I’d like to know how/where Protestants justify sola scriptura – the position that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand it – within the “proof” I’ve outlined below (drawn from Robert A. Sungenis). I’m genuinely curious. It’s self-evident to me, especially for someone who returned to the Catholic faith only after deep agnosticism and in-depth research.
Problems of Coherence
Sola scriptura is incoherent because it it is (1) unbiblical, and (2) logically inconsistent.
(1) It is unbiblical.
– (a) The Bible nowhere teaches or assumes sola scriptura.
We can agree that Jesus, Paul, and others claim that Scripture has divine authority, and Jesus appeals to its authority. But nowhere does Jesus assume that what is written is the only source of continuing divine authority, and nowhere is it stated that “God’s will throughout history has been to commit wholly to writing all revelation and instruction that He intended as an ongoing authority for His people and their salvation.” All of the texts typically referenced (i.e., 2 Tim 3:16, Acts 17:10-12, etc.) “simply do not say this nor can they be made to imply this, without assuming in advance what is proper to one’s exegetical conclusions.”
– (b) The Bible assumes a larger context of delegated authority.
“God is never seen conferring authority on Scripture in an historical and social vacuum. Scripture is always found, rather, within a community in which God has conferred authority upon lawfully ordained human leaders. These leaders are always either (1) appointed by God Himself, and publicly confirmed in their appointment by a miraculous ministry, or (2) appointed in legitimate and lawful succession by authorities having their ultimate origin in the first category … Jesus and the apostles are seen demanding obedience not only to the written Word of God, but to the living decisions of the Church (Mt 18:12-20; cf. Acts 15, 16:4).”
– © The Bible assumes extrabiblical traditions.
"… the position of sola scriptura is self-defeating, because it rests on a presupposition that cannot be proved from Scripture (let alone from history) – namely, that the whole content of God’s revealed will for the ongoing instruction of His Church was committed “wholly to writing,” so that no unwritten residue of divinely inspired instruction survived from the oral teachings of Jesus and His apostles that remained binding on God’s people after the New Testament (NT) was written … But where does Scripture say this? How could one claim to know this? …
"First, if all bindingly authoritative oral instruction ceased with the death of the last apostle and if the early churches did not have copies of all the New Testament books until well after that time, who spoke for the Lord Jesus and the apostles in the interim?
"Second, how can only plausibly imagine the transition from the partially oral framework of authoritative instruction (OT + teachings of Jesus and apostles) to a wholly written framework (OT + NT) required by this hypothesis?
“The writings of the early Church are filled with extrabiblical sayings of Jesus, practices of the Christian community, liturgical and Eucharistic formulas, and so forth, which presuppose the divine origin and authority of these things.”
– (d) The Bible assumes the liturgical context of the worshipping community.
“The Bible is by design a text intended to be publicly read and heard. We lose something when all we do is read it on our own. This privatized and bookish view is anachronistic and contrary to both the primary intended use of the Biblical texts and to the historical milieu of Scripture itself.”
(2) It is logically inconsistent.
– (a) It is self-referentially inconsistent.
"First … ‘it is self-contradictory, for it says we should believe only Scripture, but Scripture never says this! If we believe only what Scripture teaches, we will not believe sola scriptura …’
"Second, it assumes that the ‘essential’ teachings of Scripture are sufficiently clear to be understood by anyone, but is not itself sufficiently clear to be considered a scriptural teaching by all.
"Third, it claims that the Bible is the ultimate authority, but in fact subordinates the Bible to the extrabiblical (traditions of) interpretation of this or that individual, or group, about what the Bible says. This means, practically speaking, that sola scriptura leads to hermeneutical subjectivism.
“Fourth, sola scriptura is self-referentially inconsistent because the Bible contains no inspired index of its own contents and cannot even be identified as a divine revelation except on extrabiblical grounds of tradition.”
– (b) It violates the principle of sufficient reason.
“… it violates the principles of causality: that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. The Church (the apostles) wrote Scripture; and the successors of the apostles, i.e., the bishops of the Church, decided on the cannon, the list of books to be declared scriptural and infallible. If Scripture is infallible, then its cause, the Church, must also be infallible.”