Skip to comments.Protestants and Sola Scriptura
Posted on 05/03/2008 4:38:34 PM PDT by NYer
Scripture, our Evangelical friends tell us, is the inerrant Word of God. Quite right, the Catholic replies; but how do you know this to be true?
It's not an easy question for Protestants, because, having jettisoned Tradition and the Church, they have no objective authority for the claims they make for Scripture. There is no list of canonical books anywhere in the Bible, nor does any book (with the exception of St. John's Apocalypse) claim to be inspired. So, how does a "Bible Christian" know the Bible is the Word of God?
If he wants to avoid a train of thought that will lead him into the Catholic Church, he has just one way of responding: With circular arguments pointing to himself (or Luther or the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries or some other party not mentioned in the Bible) as an infallible authority telling him that it is so. Such arguments would have perplexed a first or second century Christian, most of whom never saw a Bible.
Christ founded a teaching Church. So far as we know, he himself never wrote a word (except on sand). Nor did he commission the Apostles to write anything. In due course, some Apostles (and non-Apostles) composed the twenty-seven books which comprise the New Testament. Most of these documents are ad hoc; they are addressed to specific problems that arose in the early Church, and none claim to present the whole of Christian revelation. It's doubtful that St. Paul even suspected that his short letter to Philemon begging pardon for a renegade slave would some day be read as Holy Scripture.
Who, then, decided that it was Scripture? The Catholic Church. And it took several centuries to do so. It was not until the Council of Carthage (397) and a subsequent decree by Pope Innocent I that Christendom had a fixed New Testament canon. Prior to that date, scores of spurious gospels and "apostolic" writings were floating around the Mediterranean basin: the Gospel of Thomas, the "Shepherd" of Hermas, St. Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans, and so forth. Moreover, some texts later judged to be inspired, such as the Letter to the Hebrews, were controverted. It was the Magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit, which separated the wheat from the chaff.
But, according to Protestants, the Catholic Church was corrupt and idolatrous by the fourth century and so had lost whatever authority it originally had. On what basis, then, do they accept the canon of the New Testament? Luther and Calvin were both fuzzy on the subject. Luther dropped seven books from the Old Testament, the so-called Apocrypha in the Protestant Bible; his pretext for doing so was that orthodox Jews had done it at the synod of Jamnia around 100 A. D.; but that synod was explicitly anti-Christian, and so its decisions about Scripture make an odd benchmark for Christians.
Luther's real motive was to get rid of Second Maccabees, which teaches the doctrine of Purgatory. He also wanted to drop the Letter of James, which he called "an epistle of straw," because it flatly contradicts the idea of salvation by "faith alone" apart from good works. He was restrained by more cautious Reformers. Instead, he mistranslated numerous New Testament passages, most notoriously Romans 3:28, to buttress his polemical position.
The Protestant teaching that the Bible is the sole spiritual authority--sola scriptura --is nowhere to be found in the Bible. St. Paul wrote to Timothy that Scripture is "useful" (which is an understatemtn), but neither he nor anyone else in the early Church taught sola scriptura. And, in fact, nobody believed it until the Reformation. Newman called the idea that God would let fifteen hundred years pass before revealing that the bible was the sole teaching authority for Christians an "intolerable paradox."
Newman also wrote: "It is antecedently unreasonable to Bsuppose that a book so complex, so unsystematic, in parts so obscure, the outcome of so many minds, times, and places, should be given us from above without the safeguard of some authority; as if it could possibly, from the nature of the case, interpret itself...." And, indeed, once they had set aside the teaching authority of the Church, the Reformers began to argue about key Scriptural passages. Luther and Zwingli, for example, disagreed vehemently about what Christ meant by the words, "This is my Body."
St. Augustine, usually Luther's guide and mentor, ought to have the last word about sola scriptura: "But for the authority of the Church, I would not believe the Gospel."
I always thought it sounded like James was the head of the church.
Thank you for explaining that. The Pope’s authority on matters of doctrine is one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is often wrongly stated around here. I still disagree with it, but it is good to get the actual separated from the imagined.
I think that you misunderstood the post. I did not mention Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoffer, JC Ryle or Barth, just as I did not mention Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. The point that I raised is not whether protestants are bad, but whether the reformation solved anything or simply divided the faithful.
