Matt's Second Rebuttal: Jan.1,1998 - Affirmation/Denial of Sola Scriptura

Subject: Matt's Second Rebuttal
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 1998 10:27:03

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 respond to my opponent’s first rebuttal, I will establish more points fatal to Sola Scriptura. Implicit in the idea of Sola Scriptura are many absolutely necessary assumptions. I have disproved many assumptions but here are others that also need to be considered, borrowed from James Akin (points a-g). a) Sola Scriptura assumes 100% literacy. If God demanded Sola Scriptura to be the guide for believers, then believers that succeed the apostolic generation must have the ability to read. A Protestant publication admits “Literacy in the Roman empire, by very rough estimate, did not exceed 10 percent on average.” (Wayne Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986). Most Christians, besides not having a definitive canon until the late 4th century, could not read. Since then the vast majority of people have been illiterate. Did God give Christians a binding rule of faith that most people could not participate in? That is an unbiblical assumption that my opponent must make.

2] b) If each Christian is to make a thorough study of the Scriptures and decide for himself what they mean then he must have a copy of the Scriptures to use in making his thorough study. The universal application of Sola Scriptura presupposes the mass manufacturing of books, and of the Bible in particular. It presupposes the printing press, which didn’t exist until 1400 years after Christ. In actuality, bibles were written on expensive parchment, a scribe would have to write for ten months to complete one bible (Rev. Henry Graham, Where We Got the Bible, p. 53, 75) and bibles were rare, though preserved faithfully in the church. The costs would be exorbitant, well beyond the reach of the common man; c) It presupposes the universal distribution of books and of the Bible in particular. There must be a distribution network capable of delivering affordable copies of the Bible to the average Christian throughout the world, not possible now, let alone for vast generations before; d) If the average Christian is going to study what Scripture says and decide what it teaches, he must possess adequate scholarly support material, be able to read the texts in the original languages or have material capable of telling him when there is a translation question. Sola Scriptura presupposes the possession of adequate support materials.

3] e) If the average Christian is to do a thorough study of the Bible for himself, then he must have adequate time to do this study. Sola Scriptura presupposes the universal possession of adequate leisure time in which to make a thorough study the Bible for oneself. f) Sola Scriptura presupposes universal nutrition. Even if a Christian had adequate time to study the Bible sufficiently, it will do him no good if he lacks a diet sufficiently nutritious to let his brain function properly and his mind work clearly; g) Sola Scriptura also presupposes a high level of universal education in critical thinking skills (a level which does not even exist today). If the average Christian is going to evaluate competing interpretations for himself then he must have a significant amount of skill in evaluating arguments. He must be able to recognize what is a good argument and fallacy and what is not, etc. Nowhere does the bible teach any of these 7 assumptions necessary for Sola Scriptura to be viable, and the points show that many of these assumptions are not even valid now for most believers throughout the world, much less for 1500 years before the rebellion against his church. These problems do not hinder the church found by Christ from passing on his truths. My opponent may argue that scripture does not speak of these things so it is irrelevant. The fact that these assumptions are essential for Sola Scriptura, and scripture makes no mention of such things proves exactly that Sola Scriptura is unbiblical..

4] My opponent’s first rebuttal starts with a repeat of verses that supposedly show Sola Scriptura. In my first rebuttal I showed that these verses proved nothing and some did not even relate to the New Testament. His misuse of Eph. 3:2-5, 1 Cor. 14:37, 1 Cor. 4: 6, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Rev. 20:12 (par. 2-11, his first rebuttal) were all analyzed and exposed in my first rebuttal (par. 9-13). My opponent pleaded that the verses be examined, which I did, including looking at the context. Once that is done, they show no hint of scripture as the exclusive authority.

