The key to showing the error of Protestantism

FYI: The title is not meant to be harsh. Protestant Christians rejoice in Jesus Christ, our one savior and Lord, and have many things in common with the Catholic Church.

There are several approaches that demonstrate the errors of Protestantism.

But in all these years of studying doctrine and apologetics, I believe I have found a unique approach (for me, at least).

The cornerstone of Protestant (as opposed to Catholic) doctrine is sola scriptura, the belief that the Bible is the chief – or only – source of Christian truth and authority. Well, critical – essential – to this belief is the CANON of the Bible. If one will believe that the Bible is the sole rule of faith, then that person must know what the Bible is.

**And here is the KEY: **It is historically demonstrable that the Protestant canon of 66 books is wrong. Any honest look into Christian history will show that the Reformers’ personal determination to reject the Deuterocanonical books is groundless. The Orthodox Church accepts these as scripture; the Catholic Church does so; and the early Christian community did as well.

The subject of Protestant vs. Catholic canon has often been treated as just another topic for apologetics. But to me, it seems like the chief way to approach Protestantism.

If the Protestant canon is wrong, then sola scripture rests on very faulty ground indeed.

What do you think?

So basically, one quick way of summarizing this approach would be to tell a Protestant friend:

“So you believe the Bible is the primary authority and only infallible source of Christian doctrine. Well, what if the list of books you identify to be the Bible is incorrect?”

“How can sola scriptura be true when that very book you claim to be the sole rule of faith has an incomplete table of contents?”

“You believe that all of Christian doctrine and authority is contained within the pages of Scripture. But how can this be, when you lack writings that Christians throughout history have deemed part of the Bible?”

Read the Didache, the earliest known non-scriptural Christian document., written about 70-90 AD, while Saint John was yet alive. A proto-catechism, if you will. It is very Apostolic - thus very Catholic - and mentions the scriptures exactly zero times. Apostolic preaching was paramount, along with the Sacraments and the liturgy. It is a quick and illuminating read. Perhaps even shocking for a bible Christian. :thumbsup:

However, I also love the teaching of Dr. David Anders in his “Call to Communion” EWTN radio show (also on YouTube). He asks non-Catholics to ponder how Jesus arranged for the passing on of the faith. Hint: no bible - rather, it reads exactly like the Didache.

However, we cannot beat them over the head with the Didache, but only make them aware and bear faithful and prayerful witness.

You are correct. When a “Bible-believing” Christian who goes to a “Bible-believing” church starts talking Sola Scriptura, I think a perfectly good argument would be to ask, “Which Scriptures?” The Catholic bible with 73 books? Or the Orthodox bible with 78 books? Or the Ethiopian bible with 81 books? Or the itty-bitty Protestant bible with 66 books? Which one is the “real” Bible? On who’s authority? Did God tell us which is the “real” bible?

If they are honestly seeking answers, they will have to think about that a while. Otherwise, you’ll get the standard response that the King James is the “real” bible, presumably because the Almighty Himself floated down on a cloud and personally handed it directly to King James.

You are quibbling over a few books. That is not the most important thing. If you want to save souls, don’t talk about books. Talk about faith, hope, and love.

The bible didn’t just drop from the sky.

That is usually enough to be said to get things going. They can finish the thought themselves.

Stop trying C1S. Particularly when they are praying about nothing in particular - maybe in tongues - just like nuns with their Hail Marys and me with my random Glory Be’s - God is taking their prayers as being for upholding you, me, and true Catholics. That’s why true Protestants will gain a share in our crown.

Now it’s true that most Protestants don’t quite understand at the mental level that their interpretation of Scriptures - the meaning handed down - came through our ancestors, and that Scriptures per se are an aide memoire, a series of bullet points.

This is an error in the Protestants’ presentation of Protestantism.

Whilst the 73 books are far better, at least some of them are getting well stuck into the 66 with quite good effect so far!

Protestants are convinced that they are right with their sola-scriptura references and their anti-Catholic doctrine. You bring up some very good valid points that I will be using in discussion with the few protestant friends that I have left (I spent 11 years in an evangelical church that I left earlier this year to pursue my journey back to the one true holy catholic church).

Context is key. My post is not about salvation but showing the error of Protestantism.

But why else would you wish to show the error of Protestantism? What other valid reason is there?

And I can’t believe the omission of a handful of minor books constitutes an error worth “proving” to a Protestant layperson. It’s not like they left out the Gospel according to John, or Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

I love the Book of Tobit as much as anyone, but I wouldn’t pick a fight over it.

Really, what’s the issue here?

A good effort catholic1seeks, but you have latched onto the wrong key (sorry for the pun :p). The key isn’t which books of the Bible Protestants ought to include in their Bibles. It is authority–who has is, who can use it, and who gave it to those who have it.

The reformers used the indeterminate list of the Bible’s canon to establish sola scriptura. They decided to use only the Jewish canon of the OT instead of the fuller canon the Church was using, which (as I understand it) had not been formally adopted until the Council of Trent put the issue to rest by giving us a formal canon.

So, the issue isn’t the number of OT books, but by what authority was the Bible’s canon adopted. The reformers took it upon themselves to decide the OT canon, using the Jewish canon which has recently been determined by a Jewish council. In that way the reformers could claim that they had a “truer” canon, side-stepping, and in some cases openly defying the Church’s authority to decide. So, it’s a matter of which men’s authority are we to accept. The reformers, who had no authority to determine the OT canon, or the Church, which was given authority in all matters of faith and morals by Christ himself.

A good book on the topic is: Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church. It can also be purchased, for those who want to pay for a copy.

