Monday, September 21, 2015

57. IS "SOLA SCRIPTURA" OR "SCRIPTURE ALONE" BIBLICAL?

So many articles have already been written about Sola Scriptura, a doctrine of the non-Catholics. In a short note, I will just present what I feel about this protestant's doctrine of Sola Scriptura as a Catholic.

Simply stated, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone") teaches that every teaching in Christian theology (everything pertaining to "faith and practice") must be able to be derived from Scripture alone. This is expressed by the Reformation slogan Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum ("What is not biblical is not theological," cf. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Richard A. Muller, Baker, 1985).

An essential part of this doctrine, as it has been historically articulated by Protestants, is that theology must be done without allowing Tradition or a Magisterium (teaching authority) any binding authority. If Tradition or a Magisterium could bind the conscience of the believer as to what he was to believe then the believer would not be looking to Scripture alone as his authority.

Catholics believes Sola Scripture is unhistorical, unbiblical and unworkable.
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What is Sola Scriptura? 

Sola Scriptura is the Christian doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice.

Sole Authority

According to non-Catholic churches or denomination, Sola Scriptura or “only in the Bible” is the sole and only authority in regards to the words of God. Protestants and non-Catholic sects have followed Sola Scriptura as a proof texts and assurances that there is no other truth but only what is written in the bible. To them, if it is not in the bible it is not true.
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This has become a culture and the basis of faith for many denominations. However, currently, these denominations of churches who are proponents of this Sola Scriptura culture seemingly are not in unison with each other on their beliefs and practices based on this culture, thus, they have multiplied to over 40,000 different denominations all over the world. What happened then to their oneness in believing that if it is not in the bible, it is not true, and because of this "only in the bible" culture they will be united. So why then are they not in unison among themselves? 

Jeremiah 5:23 "But the heart of this people is become hard of belief and provoking, they are revolted and gone away."

2 Peter 2:1 "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there shall be among you lying teachers, who shall bring in sects of perdition, and deny the Lord who bought them: bringing upon themselves swift destruction."

According to Jesus, he builds his church universally but as one and in unison. In his church there shall be no division.

In Matthew 16:18And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Thou art Peter”: As St. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ; so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz., that he to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be, next to Christ himself, the chief foundation stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fullness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Upon this rock”: The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built: Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ, by building his house, that is, his church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder.

The gates of hell”: That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself, or his agents. For as the church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, that is, the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the church of Christ.

Matthew 18:17-18 "And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven."
 

Matthew 16:19 "And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

The keys to the kingdom of heaven was given to Peter and whatever he will bind on earth or unbind shall also be bound and accepted in heaven. 
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Many other things which Jesus did are not written in the the bible

John 20:30 "Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book." 

John 21:25 "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written."

If these verses are what they say what is true and correct, why then the Reformers and the Protestants insist that "if it is not in the bible they are not true?" What could be farther from this truth. 

By this, this question always comes into my mind which bothersome, is why there are so many other churches that came about more after Martin Luther had introduced his own version of the bible which then began the Reformation period? 

Is this part of God’s plan to divide his church into so many competing churches? Everyone claims theirs is the true church. So which one then is the real and true church? And, why then these many churches claims the same thing?

Did the Jesus wanted to splinter his Church that he founded over 2,000 years ago into many conflicting denominations? Thousands of Protestant denominations exist today, each one claiming to interpret Scripture by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

In his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, Protestant Keith Mathison defends the doctrine but admits, "There is no doubt that hermeneutical anarchy reigns in much of Protestantism."

Sola Scriptura has not enjoyed practical success since the Reformation, yet we can be sure that the problem is not with the doctrine itself, because
Sola Scriptura was the guiding principle of the earliest Christians. It worked fine to all the Christians until the Protestants' Reformation movement began interpreting the bible and having their own versions. This began the splinters among themselves that resulted into what is now the over 40,000 different denominations. The Protestants protested against the Catholic teachings and themselves protested against their own brothers in Protestantism.

One of the results of the reformations is the united effort of the Protestants to bring down Catholicism. Is this what Jesus meant by his words? “…. and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus knows what is to happen and so he warned Peter and his apostles of what is about to happen once he ascends to heaven.

Luke 11:18And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils.” That makes us wonder why there are these over 40,000 denominations who are not in unison on their doctrines, beliefs and practices.

