Sola Scriptura & Epistemology

I’ve been reading Protestant defenses of Sola Scriptura, trying to better understand their perspective to explain and point to the one true Church. Until recently, this has been frustrating because I’ve been unable to find any logical basis for Sola Scriptura, and its adherents I’ve talked to have held to a logically untenable position.

However, a recent essay by C. Michael Patton presented the first potentially reasonable argument I’ve seen. In his case (page 19-22 of this document: reclaimingthemind.org/content/Parchmentandpen/In-Defense-of-Sola-Scriptura.pdf), he admits that Protestants have no absolute certainty that the canon of Scripture is correct, if there is no infallible Church to base it off of. However, he contends that it is also impossible for the Catholic to have absolute certainty, since we have no infallible source upon which to base our belief in an infallible Church. Instead, both groups rely on probable, rather than absolute, certainty in the truth of the Scriptures. He sums it up like this:

Catholic Position: Fallible Person -->(Fallible Belief in) -->Infallible Church -->(Infallible Declaration about) -->Infallible Scripture

Protestant Position: Fallible Person -->(Fallible Belief in) -->Infallible Scripture

This seems problematic to our “spiral argument” that historical evidence leads to infallible Church which leads to infallible Scripture. If the basis of our knowledge is fallible, then how can the consequence of it be infallible? As Catholics, how might we respond to these arguments? I feel like there’s some counterpoint I can’t quite grasp.

I would call Jesus an infallible source. Therefore the words He speaks are true/infallible/certain. And, He said the gates of hell (lies - satan is the father of lies) would not prevail against His Church built on the rock of Peter. He said what was bound by Peter/pope would also be bound in heaven. I’m sure even Mr. Patton would agree that only truths - no falsehoods - will be bound in heaven.

I don’t think this counters their argument, though. While the words of Jesus are infallible, if our knowledge of what he said is fallible, then we don’t have absolute certainty. And while I think we have strong historical evidence that Jesus is divine, and that what is written in the Bible is true, I don’t think we can claim absolute certainty of that without begging the question by pre-supposing that either the Bible is inspired or the Church is infallible.

I’m not trying to be contrarian; I’m really hoping there’s a strong Catholic response to this argument for Sola Scriptura. I’m not sure whether we can/should go about refuting their claim that we don’t have any absolute certainty or not.

Forgive me if I am following the man’s logic wrong, but it seems like he is declaring that both churches rely on the scriptures for their formation? The problem I see there is it assumes that our Church came out of our scriptures. Whereas that Logic does indeed decimate the Protestant notion that the scriptures are infallible since they have no source of infallibility to declare them so, it does nothing to the Catholic notion. It boils down to Apostolic authority. Our Church existed and was being formed long before the New Testament scriptures were being written. The Statement that Peter was the rock and had the authority to bind and loosen was made before a single word was recorded. He began to exercise that authority as early as the first council of Jerusalem.

We as Catholics have to be careful to remember that our Church was not formed BY the scriptures, it FORMED the scriptures. Our infallible source then comes from heaven itself, via the Paraclete. Either we believe that the Holy Spirit has the ability to work through those gathered in his name to guide our church, and that the See of Peter has the ability to make those declarations to the entire body of Christ or we have to reject scripture entirely.

In fact, I would surmise that even to say that Scripture itself has any authority at all would be to acknowledge that the Church itself had to at some point be infallible (even if you reject that it is now.) After all how can you read a document written by the Church and then declare that the Church that wrote it is less inerrant than the document itself?

The Catholic Church is the only church that professes its belief upon Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium, while every other church professes its belief upon Scripture, but not tradition and magisterium, yet every church actually does profess its beliefs on Scripture, tradition of some sort, and magisterium of some sort.

So, the Catholic Church, by its honest admission, is the true Church, centered on Jesus Christ, and rightly asserts its claim, based on Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.

Protestants follow Martin Luther’s denial of 2 Tim 3:16-17 by removing seven books from the Old Testament. The issue is not that those books are so terribly central to Christian thought, but that by denying them, Protestants deny 2 Tim 3:16-17 which is an important part of Christian thought.

And, Protestants deny 2 Tim 3:16-17 without admitting that they deny 2 Tim 3:16-17. And, remarkably, there are some Protestants who hold absolutely to Rev 22:18 (about not removing “words” from the prophecy which they consider the entire Bible) without admitting that they already have removed the words of those 7 books from the Bible. Protestants also have an undisputed history of approving divorce which Jesus forbade (as in King Henry 8th) and in persecuting Catholics, as in Ireland, terrorizing them, seizing their lands, and deporting them to the United States. Protestants don’t admit to their own sordid past.

Protestants have been so successful at convincing people of skepticism about the Church and the Bible that the faith in many parts of Europe is dead and the European Union denies and suppresses its religious, particularly Christian, heritage. Protestantism has been so successful at spreading Christian disunity, which Jesus prayed for in John 17, that they are coming up to celebrating their 500th year of that disunity, as something to be proud of.

