Matt's First Rebuttal: Dec.1,1997 - Affirmation/Denial of Sola Scriptura

From - Thu Nov 27 09:04:25 1997 From:

I am denying, "The inspired writings (the holy Scriptures of the New Testament of Jesus Christ) claim for themselves that they alone are the standard of authority in Religion today."

1] Before I begin my rebuttal of my opponent’s comments I will reiterate what I established in my opening comments. Using scripture, I established 9 points: 1) Jesus in the gospels commissioned his apostles to do many things, including orally preaching the gospels, but not to write or hold future generations bound to scripture; 2) Only tradition verifies for humanity the contents of scripture, as it does not identify its own contents; 3) Jesus gave us a church, not a book, as the pillar and foundation of truth; 4) Sola Scriptura is a tradition of men; 5) Jesus and the apostles rely on extrascriptural revelation as divine revelation; 6) The Word of God for future generations is oral and written; 7) The attack on Oral Tradition, as well as 8) advocating private interpretation is anti-biblical; 9) Sola Scriptura has spawned 28,000 denominations. In his opening statements my opponent did not touch on items numbered 1, 2, 5, 8 or 9. As in his opening statements he tries to establish his own position, he would not touch on these difficulties, but now that my opening statement is out, in order for him to affirm the proposition, he must deal with them. In fact they can not be dealt with and thus invalidate Sola Scriptura on their own merits. As you review his rebuttal, ask yourself if he has seriously interacted with my opening statement on those issues. Here I will respond to those areas that he did bring up in his opening statement.

2] My opponent affirms several things that I would commend for his honesty; 1) There is not one verse in the bible that says scripture is the sole authority (par. 1); 2) the Word of God had authority and came in two forms, oral and written (par. 13); 3) The authority that the apostles had came from our Lord Jesus Christ and had God’s authority behind them (par. 4-14). This authoritative church was binding on all those who followed Christ. During this time of apostolic authority, their judgment was absolute (Mt. 18:18-19; Acts 11; Acts 15). There were no private interpreters of the apostles. Their judgment had authority from God and were united in doctrine. When disputes arose, an authoritative apostolic church would decide the matter. These admissions undercut the case for Sola Scriptura. Besides examining his arguments that apostolic authority died when the apostles did, I will examine the ramification of these crucial admissions.

3] My opponent argues that the authority of the apostles could not be passed on (except by the bible, par. 9-11). In my opening statement I showed that not to be the case. 2nd Timothy established two things fatal to this idea: 1) Succession to the apostles with the authority of the apostles; 2) what is to be protected is the word of God in oral form; i.e. tradition. We saw Paul ordain Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6) to the ministry: “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands”. This ministry is transacted in an official ceremony (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; 1:18) My opponent alleges that after Paul and the other apostles die, there is no binding authority other than scripture. Paul is at the end of his life (2 Tim. 4:6-8);. If this were so I would expect Paul to write “make sure you make copies of what I and the others have written, and that be your only guide after I die. After we die, the only authoritative teaching is scripture. One must read and decide for themselves, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide them. ” We see no statement in the New Testament that after the apostles die, so did their authority. On the contrary, we see Paul entrust to Timothy the function of guarding the deposit of faith; Is the deposit of faith limited to scripture? Let us examine Paul’s words: 2 Tim. 1:13-14: “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” Notice that Timothy must go by the words that he heard from Paul: oral tradition. This oral tradition is guarded by the Holy Spirit, exactly as the church teaches.

4] Next, we saw Timothy as Paul’s spiritual son, have the same authority to pass on this oral tradition, guarded by the Holy Spirit: 2 Tim. 2:1-2 “You then, my son (2nd generation), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me (1st generation) before many witnesses entrust to faithful men (3rd generation) who will be able to teach others (4th generation) also.” No hint that succeeding generations do not pass on the Holy Spirit or teach authoritatively. Paul assumes that the Holy Spirit that Timothy uses to guard from error, is promised to the succeeding generations. This is orally transmitted as well.

5] Timothy is Paul’s true son in the faith , and is addressed as so -1 Tim. 1:2: “To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (also 1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim 1:2, 2:1; Phi. 2:23). The sons are true successors. They are appointed to preach the gospel message with authority. Timothy: 1 Cor. 4:17: “Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Titus: Tit. 1:4-5: “To Titus, my true son in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you,”. Notice in the Corinthians passage that just as Paul teaches, so does his successor Timothy. Let us digest this point. How was this faith to be passed on? According to my opponent, those who succeed the apostles do not have binding authority, and the sole rule of faith is the bible. On the contrary, Timothy and Titus have the same apostolic authority to bind and loose as the apostles (Mt. 18:18, 16:19). As bishops ordained by Paul, they also have the authority to appoint elders (or priests) transmitting this oral tradition and sacraments given by Christ. No mention here that these successors have less authority or scripture being the exclusive guide.

