1) I am affirming: "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."
2) First of all, I want to consider again the authority of the apostles and prophets and that which proceeded from them, the holy Scriptures. The promise of the Holy Spirit (the miraculous measure, the baptism of, etc.,) was made to the apostles alone. They were the ones to whom Jesus was speaking, and the ones who had been with Him from the beginning (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27). The Holy Spirit would be in them and would enable them to teach all the truth concerning the will of God (John 16:12-14; Matt. 10:20). The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as was promised (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5,8). On the day of Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit and began to deliver the New Testament of Jesus Christ. Their possession of the Holy Spirit gave them great miraculous powers which were designed to confirm their Word (Acts 2:4,43: Heb. 2:2-4; 2 Cor. 12:12). Later, by the laying on of the apostles' hands, New Testament prophets were made (Acts 8:17-19; 19:6). The New Testament prophets could also work miracles and speak by inspiration of God (Acts 6:5-8; 8:5-6), but could not pass on the Holy Spirit to others (Acts 8:14-19). The possession of the Holy Spirit is the factor that determined the authority of the apostles and prophets.
3) In that early age, the inspired apostles and prophets revealed God's Word orally--by the word of mouth. Later, they began to deliver God's law both orally and written. Peter said, "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior..." (2 Pet. 3:1-2). Thus, both the verbal teaching and the writings of the inspired men had equal authority because both were the product of the Holy Spirit. When the apostles and prophets passed from the earth, their inspired writings became the only means for receiving God's Word. Please consider the following list.
4) THE PURPOSE AND AUTHORITY OF THE INSPIRED WRITINGS:
(1) Life in the name of Jesus (John 20:30-31).
(2) Commands of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37).
(3) Knowledge of the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:2-5).
(4) The proper conduct (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
(5) Every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
(6) Protection against sin (1 John 2:1).
(7) An assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13)
(8) Standard by which teachers are tested (1 Cor. 4:6; Acts 17:11).
(9) Joy that is complete (1 John 1:1-4).
(10) A reminder of the commandments (2 Pet. 3:1-2).
(11) Standard of judgment (Rev. 20:12; John 12:48; Rom. 2:16; James 2:12).
5) From the foregoing, we see the purpose and authority of the Scriptures which the apostles and prophets left us. I humbly beseech the readers of this Debate to look up the above passages in your own Bibles and carefully examine them. Each of them mention the sacred writings ("these are written," "the things which I write," etc.), and reveal what they provide ("that you may believe," "that you may know you have eternal life," etc.). The passages, and others like them, claim for themselves that they alone are the authority because no other authorities are mentioned. There are no passages which state that "oral traditions independent of Scripture," "laws given by the church," "ex-cathedra pronouncements of the Popes," "successors to the apostles," etc., are given to bring life in the name of Jesus (John 20:31), to equip for every good work, (2 Tim. 3:17), to give assurance of salvation (1 John 5:13), to judge us in the last day (Rev. 20:12), etc.
6) My opponent in this debate is trying to establish other authorities along with that which the apostles and prophets left us (the holy Scriptures). Actually, my opponent endorses four authorities besides the Scriptures: (1) the Catholic Church; (2) oral traditions given independent of the Scriptures; (3) ex-cathedra pronouncements of the Popes; and (4) successors to the apostles. Surely, God is not the author of such confusion. Let's consider some of his arguments regarding some of his authorities. He said, "This authoritative church was binding on all those who followed Christ." (Par. 2). "When disputes arose, an authoritative church would decide the matter." (Par. 2). "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)." (Par. 15). My opponent is very good at assuming the very thing he needs to prove. To assume something and then assert it, is no way to prove anything. We plead with him to please show by the Scriptures where Jesus established an "authoritative church." Also, we beg him to stop misapplying the passages which were spoken regarding the apostles and prophets. Passages which refer to the apostles and prophets do not establish authority for the church, and to pervert them in such a fashion is a very grave evil. (See 2 Pet. 3:16; Gal. 1:6-9; Matt. 15:9). We plead with him to please show where Acts 15 teaches that the church legislated anything. Acts 15:28 says, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." Thus, it was by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the apostles and prophets legislated those things.
