Protestants & Sola Scriptura/Problems with Coherence


#1

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.”


#2

Basically, they stand on 2 Tim 3:16, and a few other verses that they cherry-pick out of context for their use to suit their own personal beliefs… But I mustn’t generalize; after all, in Protestantism there are as many popes as there are noses, and they could all teach something different if they wanted to, so long as they find it/base it on/think it’s implied in the Bible.


#3

Yes, but I’m wondering why so, if it’s true that 2 Tim 3:16 can only be made to imply sola scriptura when assuming in advance what is proper to one’s exegetical conclusions. I’d like to hear the logic. If such logic exists?


#4

Short Answer: it’s a combination of generalizing your position, looking backwards into history, and relying on emotional reaction as logical verification of “truth.”

Long Answer:

God exists -> God revealed the Bible -> therefore it is holy and authoritative for teaching.

Man exists -> Man is innately sinful and proud -> therefore, man is not a source of authority

Thus, we must rely on the Bible over Man.

They then assert that “Holy Tradition” is the work of man, looking at specific examples without looking at their historical background.

The word “Pope” isn’t in the Bible, therefore it must be un-Biblical. And while there is a route of authority via Jesus -> Peter ->Disiples ->other disciples via “laying on” of hands, this is interpreted as simply an initiation ritual, and not a chain of spiritually authoritative succession. “On this rock” Christ built his Church, but Peter, as a man, was fallible outside of what was listed in the Bible.

Without this, there’s no basis for tradition, so what’s left is to take the Bible, the sole source of authority, on it’s own. Essentially, they stand at this point in time, hand-in-hand with these views, and look backward, rather than allowing the original point in history to craft their views.

I fully agree that it’s inconsistent and illogical, and that it generalizes the nature of Holy Tradition and Apostolic succession to fit into its argumentative scheme. However, when you’ve been practically bred into the Protestant tradition, it’s hard to see beyond that - especially when some of the die-hards assert that following Holy Tradition in itself is tantamount to relinquishing your Christian faith.

There’s also the “evidence” against Catholicism/Orthodoxy -->

If you are truly Christian, you’ll know God (euphemism for emotional experience) -> we feel cold and empty in Traditionalist churches -> we feel the “presence” of God (i.e., I get a happy, warm, and fuzzy feeling) in these non-Traditionalist churches.

I have a lot of friends that left the Catholic Church or are familiar with its services, who feel it is “Godless” because they don’t get the same euphoria from the Divine Liturgy as they do from singing Protestant Praise songs to a band in a church.

Having said all of these, those who support Sola Scriptura will then dive into the text and look for verses that support these views. That’s where the “all Scripture is profitable for teaching” is used. Once I actually used that against someone in a friendly discussion, and they were stumped. They respected my views, but never really talked religion with me again.


#5

Also, I'm still waiting on my Systematic Theology by Wayne Gruder to arrive, but I assume it'll have a much better, and much less biased, explanation.


#6

[quote="Mirza19, post:4, topic:268871"]
Short Answer: it's a combination of generalizing your position, looking backwards into history, and relying on emotional reaction as logical verification of "truth."

Long Answer:

God exists -> God revealed the Bible -> therefore it is holy and authoritative for teaching.

Man exists -> Man is innately sinful and proud -> therefore, man is not a source of authority

[/quote]

Let me just correct that for you:

God exists -> God created the Church -> The Church created the Bible with the guidance of God -> therefore it is holy and useful for teaching by the Church because:

Man exists -> Man is innately sinful and proud -> therefore, man is not a source of authority for interpretation.


#7

Safia,

Nicely done. I enjoyed reading your post!


#8

=Safia;8778386]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

Where did you find your definition of sola scriptura?

(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."

That's fine. Lutherans, for example, are perfectly willing to accept that the early creeds, and councils, and even our own confessions, while not at the level of scripture, are important to the instruction of the faith. Your first two sentences state the Lutheran position; that scripture is the final norm, to which all teachers and teachings, and doctrines are held accountable.

-- (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)."

Yes. the Church. From Augsburg:* Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called. *

-- (c) 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 conten*t 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? ...

That's not the intent of sola scriptura.

"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."

And how does does this dispute sola scriptura?

-- (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."

And how does this relate to sola scriptura?

-- (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 ...'

Sola scriptura doesn't say this.

"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.

I was never taught this either.

"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.

No. Sola scriptura is apractice of hermeunetics of the Church, and no more "subjective" than the scripture/Tradition/Magisterium hermeunetc model. It is still subject to human beings interpreting.

