Sola Scriptura ... again


#1

I made the following comment … [LIST]
*]

You are of the opinion that that Christians are to follow the Scriptures alone as their sole source of Christian truth (sola Scriptura). But then why does Saint Paul tell us to follow both the Scriptures and the oral word in 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.” Isn’t Paul adding something else to follow in addition to the Bible? Yes he is, because the doctrine of sola Scriptura is an erroneous doctrine.

[/LIST]… and was rebuked with the following …

First, it is most clear from the Scripture (When it comes down to “proving all things” the Acts 17:11 example makes it very difficult to support “oral or extra-biblical traditions of men” that are not also supported within scripture. According to Acts 17:11 if you can’t prove from scripture what someone tells you orally then scripture trumps oral tradition.) that the Bible itself declares we are to go by its contents. That alone should settle the issue.

Second, Paul in the citation from 2 Thessalonians 2:15 lends absolutely no support to the false doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church which places unwritten tradition allegedly preserved by the Roman Catholic Church on an equal footing with Scripture.

This is so because the Roman Catholic Church is committing the fallacy of equivocation in logic when that church speaks of “tradition.” In Roman Catholic terminology tradition represents continuing development of Christian doctrine through the centuries since the founding of the Roman Catholic Church.

This itself is absolutely contrary to the teaching of Scripture found in Jude’s epistle, where Jude speaks of earnestly contending “for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The Greek text is absolutely emphatic that the truth was delivered (as a complete and final package not to be added to or changed afterward) once for all (a Greek term used only a few times in the New Testament).

But there is another meaning lurking in the discussion of tradition–namely, that it supposedly has reference to teachings of the Apostles of Christ which were not written down, but the Roman Catholic Church has preserved to this day. This use of the term “tradition” has no necessary reference to the doctrine of the development of Christian doctrine as tradition over time.

Neither of these meanings for “tradition” corresponds to the meaning of the term “tradition” used by the Apostle Paul in the citation from 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The term used in this Scripture passage has reference to the content of the oral teaching which the Thessalonians heard when Paul was present with them as recorded in the historical account recorded in the book of Acts.

This last Biblical meaning of the term has no necessary connection with the other two meanings used by the Roman Catholic Church.

“Scripture trumps oral tradition.” Furthermore, there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXTANT RECORD of any oral tradition that comes from the New Testament apostolic period which contains the words of Jesus Christ Himself or his immediate Apostles.

If you think otherwise, kindly furnish me one or two bona fide recorded statements made by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry which are preserved outside of the record we have in the New Testament.

I suspect that “tradition” in the Roman Catholic sense is somewhat like a mysterious black box, the contents of which are undocumented and undocumentable, somewhat reminiscent of the nursery rhyme, which says in part, “Nothing in it, nothing in it, but the binding 'round it.”

… Can anyone help me formulate a reply? Thanks in advance.


#2

Knight opponent << Second, Paul in the citation from 2 Thessalonians 2:15 lends absolutely no support to the false doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church which places unwritten tradition allegedly preserved by the Roman Catholic Church on an equal footing with Scripture. >>

St. John Chrysostom begs to differ, among others:

“‘So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by an epistle of ours’ [2 Thes 2:15]. Hence it is MANIFEST, that they did NOT deliver all things by Epistle, but MANY THINGS UNWRITTEN, and IN LIKE MANNER BOTH the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the TRADITION of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition seek no farther.” (Homilies on Second Thessalonians 4,2).

“We may answer, that what is here written, was sufficient for those who would attend, and that the sacred writers ever addressed themsleves to the matter of immediate importance, whatever it might be at that time: it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are MANY THINGS which have been delivered by UNWRITTEN TRADITION…” (Homilies on Acts 1,1)

If you read what Chrysostom wrote and believed about Baptism, Eucharist, Salvation/Justification, and St. Peter the rock, I suggest he belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. :smiley: Chrysostom also had much to say about basing one’s beliefs upon Scripture, as does Vatican II (cf. Dei Verbum 11, 21). But he is not a sola scriptura person, none of the Fathers were.

