Discussion on Sola Scriptura, Tradition and Infallibility
FILE: GoSS / DATE: Sept-Oct 1996 / CONFERENCE: FidoNet Wholly_Bible
CONTENTS: Answer to questions asked by a prominent anti-Catholic Baptist of FidoNet (David Goforth), we discuss Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), tradition, the Church Fathers, the infallibility of the Church, and I ask some questions and offer some challenges using James White's newly published book The Roman Catholic Controversy (Bethany House, 1996), Goforth and White have the last say as I did not spend the time to answer all their points, we got a little heavy-handed but we do like each other, Goforth was one of the most intelligent Baptists I have met online, he was state Chess champ for North Carolina one year (or so I've heard) -- David Goforth is quoted as DG> and myself as P.
Date: 09-24-96 / From: DAVID GOFORTH / To: P / Subj: Tradition
Here's a couple of questions for you.
Consider: Jesus used the Bible to counter the arguments of Satan, quoting Scripture, not tradition (Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12). The same can be said about his debates with the religious leaders. He asks them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures?" (Matthew 21:42). He appeal is not made to any ecclesiastical body, the priesthood, or tradition. The Sadducees, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection, hoped to trap Jesus with a question which seemed to have no biblical answer. Jesus could have given a satisfactory answer without an appeal to Scripture, but he didn't. Instead, he tells them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Here Jesus clearly rejected ecclesiastical opinion, as represented by the Sadducees, in favor of sola scriptura.
In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes because they made the claim that their religious traditions were on an equal par with Scripture. E.g. vs. 13, "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
"Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undercut Christian truths." (Karl Keating).
First question to you is how does one determine whether a tradition is an "erroneous tradition" if not by Scripture?
Second question: how could anyone ever claim that a tradition is erroneous when the Catholic church begins with the premise that Scripture and tradition, as determined by the Catholic Church are authoritative? (and thus are comparable to the Pharisees in Mark 7 with their authority and tradition).
Saying the appeal must be made to the Church does not qualify as an answer!; it absolutely cannot work because the RCC maintains the Church's and pope's authority is based on Scripture AND tradition, i.e. it is begging the question--in other words purely circular reasoning.
QMPro 1.53 * Catholicism is a mortal sin!
* Origin: The Orphanage, Statesville, NC (704)873-2058 *V.34* (1:379/1107)
Date: 09-28-96 / From: P / To: DAVID GOFORTH / Subj: Catholic Answers
IS "SOLA SCRIPTURA" THE RULE OF FAITH FOR THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH?
DG> Consider: Jesus used the Bible to counter the arguments of Satan,
Hold it right there, tough guy. What? Jesus used the 66-book Protestant Bible against the devil? I would ask you to prove this. You should be more precise and say Old Testament, correct? Hint: The New Testament books were not penned until decades later. And what the OT canon was, we can't be sure. Jesus does not tell us. Today we know what the OT and NT canons are from the Church He founded.
DG> quoting Scripture, not tradition (Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12). The same can be said about his debates with the religious leaders. He asks them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures?" (Matthew 21:42). The appeal is not made to any ecclesiastical body, the priesthood, or tradition.
Jesus quotes Scripture. The Catholic Church quotes Scripture. No problem. Jesus and His Church are in agreement on this one. As it is WRITTEN: "Hold to the traditions...." (2 Thess 2:15; etc)
DG> Instead, he tells them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Here Jesus clearly rejected ecclesiastical opinion, as represented by the Sadducees, in favor of sola scriptura.
Jesus rejected the false opinions of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection. Your implication is since Jesus "rejected ecclesiastical opinion" then we should reject (or test by Scripture) all Church opinion. The problem is -- you ain't Jesus who was infallible. Let me remind you what Sola Scriptura is: "....the Scriptures ALONE are sufficient to function as the -regula fidei-, the infallible rule of faith for the Church" (James White, Roman Catholic Controversy, page 59).
Question: Where does Jesus actually teach this SS principle?
To jump from Jesus (who as God has divine authority) quoting Scripture to SOLA Scriptura is a non sequitur. What you need to find is a text where Jesus says "the Scriptures ALONE [the 66 books] are sufficient to function as the rule of faith for the Church." Where is that text?
DG> In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes because they made the claim that their religious traditions were on an equal par with Scripture. E.g. vs. 13, "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
DG> "Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undercut Christian truths." (Karl Keating).
This section is more extensive in Catholicism and Fundamentalism (Ignatius Press, 1988). If you would read the whole book carefully, you would have the answer to the questions you asked below.
"Fundamentalists have objections to all of this, of course. They say Jesus condemned Tradition. They note that Jesus said, 'Why is it that you yourselves violate the commandment of God with your traditions?' (Mt 15:3). Paul warned, 'Take care not to let anyone cheat you with his philosophizings, with empty phantasies drawn from human tradition, from worldly principles; they were never Christ's teaching' (Col 2:8). But these merely condemn erroneous human traditions, not truths that were handed down orally and entrusted to the Church. These truths are part of what is known as Tradition (with an upper-case 'T', to distinguish it from lower-case human traditions or customs.
"Consider Matthew 15:6-9, which fundamentalists often bring up: 'So by these traditions of yours you have made God's laws ineffectual. You hypocrites, it was a true prophecy that Isaiah made of you when he said, This people does me honor with its lips, but its heart is far from me. Their worship is in vain, for the doctrines they teach are the commandments of men.'
"At first glance, this seems to undercut the Catholic position, but look at the context. Jesus was not here condemning all traditions. He condemned only those that made God's word void. In this case, it was a matter of the Pharisees making a pretended dedication of their goods to the Temple so they could avoid using them to support their aged parents. By doing this, they dodged the commandment to 'Honor thy father and thy mother' (Ex 20:12).
"Elsewhere, Jesus instructed his followers to abide by traditions that are not contrary to God's commandments. 'The scribes and the Pharisees, he said, have established themselves in the place [or seat] from which Moses used to teach; DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU, THEN, CONTINUE TO OBSERVE WHAT THEY TELL YOU, but do not imitate their actions, for they tell you one thing and do another' (Mt 23:2-3).
"He told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites who 'will award to God his tithe, though it be of mint or dill or cumin, and have forgotten the weightier commandments of the law, justice, mercy, and honor; you did ill to forget one duty while you performed the other' (Mt 23:23).
"In short, Jesus insisted we should follow all legitimate traditions. In all these cases he was referring to traditions in the sense of customs (lower-case tradition), not to Tradition in the sense of the Church's teaching authority (upper-case). The latter is wider than the former and includes it." (Keating, page 138-139, emphasis added)
Here are the answers to your questions:
"The big problem, no doubt, is determining what constitutes authentic Tradition. How do we know that what had been handed down by the Catholic Church is correct doctrine and practice? WE KNOW IT IS CORRECT BECAUSE CHRIST PROMISED THAT THE GATES OF HELL WOULD NOT PREVAIL AGAINST THE CHURCH (Mt 16:18). The Church would be indefectible; its official teaching would be infallible. To it, through Peter, CHRIST GAVE HIS OWN TEACHING AUTHORITY (Mt 16:19; 28:18-20)." (Keating, page 139-140, emphasis added)
Your quote from Keating picks up on the next page.....
"What fundamentalists often do, unfortunately, is see the word 'tradition' in Matthew 15:3 or Colossians 2:8 or elsewhere and conclude that anything termed a 'tradition' is to be rejected. They forget that the term is used in a different sense, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, to describe what SHOULD be believed.
"Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undercut Christian truths. The rest, as the apostles taught, were to be adhered to."
(Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians", page 141)
CATHOLIC ANSWERS TO YOUR PROTESTANT QUESTIONS
DG> First question to you is how does one determine whether a tradition is an "erroneous tradition" if not by Scripture?
Answered above by Keating. Traditions ARE to be tested by Scripture but the problem again is who does the interpreting of Scripture? The individual? Remember: You ain't Jesus who was infallible.
A counter question: How does one determine whether a "scripture" is an "erroneous scripture" if not by tradition? The inspiration and canon of the NT was determined solely by the tradition of the Church.
From ST. IRENAEUS, Against Heresies (c. 180-199 AD)
"When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers.
"That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches in which the Apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the Apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches?" (AH 3:4:1)
"The true gnosis is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of Bishops, by which successions the Bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere; and the very complete tradition of the Scriptures, which have come down to us by being guarded against falsification, and which are received without addition or deletion; and reading without falsification, and a legitimate and diligent exposition according to the Scriptures, without danger and without blasphemy; and the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and more honored than all the other charismatic gifts." (AH 4:33:8)
From F.F. BRUCE, The Canon of Scripture (InterVarsity Press, 1988) --
"Letters in antiquity normally began with the writer's name, and so did Paul's letters. But many of the New Testament documents do not contain the writers' names: they are strictly ANONYMOUS -- to us, COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS. The writer to Theophilus was well enough known to Theophilus [Lk 1:3; Acts 1:1], but his name has not been preserved either in the Third Gospel or in Acts; to us, therefore, these two works are anonymous. TRADITIONALLY they are ascribed to Luke....
"It is remarkable, when one comes to think of it, that the four canonical Gospels are anonymous, whereas the 'Gospels' which proliferated in the late second century and afterwards CLAIM to have been written by apostles and other eyewitnesses.
"Catholic churchmen found it necessary, therefore, to defend the apostolic authenticity of the Gospels which they accepted against the claims of those which they rejected.....The apostolic authorship of Matthew and John was well established in TRADITION. But what of Mark and Luke? Their authorship was also well established in TRADITION, but it was felt desirable to buttress the authority of tradition with arguments which gave those two Gospels a measure of apostolic validation." (Bruce, page 256, 257)
"In other words, they had recourse to the criterion of orthodoxy. By 'orthodoxy' they meant the APOSTOLIC FAITH -- the faith set forth in the undoubted apostolic writings and maintained in the churches which had been founded by apostles. This appeal to the testimony of the churches of apostolic foundation was developed specially by Irenaeus.....They had to defend the apostolic teaching, summed up in the rule of faith, against the docetic and gnostic presentations which were so attractive to many in the climate of opinion at that time. When previously unknown Gospels or Acts began to circulate under the authority of apostolic names, the most important question to ask about any one of them was: What does it teach about the person and work of Christ?" (Bruce, page 260)
"The gnostic schools maintained that it was they who best preserved the original teaching of the apostles; some of them claimed that the apostles' more esoteric teaching had been delivered privately to selected disciples who were worthy or gifted enough to receive it [AH 3:3:1]. Irenaeus set himself to examine such claims and to establish the content of the GENUINE apostolic tradition. This tradition was maintained in living power, he argues, in those churches which were founded by apostles and in which there had been a regular succession of bishops or elders since their foundation; it was summed up in those churches' rule of faith or baptismal creed."
[A footnote reads:] "Heretics might APPEAL to the text of scripture, but their interpretation was vitiated because it did not ACCORD with the rule of faith -- the summary of Christian teaching handed down in the APOSTOLIC TRADITION (Against Heresies 1:3:6)." (Bruce, page 171-172)
From DAVID GOFORTH, FidoNet Open_Bible 8/8/96 --
"There can ultimately be no proving of inspiration of any book of Scripture (and therefore any doctrine as well) any more than there can be a proving of the existence of God. There is a circular aspect to believing in Scripture and its absolute and final authority just as there is to believing in God. One believes in the existence of God because of Scripture. Conversely one believes in the inspiration of Scripture because it is the word of God. Ultimately the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture must be accepted by faith....." (David Goforth to P)
P> How do I know the Bible *IS* the Word of God?
DG> You can't; you must accept it by faith just like you do the existence of God....
Oh I forgot. You accept the inspiration and sufficiency of the 66-book Protestant Bible "by faith" so ultimately reason and biblical or historical arguments do not matter to you. Although the early Church went by tradition you go purely "by faith."
So your answer to your own question -- how does one determine whether a tradition is an "erroneous tradition" is NOT by Scripture but "by faith." And how does one determine whether a "scripture" is an "erroneous scripture" is NOT by tradition but is again "by faith." You can claim you are "testing by Scripture" but really you admit you are testing by your own faith and you admit this is circular.
"....our conviction of the truth of Scripture must be derived from a higher source than human conjectures, judgments, or reasons; namely, the secret testimony of the Spirit....the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit....it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1:7:4; 8:13)
Congratulations, David. You make a good Protestant. Next question.....
DG> Second question: how could anyone ever claim that a tradition is erroneous when the Catholic church begins with the premise that Scripture and tradition, as determined by the Catholic Church are authoritative? (and thus are comparable to the Pharisees in Mark 7 with their authority and tradition).
Wrong. We begin with the premise that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be and proved His claims by His miracles and especially His Resurrection. Then we say Jesus founded a Church (Matt 16:18-19) which was to teach and disciple all nations in His name (Mt 28:18-20). And the only Church that qualifies for the job is the Catholic Church.
Excuse me for not giving you a 2-billion part post for the evidence on that but it seems you don't like long posts. So I will be short. We don't start with the assumption the Church is infallible. We start with the objective historical claims of Jesus who founded a teaching Church and built her on Peter the Rock. If that Church is to do what Jesus commanded she must teach with His authority (Lk 10:16). If she teaches with His own authority, she must be infallible when teaching officially on faith and morals. That is the argument in a nutshell. It is not a circular argument, but a "spiral" argument.
So to trust the authority of the Church is to implicitly trust Christ. He is the founder of the Church and His apostles and successors have authority from Christ to faithfully preserve and guard His teaching.
In the Catholic and historic orthodox Christian view, it is not my job to personally determine what is authentic tradition, whether oral or written, that is the job of the teaching office (Magisterium in Latin) in the Church, the Bishops in union with the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, which authority structure was established by Christ Himself.
Please give me any evidence whatsoever that Jesus intended the Rule of Faith to be Sola Scriptura, meaning the 66-book Protestant Bible as interpreted by individuals (including over 20,000 Protestant sects).
Hint: In the Gospels, Jesus says nothing about writing anything!
Your alternative "argument" for the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture ("I accept it by faith") is circular and hence irrational. So what's new with anti-Catholics?
DG> Saying the appeal must be made to the Church does not qualify as an answer!; it absolutely cannot work because the RCC maintains the Church's and pope's authority is based on Scripture AND tradition, i.e. it is begging the question--in other words purely circular reasoning.
Check again. We don't start with the assumption that Scripture is inspired and infallible like you do. We start with the historicity of the NT and the historical claims made by Jesus in the Gospels. These are validated by the scientific rules of textual criticism. See my "Argument for Infallibility." It is not circular.
