A "compelling" argument for Sola Scriptura

Hello everyone,

Recently, I have been doing some research in order to defend the Catholic faith against Jehovah’s Witnesses. :knight2:

After having done some research and reading a good book called, “Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses” by Jason Evert, it became easier to defend against it. :coffeeread:

Also, it is always good to know about the other religion in order to defend against it, right? I probably read this in Jason Evert’s book, (I think I read it there.) But, researching other’s responses and defenses, some make compelling arguments.

Some are harder than others. Jehovah’s Witnesses is easy to debunk… (not easy convincing them.) However, I came across a protestant site against Jehovah’s Witnesses and - it being a protestant site - it was against Catholicism, too .

They made a seemingly “compelling” argument for Sola Scriptura. Here is the link:


I just need help debunking it. It’s not that it’s making me doubt - one can see where it is flawed. It fails to mention the fact that the Catholic Church chose the books of the Bible. It’s just that doing research and getting good sources is not easy! Defending the faith is not an easy task! It’s tiresome! :yawn:

Can some serious folk help me out with this one please?

I don’t know that you need ‘resources’, per se, to debunk this one…

First off, he sells the crown jewels with his opening argument: sola scriptura cannot be proven because it’s not ‘doctrine’, it’s a ‘principle’; and principles cannot be proven.

It’s a nice move, actually. But, how can he assert ‘principles’ in a context that only allows for Scripture to be the final say? In other words, if he doesn’t want to assert that he can prove it from Scripture, and everything he believes is in Scripture… can he prove that his notion about ‘unprovable principles’ is in Scripture? If not, then he’s not dealing in ‘sola scriptura’, but has created his own Tradition, in which the principle of sola scriptura is the rule. (In other words, he agrees with the Catholic approach… but just follows a non-apostolic Tradition. :wink: )

But, what about his four reasons why it’s a reasonable principle?

  1. In matters of faith and morals, the Bible was the highest court of appeal.

That’s nice, but that doesn’t defend sola scriptura. That defends the premise that Scripture is the primary source, not the sole source. :wink:

Further, we can demonstrate that this is not true: when Gentile Christians asked about the need to adhere to Mosaic law, did Peter or James go to the OT to find their answer? Did they reference the oral tradition that later became the NT? Nope… they made the ruling themselves, asserting that God had inspired them to see that there was no need for Gentile Christians to follow Jewish dietary law. In other words, they plainly demonstrated that the Bible was neither the sole nor the highest authority, but that apostolic teaching (what the Catholic Church means when it uses the term ‘Sacred Tradition’) was able to provide an authoritative answer on a matter of the faith.

  1. Scripture is true, infallible and without error.

People can be infallible; Scripture is inerrant. Yet, his assertion here is true (and I have no idea why he claims that most Catholics do not believe this assertion; probably because he wants it to mean fundamentalism – that is, that Scripture is literalistically true on the face of the letter). In any case, the fact that Scripture is inerrant doesn’t prove sola scriptura, either. You can believe that Scripture is inerrant and still believe in Sacred Tradition, as the Catholic Church does.

  1. Scripture is clear in matters of faith and morals.

That’s why there are so many denominations of Protestants, as well as scores of ‘non-denominational’ Protestants, right? And each of them holds to varying degrees of difference in matters of faith and morals, don’t they? That’s cause Scripture is clear and doesn’t require an authoritative interpreter, right? :wink: (If he wants to hold to this notion, he has to defend the idea that the Holy Spirit is rather incompetent, since only his interpretation is right, and every other Christian’s is wrong; either all other Christians are false in their desire to know Christ, or the Holy Spirit is asleep at the switch, allowing people of good heart and legitimate love of the Lord to go astray. Neither of these is particularly tenable for his case.)

  1. Scripture is sufficient for the Christian in matters of faith and morals is also the assumption that makes Paul’s advice to Timothy even thinkable.

