Proof that Christ's Church was not Sola Scriptura

I thought I would share this argument with you all. Hopefully this will help you your efforts.

  1. Christ started his church before Paul wrote his letters. (you can prove this by showing the Christian Paul’s writings where he refers to a church as an already existing entity.)

  2. Paul’s writings were some of the first books of the New Testament Bible.

  3. Therefore there was a Church before the bible was even written.

  4. The Church Christ established would have had some authority. Including such things as deciding which books belong in scripture and deciding other disputes. (E.g., Matthew 18:17)

  5. Accordingly the Church Christ built could not have been Sola Scriptura.

Now they can argue that this changed. But then the question is when did this change happen? Was it as soon as the bible was fully written even though the writing was not fully circulated? Or was it when it was circulated? Or when it was declared to be part of the bible by …someone - Martin Luther or his church the Catholic Church or whatever.

Hopefully this argument will help the person understand that the Church Christ found was not sola scriptura.

Many sola scriptura protestants I’ve spoken with will say that the change occurred when the last Apostle died. That is, they admit that the Apostles had special charisms to teach and preach on the authority Christ gave them, but when they died they had left everything the church needed for doctrine and faith in the scriptures, and things outside of scripture does not have that level of authority (and depending upon the denomination, the authority of non-scriptural traditions vary).

It seems to me that Sola Scriptura started with the Reformation in that Protestants no longer accepted the authority of the Catholic Church and so needed another authority which then became the Bible. However, Sola Scriptura opened the door for the individual to interpret Scripture according to one’s own understanding and knowledge. Each could now claim that the Holy Spirit was guiding them in their understanding,yet differing interpretations abounded as to what Scripture was saying and meaning.This has led to confusion and chaos since now the individual becomes the authority and not the Church.

Jesus never wrote anything and few of the Apostles wrote, Mostly they preached and taught in the same manor as Christ did. St. Paul for example, would be amazed to know that his writings are considered Sacred Scripture . None of the Apostles who did write would have considered their writing to be Sacred Scripture and the only means of authority.Nothing was further from the minds of the Apostles than the idea of composing works which should be collected and formed into one volume and so constitute the Holy Book of the Christian. One can imagine Paul and the Apostles staring in amazement had they been told that their writings would become the sole and complete and exhaustive statement of the doctrines of Christianity to be placed in each man's hand as an easy and infallible guide in faith and morals, independent of any living and teaching authority to interpret them.

  Thousands of People became Christians long before the Bible was formed, by the Apostles who traveled around preaching and teaching. It was the Catholic Church who decided among all of the writings which one's were inspired and were in line with what Christ and the Apostles taught. It is to the Catholic Church then to decide what Scripture says and means, not the individual.

Thanks that is an interesting view and one that I may have heard before. It seems rather implausible though. (Its not implausible that Apostles had more authority but rather that it went to sola scriptura right after the last apostle died)

I realize this is not your view but I would be interested in seeing how this view could be fleshed out.

Even if we assume the books of the bible were written by that time, it is doubtful that the church or apostles had chosen the books of the bible by that time. If we assume the last apostle was John do we have reason to think he taught Mark Mathew and Luke’s Gospels were scripture? Isn’t it doubtful he even read a copy of all the other gospels let alone all the letters Paul wrote to various parts of the world, and are included in Scripture? How could an Apostle have chosen the books of the bible? It seems pretty clear this did not happen, and even if we say it did, we do not have any way to know what books the apostle picked.

Do you know how does this work? Would only the apostles have authority or would the whole church so long as one apostle remained alive? If it was to the whole church then why would it matter if an apostle was alive somewhere if he wasn’t there to address the question himself? (For example lets say Thomas was the last surviving apostle - and further assume he was in India and therefore not reachable by the people addressing the issue.) Did the Holy Spirit infuse the Church more when the apostles were there but then it sort of partly left after that? It seems Paul gave authority to some non apostles in some of his writings. (Although I don’t have the quotes to see how strong this argument would be)

Moreover this view seems extra-biblical itself.

Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura Isn’t Historical, Part I

Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura Isn’t Historical, Part II

Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura Isn’t Historical, Part III

Great stuff. Thanks for posting these excellent links.

The easiest way to refute the entire notion of Sola Scriptura is to point out that there wasn’t a Bible for the first 300-ish years of Christian History. So either all Christians were without a guide for approx. 200 years (after the death of the last Apostle), or there is some other system in place to provide guidance outside of the Bible. (The Church).

On top of this, the Bible itself does not mention anything about Sola Scriptura, so that in and of itself is a tradition of men, meaning that it is invalid according to the principles of Sola Scriptura.

Hi there.

Regardless of the truth or falsity of sola scripture as a doctrine of the church, your particular argument against it is weakest at the third premise. Any Christian will acknowledge that the Church predates the books of the New Testament, but all Christians must accept that the majority of Scripture predates the earthly life of Christ. If you ask where the Bible was during the first years of the church, the answer will be to point you the sacred books of the Jews. After all, the New Testament’s constant citation of, quoting from, and allusions to the books of the Old Testament is testimony to their existence and authority (again, regardless of the truth of sola scriptura).

The debate is really about your fourth premise: does the canonisation of books by thee church suggest that the church has authority over the scriptural canon, or is it a question of the church recognising (according to specific theological criteria) the superior authority of a particular collection of texts?

This either/or is irrelevant. ** Both** of them still asseverate the authority of the Catholic Church.

I think you will find that MOST Protestants will deny that they believe in Sola Scriptura. IOW, the position is recognized as being so untenable to all but the most feverish Evangelical, that they will take great pains to evade or dissemble what exactly constitutes SS, and whether they adhere to it or not. So your proof goes poof :smiley: The argument then shifts to semantics and word definitions. :shrug:

Sure. But your average classical Protestant doesn’t deny ecclesiastical authority, just asserts that it’s a lower authority than Scripture.

Lutherans, Anglicans etc. have a much more limited understanding of what sola scriptura actually entails.

Their position is incoherent then.

Each and every time they quote from the NT they are giving their tacit submission to the Church.

But surely they can’t deny other Protestants their different understanding of SS?

It’s obviously not though. It’s not incoherent to say that X has the capacity to recognise the superior authority of Y over and against the pretended authority of Z.

Their ability to understand it thus? Sure. Their right to say so? Sure. But we can also point out that the definition of the minority of hardline American evangelicals is inconsistent with the Fathers, the mediaeval schoolmen, the Reformers, the Caroline divines, etc.

Think about what you’re saying.

When one accepts that the Catholic Church has the ability to discern what books belong in the NT, one is deferring to the authority of the CC.

Yet, Protestantism rejects the authority of the CC.


They are simply doing to you* what you did to the CC.

So to be consistent you must say: yes, your definition of Sola Scriptura is perfectly acceptable.

*You = Protestant You. Generic You. Not a personal You.

Not necessarily. One could hold that Rome had a general primacy and authority which should be obeyed within its lawful limits; an Anglican might say that Rome has been largely acting ultra vires since, say, Hildebrand/Trent/Vatican I, or whatever. No logical contradiction, and that’s even conceding that in ordinary circumstances Rome=Catholicism!

Well, they are in the sense that they’re using theology and their faculties to judge authority claims. Sure, one can’t deny them that. But to think that that obliges one to endorse the conclusions they reach is logically absurd.

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