"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."

Irrelevent to the intent of sola scriptura.

Jon


#9

Sola scriptura is best described in the Lutheran Confessions.

1] 1. We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone, as it is written Ps. 119:105: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And St. Paul: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed, Gal. 1:8.

2] Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved.

3] 2. And because directly after the times of the apostles, and even while they were still living, false teachers and heretics arose, and symbols, i. e., brief, succinct [categorical] confessions, were composed against them in the early Church, which were regarded as the unanimous, universal Christian faith and confession of the orthodox and true Church, namely, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, we pledge ourselves to them, and hereby reject all heresies and dogmas which, contrary to them, have been introduced into the Church of God.

bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php

Jon


#10

As I see it, the biggest roadblock to open conversation regarding sola scriptura is that there is not a definition. It’s hard to discuss something that has many varied definitions. As soon as one poster puts out a definition, someone else refutes it.

I was brought up in a Presbyterian church, we never questioned sola scriptura or sola fide. These were “foundations” of our faith. When I read “Rome sweet home”, I was confronted to prove these ideas. I was never able to defend these using “scripture only”, this was early on my journey to Rome.

From my understanding, if scripture and Tradition never conflict, then there is no issue. Some reject Catholic Tradition, big “T”, and refer to scripture. If they are in disagreement with the Church, then they are naturally reading scripture with a pretext. The Canon of the Bible was given to the Catholic Church by the Holy Spirit through Ecumenical Councils. If the Catholic Church was in conflict with scripture, then why would they include the troublesome passage?

The problem with sola scriptura is not what scripture says, but how it is interpreted. Most people I know, who stand by sola scriptura, use it to affirm their interpretation of scripture. It would seem that trouble comes when you separate written scripture and oral Tradition. As JonNC mentioned, some Lutherans reference the Early Councils in their teaching. Others, like the ELCA and the Presbyterian Church in the USA, are kind of blazing their own liberal path through things. Many teachings of these two organizations aren’t easily proven using the Bible.

I look forward to hearing some genuine defense of sola scriptura.


#11

[quote="JonNC, post:9, topic:268871"]
Sola scriptura is best described in the Lutheran Confessions.

***1] 1. We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone, as it is written Ps. 119:105: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And St. Paul: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed, Gal. 1:8.

2] Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved.

3] 2. And because directly after the times of the apostles, and even while they were still living, false teachers and heretics arose, and symbols, i. e., brief, succinct [categorical] confessions, were composed against them in the early Church, which were regarded as the unanimous, universal Christian faith and confession of the orthodox and true Church, namely, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, we pledge ourselves to them, and hereby reject all heresies and dogmas which, contrary to them, have been introduced into the Church of God. ***

bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php

Jon

[/quote]

I think the point made Jon is how did anyone come up with the Lutheran Confessions? Is it Biblical? As far as I know it isn't. Nowhere does it say in the Bible to believe or obey what is in the Lutheran Confessions because it is preserved from error.

In which case your answer would probably be its from outside the Bible. Then there is no reason to believe it true either. What makes you think that some group of people got it right in putting together the "Lutheran Confessions" and this is the rule of thumb one must follow?

Do you see the logical inconsistency?

The larger problem here is that there is no reason for anyone to go from belief in the Propositions God exists, Christ died and rose from the dead, or Christ is my personal Savior to believing in the Lutheran Confessions. It just comes out of nowhere.

When an average person converts to Protestantism, usually they never stop to think about that little bit. The ones who are already Protestant never feel the need to think about it either until they really start thinking about how to convince an Atheist or a non-Christian through reason to become a Protestant. At that point they realize there is a gap between the reasonably provable propositions like God exists, Jesus rose from the dead or even the personal experience of Christ as a personal savior and going to believe in the Lutheran Confessions, five Solas etc. This is the inherent flaw in Protestantism.

Catholicism escapes this error (or does not contain this error), simply because it asks the most logically intuitive question after finding out that Christ is the personal savior or the rationally provable propositions i.e. Who can tell me about the teachings of Christ? In the old days, it was the Apostles. The Apostles taught that their office continues and after them it was their successors that taught. So for someone today, it will be the Apostolic successors in the Catholic Church that instruct them on faith and morals as taught by Jesus Christ.

But the Protestants, without thinking rationally (Luther was very anti-reason), adopted an unreasonable position and if people actually questioned the whole process of going from believing "Christ as ones personal savior" to the five Solas or Lutheran Confessions, no rational person should really be Protestant. Unfortunately, even every rational person acts irrationally sometimes.