Oddly enough, this argument hurts his case! If Paul meant sola scriptura, then why did he have to write the letters to Timothy at all? He could simply have written, “Read your Bible, Timmy!”, and that would suffice!

Yet, in 2 Timothy, Paul advises Timothy of another source that TImothy should utilize:

“Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us” (2 Tim 1:13-14). Here, Paul exhorts Timothy to use as his norm the teachings of Paul. Elsewhere, Paul boasts that he got his teachings directly from Christ, not from the other apostles (who were the sources of the Gospels). In other words, Paul is pointing to his own apostolic teaching and not toward the Gospels themselves. Are we to assume that there’s a “Gospel according to Paul” out there that’s lost? One that’s a norm that Paul espoused, but isn’t part of the canon of Scripture? ‘sola scriptura’, eh?

“[W]hat you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well” (2 Tim 2:2). In other words, the basis of Christian teaching isn’t Scripture, but Paul’s personal apostolic teaching.

“You have followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance … remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it” (2 Tim 3:10, 14). What is the principle upon which Timothy is to base his faith? Scripture? Nope – Paul’s teaching, and Paul personally is the principle upon which Timothy is to rely.

He himself makes this claim: “If Paul thought Timothy needed a supplemental body of truth that could only be found outside of scripture, this would have been the place to tell him so.” We can see, clearly, that Paul did so. :wink:

So, his four pillars which he claims “champion the principle” of sola scriptura do no such thing. They demonstrate the worth of Scripture, which any Christian should accept. Yet, they do not demonstrate that sola scriptura is a reasonable approach.

By the way…

He also claims that Catholics cannot champion the case that the Magisterium (i.e., the Teaching Authority of the Church) and Tradition (i.e., Apostolic Teaching). Oddly enough, our defense of these is Scriptural – the exact opposite of the claim he’s making (that is, that principles cannot be proven, let alone proven Scripturally)! We point to Jesus’ proxy to Peter alone in Matthew 16 – Peter is given “the keys to the kingdom” and given the power to bind and loose. That’s the basis for Catholic emphasis on apostolic authority, from which the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition proceed! And he claims that he’s “yet to see it”? Perhaps he should read his Bible a bit more… :wink:

Mt 16 is not the only place…To me the even stronger case for the magisterium - the teaching authority of the Church - is made in Mt 18:15-18 and the instructions there are shown to be applied in Acts 15.

Just sayin…


Wow. Well here is my response.

Basically the author just admited that sola scriptura is not biblical. In otherwords you wont find sola scriptura in the bible. He then goes on to say essentialy “So what. It’s a principle, not a doctrine”

O.K. well you must have something to base this principle on otherwise it has no merit.

He just admitted it can not be found in scripture.

"***Hence the demand for one explicit verse, and hence the Catholic’s evaluation of the Christian’s failure to find even one verse “ironic.”

He then says it is an unreasonable request.

If you found yourself searching the scriptures for that one verse, I want to ask you a question: How did the worm taste? Because you just swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker. There is only one correct line of reply to this non-argument advanced by Catholics.”

He then again admits sola scriptura can not be proven:

"First, Catholics have to understand that sola scriptura is not a doctrine, but rather a principle…You also have to know one basic epistemological rule: principles can be neither proved nor disproved."

Hold it one darn minute.

What is sola scriptura?

" the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, it demands that only those doctrines be admitted or confessed that are found directly within Scripture or are drawn indirectly from it by valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning." from wiki…

The author is trying to weasle out of the logical conclusion that if the only beliefs and doctines found in the bible are valid, then sola scriptura must be found in the bible.

Ok. so lets pretend he’s right,(he’s not) It’s a principle not a doctrine therefore doesn’t have to be found in the bible. But if Scripture alone is their principle and doesn’t have to be found in the bible then ours is Tradition, authority, and scripture doesn’t have to be found in the bible either.

So the question is which principle is valid?

Which principle did the early church follow? ours You can see this through the early church fathers

When didi sola scripura start? the reformation which the author freely admits.

