Category Archives: Five Solas

Sola Scriptura?: Extra-biblical authority identified canon

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“Since the Bible did not come with an inspired table of contents, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura creates yet another dilemma: How can one know with certainty which books belong in the Bible – specifically, in the New Testament? The unadulterated fact is that one cannot know unless there is an authority outside the Bible which can tell him. Moreover, this authority must, by necessity, be infallible, since the possibility of error in identifying the canon of the Bible (20) would mean that all believers run the risk of having the wrong books in their Bibles, a situation which would vitiate Sola Scriptura. But if there is such an infallible authority, then the doctrine of Sola Scriptura crumbles; either way.

Another historical fact very difficult to reconcile with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is that it was none other than the Catholic Church which eventually identified and ratified the canon of the Bible. The three councils mentioned in the immediate prior post were all councils of this Church. The Catholic Church gave its final, definitive, infallible definition of the Biblical canon at the Council of Trent in 1546 – naming the very same list of 73 books that had been included in the 4th century. If the Catholic Church is able, then, to render an authoritative and infallible decision concerning such an important matter as which books belong in the Bible, then upon what basis would a person question its authority on other matters of faith and morals?

Protestants should at least concede a point which Martin Luther, their religion’s founder, also conceded, namely, that the Catholic Church safeguarded and identified the Bible: “We are obliged to yield many things to the Catholics – (for example), that they possess the Word of God, which we received from them; otherwise, we should have known nothing at all about it.” (21)

Love,
Matthew

(20) The reader must note that the Catholic Church does not claim that by identifying the books of the Bible it rendered them canonical. God alone is the author of canonicity. The Catholic Church instead claims that it and it alone has the authority and responsibility of infallibly pointing out which books comprise the Biblical canon already authored by God.

(21) Commentary on John, chapter 16, as cited in Paul Stenhouse’s Catholic Answers to “Bible” Christians (Kensington: Chevalier Press, 1993), p. 31.

Sola Scriptura?: Canon of the Bible not established by the Catholic Church until 4th century

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“One historical fact which proves extremely convenient for the Protestant is the fact that the canon of the Bible – the authoritative list of exactly which books are part of inspired Scripture – was not settled and fixed until the end of the 4th century. Until that time, there was much disagreement over which Biblical writings were considered inspired and Apostolic in origin. The Biblical canon varied from place to place: some lists contained books that were later defined as non-canonical, while other lists failed to include books which were later defined as canonical. For example, there were Early Christian writings which were considered by some to be inspired and Apostolic and which were actually read in Christian public worship, but which were later omitted from the New Testament canon. These include The Shepherd of Hermas, The Epistle of Barnabas, and The Didache, among others. (18)

It was not until the Synod of Rome (382 AD) and the Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD) that we find a definitive list of canonical books being drawn up, and each of these Councils acknowledged the very same list of books. (19) From this point on, there is in practice no dispute about the canon of the Bible, the only exception being the so-called Protestant Reformers, who entered upon the scene in 1517, an unbelievable 11 centuries later.

Once again, there are two fundamental questions for which one cannot provide answers that are consonant with Sola Scriptura: A) Who or what served as the final Christian authority up to the time that the New Testament’s canon was identified? B) And if there was a final authority that the Protestant recognizes before the establishment of the canon, on what basis did that authority cease being final once the Bible’s canon was established?”

Love,
Matthew

(18) Henry G. Graham, Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1911; Rockford, IL: TAN, 1977, 17th printing), pp. 34-35.

(19) This list is the same as the list given in the Church’s final, definitive, explicit, infallible declaration as to which books are to be included in the Bible, which was made by the Council of Trent, Session IV, in 1546. Earlier lists of canonical books were the list in the “Decretal of Gelasius,” which was issued by authority of Pope Damasus in 382, and the canon of Pope Saint Innocent I, which was sent to a Frankish bishop in 405. Neither document was intended to be an infallible statement binding the whole Church, but both documents include the same 73 books as the list of Trent some 11 centuries later. (The Catholic Encyclopedia [New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1913], Vol. 3, p. 272).

Sola Scriptura?: Heretics apart from Tradition, Magisterium

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“If you look at the history of the early Church, you will see that it continually struggled against heresies and those who promoted them. We also see the Church responding to those threats again and again by convening Councils (15) and turning to Rome to settle disputes in matters of doctrine and discipline. For example, Pope Clement intervened in a controversy in the Church at Corinth at the end of the 1st century and put an end to a schism there. In the 2nd century, Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate a large portion of the Church in the East because of a dispute about when Easter should be celebrated. In the earlier part of the 3rd century, Pope Callistus pronounced the condemnation of the Sabellian heresy.