Knight opponent << Furthermore, there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXTANT RECORD of any oral tradition that comes from the New Testament apostolic period which contains the words of Jesus Christ Himself or his immediate Apostles. >>

A common objection. We don’t need the exact words, all we need are the apostolic teachings, faithfully passed on and preserved. There are some extent non-scriptural words of Jesus passed on in the early Church, they are called “agraphon” or (plural) “agrapha”. These are interesting but not important to “sacred tradition.”

Of course there is development of doctrine, but even anti-Catholic evangelicals accept that regarding the Trinity, the person of Christ, the canon of the New Testament, etc. These apostolic teachings are passed on through sacred tradition: the common life, common teaching, common liturgy of the Catholic Church. And it is the Church which has the final authority and is the final interpreter on what is true and orthodox Christian doctrine. All the Fathers accepted that as well.

I think this person needs to have my Schaff, Kelly, and Pelikan summary quotes once again: :thumbsup:

Presbyterian/Reformed SCHAFF: For the early Church the divine Scriptures AND the oral tradition of the apostles or living apostolic Faith of the Catholic Church together formed the one infallible source and rule of faith for the Church; Church Tradition determined the canon of Scripture and furnished the key to the true interpretation of the Scriptures (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 3, page 606);

Anglican KELLY: Throughout the whole period of the Fathers, Scripture AND Tradition ranked as complementary authorities, although overlapping or coincident in content; and if Scripture was “sufficient” in principle, Tradition provided the surest clue to Scripture’s true interpretation, for in Tradition the Church received, as a legacy from the apostles, an unerring grasp of the real meaning of revelation that both Tradition AND Scripture enshrined and bore witness (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 47-48, 51);

Lutheran/Orthodox PELIKAN: There was no notion of Sola Scriptura in the ante-Nicene Church, neither was there a notion of Sola Traditio (Tradition alone); the one universal Catholic Church of the Fathers (neither Western/Catholic nor Eastern/Orthodox) was the repository of all revealed truth, the dispenser of all grace, and the only place where the true God accepted true worship, sacrifices, intercessions, good works, etc – only from this Church does the truth shine forth; heretics taught doctrines found neither in Scripture nor Tradition, while orthodox Catholics in the Church of the four Gospels and four Councils were faithful to both Scripture and Tradition (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, volume 1, page 115-117, 334-335).

I really don’t need to say anymore. The Protestant scholars have said enough. If the above is “sola scriptura” then a Catholic can adhere to sola scriptura.

I also recommend the book by Keith Mathison The Shape of Sola Scriptura (2001) since he clears up misunderstandings of both Catholics and evangelicals. The Church is “our mother,” “the pillar and ground, the interpreter, teacher, and proclaimer of God’s Word…the Christian who rejects the authority of the Church rejects the authority of the One who sent her” (Luke 10:16). And “it is to the Church as a visible body that we must turn to find the true interpretation and preaching of the good news of Christ. It is therefore to the Church that we must turn for the true interpretation of the Scripture, for it is in the Scripture that the gospel is found” (Mathison, page 268-270).

Phil P


#3

Acts 17 was dealt with by Steve Ray a decade ago, and James White’s reply admits Jesus, the people of Jesus’ day, his apostles, and their immediate successors (Timothy, Titus, etc) did not and could not practice sola scriptura, since relevation was still being given:

“…the doctrine [of sola scriptura] speaks of a rule of faith that exists. What do I mean by this? …You will never find anyone saying, ‘During times of enscripturation – that is, when new revelation was being given – sola scriptura was operational.’ Protestants do not assert that sola scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at that very time coming into being? One must have an existing rule of faith to say it is ‘sufficient.’ It is a canard to point to times of revelation and say, ‘See, sola scriptura doesn’t work there!’ Of course it doesn’t. Who said it did?” (James White, on Steve Ray, the Bereans and Sola Scriptura)

Phil P


#4

This is pretty easy to refute, and with the Bible and a little logic too.

If the person has any familiarity with Jesus at all, he would find that Jesus taught things in parables to people, but He explained everything to His disciples when they were apart and in private (Mark 4:33-34). Couple that with John’s explanation that not everything Jesus did was written down (John 21:25), does that mean that the things Jesus explained in private to His disciples were of no importance? I would think that anything God did would definitely be of importance!

