There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

Biblical Evidence for Sola Scriptura

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  • Biblical Evidence for Sola Scriptura

    by Keith Thompson



    The Common Roman Catholic Misrepresentation of Sola Scriptura

    Before offering a biblical case for Sola Scriptura, a major and repeated error on the part of Roman Catholic theologians and apologists needs to be highlighted at this point. Many incorrectly assume and teach that the Protestant doctrine does not allow for holding to any tradition, creed, council or church teaching as a rule of faith or source of authority. On the basis of this assumption many Roman writers identify Protestants as “Bible-only-advocates” or the Protestant view in general as “the Bible-only-view.”

    However, what these Catholics are speaking about is not the classical reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They are referring to what can be termed “solo scriptura” which means Scripture only (i.e., Scripture as the only authority). This misrepresentation of the classical Protestant view would have Scripture as the only authority whatsoever. This common misrepresentation by Catholic writers was brought out extensively and refuted in the 2001 work by Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, as well as in James R. Payton’s 2010 work Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings and in other works. It is therefore important to help add evidence to the case against this Roman caricature.

    It needs to be understood that the classical reformation view of Sola Scriptura allows for tradition, creeds, councils and the teaching office of the church to be authorities, just as long as they are subordinate to Scripture which is the ultimate authority above them. If something taught in one of these lesser authorities contradicts Scripture or cannot be proved from Scripture, then those teachings are to be rejected. When Catholics point to certain Scripture passages which talk about adhering to the tradition of the apostles or to the church, or how there was a council the early Christians submitted to in Acts 15, assuming they are refuting the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, they are merely attacking a misrepresentation of it. The actual Protestant position allows for traditions, councils, and other authorities just as long as they are subordinated to Scripture. And the Bible does subordinate those sources to the Scriptures. Hence, merely showing Scripture mentions other authorities besides Scripture does nothing to refute Sola Scriptura.

    The debate must shift and become: can the traditions which Scripture mentions be found in the Bible? If so are they covered sufficiently? If they can, then Sola Scriptura is not in jeopardy. It would mean tradition is crystallized into and thus subordinate to Scripture. If, however, the Catholic can prove that there are valid and necessary traditions pertaining to doctrine which were not written in Scripture but which are contained in a body of tradition from Jesus and the apostles outside the Bible, then Sola Scriptura would be in jeopardy since tradition would not be subordinate to Scripture

    Now, the following is evidence supporting the fact that the classical Protestant Reformation view is that Scripture is the ultimate authority to which all other sources must be subject; and that “solo scriptura,” the belief that Scripture is the only authority, is a caricature. The early Protestant creeds and confessions talk about subjecting other authorities such as councils and traditions to Scripture. This demonstrates that solo scriptura is not the historic Protestant view since other authorities are considered valid as long as they cohere with Scripture.

    Elaborating on and confirming this doctrine, the 1561 Belgic Confession says:

    "Therefore we must not consider human writings-- no matter how holy their authors may have been-- equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else. For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule. .

    " (Belgic Confession 1561, Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture).

    Similarly the Westminster Confession of Faith says:

    "The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10).

    The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith basically says the same thing. The Anglican 39 Articles also confirm that other sources of authority such as creeds are subordinate to Scripture and must be proved by it demonstrating that Scripture is the ultimate authority. Article 8 states that: “The Three Creeds, the Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrents of holy Scripture” (Anglican 39 Articles, Article 8). With respect to general councils, Article 21 states that, “Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture” (Anglican 39 Articles, Article 21).

    As Michael Horton affirms “both Lutheran and Reformed churches regard the ecumenical creeds, along with their own confession and catechisms, as authoritative and binding summaries of Scripture, to which they are all subordinate” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, [Zondervan, 2011], p. 187). Thus, we don’t view Scripture as the only authority or hold to a “Bible-Only” view as Catholics claim. Moreover, with respect to the Reformers, the Reformation scholar John Maxfield notes:

    “Among the sixteenth-century reformers the principle of sola scriptura . . . meant that scripture was the supreme authority over all other authorities” (John A. Maxfield, Luther's Lectures on Genesis and the Formation of Evangelical Identity, [Truman State University Press, 2008], p. 43).

    In regards to Luther’s view of lesser authorities such as the church fathers and others, the historian James R. Payton notes that, “They stood as a significant religious authority, subordinate to the overarching and ultimate authority of Scripture” (James R. Payton, Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 139).