"The point is this: Sola scriptura is shorthand for a number of principles that the Protestant Reformers identified in light of the utter failure of Tradition and the Catholic Church to preserve the truth of the gospel. "

Did he just say the church failed to preserve the scriptures?
Sorry but that is completely false. If the church failed to preserve the Scripures were did the reformers get them?

So in the end this guy basically says.

Sola scriptura is not in the bible and was made up by the reformers. I totally agree.

Since you will no doubt receive many good replies to the article, allow me to take a somewhat different approach.

Let me begin by saying I have no problem with taking “Sola Scriptura” as a starting point. As the author admits…It is a principle. OK - let’s go there and work from that side.
If one works with Scripture alone - honestly works with it - one will not remain Scripture alone. WHY - because Scripture does not point to itself - but rather points to "Church (Ekklesial) authority and Unity.

Those who hold to Sola Scriptura would be able to make a much better case if they actually followed Sola Scriptura. But the do not…
The reason is because there are other “principles” that are just as, or even more, strongly held than SS. The first of these is “private interpretation”. The author of the article alludes to this at the beginning of his article where he opines about the Catholic rejecting his interpretation.

The second is the principle of the rejection of a universal authoritative body to resolve doctrinal matters. This is actually the most fundamental principle in Protestantism. It is the one upon which all of protestantism is based. And it is the most fundamental flaw in protestantism - but is rarely talked about.

It the protestant communions actually followed Scripture as recorded, they would seek counsel one with the other and would come together in great councils to resolve disagreements between them. They would do this because in at least 7 places in the NT unity is called for. Not some invisible unity, but a profound and very visible unity. They would do this because, when a doctrinal disagreement came up in the early Church, it was resolved by a council of Church leaders. They would do it because Christ instructed them to do so.

I have actually had some lengthy discussions with protestants in this regard and eventually they have conceded that it would be great if such unity could be achieved - that it is biblical - but they do not see how it could happen…
And the simple truth is - because the protestant dogma of private interpretation - and rejection of visible authority - both of which are not biblical - will not let them.

So my suggestion is that we not argue the validity of SS so much as we argue what Scripture says and what it leads to.



The only reason I tend not to point toward Mt 18 to demonstrate teaching authority is that one can make a reasonable argument that the authority being given there seems to be over discipline, not doctrine. That is, it’s not showing that the apostles are being given power to teach, but rather, to rule over the Church. That’s valuable in its own right, but to my mind it shows the role of ‘king’, rather than ‘prophet’ (and, just to round out the triple munera, the role of ‘priest’ is shown at the Last Supper and in the Great Commission)…

Not By Scripture Alone by Robert A. Sungenis

Yes. I have heard this argument made - to which I reply…Is teaching a false Gospel a sin?
The answer must be yes it is a sin…
Is teaching a false gospel a sin against one’s brother?
Again the obvious answer is yes for it causes one to stumble.

Therefore, since Mt 18 deals with “sin” against a brother Mt 18 applies to doctrinal issues as well as issues of personal sin.

Also there is the wonderful application that we see in Acts 15. We can just see the Judaizers coming to Antioch and making their case. Such discussion likely began as a one-on-one and then others were brought in and eventually Paul became involved…all without resolution. The final step - in accord with the words Christ Himself - was to “tell it to the Church”…and then to Listen to the Church.
To me, these two things working together completely undermines the protestant argument that “church” in Mt 18 applies only to disciplinary issues and the local community.

I would also point out that the term “Church” (ekklesia) is used only twice in the Gospels. Both times in Matthew and both times connected with the authority to bind and loose. Pretty powerful stuff there.


I’ll walk through his argument and show where I think it is seriously flawed. If there are further questions just let me know.

The Common Attack on Sola Scriptura: Prove Sola Scriptura in the Bible, I want chapter, verse and the verse have “only” and/or “alone” and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does count.
. . . .
First, Catholics have to understand that sola scriptura is not a doctrine, but rather a principle. Historically speaking, it was a slogan that became shorthand for a number of principles, including the truth of scripture, the sufficiency of scripture, the perspicuity of scripture and the normative authority of scripture.