So how do we find out what these things that God did and taught were? Just because they weren’t written down, does that mean they are lost forever to the mists of time? No! They survive as Tradition, meaning those things Jesus taught to His disciples in private. How do we know these Traditions are true and right? They were passed down from one trustworthy person to another (2Tim2:2).

And you won’t find a conflict with your opponent’s citation of Jude 3. The Faith WAS delivered once and for all to the Saints. Jesus did so with His private explanations to His disciples, not all of which were written down but nevertheless are still carried from one trustworthy person to another in the Catholic Church.


#5

This is what I don’t get…

Why on earth do SS people seem to think that catholics prioritize authority? Why can’t the realize it works a lot like the trinity with all defining each other? Scripture measures all that the pope and tradition say. However, the pope and tradition are needed to have a slight chance of understanding scripture. We get MOST traditions from scripture, and the pope from scripture…I mean…ARGH!

It’s like trying to define which member of the trinity is “the ultimate authority” NONE OF THEM ARE. They are all equal and defining one another. You can separate them. Protestants have the EXACT same system but they don’t realize it. And don’t tell me they don’t. I was follwing a pastoral course of study in the most loose church out there, and I saw the traditions and authority, but because of their desire to have “no authority” it was a blooming mess!

I honesty think that if they would stop assuming what catholics believe and take what catholics say at face value instead of saying “because you believe this, it means this” they would see that we are believing 99% of the same stuff but speaking the SAME language.

Everytime they pick up a bible study book, a devotional, or a study bible, they are allowing someone to authoritatively define scripture. When they take communion, sing worship songs, decorate for easter, they are embracing tradition, and allowing that to dictate how they worship rather than scripture. Yet all of this points to God and scripture. Same thing with Catholics. yeesh. :rolleyes:


#6

the Bible itself declares we are to go by its contents. That alone should settle the issue.

That hardly settles the issue at all. I’d ask where the Bible says what its contents are.


#7

I think there are a couple of main issues to be addressed:

  1. Was the faith indeed delivered once, for all, in full sufficiency? Jude seems to say so.

  2. If it is true that valid teachings outside of scripture were given (perhaps orally by Paul and others), how can we know that the RCC has passed them down accurately?

To the first point, I believe, was affirmed by Jude. Clearly, the earliest Christians did have the faith, handed down once and for all. This, to me makes it obvious that the works written during and just after the first generation of Christians should be an accurate reflection of the Christian belief, making our scriptures essentially an eye-witness account of what the Christian faith was like back then. To that extent, though I don’t know that we can explicitly exclude all other written materials (for there are many things of very near antiquity to scripture which certainly cannot be ignored, at least not fully).

Second, even assuming that something needed to be passed down orally (though for the life of me I cannot fathom why that would be), who is it that is responsible for this? The RCC no doubt says “the apostles”, for only they were given the fullness of the faith. This supports the case for apostolic succession being necessary, etc.

However, I’d like to point out the words of Jude 1:3. It says “…and exhort you to contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” It doesn’t say disciples, apostles, bishops, “church leadership” or anything of the kind. It says “to the saints” – that term, by the way, refers to the entire people of God.


#8

To those who believe in Sola Scriptura, I have a simple question: Who wrote Revelation?


#9

Someone named John? I know what tradition says, but that seems unlikely. No one can say with certainty, though.

I’m a big believer in Sola Scriptura, but with a caveat. Scripture does say that tradition has merit, but the Bible also says,

Revelation 22:18-19
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Now the question becomes “how do we balance these apparently opposed concepts?”

I think the answer is simple. The Bible, the source of what we believe, must be given more authority than any tradition. We cannot place the traditions of man above God’s Word. That’d be silly, and perhaps dangerous.

Eating no meat during lent, for instance, is not at all Biblical. Does that mean it doesn’t have merit? Of course not. It’s an excellent exercise in sacrifice. Would eating meat be a sin? Of course not. Man does not decide what’s sinful and what isn’t- that’s God’s work.

Lot’s of Catholic traditions aren’t based in Scripture, but that doesn’t mean they’re without merit. It simply means that they’re not neccessary for salvation.


#10

Bingo!

