Formal and Material sufficiency, in describing Sola Scriptura (are they Aristotlean?)


First of all - let me say that this is not my question. I am posting this here for a friend on another discussion board HERE.

Since it has been a week since he posted and received no replies...I hoped that an apologist or three from CAF might be able to help. - So - Here is the question he asked....

I've heard these terms used by Catholic apologists and sometimes by Protestants in describing the use of the Bible. In doing lots of web searches it looks like they may be referencing Aristotle's philosophy. However sometimes when trying to read the material there are some things that don't add up. So my question is, do they indeed reference this school of thought and if so can you give me a link to a good "For Dummies" site?




I would love to have an answer to this as well...


Actually - if you click on the link there is an answer over there now...



I can't access that site at work, can you quote it here?


[quote="capablanca911, post:4, topic:336060"]
I can't access that site at work, can you quote it here?


The primary reply is this:

For scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain (explicitly or implicitly) all that is needed for salvation. Many Catholic theologians, including Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict 16th) and Blessed John Henry Newman agree that scripture is materially sufficient.

On the other hand, for scripture to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all that is needed for salvation, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it (e.g. the church is not needed to interpret scripture.)


Well, boo. I was hoping for a reference from Aristotle on material vs formal sufficiency.


Thanks for posting that though. It is a thorough yet succinct definition that makes the distinction.


So, we need the Church to interpret the scriptures in order to be saved?

I would look at it more like this…
We received the Scriptures from the Church and are saved into the Church. We do not interpret “all” scripture by ourselves.

I think saying,“We cannot be saved without the Church telling us what the Gospel means” is a wrong way to understand our dependency and relation with the Church. Not to mention the Father’s will spoken to our hearts.

So, though it is pride that can cause one to be turned off by this statement, there is truth behind not fully agreeing with it…,no?

IOW…I think we can read scripture and believe, thus being saved. But just like Justification, we need to apply our belief towards Gods will, which is not to us ONLY, but to our family community (the Church) or we are not complete. So to accept the salvation through the scriptures and not realize there are members like us, who contribute to expressing God’s will for all of us, we will be like a paralysed limb on the Church.


Hope that didnt come across as accusational...:confused:

I know there was no statement specifically worded like I phrased it.


Yes, it appears that the terms are drawing on Aristotelian terminology. According to the Aristotelian view, substance is a compound of form and matter, where the form is what makes the matter a coherent, individual being. As far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, the Bible may supply all the necessary material to formulate Catholic doctrine comprehensively, but the biblical data must still be informed by the magisterium of the Church. I would be interested to learn where the material/formal sufficiency terminology was first used.


Can someone affirm material sufficiency and remain a catholic in good standing? What is the consensus on this issue?


Same topic threads merged. :thumbsup:


[quote="Vinny213, post:11, topic:336060"]
Can someone affirm material sufficiency and remain a catholic in good standing? What is the consensus on this issue?


I believe the answer to this is yes...since Scripture itself points to the necessity of "church" as authority.



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