no, you are wrong again. Your post #18 was before my #21. So save your neeners for for another time.
I'm not trying to wound you. It's the truth.
A curiousity about your name... you aren't by any way a fireworks dude, are you? As in Pyrotechnician?
As far as I can tell from the historical record, the practice did not appear until 1517, when Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who helped the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica. It wasn't a teaching, but as I said, a practice. His practice was officially rebuked by the Council of Trent, later in the same century.
What is the reason for indulgences? Forgiving of sins?
An indulgence is for the remission of temporal punishments for sins already forgiven.
Only Jesus can forgive a sin, not a Pope, not Mary, not a Saint, nobody but Jesus, and he don't need your money to do it.
The Church has never taught that Mary or any of the saints can forgive sins. The power of priests to grant absolution of sins is Scriptural. "When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20: 22-23).
Close. ;-) The 7-4-80 is my birthdate, July 4, 1980, which is Independence Day, and as you know, there are always fireworks on that day. It's one of the favorite things about my birthday.
Maybe that was implied, i.e. Ouch, I'm wounded by the truth.
***An indulgence is for the remission of temporal punishments for sins already forgiven. ***
That is funny, how can you be punished for a sin that is forgiven? I thought that Jesus took all our sins upon him and died so we are not punished.
I am a pyro. Been doing fireworks shows for about 15 years now. I love the 4th!!!!!!!!
"Indulgences are only granted by the Church after the individual earning the indulgence receives the sacrament of reconciliation (penance) or experiences perfect contrition. Because the sacrament of reconciliation removes the guilt of sin, the penitent is restored by reconciliation to the state of grace. However, while the individuals guilt is removed by reconciliation, the sin is not completely erased; the individual still must be punished for the sin. God has mercy upon sinners who repent of their sins, but like a good parent, His justice still requires that the sinner be punished for the wrongdoing. This punishment is called temporal punishment, both because it is a punishment of time, as opposed to eternal punishment, and because it relates to the temporary world (Earth or Purgatory), rather than to the final destination (Heaven or hell)."
First off, the main stream Protestants are basically still Catholic...
Don't forget, there are almost as branches of the Catholic church as there are Protestants...
But the answer to your question is simple...It's a matter of disbelief...
Pentecostals: For an example, they hang in there with the spiritual gifts...They don't believe the bible when it says the gifts are for a sign to the Jews...They don't believe the bible when it says that tongues are a foreign language and they don't believe you always need an interpreter when speaking in tongues even when the bible says differently...
Mormons: They don't believe in the Trinity even tho the bible is clear on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit...They have another book besides the bible...
7th Day Adventists: These folks are living under the law and worship on the Sabbath...Unbiblical...
Methodists: Historically, Methodists were bible believers...I know a couple that attended a Methodist church for 6 years...They claim they never heard the plan of Salvation til they left the church...
Presbyterians, Anglicans: For example: Luk 20:46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
Luk 20:47 Which devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
Catholic: Mat 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
The divisions come from disbelief...They either don't compare scripture with scripture for a correct interpretation, or they chose not to believe what the bible says and add to or take away from it...
And he never even got baptized...
How do you know?
***Because the sacrament of reconciliation removes the guilt of sin, the penitent is restored by reconciliation to the state of grace. However, while the individuals guilt is removed by reconciliation, the sin is not completely erased; the individual still must be punished for the sin.***
You see, this is where we differ. Paul said there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation, at all. Jesus paid all the penalty for my sins, all of it, otherwise he died in vain. He didn't pay part of it, or most of it, or almost all of it, he paid it all. If you were to die tonight, right after you committed a sin, and you didn't have time to see a priest, are your sins forgiven? They are if you believe is Jesus for the remission of your sins, and Jeus only.