In the case of these heresies and/or conflicts in discipline that would arise, the people involved would defend their erroneous beliefs by their respective interpretations of Scripture, apart from the Sacred Tradition and the teaching Magisterium of the Church. A good illustration of this point is the case of Arius, the 4th-century priest who declared that the Son of God was a creature and was not co-equal with the Father.

Arius and those who followed him quoted verses from the Bible to “prove” their claims. (16) The disputes and controversies which arose over his teachings became so great that the first Ecumenical Council was convened in Nicaea in 325 A.D. to settle them. The Council, under the authority of the Pope, declared Arius’ teachings to be heretical and made some decisive declarations about the Person of Christ, and it did so based on what Sacred Tradition had to say regarding the Scripture verses in question.

Here we see the teaching authority of the Church being used as the final say in an extremely important doctrinal matter. If there had been no teaching authority to appeal to, then Arius’ error could have overtaken the Church. As it is, a majority of the bishops at the time fell for the Arian heresy. (17) Even though Arius had based his arguments on the Bible and probably “compared Scripture with Scripture,” the fact is that he arrived at an heretical conclusion. It was the teaching authority of the Church – hierarchically constituted – which stepped in and declared he was wrong.

The application is obvious. If you ask a Protestant whether or not Arius was correct in his belief that the Son was created, he will, of course, respond in the negative. Emphasize, then, that even though Arius presumably “compared Scripture with Scripture,” he nonetheless arrived at an erroneous conclusion. If this were true for Arius, what guarantee does the Protestant have that it is not also true for his interpretation of a given Bible passage? The very fact that the Protestant knows Arius’ interpretations were heretical implies that an objectively true or “right” interpretation exists for the Biblical passages he used. The issue, then, becomes a question of how we can know what that true interpretation is. The only possible answer is that there must be, out of necessity, an infallible authority to tell us. That infallible authority, the Catholic Church, declared Arius heretical. Had the Catholic Church not been both infallible and authoritative in its declaration, then believers would have had no reason whatsoever to reject Arius’ teachings, and the whole of Christianity today might have been comprised of modern-day Arians.

It is evident, then, that using the Bible alone is not a guarantee of arriving at doctrinal truth. The above-described result is what happens when the erroneous doctrine of Sola Scriptura is used as a guiding principle, and the history of the Church and the numerous heresies it has had to address are undeniable testimony to this fact.”

Love,
Matthew

(15) Bear in mind that the decrees of an Ecumenical Council had no binding force unless they were ratified by the Pope.

(16) Two favorite verses for Arians of all ages to cite in support of their beliefs are Proverbs 8:22 and John 14:28.

(17) See John Henry Newman, The Arians of the Fourth Century.

Sola Scriptura?: Bible vs Tradition foreign to 1st Christians

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“If you look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers, you will see references to the Apostolic Succession, (10) to the bishops as guardians of the Deposit of Faith, (11) and to the primacy and the authority of Rome. (12) The collective weight of these references makes clear the fact that the early Church understood itself has having a hierarchy which was central to maintaining the integrity of the Faith. Nowhere do we see any indication that the early followers of Christ disregarded those positions of authority and considered them invalid as a rule of faith. Quite the contrary, we see in those passages that the Church, from its very inception, saw its power to teach grounded in an inseparable combination of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition – with both being authoritatively taught and interpreted by the teaching Magisterium of the Church, with the Bishop of Rome at its head.

To say that the early Church believed in the notion of “the Bible alone” would be analogous to saying that men and women today could entertain the thought that our civil laws could function without Congress to legislate them, without courts to interpret them and without police to enforce them. All we would need is a sufficient supply of legal volumes in every household so that each citizen could determine for himself how to understand and apply any given law. Such an assertion is absurd, of course, as no one could possibly expect civil laws to function in this manner. The consequence of such a state of affairs would undoubtedly be total anarchy.

How much more absurd, then, is it to contend that the Bible could function on its own and apart from the Church which wrote it? It is precisely that Church – and not just any Christian – who alone possesses the divinely given authority to interpret it correctly, as well as to legislate matters involving the conduct of its members. Were this not the case, the situation on any level – local, regional or global – would quickly devolve into spiritual anarchy, wherein each and every Christian could formulate a theological system and develop a moral code based simply upon his own private interpretation of Scripture.

Has not history actually seen precisely this result since the 16th century, when the so-called Reformation (Revolution) occurred? In fact, an examination of the state of affairs in Europe immediately following the genesis of the Reformation – particularly in Germany – will demonstrate that the direct result of Reformation (Revolution) teaching was both spiritual and social disorder. (13) Luther himself bemoaned the fact that, “Unfortunately, it is our daily experience that now under the Gospel [his] the people entertain greater and bitterer hatred and envy and are worse with their avarice and money-grabbing than before under the Papacy.” (14)

Love,
Matthew

(10) See, for instance: Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 3; Tertullian’s Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 32; and Origen’s First Principles, Book 1, Preface.