    Concerning Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) again, theologian and author Richard J. Foster notes that:

    “By stressing the primacy of the Word of God as contained in Scripture, Luther was not rejecting the teachings of councils or the great writers of Christian thought. But he was making them subject to Scripture: any time there is a discrepancy between the two, he said, the Bible is to be regarded as the authoritative source of faith and practice” (Richard J. Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith, [HarperCollins, 1998], p. 293)
    Martin Luther stated that:

    “All the other councils too must be viewed in this way, be they large or small . . . they do not introduce anything new either in matters of faith or of good works; but they defend, as the highest judges and greatest bishops under Christ, the ancient faith and the ancient good works in conformity with Scripture” (Martin Luther, On the Councils and the Church. Taken from Theodore G. Tappert Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Volume 1, [Fortress Press, 2007] pp. 313-314).
    It is very clear that Luther did not believe that Scripture was the only authority. What is more, Luther’s successor Philip Melanchthon (1497 –1560) also affirmed that other sources of authority were valid insofar as they were made subject to the sure written word. James R. Payton notes that, “For him, sola scriptura did not rule out but found itself buttressed by the subordinate religious authority of the church fathers, the ancient creeds and the doctrinal decrees of the ecumenical councils” (James R. Payton, Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 147).

    In his work The Shape of Sola Scriptura Keith Mathison points out that the Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509 – 1564) remarked that:

    "The power of the church…resides partly in individual bishops, and partly in councils, either provincial or general…The power of the church is therefore to be not grudgingly manifested but yet kept within definite limits, that it may not be drawn hither and thither according to men’s whim…Power of the church, therefore, is not infinite but subject to the Lord’s Word and, as it were, enclosed within it" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.viii.1. cited in Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, [Canon Press, 2001], pp. 112-113).

    Calvin believed in other sources of authority as long as they were subordinate to the ultimate authority: Holy Scripture. He did not believe the misrepresentation known as solo scriptura which is so commonly attacked today as though it were the Protestant position.

    Moreover, Calvin’s successor Theodor Beza (1519 – 1605) affirmed that Scripture, as the ultimate authority, determined which traditions were true, not that no traditions were true. He stated that, “Scripture clearly discerns the good tradition from the evil, the holy from the profane, the profitable from the useless and the necessary from the superfluous” (Theodore Beza, Harangue I, G i verso, His. Eccl. 1, 574f. Cited in Tadataka Maruyama, The Ecclesiology of Theodore Beza: The Reform of the True Church, [Librairie Droz, 1978], p. 50). Hence, Catholics are in error for misrepresenting the Protestant position when they argue that since the Bible talks about adhering to other sources of authority, that therefore Protestantism is in error. These Roman writers argue as though the classical Reformation understanding rejects such sources, despite the fact that it clearly does not.

    Consider for example how, when arguing against Protestantism, popular Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid attacks solo scriptura instead of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. He states that, “there are no verses that either express or imply that Scripture is to be the sole rule of faith for the church.” (Patrick Madrid, Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint for Anarchy, ed. Robert Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 1997], p. 19. Italics mine). But that is not what classical Protestantism teaches. We believe Scripture is the ultimate rule of faith and the only infallible rule of faith, but it is not the sole or only rule of faith. That position is easy to attack, but it is not the Protestant position.

    Moreover, in his book Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola Scriptura Catholic writer David L. Gray also misrepresents the Protestant position claiming that, “Scripture itself does not even Claim to be the Sole-Authority” (David L. Gray, Dead on Arrival: The Seven Fatal Errors of Sola-scriptura (Bible-only), [David L Gray, 2010], p. 30). This once again is not the classical Protestant position. One can easily find countless examples of this Catholic straw man argumentation which doesn’t accurately deal with what Protestants believe.

    While addressing one particular Catholic apologist who erroneously said Protestants are in error for saying Scripture is the only authority, the reformed scholar Keith Mathison responded by saying:

    "Once again, however, the criticism applies to solo scriptura and not to the classical Reformation view of sola scriptura . . . Adherents of . . . sola scriptura . . . do not deny the authority of the church to make doctrinal definitions in accordance with submission to divine revelation as found in the inspired Scripture” (Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, [Canon Press, 2001], pp. 287-288 parenthesis mine).

    The Ultimate Authority of Scripture

    That the Scripture’s are the final authority to which all other authorities must be subject is taught in many texts of the Bible.

    Matthew 15:2-9

    In Matthew 15:2-9 Jesus appealed to Scripture as the ultimate authority which judges traditions:

    "2 Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." 3He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," 6he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:2-9).In this text Jesus uses Scripture as the ultimate test or final court of appeal as to whether or not a tradition is valid. What is deduced is that extra-Scriptural tradition, even if it is wholeheartedly believed to be authoritative as the Jews maintained, must never invalidate or contradict Scripture, but must conform to Scripture since it is the ultimate authority which judges tradition. If a tradition is supported by Scripture, instead of contradicting it, it is a valid tradition. If a tradition renders Scripture void like the Catholic doctrine that Mary was preserved from original sin, it is to be rejected. Witness the fact that Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is what the doctrine Sola Scriptura teaches – that every tradition, creed or council is subordinate to Scripture and must be tested with Scripture. In light of this, Rome is in error for not subordinating her authorities to Scripture as the ultimate standard.