#12

[quote="JonNC, post:8, topic:268871"]
Where did you find your definition of sola scriptura?

[/quote]

It comes from Robert A. Sungenis, in the book I linked above.

That's fine. Lutherans, for example, are perfectly willing to accept that the early creeds, and councils, and even our own confessions, while not at the level of scripture, are important to the instruction of the faith. Your first two sentences state the Lutheran position; that scripture is the final norm, to which all teachers and teachings, and doctrines are held accountable.

Okay.

Yes. the Church. From Augsburg:* Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called. *

I'm confused, now: The Catholic Church is the only church with unbroken succession from this teaching.

That's not the intent of sola scriptura.

For certain Protestant denominations, it certainly is.

And how does does this dispute sola scriptura?

Sola scriptura, as I originally defined it, is irrational and unfeasible, for the reasons listed.

And how does this relate to sola scriptura?

Sola scriptura denies it.

Sola scriptura doesn't say this.

I was criticizing the original/mainstream/Protestant definition.

I was never taught this either.

No. Sola scriptura is a practice of hermeunetics of the Church, and no more "subjective" than the scripture/Tradition/Magisterium hermeunetc model. It is still subject to human beings interpreting.

The problem is that conflicting and even contradictory interpretations of Scripture are held by those asserting this claim. Recourse to what the Church (or "historic Christianity") has traditionally taught would be a Catholic option, but not consistent with sola scriptura. The proposition that advocates of sola scriptura respect tradition insofar as it agrees with Scripture is empty, since their criterion for what is "biblical" remains their extrabiblical (tradition of) private interpretation.

Irrelevent to the intent of sola scriptura.

Not really, especially not with Luther -- either the Catholic Church was right or wasn't. He argued it wasn't, and it can be demonstrated that he was incorrect.

1] 1. We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone, as it is written Ps. 119:105: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And St. Paul: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed, Gal. 1:8.

2] Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved.

3] 2. And because directly after the times of the apostles, and even while they were still living, false teachers and heretics arose, and symbols, i. e., brief, succinct [categorical] confessions, were composed against them in the early Church, which were regarded as the unanimous, universal Christian faith and confession of the orthodox and true Church, namely, the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, we pledge ourselves to them, and hereby reject all heresies and dogmas which, contrary to them, have been introduced into the Church of God.

Some problems with/comments about Luther:

  1. Odd, isn't it, that he was barely in the grave by the time Calvinists were busy "reforming" Luther's reformation...

  2. Rome acknowledged the need for reform which Luther sought. Unfortunately, recourse to sola scriptura spelled tragedy by effectively cutting off Protestantism from that living and normative community of memory in which alone her positive reforms could be sustained.

  3. In terms of identifying the canon extrabiblically (while rejecting the Catholic answer of an infallibly guided Church), Luther proposed tests such as "what preaches Christ" (was Christus triebet), but then faced the dilemma of books in the canon that, in his opinion, seemed to fail the test. The difficulty of establishing the canon raises questions: "How do you establish it? Do you leave it to each individual to weigh the merits of the contested books for himself, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, or Shepherd of Hermas? Do you trust the Holy Spirit to witness in the heart of each individual to the inspiration of each book -- say, Jude, Philemon, or 2 John? Or do you return to tradition? The quandary is nowhere more compellingly illustrated than in Luther's refusal to number Hebrews, James, Jude, or Revelation among the canonical NT books in his pranslation of the Bible, because in his opnion they failed to "preach Christ" in the manner of the Pauline epistles, and contradicted his understanding of the relationship between "justification by faith" and "works of the law." Where did Luther get his criteria? Clearly not from the principle of sola scriptura, for his criteria resulted in "taking away" from Scripture. Luther's arbitrary "canon reduction" constitutes a prima facie case against the distinctive Reformation doctrines it was designed to support, and dramatically illustrates the perilous implications, inherent flaws, and inadequacy of sola scriptura in defining the canon of Scripture."

To be cont...


#13
  1. It's fair to say that everyone is rooted in some tradition -- Baptist, Lutheran, American or Continental, etc. The question is whether or not the tradition in question is the one that Christ instituted and committed to his apostles to be passed down as a living, developing reality under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through His Church.

  2. Instead of asking whether their commitment to the doctrine has cut them off from history and tradition and led them to improperly read the Bible, evangelicals seem intent on maintaining sola scriptura "even if they think it requires interpretations that fly in the face of the obvious facts of Church history."

