Friday, December 1, 2017

Answering "Catholic Answers" On Sola Scriptura

  • Introduction:
          -Popular speaker, director, and former Protestant turned Catholic apologist Tim Staples wrote an article titled According to Scripture with the intention of revealing fundamental problems with appealing to Scripture as the final court of authority in spiritual matters. In his article, Tim raises objections to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as a proof-text for Sola Scriptura, stresses the role of extra-biblical oral tradition in the church, charges that the Protestant position on biblical authority is "contrary to reason" because it "is a textbook example of circular reasoning", and that the canon by definition needed to be assembled by an infallible authority (Roman Catholic Church). Though this proficient Roman Catholic apologist truly desires to spread the gospel, we should never treat a person's sincerity as a standard for guaranteeing accuracy in argumentation. The objective behind writing this article is to reprove some of the common, misguided assertions of conventional Roman Catholic apologetic methods against Sola Scriptura.
  • The Following Excerpt From Tim Staple's Article Is A Perfect Example Of Roman Catholics Misrepresenting The Doctrine Of Sola Scriptura:
          -"If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!" That belief, commonly known as sola scriptura, was a central component of all I believed as a Protestant. This bedrock Protestant teaching claims that Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith and morals for Christians."
  • Explaining The Biblical Doctrine Of Sola Scriptura:
          -Quite simply, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the only infallible spiritual standard for the Christian church. Other rules of faith such as catechisms, creeds, customs, commentaries, and concordances may be used, insofar as they agree with the principles of Scripture. All uninspired authorities are to be subjugated to the judgment of the Bible because it is inspired by God. This explanation constitutes the classical Sola Scriptura doctrine as upheld by the Protestant Reformation. Consider this documentary evidence from the Westminster Confession of Faith, "The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10). Thus, it is highly inaccurate for Roman Catholic apologists and theologians to portray Protestants who subscribe to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura as "having a sole rule of faith" or "Bible only Christians." It is also erroneous for Tim Staples to say that we only accept "explicit approval" from the Bible, since we voluntarily acknowledge that it provides us with principles of discernment to apply in our daily lives. The Bible is not the only authority, but is the ultimate standard of authority for the Christian church.
  • Presenting The Case For Sola Scriptura From 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
          A.) The Origin Of Scripture:
          -All Scripture is inspired by God. In other words, the Holy Spirit moved through the apostles and prophets as they recorded His teachings (1 Peter 1:16-21). In fact, the Greek word for "inspired", which is "theopneustos", literally means "God-breathed".

          B.) The Purpose Of Scripture:
          -The purpose of Scripture is to convict the conscience of sin, confront error, and preach righteousness. Furthermore, notice the surrounding context of this epistle: 1.) The coming of false teaching (3:1-13), 2.) Paul was about experience martyrdom (4:6-7), and 3.) This was the Apostle Paul's last epistle. Contextual evidence points us to one infallible rule of faith: Scripture. The context mentions no other inspired "rule of faith".

