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Posts Tagged ‘Sola Scriptura’

Catholic

Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Doctrine of Salvation: Conversion.

As more and more confusion arises concerning the beliefs Roman Catholicism during these dark times, I think that it is important that I interact with Roman Catholicism’s view on salvation.  Christianity and Catholicism are not the same and those in the evangelical world that consider the Roman Catholic Church to be a Christian church should be ashamed of themselves. Basically they are undermining the Reformation and ultimately the authority of the Bible.

Roman Catholicism is a religion that is significantly different from Christianity because they do not believe in salvation as the Bible states.  But because there are so many differences in regards to Roman Catholicism, we will cover only a few areas that I think has major implications.  In order to effectively deal with it, I will cover their view concerning sola Scriptura and sola ecclesia/magisterium. With that said, let’s first cover the Roman Catholic definition of the magisterium.

The Latin word magister for the English word magisterium means, “master.”  The meaning master is not only in the sense of “teacher” but it also means in the broader sense, someone who possesses authority or mastery in a particular field.  In the contemporary Roman Catholic usage, this term basically means that the teaching is reserved exclusively for the office of the pope and bishops.  It is important that we consider the topic of the magisterium, because without it, we would not be debating the subject of tradition versus Scripture in the first place.  In regards to the magisterium, the Catholic Church considers themselves the master or the entity that possesses the authority—whether it be the written Word of God or in the form of tradition.  The concept of the Roman Catholic Church being the master dates back to the fourth session of the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D.  For example, in the first decree of the Council of Trent, it states that the Old and New Testament were not the only inspired source, but the traditions concerning faith and morals are also inspired because the Roman Catholic Church believes it came from the mouth of God; and it believes that it is preserved by the Holy Spirit in continuous succession in the Catholic Church.

When defining their source of authority, the Roman Catholic Church continues by saying, “The totality of the Bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered (has to be unanimously agreed by the bishops) over the earth, purpose a teaching on morals as one to be held by all the faithful.”  That is a dangerous teaching because only God and the Bible is infallible.

Moreover, the pope, who is part of the magisterium and who is the icon of the magisterium is believed to be infallible when he defines doctrines concerning faith and morals.  To question the pope in matters of infallibility is to second-guess him.  The so-called divine promise given to him through the succession of Apostle Peter, concerning the pope’s definition of doctrine concerning faith and morals cannot be revised or altered.  For example, papal infallibility in the area of making saints is final and irrevocable.  The pope who is the iconic leader of the magisterium can speak ex-cathedra, which means, that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope speaks without error.  Next we will cover the Roman Catholic Church so-called proof that the Magisterium has divine authority.

For the Roman Catholic Church, this is more than apostolic succession, but it is the gift of inspiration itself.  Here is what the Roman Catholic Church says concerning the very gift of inspiration itself being passed down to them, “But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handling over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’”  Dei Verbum 8 says, “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything…”

Because apostolic succession is key to this belief of authority, let’s take a look at how the Roman Catholic Church validates this claim.  For example, they try validating their claim by using the apostles as an example to validate apostolic succession.  They claim that all of the activities such as delegating authority (2 Cor. 3:5-6; 5:18-6:1; Eph. 6:28) in matters such as the proper interpretation of the Gospel (2 Peter 2:20-21), the norm of sound teaching (2 Tim. 1:13) that is to be found with the apostles, the eye-witnesses of Christ and His resurrection (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8-9; Jn 20:31; 1 John 1:3; 4:16), delegated authority to others within the church of God.  The leaders appointed by the apostles within the church, that received delegated authority from the apostles (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:22; cf. Titus 1:6-9) would assume the tasks such as teaching and government duties in the church of God.  This thinking results in the logic that the Catholic Church too received delegated authority that was passed down to the bishops of the church.  The biggest proof they have in order to validate the infallibility of the magisterium is Apostle Peter.  They believe that their apostolic succession came from the line of Apostle Peter.  Because Christ promised that Hades will not prevail against the church that is founded on the faith of Peter (Matthew 16:18); and that God will remain with the successors of the apostles to the end of time (Matthew 28:20), then the magisterium can be reliable and will never lead the church into doctrinal error.  Another major issue is their view of tradition.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that tradition is everything that contributes to the holiness of life and the increase of faith of the people of God.  Tradition is key to Catholics because the Bible would not be understood rightly if we limit it to sola Scriptura.  They will go on to say that the church’s history and experience cannot be excluded if the Bible is to be rightly understood.  According to Vatican II Council, the Catholic Church believes in the unity and consistency of Scripture because tradition and Scripture are closely connected.  Scripture and tradition are illustrated as the two streams flowing from the same divine well-spring; and they actually merge together.  They say the apostles handed down the traditions to them.