    Commenting on the implications and Roman Catholic responses to Matthew 15:2-9, James White states:

    ". . .the person who wishes to follow the example of Christ will hold such traditions up to the light of Scripture, knowing how fearful it is to be found guilty of nullifying the Word of God for the sake of mere human traditions. The Lord Jesus subjugated even this allegedly “divine tradition” to the supreme authority, the Scriptures. This is vitally important, for the most common response to the citation of this passage with reference to Roman tradition is, “Well, the passage refers to testing human traditions, not divine traditions.” Yet, when it comes to authority, any tradition, no matter what its alleged pedigree, is to be tested by the known standard, the Holy Scriptures" (James R. White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, [Bethany House Publishers, 1996], p. 69).

    2 Timothy 3:16-17
    "16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).This text affirms Scripture as being the ultimate authority to which everything else must be subject. For, if Scripture completely equips the man of God for every good work including his doctrine, then if a tradition or council is to be valid, it must be subject to that which fully equips the man of God with doctrine: the Scripture.

    1 Corinthians 4:6 is another example of the ultimate authority of Scripture:

    “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6).The meaning of Paul’s statement that the Corinthians must not “go beyond what is written” so that they do not get puffed up in favor of one against the other is key. “What is written” always refers to the Scriptures in Paul’s letters (Roy E. Ciampa, Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010], p. 176). In the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul has quoted Old Testament texts on the error of boasting in human beings and the difference between God`s gracious ways and human understanding (1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19, 20). Paul’s point is the Corinthians must not side with human beings such as Apollos, Peter or Paul over against one another (1:12) since doing so shows the Corinthians value their wisdom and following human beings over against God’s truth in the Scriptures which says not to boast in human beings or rely on human understanding. Hence, they are not to do this and thus go beyond what is written in the Old Testament concerning. This interpretation is held by major exegetes and commentators such as Robert Gundry, R. B. Hays, Roy E. Ciampa and Brian Rosner. What can be drawn from this, then, is Scripture is the ultimate authority which believers are to subject themselves to in matters of the theology of authority such as this. Notice Paul does not say “do not go beyond what is written, what is declared in councils, creeds, and traditions”. Though he holds those sources as authorities, here he appeals here to Scripture as the ultimate authority which must not be violated due to its unique status.

    Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem

    The Acts 15 council was convened in Jerusalem because some men were teaching Christians they must be circumcised in order to be saved (v. 1). Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James all speak on the issue but it is James’s remarks in concluding the council which demonstrate that this council, as an authority, was subject to the ultimate authority of Scripture. For, James subjects the authority of this council to the Scriptures by quoting Amos 9:11-12 in his speech. James stated:

    "13After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brothers, listen to me.14Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16"'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18known from of old.' 19Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God” (Acts 15:13-19).Notice, in vv. 15-18 James made sure this council was in conformity with the Holy Scripture’s before concluding it. This is precisely what the doctrine of the ultimate authority entails. James quoted Amos 9:11-12 to validate the council’s decision on Gentiles not needing to be circumcised since that text shows one day the Gentiles would share in the messianic blessing without any mention of them being subject to the Law of Moses or being circumcised. As I. Howard Marshall observes: “. . . the phrase ‘all the nations over whom my name has been called’ expresses God’s ownership of the peoples; it is used frequently of Israel as God’s special people . . . and its use here indicates, remarkably, how the Gentiles are now understood as God’s people, without any mention of the need for them to become Jews: ‘the nations qua Gentile nations belong to YHWH (Bauchkam 1996: 169)” (I. Howard Marshall, Acts, eds. G. K Beale, D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, [Baker Academic, 2007], p. 592). F. F. Bruce’s comments help demonstrate James was subordinating the council’s determinations to Scripture: “James’ speech as been recognized as a yelammedēnu response, in which an appeal is made to scripture as confirming what has been said or done already and what is about to be decided” (F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts: Revised, ed. Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1988], p. 294).

    Acts 17:11-12

    Another text demonstrating Sola Scriptura in contrast to the Roman Catholic teaching is Acts 17:11-12 which talks about the Bereans. First, a bit earlier in Acts 17:2-3 while in Thessalonica Paul was reasoning “with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ" (Acts 17:2-3). Some Jews and Greeks were persuaded but many Jews reacted very negatively. Then Paul went to the Bereans next. Acts 17:11-12 states:

    "11Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men" (Acts 17:11-12).Luke, the author of the book of Acts, approvingly reports this Berean method of men of God validating teachings church-teaching using Scripture since in Acts 17:11 the Bereans are identified as “noble” in their conduct, though they were most likely identified as noble because of their openness. However, if their method of testing teachings using Scripture was unacceptable, then Luke, the inspired author of Acts, would not identify them as noble so as to give credibility to those with a false method of interpretation and scriptural supremacy. However, many Roman Catholics will boldly claim that they do not need Scriptural support for their doctrines at all, and that they need not search the Scriptures for their beliefs which totally and completely contradicts Acts 17:11-12. Regarding the Roman doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary at the end of her life, for example, Catholic apologist Karl Keating admits:
    "Still, fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none . . . The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true" (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, the attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians," [Ignatius Press, 1988], p. 275).

