Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sola Scriptura is Flawed

I've given two sermons in my life. The first was in my high school Humanities class. We each were assigned one of the tales from Canterbury Tales to adapt using modern language and tell in front of the class. I was assigned the Parson's Tale, which instead of a story is a two-hour sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins. So I wrote a sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins. And gave it in front of the class. And everyone, including the teacher, was surprised that I wrote a sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins and gave it in front of the class. I'd always wondered how a teacher could be surprised at one of her students doing the assignment she gave them, but perhaps that's just a reflection on how poorly her previous students had done on the same assignment. Whatever the reason, given that the characters in Canterbury Tales were surprised that the Parson gave a sermon, I think my interpretation was successful.

My second sermon was considerably shorter than my first. It consisted of one sentence and was given one fine Sunday when one of my friends was too tired to go to church because we'd stayed up all night. I felt bad that she missed church and hoped to give her an uplifting message of God's love and grace as told by the Bible. That message was as follows: God's probably not going to screw you over, but you never know when He's going to make a bet with the Devil. It was not well-received.

While this post isn't a sermon, it is of a religious nature and therefore may not be of interest to everyone. Of course you probably realized this after you noticed a Latin phrase in the title. Not only is it Latin, it's italicized Latin, meaning it hasn't yet become commonly used in the English language. Why Christian sects feel the need to have Latin phrases for every little thing is beyond me. It serves little purpose but to alienate those who they're trying to convert with the phrase It's so easy to join us! Yes, it is easy; all you have to do is learn Latin.

Of course I'm being flippant. I gotta try to make this entertaining for the people who couldn't care less about the theological discussion that follows. But back to the point; I fight hard to minimize the number of religiously-themed posts in this blog. Believe it or not, Christian history and theology still interests me quite a bit even though it's no longer something I believe, and I am often tempted to write about my thoughts in this area. But because I know not everyone who reads this cares to read the random thoughts about religion which come into my head, I rarely post them. So if they bother you, let me know and possibly suggest some way I can accommodate you being bothered. And if they don't bother you, let me know and I'll post them more often. And if they actually interest you, feel free to comment on them so a discussion can be had. And now that that's out of the way...

I, like most other people I grew up with, was raised a Protestant, meaning I rejected the authority of the Pope and the Catholic church. I suppose by that definition I still am a Protestant, though I think it'd be more accurate to say that I'm a Protestant++ (or Protestant--, depending on your views of Protestantism and apostasy) since I also reject the authority of the Bible.

Anyways, many Protestants, including myself at the time, accept a doctrine called Sola scriptura, which states that the Bible alone is sufficient for all Christian doctrine. The purpose of this doctrine is verification; if the Church teaches something, it can be verified by reading the Bible. Historically this teaching grew out of the Protestant Reformation since some Catholic Church doctrines which were backed by sacred tradition and not Scripture upset some of the Reformation's players. It's a reasonable way of thinking, to want to be able to verify one's faith. But it is, as I say, flawed.

It's impossible to look at Scripture without biases. You're not just reading the words printed on the page; you're reading the text and interpreting it based on any number of external factors: social and cultural norms, political affiliation, the authorities in your particular church, current methods of Biblical exegesis, etc... You are, in effect, using your own tradition to interpret the text. It may be a tradition you agree with, but it's still an external factor not Biblically based.

Most likely, the main external factor is the tradition of your particular denomination. Someone a long time ago, using their own society and culture as a guide, interpreted the text a certain way, and this interpretation made sense to the people who raised you. You were raised to trust this interpretation as correct, so you believe it, forsaking all other interpretations. Even if someone else disagrees with you, pointing to the texts they've used to reach their conclusion, you aren't going to change your mind. Why? Because you don't trust them. You don't trust that they've considered the parts of the text which prove you're correct, and you trust your teacher of the Scripture more than you trust this random person arguing with you. This trust is external to the words printed on the paper because the belief didn't come from the words printed on the paper; it came from your tradition. In the same way, Catholics trust their sacred traditions external of any Scriptural backing. You don't trust their external traditions, and that's fine. They don't trust yours, which is fine too. But don't claim your church is better than theirs because your teachings are all Biblically based and theirs aren't.

As I was thinking what to write in this post, I read an article titled The False Quest for a True Islam. It's a good article; I recommend reading it. In it was a great discussion about this very subject as it pertained to Muslims and the Qur'an. The author's much better with words than I am, so I'll excerpt it here:

Now, there is no doubt that the Qur’an contains much that is disgusting by modern liberal standards. And it is disturbing that movements emphasizing jihad against the infidel have gained strength. But the Qur’an does not speak for itself. The vast majority of Muslims only make heavily mediated contact with the Qur’an. A typical Muslim is unlikely to be literate in classical Arabic, and using translations is not an everyday practice. Ordinary Muslims depend heavily on their local religious scholars, Sufi orders and similar brotherhoods, officially sanctioned clergy, and other mediating institutions. They hold the Qur’an sacred, but their understanding of what Islam demands comes through their local religious culture. Their interpretations are filtered through the mainstream legal traditions and the unexciting, nonviolent needs of everyday life. (emphasis mine)

Replace Qur'an with Bible, Muslim with Christian, Islam with Christianity, and Sufi order with denomination and you've basically described modern Christianity. That's why so many denominations exist; because they're reading the same text but have different external factors affecting their interpretation. Southern Baptists 200 years ago thought God considered slavery moral because they owned slaves. They now consider it immoral because our society considers slavery immoral. Different external factors cause people to reach different conclusions.

So, Catholics (or Catholic, as only one Catholic I know of reads this), you have won the battle of Sola scriptura. You have lost the war since I still reject your religion, but I'll still let you claim it as a victory.


Blogger Luke said...

To be fair, Sola Scriptora is not is we, the interpreters that are flawed for the reasons you speak of. Why should the Bible be held responsible for our own biases and interpretations?

And, to be fair, I am a firm believer in Sola Scriptora, and I am an exception to your reasoning for it's flaws. I have rejected a number of teachings and interpretations that I grew up with, solely because the Bible does not teach them. There are a number of people I know that do this too.

So, to say scripture is flawed because of the way people interpret it is like saying the egg is wrong because of the chicken that layed it (a flawed analogy, I admit, but it works for my point).

8/21/2007 7:38 AM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

Someone responded! Huzzah!

There's a word we who design things use for something which no one in the history of the world, including people who have devoted their entire lives to it, can use or understand: "flawed". I don't want to argue that here because I'd like to keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand, but these guys argue this over, and over, and over.

I'd be curious to hear what teachings and interpretations you rejected because they weren't Biblically based. Because in my experience, most all church teachings and interpretations have some justification in the Bible, especially if you grew up in a church which taught Sola scriptura. And if those teachings weren't based in Scripture, I guess you didn't really have a Sola scriptura church. If it was Scripturally based...well you kinda proved my point. But I'll let you comment further on this before I say any more.

I also wonder if Sola scriptura has basis in Scripture, or is it a self-contradicting doctrine. Plus there's the matter of how one knows their interpretation is the correct one and therefore the only interpretation taught by Scripture. Because a non-contradicting text can only have one correct interpretation. The interpretation has to be authenticated by Scripture, so how is that done?

One further comment. In the process of writing this, I read an article where the author defined Sola scriptura as the Bible being the "sole basis for infallible authority", which is much different than the definition I used. It's kinda an interesting article; what we call "Sola scriptura" he calls "Solo scriptura" and argues against it. His version of Sola scriptura sounds identical to Sacred Tradition, which he (strangely) rejects. I'm not bringing this up because he kinda-sorta agrees with me but rather because we both need to be sure we're using the same definition when having this discussion. Do you agree with the definition in my original post, or do you want to suggest one of your own for us to use?

8/21/2007 9:17 PM  
Blogger Arthaey Angosii said...

I've been doing quite a bit of reading and thinking about religion and atheism myself, so I definitely like reading your posts on the topic. I wouldn't mind more. :)

8/22/2007 11:38 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

Regarding the definition of Sola Scriptora, I don't really see the difference between your definitions, can you please elaborate? "the Bible alone is sufficient for all Christian doctrine" and "sole basis for infallible authority" seems redundant to me, but maybe that's because I'm not looking at it from the same way as you.

Regarding the doctrines I've rejected, the major one is infant baptism. It has no basis in the Bible whatsoever, and at it's heart is actually very similar to circumcision, which we all know was rejected by Christ. I also have found nothing in Scripture regarding the thought that Christ decended into hell, which is part of the Apostles Creed, which both the Reformed Church and the Catholic Church read most every Sunday. There are also Calvinistic ideas that I'm not sure about, like Perseverence of the Saints, which I still struggle with and am making decisions about, but I can't say I fully reject them yet.

Hope that answers your questions.

8/23/2007 7:11 AM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

I don't know if you read the article I linked to where the author used that definition (I assume you didn't, which is fine; it was long and not required reading for the class :)), but "sole basis for infallible authority" leaves room for some form of non-Biblical and fallible authority which the church is pretty sure is correct but could be wrong. Examples of these fallible authorities might include the various creeds and non-Biblical writings of early church fathers. The reader of Scripture could measure their interpretation of the text against the teachings of these fallible authorities. So if, for example, you interpreted the Scriptures as saying Jesus was not the Messiah and was just a man, you'd be wrong because your interpretation doesn't jive with these fallible authorities. It's a possible answer to the question I posed above: "how is one's interpretation of Scripture authenticated as the correct one?"

We'll use you as an example since you've set yourself up to be such a nice one. You said you reject the part of the Apostle's Creed which says Jesus descended into hell. I was amused when I saw you wrote that; I remember not reciting that part of the creed the couple times I went to church with you because I didn't agree with it. That puts you about 2 years behind me on your journey; I look forward to seeing you on this side of the fence in a few years :). Anyways, since you believe in the Bible as the sole basis of Christian authority, you feel free to reject that part of the creed you disagree with because it isn't the Bible and therefore has no authority. But if you believed the Bible was "the sole basis for infallible authority", then you leave open the possibility that there exist fallible, non-Biblical authorities. You might have accepted the Apostle's Creed as one such non-Biblical authority and rejected your own interpretation because it was inconsistent with the creed. Not that you would have, but the definition allows for such a thing, whereas the definition you believe and we're using in this discussion doesn't really allow for that.

As a modern Protestant and believer in "the Bible alone is sufficient for all Christian doctrine", you've probably already asked yourself the obvious question: "how is this fallible authority authenticated and how can it be falsified". The author doesn't answer the second question, nor can I do a good job of answering it. If your interpretation of Scripture must be authenticated against the teachings of this fallible authority, nothing short of God's intervention can falsify this authority. Of course, God descending and correcting the church would disprove both definitions of Sola scriptura.

The first question the author answers with both an argument from authority and appeal to tradition. The Apostles got together, discerned the truth, and wrote it down. Then some smart guys some time later got together and wrote the creeds. Because it happened long ago and because these guys were smart (or "specially gifted", as the author calls them), they were probably right and their interpretations have more weight than yours. The problem with this reasoning is it's fallacious. And it's Sacred Tradition all over again, just a different and newer tradition. And if we're assuming traditions that have been around longer are more correct, then I'd take Catholic traditions any day of the week over Reformed ones. This is why I don't understand why the author takes the position he does; he wants church tradition to be authoritative over the church's members because it's been through the test of time but considers it OK to reject the traditions of the oldest formal Christian church. It seems like he's doing the very thing he argues against.

Hopefully that's more enough elaboration for you to understand the reasoning (mine and this author's) for why I think the two definitions are different. Personally I think both are flawed; a belief is not correct because it is solely based on Scripture, nor is a belief correct solely because it's "the way it 'always' has been taught".

Regarding infant baptism and Jesus descending into hell, I just looked over the Catholic arguments for both. On the descent into hell, the Scriptural references are present but kinda weak. On infant baptism their argument is stronger. I just bring this up to say there are Biblical justifications to both, not to endorse either. I'm sure if you asked Will about either issue he'd tell you all you ever wanted to know and some. Maybe if he's reading he'll chime in.

I am still curious to hear your opinion for how an interpretation of Scripture is authenticated by Scripture. For example, how would one know which, if any, of the many opinions on the rapture (or even salvation by grace/works/both) are correct? All seem to have some Scriptural backing but obviously can't all be correct.

I think at this point the "aye"'s have it. One implicit yes and one explicit one is good enough for me considering there are only 7 people I know of who read anything I write here (maybe 8; I know my dad reads the comics but I don't know if he reads the text). And of course, feel feel to contribute to any discussion which may or may not occur. Knowledge about the subject is not required :).

8/23/2007 9:24 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

"As a modern Protestant and believer in "the Bible alone is sufficient for all Christian doctrine", you've probably already asked yourself the obvious question: "how is this fallible authority authenticated and how can it be falsified"

It's actually a pretty simple answer...everything not in the Bible is fallible. Why? Because we, as humans, are fallible, and every interpretation written by man is thus fallible. That doesn't mean parts of it can't be accurate, but as a whole the interpretation would be fallible.

And I do realize that the Bible was written by humans, but we believe it was done under the divine influence of God, so the situation is different there. Creeds and doctrines were not created under God's divine influence, so they cannot be considered part of the Bible. Also, many of the doctrines were created under political pressure, so the authors' biases and pressures must be taken into consideration when reading them.

So, yeah, I have to leave open the possibility of fallible, non-Biblical authority because by default humans are fallible, so any interpretation by a religious authority is fallible.

"I am still curious to hear your opinion for how an interpretation of Scripture is authenticated by Scripture. For example, how would one know which, if any, of the many opinions on the rapture (or even salvation by grace/works/both) are correct? All seem to have some Scriptural backing but obviously can't all be correct."

That's the trick, isn't it? Almost every debatable doctrine has scripture backing of both sides. We'll take predestination and pure free will as an example. Both have very strong scriptural backing to their stances. My opinion, which is certainly flawed to a point, but it's the understanding I have come to, is that God's divine will and the way he "runs the world" for lack of a better phrase is completely over my head, and I am not meant to understand such things. They are beyond my human capabilities. Plus, it is not a salvation issue, as both sides come to the basic idea that you have to believe God sent his Son to die for us, and we have to ask for forgiveness of those sins. That is what is clear in the Bible. The other non-salvation issues are often as clear as mud, but their importance is nil compared to the issue of salvation, and it doesn't really matter much what we believe in those areas (rapture or non-rapture, Christ is still coming). Anyway, that's just my personal belief.

I'd be interested to hear the scripture references for Christ's decention into hell and for infant baptism that you found or what Will knows of. My research has been done solely from the Reformed doctrine, although I'm sure the references are about the same. And those references, while often showing that Jesus had a special place in his heart for children or even saying that children are "holy" (which is actually not the original meaning of the text, but I'd rather not go there at the moment), does not advocate infant baptism. On the other hand, baptism, whenever referenced, I have found to be paired with "believe/repent and be baptized". It's irreputable that children can believe in Christ at 2 weeks old.

8/25/2007 7:46 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

Whoops...meant to say at the end that "It's irreputable that children CANNOT believe in Christ at 2 weeks old.

8/25/2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

Regarding the rhetorical question I posed: "how is this fallible authority authenticated?", I realize it must be fallible because it's human writing and wasn't asking the question as if I was wondering why it's fallible. I was referring to the specific process through which the authority can be shown to be false, considering the author thought all members of the church were supposed to weigh their interpretations of Scripture against this authority. It'd be like your church telling you "all apples are red" and telling you you're wrong when you see a green apple because the church teaches that "all apples are red". That isn't a fallible authority, yet that was the type of "fallible" authority (I thought) the author was saying the church should be. The question is more if you hold your fallible interpretation of Scripture over your church's fallible interpretation, or vice-versa. I think that at its core is the distinction between the two viewpoints.