5] Here I will examine the other verses mentioned in his first rebuttal. In par. 5 he quotes 1 Tim. 3:14-15: “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” I find that an amusing quote for someone trying to prove Sola Scriptura! First, Paul writes that his preference was to teach face to face, orally and authoritatively being his best way. Only when impossible for him to be there, did Paul resort to writing. Second, he calls the church the pillar and ground of truth. If it said that scripture was the pillar and ground of truth, my opponent may have a point, but Paul declares the church the ground of truth. It proves the exact opposite of what my opponent wanted. What is the church that can trace itself to Paul’s letter to Timothy? The Catholic Church. Can a pillar and ground of truth err? No, it can not. Nowhere does Paul put the restrictions around this phrase, that only the apostles could teach truth, or that after the apostles die, the church can crumble into error. Thus, the verses that supposedly prove Sola Scriptura, instead imply the infallibility of this church.

6] In par. 6 he quotes 1 John 1:4 “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” Does that scripture imply anything like Sola Scriptura? Not even close. But as I did in my last rebuttal, I can show that the oral tradition did the exact same thing as scripture. 2 John 12: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” John actually prefers oral tradition to pass on truth to the written tradition, and it does the same thing.

7] In par. 8 he quotes 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” Is my opponent seriously arguing that disciples of the 9 apostles who wrote nothing (exclusively taught by oral tradition) could not have eternal life after the apostles died? They had nothing written. Paul shows that reliance on the preached gospel (oral tradition) is sufficient for salvation. 1 Cor. 15:2: “By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

8] If you read my opening statement and the nine propositions that I wrote that refuted from scripture Sola Scriptura, and carefully read my opponent’s objections, one surely realizes that my objections stand quite easily. He has created and knocked down straw men without dealing with the substance of any of my objections. For example, he writes (par. 13) “There are no verses in all of the holy Scriptures which indicates that the church has the authority to originate truth....”. Similar statements were made by him in his opening statement and first rebuttal. In any of my statements or anywhere in Catholic teaching is it stated that the Catholic church originates truth? Nowhere. The Catholic teaching is not that the church creates truth, but passes down faithfully the truth that was given by God to his apostles. The church faithfully guards and passes on this original deposit of faith (2 Tim. 1:13-14, 1 Tim. 6:20, Jude 3).

9] My opponent writes that I repeat often quoted Catholic arguments (par. 14, 16, 17, 18). The reason why those arguments are made, is because scripture affirms these arguments and Protestant objections are evasive and can not answer the points. A careful reading of my opponent’s objections shows exactly that. For example, (par 14) he attempts to refute my showing that Jesus relied on binding oral tradition in regards to Moses seat (Mt. 23:2-3) by deflecting to other passages (thus avoiding the issue) which condemn traditions of men (Mt. 15, Mk. 7), and he remarks that it is Moses’ scriptural authority that is binding. Let us read Mt. 23:2-3 for what it says: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you...”. Why does Jesus bind people to obey something based on Moses’ seat when there is nothing in the Old Testament saying anything about Moses seat? My opponent does not address this. Jewish scholars explain: “The particular place in the synagogue where the leaders used to sit was known metaphorically as the seat of Moses or as the throne of Torah, symbolizing the succession of teachers of Torah down through the ages.’ (William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, Pesikta diRav Kahana, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America.) Protestants write, “The astounding authority conceded ‘the teachers of the law and the Pharisees’ in Mt. 23:2 becomes explicit in v. 3. Even if the emphasis in v. 3 falls at the end, where Jesus denounces the Jewish leaders, hypocrisy, the beginning of the verse give them full authority in all they teach, even if they do not live up to it. Panta hosa (‘everything’ in v. 3) is a strong expression and cannot be limited to ‘that teaching of the law that is in Jesus’ view a faithful interpretation of it’; they cover everything the leaders teach, including the oral tradition as well. Nor does the test say their authority rests in their roles but not in their doctrine, on the contrary, v. 3 affirms their doctrine but condemns their practice.” (DA. Carson, “Matthew in “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary”: Vol 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Zondervan, 1984), 471-472). Non-Catholics thus agree Moses seat is from binding oral tradition and authority that is successively passed on ‘through the ages.’ So much for Sola Scriptura.