DG> Catholicism is a mortal sin!
True if Catholicism were what David Spewforth thinks it is. It is not.
DG> I've been talking to James White on the Internet and we get quite a chuckle out of your typical moronical proofs Phil. He told me he's explained Sola Scriptura and what tradition meant to the fathers to you a thousand times and you just won't listen--but what else is new? You're just a waste of time and cyberspace and sin by trying to keep Catholics from repenting and leaving you. James also told me to pass a message onto you and I'll quote him, "grow up, keep quiet, or debate me in public." If you think you even have a CLUE as to what you're talking about, then by all means schedule a public debate with him. I would pay to see him utterly humiliate you and your Catholic foolishness myself--and you know that's EXACTLY what would happen.
James White said to P on a personal tape he mailed me February 1994, a copy of which was sent to David Goforth last year -- "And I'd also be interested in light of some of the stuff you've sent me: you know what the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is as defined by Protestant sources."
And from the Internet -- Date: 05-09-96 / From: JAMES WHITE / To: P
JW> This message is an invitation to you to join in a new mailing list entitled "sola-l." The list is specifically for the discussion of the doctrine of sola scriptura, from biblical, theological, philosophical, and historical viewpoints.
JW> The list will be by invitation only. If you are receiving this post, you are invited. At this time approximately a dozen people have been invited to participate, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Assemblies, and plain-ol' evangelicals. While the Protestants are in the majority, the Roman Catholics invited to participate comprise some of the "best" with whom I am familiar.
The "best" Roman Catholics originally invited included Dave Armstrong, David Palm (both converts from evangelicalism) and ME a cradle Catholic. Question: Why in the world would James White invite me to an Email list on Sola Scriptura and call me one of the "best" he knows if he really thinks I have no clue what SS is? Kind of strange if you ask me, yes?
QUESTIONS P WOULD ASK JAMES WHITE IN A PUBLIC DEBATE
Question number (1) -- Where is the oral revelation rescinded?
James White writes in The Roman Catholic Controversy (Bethany, 1996) under the section "What Sola Scriptura is Not" --
"Sola Scriptura is not a denial that the Word of God has, at times, been spoken. Rather, it refers to the Scriptures as serving the Church as God's final and full revelation. There is nothing in the doctrine that denies the simple reality that at times in the past God's Word was spoken (through the preaching of prophets or Apostles) as well as written. It is vitally important that the reader recognize that the Protestant position insists that all God intends for us to have that is infallible, binding, and authoritative today, He has already provided in the certain, clear, understandable, and reliable Scriptures." (White, page 58)
Since the author admits that at some points in history God's Word was spoken (i.e. oral in form), could you provide me with the explicit biblical evidence that "ALL God intends for us to have...TODAY" is "provided in the...Scriptures" ? Where is the explicit biblical evidence that the Scriptures are to "[serve] the Church as God's final and FULL revelation" ? Catholics don't disagree with the finality of apostolic revelation (which ceased with the death of the Apostles) but why insist this revelation is FULLY contained in the New Testament? That is an unbiblical assumption made here by James White with no scriptural warrant whatsoever.
In other words, where is the command in the New Testament itself from Jesus or His apostles that the Church is NOT under any obligation to continue to pass on and obey ORAL apostolic revelation (as the Apostles commanded e.g. 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Cor 11:2; 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17; Heb 13:7,17; etc) ?
Question number (2) -- When did Sola Scriptura become true?
Could you give me an exact date in history WHEN the Scriptures (specifically the 66-book Protestant Bible) BECAME God's final and FULL revelation and served the Church in this capacity?
When did the Bible BECOME "ALL God intends for us to have...TODAY" for faith and morals? Was it at the "closing" of the NT canon? If so, when do you believe this actually happened given that in Protestant theology the Church is fallible and capable of error?
Question number (3) -- How do you explain 20,000 Protestant sects?
Concerning the claim made above that the Scriptures are "clear" and "understandable" (or perspicuous) how do you explain the over 20,000 Protestant denominations, sects, and cults all going by the Bible alone? Even if Sola Scriptura were true, would it not be unworkable as a Rule of Faith for the Christian church if we are to have OFFICIAL unity of doctrine (i.e. "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism" Eph 4:5) ?
Do not respond with "well, Catholics are divided too" since that simply is not true as far as OFFICIAL unity of doctrine. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church for what we believe OFFICIALLY. Is there an official document that would similarly unite Protestants since it is obvious the Bible alone does not accomplish this unity?
Question number (4) -- How do you test the traditions of apostolicity?
James White writes in his Roma Catholic Controversy that "ALL traditions are subject to the higher authority of Scripture" (page 62). And again, "Sola Scriptura simply means that ANY tradition, no matter how ancient or venerable it might seem to us, MUST be tested by a higher authority, and that authority is the Bible." (page 59)
If this is a true principle, then how is the Christian believer in Sola Scriptura to TEST "by Scripture" the very traditions upon which the apostolicity and canonicity of the books of Scripture are based? I am specifically referring to the New Testament here. How are the traditions behind the canonicity of the Gospels to be tested?
If you try to test these by Scripture, you beg the question since you are already assuming the apostolicity of these books.
The traditions behind the apostolicity and canonicity of the NT must simply be accepted by implicit faith in the reliability of the Church which completed the task of "testing" for all Christians today. The Christian has no ability to test these "by Scripture" therefore the above principle as practiced by Protestants is inconsistent. (See the previous quotes from F.F. Bruce The Canon of Scripture).
Question number (5) -- Where was Sola Scriptura taught by early Church?
Philip Schaff, a major Protestant church historian from last century writes in his History of the Christian Church --
"The church view respecting the sources of Christian theology and the rule of faith and practice remains as it was in the previous period, except that it is further developed in particulars. The divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as opposed to human writings; AND the ORAL TRADITION or LIVING FAITH of the catholic church from the apostles down, as opposed to the varying opinions of heretical sects -- TOGETHER FORM THE ONE INFALLIBLE SOURCE AND RULE OF FAITH. BOTH are vehicles of the same substance: the saving revelation of God in Christ; with this difference in form and office, that the church tradition determines the canon, furnishes the KEY TO THE TRUE INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures, and guards them against heretical abuse." (volume 3, page 606)
J.N.D. Kelly, a major Protestant church historian from this century writes in his Early Christian Doctrines -- (after many examples)
"It should be unnecessary to accumulate further evidence. Throughout the whole period Scripture AND tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading and anachronistic terms. If Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was recognized as the SUREST CLUE TO ITS INTERPRETATION, for in TRADITION the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life, an UNERRING GRASP of the real purport and MEANING of the revelation to which Scripture AND tradition alike bore witness." (page 47-48)
"Thus in the end the Christian must, like Timothy [cf. 1 Tim 6:20] 'guard the deposit', i.e. the revelation enshrined in its completeness in Holy Scripture and CORRECTLY interpreted in the Church's UNERRING tradition." (page 51)
So while the Church Fathers believed in the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture (some perhaps assert what is called the "material sufficiency" of Scripture -- that all Christian doctrines are found there at least "implicitly"), NONE believed in SOLA Scriptura, that the Scriptures stand ALONE APART from the Tradition (although there may be some ambiguity in this word) or the living Christian faith and the Church's infallible teaching authority.