True. Note these 4. They will be simply restated later under the guise of “testimony.”

You also have to know one basic epistemological rule: principles can be neither proved nor disproved. They are the logical starting points from which other propositions are logically deduced. If you disagree, then try to prove the following principles:

  1. Reason is reasonable.
  2. The burden of proof rests with the one taking the affirmative.

If he means the affirmative in a debate, there is good epistemological reason for it. Furthermore it is the Reformers who have the affirmative position in the debate over which method in fact God chose to hand his word down through time: Scripture and Apostolic Tradition in the Apostolic Church =STC] or sola scriptura =SS].

How would you begin to prove these principles without begging the question? And how would you begin to deny them without contradiction?

First principles are not randomly selected: they are self-evident. They generally do not appear in a proof: they are regulative and involved in all reasoning processes. And first principles can be justified by an indirect proof (reductio ad absurdum). So in his first example let’s assume the contradictory to #1 above: “In some cases reason is not reasonable.” This is patently borne out by experience. #1 is just a tautology.

If you try to prove reason, you have to use reason to do so, which means you’re already assuming the validity of reason, the very thing you set out to prove and so you have created a logical contradiction. If you try to prove that the burden of proof rests with the one taking the affirmative, you’re taking the affirmative in the process, and so you’re implicitly begging the question. And if you deny it, then you’re still making an affirmative, and so you contradict yourself.

The burden of proof on the affirmative in a debate rests on a prior truth that is demonstrable: the burden of proof is on the historically newer claim. I could provide this for you if you like.

The point is this: Sola scriptura is shorthand for a number of principles that the Protestant Reformers identified in light of the utter failure of Tradition and the Catholic Church to preserve the truth of the gospel.

This is a devastating flaw in his argument. It is the very beginning that led him to accept SS. Yet look. Ask: and what is the evidence that the CC failed to preserve the truth of the gospel? The evidence is that some of the content of the Catholic Faith differs from the results of his interpretation of the Bible alone, i.e., differs from the results of SS. This is about as circular as one can get. IOW his argument for SS as in fact the method God chose is all based on this fundamental judgment that the CC and EOC have erred: he has no alternative but to assent to SS because of this. Yet the only way he got to that conviction was to employ the principle he intends to justify.

He is talking about truth here not just consistency with a principle. Yet the very foundation for the employment and defense of SS–that the CC and EOC have failed to preserve the truth of the gospel–is the assumption of SS without any evidence for doing so. He hasn’t given us any reason for even beginning to go down his road of SS since he gives no evidence for his fundamental starting point that the CC has erred in preserving the truth of the Christian faith.

Better yet, he has violated one of his own principles, #2 above. The proposal of SS by the Reformers is the affirmative in the debate over which method God chose to hand on his word. The burden of proof is on him.

Principles, by their very nature, cannot be deduced. They cannot be proved with logical necessity. Nor do they have to be. That bears repeating: Principles cannot be proved, which is why no one can legitimately require us to prove them.

We are dealing with a question of fact: which method God chose. Is it the factually pre-existing one at the time of the Reformation, STC, portrayed and taught by the NT authors, the ECFs and the first eight Ecumenical Councils of the undivided church or is it the affirmative position of the Reformers, SS?

What we can do, however, is argue on behalf of our principles. That is, we can give historical, practical, common sense reasons for why our principles are better than the competitors.

In light of the utter failure of Tradition and the Catholic Church to preserve the truth of the gospel, scripture alone remains as the only infallible rule of faith. We conclude that scripture alone is our rule of faith by process of elimination, not by looking to the Bible for the words “scripture alone.”

Circular, again. This conclusion which serves as his starting point was arrived at by employing what he intends to justify. He cannot make any truth claim.