Be assured, Catholics have been doing so since before Internet discussion forums existed. (Well, in my case it only became a big thing in my life around the turn of the century, about when Internet discussion forums we’re becoming a thing. But I’m sure some of the Baby Boomers here were doing it decades before I was.) I like to think that I was a bit more nuanced in my arguments than the quotes you gave, but even so I didn’t persuade any of my Protestant friends. (On the plus side, I did gain a deeper understanding of how they think about such matters.)

Also, I think that implying that they are not honest wrt to how they look at history, and the like, may “play to the base” pretty well on a Catholic discussion forum, but is likely to push Protestants further away from the RCC.

I agree. :smiley:

In the spectrum of Protestant believers there are deeply religious souls of the highest integrity, all the way to anti-intellectual bible thumping emotional fanatics. How could there be one key? :confused:

One has to gently and with charity try to understand the individual first. Then perhaps with the help of the One True Key: the Holy Spirit, the Protestant will come to understand why Catholicism is NOT what THEY think. :wink:

I agree that each person needs to be encouraged in the truth where he is, no matter where on the spectrum he may be, but there is but one key–it’s authority. Everything else comes from that. Jesus himself openly claimed divine authority to Israel, whether they were receptive to his claims or not. The Church does the same. In evangelizing finesse is indeed needed, but the starting point is the question of authority, just the same. :tiphat:

This is what happened to me, I realised that Catholics didn’t believe the things that I’d been told that they did in the way that I’d been told they did. The love and care that I experienced from Catholics was the greatest factor in my exploring Catholicism and coming into full communion.

Not once did they try to discredit what I believed, or make me feel in the wrong. What they did do was show me how I could take all the good things my faith already gave me and mature them into something richer. I don’t think the dualist mindset that’s bent on pointing out the errors of other faiths is helpful, it would certainly have pushed me away.

And that’s fine. But there’s a difference between evangelizing and apologetics. Apologetics is helping people come to see that the things they believed about Catholicism were wrong–and that not everything they believe as Protestants is right.

Evangelizing is helping people see how they can be reconciled to the Church. It’s not so much that Protestantism is wrong, wrong, wrong, but rather that it is wrong about some things and right about many others. In evangelizing we help people see what is right about what they believed as Protestants so they can be reunited with us in the Church.

In apologetics we help people see what isn’t right in their Protestant beliefs–in the same one we’d help correct someone’s aim so he can hit the target, not merely point out what he is doing wrong. It’s all about correcting with love and respect not hitting others over the head with what is wrong with their beliefs. And it’s not easy, which is why it’s a ministry, one that is not for everyone. Although anyone can give witness to what he knows. :slight_smile:

Okay, you guys, when I say “key to showing the error of Protestantism,” I am referring to the foundation of Protestantism – the justification for it in the first place. I am not saying this approach will convert a Protestant to the Catholic view every time. Or even that is the best way to do so. But when talking about Protestantism as a system, one would think getting the canon “right” would in fact be essential, if one were to claim the Bible contains all Christian doctrine and is in fact the sole or final source of authority.

If I were a Protestant, I certainly would be a bit shaken to know that my Bible is not in fact “the Bible,” since my prime belief for being Protestant (whether consciously realizing it or not) is sola scriptura. The Bible is all you need for doctrine and authority. But if my Bible is not actually… well, the Bible… then there is a major problem. And since Protestants in general use the 66 book canon, there is a good change this issue will help them see the Catholic perspective.

From the Catholic side, of course Protestants have tremendous gifts and have much truth. I mean 66 books of the Bible is better than ZERO books! But in the context of this thread, I am specifically narrowing the convo in.

I understand where you’re coming from. :slight_smile: The justification for it in the first place, though, wasn’t sola scriptura nor what books belong in the OT, as I pointed out in my first post. However, many sola scriptura Protestants do restrict their beliefs to a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. It might be better to point out that not even the reformers did that. The shift from biblical interpretation as multi-faceted to a very narrow way of doing so took generations until we find people today who are completely convinced that the 1st century Christians believed what they believe and didn’t believe what they don’t believe based on their literalistic way of interpreting the Bible. The farther they got from Sacred Tradition the more they relied on their own reading of Scripture without the promise of infallibility promised to Christ’s Church.

I’m just not sure trying to get them to see that ,not only have they wrongly dumped several OT books, but their way of interpreting Scripture is flawed–not when they’ve based their whole lives around their way of thinking and understanding. It takes the grace of God to get people to look past their assumptions, especially when they are quite comfortable living with those assumptions or worse, fear losing their salvation if they let them go.

I think that while there is truth to the canon argument, I think it’s not convincing to most Protestants, which is why you have to turn the discussion to something far more startling: Protestants failing to worship God. If you look at my signature, I have a link there showing how Protestant Liturgy is NOWHERE in their Bible, meaning that what they do for “worship” every Sunday is man-made “worship” and basically a glorified Bible study where a professor lectures on the Bible passage of his own choosing. This isn’t worship. God has revealed how He wants to be Worshiped, that is the Mass, and anything else is a sort of idolatry. But since the Bible doesn’t list out sufficiently how Sunday Worship is done, Protestants end up making up their own worship. That’s tragic! :eek:

I say sola scriptura cannot be practiced.

When they open the Bible, they interpret it. That’s their tradition.
When they declare that interpretation to be correct, that’s their magisterium.

Scripture, magisterium, tradition - that’s the Catholic way.

Also, check out my infamous 4 questions.

  1. Where it says that the number of books in the New Testament is officially 27?
  2. Where does it say what books belong in the NT?
  3. Where does it say what versions of the books belong in the NT? For example: There was a version of Matthew’s Gospel that had 8 chapters worth of text. Another with 18. A third with 28. Which one is the correct one, using Scripture alone?
  4. Where does it say which TRANSLATION of the books in the NT is the correct one?

The answers to these infamous 4 questions were determined infallibly, and correctly.

And outside of scripture.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit