The Problem with "Sola Scriptura"

The Bible is the Word of God. That, we, as Christians, can all agree on.

I am a member of a secular forum based off an anime. In this forum there is a “serious discussion” sub-forum where we talk about matters such as politics and religion. There is a thread in this forum about homosexuality, and a 15 year old girl who recently discovered that she was a lesbian was taking part in this thread, making statements about how the Bible is full of hate.

The other Christians on the board attempted to refute her point, saying that nowhere in the Bible is there mention of hate, at least, not in a way that’s glorified and justified among human beings. However, she claims that it is still full of hate because of some of the laws mentioned in the Old Testament, and even going as far as saying that Jesus’ sacrifice was done out of hate for the human race, and how revolting it was for Jesus to tell His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

So not to veer too off-topic on the subject of homosexuality, I decided to ask her via private message some questions about how much she knew about the Bible and what her scriptural background was.

She said that her mother was an off-and-on Roman Catholic and her dad was non-religious. When she was younger she was excited about the Bible and what it had to teach, and in fact became so excited about it that she wanted to study the Bible on her own and read it for herself. However, when she got to some of the stories that weren’t really mentioned much in her regular Bible Study (or whatever), she became distraught by it all and refuted the Bible and God as Truth.

I didn’t know how to explain the love and mercy behind Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice in my own words, so I looked up some words written by C.S. Lewis instead.

homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_lewisatone.html

I showed her the link, hoping that this would at least let her think about the possibility of Jesus dying for our sins because He loves us.

She told me that it was interesting how many different ways someone can interpret the Bible.

This really struck me because it showed me that this most likely a primary cause in why we as humans are not all united in Christ.

I know that as Christians we are to believe that everything in the Bible is Truth. Christ says that He is the way, the truth, and the light. But why should anyone take those words to heart just because they were written in a book?

I have taken some literature classes at my university and one of the first points we learn is that literature can be interpreted however the reader wants to interpret it. Yet at the same time, these interpretations must be backed up by valid sources or else it is difficult to take most if not all interpretations seriously. An interpretation cannot stand on its own.

I feel like the entire premise of “sola scriptura” is to rely solely on the Bible for answers. While the Bible does contain many answers, it also contains many questions which can be answered by using the Bible itself, yet not all of them.

I believe that the reason why Sacred Tradition is so important is because it gives ground for Sacred Scripture to stand on. The Catholic Church’s “interpretation” of the Bible is based on the Oral Teachings of the early Church.

God gave us the gift of Scripture to help guide us to His One Truth. However, it cannot stand alone as long as there are people who are willing to make multiple truths out of His book.

(I apologize if this sounds like a lot of gibberish babble; for some reason I really like coming to this forum at 4 AM)

I am a Protestant. But one of the things that attracts me to the Catholic Church is the knowledge that sola scriptura just didn’t work. As soon as people started looking only to the bible, there were all these different interpretations. I have been taught that the bible is the sole authority. But the problem is which version of the bible or whose interpretation? At least with the Catholic Church, there is a long history there and so more reason to believe that there interpretation at least carries more weight than all the different interpretations.

By the way, I loved what you said about studying literature. How your opinion needs to be backed up with sources. I had never thought of that.

The bible can be the largest turn off to people. It is confusing, and there are many passages in it that people seem to be able to say don’t apply anymore or are metaphorical in nature, or not literal, etc.
But, her problem may not be solely with the bible. She is aware of what christians believe about her same sex attraction. Or, most anyway. On top of that, she may know some christians who are not living in line with the beliefs they profess. And, the constant media attention on christian leaders of all denominations that have made some bad choices are always out there too. It’s not easy to see the truth of christianity to be honest.

You should start looking for good Christian leaders like Pope Benedict XVI who live out his Christian faith, or Mother Theresa and John Paul the Great, Saint Padre Pio, and Saint Jose Marie Escriva.

First, Sarah, let me say that I pray for this young girl’s peace of mind.
Second, I will make no attempt to convince you regarding sola scriptura, but instead will just try to present what I understand about it.

=Sarah_Angel;5457883]

I feel like the entire premise of “sola scriptura” is to rely solely on the Bible for answers. While the Bible does contain many answers, it also contains many questions which can be answered by using the Bible itself, yet not all of them.

Your expression is not how I understand SS. Martin Chemnitz, an important 2nd generation Lutheran reformer said:

This is also certain, that no one should rely on his own wisdom in the interpretation of the Scripture, not even in the clear passages… We also gratefully and reverently use the labors of the fathers who by their commentaries have profitably clarified many passages of the Scripture. And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church in the true and sound understanding of the Scripture. Nor do we approve of it if someone invents for himself a meaning which conflicts with all antiquity, and for which there are clearly no testimonies of the church.

IOW, The Lutheran Church, and individual Lutherans are not to rely on their own interpretations of scripture. Instead, we look to the Early Church Fathers and councils for guidance concerning what scripture says. So, instead of saying that the premise of SS is to rely solely on scripture, I would say that the premise of SS is to rely on scripture as the final source for answers, by which all other teachers and teachings are evaluated.

Of course, now the question becomes, who does this evaluating, and how do we know who is right? And frankly, that is where the various traditions differ.

I believe that the reason why Sacred Tradition is so important is because it gives ground for Sacred Scripture to stand on. The Catholic Church’s “interpretation” of the Bible is based on the Oral Teachings of the early Church.

Orthodox think their’s is, too, but there is still the schism. And actually, Lutherans and even moreso Anglicans, claim to do this, too.

God gave us the gift of Scripture to help guide us to His One Truth. However, it cannot stand alone as long as there are people who are willing to make multiple truths out of His book.

Many Christian leaders among our different traditions agree, and dialogue is ongoing to answer Christ’s call that all may be one.

(I apologize if this sounds like a lot of gibberish babble; for some reason I really like coming to this forum at 4 AM)

It didn’t sound at all like gibberish,

An interesting view of sola scriptura is offered here:
modernreformation.org/default.php?page=printfriendly&var1=Print&var2=19

Jon

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”, which refers to his name; yeshua or yehoshuah, whichever it was.

Monks of many traditions arise at 4:00 AM.

Love, life, and light are conflated in the new testament…

Just pointing out that the schism with the Orthodox has nothing (or little) to do with Scripture but with the supremacy of the pope.

Well, maybe, but I have heard Catholics support papal primacy with scripture. Regardless, and perhaps I wasn’t very clear, but it was my intent to respond to the OP saying:

I believe that the reason why Sacred Tradition is so important is because it gives ground for Sacred Scripture to stand on. The Catholic Church’s “interpretation” of the Bible is based on the Oral Teachings of the early Church.

So, what I meant was that Orthodoxy and Catholicism both stand on Sacred Tradition, and yet do not agree.

Wouldn’t you say, however, that there must some disagreement on scriptural interpretation regarding Purgatory, Transubstantiation, original sin?
Jon

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