Help me understand this concept


Okay, recently I’ve been catechizing myself little by little (as best as my college schedule permits), striving to understand my own faith and Protestant faiths and the differences/similarities between the two. (Forgive me, but I’m citing stuff from the Bible but don’t know them by verse or book or chapter, yet) And I’ve run across a Protestant concept (concepts?) that I don’t quite understand. I’m trying to understand where they’re coming from, why they believe what they believe. I truly am puzzled, and I truly do want to know. If there are non-Catholic Christians reading this, so much the better, because I can hear it from the source. Thanks! :slight_smile:

We all know about sola scriptura, the Bible alone. But, how do they try to interpret it without any outside teachers? I understand reading the Bible for oneself and learning lessons from it and applying it to Christian living, but when it comes to doctrinal stuff, there’s only “one true way” or the “narrow way” according to the Bible. How do they find this way without outside help and teachings, if they go by scripture alone?

So many Protestants come to so many different conclusions about what’s the right and narrow way is, it seems like, with all the different denominations, even within the same denomination. Again, without something outside of Scripture to point out which way is the right way, it must seem that all the ways are right according to each person’s belief. How does this fit in with the idea that “all may become one in Christ” and “beware of false teachers and those who pretend to come in the name of Christ”?

Also, I know that some denominations follow outside teachings and outside teachers like Calvin…and hand down beliefs through generations…how does this work with sola scriptura? Or are these the denominations who don’t believe in sola scriptura, and go by both scripture and their particular tradition?

If this is the case, how is their tradition better than or different from Catholic tradition?

I am kinda confused about Protestantism because of these questions that came to mind as I was reading the New Testament. Before I read the New Testament for myself as a project, I thought it was interesting, about a particular religion “feeling right” for themselves, and that each denomination has a point, and is good for each particular person. But now I would like to know what their logical and philosophical reasons are for why they believe what they believe, please :slight_smile:

(It’s been bugging me and I know that it won’t go away until I learn about it. )


hi holly_potter…it would be in your best interest to learn the the Catholic faith before trying to understand what is erroness(protestant teachings).drink ye the cup of truth,stay from the cup of error.


Holly, the questions you’ve asked are some of the basic questions that people ask when trying to evangelize Protestants or when trying to disprove the concept of Sola Scriptura. There isn’t any one answer that you could find, because the many different Protestants groups out there have produced many different answers to these questions, none of them particularly convincing - which is why these questions are asked of them when trying to show the error in their beliefs! :stuck_out_tongue:


I think I know this one!

Sola scriptura doesn’t mean that a person will understand every line in the Bible without benefit of a teacher. Sola scriptura means that all of God’s revelation to humanity is contained within Scripture alone (as opposed to Catholic belief, which is that God’s revelation to humanity is contained in Scripture and in Apostolic Tradition).

Sola Scriptura involves a concept called Scriptural “perspicacity” (clarity). Perspicacity doesn’t imply that an individual reader will understand everything in the Bible, all the little parallels and comparisons that one could spend many lifetimes mining from Scripture. Protestants accept the usefulness of teachers for that purpose. Rather, perspicacity means that an individual reader will understand everything he “needs,” meaning enough of God’s revelation to obtain salvation.

How’d I do, Non-Catholics?


There are many different definitions of sola scriptura.

For example, I was taught that it meant that the Bible is the ONLY (sola) inerrant writings we have that are God-inspired.

While I later found the Cambridge Declaration saying : “We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.” That was drastically different from what I was taught! You will find everything in between too, when it comes to general protestantism.

I do not try to interpret Scripture with no “outside teachers” I do read a lot and pray a lot and consider all sides that teachers teach and then pray some more. Everything requires study and prayer.

In my belief, only the Scriptures are infallible… all other sources may or may not be right. This places a burden on me to carefully and fully seek God in everything lest I make a mistake and believe wrongly.


God has revealed Himself in many ways; Sacred Scripture is but one of the ways. Catholics include Sacred Tradition in the Body of divine revelation with regard to God.

It has been my experience that many Protestants will bring their Bible to service and follow along when scripture is read so that they can read for themselves and not take someone else’s word for it. However, they often do just that when reading footnotes, exegetic commentary, etc. Or even when they ask their pastor, they are taking that person’s word for it.

A priest I met at an Abbey once said that the ancients used to teach that there were two books of profound revelation about God, one a smaller and one much much larger. The smaller book is the Bible and the larger book is nature and all of creation itself. I always liked that way of looking at it. Add to that Sacred Tradition, PLUS God’s interaction with us on a daily basis can also be considered discovery.


Good for you! Study to show thyself approved unto God. You might want to consider posting this over in the non-Catholic religion forum too. Some of the most knowledgeable protestants don’t post here in apologetics much.

Protestants do have teachers, they are just not in synch with the Apostolic Teachings on many points. They also believe that Scripture interprets Scripture, which means that the Bible itself can be used to properly understand what it is saying. Every believer has the HS, who guides the individual to understand.

Of course we all think we each “have it right”. Right before His resurrection, Jesus commissioned His Apostles to “teach all that I have commanded”. Sola Scriptura folks have to reject the Apostolic Succession (the authority appointed by Christ to teach). But there are some indications to identify false teachers in the Scriptures which they can use.

All are following some outside teacher and tradition, but most don’t know it. Most modern Protestants in America have no idea where their theology came from, and sincerely believe that they are “Bible Christians”. They also don’t realize that they have embraced the traditions of man. In fact, this is an accusation often leveled at Catholics, who make a distinction between Sacred Tradition (Teaching from God) and traditions of man (customs and practices).

You won’t hear a Protestant claim tradition as authoritative. Most will claim they don’t follow any tradition at all, because they honestly believe that they are getting their beliefs from the Bible, instead of from the Reformers.

You came to the right place! Keep reading and studying. The library here is a great resource too. Many Blessings.



I’m not surprised you find it difficult to understand. I think that partly happens because we see terms change or used improperly.

Take sola Scriputura, you are getting confused by that because while most of those you would call Protestant would maybe say they are sola Scriptura, they are not.

It’s very obvious in groups like the Seventh Day Adventists because you have Ellen G. White supposedly being a prophet and thus the group clearly departs from sola Scriptura.

But those same sort of things occur in a lot of other groups. If you listen to a Word of Faith person preaching away on TBN they are decidedly not sola Scriptura, you won’t listen too long before they will tell you God has revealed something to them. Their claimed personal revelations are the authority they appeal to. And you can go back in history and find the same things.

The whole Charismatic/Pentecostal movement pretty well ends up not being sola Scriptura, though the bible is held in fairly high regard by many. But if you talk to them they don’t appeal to the bible as proof something is true all the time, they often appeal to their feelings, or their experiences as the evidence. You can move back just a step to the whole Holiness movement that produced the Methodists and the same things are there, though the Methodists tend to be fairly conservative in doctrine.

You even go back to the Reformation and you see it big time in the Anabaptists. More than a few Anabaptists said they didn’t even need the Bible they could just sit and receive the revelation of truth directly from God. If you study for instance the Anabaptist Michael Servetus who is famous for being exectued in Geneva while Calvin was there, you find he’s not what we would think of as an Anabaptist today, he would be a Oneness Pentecostal.

Even in the Reformed there is movement away from sola Scriptura. For instance in the Lord’s Supper, there is a denial that the bread and wine are Christ’s body and blood. The reason is not scriptural. It’s from Aristole’s philosophy mixed with other scripture. It goes like this. Scripture says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father (that’s the scriptural part) since a body cannot be more than one place at a time, the body and blood of Jesus cannot be in the bread and wine (that’s the philosophy part).

So it gets very confusing if you think that all those who are Protestant are sola Scriptura even if they say they are. Many Protestants actually agree with the Roman Catholics as far as there being extrabiblical revelation and authority, they just disagree as to who that is or they add through some other authority like rationalism.



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