Question: In light of these facts from Protestant historians themselves how can you maintain that there is "a broad and deep witness" (in past letters to Patrick Madrid) to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in the early Church? William Webster, an ex-Catholic turned Evangelical, in the book Roman Catholicism : Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us (Moody, 1994) has the audacity to state --
"Roman Catholic teaching claims that -sola scriptura- is unhistorical; that is, it contradicts the universal teaching of the early church. The more I have searched for the truth regarding these Roman Catholic beliefs, the more I have been compelled to conclude that the facts will not support this claim. -Sola scriptura- was the universal teaching of the church Fathers and for the church as a whole through the later Middle Ages." (page 272)
I submit this is nonsense and one must re-define Sola Scriptura and mis-state the Catholic position (as Webster does) to make such claims. Simply because the Fathers used and quoted Scripture does not demonstrate Sola Scriptura in the Protestant sense was believed. Do you have ANY reputable Protestant (or Catholic) church historians that would agree with this audacious claim of William Webster?
Do you have ANY statement from a Church Father that flat-out says
"Scripture is the ONLY infallible rule for faith and practice and the constant faith of the Church should be rejected."
That is what must be found to prove anyone believed in Sola Scriptura. St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great et al did not believe this!
Question number (6) -- Does Sola Scriptura deny the Holy Spirit's role?
James White writes in Roman Catholic Controversy that "Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church." (page 59)
I submit this is an untrue statement and that Sola Scriptura is indeed a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Why? Let's take three important examples: the sacraments of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the doctrine of Justification. I have submitted in the Sola-L list a 5-part post on the unanimous belief of the Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration and their unanimous interpretation of John 3:5 that to be "born of water and Spirit" means spiritual regeneration in the Christian sacrament of Baptism.
Concerning the Real Presence and Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, I have a 31-part post detailing the views of Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine who some have claimed as "symbolical" (or Zwinglian) on the Eucharist plus summary statements from various sources, mainly Darwell Stone and JND Kelly, on the unanimous belief of the Church.
From the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA under "Eucharist (as Sacrament)"
"Nothing is more solid than the UNANIMITY of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for the first 1,500 years of the Church. The spontaneous uproar caused by men such as Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088) only attests the more to the unquestioned acceptance of the Real Presence. This UNANIMOUS belief of 1,500 years is itself an argument to its truth.
"For it is impossible that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, could leave the Church in error over a long period of time about one of the central doctrines of Christianity, according to the argument from prescription." (NCE, volume 5, page 604)
On Justification, I will submit the following from Evangelical scholar Alister McGrath A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Oxford University Press, 1986), Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 19 --
"The significance of the Protestant distinction between -iustificatio- and -regeneratio- is that a FUNDAMENTAL DISCONTINUITY has been introduced into the western theological tradition WHERE NONE HAD EXISTED BEFORE [emphasis by McGrath]."
"However, it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly FAITHFUL to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, WHERE THE REFORMERS DEPARTED FROM IT [emphasis mine]."
"The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between JUSTIFICATION and REGENERATION. Although it must be emphasised that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the -ordo salutis-, the essential point is that a notional distinction is made WHERE NONE HAD BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE [emphasis mine]."
"A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into the western theological tradition WHERE NONE HAD EVER EXISTED, OR EVER BEEN CONTEMPLATED, BEFORE [my emphasis]. The Reformation understanding of the NATURE of justification -- as opposed to its mode -- must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological NOVUM."
In light of these facts from Catholic and Protestant historians, how can you maintain that Sola Scriptura is NOT a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church since you believe the Church was certainly NOT led by the Holy Spirit but fell into complete apostasy on important doctrines, namely, Baptism, the Eucharist, and the nature of Justification, while the "true teaching" was there all along in the NT Greek text waiting to be "discovered" at the Protestant Reformation and by the Sola-Scriptura-believing-Reformed-Baptists?
If that is not a denial of the Holy Spirit's role in guiding the Church into all truth (Jn 14:16-17; 16:13; 1 Tim 3:15), I don't know what is!
Date: 10-21-96 / From: DAVID GOFORTH / To: P / Subj: Bible Vs. Rome I
************ Sola Scriptura vs. Sola Roma ******************
Is the Bible the only infallible rule of faith as all orthodox Protestants believe or is the Roman Catholic church--it's pope and Magisterium the only infallible rule of faith as Rome claims? Since these are mutually exclusive positions, both obviously cannot be right.
Opening statements primarily from previous message:
Sola scriptura is a bit of a misnomer--it does not mean there are not other authorities or that they have no value or place--rather other authorities must be subordinate to the Bible, even as the word of man is subordinate to the word of God. Second, the rejection of Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice ultimately SUBORDINATES the word of God to tradition by making tradition the interpreter of Scripture and confining interpretation into some COMPLETELY ILLUSIONARY consensus of the fathers (even the best of the fathers often contradict each other and occasionally a father changed his opinion later in his life!). Third, since tradition can become corrupt, even as it certainly had with the Pharisees in Jesus' day, it simply cannot and must not be trusted as the ultimate authority. Fourth, everyone is ultimately responsible to study the Bible, for indeed Jesus himself said, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept MY words; that VERY WORD which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:48). No Catholic will be able to stand before God at the judgment and plead, "Well the Pope and the magisterium and my priest told me to believe in this or that." It just won't cut it! Catholics, therefore should carefully consider which "infallible" authority is really infallible and therefore which one they should follow.
Oral tradition is subject to change, development, degeneration, and deviation. Even *IF* (a very big if) there was an oral tradition in the first or second century which included things beyond what was written down, there is absolutely no guarantee given by God or Scripture that that such an oral tradition would be preserved or was even needed. Indeed 2 Tim. 3 strongly implies such a thing was not needed. Second, even *IF* there were an ongoing oral tradition, it still requires a standard point of reference to check itself against. When the apostles were alive, this was not a problem, since a matter could ultimately be checked with them. As the apostles died, Christians, no doubt under God's direction, realized the danger of church doctrine becoming corrupted by fallible men (as had been the case with the Pharisees). They understood the need for a FINAL, authoritative checkpoint to which every church must be subject--thus the importance of maintaining the apostles' and God's authoritative word became of very great concern, even as it had previously with the scribes maintaining the OT books. If we were to totally ignore the facts of history that there was NO Catholic Church nor Romish pope making the claims he now does during the first three or four centuries (as the foremost church historians overwhelmingly attest) and were to wrongly assume there was such a church headed by an infallible pope as Roman Catholics do, this could not begin to explain the importance they placed on maintaining the texts of the NT--for indeed there would have been no need to maintain them at all--one would only need to consult the infallible pope, who, being under God's guidance would know the truth more certainly and accurately than the apostle's written word. 2 Pet. 1:19, where Peter said, "we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it" would be worthless. The RCC effectively replaces it with "we have the word of the prophets and Peter made more certain and you must listen to us and not them".
Of course, the Christians did realize that doctrine and oral tradition are indeed subject to change, development, degeneration, and deviation and therefore required a standard point of reference to check itself against. Scripture supplied and continues to supply this! Tradition which proclaims what is non-scriptural cannot have absolute authority; it may have the authority of antiquity or large consent, but it does not have ultimate compulsion or necessity! In short, there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that any church, any tradition, or any pope or minister is equal to or superior to Scripture!
P> Question number (1) -- Where is the oral revelation rescinded?
I don't believe anyone has said oral revelation has been rescinded, but first you must define exactly what is oral revelation or oral tradition so we'll know specifically what it is you're referring to. Second, you need to show us exactly where oral tradition differs from Scripture in order to disprove the sufficiency of Scripture, viz. Sola Scriptura. Third, if you are able to do the others, you must then prove that that "oral revelation" which was not found in Scripture is apostolic, i.e. it was believed by everybody everywhere from the time of the apostles. Note:, it is of course ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for you or any Catholic to do this on the papacy, it's claims to infallibility and rule over the entire Church, the sinlessness of Mary, her assumption, purgatory, indulgences, the supererogatory merits of the saints, and many other purely invented Romish doctrines so whatever "oral revelation" is, it obviously cannot include these.
P> James White writes in The Roman Catholic Controversy (Bethany, 1996) under the section "What Sola Scriptura is Not" --
P> "Sola Scriptura is not a denial that the Word of God has, at times, been spoken. Rather, it refers to the Scriptures as serving the Church as God's final and full revelation. There is nothing in the doctrine that denies the simple reality that at times in the past God's Word was spoken (through the preaching of prophets or Apostles) as well as written. It is vitally important that the reader recognize that the Protestant position insists that all God intends for us to have that is infallible, binding, and authoritative today, He has already provided in the certain, clear, understandable, and reliable Scriptures." (White, page 58)
P> Since the author admits that at some points in history God's Word was spoken (i.e. oral in form), could you provide me with the explicit biblical evidence that "ALL God intends for us to have...TODAY" is "provided in the...Scriptures" ? Where is the explicit biblical evidence that the Scriptures are to "[serve] the Church as God's final and FULL revelation" ? Catholics don't disagree with the finality of apostolic revelation (which ceased with the death of the Apostles) but why insist this revelation is FULLY contained in the New Testament? That is an unbiblical assumption made here by James White with no scriptural warrent whatsoever.
No one claims the word was not spoken before it was written. Second, your questions totally ignore why the early churches of the second century were so diligent in collecting and preserving the New Testament writings of Paul, John, Peter, and others in the first place--viz. to guard against oral teachings which could not be checked for accuracy once the apostles had all died. Third, the Bible need not specifically state that it is the full and final revelation of God for it to be so. The reason for this is the nature of revelation itself--viz. when God's revelation stopped, it then became final and complete. Fourth, to quote James White (p. 59), "Sola Scriptura does not entail the rejection of every kind or form of "tradition"...Sola Scriptura simply means that any tradition, no matter how ancient or venerable it might seem to us, must be tested by a higher authority, and that authority is the Bible."
In his summary of what sola scriptura is NOT, he specifically mentions that it is NOT a "1. claim that the Bible contains all knowledge 2. claim that the Bible is an exhaustive catalog of all religious knowledge". (p. 59). On page 94, he notes, "The canon of Scripture tells us something ABOUT Scripture. God defines the canon not by giving some revelation outside of the SCRIPTURA but by giving the SCRIPTURA itself! The Roman error lies in creating a dichotomy between two things that cannot be separated, and then using that false dichotomy to deny SOLA SCRIPTURA."
In describing what sola scriptura IS, (pp. 59-62) he writes:
"1. The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fidei, the infallible rule of faith for the Church. 2. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture, and in no other source. 3. That which is not found in Scripture--either directly or by necessary implication--is not binding upon the Christian. 4. Scripture reveals those things necessary for salvation. 5. All traditions are subject to the higher authority of Scripture."
Rome of course denies points 1, 3, and 5. Furthermore, Rome's position on points 2 and 4 has been clearly contradictory (so much for an infallible church theory). E.g. Pope Boniface's UNAM SANCTAM (Nov. 18, 1302), where he wrote:
"Consequently we declare, state, define, and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
P> In other words, where is the command in the New Testament itself from Jesus or His apostles that the Church is NOT under any obligation to continue to pass on and obey ORAL apostolic revelation (as the Apostles commanded e.g. 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Cor 11:2; 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17; Heb 13:7,17; etc) ?
Again, as with your first question, you have not defined what is oral revelation or oral tradition and where exactly it differs from what is contained in Scripture. Second, your passages simply don't help Rome's case.
1 Cor. 11:2, "I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed on to you."
2 Tim. 1:13, "What you heard form me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching.."
2 Tim. 2:1-2, "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."
2 Tim. 3:14-17, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
There is simply nothing in these passages to support the idea of a separate oral tradition different from what was written. In order to deny sola scriptura, Rome must ASSUME that what Paul taught in the presence of MANY witnesses is different from what he wrote to entire churches! Is such an idea founded in reality? Of course not!
1 Thes. 2:13, "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe."
2 Thes. 2:15, "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."
Of course as James White mentions,
"there is nothing future about this passage at all. Does Paul say to stand firm and hold fast to traditions that will be delivered? Does he say to hold on to interpretations and understandings that have not yet developed? No, this oral teaching which he refers to has already been delivered to the entire Church, not just to the episcopate, not just to the bishops, but to EVERYONE in the Church at Thessalonica...Now, what does the term "orally" refer to? We first note that the context of the passage is the Gospel and its work among the Thessalonians. The traditions Paul speaks of are not traditions about Mary or Papal Infallibility. Instead, the traditions Paul refers to have to do with a single topic, one that is close to his heart. He is encouraging these believers to stand firm--in what? In oral traditions about subjects not found in the New Testament? No, he is exhorting them to stand firm IN THE GOSPEL."
On 2 Thes. 2:15, Jamison, Fausset, Brown Commentary (Vol. 3, p. 477) notes,
"STAND FAST-so as not to be 'shaken or troubled' (v. 2). HOLD-so as not to let go. Adding nothing, subtracting nothing (BENGEL). TRADITIONS-instructions delivered, whether orally or in writing (ch. iii. 6, 1 Cor. xi. 2....From the THREE passages in which 'tradition' has a good sense, Rome has argued for her UNINSPIRED traditions, virtually overriding, whilst held as of co-ordinate authority with, God's Word. She forgets the TEN passages (Matt. xv. 2,3, 6; Mark vii. 3, 5, 8, 9, 13; Gal . i. 14; Col. ii. 8) stigmatizing MAN'S UNINSPIRED traditions. TRADITION is the great corrupter of DOCTRINE, as [EUPORIA] 'wealth; (the other equivalent of 666) is the corrupter of the Church's practice. Not even the apostle's sayings were all inspired (e.g. Peter's dissimulation, Gal. ii. 11-14), but only when they CLAIMED to be so, as in their words afterwards embodied in canonical writings...Nothing has come down to us by ANCIENT and UNIVERSAL tradition save this, THE ALL SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE FOR SALVATION. Therefore, by tradition, we are constrained to cast off all tradition not in, or proveable by, Scripture...INSPIRED TRADITION, in St. Paul's sense, is not a supplementary oral tradition completing our written Word, but is the written Word NOW complete...No tradition of the apostles, except their written word, can be PROVED genuine on satisfactory evidence. We are no more bound to accept the fathers' interpretation of Scripture, because we accept the Scripture canon on their testimony, than to accept the Jew's interpretation of the Old Testament because we accept the Old Testament canon on their testimony."