Even if we found them there, we still would not have “proof” in any epistemically meaningful way that the Bible is our sole authority. Just because the Bible says “all scripture is inspired” doesn’t mean the book we call the Bible is inspired. The mere claim to inspiration doesn’t prove inspiration. The Koran and Book of Mormon claim as much, but so what? “All scripture is inspired” is only convincing if you already have established that 2 Timothy is scripture. This is why finding a verse that says “the Bible only” can’t “prove” anything.

So granted that we can’t prove principles, we don’t have to prove principles and that even if the Bible did say, “scripture alone is our rule of faith,” that this still wouldn’t “prove” anything, we can nevertheless find powerful testimony in both scripture and the writings of the early Christians (often referred to as Early Church Fathers) and medieval theologians for the four principles that stand behind sola scriptura.

He would need to show that the ECFs and Medieval theologians did with Scripture what the Reformers did: they set the results of their interpretation of Scripture alone over against Scripture within the authority of existing Church and Apostolic Tradition and the faith thus transmitted, that is, over against the content transmitted by STC including STC itself. Let’s see if he gives any examples of this. Sadly, no.

But this is just testimony. It isn’t “proof.” In other words, we can show that Jesus, Paul, many of the early Christians, and many medieval theologians either thought or assumed the following:

  1. In matters of faith and morals, the Bible was the highest court of appeal. You’ll never find anyone testing scripture by the Korban rule. But you will find Jesus testing the Korban rule by scripture. What explains this, if not an implicit assumption of the normative authority of scripture? The Latin dictum norma normans non normata explains this well: scripture is the norm that norms all other norms, but which itself is normed by no other norm.

This just rephrases one of the four propositions included in SS which he is supposed to be finding testimony to support. Circular, again.

  1. Scripture is true, infallible and without error. Except for some Vatican I Roman Catholics, you won’t find anyone saying this about the writings of the early Christians, councils or popes.

The CC and EOC view Scripture as inspired and inerrant. “Infallibility” adds nothing to these which are exhaustive. If he means Scripture is an infallible guide, he is claiming that every interpreter is infallible. And again rephrases one of the four propositions included in SS which he is supposed to be finding testimony to support.

  1. Scripture is clear in matters of faith and morals. Jesus describes the Pharisees as those who “search the scriptures” (John 5:39, it’s also possible to take that as a command: “search the scriptures”) because we can find eternal life in them. But the conditions for the possibility of making such an assertion is that the scriptures be sufficiently clear to understand the truth contained therein. Jesus didn’t suppose for a second that the Pharisees or anyone else required an infallible magisterium in order to know what is required for salvation.

Irrelevant. The issue is which method did God in fact choose to hand his word down through time: STC or SS. So far not a shred of testimony for his claims.

. Scripture is sufficient for the Christian in matters of faith and morals is also the assumption that makes Paul’s advice to Timothy even thinkable. If Paul didn’t think Scripture was sufficient, he could never have told Timothy that it was “artios” or competent to equip him for every good work. If Paul thought Timothy needed a supplemental body of truth that could only be found outside of scripture, this would have been the place to tell him so.

Regarding 2 Tim 3:15-17
In 2 Tim 3:14 Paul tells Timothy to remain faithful to what he learned likely from his own mother and grandmother (1:5) and no doubt from Paul’s preaching, which a chapter earlier (2:2) he told Timothy to share orally with others who should in turn share it orally with yet others (also 1 Thess 1:8). After this in (3:15) he says “AND from infancy you have known the sacred scriptures” which could only refer to books of the OT. He follows (3:16) by telling Timothy that scripture is inspired and is suitable for teaching, etc. so that having both Paul’s teaching AND scripture (OT) he will be fully equipped (3:17). A few verses later (4:1-2) Paul charges Timothy to “proclaim the word . . . through teaching.”