6] My opponent writes that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the church (par. 11). How could the church be the pillar and ground of truth if it did not have the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 3:15)? This passage is not qualified by, “it is only so if it teaches scripture” , or “it is only the pillar as long as the apostles are alive.” He promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles to guide into all truth (John 16:13), and evil will not (future) prevail against the church (Mt. 16:18). He will be with his people until the end of the age (future) (Mt. 28:20), thus through the Holy Spirit. My opponent stressed that one could have binding authority only if he had the Holy Spirit. I have demonstrated that those who succeeded the apostles had such binding authority. Paul, in writing to those who were under successors of the apostles (they were not under apostles) wrote: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. (Heb. 13: 17):” Authority via the Holy Spirit.

7] My opponent made a big admission when he stated that oral tradition at the time of the apostles was actually the Word of God (par. 14), and was to be received as such by the Thessalonians. There of course is no real choice as Paul is explicit in affirming this in 2 Thes. 2:15. Let us examine the context, 2 Thes. 2:13-17: . “13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” Prior to this (vv. 1-12) Paul writes how people must not be deceived by false teaching. Paul tells the Thessalonians that in order to not be deceived, they must hold to both traditions, oral and written. Nowhere does he say that what is oral, is the exact thing as the written. Nor does he tell us that after he dies, the only thing that must be held to is the written word. What does this tradition (oral and written) do? Tradition teaches the gospel (v. 14) that leads to salvation (v. 13). When one holds to these traditions our Lord Jesus Christ establishes them in every good work (v. 17). These are the same things Paul writes of in regards to scripture in 2 Tim. 3:15-17. My opponent stressed that the traditions of 2 Thess. 2 were only to be received by the Thessalonians and not for future generations. . Paul specifically uses the word tradition, which means to pass on. We have seen in 2 Tim. 1-2, that this oral tradition is indeed to be passed on to future generations. If we hold that 2 Thes. 2 only refers to traditions held by the Thessalonians he is writing to, he digs himself into a deeper problem. Paul here puts oral and written tradition in the same category. If we are to believe oral tradition is stopped here, then so is written tradition. That is fatal to Sola Scriptura. If he admits that the written tradition must be passed on, so oral tradition must be passed on as well. That is also fatal to the Sola Scriptura theory. Any way 2 Thess. 2:15 is consistently interpreted, Sola Scriptura falls.

8] My opponents admission that all of what the apostles taught was the Word of God (par. 13-14) destroys Sola Scriptura. Nine of the 12 apostles (all except John, Peter, and Matthew) thus orally taught the Word of God and never wrote a thing. What happened to all these churches established by the nine apostles when the apostles were martyred? According to my opponent, once the apostles died, there was no binding authority except scripture. Were all these churches supposed to forget what they were orally taught? Were they now precluded from passing on this oral tradition? How could the written tradition be binding on them when they had none? Especially since there was no full canon until the 4th century. Of course, the Word of God does not last until the apostles died, but this Oral Word of God lasts forever (1 Peter 1:25). This oral Word of God was binding on all the churches established by all the apostles and their successors.

9] Let us examine the verses that were put forward that only the written tradition was binding (par. 15-19). Twice he quoted Eph. 3:2-5: "...How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets." 1) This is a letter written to the Ephesians prior to the scriptural letter to the Ephesians. Thus, the quotation is not even about scripture; 2) Paul writes of what they had already received before, he had briefly written, thus implying that he told orally much more than what he wrote. In fact, Paul had preached the Word of God for three years (Acts 20: 27, 31). After Paul died, were the Ephesians all of a sudden supposed to forget what Paul told them?; 3) The mystery (as explained in v. 6) is not about all doctrine that must be believed but only that the Gentiles can become a part of Christ’s body; 4) This letter does not say that it is referencing all the manifold wisdom of God. What does? Let us examine a few verses later: Eph. 3:10 reads: “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” So the authoritative church teaches this wisdom, thus destroying Sola Scriptura; 5) If we read further on, we see the authority of the Church to unite in truth: Eph. 4: 3-5, 12-14 “..eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism…: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” Notice, unity, one faith, brought by the Holy Spirit (not 28,000 faiths spawned by Sola Scriptura which does carry about every wind of doctrine).

10] Twice my opponent referenced 1 Cor. 14:37 (par. 15 & 18) as showing that only scripture commands believers, not oral tradition. Quite the contrary, we see several references to Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son, having the authority to command based on what Paul taught orally. 1 Tim. 1:3 “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Thes. 4:1-2). As we have already seen (2Tim. 1:13-2:2), the succeeding generations pass on this oral Word of God with the same authority. Paul, acting as bishop reminds Timothy, also a bishop, that he likewise has the authority to command others: 2 Tim. 2:14-15: “Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Sola Scriptura people allege here we have authority of all people to rightly understand God’s word. I have shown that this word is oral. Paul tells Timothy to charge the people, and as bishop, Timothy has the authority to rightly handle the word of truth (oral tradition), and so instruct the believers. Absolutely no hint of private interpretation.

11] John 20:31 - My opponent quoted John 20:31, about how his gospel is written so that we may believe, and supposedly it proves Sola Scriptura. First, he forgets to mention v. 30 which makes it plain that he is only mentioning John’s gospel. Is my opponent arguing that we only need John’s gospel? Also, as James Akins writes, “the verse from John's Gospel tells us only that the Bible was composed so we can be helped to believe Jesus is the Messiah. It does not say the Bible is all we need for salvation, much less that the Bible is all we need for theology, nor does it say the Bible is even necessary to believe in Christ. After all, the earliest Christians had no New Testament to appeal to; they learned from oral, rather than written, instruction.”

12] My opponent quotes 2 Tim. 3:15-17 to show scripture is sufficient for salvation and equips for every good work: 1) What equips Timothy for salvation and good work? The scripture that Timothy knew since infancy was only the Old Testament. Paul does not even identify this very letter as scripture. 2) The immediate context shows a reliance on what he was orally taught as being a part of what equips him (v. 10, 14); 3). Paul does not tell him to forget the first two chapters of the letter which we have shown to be oral teaching; 4) Scripture is only termed profitable (v. 16), and has its uses. It is quite a leap to say one needs nothing else. Water is profitable for one’s health, one also needs food; 5) 2 Thes. 2:13-17 we saw standing fast to oral tradition as also helpful to salvation; 6) For equipping for every good work we saw oral tradition do as well (2 Thes. 2:13-17). James says patience makes a man equipped for every good work (James 1:4). Other things that prepare for every good work and perfect the person: 2 Tim. 2:21; Col. 1:28; 4:12. Scripture is thus not the only thing that does this function; 7) All Scripture only refers either to a specific verse or a specific book. The New Testament use of the term "scripture" reveals that whenever the term is used in the singular -- "scripture" -- it always refers to either a specific book of Scripture or a specific passage within a book. It never refers to the whole corpus of works we today refer to as "Scripture." When the Bible wants to refer to the whole of the corpus, it always uses the term in the plural -- "the Scriptures," never "Scripture."

13] 1 Cor. 4:6 - My opponent alleged (par. 18) that when Paul writes to not go beyond what is written he means not to go beyond scripture. Paul is writing about the book of life, about who will get acquitted or condemned (vv. 4-5). There is no reference to scripture anywhere in the passage. He writes that Rev. 20:12 means that only scripture is the standard that we will be judged (par 19). Let us look at the context to see if that is so: Rev. 20:12-15: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” The book of Life is not scripture, but the list of those who go to heaven. That written in the books is not scripture, but what the people had done. These verses thus have no relation to scripture, let alone having anything to do with Sola Scriptura. Concluding ‘proof’ texts for Sola Scriptura (Rom. 2:16; Jam. 2:12; John 12:48) are likewise not even references about scripture. Finally, the charge (par. 19) that the church discredits scripture should not be stated by any theory that produces 28,000 versions of truth.

14] This is not a debate about tradition (par. 14). It is whether scripture is the sole authority. If my opponent would in the future like to debate what the early Church Fathers taught on such things as the idea that after the apostles died, no one could pass the Holy Spirit, the sacrifice and real presence of the Eucharist, papal authority, baptism, the rule of faith, worship, etc. maybe that can be done sometime in the future. The early Church was distinctively Catholic. Protestantism is forced to put out this idea of Sola Scriptura because the new ideas put out by those who rebelled against God’s church in the 16th- century, are not found anywhere in the early church.

15] My opponent argues that even the apostolic church did not have the power to legislate (par. 11, 15, 16, 19), and there are no papal pronouncements in scripture. Not only Jesus’ statements (Mt. 18:18, 16:19; Jn. 20:22-23; Jn. 21:15-17) but the first 15 chapters of Acts shows the power of Peter and the apostles to reveal God’s doctrine and legislate. Peter authoritatively revealed that circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts. 11, 15). The Church legislated that people could not eat food offered to idols (Acts 15:29) (bound) and by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, that was no longer binding (1 Cor. 14) (loosed).

16] Despite my opponents assertions I have shown: 1) the successors of the apostles do have binding authority; 2) the oral, binding Word of God is passed on after the apostles died; 3) the texts that ‘prove’ Sola Scriptura were sometimes not even referencing scripture, and the ones that were about scripture did not come close to proving it, as they proved tradition and church authority. Next time, before I rebut my opponents first rebuttal, I will show even further errors, in addition to reminding him of the other Sola Scriptura errors I showed in my opening statement.


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Matt's First Rebuttal: Dec.1,1997 -Denial of Sola Scriptura.

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Last modified: November 29th, 1997.