Another category that is important when it comes to the Vatican view of tradition is the context of locations or loci of tradition.  There are four loci of tradition: rite of baptisms accompanied with prayers, repetition of the Eucharist, the writings of the church fathers, and the life of the church.

The loci of tradition in the area of liturgy for example such as baptism, imparts a sense of the universal need for redemption and the removal of sin by grace; and the Eucharist, together with the elevation of the consecrated elements impresses a realization of the real presence of God.  Church Fathers are also important sources of tradition, because they are believed to be the one’s who established the canon of Scripture, articles of the creed, the basic dogmas of the faith, the basic structures of the church, and also the essential forms of the liturgy.  The last location of tradition, which is the life of the church, is key, because the Roman Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit gives inspiration to the church in producing faithful members a sense of what is agreeable and disagreeable when it comes to salvation.  Vatican II says this about the faithful members of the church, “The sense of the faithful is not a totally autonomous source of doctrine, since it depends in part on the other bearers of tradition and overlaps with them, but it can often help identify the true content and meaning of tradition, especially when it confirms what is also attested by other sources.”

The Roman Catholic Church also contests that traditions are important.  For example, they believe that Paul spoke about tradition when he wrote to the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 11:2).  However, they Roman Catholic Church misinterpreted that passage.  The Catholic Church traditions are unbiblical and different from what Paul is referring to.

It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church sees that tradition, the magisterium, and Scripture cannot be without the other.  They have a problem with the idea of sola Scripture.  They are three reasons why the Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of sola Scriptura: the Bible does not argue for the doctrine, the Bible teaches the authority of tradition, and the Bible cannot be interpreted correctly without tradition.  In light of their unbiblical foundation, there are negative implications on salvation.  Salvation can only be rightly understood through sola Scriptura.

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Scripture[1]

I believe that the Bible presents an overwhelming case for sola Scriptura—not only because it has a strong history to back it up, but also it provides a strong case because it is the only book that can claim all of the following characteristics: accuracy in prophecy, influence upon the lives of humans, the unity of the books in describing the drama of creation and eternity, indestructibility against the attacks of those who tried/tries to destroy the Bible, Divine inspiration, the power to set people free from the slavery of sin, popularity, and reliability.[2]  All of these characteristics are addressed in Scripture.

The power of sola Scriptura is revealed in Romans 10:17 when it comes to the authority of faith.  When it comes to authority of faith, Romans 10:1 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”[3]  Also when it comes to the power of prophecy, no other books can predict the future like the Bible.[4]  Psalm 119:60 says, ” The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”  2 Peter 1:19-21 says, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”

We are also told to examine Scripture and be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).  They used Scripture to verify the truthfulness of one’s teaching.  According to the catechism of the Catholic Church, Roman Catholics are told to listen to the pope and the magisterium.[5]  But if we leave humans to mediate, we open the doors for ourselves to be deceived.[6]  1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,…”  Scripture does not give power to a select group of men (magisterium) to interpret to every man.[7]  For example 2 Corinthians 4:2 says, “… but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  The magisterium distorts the Word of God by teaching unbiblical doctrines contrary to Scripture such as papal infallibility.

The Catholic Church claims to get its authority from Peter.  It claims that Peter was the chief apostle and the rock that Jesus build His church upon.[8]  This teaching is a result of a misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said, “You are Peter (petros-stone) and on this rock (petra-mass of rock) I will build my church.”  But upon analyzing this phrase, the Greek word “petra” is feminine and it is not normal to use it in reference to masculine Peter.[9]  It is clear that Jesus was not referring to Peter as the mass rock because Peter was referring to Jesus as the “rock.”[10]  Instead, he was the small rock.  The mass rock is referring to Peter’s confession of faith, which he confessed after Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I am?”[11]  Moreover, the Catholic Church makes a big deal that Peter is the rock because he was the one that was in control of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13,19).[12]  But upon looking at Acts 15:13, 19, it was James that was presiding over the council.