(11) See, for instance: Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapters 8-9; Ignatius’ Letter to the Philadelphians, Introduction and Chapters 1-4; and Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 7.

(12) See, for instance: 1 Clement, Chapters 2, 56, 58, 59; Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans, introduction and Chapter 3; Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 3, no. 2; Tertullian’s Prescriptions against Heretics, Chapter 22; and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 24, no. 9.

(13) See Msgr. Patrick F. O’Hare, LL.D., The Facts about Martin Luther (Cincinnati: Pustet, 1916; Rockrord, IL: TAN, 1987), pp. 215-255.

(14) Walch, XIII, 2195, as quoted in The Facts About Luther (Cincinnati: Pustet, 1916; Rockford, IL: TAN, 1987), pp. 215-255.

Sola Scriptura? Church produced Bible, not vice-versa

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“The doctrine of Sola Scriptura overlooks – or at least grossly underemphasizes – the fact that the Church came before the Bible, and not the other way around. It was the Church, in effect, which wrote the Bible under the inspiration of Almighty God: the Israelites as the Old Testament Church (or “pre-Catholics”) and the early Catholics as the New Testament Church.  (Ed.  Hold onto your Bible, Martin.  It’s a Catholic book!)

In the pages of the New Testament we note that Our Lord gives a certain primacy to the teaching authority of His Church and its proclamation in His name. For instance, in Matthew 28:20 we see Our Lord commissioning the Apostles to go and teach in His name, making disciples of all nations. In Mark 16:15 we note that the Apostles are commanded to go and preach to all the world. And in Luke 10:16 we see that whoever hears the seventy-two hears Our Lord. These facts are most telling, as nowhere do we see Our Lord commissioning His Apostles to evangelize the world by writing in His name. The emphasis is always on preaching the Gospel, not on printing and distributing it.  (Ed. most everyone could hear, only 60-70% could read, at peak, most likely far less.)

Thus it follows that the leadership and teaching authority of the Church are indispensable elements in the means whereby the Gospel message is to reach the ends of the earth. Since the Church produced the scriptures, it is quite biblical, logical and reasonable to say that the Church alone has the authority to interpret properly and apply them. And if this is so, then by reason of its origin and nature, the Bible cannot serve as the only rule of faith for Christian believers. In other words, by producing the Scriptures, the Church does not eliminate the need for itself as teacher and interpreter of those Scriptures.

Moreover, is it not unreasonable to say that simply by putting Apostolic teaching into writing, the Church somehow made that written teaching superior to her oral teaching? Like the teaching organization Our Lord established, His Word is authoritative, but because the word is one form rather than another does not mean one form is to be subjugated to the other. Since God’s one Revelation is twofold in form, to deny the authority of one form would be to deny the authority of the other form as well. The forms of God’s Word are complementary, not competitive. Thus, if there is a need for the Scriptures, there is also a need for the teaching authority which produced them.”

Love,
Matthe

Sola Scriptura?: 1st Christians did not have Bible

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“Biblical scholars tell us that the last book of the New Testament was not written until the end of the 1st century A.D., that is, until around the year 100 A.D. (9) This fact would leave roughly a 65-year gap between Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven and the completion of the Bible as we know it. The question that begs to be asked, therefore, is this: “Who or what served as the final, infallible authority during that time?”

If the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura were true, then since the Church existed for a time without the entire written Word of God, there would have been situations and doctrinal issues which could not have been resolved with finality until all of the New Testament books were complete. The ship would have been left without a rudder, so to speak, at least for a time. But this goes contrary to the statements and promises that Our Lord made about His Church – particularly, “behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28:20) – not to mention that He told His disciples: “I will not leave you orphans.” (John 14:18).

This issue is of particular importance, as the first several decades of the Church’s existence were tumultuous. Persecutions had already begun, believers were being martyred, the new Faith was struggling to grow, and some false teachings had already appeared (cf. Galatians 1:6-9). If the Bible were the Christian’s only rule of faith, and since the Bible was not fully written – much less settled in terms of its canon – until 65 years after Christ’s Ascension, how did the early Church possibly deal with doctrinal questions without an authority on how to proceed?

Now the Protestant may be tempted to offer two possible responses: 1) that the Apostles were temporarily the final authority while the New Testament was being written, and 2) that the Holy Spirit was given to the Church and that His direct guidance is what bridged the time gap between Our Lord’s Ascension and the completion of the New Testament.

