Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Discussion On Sola Ecclesia And Proof-Texts Cited To Support An Infallible Teaching Authority

  • Defining The Issues:
          -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). In other words, the Church of Rome is believed 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.
          -As a result, Catholic apologists have developed various scriptural arguments against the principle of Sola Scriptura. In other words, they have made efforts to establish their theory from the Bible itself that the Bible alone is too difficult for us to understand apart from the Magisterium. The purpose of this article is to address a few of these claims.
  • Phillip And The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:28-38):
          -There are people with authority to teach in the church. In fact, no one claims that all portions of Scripture are equally easy to understand. We may very well need things explained to us at times. But this text says nothing about infallibility 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. In short, this Acts 8:28-36 has nothing to do with infallible interpretations of Scripture.
  • 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.
  • 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. This does not mean that Scripture is impossible for the average person to understand or that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture. It simply means that we need to pray and study 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.
  • The Roman Catholic Church Openly Opposes The Idea Of Private Interpretation:
          -" 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)
          -How can we know for sure whether an "infallible interpreter's" interpretation of Scripture is infallible? People's belief in the infallibility of an earthly organization is a fallible opinion. They are liable to misunderstand or misinterpret the official teachings of their religious leaders. "Bible-only" Christians have to endure the same challenges on a regular basis. In principle, neither side of the debate (Roman Catholic or Protestant) has an advantage over the other because both have to use fallible reason to make a fallible interpretations of every given message.

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