This is why the foundation cannot be found with Peter or the magisterium.  The sole authority is Jesus Christ Himself.  He is the head of the church.  1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Also Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:20 says that Christ is the chief cornerstone.

Another powerful claim that Scripture possess is the power of the Gospel.  In other words, any born-again Christian possesses the keys to heaven.  However, the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus gave Peter and His successors authority over the church when Jesus offered Peter and His successors the keys to the kingdom in Matthew 16:19.  The church believes that Peter first opened heaven by proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 15:7, 14)[13]  This is a distortion of truth.  Only by believing the Gospel can a person be loosed from his or her sins.  And those who reject the Gospel will be bound to his or her sins.[14]  Here is what Apostle Paul says about the Gospel, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  And John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

The Catholic Church makes another big claim when it comes to the pope being infallible in his teaching.  But when you look to Scripture, their supposed chief pope, who is Peter was not infallible.[15]  For example, Paul used the Gospel to show how Peter was wrong in Galatians 2:11-14, ” But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.”  Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.”

The Catholic Church also makes much about the hierarchy or the magisterium.  What we see in the Catholic Church is an enormous structure of monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and a pope that is ruling the people.[16]  But here is what Scripture says in Matthew 20:25-26, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,…'”  Here is what Psalm 118:8 has to say about those who trust in the teachings of men rather than God, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord Than to trust in man.”  Psalm 146:3-5 teaches that man is nothing compared to God.  Man decays and dies, but God does not.  That is why it is better to trust God first.

The Catholic Church also makes much of tradition.  They teach that the Scripture cannot be without the aid of the traditions. In their mind, Scripture can only be accurately interpreted if tradition is used.  First, in response, they must understand that the Bible teaches about traditions, but it does not mean the same thing as what the Roman Catholic teaches concerning tradition.  The traditions that the apostles spoke about were in accordance with Scripture.[17]  But the Roman Catholic concept of tradition is basically a separate source of revelation independent of Scripture and contradicts many doctrines in the Bible.[18]  Their exalted view of tradition has led to the contamination of the Gospel.  They teach a perverted Gospel message.  Here is what Colossians 2:8 has to say when it comes to traditions, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition ofmen, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Another notorious claim is the idea that the Catholic Church sees themselves as the “one true church” and states that there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church (CCC, para. 846).[19]  But Scripture define the true church differently.  1 Cor. 1:2 says, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours…”  Hebrews 12:23 says, …”to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…”

Also the Catholic Church has made other crimes against God.  Since their presupposition is rooted in tradition, the church has added other apocryphal books that are at odds with Scripture.[20]  Roman Catholic Church needs to understand that the apocryphal books were not entrusted with the oracles of God.  The oracles of God were entrusted to the Jews (Romans 3:1-2).[21]  And since their presupposition is rooted in their tradition, the Vatican divided the tenth commandment into two in order to replace the one they removed.[22]  They deleted the second commandment.  Deuteronomy 4:2 says this about those who delete His words given to Moses, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”  Since the Catholic Church is rooted deeply in tradition, they have adulterated the Gospel because they have allowed tradition to misinterpret the Gospel.  This is dangerous because it affects the souls of men.

While discussing sola Scriptura, some Catholics bring up the issue of canonicity.  They believe sola Scriptura is inseparable in this discussion.  The outcry or the objection is that the 66 books are based on the Protestant councils and Catholic Church objects to the idea that there are only 66 books.  As a result, since they claim that Protestants have no authority to say that the 66 books are inspired, sola Scriptura too, is not taught in the Bible.

The objections they bring up are fallacious because it misrepresents the Protestant understanding of canonicity.  It is a straw man argument.  Here are a couple of reasons of how they misrepresent the Protestant understanding of canonicity.  First of all, the church does not determine the canon, but discovers the canon, the church is not the mother of the church, but is the child of God, the church is not the magistrate of the canon, but is the minister of the canon, the church is not the regulator of the canon, but the recognizer of the canon, the church is not the judge of the canon, but is the witness of the canon, the church is not the master of the canon, but the servant of the canon.[23]   At the end of the day, the Catholic Church needs to understand that Almighty God providentially guided the canonical process.  God is the One who determines the canon and Christians recognize it.