7) My opponent asked, "How could the church be the pillar and ground of truth if it did not have the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 3:15)?" (Par. 6). As we have repeatedly shown, the Lord selected his apostles and promised them the baptism of the Holy Spirit and they were to wait in Jerusalem to receive it (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5,8; 2:1-4). There is not a single passage in all of the New Testament that remotely indicates that the church received the Holy Spirit as did the apostles. As I mentioned in last month's rebuttal, the phrase "pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15) does not mean that the church is the originator of truth, or that it can make or change the laws of God. It simply means that the church is the upholder, defender and proclaimer of the truth. The responsibility of the church today is not to legislate for God or to reveal divine truth, but simply to follow, defend and proclaim the truth which was revealed by the holy apostles and prophets.
8) My opponent also said regarding the church, "...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..." (Par. 9). Eph. 3:10 says absolutely nothing about the church being authoritative. It is simply showing that things hidden from the ages (vs. 9), were now made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (vs. 10). In other words, the heavenly authorities, the angels, could now see God's wisdom unfolded through the church because it had been established.
9) Clearly my opponent does not understand the nature of the church as revealed in the New Testament. The church in the New Testament is simply the body of the saved and Jesus Christ is its Head. "...Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body." (Eph. 5:23). The apostles and prophets were servants who revealed by inspiration the will of the Head. "...It has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets..." (Eph. 3:5) "...Members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone..." (Eph. 2:19-20). Thus, anyone who obeys the commandments of the Lord as revealed by the apostles and prophets becomes part of the body or household. He then continues in a life of obedience to the Head. The authority is not in the body, but in the Head (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). The ruling is not in the kingdom, but in the King (Heb. 7:1-2; Rev. 1:5-6). The authority is not in the church, but in Christ (Matt. 28:18; 1 Pet. 3:22). The church is not the Savior, but simply the body of the saved (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:22-24). My opponent is claiming an authority for the church that God did not give it.
10) Lets now consider what my opponent says about "oral traditions independent of the Scriptures." My opponent has not given a single verse which reveals the purpose and authority of oral traditions handed down through the ages independent of Scripture. He has assumed, regarding several passages which he has used, that they authorize for us today oral traditions along with the Scriptures. Let me give several examples. My opponent quoted 2 Tim. 1:13-14 and said, "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." (Par. 3). 2 Tim. 1:13-14 says, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us." My opponent has assumed from the passage that since Timothy received the sound words orally, it authorizes us today to receive sound words orally along with the Scriptures. Paul simply instructed Timothy to follow the sound words (the sound teachings or traditions) which he had heard from him.
11) Furthermore, 2 Tim. 1:13-14 shows that Timothy was a New Testament prophet. At one point during his lifetime, Timothy had received the laying on of hands from Paul. 2 Tim. 1:6 says, "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." As we have shown repeatedly, when an apostles laid his hands on someone, he received the Holy Spirit which enabled him to prophesy, work miracles, etc. (Acts 6:5-8; 8:5-8; 19:6), but he could not pass on the Holy Spirit to others (Acts 8:14-19). Also, there was a time when the Word of God was given by the inspired men both orally and written (2 Pet. 3:1-2). Timothy lived in that early time when people received God's Word in both ways. 2 Tim. 1:13-14 does not authorize "oral traditions" as a source of authority for us today. It says absolutely nothing about oral traditions independent of Scripture which would continue to be handed down through the ages by word of mouth.
12) My opponent quotes 2 Tim. 2:1-2 and says, "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." (Par. 4). Thus, my opponent from 2 Tim. 2:1-2, not only has oral traditions handed down through the ages, but the Holy Spirit as well. That's a lot from a passage which says absolutely nothing about oral traditions or the Holy Spirit! 2 Tim. 2:1-2 says, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Thus, the things which Timothy had heard from Paul were to be committed to faithful men who would also teach the things from Paul to others. As before, my opponent has made the false assumption that since one of Timothy's sources of authority was oral (he heard the Word of God orally), succeeding generations would continue to have the oral Word of God as a source of authority.
13) My opponent said, "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. This is fatal to Sola Scriptura." (Par. 7). The argument my opponent gives here makes no sense. Just because one means of delivery stopped (oral traditions), it does not mean the other stopped (written traditions). Various prophets of the Old Testament era taught both orally and by writings. When they died, does it mean that their teaching by writings stopped? The oral traditions and written traditions which the Thessalonians had been taught by Paul and other inspired men were one and the same. Paul instructs them, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." (2 Thess. 2:15). Again, as we have shown repeatedly from the Scriptures, there was a time when the sacred traditions (the teachings handed or passed on by the inspired men) were given both orally and written. With the passing of the inspired men, those sacred traditions are only in the inspired writings. 2 Thess. 2 gives no indication or hint whatsoever that traditions independent of those given in the writings of the inspired men would continue to be handed down by word of mouth through the ages. It does not establish "oral traditions" as an authority along with the Scriptures.