Actually, Revelation was sent from Patmos, where it was written, to Smyrna – to the Bishop there, Polycarp. Polycarp was baptized and converted by John – the John who wrote Revelation. John consecrated him a bishop and Polycarp is our authority for sayhing the author of Revelation, whom he knew personally, is the Apostle John.

And that is an example of Sacred Tradition.:wink:

No, abstaining from meat is not a tradition. It’s a discipline.

You mistake “tradition” what a small “t” for Sacred Tradition – the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles and reported by men of the time. The identification of the author of Revelation as John the Apostle is an example of the latter.


#11

It is a mistake when considering references to tradition in Scripture and patristic writings to anachronistically apply what the modern Catholic Church means by Tradition. It does not follow, without proof, that the two are the same. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul commends tradition oral or written.

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
(2 Thessalonians 2:15 NASB)

Does Paul mean that he has taught some things orally and others in writing? Not necessarily. We can look earlier in the same chapter. He says:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
(2 Thessalonians 2:3-5 NASB)

Here Paul gives an example of something that he had taught the Thessalonians themselves both orally and in writing.

Does John Chrysostom feel that tradition was worthy of credit? Certainly he does but he doesn’t tell us what that tradition contains. He also makes comments about Scripture.

What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. -John Chrysostom, (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)
newadvent.org/fathers/23053.htm

There may be things in oral tradition but all the necessary things are clear and plain in the scriptures. Sounds very much like scripture alone.

He goes on in another place to say:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All what Scripture? all that sacred writing, he means, of which I was speaking. This is said of what he was discoursing of; about which he said, “From a child you have known the holy Scriptures.” All such, then, “is given by inspiration of God”; therefore, he means, do not doubt; and it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
“For doctrine.” For thence we shall know, whether we ought to learn or to be ignorant of anything. And thence we may disprove what is false, thence we may be corrected and brought to a right mind, may be comforted and consoled, and if anything is deficient, we may have it added to us.
“That the man of God may be perfect.” For this is the exhortation of the Scripture given, that the man of God may be rendered perfect by it; without this therefore he cannot be perfect. You have the Scriptures, he says, in place of me. If you would learn anything, you may learn it from them. And if he thus wrote to Timothy, who was filled with the Spirit, how much more to us!
“Thoroughly furnished unto all good works”; not merely taking part in them, he means, but “thoroughly furnished.”-John Chrysostom (Homilies on Second Timothy, 9, 3:16-17)
newadvent.org/fathers/230709.htm

He says that we have the Scriptures instead of Paul. The apostolic teaching is recorded in the Scriptures. Again while tradition may contain things, we can learn anything we ought to learn from Scripture.


#12

Looking more completely at Phillip Schaff, he goes on to explain that the tradition and the Scriptures were of the same substance. They each contain the same teaching
.

The old catholic doctrine of Scripture and tradition, therefore, nearly as it approaches the Roman, must not be entirely confounded with it. It makes the two identical as to substance, while the Roman church rests upon tradition for many doctrines and usages, like the doctrines of the seven sacraments, of the mass, of purgatory, of the papacy, and of the immaculate conception, which have no foundation in Scripture.

In the previous volume Schaff comments on an earlier period of church history.

In the substance of its doctrine this apostolic tradition agrees with the holy scriptures, and though derived, as to its form, from the oral preaching of the apostles, is really, as to its contents, one and the same with there apostolic writings. In this view the apparent contradictions of the earlier fathers, in ascribing the highest authority to both scripture and tradition in matters of faith, resolve themselves. It is one and the same gospel which the apostles preached with their lips, and then laid down in their writings, and which the church faithfully hands down by word and writing from one generation to another…
ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.xiv.iii.html?highlight=scripture#highlight

In the above quote Kelly is looking at views expressed in the third and fourth century. About the same period he also says, as Schaff did, that the content of Scripture and tradition was the same. Note that unlike your quote Kelly does not capitalize tradition.

That this (apostolic teaching) was embodied, however in Holy Scripture, and a parallel outlet in the Church’s general unwritten teaching and liturgical life, was taken for granted…Yet if the concept of tradition was expanded and made more concrete in these ways, the estimate of its position vis-a-vis Scripture as a doctrinal norm remained basically unaltered…Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis…Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. pp. 43-48

I don’t have access to Pelikan and so can’t reply on this point.