Regarding the first response, it is true that Jesus Christ invested the Apostles with His authority; however, the Bible nowhere indicates that this authority’s active role within the Church would cease with the death of the last Apostle. Quite the contrary, the Bible record is quite clear in that a) it nowhere says that once the last Apostle dies, the written form of God’s Word will become the final authority; and b) the Apostles clearly chose successors who, in turn, possessed the same authority to “bind and loose.” This is shown in the election of Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Cf. Acts 1:15-26) and in St. Paul’s passing on his Apostolic Authority to Timothy and Titus (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6, and Titus 1:5). If anything, a Protestant only gives credence to the Catholic teaching by insisting on the authority of the Apostles.

Regarding the second response – that the Holy Spirit’s direct guidance bridged the time gap – the problem with such a position is that the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit Himself is an extra-Biblical (That is, “outside of the Bible”) source of authority. Naturally the Bible speaks very clearly of the Holy Spirit’s presence among the believers and His role in teaching the disciples “all truth,” but if the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit were, in fact, the ultimate authority during those 65 years, then the history of the Church would have known two successive ultimate authorities: first the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, with this guidance then being replaced by the Scriptures, which would have become sola, or the “only” ultimate authority. And if this situation of an extra-Biblical ultimate authority is permissible from a Protestant perspective, does this not open the door to the Catholic position, which says that the teaching authority of the Church is the direct ultimate authority – deriving her authority from Christ and her teaching from Scripture and Tradition, guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was given to the Church by Jesus Christ, and it is exactly this same Spirit who protects the Church’s visible head, the Pope, and the teaching authority of the Church by never permitting him or it to lapse into error. (9a)

The Catholic believes that Christ indeed did give the Holy Spirit to the Church and that the Holy Spirit has always been present in the Church, teaching it all truth (John 16:13) and continually safeguarding its doctrinal integrity, particularly through the office of the Pope. Thus the Gospel would still have been preached – authoritatively and infallibly – even if not a single verse of the New Testament had ever been written.”

Love,
Matthew

(9) There are some Biblical scholars who maintain that 2 Peter was actually the last New Testament book written, dating it sometime in the earlier part of the 2nd century. Since there is not a consensus among scholars that this date is accurate, it is sufficient for our purposes here to accept the generally held view that all of the New testament books were complete with the composition of Revelation.

(9a) -from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility

“…Of course, infallibility does not include a guarantee that any particular pope won’t “neglect” to teach the truth, or that he will be sinless, or that mere disciplinary decisions will be intelligently made. It would be nice if he were omniscient or impeccable, but his not being so will fail to bring about the destruction of the Church.

But he must be able to teach rightly, since instruction for the sake of salvation is a primary function of the Church. For men to be saved, they must know what is to be believed. They must have a perfectly steady rock to build upon and to trust as the source of solemn Christian teaching. And, Catholics have confidence in this NOT because it is necessarily ONLY Church teaching, and since the Church was founded and commissioned by Jesus Christ, but also because it was directly promised to us, His Church, by Jesus Christ, God Incarnate Himself, Jn 14:26, et al.  And that’s why Church and then papal infallibility exists in matters of teaching Faith and Morals…” (Ed.  keep in mind you practicalists, for two thousand years enemies of His Church have been trying to shoot holes in this one.  They are all dead and long forgotten.  His Church remains.  Chew on that, and ask yourself why?  St Thomas, the Apostle, pray for us!!!)  🙂

Sola Scriptura? Scripture itself states it is insufficient & needs interpreter

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(Ed. I have always sympathized with the proposed convenience of having God’s entire will contained in one attractive, portable, right-weight book one could carry around, proudly, and wave under the noses of all others, and know that I, Matthew P. McCormick, could open my portable oracle of the Almighty and thunder down His Most Holy Will!!!! It’s…just…incorrect. That’s all, and I am not a biblical scholar by any stretch of hallucination. And, I need help from the many lives of the many people, present and past, to whom I am most deeply grateful and humbled by, truly, who have devoted and spent their entire lives in #study, #contemplation, #reflection, and #scholarship, to help biblical #knuckle-draggers, and #backsliding-Catholics, like me, to have a hope of understanding some of the obtuse two to six thousand year old texts translated from ancient languages, none of which I can write, or read, or am even at the most basic level, introduced to, and hopeless in terms of nuance, context, and meaning. I am grateful for the professionals. I am just a poor, in all ways, sinner who wants to go to Heaven. I hear it’s AWESOME. That’s all. Just simple me. I NEED help!!! So many others tell me ALL the time I do. I do.)

joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“The Bible says in 2 Tim. 3:17 that the man of God is “perfect, furnished to every good work.” As we noted above, this verse means only that the man of God is fully supplied with Scripture; it is not a guarantee that he automatically knows how to interpret it properly. This verse at most argues only for the material sufficiency of Scripture, a position which is held by some Catholic thinkers today.