          C.) The Results Of Using Scripture:
          -Scripture "thoroughly" equips the man of God for "every good work", not most or just a few good works. There is not a charitable deed that the Bible fails to address. There is not a moral principle that it fails to discuss. Scripture contains everything necessary for salvation. Scripture alone is therefore sufficient for the Christian church to use as the final court of authority in spiritual matters.
  • Listing The Four So-Called Major Dilemmas Of Using 2 Timothy 3:16-17 As A Biblical Defense Of Sola Scriptura (In The Words Of The Author):
          -"First, it does not speak of the New Testament at all...Second, 2 Timothy 3:16 does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians...James 1:4 illustrates the problem...Third, the Bible teaches that oral Tradition is equal to Scripture...Finally, 2 Timothy 3:16 is specifically addressed to members of the hierarchy. It is a pastoral epistle, written to a young bishop Paul had ordained..."
  • Evaluating The Evidence Provided Against The Citation Of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 As Being Supportive Of Sola Scriptura:
          -The first Roman Catholic objection to the Protestant citation of 2 Timothy as biblical justification for the Bible functioning as the supreme rule of faith for the Christian church is fallacious because it ignores the literal meaning of the word all. In fact, it would be just as absurd as concluding from the phrase "all ex-cathedra statements are inspired" that all official papal decrees are inspired "only up to a certain point in history." Additionally, it would be utterly inconsistent for the Apostle Paul to argue only for the divine inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures (not also for the New Testament Scriptures). The New Testament also calls itself "Scripture" (2 Peter 3:15-16). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is not discussing the canon, but rather the purpose and origin of Scripture. The Apostle Paul was speaking of Scripture as a category. The Old Testament was sufficient, but not the exhaustive content of God's revelation to mankind. Lastly, nobody can limit the scope of inspiration as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:16 to the Old Testament, since the context itself places no such limitation and the Apostle Paul had the future in mind.
          -The second Roman Catholic objection to the Protestant citation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as biblical justification for the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails because if Scripture equips the man of God for every good work, then it logically follows that it is the final, sufficient rule of faith for Christians to use in spiritual matters. Can anybody produce a list of "good works" that cannot be found in Scripture? What else does "every good work" mean?
          -For the third Roman Catholic argument to hold any water, at least three conditions need to be met before the apologists can advance any "proof-texts" for "Sacred Tradition": 1.) The exact traditions need to be identified, 2.) It needs to be proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the word "tradition" mentioned within the specific texts of Scripture are different in substance from what is contained in the Bible, and 3.) Conclusive evidence needs to be provided in order for any random tradition to be considered apostolic and infallible (click here for full discussion).
          -Neither does James 1:4 illustrate what the author of the article is trying to prove (i.e. interpreting "every good work" in 2 Timothy 3:17 to mean that Scripture is sufficient is just as nonsensical as interpreting "perseverance...perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" in James 1:4 to mean that all a person needs is patience to be perfected). This rebuttal does not work because the context of 2 Timothy 3 is directing the reader to the rule of faith (i.e. Scripture), whereas James 1 concerns the application of the principles found within that infallible guide. So Tim Staples has actually misapplied the message found in James 1:4 to 2 Timothy 3:17 because he has confused the meaning of both contexts. But if Roman Catholic apologists insist on using this argument against the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, then it would logically follow that they would have to add "patience" as an additional infallible standard of authority to their "three-legged stool!"
          -As for the final quibble raised in the cited excerpt from Catholic Answers above, there is really no reason for us to interpret the message found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as being directed strictly toward members of a church hierarchy. For starters, the office of pope is not even biblical. In fact, it was not until 150 A.D. that the Roman Church began to develop a single one-head bishop structure (click for more details). Secondly, we never find in Scripture the church tasks found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (to teach, refute, correct, and instruct in righteousness) as being assigned only to clergy. And thirdly, the phrase "man of God" does not necessarily denote reference to ordained ministers (though Timothy most certainly was ordained by Paul). Notice how reputable Roman Catholic Bible versions translate the phrase "man of God." The Jerusalem Bible translates it to be "the man who is dedicated to God." The Good News Bible translates it to be "the person who serves God." The New American Bible translates the phrase "man of God" to be "one who belongs to God." It is abundantly clear that all Christians are to discern from the Scriptures. It is clear that all ordained ministers of the church are subject to the supreme authority of the Scriptures. While it is true that the context of 2 Timothy is about preaching, the fact remains that the Apostle Paul pointed to only one rule of faith (i.e. Scripture) to function as the infallible standard of authority for the Christian church (i.e. Sola Scriptura). Why would Scripture function as a sufficient rule of faith for the clergy, but not also for the layperson?