10] My opponent asserted that I was the one making assumptions (par. 14) in stating that the oral Word of God was to be passed in succession of the apostles. If he would have read what I actually stated in that very paragraph (My Opening Statement, par. 8) I used different scriptures to back that up. For example, Isaiah 59 prophecies of the New Covenant that is to be orally passed on. The Oral Word of God is eternal (1 Peter 1:25), not temporary, or only until the apostles die. In my first rebuttal, I showed via scripture (esp. par. 3-5, 10) that this Oral word of God is passed on to successive generations through authoritative teachers and is binding. I did not assume, I demonstrated via the bible. On the other hand, my opponent writes (par. 16) “I went to great lengths to show from the Scriptures that there was a time when the Word of God was; 1) given all orally, 2) both orally and written, 3) and now all written.” No problem with the first two points. The third point my opponent has assumed but failed to demonstrate. I have refuted every attempt of my opponent to twist scriptures to say such. Although Catholics can hold that the Word of God is reduced to scripture in the sense of all revealed revelation (material sufficiency), the church most unhesitatingly affirms along with Paul, Peter and Jesus that an infallible guide is needed to interpret that scripture. Otherwise we have mass chaos.

11] My opponent tries to skirt the fact that Jesus never commissioned his apostles to write anything (except Rev. 1:19, only in regards to the Book of Revelation, and whose canon was in doubt until confirmed by the Catholic Church in the late 4th century). He tries to turn it around on me (par. 17) and says well, why do you quote scripture at all if it was never commissioned? I remind him that Jesus commissioned his apostles to teach to all the world everything he taught them (Mt. 28:20). Guided by the Holy Spirit, the apostles chose two ways. Most of them chose to teach the gospel orally (tradition), a few of them wrote in response to various concerns. The Catholic church honors and abides the manner in which they chose, oral and written. My opponent does not and has given no evidence that only the written was meant to survive. In any case, the fact remains that if Jesus wanted successive generations to have as a binding absolute authority only scripture, Jesus would have commanded them to write, and tell the apostles that future generations are only bound by scripture. As he does not, Sola Scriptura falls.

12] I challenged my opponent in my opening statement (par. 3) to provide from the bible, the contents of the New Testament. After all, it is his assertion that the New Testament is alone the exclusive guide. If you check his response (par. 18-19), you will see that he failed to do so. If the New Testament can not tell us the contents of the New Testament that is the authority, then the proposition falls. Only the Catholic Church has preserved the contents of the New Testament. In fact, when he quotes from the New Testament, he is in effect showing that he relies upon Catholic tradition whether he wants to admit to it or not. Theoretically, though, even if it was not the Catholic Church that preserved the bible, that still does not help his case, as he asserts that the bible is our only guide. He must prove from scripture what scripture is. He was unable to do so and diverted to another issue (par. 18-19) by denying that it was the Catholic Church that preserved scripture. BTW, he conveniently overlooked the fact that it was the Council of Rome, called by Pope Damasus in 382, (the first Council) that first revealed to mankind the contents of the New Testament. The later Councils of Carthage and Hippo (393, 397) were verified by Pope Innocent in 419 AD. He quotes himself to show that it was not the Roman Catholic Church that produced and preserved the bible (par. 19). I will quote from the founder of Sola Scriptura, Martin Luther: “We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists--that with them is the word of God, which we received from them; otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it.” Luthers Works, Vol. 24, Commentary on the Gospel of John, discussion on 16th chapter, St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1961), 304.

13] Acts 1:20 shows apostles establishing successors. Judas’ death causes vacancy. Peter says “For it is written in the book of Psalms, let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick (episkopee take)”. Peter recognizes that succession must occur. The very word episcopee (bishopric) is later used in 1 Tim. 3:1, which applies the same term to bishop to successors. As Bob Sungenis writes “Luke uses the Greek word episkopee which specifies the ‘office’ of the person in view rather than the person himself… This is why most translations will render the verse, ‘And his office let another take,’ rather than ‘his apostleship’ let another take…Since the same word episkopee is used in reference to the office of bishop in 1 Tim. 3:1, the same principle of succession of that office must hold since that is the way Peter first interpreted and used the word.’ (Robert Sungenis letter, in Scott Butler, Jesus, Peter and the Keys, Queenship Press, 192-193).” Bishop successors thus have authority.