As Fr. Longenecker (www.patheos.com) says “The Bible is an ancient religious text. It is and was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by a vast range of authors over a period of thousands of years. It comes from ancient cultures so vastly different from modern America as to be from another planet.

It simply cannot be the sole authority for all questions of doctrine, devotion, dogma, discipline and morals. The modern world is too complex. The Bible simply doesn’t address many modern concerns. There must be an authority which is also dynamic and living in the world to interpret the Bible.”

The fatal flow in this Sola Scriptura doctrine is that it was supposed to unite all protestants against the doctrines, belief and practices of the Catholic Church, but because they are not in unison anymore with the church that Jesus founded with Peter, their own disagreements caused them to splinter among themselves.

Here is one article I read that I’d like to share here with you written by Mr. Dave Armstrong.
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A Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura

1. Sola Scriptura Is Not Taught in the Bible - Catholics agree with Protestants that Scripture is a "standard of truth" — even the preeminent one — but not in a sense that rules out the binding authority of authentic apostolic Tradition and the Church. The Bible doesn't teach that. Catholics agree that Scripture is materially sufficient. In other words, on this view, every true doctrine can be found in the Bible, if only implicitly and indirectly by deduction. But no biblical passage teaches that Scripture is the formal authority or rule of faith in isolation from the Church and Tradition. Sola scriptura can't even be deduced from implicit passages.

2. The "Word of God" Refers to Oral Teaching Also - "Word" in Holy Scripture often refers to a proclaimed, oral teaching of prophets or apostles. What the prophets spoke was the word of God regardless of whether or not their utterances were recorded later as written Scripture. So for example, we read in Jeremiah:

"For twenty-three years . . . the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again . . . 'But you did not listen to me,' declares the Lord. . . . Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: 'Because you have not listened to my words . . . '" (Jer. 25:3, 7-8 [NIV]).

This was the word of God even though some of it was not recorded in writing. It had equal authority as writing or proclamation-never-reduced-to-writing. This was true also of apostolic preaching. When the phrases "word of God" or "word of the Lord" appear in Acts and the epistles, they almost always refer to oral preaching, not to Scripture. For example:

"When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13).

If we compare this passage with another, written to the same church, Paul appears to regard oral teaching and the word of God as synonymous:

"Keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us" (2 Thess. 3:6).

3. Tradition Is Not a Dirty Word - Protestants often quote the verses in the Bible where corrupt traditions of men are condemned (e.g., Matt. 15:2-6; Mark 7:8-13; Col. 2:8). Of course, Catholics agree with this. But it's not the whole truth. True, apostolic Tradition also is endorsed positively. This Tradition is in total harmony with and consistent with Scripture. In that sense, Scripture is the "final judge" of Tradition, but it does not rule out all binding Tradition and Church authority (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2:2).

4. Jesus and Paul Accepted Non-Biblical Oral and Written Traditions - Protestants defending sola scriptura will claim that Jesus and Paul accepted the authority of the Old Testament. This is true, but they also appealed to other authority outside of written revelation. For example:
a. The reference to "He shall be called a Nazarene" cannot be found in the Old Testament, yet it was "spoken by the prophets" (Matt. 2:23). Therefore, this prophecy, which is considered to be "God's word," was passed down orally rather than through Scripture.

b. In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus teaches that the scribes and Pharisees have a legitimate, binding authority based "on Moses' seat," but this phrase or idea cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament. It is found in the (originally oral) Mishnah, which teaches a sort of "teaching succession" from Moses on down.

c. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul refers to a rock that "followed" the Jews through the Sinai wilderness. The Old Testament says nothing about such miraculous movement. But rabbinic tradition does.

d. "As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses" (2 Tim. 3:8). These two men cannot be found in the related Old Testament passage (cf. Ex. 7:8ff.) or anywhere else in the Old Testament.

5. The Apostles Exercised Authority at the Council of Jerusalem - In the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-30), we see Peter and James speaking with authority. This Council makes an authoritative pronouncement (citing the Holy Spirit) that was binding on all Christians:

"For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity" (Acts 15:28-29).

In the next chapter, we read that Paul, Timothy, and Silas were traveling around "through the cities," and Scripture says that "they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4).

6. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Oral, Extrabiblical Tradition - Christianity was derived in many ways from the Pharisaical tradition of Judaism. The Sadducees, on the other hand, rejected the future resurrection of the soul, the afterlife, rewards and retribution, demons and angels, and predestinarianism. The Sadducees also rejected all authoritative oral teaching and essentially believed in sola scriptura. They were the theological liberals of that time. Christian Pharisees are referred to in Acts 15:5 and Philippians 3:5, but the Bible never mentions Christian Sadducees.

The Pharisees, despite their corruptions and excesses, were the mainstream Jewish tradition, and both Jesus and Paul acknowledge this. So neither the orthodox Old Testament Jews nor the early Church was guided by the principle of sola scriptura.

7. Old Testament Jews Did Not Believe in Sola Scriptura - To give two examples from the Old Testament itself:

a. Ezra, a priest and scribe, studied the Jewish law and taught it to Israel, and his authority was binding under pain of imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and even death (cf. Ezra 7:26).

b. In Nehemiah 8:3, Ezra reads the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem. In verse 7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra and helped the people to understand the law. Much earlier, we find Levites exercising the same function (cf. 2 Chr. 17:8-9).

So the people did indeed understand the law (cf. Neh. 8:8, 12), but not without much assistance not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc. The Old Testament, then, teaches about a binding Tradition and need for authoritative interpreters, as does the New Testament (cf. Mark 4:33-34; Acts 8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20, 3:16).

8. Ephesians 4 Refutes the Protestant "Proof Text" - "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

This passage doesn't teach formal sufficiency, which excludes a binding, authoritative role for Tradition and the Church. Protestants extrapolate onto the text what isn't there. If we look at the overall context of this passage, we can see that Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (cf. 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2:2, 3:14). And to use an analogy, let's examine a similar passage:

"And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:11-15).

If 2 Timothy 3 proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture, then, by analogy, Ephesians 4 would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors and teachers for the attainment of Christian perfection. In Ephesians 4, the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3, yet it does not even mention Scripture.

So if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to recognize that the absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. The Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching.

9. Paul Casually Assumes That His Passed-Down Tradition Is Infallible and Binding - If Paul wasn't assuming that, he would have been commanding his followers to adhere to a mistaken doctrine. He writes:

"If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed" (2 Thess. 3:14).

"Take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).

He didn't write about "the pretty-much, mostly, largely true but not infallible doctrine which you have been taught."

10. Sola Scriptura Is a Circular Position - When all is said and done, Protestants who accept sola scriptura as their rule of faith appeal to the Bible. If they are asked why one should believe in their particular denominational teaching rather than another, each will appeal to "the Bible's clear teaching." Often they act as if they have no tradition that guides their own interpretation.

This is similar to people on two sides of a constitutional debate both saying, "Well, we go by what the Constitution says, whereas you guys don't." The U.S. Constitution, like the Bible, is not sufficient in and of itself to resolve differing interpretations. Judges and courts are necessary, and their decrees are legally binding. Supreme Court rulings cannot be overturned except by a future ruling or constitutional amendment. In any event, there is always a final appeal that settles the matter.

But Protestantism lacks this because it appeals to a logically self-defeating principle and a book that must be interpreted by human beings. Obviously, given the divisions in Protestantism, simply "going to the Bible" hasn't worked. In the end, a person has no assurance or certainty in the Protestant system. They can only "go to the Bible" themselves and perhaps come up with another doctrinal version of some disputed doctrine to add to the list. One either believes there is one truth in any given theological dispute (whatever it is) or adopts a relativist or indifferentist position, where contradictions are fine or the doctrine is so "minor" that differences "don't matter."

But the Bible doesn't teach that whole categories of doctrines are "minor" and that Christians freely and joyfully can disagree in such a fashion. Denominationalism and divisions are vigorously condemned. The only conclusion we can reach from the Bible is what we call the "three-legged stool": Bible, Church, and Tradition are all necessary to arrive at truth. If you knock out any leg of a three-legged stool, it collapses.

Dave Armstrong, webmaster of Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (www.biblicalcatholic.com), is the author of A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003). He writes from Detroit, Michigan, where he lives with his wife, Judy, and their four children.

Please also read: Twenty One Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura
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The question I’d like to leave each and every reader to discern about is this, "Is Sola Scriptura really is what Christ taught, or is this what the apostles and Church Father taught, and most ironically, is this what the Bible itself teaches?"