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 answer a number of weak and misguided assertions of conventional Roman Catholic apologists 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:
-Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the only infallible spiritual standard for the Christian church to use. Other rules of faith such as catechisms, creeds, and commentaries may be used, insofar as they agree with the teaching of Scripture. All uninspired authorities are to be kept subordinate to the written Word of God because it is inspired by Him. This explanation constitutes the classical Sola Scriptura doctrine as articulated by the Protestant Reformers. Thus, it is 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 it provides us with principles of discernment to apply in our daily lives. That would imply the existence of matters in which the Bible either implicitly expresses approval or disapproval. Some things are simply matters of opinion.
- 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. Notice the surrounding context of this passage: 1.) The coming of false teaching (3:1-13), 2.) Paul was about to 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. It addresses everything that we need to know about living out a godly life. 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 is absurd because 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is not discussing the scope of the canon, but rather its purpose and origin. The Apostle Paul was speaking of Scripture as a category. 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. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul had the future in mind as he mentioned the coming of false teachers.
-The second Roman Catholic objection to the Protestant citation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as biblical evidence for Sola Scriptura fails for this reason: Scripture equips the man of God for every good work. Can anybody produce a list of "good works" that cannot be found in Scripture? What else can "every good work" mean? It does not say that Scripture equips one for "most" or a "few" good works.
-The third argument is absurd because it is based on circular reasoning. The author has not proven that the traditions spoken of by Paul were uniquely Roman Catholic dogmas (click here for full discussion
-The third rebuttal does not work because the context of 2 Timothy 3 is directing the reader to the rule of faith, which is Scripture. James 1 concerns the application of principles found within that infallible guide. Tim Staples has confused the meaning of both contexts. If Roman Catholic apologists insist on using this argument against the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, then why do they not add "patience" as an additional infallible standard of authority to their "three-legged stool?"
-Even if it were true that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 originally "addressed members of the hierarchy," that would be irrelevant. Leaders in the church were given for the edification of the saints who in turn do their own works of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Why would Scripture function as a sufficient rule of faith for leadership, but not also for the average Christian in the pews? The Apostle Paul nowhere limited the benefits of studying Scripture only to leaders in the church.
- Addressing The Charge Of Circular Reasoning:
-Tim Staple's charge of Sola Scriptura being circular reasoning has already been addressed here
. His attempt to escape the charge of circularity on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church is unsuccessful because his argument itself is circular. It is based on the Roman Catholic Church's interpretation of texts such as Matthew 16:18-19. It is merely ASSUMED that the Roman Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ. It is thus because Rome said it is thus.
-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.) Roman Catholics do not have an inspired "table of contents" specifically identifying which oral traditions are inspired, 3.) The authors of books such as Job and Hebrews are unknown, yet still made into the canon, 4.) The Jews successfully complied the Old Testament canon without the help of the Roman Catholic Church, 5.) That appealing to extra-biblical sources to affirm scriptural texts is not problematical for Sola Scriptura because that it not what it condemns, and 6.) That it was not until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. that the Church of Rome had finally canonized its collection of sacred books (more details here)
- Addressing The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
-The 33,000 Protestant denominations claim is a blatant lie (see this article for more details)
. Why then is this argument against Sola Scriptura still being used? The following excerpt from the conclusion paragraph by Tim Staples reveals how these folks care little for the Bible says, "...the Church is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith, morals, and discipline."