  • Addressing The Charge Of Circular Reasoning:
          -Sola Scriptura is not circular reasoning because outside sources attest to the inspiration of Scripture. The Bible has also "proven itself" to be true. Consider, for example, 1.) archaeological evidence backing up the existence of various cities, countries, prominent individuals, customs or traditions, and even major events mentioned in the Bible, 2.) Geological accuracy, 3.) Agreement with scientific principles, 4.) Excellent moral teaching, 5.) Great internal consistency in the biblical texts, 6.) Incredible manuscript evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament canon, 7.) Scripture's fulfillment of prophecy points to its supernatural origin, and 8.) The life transforming power of Scripture. What is circular reasoning, on the other hand, is the authority claims of the Roman Catholic hierarchy (more information here). And Tim Staple's attempt to escape the charge of circularity on behalf of the Church of Rome is unsuccessful because arguing for the Church's infallibility by saying "Jesus said so" is based on the Roman Catholic Church's interpretation of texts such as Matthew 16:18-19. It is merely ASSUMED by the author of the article at Catholic Answers that the Roman Catholic Church was established by our Lord Jesus Christ. But what inspired testimonial from Scripture should warrant us to subscribe to the Roman Catholic position of authority (apart from the say so of the pope)? And what about Catholic traditions that contradict the Bible? The end result of Catholic logic on this matter will always be: "It is thus because Rome said it is thus."
  • Addressing Canon Issues:
          -Tim Staples maintains that Sola Scriptura is an untenable theological position because an infallible authority (Church of Rome) supposedly needed to determine the canon of Scripture. The author of the article further asserts (correctly) that the Bible does not contain an inspired table of contents. However, it needs to be understood that 1.) The church merely recognized the canon of Scripture (more details), 2.) That there has always been a general consensus as to which books belong in the New Testament canon, 3.) Roman Catholics do not have an inspired "table of contents" specifically identifying which oral traditions are inspired, 4.) The authors of books such as Job and Hebrews are unknown, yet still made into the canon, 5.) The Jews successfully assembled an Old Testament canon without the aid of the Roman Catholic Church, 6.) Not having a table of contents to the books of the Bible is neither a requirement for salvation nor impacts its inspiration, 7.) That appealing to extra-biblical sources (i.e. date, authorship, doctrinal consistency, tradition, non-Christian works etc.) to affirm scriptural texts is not problematical for Sola Scriptura, and 8.) That it was not until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. that the Church of Rome had finally canonized the canon (more details here). If the church was meant to be infallible, then why do we even have a Bible? What about the glossed over historical fact by Roman Catholic apologists that no pope was officially considered infallible until 1870 A.D. (more details here)? The Christian church is built on the infallible testimony of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). It has survived throughout the centuries only because of the sanctifying, miraculous power of the Holy Ghost. It is God who is the author of the canon. The Bible is God-breathed, not church breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).
  • Addressing The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -This argument is derived off a complete misinterpretation of the World Christian Encyclopedia (David A. Barrett; Oxford University Press, 1982), which ultimately divides Protestantism into 21 major traditions, and the Church of Rome into 16 separate divisions (more details here). Moreover, the National Catholic Register concurs that the claim of there being 33,000 Protestant denominations is a blatant lie. So why are the folks at Catholic Answers still propagating this huge myth against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? And why is it that Roman Catholics can disagree amongst themselves on Roman Catholic doctrine (without receiving criticism)? What is even more disturbing is the conclusionary excerpt from the article at Catholic Answers which reveals how these folks care nothing what the Bible says, "...the Church is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith, morals, and discipline." This only proves that the Roman Catholic Church does not care what the Word of God says.

2 comments:

  1. 2 Peter 1:3 -- What does he do with this one? It says we don't need Rome to give us anything.

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  2. This was very well done and helpful. God bless. I'm currently engaging Eastern Orthodox friend who makes the same claims against Sola Scriptura as Catholics too. My friend has gone as far as to call Sola Scriptura heresy but he is basing it on a false understanding of what it means. He says it's the reason for all division even Roman Catholicism.

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