A reader has asked me to elaborate further on the problems with the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura:
1. Protestants like to blame Catholics for promoting non-Biblical, human created, late invented doctrines, but sola Scriptura–on which the entire edifice of Protestantism is based–is a doctrine unheard of until the sixteenth century. It is a doctrine invented by the Reformers and it is a doctrine with no Biblical basis. Ask a Protestant to defend sola Scriptura from Scripture and he can’t. There are a few proof texts that uphold Scripture as ‘profitable for doctrine, reproof etc’ but none teach the doctrine of Scripture alone.
2. Even if you could prove sola Scriptura from Scripture it would be a circular argument. “The Bible is the inspired Word of God and our only authority.” “Where does it say that?” “In the Bible.” “How do you know the Bible is true?” “Because the Bible says it is and we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is true.” “How do you know that?” “Because its in the Bible.” And so on….and on…
3. If sola Scriptura is true and “all you need to do is pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and read the clear words of Scripture you will understand” then why are there tens of thousands of Protestant denominations–each of which has prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide them, picked up their Bibles and came to radically different conclusions? Does the Holy Spirit get it wrong?
4. How could sola Scriptura be right when there were so many people down the ages who never had Bibles or couldn’t read? For hundreds of years the first Christians did not have the complete Bible as we have it. For many more hundreds of years people were illiterate and Bibles were expensive and rare. In many other places people did not have the Scriptures in their own tongue. Could it be that God would base salvation on a person’s ability to read, and if not read, to understand the written word? This doctrine was invented with the printing press when suddenly everyone could have a Bible, and without this invention I doubt if anyone would have cooked up sola Scriptura.
5. Catholics teach that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but that the Church came first. Jesus commanded that a Church be founded, but he never said a word about New Testament being written. The Holy Spirit who inspired and founded the Church also inspires the Scriptures as they are written, preached and studied and expounded.
6. From earliest days it has been the witness of the Apostolic Church which was the mark of belonging to the Body of Christ. It was the Church from which the New Testament came, the Church which determined the canon of Scripture, and it is the Church which is necessary to set out the proper interpretation of the Scriptures today.
There is plenty of good literature on this, but I recommend my book More Christianity (chapters 1&2) and Mark Shea’s book By What Authority? Most of all read the documents of the Church: esp. Dei Verbum to understand the Catholic teaching.
Very nice, Father! Point 2 on the “circle argument” definitely brings back most of my experience at a certain local Baptist university, lol.
Thank you for that post Father.
Thank you for your clarity of thought and expression.
Reverend Dwight, I betcher one of them new-fangled preachers that don’t even know the that the Lord speaks in nothin’ but Jacobean English!!!!!
Excellent! So simply stated that it should kncock down anyones doors, but the fact is, the circle will go round and round!Hey, keep forking me those photos, I am getting revved up to do this thing!-g-
Hey Father,I asked a question in class and it really made the teacher mad (cause he is “Sola Scriptura”.Here is the question I asked:”If baptism is so important, then why didn’t the disciples get baptised? I can’t find it in the Bible.”He got really mad because he knew I was Catholic and didn’t believe in “Sola Scriptura” and couldn’t answer the question.
Well, Tubbs, if it was good enough for the Apostle Paul…Seriously, your comment reminds me of those poor souls who endorse not only “sola scriptura” but “sola King James Version”. I’m sure Fr. Dwight knows some of these folks, since he is an alumnus of BJU. Anyway, they tend to get VERY uncomfortable when they discover that the KJV, as originally published, contained the Deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament.To expand on Fr. Dwight’s fine post, not only is sola Scriptura not found in the Bible, the Bible, in its references to the Church (“the pillar and ground of the truth” and “the fullness of [Christ] who fills all and all”), tradition (“Hold fast to the traditions,” writes St. Paul), and apostolic authority (“whatsoever you bind and loose”) is itself opposed to sola scriptura, which is roughly analogous to insisting that the U.S. Constitution is enough to run the country, apart from the acts of Congress, etc., when it is the Constitution itself that gives Congress the power to make law.
Very nice Job Fr.
+JMJ+Point #2 is also how a Muslim evangelist once attempted to defend the Koran to me. =P
Thank you for clarifying this topic. I hope my wife will take it to heart.
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Can I reprint this, as is, with all credit given to you?Well, all credit and glory to God, but you know, list you as the one who put fingers to keys….
Fr. L, Thanks for putting this so clearly and succinctly. I’m experiencing it as beautiful (where does the experience of ‘true’ cross over into ‘beautiful’?) Have to say, though, that you got me laughing with #3, especially, “Does the Holy Spirit get it wrong?” LOL!
Thanks for this Father! It’s awesome!@ Chris Osgood:Oh, the fun you’ll have when people try to trip up Catholics by proof-texting.My answer to that teacher would be this:The Disciples didn’t receive baptism that we know of. But Jesus did. Jesus certainly didn’t “need” baptism to cleanse him from sin, but he did it anyway. Why? To set an example for part of the new covenant. Christians are supposed to conform themselves to Christ. Jesus was baptized. So we should be too. Also, in the book of Acts there are numerous instances of entire families and households being baptized together, providing Scriptural and historical support for infant baptism. And finally, Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that “you must be born of water and the Holy Spirit.” And in Matthew 28 he told the disciples to “baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” So even if the Gospels or Acts don’t include specific accounts of the twelve disciples themselves being baptized, Jesus made it pretty clear via both word and action that baptism is important to Him.Case closed!
I like this. It’s systematic, clear, and thorough. For what it’s worth, though, I think point 3 isn’t quite right. Almost, but not quite.In your ‘Challenging Catholics’ book, John Martin pulls you up on this ever so slightly, saying that in lots of case the varying Protestant sects developed as they did not because of doctrinal differences, but because of cultural factors. I think your point stands, and it’s one I often make myself, but with a slight corrective.The book’s great, by the way. I’m reading it at the minute.
Here is a great quote:”Luther added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28 controversially so that it read: “thus, we hold, then, that man is justified without the works of the law to do, alone through faith” The word “alone” does not appear in the original Greek text, but Luther defended his translation by maintaining that the adverb “alone” was required both by idiomatic German and the apostle Paul’s intended meaning.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_BibleIf his “sola fide” is based on this egregious error, it should follow that “sola scriptura” could be just as egregious – and in fact is! I posted a few pull quotes from this great article at bonreport.com. Wonderful stuff!