As true Christians, we have to divorce ourselves from heresy and from not speaking the truth, notwithstanding even our own tolerance of others on this website.

That’s not persuasive at all. How is it supposedly so?

It–as all protestant arguments vis a vis sola scriptura–relies on a complete fiction; a complete neglect of how the Bible itself, came into being–IOW, a complete disregard of history.

Whence the Bible?

To whom was it entrusted?

Who served as the fiduciary of the Word of God, before Marty and his merry band of white knights, supposedly came in to save the Word of God, from…it’s FIDUCIARY???

Where was this need for salvation of the Word of God prophesied … in the Word of God itself???

(note: Marty was called out on this compicous absence; his grand reply? “…I am your prophet.” So to subscribe to the Reformation–you must inherently accept Marty, as your prophet–else there is no divine revelation as basis for his doctrines).

Christ established a Church; Christ entrusted His Word, to that Church, via His Holy Spirit; that Church therefore, was (and remains) the fiduciary of the Word of God.

It would take an act of divine intervention (authenticated by/through divine Revelation), to divest that Church of her fiduciary authority/capacity (for which it should be noted, she served as its faithful fiduciary for 15 centuries before Marty, et. al.; else Marty wouldn’t even have had access to the Word of God, to pervert as he did).

I agree. Either Jesus was able to keep His promise that He would send his Holy Spirit that would guide the Church into “all Truth” or not. If He abandoned His promise, and HIs Church, then she cannot be any sure foundation.

“…the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” I Tim 3:15

:thumbsup:

Because that analysis is from the viewpoint of Patton, a Protestant,

[LIST]
*]Patton already recognizes he is not infallible.
*]he has no faith in the infallibility of the Catholic Church, who is there from Pentecost, and is here today, with pope Francis at the helm, 266th successor to St Peter. The same Church scripture calls the “pillar and foundation of truth”. 1 Timothy 3:15 Interesting the bible doesn’t say that about the bible.
*]So one has to ask where is Patton’s authority? He left himself and his fallible notions as the authority.
*]Patton wasn’t there when scripture was written by the Catholic Church. Yes the writers of scripture were already in the Church they were writing to and for. Which means the Catholic Church came first before the NT books were written. And that can be demonstrated with evidence all properly referenced. #[FONT=&quot]34[/FONT]
*]he wasn’t there when the Catholic Church canonized the books of scripture.
*]Why even listen to him or take his points seriously?
[/LIST]
.BTW, The Bible Is Not Infallible , (by Keating)

Sola Scriptura is a bit of a logical dead end. If one believes in Sola Scriptura, Sacred Scripture as the sole rule of faith, it must be asked why Sacred Scripture is taken so seriously.

If the answer is because Sacred Scripture is divinely inspired, one must ask how the person calling it inspired knows that.

For Catholics, we can point to Church councils on the subject for our answer. That settles it.

But if a Protestant believes Sacred Scripture is the sole rule faith, I don’t see how he can rely on magisterial teachings to bolster his claim. So how does a Protestant know that Sacred Scripture is God’s word? :shrug:

An important distinction is that an infallible Church is comprised of men who have authority. You can consult these men and they can not only give you an authoritative answer but they can elaborate on that answer. A collection of books can not answer a question and can not elaborate.

The issue of certainty is really a distinct issue. A good read that touches on Sola Scriptura, empiricism and certainty is Feyerabend on empiricism and sola scriptura by Catholic philosopher Ed Feser. It is a long article but very enlightening. I think Feser makes a good case that one problem is Sola Scriptura comes along with other bad ideas which make that doctrine more tenable but only in a context of deep philosophical errors which pervade our culture.

See THIS helpful resource.

Protestants hold to Sola Scriptura because of what it is. (it characteristics) Writings God breathed.
That is our starting point.

It is nearly irrelevant to the Sola Scriptura discussion on what is Scripture (which writings)
If the only God breathed writings we had were the Ten Commandments; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura

If the Chronicles of Adam or 3 Corinthians were God breathed writings; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura.

You asked
" So how does a Protestant know that Sacred Scripture is God’s word?"
I’ll answer the question that was asked (not what I think you may have meant)
That is the definition of Scripture: We call God breathed writings Scripture

Once again
We practice Sola Scripture
because of what Scripture is, not what is Scripture.

SS assumes the canon, which is very convenient, and avoidant.

No,it doesn’t

The canon is a list of all known God breathed writings.
A writing is Scripture (and everything that goes with that) the moment it was written; prior to canonization

If the only God breathed writings we had were the Ten Commandments; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura

If the Chronicles of Adam or 3 Corinthians were God breathed writings; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura.

Alwayswill,

Your argument seems either to be circular or a mere re-statement of the definition. Could you help me understand why you’re not saying what it appears you’re saying?

