I recently came across your article on Scripture and Tradition, and I feel that it makes a number of misrepresentations about what exactly the idea of Sola Scriptura entails. My chief objections related to the following statement:
“Protestants claim the Bible is the only rule of faith, meaning that it contains all of the material one needs for theology… anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong”
Sola Scriptura does not claim the Bible to be the only source of doctrinal authority. What is claimed is that the Bible is the only infallible source of doctrinal authority. While both Protestants and Catholics will agree that scripture is an infallible source of doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the Protestant position is that no other infallible source of doctrine is anywhere established.
However, Protestants do believe that other sources of authority exist outwith scripture, with perhaps the most significant of these being the church. Scripture itself shows that the church may make authoritative interpretations of scripture (Acts 15), and enforce these as a matter of discipline across the local churches (Acts 16:4). Indeed, this is the very basis of the presbyterian church polity of the Reformed branch of Protestantism. An example of the application of such authority would be the almost universal implementation of creeds and confessions across Protestant churches, which are regarded as authoritative, despite not being part of the scripture. Some of these we will share with Catholics (eg the Nicene Creed), while others we will not (eg the Westminster Confession of Faith). So I feel that your article was very misleading when it stated Protestants believe that “anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong”.
While Protestants and Catholics can agree that the church is invested with a certain authority to speak on doctrinal matters, their disagreement is about whether or not is it infallible in doing so. Protestants would say that the church is a subordinate authority to the scripture. Indeed, it is the scripture that establishes the authority of the church (Acts 15, Acts 16:4, Matthew 18;17-19 etc). Likewise, the scripture shows the church to be subordinate and subject to the scriptures. For example, the Thessalonians were commended for searching out the scriptures to prove the teachings of Paul himself (Acts 17:11) - if the words of the original apostles were subordinate to scripture, how can the ‘apostles’ of this day and age claim to speak with greater authority?
This issue aside, one important point to note is that while Protestants do not believe the Bible to be the sole source of all doctrine and discipline, we do believe it to contain all that is necessary for salvation, and that its teachings in this particular matter are sufficiently clear that they are of themselves sufficient to preach salvation. Accordingly, 2 Timothy 3:15 states:
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Protestants believe that the scriptures are indeed sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, independent of any supposed apostolic traditions, or the interpretations of church leaders. However this is only true of matters pertaining to salvation, and not the entirety of Christian life and discipline.
I feel that perhaps the Catholic Answers article on this matter has been too influenced by the misunderstandings of Sola Scriptura that prevail within the highly individualistic and doctrinally lax culture of American Evangelicalism; rather than the more traditional understandings of mainstream Protestantism. With this in mind, I would appreciate it if you amended your article on ‘Scripture and Tradition’ so that it no longer misrepresents Protestant beliefs.