Can Catholics Affirm Sola Scriptura?


#1

I want to continue this dialogue and focus on a specific and get your opinions. I posted a slighly longer version of this tonight on the Parchment and Pen blog, but so that you understand that I am not trying to lead the discussion there, I created it with the intention of posting it here as well.

My thoughts are that we should consider the possibility that both sides have been talking past each for quite some time. It would seem to me that both sides are changing (progressing), softening in their language, compromising, and becoming more tolerant of each other.

I want to focus the attention of here to the issue of the issue of authority, briefly visiting the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura and the Catholic alternatives. Sola Scriptura is the view held by Protestants with this short definition:

The Scriptures are the final and only infallible source of authority for the Christian

Protestants often misunderstand the intent of the Reformers believing that sola Scriptura is defined this way:

The Scriptures are the only authority for the Christian

Notice the difference? In the first, there are other sources of authority recognized (parents, husbands, the government, creation or natural revelation, and, yes, church authorities [1 Pet. 2:13-15; Heb. 13:17; Eph. 5:22]). In the second, the common slogan sums it up well, “If its not in the Bible, I don’t believe it.”
It must be stated emphatically that historic Protestantism does not recognize the second as a legitimate definition of sola Sciptura.

Therefore, setting aside the aberrant view of sola Scriptura, let’s go with this one:

The Scriptures are the final and only infallible source of authority for the Christian, but not the only authority. They contain all that is necessary for salvation.

For you, the Catholic, on the other hand, the options are different. It would seem to me that Catholicism holds to the view that both Tradition and Scripture are infallible authorities for the Christian. This is called the “dual source theory.”

Catholics have two options when it comes to this issue. First, they can say that Tradition and Scripture each have essential elements that are needed for salvation. Therefore, in order to have a sufficient knowledge base for salvation to be possible, one must have the information from both Scripture and Tradition, neither of which will do alone. The second option is called the “material sufficiency” view. This option says that all that is necessary for salvation is present within the Scriptures by themselves. The “material sufficiency” view is very close to the historic Protestant view of sola Scriptura.

In this case, as we have it now, Catholics can hold to this option:

Scripture and Tradition are both needed to provide essential information concerning salvation

Or the material sufficiency option:

Scripture by itself contains sufficient information to bring about salvation

This last one is, again, very close to the second option of sola Scriptura described above.

Another option for Catholics has to do with the whether or not their is primacy of Scripture over tradition or vice versa. Some Catholics hold to a view called prima Scriptura. Prima Scriptura is the view that while there are two sources of the one deposit, Scripture holds primacy. In other words, Scripture has the final say and is the first among equals.

Catholic apologist Scott Hahn holds to this (I believe). The same can be said of Yves Congar. Some have even interpreted some of Pope John Paul II’s statements in such a way.

Therefore, there are many Catholics whose view of authority can be said this way:

The Scriptures are the final source of authority for the Christian, but not the only authority. They contain all that is necessary for salvation.

Lets compare this to the historic Protestant understanding described above:

The Scriptures are the final and only infallible source of authority for the Christian, but not the only authority. They contain all that is necessary for salvation.

If this is the case, then Protestant and Catholics are much more alike in their view of authority than most realize.

Can Catholics affirm sola Scriptura? No. But they can affirm prima Sciptura with material sufficiency. Does this mean that if a Catholic does not affirm prima Scriptura with material sufficiency that I think they are bound for the flames? No. Even these affirm the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

I am still learning here so I look forward to your comments.


#2

Prima Scriptura is the view that while there are two sources of the one deposit, Scripture holds primacy. In other words, Scripture has the final say and is the first among equals.

2 Thessalonians 2:14 Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle

We could have the Church without the Bible, but we could not have the Bible without the Church. It therefore holds that Sacred Tradition came before the Bible.

For Catholics, the Word of God is always Scripture in Tradition not Scripture alone. Add to this the Magisterium and you have the “three-legged stool”. If you take away one of the legs the stool collapses.

Dei Verbum paragraph 10 "It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”


#3

NO.
Because even if the early Christian church had not written the bible, we would still have the Oral Tradition to pass on the truths which are needed for salvation.

All the early heresies were known to quote scripture to prove their teaching, but their interpretation was wrong.

How did the Church know it was wrong?

They compared these false teachings to the oral tradition which was handed down to them.

Even today, Protestants will argue for ‘faith alone’ and ‘the bible alone’, saying that this is what the bible teaches, but they are relying of their own protestant tradition of what scripture says.

