Saturday, October 16, 2010

Where does it say that in the Bible?

So there I was, reading  Understanding Roman Catholicism (read the 1 star comments, they're hilarious) by Rick Jones, when I came across the most over-used anti-Catholic-doctrine assault: "Where does it say that in the bible?"

Well, to be perfectly honest, it probably doesn't.

That's right, today's topic is the protestant doctrine of sola scripture (by scripture alone).  I'd like to take an excursion through the Holy Word of God, applying his twin gifts of Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) to what we find, to see what we can determine.

It occurred to me while reading that... book... that Our Lord is truly wise beyond all telling.  The tripod is the most stable structure, finding stability even on uneven ground.  Is it so problematic then that Our Lord would give us a tripod of revelation?  But then, that is all the Catholic Church has ever asserted: The Word of God written in the scriptures, the Word of God lived in the traditions handed on by those who knew him, and the Word of God spoken in the Holy Spirit, guiding and preserving the Church for all time.  Scripture, tradition and magisterium.

But Jeremiah, they say, doesn't that contradict the bible? That's a serious charge, after all the Word of God cannot contradict itself, for God is Truth, and the truth never contradicts itself.  If any doctrine of the church contradicted scripture, it would of course be wrong.

Well, I answer, no it doesn't. What scripture does that assertion contradict?

Duh, you silly Catholic, don't you read the bible?  Read 2 Timothy 3:16. Okay, let's see what we've got here...

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Oh... Right, that one.  Well, fine, how is this an issue?  Let's take a look at this phrase by phrase.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  Alright, fine, but what is scripture?  The bible, you say?  Well yeah. To US.  To the Church at that time, the scripture was Jewish, the Torah, the Talmud, things you would hear in the Synagogue.  It is only because Christ gave authority to the Apostles that scripture includes what we now call the New Testament. 

Even if we understand that verse to mean "everything that will be considered scripture," that still requires an authoritative source after Christ to define what exactly is scripture.

...and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness... This is saying one of two things.  Either scripture is to be used directly for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction, or it is to be used to develop the same.  However, neither excludes other sources, they only solidify the place of the scriptures.  Which, again, at the writing of that line, did not include that line...

Let's take a look at some more scripture, though, and see if we can find some reason why sola scripture doesn't work.  After all, if the scriptures refute scripture being the only authority... Well, that pretty much settles the question, doesn't it?

It's a bit long to paste here, but go read Acts of the Apostles 15.

Here we have Peter standing up as the leader of the assembly, and making a statement regarding what is to be the doctrine of the Church, contrary to the Jewish scriptures.  James then stands up in agreement with Peter, and the whole council of Apostles and Presbyters in Jerusalem send the following letter to certain churches:

It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.

This is a doctrinal decision undertaken not on the basis of scriptures, but on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through Peter, James, and the rest of the Council at Jerusalem.

I answer also with the Second Letter from Paul to the Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 6:

We instruct you, brothers, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us.
I emphasize, ...the tradition they received from us. That is to say, Paul and the other Apostles have the authority to hand down the traditions of the faith, to preserve that which was not written down.

Wait, what am I talking about now?  Oh right, from the Holy Gospel according to John, chapter 21, verse 25:

There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

That is to say, the Gospels, which themselves are not instruction manuals so much as they are a handing down of the story of the life of Christ, are not complete.  There are true things which happened which are not contained in the scriptures.  Perhaps, say, entrusted to the Apostles whom he ordained on the eve of his Passion?

Really, the sad thing is that there is a very simple problem with every protestant's assertion against tradition, namely that when you challenge their interpretation of scripture, they often resort to what their pastor or other authority in their church told them, not realizing that that is in fact relying on tradition.  We are doing the same thing, but our sources are, shall we say, closer to the source.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep."

Let we, His sheep, hear the Good Shepherd's voice as it is given us, in the inspired Word of God, in the traditions handed on to us from the Apostles through their successors, and through the proper interpretation given us by those same successors, preserved as Christ promised against the very gates of Hell.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!


  1. I want you to come to my homegroup. We had a 'discussion' on the 'idolatry of the saints' and the 'non-God breathed books of the Bible'. All arguments were to be backed biblically... go. grr. :) (that was why I called you on Wednesday) Thank you for not picking up. :) :) :)

  2. Yeah... that's the difficulty discussing so many things with protestants, because their tradition holds that Catholic interpretation is wrong, but most don't realize or won't admit that it is in fact a tradition, an interpretation of the words of scripture, meaning we can't have a discussion on the relative merits of the interpretations/traditions.

  3. The most prominent story of sola scriptura not working in my mind comes from an interaction between an aunt and my cousin.

    My cousin (homeschooled in a very fundamentalist Protestant fashion) had recently dissected an earthworm. My scientist-aunt said something to the effect of "So you're learning about earthworms, eh? The Bible doesn't say anything about earthworms, does it? So...just because it isn't in Scripture doesn't mean it is not true."

  4. Yeah... Was at the fair one year, and was talking with a former Catholic manning a fundamentalist booth. The conversation turned to what is and isn't in the bible, so I asked him if he believed in the Trinity. He did, of course, so I asked him where it talked about the Trinity in the bible.

    He quoted the beginning of John to me, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."

    Very fine, I told him, but that only speaks to the first two persons, the Father and the Son. So where does the bible talk about the Trinity, all three together?

    Instead of answering my question, he began to attack me, "Are you saying you don't believe in the Trinity?"

    I assured him several times that no, I am not denying that doctrine, and continued to ask him where it stated explicitly that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons in one being, the Trinity.

    I don't think he ever got the point...


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