“Material sufficiency” would mean that the Bible in some way contains all the truths that are necessary for the believer to know; in other words, the “materials” would thus be all present or at least implied. “Formal sufficiency,” on the other hand, would mean that the Bible would not only contain all the truths that are necessary, but that it would also present those truths in a perfectly clear and complete and readily understandable fashion. In other words, these truths would be in a useable form,” and consequently there would be no need for Sacred Tradition to clarify and complete them or for an infallible teaching authority to interpret them correctly or “rightly divide” God’s word.

Since the Catholic Church holds that the Bible is not sufficient in itself, it naturally teaches that the Bible needs an interpreter. The reason the Catholic Church so teaches is twofold: first, because Christ established a living Church to teach with His authority. He did not simply give His disciples a Bible, whole and entire, and tell them to go out and make copies of it for mass distribution and allow people to come to whatever interpretation they may. Second, the Bible itself states that it needs an interpreter.

Regarding the second point, we read in 2 Peter 3:16 that in St. Paul’s epistles there are “certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest [distort], as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.”

In this one verse we note three very important things about the Bible and its interpretation: a) the Bible contains passages which are not readily understandable or clear, a fact which demonstrates the need for an authoritative and infallible teacher to make the passages clear and understandable; (8) b) it is not only possible that people could “wrest” or distort the meaning of Scripture, but this was, in fact, being done from the very earliest days of the Church; and c) to distort the meaning of Scripture can result in one’s “destruction,” a disastrous fate indeed. It is obvious from these considerations that St. Peter did not believe the Bible to be the sole rule of faith. But there is more.

In Acts 8:26-40 we read the account of the deacon St. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In this scenario, the Holy Spirit leads Philip to approach the Ethiopian when Philip learns that the Ethiopian is reading from the prophet Isaias, he asks him a very telling question: “Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?” Even more telling is the answer given by the Ethiopian: “And how can I, unless some man show me?”

Whereas this St. Philip (known as “the Evangelist”) is not one of the twelve Apostles, he was nonetheless someone who was commissioned by the Apostles (cf. Acts 6:6) and who preached the Gospel with authority (cf. Acts 8:4-8). Consequently, his preaching would reflect legitimate Apostolic teaching. The point here is that the Ethiopian’s statement verifies the fact that the Bible is not sufficient in itself as a teacher of Christian doctrine, and people who hear the Word do need an authority to instruct them properly so that they may understand what the Bible says. If the Bible were indeed sufficient of itself, then the eunuch would not have been ignorant of the meaning of the passage from Isaias.

There is also 2 Peter 1:20, which states that “no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation.” Here we see the Bible itself stating in no uncertain terms that its prophecies are not a matter for which the individual is to arrive at his own interpretation. It is also most telling that this verse is preceded by a section on the Apostolic witness (verses 12-18) and followed by a section on false teachers (chapter 2, verses 1-10). St. Peter is obviously contrasting genuine, Apostolic teaching with false prophets and false teachers, and he makes reference to private interpretation as the pivotal point between the two. The clear implication is that private interpretation is one pathway whereby an individual turns from authentic teaching and begins to follow erroneous teaching.”

Love,
Matthew

(8) The assertion by Protestants that the Bible is its own interpreter is nothing more than an exercise in futility. They claim that a person can correctly interpret any given Scripture by comparing it with what the rest of the Bible teaches. The problem with this line of reasoning can be readily demonstrated. Ask ten people to give their respective interpretations of a given Scripture passage, and you could get as many as ten different explanations. If the Bible were able to interpret itself, as Protestants claim, why do you not always obtain ten identical interpretations, even if you allow these people an ample amount of time to conduct study and research? And if this diversity of interpretation is true for a mere ten people, imagine the results, when you multiply that number by one hundred, or one thousand, or one million. History has already seen such a result, and its name is Protestantism.

Sola Scriptura?: “Submit to the authority of the Church!” -Jesus Christ

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“In Matthew 18:15-18 we see Christ instructing His disciples on how to correct a fellow believer. It is extremely telling in this instance that Our Lord identifies the Church rather than Scripture as the final authority to be appealed to. He Himself says that if an offending brother “will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Matt. 18:17) – that is, as an outsider who is lost. Moreover, Our Lord then solemnly re-emphasizes the Church’s infallible teaching authority in verse 18 by repeating His earlier statement about the power to bind and loose (Matt. 16:18-19), directing it this time to the Apostles as a group (7) rather than just to Peter: “Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18).

