Friday, March 31, 2017

Sola Scriptura And Divisions

  • Defining the issues:
          -Although this article is dedicated primarily to the Roman Catholic apologists who maintain that there are 33,000 (or more) Protestant denominations (in order to disqualify the principle of Sola Scriptura), the contents that are about to be presented hold true for all who tout the same argument around.
          -There is a great deal of controversy between the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all of the Protestant churches due to the issue of "private interpretation." Private interpretation of Scripture is the concept of a person using his or her reasoning to make a judgment on a particular 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 in order to preserve absolute truth in doctrinal matters and thus aid in the prevention of division within the entire congregational body.
          -The claim that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture is essentially the same as saying that the Bible is too difficult for the common people to understand. In other words, both arguments use the same logic in there premises in order to reach their conclusions. If the basic message of Scripture is simple enough for us to understand, then why would we even need an infallible interpreter in the first place?
          -Consequently, the Church of Rome claims that Christians who rely on the Bible alone for the development of doctrine (instead of its Magisterium) will inevitably end up in a state of hopeless doctrinal confusion. In summary, one of the most common arguments raised against Sola Scriptura is that it unavoidably results in irreconcilable doctrinal contradictions and thus points to the need of an infallible teaching authority.
  • Scripture Is A Perspicuous Guide And Is Therefore In Need Of No Infallible Interpreter:
          -Scripture repeatedly implies and assures that its readers can understand its message (Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Kings 22:8-13; Psalm 19:7-9; 119:97-105; 130; Matthew 22:29-32; Luke 1:1-4; 10:25-28; Acts 17:11-12; Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:13; 3:15-16; Colossians 4:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Timothy 3:15).
          -With the possible 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 presupposes that we can understand it (Joshua 1:7-8; 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:13).
          -The common people understood the teachings of Jesus Christ apart from some infallible interpreter (Matthew 11:25; 13:51; Mark 12:37). In other words, there was never an infallible interpreter sitting next to Jesus when He was teaching in front of the crowds. He oftentimes attracted the poor and uneducated. Anyone with a humble and prayerful heart can understand what God desires for us, apart from a complex church hierarchy.
  • "What Use Is An Infallible Book Without An Infallible Teaching Authority?:"
          -God does not require that we understand Him infallibly. Our minds are finite. However, we can have sufficient certainty behind the meaning of Scripture. Now, this is not to suggest that we can interpret the Scriptures in any random way that we desire. We have the obligation to examine Scripture in its proper context, compare our interpretations of particular Scripture passages to what other passages say about the same topic, use our common sense, and consult commentaries.
  • "By What Authority Do You Interpret Scripture?:"
          -Interpreting Scripture has nothing to do with our own "personal authority," but rather things God expects us to do. This in no way implies that there are no authoritative sources to consult outside the Bible or that ministers do not have any special authority to teach in a congregation. We do not need "special authority" to search the Scriptures for doctrinal truth. It is clear enough for readers to get truths related to salvation and godliness.
  • Thoughts On Religious Division:
          -While it is true that divisions within the Body of Christ over significant doctrinal issues are unfortunate and painful, there are scenarios in which such is necessary. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). We are called to publicly expose false brethren and separate ourselves from those who propagate heretical doctrines (Galatians 2:4; Romans 16:17). Unity in of itself does not guarantee truth or preservation of the gospel. According to Scripture, Christians are permitted to uphold their own views on minor-doctrinal issues (Romans 14). Essential doctrines are clearly and repeatedly defined in Scripture. Doctrines that are of secondary importance (meaning not issues that we should break fellowship over) would include women's head coverings, singing in church, musical instruments in church, eschatology, modes of baptism, etc.
  • Thoughts On Roman Catholicism And Unity:
          -While the Church of Rome may appear to be fairly unified because of it is structured and organized manner under the headship of a worldly king called 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.
          -Many individual 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. Although these divisions are hidden under the Roman Catholic hierarchy, dramatic differences still exist and are significant.
          -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. There are differences of belief amongst Protestants that do not prevent them from recognizing each other as brothers in Christ. We all have a sense of genuine love and fellowship toward each other. The two defining articles of Protestantism are Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
  • Refuting The 30,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -This argument is derived from a misinterpretation of the World Christian Encyclopedia (David A. Barrett; Oxford University Press, 1982).
          -Out of the cited figure of 20,780 denominations, only 8,196 are labeled as being Protestant. According to Barrett's figure, 242 Roman Catholic denominations exist.
          -The figure of 8,000 denominations is pretty misleading because David A. Barrett separates "distinct denominations" according to their jurisdiction, rather than differing doctrinal practices and beliefs. In reality, these individual "denominations" only have slightly different beliefs.
          -Then, Barrett breaks the Protestant section down into 21 major traditions, and the Church of Rome is subdivided into 16 different traditions. The word "denomination" in this context is best defined to mean "tradition."
          -The National Catholic Register did an assessment on the number of Prostestant 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:

  1. Excellent!

    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.

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