Where the Bible is silent....

So when in discussions with Protestants, we are often called to provide apologia for our Catholic practices/beliefs, such as praying the rosary, praying for the dead, papal infallibility, etc etc etc.

The discussion always turns to: the Bible doesn’t say that [insert Catholic belief A, B and C here] so you shouldn’t do it.

So that should be the Protestant mantra, right? “Where the Bible is silent on a practice, it’s forbidden.”

However, when I ask Protestants to provide Scriptural apologia for their beliefs/practices, such as bowing one’s head when praying, Tuesday evening Bible studies, church steeples, their response is: the Bible doesn’t forbid it, so it’s fine.

Does anyone else see the double standard here?

Shouldn’t it be the same paradigm for both Protestants and Catholics?

Either: where the Bible is silent, it’s permitted

Or: where the Bible is silent, it’s forbidden.

Incidentally, this prompts the question: where does the Bible tell us which of the 2 paradigms to follow when the Bible is silent on an issue?

On almost every count the Bible is not silent.

Purgatory, Mary, praying to the saints, Trinity, papal infallibility, etc,… Everyone says that the Bible is silent but it is not.

Anyone who says the Bible is silent on these issues is not reading it correctly, or not reading it at all.


Yes, but I would remind you that “Protestantism” is not a unified whole.

Arguing with a Christian who attends an Assemblies of God community will be very different from arguing with one who attends a small Reformed Baptist community.

The latter camp may well critique the former for exactly the same reasons as you’ve outlined here, and I think that their application of *sola Scriptura *would be more intellectual and consistent than many others are shooting for.


OP, you’re correct. There is a bit of a double standard going on here. Then again, one of the almost universal Protestant beliefs, Sola Scriptura, cannot be found anywhere in the Bible either, and yet they still cling to it despite the inherent contradiction.

I’ve been through this argument a few times. What usually happens is that I end up writing down (literally writing it down or typing it on my phone) what their response is to me and their response to my question for them and prove to them the contradiction. Typically they end up trying to justify their claims by using the bible but fail to do so.

So, yes I agree that it does apply to both. If one side wants the other side to prove a belief via the bible, then the other side should have to as well in order to avoid contradiction (or hypocrisy).

I think a lot of Protestants accept a tradition that they then use as an interpretive grid for Holy Scripture. But I’m not sure they’re always aware of their traditions, or aware that they might be founded on shaky Scriptural grounds. When they try to rebuild their tradition using only a Bible, yes, they can be rather inconsistent or even contradictory.

But as I wrote earlier, not all Protestants fit that mold. A lot of them are perfectly aware of their traditions, and even attempt to trace them to the Church Fathers.

My point is just that it can be dangerous to underestimate the intellectual strength of certain Protestant positions that, while manifestly erroneous, can nonetheless be difficult to establish as such.

Some Protestant denominations attract perfectly normal people who may or may not have a lot of education. A lot of other denominations seem to attract people who are highly educated and who do an incredible amount of reading. Approaches for one group obviously can’t be applied to the other.

I see your point.

However, I would say that a smart Protestant can still be contradictory. It’s not that I’m denying their intellectual capacity or trying to attack for instance, a Lutheran based on his Lutheran tradition, I’m simply taking what they believe (either personally or traditionally) and turning it on them by the law of non-contradiction (that is, if we are talking about beliefs and the bible :D).

Use chapter 14, Gospel of John. Verses 16, 17, 25, 26

**Our Teacher condemned these petty theological quibblings and admonished us to instead follow more carefully YHWH’s primary commandment of loving our neighbor.
The parable of the Samaritan illustrates this.

While we argue dogma, we also allow our respective Church members to work at places where the nuclear incineration of our fellow human beings is enabled and held at the ready.
Where is the outcry? **



This has been a significant point of dispute within Protestantism from the very start. Generally speaking, the Calvinist/Reformed traditions say that “if the Bible doesn’t command it, don’t do it,” while the Lutheran traidtions say that “if the Bible doesn’t forbid it, it’s allowed”. This is clearly a problem for Sola Scriptura and there’s no answer from Protestants because they will always fall within one of the two camps and thus reject the other “version” of Sola Scriptura as wrong.

I’ve found that one of the most effective approaches is to ask the Protestant about the Christian Liturgy. What the Bible say we should do on Sunday for Christian worship?

The Reformed/Calvinist would say “only do on Sunday what the Bible directs us to do on Sunday,” but the problem is the Bible doesn’t actually give much detail on Sunday Worship at all, so the Reformed person is basically in a bind because we all know we need to worship on Sunday in a liturgy, but without Biblical instructions they don’t know what to do on Sunday.

The Lutheran would say “if the Bible doesn’t forbid us from doing something for Sunday Liturgy, then we are allowed to do it,” but the problem here is that since the Bible doesn’t speak much about Sunday Liturgy that this suggests we can make up our own Liturgy. But making up your own Liturgy isn’t liturgy any longer, because basically you’re worshiping yourself by only doing what your personal tastes want to do on Sunday.

It’s ridiculous to suggest God doesn’t care how a person worships Him, which is why Catholics rightly say that Liturgy comes to us from Divine Revelation, because it is crucial for Christians to know how to worship God as He wants to be worshiped, and we say this knowledge comes mostly from Apostolic Oral Tradition and only implicitly in the Bible.

This is a very good post and illustrative of the problem with lumping every non-Catholic Christian under the label of Protestant.

