Friday, March 31, 2017

Do Church Divisions Invalidate Sola Scriptura?

  • Defining The Issues:
          -Private interpretation of Scripture is the concept of a person using his reasoning to make a judgment as to the meaning of a passage from the Bible. It is a more individualistic approach to determining what Scripture means. Roman Catholic apologists insist that we absolutely must have their leaders infallibly interpret the Scriptures for us in order to preserve truth in doctrinal matters and thus aid in the prevention of division throughout Christendom.
          -Sola Ecclesia is the Latin term that describes the Roman Catholic belief that the church is the final authority in all religious matters (as opposed to the Protestant position of Sola Scriptura). The Church of Rome touts itself to be the infallible, true church established by Jesus Christ who appointed the Apostle Peter as its first pope. Thus, Rome demands from its members complete and unquestioned submission to its authority.
          -The claim that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture is essentially the same as saying that the Bible is too difficult for the average person to understand. Both ideas use the same logic in their premises in order to reach the same conclusions. If the basic message of Scripture is clear enough for us to understand, then why would we need an infallible interpreter in the first place? If Christ entrusted the preservation of His teaching to an infallible teaching office, then why do we even have a Bible?
          -Consequently, the Church of Rome claims that Christians who rely on the Bible alone for testing the truthfulness of doctrine rather than the Magisterium will inevitably end up in a state of hopeless confusion. Irreconcilable doctrinal contradictions exist. Thus, truth cannot be known from Scripture itself but must be unpacked by an earthly organization.
          -" one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,--wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")
          -“...the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (CCC # 82)
  • Biblical Evidence For The Perspicuity Of Scripture:
          -King Josiah came to repentance as a result of the Book of the Law being found in the temple and him reading its words (2 Kings 22:8-13). He did this on his own apart from an infallible interpreter of Scripture. Psalm 119:97-105 speaks of acquiring more wisdom than even teachers and elders after meditating upon the words of the Law. Paul states that we can understand the revelation of the gospel just by reading his epistle (Ephesians 3:3-5). He also said that the apostles did not write things his audience could not read or understand (2 Corinthians 1:13-14). 
          -With the exception of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, all of the New Testament epistles were written to Christians in general (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philemon 1:1-2; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; James 1:1-2; Revelation 1:3-4).
          -Calls to read and obey Scripture presuppose that we can understand what it says (Joshua 1:7-8; Acts 17:11; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
          -The common people understood the teachings of Jesus Christ apart from some infallible interpreter (Matthew 11:25; 13:51; Mark 12:37). There was never such a person sitting next to Him when He was teaching in front of the crowds. He oftentimes attracted the poor and uneducated. The point is that anyone with a humble and prayerful heart can understand what God desires for us, apart from a complex church hierarchy.
  • Phillip And The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:28-38):
          -There are people with authority to teach in the church. In fact, the doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that all portions of Scripture are equally clear or easy to understand. We may very well need things explained to us at times. But this text says nothing about the concept of teaching infallibly or that only an infallible interpretation of Scripture would suffice for the confused Eunuch.
          -The Eunuch was from far away (Ethiopia), and he had apparently not been given a chance to hear about the teachings of the gospel message. Philip, who was at the right place at the right time by the power of the Holy Spirit, was given the opportunity to explain the passage from Isaiah 53. He was confused simply because he did not know who the prophet Isaiah was referring to (v. 34). The gospel was not spread out back in the day, as it is today. That is all this text is about.
  • No Prophecy Of Scripture Is Of Any Private Interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)?:
          -How can a person develop a biblical argument against the principle of Sola Scriptura by making a personal interpretation of a verse that allegedly condemns private interpretation of Scripture?
          -How can a person rely on prophecy or compare Scripture to a "light" (v. 19), if they have been forbidden to use it (v. 20)?
          -The context of 2 Peter 1:20-21 is not speaking of one's reading of Scripture, but rather, is about the origin of Scripture. No true prophecy was given to the prophet by his own interpretation. Prophecy originated directly from God. It is not a product of our imaginations.
  • People Twisting The Scriptures To Their Own Destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16)?:
          -First of all, this text only states that SOME things in Paul's epistles are hard to understand. It does not even specify which parts those are. This simply means that we need to pray and study Scripture more diligently.
          -This text says that people "twist the Scriptures to THEIR OWN destruction" (v. 16), which indicates that we are responsible for how we handle the Word of God.
          -2 Peter 3:15-16 is only speaking of the unfaithful and the unbelieving; not the humble and prayerful Christian.