Of course there are instances in the Bible where Our Lord does appeal to Scripture, but in these cases He, as one having authority, was teaching the Scriptures; He was not allowing the Scriptures to teach themselves. For example, He would respond to the Scribes and the Pharisees by using Scripture precisely because they often tried to trip Him up by using Scripture. In these instances, Our Lord often demonstrates how the Scribes and Pharisees had wrong interpretations, and hence He corrects them by properly interpreting Scripture.

His actions do not argue that Scripture should be sola, or an authority in itself and, in fact, the only Christian authority. Quite the contrary; whenever Christ refers His hearers to the Scriptures, He also provides His infallible, authoritative interpretation of them, demonstrating that the Scriptures do not interpret themselves.

The Catholic Church readily acknowledges the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. But the Catholic doctrine is that the immediate rule of faith for the Christian is the teaching authority of the Church – an authority to teach and interpret both Scripture and Tradition, as Matt. 18:17-18 shows.

It should also be noted that implicit (perhaps even explicit) in this passage from Matthew is the fact that the “Church” must have been a visible, tangible entity established in a hierarchical fashion. Otherwise, how would anyone have known to whom the wrongdoer should be referred? If the Protestant definition of “church” were correct, then the wrongdoer would have to “hear” each and every believer who existed, hoping that there would be unanimity among them regarding the issue at hand. The inherent absurdity of this scenario is readily apparent. The only way we can make sense of Our Lord’s statement here is to acknowledge that here was a definite organization, to which an appeal could be made and from which a decisive judgment could be had.”

Love,
Matthew

(7) Catholic teaching states that “the body of bishops,” successors of the Apostles, also teach infallibly when they, in union with the Pope, “exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.” (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #891). Also, “binding and loosing” is Rabbinical terminology, and it refers to the power to pronounce authoritative interpretations and teachings. Christ clearly intended, then, for His Apostles, under the leadership of Saint Peter (for Saint Peter alone received the power of the keys), to possess the authority to render these authoritative interpretations and teachings.

Sola Scriptura?: Bible calls Church “Pillar & ground of Truth” & not itself

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joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“It is very interesting to note that in I Timothy 3:15 we see, not the Bible, but the Church – that is, the living community of believers founded upon St. Peter and the Apostles and headed by their successors – called “the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Of course, this passage is not meant in any way to diminish the importance of the Bible, but it is intending to show that Jesus Christ did establish an authoritative and teaching Church which was commissioned to teach “all nations.” (Matt. 28:19). Elsewhere this same Church received Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18), that He would always be with it (Matt. 28:20), and that He would give it the Holy Spirit to teach it all truth. (John 16:13).

To the visible head of His Church, St. Peter, Our Lord said: “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and, whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19). It is plainly evident from these passages that Our Lord emphasized the authority of His Church and the role it would have in safeguarding and defining the Deposit of Faith.

It is also evident from these passages that this same Church would be infallible, for if at any time in its history it would definitively teach error to the Church as a whole in matters of faith or morals – even temporarily – it would cease being this “pillar and ground of the truth.” Since a “ground” or foundation by its very nature is meant to be a permanent support, and since the above-mentioned passages do not allow for the possibility of the Church ever definitively teaching doctrinal or moral error, the only plausible conclusion is that Our Lord was very deliberate in establishing His Church and that He was referring to its infallibility when He called it the “pillar and ground of the truth.”

The Protestant, however, has a dilemma here by asserting the Bible to be the sole rule of faith for believers. In what capacity, then, is the Church the “pillar and ground of the truth” if it is not to serve as an infallible authority established by Christ? How can the Church be this “pillar and ground” if it has no tangible, practical ability to serve as an authority in the life of a Christian? The Protestant would effectively deny that the Church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” by denying that the Church has the authority to teach.

Also, Protestants understand the term “church” to mean something different from what the Catholic Church understands it to mean. Protestants see “the church” as an invisible entity, and for them it refers collectively to all Christian believers around the world who are united by faith in Christ, despite major variations in doctrine and denominational allegiance. Catholics, on the other hand, understand it to mean not only those true believers who are united as Christ’s Mystical Body, but we simultaneously understand it to refer to a visible, historical entity as well, namely, that one – and only that one – organization which can trace its lineage in an unbroken line back to the Apostles themselves: the Catholic Church. It is this Church and this Church alone which was established by Christ and which has maintained an absolute consistency in doctrine throughout its existence, and it is therefore this Church alone which can claim to be that very “pillar and ground of the truth.”

Protestantism, by comparison, has known a history of doctrinal vacillations and changes, and no two denominations completely agree – even on major doctrinal issues. Such shifting and changing could not possibly be considered a foundation or “ground of the truth.” When the foundation of a structure shifts or is improperly set, that structure’s very support is unreliable (cf. Matt. 7:26-27). Since in practice the beliefs of Protestantism have undergone change both within denominations and through the continued appearance of new denominations, these beliefs are like a foundation which shifts and moves. Such beliefs therefore cease to provide the support necessary to maintain the structure they uphold, and the integrity of that structure becomes compromised, Our Lord clearly did not intend for His followers to build their spiritual houses on such an unreliable foundation.”