Also, you insinuate that faithful Catholics had "no clue". Certainly there are and were clueless Catholics just as their are clueless Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals and Presbyterians. However you may want to do a little homework on medieval theology prior to buying into the "dark ages" formulation. For a good overview, I would suggest that you read Dawson's "The Making of Europe".
Most Protestants dont define themselves in terms of the Catholic church. Most dont even think about it, which is a shame. You might know less about Protestant theology than many Southern Baptists know about the Catholic church. Its hard to tell.
I am no expert on every variant of protestantism, but I do live in the South, and have attended a good variety of protestant services and open dish dinners, and am reasonably well read. I am simply referring to the term "protestant" which literally means protesting. If one protests, there is usually an object of the protest. If the term refers to a protest over something other than Catholicism, let me know.
When I read about the “makeup” of the New Testament Church, I find that it bears *absolutely no resemblance whatsoever* to the Roman Catholic Church, with all it pomp, pageantry & *incredible riches!* (eg: 20 RCC Vatican museums are loaded with priceless art, the value of which is unable to be estimated - not to mention the real property worldwide.) The net worth of the Catholic Church is absolutely staggering. Christ warned against the accumulation of riches in this life.
Christ rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey and receives his “crown of thorns,” yet the pope of Rome gets carted around on a throne by his servants, with his triple tiara upon his head.
Is there something wrong with this picture?
Just to be fair, almost every piece of art "owned" by the Catholic Church (at least, in the Vatican Museums) actually belongs to the Italian Republic - the Vatican holds it all in trust in perpetuity. And so many of the masterpieces of the world today, not to mention the Scriptures themselves, would not exist except for the care of the Church over the centuries.
And in regards to the real estate - what, the parish churches, the schools, etc? Are you telling me the Church should not have Churches or Schools?
Why do you believe that the televangelists and other "bad" protestants are "a blip" and that on the other hand "millions of Catholics" were victims? Can you cite your statistics? Have you compared actual numbers or are you simply excusing one group and exaggerating the impact of another?
I don’t think I misunderstood your post at all, unless there is some yet to be disclosed tradition that will further illuminate it for me. I did not insinuate that “faithful” Catholics had “no clue.” I question the meaning of “faithful,” in the Dark Ages, and beyond. I don’t think getting dunked or answering an alter call is any different.
I suppose I could answer in kind, and claim that you insinuate that Prostetant theology consists of only open dish dinners (not that you would insinuate such a thing). In fact, I won’t even condescend to assign you a bit of homework.
“well, I take that back. It actually takes a herculean torture of logic to remove the Church from the Faith.”
Really, point out in scripture one reference to either tradition or the “Church” able to make one wise unto salvation.
2Ti 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are well, I take that back. It actually takes a herculean torture of logic to remove the Church from the Faith.through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
I certainly did not mean to insinuate that Protestant theology consists only of open dish dinners, but only that I have enjoyed good fellowship with many protestant friends, and spent about 20 years in various denominations Also my inclusion of Barth, Bonhoffer and others should have suggested my respect for protestant theologians.
The bottom line is, the RCC is worth BILLIONS of dollars. It has a porfolio of investments in every sector imagineable. It owns staggering amounts of art, jewels, gold & other precious metals and just about every other natural resource know to man. The value of it’s real estate worldwide is unimaginable. Without it’s vast wealth, the RCC’s power would be greatly diminished. God’s power on earth is The Holy Spirit. It is not dependant upon the wealth of the world. Christ told his apostles to give away everything they own & follow Him. I believe he would tell the pope of Rome (who lives like a king) the same thing.
Was it John who requested, in one of his epistles, that one of the other apostles bring his winter cloak, that he forgot so he could be warm for the approaching winter? Imagine that!?!? All Christ chosen few owned pretty much only the clothes on their backs & their parchments & Holy Books. Shall we take a peek inside PB16’s massive bejeweled walk-in closet?
As a Christian, I'm all for traditions and the church as long as they are consistent with and do not violate Scripture.
The RCC traditions that are commonly discussed - Tradition, Canon, Papacy, Mary, Purgatory, Indulgences - didn't come into being overnight.
I liken it to an aircraft making a trans-oceanic flight, and at a certain point during the trip the navigator makes an error - perhaps a half a degree - in the plane's course. The longer the plane is in the air the further off course it becomes. The problem isn't the map.