          -Although the context of 2 Peter 3 would be a great place to introduce the concept of an infallible interpreter of the Bible, such is not mentioned at all.
  • Do We Need Some Special Authority In Order To Make Interpretations Of Scripture?:
          -Interpreting Scripture is not so much a matter of personal authority, but rather something God expects us to do. This does not mean ministers in local congregations have no special authority to teach. It would also not be correct to say that church authority has no limits at all. Scripture is clear enough for readers to obtain truths related to salvation and godliness.
          -God does not require that we understand Him infallibly, since we are but finite creations. We can have sufficient certainty behind the meaning of Scripture. This is not to suggest that we can interpret the Scriptures in any way that we desire. We should examine Scripture in its proper context, use our common sense, consult commentaries, etc.
  • Thoughts On Religious Division:
          -Jesus Christ desires unity in the church. His will is that we be one in the Spirit. Christ despises factions amongst His people, since that is an indicator of carnality. Truth is of utmost importance. Therefore, it ought to be sought after at all costs. But we are imperfect beings. Divisions have existed in the church since the time Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians.
          -In a society with millions of people where freedom of speech and freedom of religion exists, there will inevitably be diversity in beliefs. That is simply a logical consequence of being in a free society. In order to obtain the institutionalized unity that Rome requires, there would have to be coercion, threats, and intimidation involved. Otherwise, it is not humanly possible to obtain.
          -There are scenarios in which division is necessary: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). Unity in and of itself does not guarantee truth or preservation of the gospel.
          -Essential doctrines are clearly and repeatedly defined in Scripture. Doctrines that are of secondary importance (i.e. not issues that we should break fellowship over or refuse to acknowledge another as a brother in Christ) would include women's head coverings, musical instruments in church, eschatology, modes of baptism, etc.
  • Is Roman Catholicism A Theologically Divided Body?:
          -While the Church of Rome may appear to be fairly unified because it is organized under the headship of the pope, the unity in which Catholics appeal to is largely imaginary. It is misleading, for there are significant theological differences among the Catholic laity, priests, scholars, theologians, and bishops. There are societies, movements, and orders forming within the chambers of Roman Catholicism. There are liberal and conservative Catholics. Although these divisions are hidden under the Roman Catholic hierarchy, differences still exist and are significant.
          -Many Roman Catholics are unlearned in regards to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many flatly contradict many of the official teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion, artificial birth control, the death penalty, homosexuality, on whether priests should be married, letting females join the priesthood, stem-cell research, and much more. Roman Catholics are in a state of division over additional issues such as creation verses evolution, the material sufficiency of Scripture, charismatic occurrences, whether practicing Jews and Muslims can be saved without conversion, and whether Mary is the co-redemptrix. Catholic theologians are even divided over the interpretation of Vatican II documents.
          -Roman Catholicism is a group that is lead by a single human leader and occupies the same title all throughout its domain ("Roman Catholic"), whereas Protestantism is made up of individual churches with different labels. Protestantism is not an ecclesiastical structure like Rome. So it is misleading to compare the two. The principle of Sola Scriptura was never intended to bring about an institutionalized form of unity. We have a sense of genuine love and fellowship toward each other.
  • Refuting The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -Scott Eric Alt, at the National Catholic Register, said in regard to the claim that there are thousands of Protestant denominations: “There are not—repeat with me—there are not 33,000 Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions. There are not any­where close to it. It is a myth that has taken hold by force of rep­e­ti­tion, and it gets cited and recited by reflex; but it is based on a source that, even Catholics will have to con­cede, relies on too loose a def­i­n­i­tion of the word “denom­i­na­tion.”…How­ever strong the temp­ta­tion some may have to char­ac­ter­ize any­thing not Catholic or Ortho­dox as “Protes­tant,” you can’t do that. All that tells Protes­tant apol­o­gists is that you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, or what its dis­tinc­tives are—and they would be right. And why would they take any­thing you say seriously after that? If you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, who are you to be talk­ing about its errors? Not only are Mor­mons, Jehovah’s Wit­nesses, One­ness Pen­te­costals, Uni­tar­i­ans, Pros­per­ity Gospel believ­ers (included among 23,600 Inde­pen­dents and Mar­gin­als) not Protes­tant, they are not even Chris­t­ian; they adhere to a false Chris­tol­ogy. Protes­tants and Catholics are in agree­ment about who Christ is; these other groups have other ideas.”

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


For hundreds of years Rome eliminated by murder anyone who disagreed with them. That sort of kept them from having thousands of "denominations." When unity is forced, it isn't unity.