As many scripture quotes that protestants can throw at Catholic, the Catholics can throw many back. Who is to say who has the correct interpretation of scripture?

Is it the protestant tradition, or is it the Catholic Oral Tradition and teaching Magesterium?

Well I say, it is just like the early Christian church when it was confronted by heresy, we compare it to the Sacred Tradition which was handed down from the Apostles.

I have heard Scott talk about ‘Sola Prima’, and I kind of like that term, because I get the feeling that some protestants don’t think that Catholics respect or value scripture, and that it doesn’t have any authority in our lives. It does, it is God breathed, while the Oral Tradition and the Church Magesterium are not. They are guarded from teaching error by the Holy Spirit, but are not God breathed. Only Scripture can claim that.


#4

Some of these phrases are insufficient definitions (in my opinion) and you need to elaborate:

<< Scripture and Tradition are both needed to provide essential information concerning salvation >>

A 5-page Jack Chick tract has enough information (from a Protestant perspective) to provide all the essential information concerning salvation.

<< Or the material sufficiency option: Scripture by itself contains sufficient information to bring about salvation >>

and:

<< The Scriptures are the final and only infallible source of authority for the Christian, but not the only authority. They contain all that is necessary for salvation. >>

Again, a one sentence gospel tract contains sufficient information to bring about salvation, and John 3:16 contains all that is necessary for salvation. The Bible as a whole contains way more than is necessary for salvation (if by that you mean, “getting to heaven”). I’ll add: apparently people got to heaven for centuries in the Church with no access to Bibles, and no ability to read one even if they had access (before c. 1450 A.D.). They had to rely on the Church and “tradition” alone for salvation at that point.

But you are onto something: the difference in Catholic, Orthodox, and informed historic Protestant discussions on the issue is not so much the sources of authority (Scripture interpreted by the Church) but the interpretation of those Scriptures, and ecclesiology: the identification of the visible Church that does the interpreting.

I summarize Yves Congar on the Fathers as follows:

(A) The true Catholic Faith and true interpretation of the Scriptures is found only in the Church which is bound up with the succession of its ministers (apostolic succession).

(B) The “rule of faith” or “rule of truth” was not the whole of Tradition; it may be the principal part, but there are other things transmitted from the apostles by tradition: rules of conduct, practice/behavior, on worship/liturgy, etc.

© The content of tradition consisted “materially” of the Scriptures, but “formally” of the Faith of the Catholic Church, its reading of the Scriptures in the Creed, etc; the mere text of Scripture alone was insufficient; heretics also quoted Scripture but they did not read that Scripture in the context of the Tradition or the orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church;

(D) The Catholic Church alone has received the apostolic deposit of truth, for in her the Holy Spirit of truth lives (John 14:16f; 16:13f); the Church alone is the sole inheritor of the true Christian teaching from God through Christ to the Apostles;

(E) This Tradition – the Church’s Tradition – is itself oral; and if there were no NT Scriptures it would have been sufficient for the Church to follow “the order of tradition” received from the apostles; in the minds of the early Christians it made no difference if the transmission was purely oral since there was an assured connection to the apostles through the Churches founded by the apostles to guarantee authenticity;

(F) Scripture was everything for the Fathers, and Tradition was everything also;

(G) What was the nature of the Church of the Fathers? It was one universal visible Church ruled by a hierarchy of bishops, presbyters/priests, deacons, etc in succession from the apostles (apostolic succession, not a “succession of doctrine” only);

(H) The entire activity of the Fathers demonstrates that they united three terms that were separated and set in opposition by the controversies of the 16th century – these three terms were Scripture, Tradition, and Church; it was always affirmed that Scripture is the rule and norm of faith only when conjoined to the Church and her Tradition;

(I) Hence, the Scriptures were never considered by the Fathers as formally “sufficient” or exclusive.

Phil P


#5

The Complex Relationship between Scripture and Tradition
By James Akin
catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0510bt.asp
This cleared it up for me. :tiphat:


#6

Phil,

You know what, I believe that each point is good and correct. I would disagree with the assumption that the Catholic church is the sole inheritor of apostolic succession or the traditions and the assumption that Tradition has to be infallible to be authoritative (which I sense is in the spirit of the comments).

But you post is well taken and very helpful. Again, I believe that historic Protestantism and Catholicism is much closer on this issue than most realize.