CONCLUSION

Because the Catholic Church does not believe in sola Scriptura, it ruins the Gospel of Christ in many ways.[24]  Here are some of the ways they do that: baptismal regeneration and progressive justification, confirmation, penance, transubstantiation, papal infallibility, purgatory, and marion idolatry.[25]  The Catholic Church has robed many in their understanding of God’s truth.  I would say that if Apostle Paul was alive today, he would probably be in tears because of what this church has done to many people, negatively.  Listen to the heart of Paul in Acts 20:29-31, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

May we as Christians guard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and take heed to his warnings not only what he said in Acts but also what he wrote to the church in Galatia.  Paul says in Galatians 1:6-11, ” I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. 11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.”


[1] All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update.

[2] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity (Springfield, Mo.: 21st Century Press, 2005), 10.

[3] Ibid, 11.

[4] Ibid, 11.

[5] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity (Springfield, Mo.: 21st Century Press, 2005), 12.

[6] Ibid, 12.

[7] Ibid, 13.

[8] Ibid, 13.

[9] Ibid, 13.

[10] Ibid, 13.

[11] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity, 13.

[12] Ibid, 13.

[13] Ibid, 14.

[14] Ibid, 14.

[15] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity , 14.

[16] Ibid, 15.

[17] William Webster, Roman Catholic Tradition: Claims and Contradictions (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources, 1999), 15.

[18] Ibid, 15.

[19] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity, 17.

[20] Mike Gendron, Preparing Catholics For Eternity , 18.

[21] Ibid, 18.

[22] Ibid, 18.

[23] David F. Farnell, “Canon of the New Testament” (lecture, The Masters’ Seminary, Sun Valley, CA, 2009).

[24] Robert Michael Zinns, “Why the Bible Alone?” A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism, http://www.cwrc-rz.org/whybiblealone.html (accessed December 1, 2011).

[25] Robert Michael Zinns, “Why the Bible Alone?” A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism, http://www.cwrc-rz.org/whybiblealone.html (accessed December 1, 2011).

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Sola Scriptura

Christian Definition and Description of Sola Scriptura

            Scripture is the writings of the Old and New Testament, which have been historically recognized as God’s Word in written form.[1]  And it is by these two books that we can say sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).  Scripture alone teaches that the Holy Bible is our final and sole infallible source of authority when it comes to matters of life and practice of the Christian faith.[2]  Moreover, sola Scriptura echoes the concept that perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture is the invaluable source to the Christian faith; and that church tradition is not necessary for determining the right interpretation of Scripture.[3]  Since the Catholic Church seems to assume or attack Protestants for totally ignoring tradition, let’s take a look at what the early Church Fathers had to say about Scripture alone.  Protestants don’t ignore tradition totally (except for bad tradition), but Protestants have a problem with how Catholics see tradition contrary to Scripture.

According to Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), he pronounced this about Scripture,

He, then, who of himself believes the Scripture and voice of the Lord, which by the Lord acts to the benefiting of men, is rightly [regarded] faithful. Certainly we use it as a criterion in the discovery of things.” (The Stromata, 16).

Tertullian (c. 160-235) said

That Scriptures . . . indeed furnish us with our Rule of faith. (Against Praxeas, 11).”

Origin (c.185-254) said,

In proof of all words which we advance in matters of doctrine, we ought to set forth the sense of the Scripture as confirming the meaning which we are proposing . . . . therefore we should not take our own ideas for the confirmation of doctrine, unless someone shows that they are holy because they are contained in the divine Scriptures (Homily 25 on Matthew).”

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) said,

Do not then believe me because I tell these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. (The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril 4.17).”

Athanasius (295-375), the man who was prolifically known to defend the Trinity against heretics declared,

In the Holy Scriptures alone is the instruction of religion announced—to which let no man add, from which let no man detract—which are sufficient in themselves for the enunciation of the truth.”