Example: Godfrey writes: "The Bible teaches that the office of bishop and presbyter are the same office (Titus 1:5-7), but tradition says they are different offices," and concludes that tradition mut be wrong. "But from the perspective of Catholic tradition, the answer is simple: a "bishop" is also a "presbyter" -- one whose office came, in time, to be distinctively identified with overseeing a number of presbyters and their parishes ... Evangelicals are not helped by their commitment to a principle that leads them to ignore or reject the principle of development, which applies to institutions as well as doctrine, or to fear Catholic teaching and tradition as though they were the enemy of biblical exegis."

  1. "One of the most serious abuses to which unhistorical understandings and distortions can lead is the mistranslation of Scripture itself. This happened already with Luther, who added the "sola" of his fateful "sola fide" in his translation of Romans (3:28) ... He thought he was offering the "dynamic equivalent, but little did he see how he was reading back into Paul's opposition to Pharisaical legalism in the 16th-century bias of his own quarrel with Rome over "works righteousness" -- which was not the same thing -- and would lead him to exclude the Epistle of James from the NT canon; and little did he foresee the implications that this seemingly minor alteration would have centuries later in the recrudescence of antinomian tendencies among evangelicals..."

  2. Luther exhibits hermeneutical anarchy. He wrote, in the Diet of Worms: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason -- I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other -- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." I'd say we'd all agree he's right about conscience. "The problem is with how one's theological conscience is formed. But note the emphasis: unless I am convinced. It is as if there were suddenly no Church, no tradition, no corporate guidance by the Holy Spirit, no father confessor Staupiz pointing him to the Epistle of Romans or to St. Augustine, but only the individual Luther thrown back upon his resources -- himself, his conscience, and his private interpretation of Scripture ... The problem is not with the emphasis on personal experience as such ... He must have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. This, itself, is a very Catholic doctrine. Yet when that personal experience becomes a matter of doctrine -- essentially a claim to inspiration -- apart from the teaching of the church, this entirely biblical and Catholic idea becomes heretical."

  3. Just as a note: Luther's plea to separate himself from the traditions of the popes and the living Church relied on two other forms of tradition: "conscience" and "manifest reasoning." Those are both inherently subjective.

  4. "Who, though, is to decide what the Gospel is? Luther's reasoning is circular. He claims that his understanding of the Gospel is correct because those Scriptures which support his understanding are those which are truly Gospel-oriented, and those Scriptures which do not support his understanding are not sufficiently Gospel-oriented."

  5. "The dialectical relationship Luther perceives between God's Word and the biblical text qualifies his sola scriptura doctrine in a manner similar to his distinction between Law and the Gospel qualifies the doctrine. To Luther, when appealing to Scripture, it is not sufficient that a biblical text be cited. It must also be determined whether the biblical text adequately manifests in God's Word. Here again, though, there is a problem. Who is to decide whether a given biblical text manifests God's Word more perfectly than another biblical text?"

  6. How do we know if a person is guided by the Holy Spirit?

  7. Interesting that he castigated the Catholic Church for being the "official" word on who'd be cast to hell when his own doctrine reflected the same thing.


#14

I really liked your example on the Bishop and Presbyter. I think that highlights clearly the problem with thinking Scripture has greater authority over Tradition. Instead of trying to reconcile Tradition with Scripture to obtain the truth, one might end up settling for an erroneous view by simply assuming tradition is wrong.


#15

Luther leans partly upon his own understanding? Where then is the sola? If reason is included in the process of judgement, then sola scriptura had already ceased to exist before the process of applying scripture in that manner had even begun.


#16

First let me state that I believe Sola Scriptura as proclaimed by many who use it as a standard is very problematic.

This is an interesting argument. I would note that we’d need to clarify who wrote the Scripture and how. I think your statement is insufficient as we all believe it to be God’s words transmitted through man. I think to say the Church wrote Scripture is giving too much credit to man. I’m sure you know that and mean that. I’m just saying when making your argument if you state it like that you are introducing a way to refute an assertion in your argument.

I do think that one can and must say the Church was inspired to declare what is Scripture. In doing so the Church must have had some gift from God. I do think that if one accepts the Church had God’s guidance to determine what is the Bible then it is likely to have God’s guidance in other things. And in fact we have Christ’s words to that effect. The question then is what is the church? For many Protestants the church is not the hierarchical institution of Rome or even of the Orthodox churches. The problem of church authority must be settled to strengthen this point.