14) My opponent said in Par. 8, "...This Oral Word of God lasts forever (1 Pet. 1:25). This oral Word of God was binding on all the churches established by all the apostles and their successors." Again, my opponent is assuming that when passages refer to the oral Word of God, they establish the oral Word of God as an authority for us today. 1 Pet. 1:25 says, "But the word of the LORD endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you." Dear readers, let me ask some simple questions: "Does 1 Pet. 1:25 give any indication whatsoever that oral Word of God other than that which was preached in that early age would remain forever?" "If the oral Word of God is to last forever, as my opponent claims, what is it, where is it, and how are we to receive it?" Please notice that 1 Pet. 1:25 is a passage of Scripture. Thus, Scripture is the means God has used to cause His Word to remain forever. Certainly, the oral Word of God was binding on all the churches established by all the apostles. There was a time when the Word of God was given by the inspired men both orally and written.
15) I have repeatedly begged my opponent to please give us a list of those "oral traditions handed down independent of Scripture." I affirm emphatically that the Catholic oral traditions are nothing more than human traditions. Their whole effort in trying to defeat the Bible as the only authority is nothing more than an endeavor to justify their own human traditions. How else would they justify them? They want to discredit the Bible as the only authority because it plainly and forcefully condemns their human traditions. For example: (1) It condemns clerical dress (Matt. 23:4-5). (2) It teaches against the adoration of Mary (Luke 11:27-28). (3) It shows that all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9). (4) It condemns the observance of special days (Gal. 4:9-11). (5) It teaches that all Christians are saints (1 Cor. 1:2). (6) It teaches that baptism is immersion instead of pouring (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). (7) It forbids us to address religious leaders as "father" (Matt. 23:9). (8) It opposes unmarried bishops (1 Tim. 3:2-5). (9) It addresses only God Himself as the "Holy Father" (John 17:11). (10) It shows that the great apostasy would forbid marriage and command to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:1-3). (11) It reveals that the great apostasy would have one who claimed to take the place of God (2 Thess. 3:3-4). In view of the above passages, one can easily see why the Catholic Church seeks to destroy the Bible as the only source of authority.
16) My opponent when referring to the apostles added the phrase, "and their successors." (Above quote, Par. 8). He said in Par. 5, "The sons are true successors." We simply ask, "Where in the Scriptures does it say that the sons are true successors?" I encourage everyone to please "...Let God be true, but every man a liar." (Rom. 3:4). The Catholic idea of successors to the apostles comes from man, not God. Paul said, "To Timothy, my true son in the faith..." (1 Tim. 1:2). Thus, Timothy was Paul's true son IN THE FAITH. Like the Corinthians, Timothy had been begotten by the gospel by Paul (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Cor. 4:15). One can easily show where Timothy, Stephen, Phillip, Silas and others were New Testament prophets, but there are no passages which state that the apostles were to have successors. The word "successor" is not used in the New Testament.
17) A look at the qualifications of the apostles reveals they would have no successors. An apostle had to be an eye-witness of Christ. (See Acts 1:15-26). Paul defended his apostleship by saying, "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1). The apostles were indeed witnesses in the fullest sense. They were the eye-witnesses, carefully chosen by the Lord, who would witness to mankind what they saw and heard concerning Jesus. Acts 1:8 says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The Lord said to Paul, "...I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you." (Acts 26:16). Peter declared, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty." (2 Pet. 1:16). The apostle John, in his introduction to his first epistle, declared that he was bearing witness to those things which they had heard, had seen with their eyes, and had touched with their hands, concerning the Word of life. He then added, "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." (See 1 John 1:1-4). The apostles witness to us through their writings and this is the only way their unerring testimony is transmitted to us today.
18) Let me close by encouraging everyone to continue to look into the
perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). Let us receive with meekness the
Word which is able to save our souls (James 1:21). Let us continue to
have genuine love and respect for God's holy truth that we might be
saved (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Second Rebuttal by David J. Riggs: Jan.1,1998.
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Last modified: Jan.1,1998.