But here's the take-home: It doesn't take a ThD. to figure out that the RCC has mandatory doctrines that are contrary to Scripture once the source documents are consulted.
Ex: Read Hebrews and then tell me that there is a need for a propitiatory sacrifice and a priesthood to make the sacrifice. The whole point of the letter was to tell the Hebrew Christians, who were still offering propitiatory sacrifices through priests at the Temple that they didn't need to do that any longer. Christ is the ultimate and final Priest and sacrifice. They were free from further sacrifices because His work is done - so done that "He sat down at the right hand of God". (Heb 10:12)
“Peter was appointed the “chief steward” of Christ’s kingdom by Christ himself.”
As to confirming Peter in his role as “chief steward” of Christ’s kingdom when did Peter take over this role?
Whe he spoke for Satan?
When he denied Christ?
When he hid out in fear of the Romans?
When he returned to his old business of fishing?
When Jesus told Peter to mind his own business?
When he doubted God’s command to go to Cornelius?
Perhaps it was when he acted the hypocrite at the church at Galatia around 49 A.D. some 20 years after the ascension. At the Galatians church Paul confronted Peter in front of the church for his hypocrisy. This confrontation was contrary to the etiquette for confronting Elders, yet Paul did not hesitate.
Paul was not impressed with Peter’s position and didn’t see Peter as head of any church. When he was converted, about 37 A.D., he says he didn’t bother with the Apostles but went off by himself to study. He later went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and James, Jesus brother, the head of the Jerusalem church. 14 years later (50 A.D.), Paul would say, But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: and that included Peter. Paul put his ministry on a par with Peter’s.
The church at Corinth didn’t see Peter as head of the church when Paul wrote to them around 58 A.D. for they were divided among the followers of Apollos, Peter and Paul.
He wasn’t at Rome in 58 A.D. when Paul wrote to the church at Rome. He wasn’t in Rome when Paul was first imprisoned there in 61 A.D nor in his last imprisonment in 67 A.D. for there is no mention of him in Paul’s letters. He specifically states in his last latter to Timothy all had forsaken him and none stood with him. The only one with him at the time of the writing was Luke.
So when was Peter supposed to take his role as “chief steward” of Christ’s kingdom?
By the same logic, neither would the judgment of "those who compiled the Protestant Bible." Nor, without a divinely guided visible and hierarchical church, could anyone's judgment on what should be considered Scripture. Thus the theory of sola scriptura falters on the basic question of what is Scripture in the first place.
You completely misunderstand the Catholic position on the Mass. We agree wholeheartedly that Christ is the ultimate and final Priest and sacrifice. The Mass is not a new sacrifice but the making present here and now of the one sacrifice of our Lord on the cross. If you are going to disagree with Catholic teaching, please disagree with what we actually believe and not with a mischaracterization of Church teaching.
The real estate portfolio you mention confuses me. Yes, there are Churches, Hosptials, Orphanages, Soup Kitchens, Schools, etc. all over the world which belong, in some way, to the Church. Should the Church not offer these services?
And this, Shall we take a peek inside PB16s massive bejeweled walk-in closet? is just unnecessary. Have you been inside the Papal apartments?
That is the best and most coherent analogy I've ever seen posted by someone opposing the Church on this board. I completely disagree, but it's a good one!
Read Hebrews and then tell me that there is a need for a propitiatory sacrifice and a priesthood to make the sacrifice. The whole point of the letter was to tell the Hebrew Christians, who were still offering propitiatory sacrifices through priests at the Temple that they didn't need to do that any longer. Christ is the ultimate and final Priest and sacrifice. They were free from further sacrifices because His work is done - so done that "He sat down at the right hand of God". (Heb 10:12)
We completely agree that Christ completed the sacrifice, for time eternal. However, I'm curious how you reconcile the teachings regarding the Eucharist that existed for 1500 years in both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches? Were these Churches in error regarding the Eucharist the entire time? If yes, how do you reconcile that with Christ's promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church?
You missed my point. Without such a church there is no way for us to agree what is Scripture in the first place. I say Maccabees belong in the Bible; you disagree. Some would want to include the “Lost Books of the Bible.” Who is to decide?
BTW, I do believe that there is plenty of Biblical testimony for a divinely guided visible and hierarchical church but I would rather keep the discussion to the above point for the moment.