14] Acts 15 shows 1) papal authority, 2) binding authority of non-Apostles, and 3) the power of the church to legislate, all individually fatal to Sola Scriptura: 1) Paul and Barnabas have trouble with those who want to impose circumcision (vv. 1-2). How do they handle it, do they debate scripture passages and decide? In fact if the Sola Scriptura principle was in place, it is more likely that circumcision would have been reimposed as Gen. 17 says that the covenant with circumcision was to last forever. No, they take it to the apostles and elders, and the head apostle, Peter decides the issue. Paul and Barnabus were arguing with the Judaizers, but when Peter spoke, the Council became silent (vv. 7-12, 13) when he infallibly declared circumcision not necessary. 2) Luke carefully distinguishes apostles and elders throughout (v. 2, 4, 6, 8, 15, 22-23) and asserts that these elders likewise have binding authority that all are commanded to follow. This destroys any assertion that only apostles had binding authority. In fact James, who is not even an apostle, shows binding authority (although his speech of course does not adjust Peter’s infallible decree that circumcision was not binding). The more my opponent argues that here Peter does not have papal authority through the use of James, he undermines his own contention that nonapostles do not have binding authority. Heads I win, tails he loses; 3) The church legislates laws that are binding on the believers. For pastoral reasons, James, along with the apostles and elders decide that one can not eat food offered to idols, eat blood and meat of strangled animals (vv. 20, 29). It would be a sin to disobey this law, even though eating food offered to idols in and of itself is not itself a sin. Later Paul shows that this binding law is no longer in place (1 Cor. 14). The Catholic Church likewise has the authority to legislate, as its authority comes from Christ and the apostles.

15] When Jesus uses the word church, it is within the context of authority, binding and loosing (Mt. 16:18-19; 18:17-18). My opponent’s assertion that the church does not have this power is thus unbiblical. Going by the bible alone gives mass confusion. My opponent admitted all Churches came from the Catholic church (somehow excluding his church which is indeed a branch off from a branch off). He blames the Catholic Church for this. That is like blaming Moses for Korah’s rebellion (Num. 16; cf Jude 11). Those following in the Sola Scriptura tradition of men, join ranks with Korah, who rebelled against God’s established leader (Moses), and Jude specifically warns against imitating (Jude 11, 8). BTW, I wonder why Jude is an inspired epistle when it is written by a non-Apostle? I wonder why my opponent quotes from Luke, Mark, or James, non-Apostles who wrote scripture. That undercuts his case that he is only required to follow teaching only directly from the apostles.

16] How is one saved? Are works necessary for salvation? Is Christ really present, and in what way in the Eucharist. Is baptism necessary for salvation and what does it do? Do infants get baptized? Can one lose salvation? What day do we worship? These are questions that were agreed upon (although of course there was discussion) in the Catholic Church for 1500 years. No new churches were created on those specific issues for 1500 years. Yet due to Sola Scriptura, churches divide explicitly on those issues, giving many interpretations, and thus fulfilling Peter’s condemnation of those who twist the scripture to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). How can the Church be the cause of those divisions when the Church did not have different positions on those issues? Using the bible and tradition the Catholic Church has provided the same answers (although growing in its understanding) to these questions for 2000 years. Only when Sola Scriptura arose have 28,000 denominations come with it. Jesus established a pillar of truth, not mass confusion. The church has a living teaching office, which though not always having perfect people,has been protected by Christ from the gates of hell ever prevailing against it (Mt. 16:18). On the other hand, Sola Scriptura has led to anarchy. Although there are more challenges and errors I must respond to, some of those will have to await my next rebuttal.


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Matt's Second Rebuttal: Jan 1,1998 - Denial of Sola Scriptura.

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Last modified: January 1st, 1998.