I run into it here in the South. Evangelical non-denominational Christianity is almost as divorced from mainline Protestant theology as it is from Catholicism. My Evangelical friends will balk at being called a Protestant.


There are a lot of things that the Bible does not teach any specific direction on. Some examples include architecture, specific dress code, length and frequency of worship, etc. Most all Christians would feel that different churches could use variations of all of these things and still be Biblical Christians.

The first 3 examples you have given include praying to/through those who are not God, accepting a belief in purgatory and attributing God-like qualities to man. The Protestants who say these are not Biblical often mean not that it isn’t mentioned, but that they feel the Bible teaches against such things. Each topic is lengthy and have their own threads on this forum addressing each of these disagreements. I just wanted to make a distinction between a belief that something is absent from the Bible, as opposed to believing that something contradicts Bible teaching.

The Roman Catholic Church around the corner from me is made of stone, has a steeple and has Bible study on Thursday. I have never heard anyone criticize it for any of these things.

I’d like to preface this by saying that I understand what you’re trying to say here, and I think you’re fairly brave for posting in a topic that has otherwise been dominated by Catholic posts. :stuck_out_tongue:

While it’s true that many people do think that the Bible teaches against certain things (like prayers to the Saints, purgatory, etc), it is equally true that many people claim that we shouldn’t believe in those things only because they are not explicitly outlined in the Bible. (As you said, each of these is a topic we could debate at length, so I won’t start that up here.) In these cases, there is a very real double standard in place when they profess belief in things which are not explicitly outline in the Bible (such as Sola Scriptura, OSAS, Faith Alone, etc.).

As Catholics, it is very frustrating to be attacked for doing something that a person claims is not in the Bible, and then to be immediately attacked by that same person for not doing or believing something which is not explicitly stated in the Bible.


And by the way, if any Protestant is reading this, please don’t think I meant to say that some Protestants are stupid, and others are smart, and that this can be determined by denomination.

Many people, like me, can be somewhat intelligent, but can have very little formal education and absolutely zero scholarly impulse.

Others just love doing dusty research, and this is reflected in their spirituality.

But God gives wisdom to whomever He wishes.

I understand what you are saying and agree with the point you are making. I think different understandings of Bible teachings are the root of the disagreement.

This is the heart of doctrine for the Church of Christ denomination (and they insist they aren’t a denomination; they’re the “original Book-of-Acts” Christians). Of course, the caveat they make is that only the New Testament counts. The Old is just reference. Interestingly enough, though, I have found through experience (as I used to belong to this group) that they most often do not practice outside of their church buildings what they practice and preach inside - that is, they don’t live that belief out at home, but instead conform to most modern and secular ideas. For example: There is no celebration of Easter in their churches, because a specific day/date isn’t referenced in the N.T., but yet most have Easter celebrations with family. Same for Christmas. (They acknowledge the events and importance of them, they just refuse to equate Dec. 25 with the birth of Jesus during/inside church services.)

It gets even more interesting to discover that their insistence on the “plainness” of scripture doesn’t require any official interpretation, yet only their elders seem to have a say on any question of interpretation you throw at them. And never mind, of course, that whole thing about “This is my body.” That part is figurative! Plainly obvious, indeed.

It’s an interesting group to discuss/debate with, if you ever find yourself in that position. Many wonderful people - but I had a hard time connecting the dots. :smiley:

The whole problem with Sola Scriptura is that it’s something satan used against Jesus in the Desert, leading to the saying, “Even the Devil quotes scripture for his own.”

The problem with Sola Scriptura is that there is no common authority from Christ, everyone can interpret the Bible for his self, which results in all these christian churches with varying beliefs and practices and rituals and morals.

Didn’t Christ make the 12 Apostles the first priests and Bishops. And remember the guy in.the chariot who was reading Scriptures of Isaiah and said to Philip, “How can I read it if I do not understand what it says.” Philip had to explain the coming of Jesus and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to him.
We need Jesus authority through our Pope, Priests, and Bishops to speak the unified morals of Christ to us.

And: with regard to Jesus speaking of “One flock, where I may be in them, and they in Me, just as the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.”
Jesus also said; “Peter, you are my Rock that I will build this church, and the powers of Hell shall not prevail against it.”

Also: Jesus predicted the split of the church, “Wolves will come in sheep’s clothing and attack the shepherds, so that the flocks will scatter.”

Another problem with Sola Scriptura according to Scott Hahn is the parable of a guy looking for inspiration from the Bible,
He opens it randomly twice and gets these two lines:

“And he went and hanged himself.”

“Go and do likewise.”

Not really the point.

Fill in the blank with whatever Catholic practice or belief some Protestant has challenged you with that’s not found explicitly in the Bible.

The question remains: is the paradigm–“The Bible doesn’t mention this, so you’re certainly free to do it!” or “The Bible doesn’t mention this, so it’s forbidden for you to do this!”.

They need to pick one and apply it consistently–to their own practices/beliefs as well as Catholic practices/beliefs.

Sola Scriptura does not mean “me and a Bible under a tree”, but does take into account history, councils, etc. Where any of those contradict scripture then scripture wins. That is Sola Scriptura. God bless. I think there is a big misunderstanding.

So still not sure what your pastor’s (or your) view where the Bible is silent–is something permitted or forbidden?

For, of course, you cannot say, “Well, it’s permitted for our practices but forbidden for yours” because that would be…a double standard, no?

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