Monday, May 29, 2006

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura is one of the silliest beliefs ever concocted by man in any field of study. I recognized this when I was about 15 or 16. (Sola Scriptura is the belief that the bible alone authoritatively speaks on issues of faith & morals). How is it that a 15 or 16 year old can recognize this gross error, while grown men with advanced theological degrees can embrace such a fantastically impossible concept?

Let’s start with the very basics. The number one reason why Sola Scriptura cannot possibly be true is that it is what is called a ‘self referential paradox’. Even if I were to write to you and say “what I’m writing is inspired by God” that wouldn’t make it so! Without 3rd party endorsement, on what authority could you accept the truth of my statement? On it’s own? After all, it says right there in plain English that it is inspired by God. Therefore it cannot be wrong...right? This logical fallacy is similar to what is happening with the bible in Protestant churches.

Protestants believe that the bible says “The bible is inspired” therefore it is. Let’s break this down and find out why this is quite possibly the stupidest thing anyone could ever say.

1. The bible doesn’t say that.
2. The bible didn’t exist at the time of the writing of the bible so we know for absolute certain that it didn’t say that and even if it said something similar it would be talking about something different than what we consider the bible.
3. Even if it did say that, remember above that it would need 3rd party endorsement to legitimize it’s authority. An entity cannot have authority (and certainly not devine authority) by merely claiming that it does.
4. Protestants reject the 7 books of the Apocrypha considered by the Church to be inspired.
5. Since we know that Catholic Church in various councils predominately the ones at Nicaea (325 AD), the council of Hippo (393 AD) and the third council of Carthage (397 AD) selected the books, the books themselves cannot have sole authority. (The bible doesn’t give the church authority; the church gives the bible authority. If it weren’t for the Catholic Church there would be no bible).

Protestants often use verses such as:

'All Scripture is God breathed'

as evidence for Sola Scriptura. The problem with this kind of juvenile attempt at reasoning is that we don’t know what Scripture is!!! Of course, if the church had authority enough to declare what Scripture is (which Protestants unwittingly accept), then the bible is not the only source of authority. Hence, the Sola Scriptura heresy and logical fallacy is dispelled. Note one thing of course: Catholics agree that all Scripture is God breathed. The rejection of Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean that Catholics don’t believe that Scriptures have authority, but that they are not the only source of authority.

We needn’t go any further but to drive the point home I will. Well what is Scripture? When Paul and the other apostles said the word “Scripture”, what did they mean? Obviously the bible didn’t exist so the New Testament wasn’t around. What did they have? What did they use to quote from when quoting the Old Testament? We know that even Jesus Himself quoted from the Septuagint. What implication does that have? The Septuagint contained the 7 books of the Apocrypha which the Protestant church removed from the canon! I think it’s entirely reasonable to assume that in the same way that you and I may get a visual of the KJV Leather bible on the table when someone says “Scripture”, that they (the apostles & even Christ) got a visual of the Septuagint when someone said it or when they said it themselves.

It should also be noted that when the bishops gathered at Nicaea and later at Hippo & Carthage, one of the key criteria that they used to determine divine inspiration was of course, apostolic authority. That is, the authors needed to be either an apostle or the close disciple of one of the apostles to be considered a valid author of a New Testament book. This means that in the eyes of the bishops at Nicaea, the validity of the Scriptures rested on apostolic authority.

As I stated before, the realization of the logical fallacy of Sola Scriptura is the concept that initially drove me to seek truth. (I knew what I was being fed wasn’t truth as I’ve shown it couldn’t be). The problem is that my world was entirely Protestant and it was very frustrating to see that no one else would acknowledge this fallacy. It never ceased to amaze me while reading some great theologian or apologist how they would stumble around intellectually as soon as they came to this subject. The people who otherwise seemed very capable intellectually seemed like mental buffoons when they started talking about Sola Scriptura.

Now for a quick history lesson: Sola Scriptura was born in the bowels of worms. Well, specifically at the Diet of Worms in 1521 AD where Martin Luther was on trial. (It sure took a while for anyone to come up with such a silly idea. And it should be noted that Luther wanted to remove James from the canon so even his concept of Sola Scriptura wasn’t nearly as fanatical as contemporary Protestants’). He was on trial for his heretical teaching of Sola Fide (Faith alone) which we will discuss later. And Luther had to come up with an excuse for how he could rebel against the church. He said that it was on the authority of Scripture that he did so. Realize that up until this point, no one thought in those terms. I’m sure it sounded extremely ridiculous to those at the time who had no concept of the bible superceding the church’s authority. Luther may or may not have put a lot of thought into it before hand but afterward, he was stuck with it.

This leads us to the logical result of this heresy. Imagine if the United States had no courts and only a constitution. Would the constitution alone be enough to enforce the law? Would we know how the government should be run according to the framers? We’d have a good idea I’m sure but each man would be left to his own opinions. When it all boils down, Sola Scriptura is absolutely nothing more than ‘my opinion of the bible and my personal revelation is the only source of real truth’. This self centered way of looking at life has caused many to go astray.

From the very birth of this heresy at Worms, the church became fractured. Zwingli & Munzer split from Luther almost immediately, Calvin about 15 years later and so on and so on to the point where today we have by conservative estimates over 9,000 denominations. Some quote it as high as 38,000 depending on what you consider a denomination. Luther quickly saw this happening after he split from the church as evident in many statements he made and eventually started punishing even to the point of death those who disagreed with his own opinions of how the bible should be interpreted. (Reference: Ken Hensley, 'Luther The Rest of the Story')

What a breath of fresh air it was to enter the Catholic Church and realize that not only some Christians on the planet held a reasonable, adult view of the Scriptures but indeed… most Christians on the planet did (since most are Catholic). The very ironic thing about it all is this: while Protestants nearly worship the Bible as part of the Godhead (and some actually do because of their confusion of the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus being the Word made flesh) the Catholics seem to treat it with even more reverence. For example, I was very surprised to find that Catholics routinely omitted the last phrase of the Lord’s prayer:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

I knew it wasn’t in the original text. Protestants know it isn’t. Yet they still recite it and they still print it in their bibles. Why would you treat what you considered the Word of God with such an irreverent attitude of casually adding and taking away? (Not to mention the removal of the Apocrypha as if the Protestant church had any authority to do so)

I consider this an extremely strong piece of evidence in favor of the Catholic Church. On one hand we have the protestants believing something utterly ridiculous and absurd that cannot possibly be true (Sola Scriptura) and on the other hand, we have the Catholic church affirming a 2,000 year old truth that hasn’t changed: Scripture along with Apostolic Authority and church tradition is a three legged stool which God uses to reveal His Word to His people. These three are in agreement and do not contradict each other. Because of the church, the bible has authority and I can now accept it without question.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You said : Protestants believe that the bible says “The bible is inspired” therefore it is. Let’s break this down and find out why this is quite possibly the stupidest thing anyone could ever say.


. The bible doesn’t say that. Yes the Bible says it. We Don't need to say it, its written

"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

. Jesus made over 100 references to scripture. Jesus never relies upon oral traditions but scripture alone. Let’s follow the Lord’s pattern of relying upon scripture!

"Have you not read" Matthew 12:3
"have you not read in the Law" Matthew 12:5
"Did you never read in the Scriptures" Matthew 21:42

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

The bible didnt exist when Paul was writing "all Scripture is God breathed" therefore he could not POSSIBLY be referring to the bible. Its a logical contradiction.

So now the question is what is Scripture? Well the Church (Since it also has authority) defined that several hundred years later to be the 73 books of the Bible.

Protestants say only the bible has authority and in the next breath they say "all councils can err and many have"... hmm oh really? Like the councils who SELECTED which books would be in the Bible? Can they err?

The Scriptures in Matthew you refer to are know as the Korban arguments. This argument has already been soundly defeated so I'm not going to spend too much time on it but just realize that Jesus didn't condemn tradition, He condemned tradition that contradicted scripture. Catholics also condemn those (such as the Protestant doctrine of 'Faith Alone).

If you're interested in reading more on the issue: see Jimmy Akin's Posts on the subject:

Korban Rule & Sola Scriptura

Dialogue with James White

JandS said...

1) Regarding a self-referential paradox, you have touched upon the fact that all appeals to final authority are ultimately self-referential, i.e., circular - and necessarily so. For Protestants (and other evangelicals), then, the Scriptures are finally authoritative, and thus are themselves the final appeal to authority. For rationalists, it is reason or rationality (variously understood and defined) that is the final ground and justification for their use of reason (as the authority in determining truth). Likewise consistent empiricists (though this circle quickly collapses in on itself, as demonstrated in the case of the logical positivism), etc., etc.

So this is not only acceptable as a circular argument, but unavoidable.

If the Catholic church is your final authority, as you suggest in your argument, then your appeals to the early church fathers (or any period of the church) are likewise circular. I.e., the church is authoritative because the church says so.

2) Regarding a third party testimony, you are quite right to ask for such (as Jesus appealed to another witness than himself in establishing his identity - namely, the Father). As John Calvin well argued, that testimony is born by the Spirit of God in the churches and in the hearts of individual believers.


3) Regarding your audacious comment that the church gives authority to the bible, and not vice versa, I think you err against the teachings of the apostles. For it was there consistent contention that the word of God created the people of God, not the other way around.

4) Regarding your comment:

"The bible didnt exist when Paul was writing "all Scripture is God breathed" therefore he could not POSSIBLY be referring to the bible. Its a logical contradiction."

This is manifestly absurd. Of course the bible existed. When Paul (or any of the authors of the NT) wrote "scriptures" they clearly intended to refer to the Jewish bible. Now I would concede that there is some question as to what the Septuagint of the first century included (i.e., books later referred to as apocrypha and pseudo-apocrypha). But clearly the books of the Jewish Tanakah were contemplated in the apostoles' references to the 'scriptures' ("the writings").

Moreover, it is apparent within the NT itself that the apostolic writings were already taking on a 'canonical' status (though I understand that that term is, strictly speaking, anachronistic in this case). For in 2Timothy and 2Peter, apostolic writings (e.g., apparently the entire Pauline corpus) are included under the rubric of "scriptures". This line of thinking continued throughout the history of the early chruch (e.g., Irenaeus' appeals against the gnostics)

But nearly every good Protestant realizes that Paul's reference to "the scriptures" in 2Tim.3 refers to the OT, generally speaking.

5) Lastly, you write, "Protestants say only the bible has authority and in the next breath they say "all councils can err and many have"... hmm oh really? Like the councils who SELECTED which books would be in the Bible? Can they err?"

Protestants do not say that only the bible has authority. Read Luther. The church too has authority, as does the state, etc. Sola Scriptura is rather the claim that only Scripture has final or absolute authority as the Word of God Almighty. Councils can err and often do, to be sure (as Luther humorously pointed out numerous times). But this doesn't mean that they always err. E.g., most every orthodox Christian (whether Catholic, Eastern, Evangelical, Charismatic, etc.) affirms that Nicene Creed as an accurate defense of the apostolic faith against Arianism. Why? Becuase it is consistent with the apostolic faith witnessed in the NT.

And regarding the Synod of Hippo, the ratification of the NT canon was a recognition of what was apostolic (broadly defined), and therefore authoritative as such - not an imposition of external authority upon these apostolic documents, or an 'infusion' of authority from the church. Rather, the church draws her authority from the apostolic traditions embodied therein. Ecclesiastical authority follows apostolic authority, which in turn follows directly from Christ Himself - dominical authority, if you like - not vice versa.


But which is right? The Council of Orange's affirmation of the Augustinian doctrines of grace (contra semi-Pelagianism), or the Council of Trent's clear rejection of some of the same (contra reformational Augustinianism)?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I wasnt going to respond to this originally but I'll briefly address your response JandS-

1 - Its a paradox because it doesnt refer to itself. Me saying "I have supreme authority" isn't a paradox at all. It's just wrong. Not only does the Church refer to itself, but the Bible also refers to it and vice versa.