1 Pet. 1:25, "but the word of the Lord stands forever."
2 Pet. 3:2, "I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles."
As with Paul, there is simply nothing in these passages to support the idea of a separate oral tradition different from what was written. David Wheaton, in his commentary on 2 Pet. 3:2 notes, "Peter stresses the unity of this letter with his former one, and the consistency of his teaching with that both of the prophets and of the other apostles...Peter's emphasis on the unity of the OT with the apostolic writings is reminiscent of 1 Pet. 1:10-12: 2 Pet. 1:19-21."
Jude 17-18, "But dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires."
A very strange verse for you to use Phil, since it supports that what was spoken has been also been written! (Cf. Jude 5 and 2 Peter 2). "Predictions", what predictions Phil? Try Acts 20:29-30, 1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:1; Mt. 24:23.
Again to quote David Wheaton (on Jude 18), "SAID can refer to writings and need not imply that these readers had actually heard the apostles."
Heb. 13:7, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate it."
Heb. 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be no advantage to you."
You're fishing as usual. These verses in Hebrews are not even related to the topic as I see it. No one denies a local congregation is to have elders (plural) and deacons. As I've mentioned to you before, bishop (episkopos) and elder (presbyteros) were in NT times alternative names for the SAME officer (Tit. 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28). Moreover, each congregation had SEVERAL (probably 12). The translation "bishop" must therefore NOT be understood in the monarchial and diocesan sense which later developed. Look at the qualifications mentioned in 1 Tim. 3. Vs. 2, "the husband of one wife", --are Rome's priests and bishops married Phil? If not, they're usurping the office. Vs. 4, "must manage his family well" --how many kids do your priests and bishops have? If none, they're usurping the office. Elders (bishops) had to have children. The custom was, no doubt, taken from the Sanhedrin. To be a member of the Sanhedrin a man had to be ordained, pious, mature, sound in mind and body, and of wide knowledge. Persons who were too old or who had never had children were ineligible, for it was thought that they might not be merciful. The same criteria was cited for elders by Paul in 1 Tim.
******** For those interested in an intelligent presentation of the gospel, including an analysis of where Protestants and Catholics differ over sola scriptura and other critical matters, see James R. White's, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY, 1996, Bethany House Publishers (as has been quoted in by both Phil and me in this message.) *******
Take care, David
QMPro 1.53 * The gospel determines the Church, NOT vice versa!
* Origin: The Orphanage, Statesville, NC (704)873-2058 *V.34* (1:379/1107)
Date: 10-22-96 / From: DAVID GOFORTH / To: P / Subj: Bible Vs. Rome II
************ Sola Scriptura vs. Sola Roma ****************** Part II
Is the Bible the only infallible rule of faith as all orthodox Protestants believe or is the Roman Catholic church--it's pope and Magisterium the only infallible rule of faith as Rome claims? Since these are mutually exclusive positions, both obviously cannot be right.
From Part I, I asked you Phil, (as a Roman Catholic) to tell us what oral revelation or oral tradition is so we'll know specifically what it is you're referring to. Second, I stated you need to show us exactly where oral tradition differs from Scripture in order to disprove the sufficiency of Scripture, viz. Sola Scriptura. Third, if you are able to do the others, you must then prove that that "oral revelation" which was not found in Scripture is apostolic, i.e. it was believed by everybody everywhere from the time of the apostles.
Can you and other Catholics do this? Do the early church fathers support their definition of "tradition" being something distinct from rather than identical to Scripture itself? Would the earliest churches and the earliest church fathers deny sola scriptura? The answer must emphatically be NO!
While reading and evaluating the rest of this message--especially concerning the church fathers, let the reader keep in mind what James White wrote in THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY, concerning what sola scriptura is and how Rome attempts to refute it and elevate itself above Scripture. To quote James White:
"Are we to believe that the Bible is so unclear and self-contradictory that we cannot arrive at the truth through an honest, whole-hearted effort at examining its evidence? It seems that is what Rome is telling us. But because the Scriptures CAN BE MISUSED, it does not follow that they are INSUFFICIENT to lead us to the truth. Such an argument is flawed in its reasoning no matter how often it is repeated. The reason that Rome tells us the Bible is insufficient, I believe, is so we will be convinced of Rome's ultimate authority and abandon the God-given standard of Scripture." (James White, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY, p. 92).
"The Roman error lies in creating a dichotomy between two things that cannot be separated, and then using that false dichotomy to deny SOLA SCRIPTURA."
In describing what sola scriptura IS, (pp. 59-62) James White writes:
"1. The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are SUFFICIENT to function as the regula fidei, the infallible rule of faith for the Church. (emphasis added) 2. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture, and in no other source. 3. That which is not found in Scripture--either directly or by necessary implication--is not binding upon the Christian. 4. Scripture reveals those things necessary for salvation. 5. All traditions are subject to the higher authority of Scripture."
Now to cite the same work you later do but obviously misrepresent with obfuscation Phil, viz. J.N.D. Kelly's, EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES: (most or all emphasis in this message added).
"In the present one (chapter) we shall examine more closely the Church's constant appeal to Scripture and tradition, and in the course of our inquiry shall seek to explain what she understood by tradition. At the threshold, however, the reader should be placed on his guard against an ambiguity inherent in the word. In present day idiom 'tradition' denotes the body of unwritten doctrine handed down in the Church, or the handing down of such doctrine, and so tends to be contrasted with Scripture. In the language of the fathers, as indeed of the New Testament, the term of course conveyed this idea of transmission, and eventually the modern usage became regular. But its primary significance (cf. paradidonai; tradere), viz. authoritative delivery, was originally to the fore and always remained prominent. Hence by tradition the fathers usually mean doctrine which the Lord or His apostles committed to the Church, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER IT WAS HANDED DOWN ORALLY OR IN DOCUMENTS, and IN THE EARLIER CENTURIES AT ANY RATE THEY PREFER TO EMPLOY OTHER WORDS OR PHRASES TO DESIGNATE THE CHURCH'S UNWRITTEN TRADITIONAL TEACHING." (p. 30).
After noting Polycarp regarded Paul's letter to the Philippians "as the foundation-stone of their faith" and Justin's belief that the gospels owed their authority to being the 'memoirs' of the apostles, Kelly writes:
"There is no reason to infer, however, that the primitive Church regarded the apostolic testimony as confined to written documents emanating from, or attributed to the apostles. Logically, as it must have been done chronologically, the testimony stood prior to the documents, and it would be more correct to say that the latter were VALUED PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY WERE HELD TO ENSHRINE THE FORMER. ADMITTEDLY THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR BELIEFS OR PRACTICES CURRENT IN THE PERIOD (i.e. the primitive period) WHICH WERE NOT VOUCHED FOR IN THE BOOKS LATER KNOWN AS THE NEW TESTAMENT." (p. 33).
Speaking of Irenaeus, Kelly notes:
"..Irenaeus took it for granted that the apostolic tradition had also been deposited in written documents, As he says, what the apostles at first proclaimed by word of mouth, they afterwards by God's will conveyed to us in Scriptures. Like the Apologists, he held that the whole life, passion and teaching of Christ had been foreshadowed in the Old Testament; but the New was in his eyes the written formulation of the apostolic tradition (cf. engrathos paradidonai). For this reason his test books belonging to it was not simply Church custom but apostolicity, i.e. the fact that they had been composed by apostles or followers of the apostles, and so could be relied upon to contain the apostolic testimony. The difficulty was, of course, that heretics were liable to read a different meaning out of Scripture than the Church; but Irenaeus was satisfied that, provided the Bible was taken as a whole, its teaching was SELF-EVIDENT."