OK: so your starting point is the definition that ‘Sacred Scripture is the term for writings that are God-breathed’. Not the assertion that there exist writings which are God-breathed, or even this particular canon of writings are God-breathed, right, but simply that the definition of ‘Sacred Scripture’ is ‘God-breathed writings’. Right?

It is nearly irrelevant to the Sola Scriptura discussion on what is Scripture (which writings)
If the only God breathed writings we had were the Ten Commandments; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura

If the Chronicles of Adam or 3 Corinthians were God breathed writings; we would still hold to Sola Scriptura.

No: it is irrelevant to the definition of Sacred Scripture. That is to say, the definition stays the same, regardless which writings are judged to meet it. However, it is highly relevant to the discussion of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura!

You asked
" So how does a Protestant know that Sacred Scripture is God’s word?"
I’ll answer the question that was asked (not what I think you may have meant)
That is the definition of Scripture: We call God breathed writings Scripture

No – hang on! All you’ve done here is repeat the definition. Are you saying that he’s merely asking whether the definition holds? That makes the question trivial.

On the other hand, it’s possible that you’re making a circular argument. If you were pointing to a Bible and saying “this particular book is Scripture because that’s the definition of Scripture”, then you’d be begging the question. That’s not what you’re saying, right? You’re not claiming that the canon of Scripture is Scripture because that’s the definition of Scripture… right?

The crux of the question is understanding what is meant by ‘Sacred Scripture’. You’ve chosen to interpret it in the abstract, by simply repeating the definition of the term. I would assert that the question intends to speak of it in the particular: a particular canon of writings which has been declared to be, in fact, ‘Sacred Scripture’.

If this is his question (and I’m guessing that you realize that this is his question, too ;)), then our analysis of his question leads naturally to two discussion points:

[list]*]Given that we know the definition of ‘Sacred Scripture’, how do we know that such writings exist? (In other words, I know the definition of a unicorn, but that does not imply that it exists in the world. Before I can formulate the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, I must not only assert the definition, but also I must identify that such writings actually exist!)
*]Given that we assert the actual existence of writings which are God-breathed, how do we know which writings they are?[/list]

Blessings,
G.

Right…and…? If you are working off this collection to practice SS, then there is a fundamental recognition that this collection of books is Scripture.

Yes, of course. And the Holy Spirit led the Church to recognize, collect, preserve, and promulgate a collection of these theopneustos writings for the benefit of the faithful. It is called the canon of Scripture.

Hmm… Given the fracturing and fragmentation that has occurred from this practice with the amount of Scripture we have, we can only imagine how much worse it would be if we had only the Ten Commandments! Given that there are as many interpretations as there are belly buttons, we might all be radical terrorists by now.

No, an adherant of SS has no reason to reject the Epistle of Barnabas or the Shepherd of Hermas or the Didache from the New Testament. What evidence do you have that these writings are not theopneustos?

A few questions:

  1. Using your methodology, how do you deny Mormon’s claim that the Book of Mormon is inspired? They certainly believe it is.

  2. The Septuagint (the version of the Scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles) contained the deuterocanonicals. Those books were included in the Bible, and went uncontested by Christians for 1100 years until Luther, on his own authority, decided to put them in the appendix and call them apocrypha. Then, in the 1800’s, Protestant Bible societies decided to not print Bibles with those books even in the appendix. Here are my questions:

Why were these books considered inspired for 1100 years, but Protestants decided 1100 after their inclusion in the Bible to remove them?

Why would I not trust books used in the version of Scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles?

By what authority can a Protestant claim Jesus and the Apostle’s had an incorrect / partially uninspired version of Scripture?

  1. Many early Christians thought some of the Gnostic gospels were inspired, as well as the Didache, or the writings of Clement. Whose decision, on which books to include and which books to exclude, do Protestants rely on?

=Goya;13717155]T
(note: Marty was called out on this compicous absence; his grand reply? “…I am your prophet.” So to subscribe to the Reformation–you must inherently accept Marty, as your prophet–else there is no divine revelation as basis for his doctrines).

Source, please. You have these words that you here claim are Dr. Luther’s in quotes, so you must have a source.

In fact, here’s a real quote from Dr. Luther:

I ask that my name be left silent and people not call themselves Lutheran, but rather Christians. Who is Luther? The doctrine is not mine. I have been crucified for no one. St. Paul in 1 Cor. 3:4-5 would not suffer that the Christians should call themselves of Paul or of Peter, but Christian. How should I, a poor stinking bag of worms, become so that the children of Christ are named with my unholy name? It should not be dear friends. Let us extinguish all factious names and be called Christians whose doctrine we have. The pope’s men rightly have a factious name because they are not satisfied with the doctrine and name of Christ and want to be with the pope, who is their master. I have not been and will not be a master. Along with the church I have the one general teaching of Christ who alone is our master. Matt. 23:8.

Jon

Why didn’t they listen to him?

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