...any interpretation by a religious authority is fallible

I should try harder to resist being a smart-ass, but I can't: is the interpretation of Scripture as infallible a fallible interpretation of Scripture? :)

Yes, the rapture has no bearing on salvation. But salvation isn't so clear-cut either. I'm going to tread lightly here based on my reading of the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Salvation, but I'm pretty sure the Catholic view of salvation requires baptism; and while good works don't seem to be a requirement for salvation itself, it doesn't appear that you can go to heaven if you're a horrible person. You, I think, don't believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. And some churches (I thought I remembered a similar teaching from the Mennonite Brethren but can't say with certainty) teach that you can be a horrible person and go to heaven as long as you've accepted Jesus. The distinction probably doesn't matter to you because you were baptized and are a good person but would matter to someone who wasn't baptized (for example, it would have mattered to me because I was never baptized). So even on salvation Scripture's not crystal-clear on the subject.

But hopefully you see my point. If Scripture is supposed to be self-authenticating, there needs to be some objective way for Scripture to authenticate a teaching, at least the important teachings like salvation. If there is no means of authentication, all (or at least more than one) interpretations of Scripture can be considered valid interpretations, which I don't think you want when it comes to important teachings like salvation. I don't think a fallible authority based on traditional interpretations of Scripture cuts it because the problems I raised above; it becomes a de facto infallible authority once all Scriptural interpretations are filtered through that authority. I think all you're left with as an acceptable authenticator is an infallible authority on what's a correct interpretation of Scripture. If you can't find that in Scripture itself, then you need to set up an infallible external authority. God would work, but he doesn't seem to talk much; so you need something else. Which is why the Pope must be able to invoke papal infallibility. I know I need to clarify that, and I'll devote an entire post to my reasoning behind what I just said.

Seeing as infant baptism is a Catholic doctrine, I can only assume Will has read up on and been taught its justifications. But here's one view of the Catholic position on infant baptism, which I again state I do not endorse and don't feel qualified to debate. There's a discussion of Jesus' descent to Hell on Wikipedia, which further convinces me of my need to learn ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew.

I've asked Will to join our discussion and chime in on the Catholic perspective on some of this since I'm woefully inadequate at doing so. Whether or not he will join the discussion is another matter entirely.

And I think you did mean to say "irreputable that children can believe...", the "ir" modifier meaning "not". So assuming you meant to say "'a child can believe in Christ at 2 weeks old' is not a reputable (valid) statement", the first would be correct.

8/25/2007 3:00 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

I seem to recall there being at least one other mini-sermon given on the days when we were attempting to be bad influences. The problem is, I can never remember what it was.

Although I don't have the religious background you have, it seems to me that Sola Scriptura implies that one would use the bible as the source for one's morals, the very thing Richard Dawkins argues against in chapter 7 of The God Delusion:

... we do not, as a matter of fact, derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself ...

For instance, I would expect that very few rational people would agree that Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom would be the moral choice, nor would they agree with any of the other passages that treat women as inferior, even to the point of them being property. In such a case society's views on the equality of women are being used to reject a portion of the bible as being outdated.

Although you were being a smartass, you raised a point that I would like to bring up in all seriousness: In order for Sola Scriptura to make sense, scripture needs to be infallible, yet the only indication of its infallibility comes from scripture itself. How is it possible to know such a thing, when it is the equivalent to a novel starting with "This is a true story", or another religion, Scientology, for instance, claiming to be true?

Also, wouldn't you be a ++Protestant?

8/26/2007 4:03 AM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

I seem to recall there being at least one other mini-sermon...

There was one that was based around this passage in Romans. That passage, by the way, holds a special place in my heart, as it was the second passage I read that I couldn't reconcile with my beliefs in an all-loving God. I think the sermon was something like "God probably loves you, but then again He could have made you to destroy you". Those weren't the exact words, but I think that was the point. I didn't include it because it wasn't a very good sermon; not nearly as good as the first mini-sermon. Plus from a storytelling perspective, me giving two sermons -- a traditional, long, fire-and-brimstone sermon and a one-line condemnation of God's supposed mercy -- makes for a better story than three sermons. seems to me that Sola Scriptura implies that one would use the bible as the source for one's morals...


For instance, I would expect that very few rational people would agree that Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom would be the moral choice...