"Scripture must be interpreted in the light of its fundamental ground-plan, viz. the original revelation itself. For that reason correct exegesis was the prerogative of the Church, where the apostolic tradition or doctrine which was the key to Scripture had been kept intact. DID IRENAEUS THEN SUBORDINATE SCRIPTURE TO UNWRITTEN TRADITION? This inference has been commonly drawn (no doubt by Roman Catholics <g>), but it issues from a somewhat MISLEADING antithesis. Its plausibility depends on such considerations as (a)that, in controversy with the Gnostics, tradition rather than Scripture seemed to be his final court of appeal, and (b) that he apparently relied upon tradition to establish the true exegesis of Scripture. BUT A CAREFUL ANALYSIS of his Adversus haereses reveals, while the Gnostics' appeal to their supposed secret tradition forced him to stress the superiority of the Church's public tradition, HIS REAL DEFENCE OF ORTHODOXY WAS FOUNDED ON SCRIPTURE. INDEED, TRADITION ITSELF, ON HIS VIEW, WAS CONFIRMED BY SCRIPTURE, WHICH WAS 'THE FOUNDATION AND PILLAR OF OUR FAITH.'
"Secondly, Irenaeus admittedly suggested that a firm grasp of 'the canon of truth' received at baptism would prevent a man from distorting the sense of Scripture. BUT THIS 'CANON' SO FAR FROM BEING SOMETHING DISTINCT FROM SCRIPTURE, WAS SIMPLY A CONDENSATION OF THE MESSAGE CONTAINED IN IT...THE WHOLE POINT OF HIS TEACHING WAS, IN FACT, THAT SCRIPTURE AND THE CHURCH'S UNWRITTEN TRADITION ARE IDENTICAL IN CONTENT, both being vehicles of the revelation. IF TRADITION AS CONVEYED IN THE 'CANON' IS A MORE TRUSTWORTHY GUIDE, THIS IS NOT BECAUSE IT COMPRISES TRUTHS OTHER THAN THOSE REVEALED IN SCRIPTURE, but because the true tenor of the apostolic message is there unambiguously set out." (p. 39).
Kelly then goes on to tell us how 'tradition' began to take on a broader meaning than that what was specifically found in Scripture with Tertullian:
"TERTULLIAN'S ATTITUDE DOES NOT DIFFER FROM IRENAEUS'S IN ANY IMPORTANT RESPECT. He was an INNOVATOR, it is true, in EXTENDING THE MEANING OF 'TRADITION' TO COVER WHAT HAD BEEN CUSTOMARY in the church for long generations. In this sense practices like the triple immersion at baptism, the reception of the eucharist in the early morning, the prohibition of kneeling on Sunday's and at Eastertide, and the sign of the cross could be be described as traditions; ONE TRADITION MIGHT EVEN BE SAID TO BE AT VARIANCE WITH ANOTHER. IN ITS PRIMARY SENSE, HOWEVER, THE APOSTOLIC, EVANGELICAL OR CATHOLIC TRADITION STOOD FOR THE FAITH DELIVERED BY THE APOSTLES, and he NEVER CONTRASTED TRADITION SO UNDERSTOOD WITH SCRIPTURE. INDEED IT WAS ENSHRINED IN SCRIPTURE, FOR THE APOSTLES SUBSEQUENTLY WROTE DOWN THEIR ORAL PREACHING IN EPISTLES. For this reason SCRIPTURE HAS ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, AND WOE BETIDE HIM WHO ACCEPTS DOCTRINES NO DISCOVERABLE IN IT." (p. 39).
If Irenaeus and Tertullian were alive today, they would no doubt support sola scriptura and anathematize the apostate Roman Catholic church with her non-biblical doctrines of purgatory, Mary and saint worship, the supererogatory merit of the saints, satisfactions and merits, the sacrifice of the mass, the papacy and papal infallibility, the assumption of Mary, indulgences, and many other purely invented blasphemous, if not idolatrous doctrines of Rome!
Now to quote Kelly from his section on "The Third and Fourth Centuries":
"With two main differences the attitude to Scripture and tradition which we saw emerging in the previous section became classic in the Church of the third and fourth centuries. These differences were: (a) with the passing of the Gnostic menace, the hesitation sometimes evinced by Irenaeus, and to a rather greater degree by Tertullian, about appealing directly to Scripture disappeared; and (b) as a result of developments in the Church's institutional life the basis of tradition became broader and more explicit."
"There is little need to dwell on the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY ACCORDED TO SCRIPTURE AS A DOCTRINAL NORM. It was the Bible, declared Clement of Alexandria about A.D. 200, which, as interpreted by the Church, was the source of Christian teaching. His greater disciple Origen was a thorough-going Biblicist who appealed again and again to Scripture as the DECISIVE CRITERION OF DOGMA. The Church drew her catechetical material, he stated, from the prophets, the gospels and the apostles' WRITINGS; her faith he suggested, was buttressed by Holy Scripture supported by common sense." (p. 42)
"'The holy and inspired Scriptures', wrote Athanasius a century later, 'are FULLY SUFFICIENT FOR THE PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH'; while his contemporary, Cyril of Jerusalem, laid it down that 'with regard to the divine and saving mysteries of faith NO DOCTRINE, HOWEVER TRIVIAL, MAY BE TAUGHT WITHOUT THE BACKING OF DIVINE SCRIPTURES...FOR OUR SAVING FAITH DERIVES ITS FORCE, NOT FROM CAPRICIOUS REASONINGS, BUT FROM WHAT MAY BE PROVED OUT OF THE BIBLE.' (p. 42).
"Later in the same century John Chrysostom bade his congregation seek NO OTHER TEACHER than the oracles of God; everything was straightforward and clear in the Bible, AND THE SUM OF NECESSARY KNOWLEDGE COULD BE EXTRACTED FROM IT." (p. 42-43).
"In the West Augustine declared that 'in the plain teaching of Scripture we FIND ALL THAT CONCERNS OUR BELIEF AND MORAL CONDUCT'; while a little later Vincent of Lerns (~c. 450) TOOK IT AS AN AXIOM THE SCRIPTURAL CANON was "SUFFICIENT, AND MORE THAN SUFFICIENT, FOR ALL PURPOSES'." (p. 43).
In Kelly's conclusion for this period he notes:
"It should be unnecessary to accumulate further evidence. Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but COINCIDENT IN CONTENT."
P> Question number (2) -- When did Sola Scriptura become true?
From what has already been shown, it should be clear to any objective person that sola scriptura was the rule to start with. The real question to you and Catholics Phil is when did Rome manage to abrogate it?
P> Could you give me an exact date in history WHEN the Scriptures (specifically the 66-book Protestant Bible) BECAME God's final and FULL revelation and served the Church in this capacity? When did the Bible BECOME "ALL God intends for us to have...TODAY" for faith and morals? Was it at the "closing" of the NT canon?
When the last apostle wrote the last book, viz. John writing Revelation around the end of the first century.
P> If so, when do you believe this actually happened given that in Protestant theology the Church is fallible and capable of error?
Your question is just a pathetic debating tactic and is of no substance to the conversation Phil. The infallibility of Scripture is NOT DEPENDENT upon having an infallible church! It NEVER HAS BEEN!