Thanks for taking the time.


#7

Also, salvation comes from believing the Gospel the apostles preached (Mark 16:16)

No where does the bible say salvation comes from believing the Gospel the apostles wrote, which are narratives of the life of Jesus.

That is salvation comes through Tradition.

Also, St. Paul (and the Church) says that faith comes through hearing. That is through Tradition.

Faith does not come from reading (scripture).

And the Catechism says that the Gospel that the apostles preached was the “source of all saving truth and moral discipline” That means that the Gospel handed down in Tradition is the “source of all saving truth and moral discipline”.
No where does the Church or the bible say that scripture is the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.


#8

Scripture is salvation history.

Tradition is the Gospel the apostles taught and preached, that is, the Catholic faith.

The catechism presents this living Tradition.

Mark 16:16 says salvation comes from believing the Gospel that was preached, (Tradition), that is from believing the teachings of the Catholic Church.


#9

<< I would disagree with the assumption that the Catholic church is the sole inheritor of apostolic succession >>

Well by 800 A.D. you would have to agree it became the sole inheritor, for it was the only orthodox Church. And a few evangelical books responding to Catholicism I like to quote:

“But he [Karl Keating] goes too far in thinking that we think that Christ did not establish a visible Church. Christ most certainly did!” (Robert Zins, Romanism [1995], page 139); and

“Catholic apologists misrepresent the Evangelical as teaching only a ‘spiritual’ church, one that is essentially ‘invisible.’ However, although the Westminster Confession does use the term ‘invisible’ to describe the universal church, what is meant by the term is not that the church cannot be seen (as so many Catholic apologists mistakenly assume in their arguments against this notion), but that the church transcends time and geographic locale. That is to say, Evangelicals view the church as the body of Christ composed of all believers irrespective of their era, location or denominational affiliation.” (Eric Svendsen, Evangelical Answers [1997], page 75)

“The authors of the New Testament did not distinguish between the visible and invisible church. To them, the church that existed in the world was the only church there was…This visible church was the church…we do an injustice to the teaching of the New Testament authors if we impose this conception of an invisible church on the ideas they formulated. These authors were describing the concrete, historical, visible church that had come into existence in their day, and which was rapidly spreading throughout the Mediterranean world. It is this church that they chose to label the ecclesia.” (Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church [Baker, 2000], page 105,106)

“Evangelicals also believe that the church is visible, existing now in the world. What is at issue is the claim that the Roman Catholic jurisdiction is the only true manifestation of the body of Christ on earth. This is the question of authority over which Catholics and Protestants disagree…it is true that when the body of Christ began it was all visible since no believers had died and gone to heaven, so of course it was a visible church when Christ founded it. The invisible church only grew as Christians died and went to heaven. Protestants do not deny that there was a visible Christian church on earth that traces back to the apostles who exercised authority over it, including excommunication. What Protestants object to (and Catholics have not proven) is that [the] Roman Catholic jurisdiction is the sole heir to this original visible church that began with the apostles and will continue until Christ comes without the gates of hell destroying it.” (Geisler/MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals [Baker, 1995], page 112, 276-277)

Catechism:

770. The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it. It is only “with the eyes of faith” that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life.

So close, yet so far:

“The Catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect…The visible Church, which is also Catholic or universal under the Gospel, consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion…” (Westminster Confession, chapter XXV, from Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church [Oxford, 1963], page 348)

Phil P


#10

Well, let me restate this then. I think it does to far in saying that the Catholic church is the sole inheritor of the catholic church. In other words, as you know, we see ourselves, along with you, as those who have inherited the succession of the apostles.


#11

So, in this church “composed of all believers irrespective of their era, location or denominational affiliation”, does doctrine matter?

Or are contradictory and conflicting doctrines okay? :shrug:


#12

Well, I actually don’t want to debate, but if you are asking a sencere question, I would say that it comes down to essential beliefs. What are these? According to Augustine, these are those who are held by all people, of all time, everywhere. It is the sine qua non of the historic Christian faith. In other words, novel requirements cannot be included in historic essentiality. This does not mean that novel requirements are wrong as doctrine can progress, but that we should not require people to believe beyond that which has defined historic Christianity.

I would say that these are laid out pretty clearly in the eccumenical creeds.

All other issues, while important, cannot take on the status of essentiality (including sola fide, sola scriptura, marian dogmas, etc) since historic Christianity does not evidence their articulation by everyone everywhere of all time.