Right. Not every "righteous" person in the Bible is always righteous. Nor is every wicked act done by a "righteous" person punished. I think if you're going to make this argument (which I think is a decent argument against Biblical morality), you'd be better off using as examples either immoral things God commanded people to do or times God rewarded people for doing things which we now consider immoral. A popular one to use these days is slavery. Another good one is the forceful taking of foreign wives from conquered enemies.

I should also add that not everyone believes the Bible should be used as a moral guide. As luck would have it, I just read something on this very topic:

It is not only unhelpful but dangerous to say that the Bible should be our guide...This approach to the human being only creates fear of failure and punishment and leads to arrogance if one succeeds or condemnation if one fails to live up to the instructions...The like a document from a free land that announces to us that our bonds have been broken and we are free indeed...

I think the implication here is that how one is to live one's life comes more from the relationship the individual has with God than from the specific text in the book.

And of course there are those who simply respond, "It's God; He can do whatever he wants. All that matters to us is that we do what he says." I've never spoken to someone who said this so bluntly (though I am sure I've said that first sentence before), but they exist. You're probably not going to be able to argue with that position in any meaningful way. I imagine debating with such a person is like having a conversation with Sancho.

How is it possible to know such a thing, when it is the equivalent to a novel starting with "This is a true story", or another religion, Scientology, for instance, claiming to be true?

I think this is where that whole "faith" thing comes into play. If it were possible to truly know the Bible were infallible, it'd be called "fact" instead of "faith". But, assuming true the premise that "the Bible is divinely inspired" and assuming that it was transcribed correctly through the years, it's not too hard to conclude the Bible'd be infallible.

I'm willing to accept Biblical infallibility for the purposes of this argument. All I want is the Scriptural way in which a teaching can be shown to be the one God intended when he inspired the text to be written. I want the Scriptural authenticator. This is where I think the Catholics have the advantage. They know it doesn't exist in Scriputure, so they have declared someone "infallible" in matters of faith and morals and completely sidestep the whole issue. We can argue all day that the Catholic Church's infallible positions are repugnant, but one thing you're not going to be able to do is tell a Catholic their Biblical interpretation of a matter of faith or morals is wrong. Why? Because their interpreter is infallible, and yours isn't. It has an added benefit of being a defense against that bit of Dawkins you quoted, as it is an independent criterion; and an infallible one at that. A rather elegant solution, I think. Again, I want to devote a post to this thinking to go into more detail.

Also, wouldn't you be a ++Protestant?

That would also work, except the computer science field seems to have standardized on using the pre-increment operator as the naming convention for incremental improvements. Blame Bjarne for that one. Also I have no intention of using the return value (hell, I don't even know what the return value'd be), so they're equivalent. Though I will grant that ++Protestant might have been a faster operation and had I used it instead, maybe the operation wouldn't have taken 20 years to complete.

8/26/2007 3:29 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

Ok, so the Catholics can get out of this one, by claiming that the pope is divinely inspired. But what about those who do not accept the authority of the pope? Or for that matter, what of those Catholics who pick and choose from what the pope says? From whence come their source of morals?

I think you meant "post-increment". Pre-increment would be ++Protestant, and I still say it would be so, as Protestant++ would still evaluate to Protestant.

8/26/2007 4:30 PM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

But what about those who do not accept the authority of the pope?

This is kinda the point I've been making as to why Sola scriptura is flawed. There are some who argue they come from God; that God speaks to them through Scripture or as kinda a voice in their head. In that way everyone would be divinely inspired. Presumably God is infallible and external to Scripture. Of course it isn't testable or verifiable, and plenty of people have "God" telling them contradictory things.

There is also a theory that the Christian church as a whole is infallible. I'm unsure exactly how that works, considering the broad disagreement on all number of things. Perhaps when all Christian churches agree on something? Or if a church teaching is really old?

The church could set up a fallible authority to interpret Scripture and determine morality. Because it's fallible it'd be a relativistic morality, which is something some Christians accuse the non-religious of having.