2 - Super subjective arugment - not worth my time.

3 - The Church selected and invented the concept of "bible" the Scriptures themselves are authoritative because of God giving them authority. One must separate between "Scriptures" and "the Bible"

4 - I regard your statement as absurd too so we'll just have to agree to think of each other as absurd. Again - the conclusion lies with the word "Bible".

5 - Protestant belief boils down to this regardless of what they say - "My personal interpreation of
Scripture is more authoritative than anyone elses'"

They say Church has authority yet rebel against the Church and then redefine what Church is! Who cares if you say Church has authority if Church is an immaginary classification of people who agree with you?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

*confusion* not conclusion

JandS said...

"I wasnt going to respond to this originally but I'll briefly address your response JandS-"

Many thanks for your graciousness!


"Its a paradox because it doesnt refer to itself."?

Self-referential paradoxes are by defintion referring to themselves. But Scripture (i.e., "the writings", i.e., the book, i.e., the Bible) does refer to itself, although not paradoxically or in self-contradiction (as in the famous "all Cretan are liars..." paradox, etc.).

"Me saying "I have supreme authority" isn't a paradox at all. It's just wrong."

I didn't say it was a paradox, but that it was circular. More precisely, "I have supreme authority...becuase I say so" - that is a self-referential claim of authority. Not a paradox per se. And it may or may not be true, depending on who you are (namely, whether you are God - I Am Who I Am).

"Not only does the Church refer to itself, but the Bible also refers to it and vice versa."

Agreed. But the church draws her authority from the Scriptures, and particularly (or I should say, more immediately) through the apostolic teachings or "standard".

"- Super subjective arugment - not worth my time."

Thus you refute the arguments of John Calvin, et al.? Not terribly convincing, I have to say.

"The Church selected and invented the concept of "bible" "

Actually, no, the concept of the bible (in terms of a canon of authoritative or divine books) predates the historic church, and, I would argue, does so by millennia, being rooted in the concept of 'covenant documents' as conceived in the ancient near eastern world (e.g., Hittite Suzerein-Vassal treaties).

"the Scriptures themselves are authoritative because of God giving them authority."

agreed...obviously, as He 'breathed' them out, as it were.

"One must separate between "Scriptures" and "the Bible" "

How does one do that? Aren't the Scriptures the sacred writings of the apostles and prophets? And what else is the bible? Are there other such writings not within the canon? The early church certainly would have certainly had interest in such documents (for canonicity was determined essentially according to apostolicity).


"Protestant belief boils down to this regardless of what they say - "My personal interpreation of
Scripture is more authoritative than anyone elses'""

I suppose some Protestants have argued this way, and many have so acted (and of course, not a few Catholics have as well). But this is not the position of historic Protestantism, if you care to read the sources (e.g., many of Luther's arguments against the subjectivism of "the fanatics," as he perhaps ungraciously labeled them, for 'private' interpretation, etc.).

The "rule of faith" is certainly grounded and ultimately rationalized within Scripture, but it is contextualized (and inevitably, inescapably so) in the historic church (whether ancient, Eastern, Latin, Anglican, or Reformed, etc.). Thus one can never interpret Scripture apart from the church, and specifically, apart from historical theology.

"They say Church has authority yet rebel against the Church and then redefine what Church is!"

Sometimes even the Church needs rebelling against...and a good house cleaning too! No doubt, there have been a good many popes who needed a swift kick in the ass, no? God knows I need it once in a while!


"Who cares if you say Church has authority if Church is an immaginary classification of people who agree with you?"

I don't say that...and I wouldn't agree with it. The church is a real, flesh and blood institution, composed of local bodies (in real space and real time) committed to Christ, to one another, and to the apostolic mission of "making disciples among the nations".

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

As much as I'd love to continue arguing about this I really just don't have the interest in arguing about something so incredibly obvious.

Anonymous said...

Jands said, "Sometimes even the Church needs rebelling against...
"
Jands...the Church is the "pillar of truth"...1st Tim 3:15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

Even the "pillar of truth" needs rebelling against??... If it is the the TRUTH...why rebel?...