Salvation Question

I am discussing Church teachings with a non Catholic and he asked me this.

“” I’ll ask you one question though- do you believe that an individual can attain eternal salvation by picking up a bible, reading the scriptures, and following the doctrine found there without any other resources?""

I am not sure what the Church’s teaching is on this. I think it is possible, but would be near impossible with our tendency to rationalize our sins and try and minimize their gravity.

He also tossed this out when I answered and quoted the Sacred Traditions vs bible only quotes.

""2 Tim 3 explicitly states that with the scriptures the man of God is “perfect” and “thoroughly furnished to every good work”. It mentions no other necessary thing for a Christian. “”

I think you are right. Even a non-Christian might be saved by implicit faith in Christ.

However, with respect to the “Man of God” quote, I would ask how does he know he is one? If he says by the bible, isn’t that circular reasoning?
Only the church has the authority to say if you are a "man of God. Edit (…or the Holy Spirit.)

peace
steve

Well - I think that the question is a little bit bogus…Though I kind of see what he is trying to say…He wishes to prove that the Bible alone is sufficient.

Here’s the thing though. If a person reads the bible and follows what it says there they will, out of desire and need, seek out other resources - i.e. community.

Why do I say this? It is because the Bible never teaches that our faith is solitary.
The Bible is a community (Ekklesia) book intended for the use of the community in unity.
The Bible teaches us to work together, to come together, worship together, to learn together and to submit to each other in service, humility and Agape Love.

Of course even Christian communities will contain variations in personalities, charisms, understandings, thoughts and ideas and interpretations. Such differences will inevitably lead to disputes. Then the Bible tells us to resolve these matters in communion (Tell it to the Church and listen to the Church…Mt 18:15-18). The Church being the body of Christ and acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (See Acts 15 for an example).
Thus the Bible leads one to the Spirit guided “Church” rather than the bible being God’s authority on earth.

So - in short, The Bible alone leads one to community.

This is the reason that I think the question is a bit bogus…because in all except the most unrealistic circumstances it would never happen.

Hope this maybe helps a little.

Peace
James

Your friend is partaking in a very common belief these days, one that proclaims oneself as the empirical judge of moral certitude all the way to salvation and everything in between. That doesn’t suggest that they are not earnest and pious; however, pious obedience to the faith that you’ve created isn’t really obedience at all, it’s pride.

The pivotal trouble I see with your friend’s assertion is the bold part. It just won’t hold water. **Your friend is talking to you;**are you not a resource? Not to mention, the diversity of doctrine floating around in the air in America is nearly suffocating. So now your friend has to make decisions about what (s)he accepts or rejects, as you say, without other resource.

Hypothetical and fictitious particular judgement:

Jesus: Why did you reject my Divinity?
Friend: I didn’t find it in the Bible.
Jesus: Why did you deny me as truly present in the Eucharist?
Friend: I don’t think the Bible says that, and that’s all I had to go on.
Jesus: I left a Church for guidance and gave you a friend to help but you refused to listen.
Friend: I believe that you must accept whatever I believe as righteous.
Jesus: Wouldn’t that require me to obey you? That’s a problem…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have that conversation.

This idea can be true in a way, because, by reading the Bible and following its doctrines, we are following the doctrines of the Church and will be members of the Church. I don’t really know how to explain it, but the Church was founded on Jesus’ institution of it, and allof that information is contained in the Bible, i.e., the sacraments, His teachings, and all beliefs of the Catholic Church. Therefore, if you read the Bible properly and truly try to understand the Sacred Scripture contained within it, then we will be drawn to the Church, who upholds all of it in the name of the Lord. So, really, the Bible does lead us toward salvationin the sense that it leads us to Christ and His Church, who was founded on His teachings (which are in the Bible), and who offers the sacraments and the means of creating a proper relationship with Gos, by which we are saved.

See, I think you can be saved by doing the right thing, helping out the poor, charity work, reading the Bible and following it. But if you follow the Bible then that leads you to a Church, because for example, the Bible says in James 5, call the elders of the Church if someone is sick and let them administer the oil to heal. If you don’t have a Church then your not following the Bible.

Let’s take a good look at that argument and see if its logic holds. For example:

  1. **Can a person learn all one needs to know to be a Scientologist by reading Dianetics by Ron L. Hubbard? **Would it not give one an incomplete understanding if one tried to read it in a vacuum without learning everything else the Church of Scientology believes? Expecting to understand a religion by the book that religion produced while refusing all the traditional teachings of that religion is not a very reasonable thing to do, is it?