But as I originally wrote, I suspect most people's interpretation of Scripture comes from how they were raised and how they were taught to read the Bible, because there's certainly no obvious way to use the Scripture to determine whether or not a teaching is correct.

...what of those Catholics who pick and choose from what the pope says?

My understanding of Catholicism is that Catholics don't really get that choice. Catholicism requires that Catholics believe all such pronouncements. Those that don't are basically Catholics in Name Only. And I imagine they get their morality from much the same place as anyone who denies papal infallibility.

I think you meant "post-increment".

Right, post-increment is what I meant. But if we're talking about modification of the state of the object named "Protestant" and don't care about the return value, then both operators should modifiy the state in the same way. If we were assigning the value to something then yes, it would matter

8/26/2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger Will said...

First of all I’d like to thank Aaron for inviting me to this...I’m always up for a good theological discussion.

A lot has been said here already, and frankly Aaron has done a pretty good job of defending my position without me even being here! But now I am here…so here you have my official position on the issue of Sola Scriptura.

The issue at hand has always been interesting to me because it is one of the main pillars of Protestantism in general, regardless of denomination. Just the other day I was talking to my friend Nathan (who is now dating Janelle Hixson, actually)…and he was telling me about this awesome church he’s been going to. The name of it escapes me, but basically it’s a church that’s still trying to buy a building (which basically means it’s still relatively new and relatively small). When asked why it was so awesome, he responded that his church is all about “just the Bible.”

The problem with Sola Scriptura is that it is not supported by Scripture. I always ask person who believes in Sola Scriptura (as Aaron heard me ask Matt on the way up to Victor’s wedding)…”Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians?” I still have yet to hear a response from anyone I have asked….because it’s not in there anywhere. If the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians, it ought to say that, don’t you think?

I then usually ask the person if they believe in the Trinity. One God in three Persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is there Biblical backing for the Trinity? Absolutely. But where is it directly mentioned? That verse doesn’t exist.

What does the Bible say about the issue?

1 Timothy 3:15 (NIV)- “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

What is the pillar and foundation of the truth? The CHURCH, not the Bible. The Bible tells us that the Church is upholding the truth. The Word of God says that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar of truth.

The Catholic position- If the Church is the pillar of truth, shouldn’t we listen to her in matters of faith and morals? In particular, shouldn’t we listen to her in matters of interpretation of Scripture?

Scripture is not the sole rule of faith, the WORD OF GOD is the sole rule of faith. We believe in the written AND spoken form. Sacred Scripture along with Sacred Tradition.

2 Thess 2:15 (NIV)- So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Tim 2:2 (NIV)- And the things you have HEARD me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to TEACH others.

1 Corinthians 11:2 (NIV)- I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.

I also submit that not ONE article of the Catholic faith is opposed to anything in the entire Bible. The Bible is a Catholic book…the Catholic Church gave it to the world. I have always wondered (and never heard an answer) how people who believe in Sola Scriptura know which books belong and which books don’t? If the Bible alone was supposed to be the sole rule of faith for Christians, it should certainly have a list of the books that are divinely inspired versus the ones that aren’t.

Obviously the books of the Old Testament were all written before Jesus was born, but the first book of the New Testament wasn’t written until at least 10 years after Jesus died. The last book of the NT was around 35-40 years (maybe more) after Christ died. That means Christians got along without a complete New Testament for about 40 years after Jesus died. How could they be saved if they didn’t have the Bible as the sole rule of faith? Even then it was nearly a thousand years before the printing press was invented, and the majority of the world didn’t even know how to read. Christians depended on the Church for the truth.

Further, several books that we currently have in the NT were not considered inspired Scripture by all Christians. Revelations, Hebrews, 2 John, 3 John, etc. were all disputed. Who decided which books were and were not the inspired Word of God?

The Catholic Church. In 393 AD in Hippo, a council of bishops approved the list of books that were divinely inspired. It was then ratified in the Council of Carthage in 397 AD, ratified by the Pope, and from that point on the dispute of what did or did not belong in the Bible was OVER until Martin Luther around 1,100 years later. Today there are once again disputes about what belongs and what does not, but the idea that Catholics “added” books to the Bible is historically ridiculous. But that’s for another day.