Love,
Matthew

(Editor’s note: a dear friend who converted to Catholicism, and holds an MA in Catholic theology posed the following question to me after I sent this post to him:

“From: your dear friend
Date: Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 7:23 AM
To: “Matthew P. McCormick” <matthew.mccormick11@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Sola Scriptura?: Bible calls Church “Pillar & Ground of Truth” & not itself

Matthew, see below:

in·fal·li·ble
inˈfaləb(ə)l/
adjective
-incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.

I believe Catholicism to be the true faith.
But how can he assert the Catholic Church is incapable of being wrong?
What about the 19th century when it denounced evolution? What about when the church held the earth was flat?
More recently, the Church has changed its teaching on a variety of things such as who gets to heaven, and on and on.
Finally, I though that Catholic doctrine held that Christians make up one universal church with Protestants and Eastern Orthodox believers simply not in communion with us. He seems to say that is not the case.
Do you agree?

Thanks,
Your dear friend”

“From: “Matthew P. McCormick” <matthew.mccormick11@yahoo.com>
Date: Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 7:50 AM
To: my dear friend
Subject: Re: Sola Scriptura?: Bible calls Church “Pillar & Ground of Truth” & not itself

My dear friend, this is an amateur layman’s interpretation, my opinion, take it for what it’s worth. You could ask the author yourself, too. If you click on his name in the post it will take you to his Linkedin page. He should be easy to reach. You MAs in theology can hash it out from there. I’m only working on mine. “I just work here!” 🙂

This word is misinterpreted by everyone. I think there are two uses. One narrow and VERY specific, papal infallibility, and then the other MUCH broader and general. The first use is for doctrine which is forbidden to be contested. What almost everyone fails, and few Catholics care to distinguish, is what level of teaching authority of the Church is the Church teaching this in question teaching? Priestly celibacy is a discipline not doctrine. It could be easily changed. There are cultures that would tremble globally and others that wouldn’t even have a pulse about such a change. The last teaching, and ONLY one, I can think of right now, that exercised papal infallibility, is the Immaculate Conception, but as Joel points out, this has been an oral tradition from the beginning, and I believe him.

The second is the general infallibility guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. You can’t exactly have THE TRUE CHURCH which only has a variable probability of getting it right, now can you? Either, as I understand both Joel and the doctrine, you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to help God’s instrument on earth “get it right”, or you don’t, which distinctly and directly implies doubt and a lack of faith in the promises of Christ? And, the Holy Spirit? This is how I understand what he is saying. You should check with Joel, too. Let me know what he says, please. Thank you for reading the stuff I send and your thoughtful question. It is how we reach that infallible Truth!! Always has been.

I hear what you are saying, but I would also recommend to you, even though highly impractical, to do scholarly research, or find someone who has on each of the positions below you claim the Catholic Church has held and qualify, precisely, in detail, what the Church’s position exactly was, and whether it declared each, even if as you describe, to the level of infallibility? I doubt, based on experience, you will find the convicting evidence you suggest? I doubt it. You must give the Curia credit for being universal and eternal masters of language and taking the charge of infallibility through the Holy Spirit most seriously. Any teaching, if there is any doubt, can’t hope to reach the level of doctrine, in my experience. The Curia really are superstars of language and thought, and would NEVER be careless with regard to doctrine, let alone any lesser degree of authoritative teaching, which is why I suggest scholarly research on your understandable, but albeit gross, albeit imprecise, albeit general myths you assert?

If you can find the citation where the Church says “whatevs”, let me know. I am not aware. The Church’s long standing doctrine of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” has NEVER CHANGED!!!! The big news from Vatican II was the Church, formally, and in writing, said, and I quote, “it is possible”, NOT normative, NOT usual, NOT to be expected by the rational person, but merely, “possible”, and did not indicate a likelihood, and certainly NOT a healthy or reliable one, for salvation to occur outside the Church; AND, ONLY under very specific and defined categories, I.e. baptism by blood, desire, water, invincible ignorance, i.e. unaware the Catholic Church exists, try and BET YOUR SOUL on THAT ONE!!!!, etc. Good luck!!! Many people misread, Gaudium et Spes, and think it says “whatevs”. Nothing could be further from the truth!!!