Chrysostom (344-407) said,

When there is a question of Divine things, would it not be a folly rashly and blindly to receive the opinions of others, when we have a rule by which we can examine everything? I mean the Divine law. It is for this reason that I conjure you all, without resting in the slightest degree on the judgment of others, to consult the Scriptures.”

Augustine (354-430), who John Calvin modeled after when it came to the Doctrines of Grace, said this concerning the Scriptures,

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? ‘For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought.'”

And Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457) said,

Bring me not human reasoning’s and syllogisms, for I rely on the divine Scripture alone.”

Proof that Scripture has Divine Authority

We have heard much about the definition and description of Scripture alone from the early Church Fathers, but lets take a deeper look into how the early Church Fathers argued specifically for the divine authority of sola Scriptura.  We will take a look mainly into the origin of Scripture (the Words of God), and the nature of Scripture (infallible) from Clement of Rome.  Then we will take a look at the origin of Scripture and the nature of Scripture from Irenaeus.  The last person we will refer to is Tertullian’s (ca. 160-225) address concerning the nature of Scripture.  There are many other early Church Father’s I can refer to, but I will narrow it to a few so it won’t be too superflous.

Concerning the origin of Scripture as being the very Words of God, Clement of Rome said,

Let us act accordingly to that which is written (First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 13).[5]

Clement said that we must look carefully into the Scriptures because they are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit (ibid., 45).[6] He also said that the Word of God is also infallible because they are the very Words of God.  In his First Apology Clement pointed out,

But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired men themselves but by the divine Word who moves them.”[7]

He continues by saying,

We must not suppose that the language proceeds from the men who are inspired, but from the divine Word, which moves them.  Their work is to announce that which the Holy Spirit, descending upon them, purposes, through them, to teach those who wish to learn the true religion.”[8]

And he has this to say about the passing down of divine revelation to the prophets,

To him [Moses] did God communicate that divine and prophetic gift…and then after him the rest of the prophets…These we assert to have been our teachers, who use nothing from their own human conception, but from the gift vouchsafed to them by God alone (Justin’s Hortatory Oration to the Greeks 8).”[9]

According to Irenaeus, a second century Church Father, he too said the Scriptures are the Words of God.  To him the Scriptures are perfect since it was spoken by God and His Spirit (Against Heresies 2.28.2).[10]  When it came to the nature of Scripture, Irenaues pointed out that Scripture is the foundation of faith because Scripture is the ground and pillar of our faith.[11]  And it when it came to the infallibility of Scripture, here is what he declared,

Let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel…The writings of those apostles,…being the disciples of truth, are above all falsehood.”[12]

And here is what he has to say about those who tried to twist Scripture,

Heretics adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings which they themselves have forged, to bewilder minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth.”[13]

Now for our last Church Father, Tertullian.  Here is what he has to say about the authoritative nature of Scripture:

In granting indulgence, he [Paul] alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit.  Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron.  It is true that believers likewise no “have the Spirit of God;” but not all believers are apostles.  When, then, he who had called himself a “believer,” added thereafter that he “had the Spirit of God,” which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might re-assert for himself apostolic dignity…Apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy…Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form [of advice] to which he willed us rather to attend; and forthwith it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, at precept.[14]

With that said, I think it is appropriate to leave you off with with a quote from Martin Luther concerning Scripture alone.  May we mediate upon this sobering quote.

Before I do that, let me first give you the context behind this quote.  It was after nailing the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, that Martin Luther was later held on trail in the Diet of Worms in 1521.  It was there where Martin Luther boldly proclaimed before the secular dignitaries and powerful Roman Catholic clergy with this statement,

Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments, I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the Word of God: I can not and will not recant anything, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience.”[15]

Martin Luther was clearly a man that championed sola Scripture.  Scripture was his absolute source of authority, not tradition.  Tradition was subordinate to sola Scriptura.  Sola Scriptura in a sense is the Father and tradition is the son.  But if tradition went bad, tradition would be an apostate  child.  Martin Luther clearly understood that all matters of life and practice of the Christian faith was seen through the lens of Scripture.

Luther continued and ended his bold statement by saying:

Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen.”[16]

We have seen much concerning the authority of Scripture pronounced from the early Church Fathers, but we will take a look at the message from “Scripture itself” concerning sola Scriptura in the next installment.


[1] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1254.

[2] Busenitz, Nathan. “The Faith of Our Fathers.” Lecture, The Master’s Seminiary, Sun Valley, CA, September 24, 2009..

[3] Nathan Busenitz, Class Lecture 7, Faith of Our Fathers.

[4] Nathan Busenitz, Class Lecture 7, Faith of Our Fathers.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, How History Views the Bible: Decide For Yourself (San Francisco, CA: The Zondervan Corporation, 1982), 23-24.

[6]Ibid, 23-24.

[7] Norman L. Geisler, How History Views the Bible: Decide For Yourself , 23-24.

[8] Ibid, 23-24.

[9] Ibid, 23-24.

[10] Norman L. Geisler, How History Views the Bible: Decide For Yourself , 26.

[11] Ibid, 26.

[12]Ibid, 26.

[13] Ibid, 26.

[14] Ibid, 26-27.

15] Charles R. Biggs, “The Story of Martin Luther: The Reformation and the Life of Martin Luther Until the Diet of Worms (1521),” Monergism,http://www.monergism.com/Reformation.Church.History.Martin.Luther.pdf(accessed March 17, 2012), 130.

[16] Ibid, 130.

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Sola Ecclesia

Roman Catholic Definition of Magisterium

The Latin word magister for the English word magisterium means, “master.”[1]  The meaning master is not only in the sense of “teacher” but it also means in the broader sense, someone who possesses authority or mastery in a particular field.  In the contemporary Roman Catholic usage, this term basically means that the teaching is reserved exclusively for the office of the pope and bishops. [2]  It is important that we consider the topic of the magisterium, because without it, we would not be debating the subject of tradition versus Scripture in the first place.  In regards to the magisterium, the Catholic Church considers themselves the master or the entity that possesses the authority—whether it be the written Word of God or in the form of tradition.  This concept of the Roman Catholic Church being the master dates back to the fourth session of the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D.  For example, in the first decree in the Council of Trent, it states that the Old and New Testament were not the only inspired source, but the traditions concerning faith and morals are also inspired because the Roman Catholic Church believes it came from the mouth of God; and it believes that it is preserved by the Holy Spirit in continuous succession in the Catholic Church.[3]

When defining their source of authority, the Roman Catholic Church continues by saying,

The totality of the Bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered (has to be unanimously agreed by the bishops) over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by all the faithful.”

[4]  Moreover the pope, who is part of the magisterium and who is the icon of the magisterium is believed to be infallible when he defines doctrines concerning faith and morals.[5] To question the pope in matters of infallibility is to second-guess him.[6]  The so-called divine promise given to him through the succession of Apostle Peter, concerning the pope’s definition of doctrine concerning faith and morals cannot be revised or altered. [7]  For example, papal infallibility in the area of making saints is final and irrevocable.[8]  The pope who is the iconic leader of the magisterium can speak ex cathedra, which means, that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope speaks without error.[9]

Church’s Proof that Magisterium Has Divine Authority

For the Roman Catholic Church, this is more than apostolic succession, but it is the gift of inspiration itself.[10]  Here is what the Roman Catholic Church says concerning the very gift of inspiration itself being passed down to them,

But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handing over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.'”

[11] Dei Verbum 8 says,

This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything…”[12]

Because apostolic succession is key to this belief of authority, let’s take a look at how the Roman Catholic Church validates this claim.  For example, they try validating their claim by using the apostles as an example to validate apostolic succession.  They claim that all of the activities such as delegating authority (2 Corinthians 3:5-6; 5:18-6:1; Ephesians 6:28) in matters such as the proper interpretation of the Gospel (2 Peter 2:20-21), the norm of sound teaching (2 Timothy 1:13) that is to be found with the apostles, the eye witnesses of Christ and His resurrection (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8-9; Jn 20:31; 1 John 1:3; 4:16), delegated authority to others within the church of God.[13]  The leaders appointed by the apostles within the church, that received delegated authority from the apostle, (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:22; cf. Titus 1:6-9) would assume the tasks such as teaching and government duties in the church of God.[14]  This thinking results in the logic that the Catholic Church too received delegated authority that was passed down to the bishops of the church. The biggest proof they have in order to validate the infallibility of the magisterium is Apostle Peter.  They believe that their apostolic succession came from the line of Apostle Peter.[15]  Because Christ promised that Hades will not prevail against the church that is founded on the faith of Peter (Matthew 16:18); and that God will remain with the successors of the apostles to the end of time (Matthew 28:20), then the magisterium can be reliable and will never lead the church into doctrinal error.[16]

