Friday, June 01, 2007

Debate: Sola Scriptura

I am having a friendly discussion via email with a man named Russell regarding Sola Scriptura. His initial email is posted below in black and my response to him is in red. I have since received a response, which will be my next post, followed by my response to him, which I am currently working on.

I recently read your post on Dr. Francis Beckwith's blog (concerning his reversion to Catholicism). You had said, "And if the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians, why does He tell us that the CHURCH is the pillar and foundation of the truth (I Tim. 3:15)?"

First of all, it is a misrepresentation of Sola Scriptura to say that the Bible is the SOLE rule of faith. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the sole INFALLIBLE rule of faith for the church today.

We both agree that the Bible is inerrant. We both agree that the Bible is a rule of faith. But, it doesn't make sense to have an infallible book without an infallible authority to interpret it. The Bible is not an easily understood, easy to interpret book. If it were, we wouldn't have all the division we have in Christianity today. Catholics believe that the Bible, in order to be properly understood, must have an infallible authority to interpret Scripture accurately. To say that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith is self-refuting.

Also, I Tim. 3:15 does not negate the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The context of this passage is the OBLIGATION and RESPONSIBILITY of church leaders. There is absolutely nothing in the context to suggest infallibility. Paul does not tell Timothy, "Hey Timothy, just kick back and relax, and don't worry about what you teach, since we leaders are promised infallibility." No, there would be no need for solemn admonitions to church leaders if freedom from error was guaranteed to them.

If the Bible is infallible, but there's no infallible authority, how do we know which interpretation is accurate? Also, there is nothing that does NOT suggest infallibility but we do know that we were promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into ALL truth. We're told that the Church upholds that truth. It's possible that you may not be understanding what the Catholic Church means by infallibility. The Catholic Church doesn't claim that EVERYTHING that is said is infallible. Church leaders are not guaranteed a freedom from error in all matters at all times...

Also, verse 15 calls the church the "household of God". If infallibility is implied in this verse, then it would prove too much. A "household" is more than just LEADERS. In this context, if the "household" (which is the CHURCH) is infallible, then EVERYONE in that household is infallible. And I don't think you would want to say that.

I don't want to say that indeed... but I believe you're reading into this passage something that isn't there. The Church must collectively make infallible declarations... as a whole. It is not saying that each individual is infallible.

And another thing. A "pillar" is a support which holds something ELSE up. This pillar (the church) is not the truth, but it has the RESPONSIBILITY to hold up, support, preach, and proclaim the truth. And that truth is Scripture.

Can you tell me where in the Bible this passage says that this truth is Scripture? How do you know that this "truth" is Scripture? And let's not forget that the entire canon was not decided at the time this was written. So, by your definition, we can only assume that the OT is that truth.

I also think it's important to remember that there was no Bible until the late 4th century and that, without Tradition, you wouldn't have a Bible. How would you know that Mark wrote Mark, if not for Tradition? How would you know which books should be considered inspired and which should not, if not for Tradition?

For Catholics, Tradition is essential for understanding Scripture and vice versa. We believe that the entire Word of God is the sole rule of faith. This includes, but is not limited to Scripture alone.

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Can you imagine learning to be a doctor from a book alone without someone showing you what is meant by the book? Without someone in a place of authority, who can define the words and show you what all the tools are or how to use those tools?

We are not a church of the book. The book is FOR the church.... and if there is no one able to interpret it, all that's left is division.

Amber, I would love to have some dialogue with you on this if you have the time. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I'm looking forward to your response.

No problem. I enjoy some positive dialogue about these things. Believe me when I say that I used to think just like you... The problem I saw was a severe lack of unity within Christianity... each church interpreting the same Scripture in completely different ways when there is only ONE truth. Christ calls us to NOT be divided over doctrines and to think in like mind in unity. I just about left Christianity altogether. But I decided to start reading early church writings to find out how Christians practiced and what they believed before we all got to be so divided. Doesn't it make sense to pay attention to what Christianity was in the early church? After all, Christ promised to protect his church (Mt 16:18) and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth... Today, truth is too relative. We need to seek the ONE truth that Christ calls us to.

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