#13

If Scripture and tradition are the same in content then these authors talking of both Scripture and tradition says nothing about Scripture alone.

That the content of oral teaching and Scripture was the same is the view expressed by Iraneaus in the second century.

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.-Irenaeus (Against Heresies Book 3, Chapter 1. Paragraph 1.)
newadvent.org/fathers/0103301.htm

He goes on to say that with study, anyone can understand Scripture.

A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred ScripturesY.Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it,Cthose persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own.-Irenaeus (Against Heresies Book 2, Chapter 27, Paragraphs 1 & 2.
newadvent.org/fathers/0103227.htm

So the Apostles’ teaching was enscripurated and can be understood by all. Again this sounds very much like Scripture alone. Even though Irenaeus may refer to tradition, if that tradition is contained in Scripture, Sola Scriptura is not affected.


#14

According to Acts 17:11 if you can’t prove from scripture what someone tells you orally then scripture trumps oral tradition.

OK, let’s address the noble Bereans one more time.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessaloni’ca, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

So what happened here? The apostles themselves told them something orally (the gospel!), and a good number of them could not prove it from scripture! They rejected the gospel from the very mouths of the apostles because of the very theory posted above! While Greek men and women, who had no scripture, became believers. THAT is the legacy of sola Scriptura, from the very beginning!

Acts 17:11-12 is the strongest refutation of sola Scriptura in the entire bible.


#15

It says nothing against Sola Scriptura. Those who did not believe did not do so because they misinpreted the Scripture, which was the Old Testament. They did not accept the truth of the Apostle’s testimony about Jesus. They were commended for not just taking the Apostle’s word about what was in Scripture, that is just accepting the Apostles’ word about the Old Testament. If they did not believe when the Apostles told them Jesus is the Son of God and rose from the dead then searching the Scriptures would not do them any good.


#16

Sola scriptura would not have been the norm when the scriptures were still being developed. How can you sola something that isn’t complete?


#17

Agreed!

Eating no meat during lent, for instance, is not at all Biblical. Does that mean it doesn’t have merit? Of course not. It’s an excellent exercise in sacrifice. Would eating meat be a sin? Of course not. Man does not decide what’s sinful and what isn’t- that’s God’s work.

And yet I’ve heard many Roman Catholics say that eating meat during these times (or on regular Fridays) is a sin. Indeed, this is putting the later decisions of the RCC on an equal footing with God’s teachings.

Lot’s of Catholic traditions aren’t based in Scripture, but that doesn’t mean they’re without merit. It simply means that they’re not neccessary for salvation.

Agreed – though I wouldn’t say all such traditions have merit.

Actually, it’s an example of a person communicating knowledge he had. Such information has also been recorded in written form, so the question of the accuracy of that teaching is in far less doubt than some of the claimed traditions of the RCC.

You mistake “tradition” what a small “t” for Sacred Tradition – the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles and reported by men of the time. The identification of the author of Revelation as John the Apostle is an example of the latter.

And there’s written evidence showing the ancient-ness of that claim. If only all of these other Roman Catholic traditions were so fortunate as to have written attestation.


#18

HAMILTON…

Revelation 22:18-19
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

This verse can only be refering to Revelations because there was no “book” yet. The Bible had not been put together yet.


#19

Now that’s trying to have it both ways! What does Acts 17:11 say again about the noble Bereans who are still touted today, according to the Protestant interpretation?

According to Acts 17:11 if you can’t prove from scripture what someone tells you orally then scripture trumps oral tradition.

Doesn’t say anything about “still being developed”. It says scripture is the final rule. So in this case scripture was the final rule over the words of the gospel from the very mouths of the apostles, and based on scripture many of them rejected the gospel.

So I repeat, Acts 17:11-12 is the strongest refutation in the entire bible of sola Scriptura.


#20

You’ve just argued that the authority of those entrusted with the full revelation of God trumps those who would reject that authority based on their (the latter’s) interpretation of scripture.

You’ve just argued for Catholicism over Protestantism. Which is exactly the result that one must derive from the story of the Bereans.

I love the story of the Bereans. It demonstrates the authority of the Catholic Church, and the error of those who reject her based on scripture, in the tiniest nutshell.


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