  2. Is owning and reading a Bible a requisite to gaining eternal life? If it is, then the apostles and all Christians up to the fourth century are not saved. Why? Because the canon of the New Testament was not fully agreed upon until the 4th century, While many of the books were widely distributed among the churches until then, others like 2 Peter and Revelation were virtually unheard of or widely rejected.

  3. International literacy is a relatively modern phenomenon as is personal Bible ownership and distribution. It was not until the young Mary Jones attempted to buy a Bible for herself with pennies she had saved that Bible societies were developed to insure all people who wanted one could own a Bible. Up till then, which was in the early 1800s, very few Bibles had ever been produced and only the rich could own one–if they could read.

This would mean that most Christians up until the time of Mary Jones in the 1800s were like Mary–they did not own or ever saw a copy of the Bible.

  1. The Bible is a product of two religions: Judaism and Christianity. Neither religion was based on its collection of Scriptures. In fact, the religions came first. Faithful members who already practiced true religion were inspired to write the contents of holy writ. But before they were inspired to do so, they already practiced the truth. Where did they get this truth, both Jew and Christian? Not from a Bible which these writers had not written yet.

If true religion is based on Scripture alone, then the Scriptures would never have been written because this demands that true religion is a product of Scripture.

The reality is that Scripture is a produce of true religion. People weren’t just walking around and suddenly stumbled over the Bible and said: “Hey, let’s follow what written in these pages.”

On the contrary, Moses came first, then he wrote down Scripture. He already knew and worshipped God in an approved way before he did this.

Jesus also came first and preached to the apostles who made disciples. Some of these disciples later wrote the Bible. If their religion had not come first and was not true, then the New Testament would never have been written.

The Bible is based on true religion, not the other way around.

Well, we Catholics believe we need the sacraments, etc. Even if it were possible to get to heaven just by using the Bible, alone, without the sacraments, it’d be sort of like asking, “Is it possible for me to pass this course with a ‘D’?”

Christ also went through an awful lot of trouble to establish the sacraments…the Eucharist…do this in memory of me, that whomever eats his body and drinks his blood lives in me and I in him. Then, there is the quote about he who doesn’t not receive it, will have NO life within him.

Further, Christ went through a lot of trouble to establish the Church, asking Peter, 3 times ,to shepherd it. He gave Peter the “keys to the kingdom” to bind and loose". He breathed on the apostles giving them the power to forgive sin.

If all that would be necessary was scripture, alone, why did Christ waste time on establishing a Church and saying the gates of hell would not prevail against it, if later, it, the Church, papacy, reconciliation, would all be rendered “unnecessary”?

If your friends assertion that anyone can pick up a bible read it be saved, what about Christians in the first 1000 years of the Church when they had NO bibles for the general population (and that was NOT because the Church kept them from the people as many foolish ignorant people try to argue)? How were they supposed to find salvation if sola scriptura were true? Does this mean only those who get their hands on a bible were being saved? NO! They were being saved by the CHURCH! Also, and maybe more to point , if the bible alone is sufficient why are there so many Protestant sects who claim that they are true Christianity and only they have the truth to salvation? The bible alone is NOT what Christ taught and is NOT even in the bible. Timothy does NOT say that man WILL be made perfect through scriptures alone, despite attempts by people like your friend to twist this passage to prove sola scriptura. Timothy says that scripture (which at that time was ONLY the OLD Testament) is profitable for righteousness, so that a man may become “perfect” (which is only in some translations like the King James). This is simply saying that scripture is certainly helpful to know doctrine and produce good works, but dare anyone to find where it says scripture ALONE is necessary for salvation. You have to severely twist this passage to read anything other than what the Catholic Church teaches, which is that scripture is profitable to know God and thus do good works to become sanctified an saved. Even if you see this passage as saying scripture is necessary , which the Church would agree, where do you see that is is sufficient? It doesnt! Protestants too often proof text and find where the bible says,for example, faith apart from works is necessary for salvation, but they completely ignore the other passages where Christ himself says that we must be perfect and holy like him, that we must have faith AND good works as in James. They assume works refers to living faithfully instead of the actual meaning which was the works of the LAW, the Old Testament. This passage is the same thing. Scripture is clearly necessary as it is part of Sacred Tradition , the written part.But it is NOT sufficient alone! The bible does say that it is the CHURCH that is the pillar and foundation, NOT the bible, of truth, faith! This just does not square with your friends contention that all one needs to do is pick up a bible to be saved. Christ left His Church, not a bible. Islam is a religion of the book, not Christianity. If your friend wants a religion in which God left a book to be followed verbatim, then he should be Muslim, not Christian.