Simply being a Catholic is absolutely NO GUARANTEE of salvation. We never know in this life. We trust in our Lord’s promises & His mercy; faith, not de facto salvation. Only of the saints do we have some surety of their salvation and being in Heaven with Jesus, hence the miracles. Finally & frankly, that is merely what canonization does and means is to confirm and promulgate the formal earthly understanding of the FAR GREATER, more momentous, and of greater import fact, that these souls, truly, “have been made worthy of the promises of Christ!!!! Praise Him, Church!!!! Praise Him!!!!

-humbly & in Christian love,
Matthew”)

Sola Scriptura?: Bible commands Oral Tradition

29sola-scriptura-defn

Editor: it is also helpful to recall, I believe, that while notions of general illiteracy until recently are being contested, at best, ancient and medieval literacy rates are understood currently to never have risen above 30%-40%, at their peak.

joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“St. Paul both commends and commands the keeping of oral tradition. In 1 Corinthians 11:2, for instance, we read, “Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you.” (4) St. Paul is obviously commending the keeping of oral tradition here, and it should be noted in particular that he extols the believers for having done so (“I praise you….”). Explicit in this passage is also the fact that the integrity of this Apostolic oral tradition has clearly been maintained, just as Our Lord promised it would be, through the safeguarding of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:3).

Perhaps the clearest Biblical support for oral tradition can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:14(15), where Christians are actually commanded: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” This passage is significant in that a) it shows the existence of living traditions within the Apostolic teaching, b) it tells us unequivocally that believers are firmly grounded in the Faith by adhering to these traditions, and c) it clearly states that these traditions were both written and oral. Since the Bible distinctly states here that oral traditions – authentic and Apostolic in origin – are to be “held” as a valid component of the Deposit of Faith, by what reasoning or excuse do Protestants dismiss them? By what authority do they reject a clear-cut injunction of St. Paul?

Moreover, we must consider the text in this passage. The Greek word krateite, here translated “hold,” means “to be strong, mighty, to prevail.” (5) This language is rather emphatic, and it demonstrates the importance of maintaining these traditions. Of course one must differentiate between Tradition (upper-case “T”) that is part of divine Revelation, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Church traditions (lower-case “t”) that, although good, have developed in the Church later and are not part of the Deposit of Faith.

An example of something that is part of Tradition would be infant Baptism; an example of a Church tradition would be the Church’s calendar of feast days of Saints. Anything that is part of Tradition is of divine origin and hence unchangeable, while Church traditions are changeable by the Church. Sacred Tradition serves as a rule of faith by showing what the Church has believed consistently through the centuries and how it is always understood any given portion of the Bible. One of the main ways in which Tradition has been passed down to us is in the doctrine contained in the ancient texts of the liturgy, the Church’s public worship.

It should be noted that Protestants accuse Catholics of promoting “unbiblical” or “novel” doctrines based on Tradition, asserting that such Tradition contains doctrines which are foreign to the Bible. However, this assertion is wholly untrue. The Catholic Church teaches that Sacred Tradition contains nothing whatsoever that is contrary to the Bible. Some Catholic thinkers would even say that there is nothing in Sacred Tradition which is not also found in Scripture, at least implicitly or in seminal form. Certainly the two are at least in perfect harmony and always support each other. For some doctrines, the Church draws more from Tradition than from Scripture for its understanding, but even those doctrines are often implied or hinted at in the Sacred Scripture. For example, the following are largely based on Sacred Tradition: infant Baptism, the canon of Scripture, the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sunday (rather than Saturday) as the Lord’s Day, and the Assumption of Our Lady.

Sacred Tradition complements our understanding of the Bible and is therefore not some extraneous source of Revelation which contains doctrines that are foreign to it. Quite the contrary: Sacred Tradition serves as the Church’s living memory, reminding her of what the faithful have constantly and consistently believed and how to properly understand and interpret the meaning of Biblical passages. (6) In a certain way, it is Sacred Tradition which says to the reader of the Bible “You have been reading a very important book which contains God’s revelation to man. Now let me explain to you how it has always been understood and practiced by believers from the very beginning.””

Love,
Matthew

(4) The word translated as “ordinances” is also translated “teachings” or “traditions”; for example, the New International Version gives “teachings,” with a footnote: “Or traditions.”

(5) W. E. Vine [Protestant Author], Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing House, n.d.), p. 564., 1996, op. Cit.

(6) One example of this interpretive memory involves Revelation 12. The Early Church Fathers understood the “woman clothed with the sun” to be a reference to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For someone to assert that this doctrine did not exist until 1950 (the year Pope Pius XII formally defined the doctrine) represents ignorance of ecclesial history. Essentially, the belief was held from the beginning, but it was not formally defined until the 20th century. Bear in mind that the Church often did not have a need to define a doctrine formally until it was formally challenged by someone (usually a heretic). Such occasions gave rise to the need officially to define the “parameters” of the doctrine in question.