Since the bishops of the Catholic Church received authority because of apostolic succession, then the bishops have authority to teach salvation in the name of Christ; and also the bishop through the Catholic Church, reveals what God wants us to know whether it be via the inspired written Word of God or in the form of tradition.[17]

Tradition

Roman Catholic Church believes that tradition is everything that contributes to the holiness of life and the increase of faith of the people of God.[18]  Tradition is key to Catholics because the Bible would not be understood rightly if we limit it to sola Scriptura.[19]  They will go on to say that the church’s history and experience cannot be excluded if the Bible is to be rightly understood.  According to Vatican II Council, the Catholic Church believes in the unity and consistency of Scripture because tradition and Scripture are closely connected.[20]  Scripture and tradition is illustrated as two streams flowing from the same divine well-spring; and they actually merge together.[21]  They say the apostles handed down the traditions to them.

Another significant aspect concerning the church’s perspective is that tradition does not stay static or fixed.[22]  Instead, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, tradition keeps progressing until it reaches the fullness of divine truth when the Lord returns.[23]

Another category that is important when it comes to the Vatican view of tradition is the context of locations or loci of tradition.  There are four loci of tradition: rite of baptisms accompanied with prayers, repetition of the Eucharist, the writings of the church fathers, and the life of the church.

The loci of tradition in the area of liturgy for example such as baptism, imparts a sense of the universal need for redemption and the removal of sin by grace; and the Eucharist, together with the elevation of the consecrated elements impresses a realization of the real presence of God.[24]  Church Fathers are also important sources of tradition, because they are believed to be the one’s who established the canon of Scripture, articles of the creed, the basic dogmas of the faith, the basic structures of the church, and also the essential forms of the liturgy.[25]  The last location of tradition, which is the life of the church, is key, because the Roman Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit gives inspiration to the church in producing faithful members a sense of what is agreeable and disagreeable when it comes to revelation.  Vatican II says this about the faithful members of the church,

The sense of the faithful is not a totally autonomous source of doctrine, since it depends in part on the other bearers of tradition and overlaps with them, but it can often help to identify the true content and meaning of tradition, especially when it confirms what is also attested by other sources.”[26]

The Roman Catholic Church contests that traditions are important.  For example, they believe that Paul spoke about tradition when he wrote to the Corinthian Church.  In his letter, Paul says,

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2).”[27]

Karl Keating a Catholic apologist has this to say about this verse,

There is no contradiction here.  On the one hand, Paul condemned erroneous human traditions; on the other, he upheld truths handed down orally and entrusted to the Church.  It is these truths Catholics know by the term tradition.”[28]

It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church sees that tradition, the magisterium, and Scripture cannot be without the other.  They have a problem with the idea of sola Scriptura.  There are three reasons why the Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of sola Scriptura: the Bible does not argue for the doctrine of sola Scriptura, the Bible teaches the authority of tradition, and the Bible cannot correctly be interpreted without tradition.[29]

Please stay tune for the next post, as I will be giving arguments in favor for sola Scriptura.

 

 


[1] Michael Glazier and Hellwig Monika, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1994), 536.

[2] Ibid, 536.

[3] James J. Megivern, Bible Interpretation (Wilmington, N.C.: Consortium Books, 1978), 179.

[4] Ludwig Ott, “A Summary of the Dogmas and Teachings of the Catholic Church,” Catholic Apologetics, http://www.catholicapologetics.info/thechurch/councils/summary.htm (accessed December 1, 2011).

[5] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991), 357.

[6] Garry Wills, Why I Am a Catholic (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2002), 254.

[7] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 426.

[8] Garry Wills, Why I Am a Catholic, 254.

[9] Michael Glazier and Hellwig Monika, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, 426.

[10] Robert Michael Zinns, “Why the Bible Alone?” A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism, http://www.cwrc-rz.org/whybiblealone.html (accessed December 1, 2011).

[11] Pope Paul VI, “Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum,” Vatican, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html (accessed December 1, 2011).