To use James White's question to Catholics on p. 94, "How did a Jewish man who lived fifty years before the time of Christ know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture?" "If the answer is that he gained such knowledge from the Jewish leadership, then one has to wonder why we no longer follow that particular guide if indeed God had an infallible guide on earth fifty years before Christ. When did this guide become fallible: What is more, the CORBAN rule we spoke of earlier in our discussion of Matthew 15 came from the same source, and yet Christ rejected it as a tradition of men that contradicted the Scriptures. And finally, that same source would say that Rome has erred in its Old Testament canon, since it is quite obvious that the Jewish people did not hold to the canon Rome has infallibly defined! So it will not do to go in that direction."
I also sent James White a copy of your questions a couple days ago on the Internet to get a few brief comments. Here is how he answered your questions #1 and #2:
RESPONSES I'VE GIVEN P A MILLION TIMES BEFORE
P> Question number (1) -- Where is the oral revelation rescinded?
False assumption: the term "rescinded" assumes a body of revelation that was intended to continue until "rescinded." Such was not the case. It was always God's purpose to do with the Church what He did in the Old Covenant: given them the sure written revelation of His truth that would not change at the whims of "magisteriums" as Rome's theology has changed. As Augustine said,
"You ought to notice particularly and store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian. For when He offered Himself to them to touch, this did not suffice Him unless He also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures, for He foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read" (In Epistolam Johannis tractus, 2).
P> Since the author admits that at some points in history God's Word was spoken (i.e. oral in form), could you provide me with the explicit biblical evidence that "ALL God intends for us to have...TODAY" is "provided in the...Scriptures" ?
Phil does not desire such information, and cannot accept it, even if it is offered. He has accepted a higher authority than the Scriptures to begin with, and that authority has told him that the Scriptures are insufficient. No amount of argument is going to change that fact, and in reality, his asking for biblical argumentation is disingenuous. That's not going to change his mind anyway.
P> Where is the explicit biblical evidence that the Scriptures are to "[serve] the Church as God's final and FULL revelation" ? Catholics don't disagree with the finality of apostolic revelation (which ceased with the death of the Apostles) but why insist this revelation is FULLY contained in the New Testament?
Because there is nothing else that is theopneustos---in fact, even Rome doesn't claim this for her alleged "traditions."
P> or His apostles that the Church is NOT under any obligation to continue to pass on and obey ORAL apostolic revelation (as the Apostles commanded e.g. 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Cor 11:2; 1 Thes > 2:13; 2 Thes 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17; Heb 13:7,17; etc) ?
< chuckle > Phil's been body-slammed so many times on each of these passages (none of which even begin to support the Roman contention of "tradition") that it's downright sad to see him repeating the same things over and over again.
P> Question number (2) -- When did Sola Scriptura become true?
When the Scriptura was given, of course.
P> Could you give me an exact date in history WHEN the Scriptures (specifically the 66-book Protestant Bible) BECAME God's final and FULL revelation and served the Church in this capacity?
April 22nd, 96AD, of course----you didn't know that, Phil?
Seriously, when the scriptura is given, it is sola, for the scriptura is God speaking, and nothing else is. Simple, n'est-ce pas?"
"Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth" (Basil, Ep. ad Eustathius, NPNF II, 8:229).
Take care, David
******** For those interested in an intelligent presentation of the gospel, including an analysis of where Protestants and Catholics differ over sola scriptura and other critical matters, see James R. White's, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY, 1996, Bethany House Publishers (as has been quoted by both Phil and me in this message series.) ********
QMPro 1.53 * The RCC is neither holy, nor catholic, nor apostolic!
* Origin: The Orphanage, Statesville, NC (704)873-2058 *V.34* (1:379/1107)
Date: 10-24-96 / From: P / To: DAVID GOFORTH / Subj: Rome Vs. Goforth
DG> For those interested in an intelligent presentation of the gospel, including an analysis of where Protestants and Catholics differ over sola scriptura and other critical matters, see James R. White's, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY, 1996, Bethany House Publishers (as has been quoted by both Phil and me in this message series.)
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Wonderful!
I'll spend a billion hours trying to answer this! Give me a year!
It would be much more fun debating you on the phone so we could hash this whole debate out in like 5 hours and one of us convert!!! Yes, I admit James White's book is the best defense in print of Sola Scriptura. He defines the issues well.
However, as I will show in my response to David Goforth, the REAL debate is not "Bible" Vs. "Rome" BUT Goforth Vs. the historic Church. There are over 20,000 Protestant sects going by the "Bible alone." This KILLS the case for any workability of a "Sola Scriptura" belief system right from the start. But I ask Goforth the following -- Which church shall I join if I leave the Catholic Church? The answer would have to be the one Goforth THINKS is the true "biblical" church -- i.e. Goforth's idea of the "apostolic" church based on the "Bible alone."
But there are over 20,000 Protestant sects EACH claiming to be true, "apostolic" and "biblical" churches.
Oh, I see -- it does not matter WHICH church as long as I believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!
Well, I am already doing that in the CATHOLIC CHURCH so there is no reason to leave, is there?
The question boils down to Goforth's interpretation of the Bible vs. the original one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church (which I won't limit to the Roman Catholic Church -- the Orthodox and all ancient churches repudiate any and all concepts of Sola Scriptura).
You see, David, the Papacy is not essential to a denial of Sola Scriptura. So your previous attack on the Papacy is completely irrelevant to this debate. Both you and James White constantly forget there are several million Orthodox that agree with us on 99% of our doctrine, including the primacy of Rome (minus its jurisdictional authority).
So when you condemn all Roman Catholics to eternal hell don't forget to condemn all the Eastern Orthodox to hell. We agree on virtually all our doctrines including our Marian devotion!
On the Fathers, (this is right off the top of my zombie brain as I am typing online), James White did not get these few quotes from the Fathers writings themselves but he ripped them off from a secondary source, Martin Chemnitz, a Lutheran theologian who wrote Examination of the Council of Trent in the 16th century.
I discovered this all by myself after listening to White's debate with Gerry Matatics in November 1992, copying down all of his quotes from the Fathers, and seeing these same quotes in the Chemnitz book. BTW, Chemnitz is a Lutheran and is quite "Catholic" on Baptism and the Eucharist (for example) which is anathema to James White.
So the question remains -- which church is teaching the truth?
And I mean the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
By now I guess White has examined some of these patristic quotes in their original writings as he quotes some of the Latin and Greek in his chapter on Scripture in the early church in the book by Kistler.
Will get to JND Kelly shortly. I'm glad you got that book. Now you can see how Catholic all these Fathers are without all the editorial Catholic bashing done by Schaff. The quotes from the Fathers on the authority of Scripture are no problem to Catholics. See the following multi-part posts. There is simply no such animal as "Scripture alone apart from the Church" in the minds of the Fathers. As I said before, Sola Scriptura means completely abandoning the Catholic faith of these same Church Fathers. Three issues I mentioned -- Baptism, Eucharist, and Justification which are extremely important issues (even to Protestants) and the Church Fathers are Catholic on every one to a man, period.
(Note: Although I did not give a full answer to the above defense for Sola Scriptura, the following links are helpful)
Scripture and Tradition: The Rule of Faith in Patristic Thought (Joe Gallegos)
A Challenge to James White on the Early Fathers (Mark Bonocore)
Born Again: Baptism in the Early Fathers
This is My Body: Eucharist in the Early Fathers
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