It is difficult to see how Paul could be mandating SS to Timothy here in these verses because:
(a) the context is the transmission of the whole of Christianity both by the oral word, which Paul called a “norm” and which he ordered Timothy to guard with the help of the Spirit (2 Tim 1:12-13; see also 1 Tim 6:20), AND by the OT;

(b) there is no mention by Paul ever that he had at this point or would in the future consign to writing all of his teaching that God wanted humanity to have or that Christianity would so be reduced for normative and authoritative transmission; and

© there is no mention that scripture alone as the sole rule of faith will supersede the process of oral apostolic word and scripture in the church as the means to hand on God’s word evidenced in NT teaching and practice. To claim that Paul teaches that sola scriptura will take over in a newer arrangement when the NT is all written and collected into a canon is to go beyond what Paul or any NT author actually writes.

(d) When Paul speaks to Timothy about the scriptures that he knew from his infancy Paul can only mean the OT . . . really, less than that. There was no Jewish OT canon then. There was a closed collection of Law, a closed collection of Prophets, and a large number of disparate Jewish religious writings only some of which would later be in the Jewish canon.

If Paul is forming Timothy to combat the opponents of the truth he discusses earlier, how on earth could that set of writings (the OT) possibly be sufficient for him, a Christian? The formation of Timothy that Paul is outlining has to include his oral preaching and teaching AND the Jewish writings otherwise Timothy, a Christian, is not at all fully equipped.

When all is said and done, we can point to many texts inside of scripture and many other extra-biblical writings that show believers operating by these four principles. What we can’t do, however, is prove them precisely because they are principles. So don’t take the bate. Don’t fall into this trap. The demand to find “one verse” is predicated on the assumption that you have to “prove” a principle. But principles can’t be proved. They can only be championed.

If restatement and rephrasing of his above four principles w/i SS is championing or “testimony,” then I guess so. But his very reason for adopting this principle was his using it in the first place. And that is circular.

The good news is that we Bible believers can easily champion Sola Scriptura. When the Magisterium and Tradition fail, what else is there besides scripture alone? By process of elimination, sola scriptura is the only tenable position.

Again, circular and evasive since the real question is which method did God in factchoose to hand his word down through time: STC or SS. The Protestant claim that it was taught all along by the ECFs and Medieval theologians is part of their effort to meet the burden, but they have failed to show this.

Can the Roman Catholic champion his/her principle with anything approaching plausibility? Can he give credible testimony for the other two alleged infallibilities?

The CC and EOC do not look at STC as a principle, but as the factual process by which God’s word has always been handed on as portrayed and taught by the NT authors, the ECFs and the first eight Ecumenical Councils of the undivided church. The Reformers argued that SS, not STC, is in fact the method God chose. It’s about facts. Facts can be demonstrated.

I have yet to see it.

Actually he is switching the burden of proof. The Reformers took the affirmative position, and he need to provide the evidence for his factual stand.

If you think about it, Catholics almost have to put us on the defensive, it’s about the only way doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception have any hope of catching on with Bible believers.

No, we just want you to meet the burden of proof which you as the affirmative have–that SS is in fact the method God chose.

The best they can do is this: “You can’t really prove the Bible alone is the sole authority. So, in principle, you have to admit that doctrines with no biblical foundation just might be true.” In other words, the best they can do is to try to get their foot in the door in hopes of selling you the idea that it might just be possible after all.

Already addressed above.

Let’s all thank Fr of Jazz for his detailed and logical analysis. I would have appreciated more expository analysis from a Catholic perspective re: the passages that the author quoted from the Bible, the ECFs, and the Scholastics, but what Fr of Jazz gave is great and he deserves to be thanked for it.

Fr of Jazz nearly always has profitable posts. :thumbsup:

In answer to you OP question, It seems to me that sola Scriptura means that one reads and interpretes the Scriptures as one sees fit, that is to say that one becomes their own infalible interptetor of Scritpure as to what it says and what it means. What the Bible says and what th Bible means are two different things as it is a livinn Word of God, but that does not means that we can just pick up the Bible and think we can understand what it is saying. Even Bibilical scholars have a hard time understanding all that the Bible says and means, aslo no one person can understand ecverything that the Bible contains, to think otherwise is pure folly.

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