[12] Ibid.

[13] Michael Glazier and Hellwig Monika, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, 65.

[14] Michael Glazier and Hellwig Monika, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, 65.

[15] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 104.

[16] Ibid, 104.

[17] Michael Glazier and Hellwig Monika, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, 536.

[18] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 102.

[19] Ibid, 102.

[20] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 102.

[21] Ibid, 102.

[22] Ibid, 102.

[23] Ibid, 102.

[24] Ibid, 102.

[25] Ibid, 102.

[26] Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 103.

[27] Karl Keating, The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1994), 129.

[28] Ibid, 129.

[29] Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, 50-51.

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A Christian needs to pay careful attention when the Roman Catholic Church challenges sola Scriptura.  When they are challenging the Bible alone as the only Word of God, we as Christians need to ask them, “What other sources do you have that are equal in weight of authority to the Bible?”  If they say that there is a source outside the Bible that is equal in weight to the Bible, then we as Christians should let the Roman Catholic present his or her case.  At the same time, we need to ask them, “Are there other words of God outside of Scripture that is inspired by God?”

The topic of Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) as being the only source of authority, is a big deal to the Catholic Church.  When the belief of sola Scriptura is presented to them, there is a question that often arises, “Does the Bible teach sola Scriptura?” That is a good question because that leads into a discussion of the implicit versus explicit method.  According to New Oxford Dictionary, the word implicit means that something is implied but not expressed clearly; and explicit means something is stated clearly. When it comes to sola Scriptura, the Christian should consider the dichotomy surrounding the implicit and explicit method.

When articulating sola Scriptura, one must consider using logic and necessary deduction.  Logic and necessary deduction should be considered because sola Scriptura is not explicitly taught in Scripture.  For example, there is not one Scripture in the Bible that will use the expression, “the Bible alone is the Word of God.”  But just because the Bible does not explicitly use the expression, “the Bible alone is the is the Word of God,” does not mean that sola Scriptura is not a fact in the Bible.  Sola Scriptura is taught, but it is demonstrated implicitly. So the question that arises is this, “Does implicit evidence teach sola Scriptura?”  The answer to that is yes!  Just like how the Trinity is proven implicitly by overwhelming evidence, sola Scriptura is proven implicitly too with overwhelming evidence.

When it comes to sola Scriptura, there are two different viewpoints from the Catholic Church.  For example, the traditional viewpoint believes that the pope and bishops have power over the body of beliefs and practices from Jesus Christ.[1]  People are called to obey the written Word of God and also the unwritten word of God—tradition (with a capital T).[2]  In other words, this viewpoint believes that God passed down the written and unwritten word of God to the Roman Catholic Church.  According to the nontraditional viewpoint, the Roman Catholic Church believes that divine revelation is taught within the pages of Scripture and is also taught within tradition.[3]  This viewpoint believes that tradition is taught implicitly in Scripture.[4]  This means that their teachings such as the immaculate conception of Mary, papal infallibility are taught implicitly.[5]  At the end of the day, whatever viewpoint a Roman Catholic adheres to, it is transparent that the Roman Catholic Church rejects sola Scriptura.  This is evidential because their presupposition is rooted in sola ecclesia.

When discussing sola Scriptura, point out to the Catholic person that the Roman Catholic Church admits that the Bible is one source that God sees as inspired.  Tell them that according to their dogmatic constitution on divine revelation that was solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965, the DV 24, NCC #135, says, “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God.”[6]  This is an important quote to help stir them to search the Scriptures.  But since DV 24, NCC #135, believes the Bible is the written Word of God, they will still need to dig through Scripture in order to have an cogent and logical conversation.

When Roman Catholics makes the claim that the Bible is not the only source of authority, the burden of proof falls on their shoulders because they are the ones that will need to show us how their tradition, Scripture, and the magisterium cannot stand without another.  They will need to show us if there are others sources that can give people “certainty,” besides the Bible.  As Christians, we believe the Word of God is the only source of revelation that has absolute certainty.


[1] Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics (Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2000), 48.

[2] Ibid, 48.

[3] Ibid, 48.

[4] Ibid, 48.

[5] Ibid, 48.

[6] Pope Paul VI, “Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum,” Vatican, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html (accessed December 1, 2011).

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