But the problem with the Bible alone is sufficient theory is that the Bible itself presupposes the existence of the Church.

Paul writings to Timothy about Scripture is Paul writing to a man whom Paul has already made a Bishop.

The Bible itself was never meant to make Christians or constitute a Church but, to edify Christians already made by being proclaimed by the Church in Liturgy. People were made Christians based on the simple fact of Jesus’ work of Redemption and our need to be Baptized into His work.

So in light of the fact that both Paul and Timothy were men of God in Jesus’ Church, then that fact must be assumed in interpreting that verse.

Also it must be considered within its historical context. Paul was writing to Timothy about “the Scriptures which you have known from your youth.” In this context that would in fact eliminate that letter as “Scripture”, as well as much or all of the New Testament since at that time they had yet to be written much less proclaimed as “Scripture”.

Therefore the only “Scripture” Paul would be referring to is the Old Testament Scriptures. Which would necessarily meant that only the OT Scriptures ALONE are sufficient to make one a Christian.

So either the context cannot possibly suggest what your friend is suggesting, or if it does then it proves something quite different than your friend intended. Something which I doubt he would himself believe.

I’d like to address your friend’s misinterpretation of this verse. First, let’s look at it closely:

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…

See how it says, “profitable”, not, “sufficient”? That’s the key. Scripture helps us to be perfectly equipped, but it isn’t sufficient, i.e, the only thing we need.

If I were a soldier, I would need body armor, a gun, and a helmet. I could say that the helmet was profitable for me to be completely equipped, but I would be lying if I said it was sufficient, because I also need my armor and my gun.

I also recommend these resources:
scripturecatholic.com/scripture_alone.html
jimmyakin.com/library/2-timothy-316-17-and-sola-scriptura
catholic.com/tracts/whats-your-authority
catholicnewsagency.com/resources/apologetics/bible/where-is-that-taught-in-the-bible/
catholichack.com/2-timothy-316-17-sola-scriptura/
matt1618.freeyellow.com/2tim316.html

And I suggest showing your friend this verse:
2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

Thanks for the responses. Great info!

He is laying it on very heavy right now.

His rejection of Catholic Baptism is why is complete immersion not practiced. I pointed to the Didache and other Fathers and he didn’t like those very much. Is the Didache referenced in the New Testament? If so please let me know where.

Here is some stuff he sent me last night. I still need to look for the Catholic response to these…

1 Corinthians 4 Paul admonishes the Corinthian brethren not to think beyond what is written:
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Luke also explicity states when beginning his gospel that he was doing so in order that Theophilus would then be able to verify the things in which he had been instructed. That verse, if none other does, proves the superiority of the scriptures to all other modes.
Luke 1: Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

We must also note that in every instance in the scripture where traditions are referenced, they are referenced in the past tense, as something already received and learned, not as something that would continue to evolve over time with additions from fallible men, but as something shown by the example of the apostles and followed until the scriptures as we now know them could be completed. I fully understand the lack of literacy and access to written works in the first century, but I also turn to passages like 1 Corinthians 14 to see that in the first century church individuals had spiritual gifts that allowed them to know the will of God in the interim. In the preceding chapter, Paul even went so far as to prophecy that when the scriptures had been completed, spiritual gifts would cease among the saints.

No, the Didache does not meet the criteria that the Bishops established to be Scripture.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is the underlying assumption that for something to be a revealed truth that it must be in the Bible.

That assumption is false. Point him to John’s gospel, chapter 20, verses 30 & 31.

What Paul is referring to in this verse is what he had just written in chapters 1-3. He is exhorting them to humility(hence his warning of being “puffed up”). There is nothing in the context to suggest that Paul’s concern is any broader than that. It certainly doesn’t suggest anything close to “sola-scriptura”.

Point him to 2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

Luke also explicity states when beginning his gospel that he was doing so in order that Theophilus would then be able to verify the things in which he had been instructed. That verse, if none other does, proves the superiority of the scriptures to all other modes.
Luke 1: Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

No. He’s begging the question here. He’s assuming his conclusion of “sola-scriptura” as a premise. Luke’s “verification” was nothing more than a confirmation of things that were already handed down(tradition) to them by the Apostles by their preaching.