The authority of the Bible is based upon and DEPENDENT upon the authority of the Church. The Bible did not just drop down from the sky…or appear when the Holy Spirit told all Christians everywhere what books belonged and which books didn’t. Authority is the core issue BAR NONE that divides Christians.

Our assurance that the Bible is the INFALLIBLE, INERRENT word of God is based on the authority of the Catholic Church to decide such matters. What authority does the Church have? APOSTOLIC authority which Jesus passed on to the disciples.

Some main points I want to touch on:
Jesus founded One Church. – Matthew 16:18 (NIV)- "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my CHURCH, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

The Church is authoritative.- As I discussed earlier, the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. How can this be true if it doesn’t have authority? Matthew 18: 15-17 (NIV)- “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen EVEN TO THE CHURCH, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” The Church is the final arbiter between Christians, therefore it has authority.

The Church is called to show a VISIBLE UNITY. The Church is NOT some abstract “spiritual” church.
John 17:11 (NIV)- I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be ONE as we are one.
John 10:16 (NIV)- I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be ONE flock and ONE shepherd.
Ephesians 4:4-5 (NIV)- There is ONE body and ONE Spirit—just as you were called to ONE hope when you were called— ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism; ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One, one, one, one. It is NOT some abstract and invisible “unity of all believers.”

The authority of the Church is apostolic. Jesus says: Matthew 28:18 (NIV)- “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

John 20: 21 (NIV)- “As the Father has sent me, so I SEND YOU.” The apostles are given the SAME authority. He who hears you, hears me. And he who rejects you, rejects me.

What do the apostles do with that authority? They PASS IT ON. In Acts 1:15-26 The first thing the apostles do is fill Judas’ office. The office holder has died, but the office remains to be filled. The bishops are the direct successors of the apostles, with the Pope the bishop of Rome being the successor of Peter.

There are currently around 30,000 different Protestant denominations…..EACH claim to be based on the Bible alone, and each one claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit…yet they all have some different doctrines. Can the Holy Spirit…which is supposed to guide us to all truth, guide people to different (opposing) conclusions and doctrines? The answer is no. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura has done nothing but divide the body of Christ.

So there you have it. Sorry about the CAPS...I didn't realize you could use HTML tags until I was already late for work. ;-)


8/28/2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger Aaron *@ said...

Welcome to the party. Were my understandings of Catholicism correct when I attempted to state the Catholic position? I assume at worst they weren't too incorrect or you would have corrected me.

...he responded that his church is all about "just the Bible."

This in my experience can be translated to "my church's teachings are wholly consistent with my own and/or make me feel good".

I have always wondered (and never heard an answer) how people who believe in Sola Scriptura know which books belong and which books don't?

I thought I remember this being answered in some Bible class somewhere: God inspired the members of the council that decided this. This of course contradicts Sola scriptura.

If the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians, it ought to say that...

That can be argued. Not that I endorse his interpretation, of course. But this is generally why I don't like using Scripture to support a position: because it can be used to support so many different things. I generally don't use it when the argument doesn't require it (and this argument doesn't, in my opinion). You are of course free to argue your point in any way you wish (and indeed I welcome different approaches to make one's point), but don't be surprised if it eventually causes the discussion to devolve into two people quoting Scripture at each other (at which point I will leave the discussion because it will cease being one which interests me).

Thanks to this discussion, I've been doing a bit more thinking on the topic and would like to clarify my views a bit. Within the framework of Christianity, Sola scriptura is not a flawed "hypothesis" (not "hypothesis" in the scientific sense but in the more casual sense of "a claim requiring evidence") to the idea that God's singular truth can be gleaned from Scripture. Once a means to find this singular truth in Scripture while also rejecting all other interpretations of Scripture is found (thus providing the evidence supporting your hypothesis), you could then argue that Sola scriptura is correct. But until you find this means of authentication (or until you limit the scope of Sola scriptura to include only those things which have only one interpretation), any reasoning which allows you to argue this hypothesis as correct is flawed.

8/28/2007 9:37 PM  

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