#17

If sola Scriptura was actually taught in the Bible, it would be a circular argument. A circular argument by definition is a logical fallacy!
Peace
David


#18

well, I’ll see if I can’t help, but I probably won’t be able to respond again until Tuesday next week.

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.

good so far

But nowhere does Jesus assume that what is written is the only source of continuing divine authority,…

well, of course he doesn’t…to do so would deny his own 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.”

we don’t have to concern ourselves with what was done throughout history…our concern is what do we have NOW that can be said to be a divinely inspired authority free from error (and not just any lesser authority). You started by saying “that Jesus, Paul, and others claim that Scripture has divine authority” and we agree on that point. I don’t see where Jesus or any apostle claimed that anything else (that we would enjoy today) has (a comparable) divine authority. So what would you suggest we should add to that one thing which Jesus mentioned? What would be your basis for that addition? Let’s assume that you would suggest the teaching authority of the CC, and if I conclude, based on the record of that alleged authority that it can’t be a divinely inspired authority free from error, am I then not left with Sola Scriptura?..or are you claiming that I can’t accept scripture as such an authority w/o also accepting the CC as such an authority?

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.”

I might start with the gospel of John as a whole. Its stated purpose is to provide what is needed so that the addressee could come to believe that Jesus is the Christ and obtain salvation. It doesn’t state that (in order to achieve that purpose) what is written in that gospel is to be added to an existing (and necessary) body of tradition or that what is written in that gospel must be filtered through a teaching hierarchy…it seems that the author of the gospel thought he was providing something that was both materially and formally sufficient for salvation.

– (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.

and? The Pharisees in Christ’s day were lawfully ordained human leaders with a certain authority and possessed of certain scripture. They weren’t a divinely inspired authority free from error.

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).

is that really the best scripture that you have in this regard? Doesn’t your Church distinguish between doctrinal teachings (that are free of error and true for all time) and teachings regarding discipline (that are subject to possible change)? Wouldn’t Acts 15 fall into the latter? How essential is the Acts 15 decision to salvation?

Doesn’t Christ advocate obedience to the Pharisees who are an authority that is something less than a divinely inspired authority free from error? So how does the requirement of obedience to a decision create a everlasting divinely inspired authority free from error? In Acts 15 the Apostles conclude that their decision is endorsed by the Holy Spirit, but how would that make all subsequent decisions of lesser (non-apostle) church officials inspired and free from error? Please be reminded that we agree that scripture is such an authority. You seem to think that something else qualifies, so that scripture isn’t sola…do you really think that these two passages establish some other thing (that we would now enjoy today) as being a divinely inspired authority free from error? Really?

– © The Bible assumes extrabiblical traditions.

agreed, but Jesus makes it clear that the tradition of his day is flawed. Further, what you need is for the bible to assume 1) extrabiblical traditions that are free from error and 2) that the error-free body of extrabiblical traditions would remain uncontaminated for 1900 more years…good luck finding those assumptions expressly stated.


#19

"… 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? …

what the historical record does establish is that all other pretenders to the title of a divinely inspired authority free from error fall short…so if there is nothing else, wouldn’t you call it “sola”?

"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?

again, sola scriptura describes the situation today, not the situation that always existed.

"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?

are you kidding me? When I look at what the CC claims God can achieve, I can’t imagine that this transition would be something beyond God’s ability. Man unfortunately added to God’s original teaching and so tradition became corrupted (such that it was no longer a divinely inspired authority free from error). Scripture, having been reduced to writing was more difficult to corrupt.

“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.”

how is the divine origin of such things presupposed? The early church contained gnostics who worshipped side by side with the more orthodox. The gospel of Thomas (with its extrabiblical sayings of Jesus) was utilized by some congeagtions within the church…am I to presuppose the divine origin and authority of the gospel of Thomas?

– (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.

SS doesn’t advocate that 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."

it is also a straw man


#20

agreed…and if SS was purely the product of logical argumentation, then such a circular argument would be a grave problem. Regarding the eixstence of another candidate for the title of a divinely inspired authority free from error (so as to make scripture non-sola) I doubt that it would be free from the same problem…after all, since scripture does not specify any other such authority for today, what would we be left with other than an extrabiblical (sacred) tradition claiming that extrabiblical (sacred) tradition is free from error?

It seems that we are not dealing with things that can be logically proven, but instead, we are dealing with matters of faith. It then becomes a question of which position of faith has the best supporting evidence.


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