Scripture has no authority without the living witness of the Church. The truth of Scripture depends on the authority of the ones who proclaim the Gospel.(see 1 Tim 3:15).

cont.

We must also note that in every instance in the scripture where traditions are referenced, they are referenced in the past tense, as something already received and learned, not as something that would continue to evolve over time with additions from fallible men, but as something shown by the example of the apostles and followed until the scriptures as we now know them could be completed.

Again, he’s assuming his conclusion. The Church received several promises from Christ, including that the gates of hell shall never prevail against His Church, that whatever those in authority in His Church bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and that the Holy Spirit would lead His Church to all the truth.

That means that Christ promised these “fallible men” with His heavenly power and grace to teach infallibly. The same “fallible men” which he thinks “added” or “evolved” revealed truth against God are no different than the “fallible men” who penned the books which comprise the BIble and which he, rightfully, asserts are infallible.

It simply doesn’t follow that if God empowered the “fallable men” known as the Apostles to write infallibly that God could not continue to empower their succesors to do the same when expounding or explaining the traditions they had received from the Apostles.

He seems to rather be conflating the terms “added” or “evolved” with the term “developments”. And are those things which he claims are additions are really not just developments that still maintain the essence of what was already revealed?

I fully understand the lack of literacy and access to written works in the first century, but I also turn to passages like 1 Corinthians 14 to see that in the first century church individuals had spiritual gifts that allowed them to know the will of God in the interim. In the preceding chapter, Paul even went so far as to prophecy that when the scriptures had been completed, spiritual gifts would cease among the saints.

The claim here is rather vague. If he is referring to 13:8, he’s ripping the verse out of context as a pretext for his assumption of sola scriptura. Paul in the context is talking about (agape) love and how that love is perfect and will always remain. He then is contrasting (agape) love with other spiritual gifts(because in the context he is asserting that all spiritual gifts flow from love and are grounded in love). Thus he says that when the “perfect”(the new heavens and new earth) come what is partial-“prophecies”, “tongues”, and “knowledge”-will pass away.

He sums up his thought at the end of chapter 13:
[12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
[13] So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

There s simply nothing in either context which supports “sola-scriptura”. He’s just imposing his idea onto the Scriptures.

It’s not, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a historical document, from 40-70 AD (before the Bible was even completed!). It documents how the Church worked when it was run by the Apostles.

How does your friend know that the Didache is not itself scripture?
Some in the early Church thought so. How does he know what is and is not scripture (apart from the Church)?

Because it is not in the Bible.

Is there somewhere in the Bible that the Apostles quoted something from the Didache?

FKB is saying that the OP’s friend has no way to know what is in the Bible, apart from the Church.

It is really irrelevant.

Ask him where in the Bible does it list what books belong in the Bible?

No such list exists.

So the fact remains that some outside authority necessarily decided what criteria a book would need to meet to be considered “Scripture” and thus decide what the list of books would be which would be contained as “the Bible”.

That “authority” would then necessarily use its authority to make the declarative statement, “This IS the inspired word of God.”

According to the Bible this “authority” must be the Church:

“…if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15).

Or just ask him, “according to the BIble what is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth”; the BIble right?”

The above citation proves that it is otherwise.

For him to claim differently means that he rejects the Bible and instead prefers his man-made invention of “sola-scriptura”.

Your friend is attempting to engage you in a game of Bible badminton. Keep it mind it is the same tactic employed by Satan during the temptation in the desert; one that tries to use Sacred Scripture merely to serve one’s own end.

The Early Church Fathers were disciples of apostles and/or the earliest church teachings. They received instruction in the same way as your friend, through listening to his pastor and acquainting himself with scripture. The difference is St. Ignatius’s pastor was the Apostle John. St. Ignatius was the first to commit to writing that this Church (of the Bible) was Catholic in his letter to the Smyrneans (the section exhorting them to do nothing without their bishop).

Trying to make the Bible about a different church is to deny a reality. Your friend isn’t interested, at this point, in learning the faith of the early Church; he’s interested in defining it for himself. I would, charitably, just simply tell him that; suggest that if he really wants to learn about the early Church, start at the beginning: 1st century, 2nd, 3rd…(tell him you’d be glad to help him if he needs it) otherwise he’s just going to argue continually and jump subjects and in the end you’ll both be out of breath and standing in the same spots as when you started.

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