Hope that makes sense.


#13

Wow.

If sola scriptura and sola fide are not essential, why be anything but Catholic? I mean, these were the pillars of the Reformation.

But my original question was to determine the issue of doctrinal unity in the Church. You suggest there is unity in the essentials.

Is there a list of essentials that everyone agrees on? What are they?


#14

All who preach that the Catholic Church is not the true church are preaching another gospel.

The originator of that other gospel is Satan.

For any Catholic to have anything to do with Sola Scriptura would be to embrace that Satanic gospel.

Hope that helps.


#15

What does the Protestant perspective do with the Biblical verse where Jesus says "on you O build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?"
Matt.16
[LIST=1]
*]18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build mychurch; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.[/LIST]To the Catholic, that is Jesus saying the Magesterium has the charism of infallability given and protected by Jesus. How does a Protestant read the authoritative Bible and interpret that?

(NOTE: I know you don’t want to debate–My questions are sincere.)

Catholics have two options when it comes to this issue. First, they can say that Tradition and Scripture each have essential elements that are needed for salvation. Therefore, in order to have a sufficient knowledge base for salvation to be possible, one must have the information from both Scripture and Tradition, neither of which will do alone. The second option is called the “material sufficiency” view. This option says that all that is necessary for salvation is present within the Scriptures by themselves. The “material sufficiency” view is very close to the historic Protestant view of sola Scriptura.

Why is this a dichotomy? The Bible is materially sufficient specifically BECAUSE it clearly indicates in several places that you need Tradition and a teaching authority.

In this case, as we have it now, Catholics can hold to this option:

Scripture and Tradition are both needed to provide essential information concerning salvation

I think you should add in there the teaching authority of the Church. I never learned it as TWO sources–I learned it as three. i’ll check my CCC and find where it says that. I’m pretty sure it does.

Scripture by itself contains sufficient information to bring about salvation

As I said, the Bible is sufficient in that it indicates you need to rely on the other two also–Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church…


#16

In general, the sources of Divine revelation mirror the Trinity in that where one is present, the other two also abide fully.

Where the Father is, so too the Person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit abide.

Where Divine revelation abides in the Bible, so too is the revelation of Sacred Tradition and the necessity of a teaching authority.

One is not greater than the other, just as the Father is not greater than the Son or the Holy Ghost.


#17

I don’t see how that is consistent with Catholic theology. From the Catechism:

[quote=The Catholic Church]82 As a result 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 honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.
[/quote]

Catholic apologist Scott Hahn holds to this (I believe).

Please quote him saying such. It’s impolite to make claims regarding others’ beliefs without providing references to support those claims :slight_smile:

The same can be said of Yves Congar. Some have even interpreted some of Pope John Paul II’s statements in such a way.

Again, references, please.

Jeremy


#18

Ah…here’s where I’m wording it wrong…There is a trinitarian aspect to the authority of the modes of revalation–however “transmission” only occurs in TWO modes. As jemfinch pointed out above in CCC #81, there are two modes of transmission, but a little further in the CCC (#85 & 86) it explains the authority of the Church in interpreting these modes of transmission–which is itself Biblical.

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__PM.HTM
The Magisterium of the Church
85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."48
87 Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”,49 The faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.


Jesus speaking to apostles:%between%

Matt.28
[19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
[20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Jesus explaining that the authority of the Church is the final word here on earth:
Matt. 18
[17] And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
[18] Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Peter explaining scriptures require learned and stable men to interpret authoritatively:
2Pet.3
[15] And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
[16] As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Peter explaining that scripture is not to be privately interpreted, and warning that only holy men with authority can do so:
2Pet.1:19-21, 2:1-3
[19] We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
[20] Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
[21] For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
[1] But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
[2] And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
[3] And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.


#19

Well, belief in the the supernatural charismatic gifts are not essential either, but that does not mean I am going to jump on board with Charismatic…I am not convinced of the issue.

Yes, there actually is a list of essential. It does take some study. You simply look throughout church history and see what the sine qua non (the without which not) has always been present. Actually, this is a pretty simply endevor. Again, most all the essential are contained in the regula fide and expressed in the early creeds.


#20

So what? Protestant churches interpret the creeds in ways alien to the church when those creeds were formulated.

The catholic church of the apostle’s creed is visible. The catholic church according to protestants is invivisibble.

If Protestatns can’t even get these basic essentials right–what is the point in seeking common ground with them?


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