    Material Sufficiency of Scripture

    That Scripture contains everything necessary for salvation is denied by those Catholics who adhere to the council of Trent’s partim-partim theory of revelation. However, the biblical evidence for material sufficiency is strong.

    John 20:31
    “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).Here it is clear that what is written is sufficient to lead someone to salvation. That is exactly what the material sufficiency of Scripture affirms.

    2 Timothy 3:16-17
    "16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).The argument is that Scripture allows the man of God to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work in ministry (i.e., doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness). Hence, is Scripture thoroughly and completely equips the man of God then Scripture is materially sufficient.

    Now, since the New Testament was written in Koine Greek we need to closely examine it and draw out the meaning of this text. When 2 Timothy 3:17 says Scripture makes the man of God "complete," the original Greek word is artios (ἄρτιος). The word artios is defined in the following ways by major professional lexicographers and grammarians:

    Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines it as: “fitted, complete.” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], p. 117).

    Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it as: “1.) fitted. 2.) complete, perfect, [having reference apparently to ‘special aptitude for given uses’].” (Joseph. H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2009], 75).

    The Baur, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, defines it as: “well fitted for some function. Complete, capable, proficient=able to meet all demands 2 Ti 3:17” (Walter Bauer, Frederick William Danker, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur, Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, [University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 136).

    Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes the word refers to “faultless” and “meeting demands” etc., in regards to suitable state for ministry (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily, Vol. 1, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1964-1976], pp. 475-476).

    Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words affirms it means “entirely suited; complete in accomplishment, ready” (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Zondervan, 2006], p. 1097).Now, when 2 Timothy 3:17 teaches that Scripture thoroughly equips the man of God for every good work including doctrine, the original Greek word is exērtismenos (ἐξηρτισμένος), the perfect passive participle of exartizō (ἐξαρτίζω). The word exartizō is defined in the following ways by major professional lexicographers and grammarians:

    Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines it as: “to fit out” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996], p. 117).

    Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it as: “to complete, finish 1a) to furnish perfectly” (Joseph. H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2009], p. 222).

    Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words affirms it means “to equip or furnish completely” (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Zondervan, 2006], p. 1146).

    Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes the word means to “bring to a suitable state” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily, Vol. 1, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1964-1976], pp. 475).

    The Baur, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, defines it as: “equip, furnish . . . for every good deed 2 Ti 3:17” (Walter Bauer, Frederick William Danker, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur, Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, [University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 346).Hence, what is deduced from this text is that Scripture is able or powerful to make men wise unto salvation through faith. Scripture is God-breathed or given by inspiration of God. Scripture’s purpose is to profit us with doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Hence, there is no doctrine or sin that Scripture is not profitable enough to address. And Scripture is sufficient in the sense that it makes the man of God complete, fully furnishing and fully equipping him for every good work including doctrine or teaching.

    Therefore, since 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that Scripture fully furnishes or makes the man of God fully equipped for every good work including doctrine, that means Scripture contains everything we need for doctrin. We do not need extra-biblical tradition to supplement Scripture and inform us of doctrine allegedly missing from Scripture as Romanism teaches.

    Excursus: Rome’s Objections Against Christian Utilization of 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    (1) Roman Catholics argue that all this text is saying is that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, but not absolutely sufficient. However, after saying that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, v. 17 starts with the word hina in Greek which is translated as “that” in English. This hina clause serves as a purpose or result. Hence, v. 16 says Scripture is profitable for doctrine etc., resulting in v. 17's mention of the man of God being fully equipped for every good work. “Every good work” is thus defined for us in the previous verse (v. 16) as doctrine, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. The hina clause connects every good work in v. 17 with doctrine, reproof etc found in v. 16. Therefore, this text is saying Scripture fully equips the man of God for his doctrine, not just that Scripture is profitable for doctrine.

    (2) Another common Roman Catholic response to this 2 Timothy 3:16-17 argument is that James 1:4 says, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The Roman apologist will argue that steadfastness or perseverance makes us perfect and complete lacking in nothing, and so by Protestant logic all we need is steadfastness alone to be perfect and nothing else. As Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid argues:
    "If any verse in the Bible could be used to argue for 'sufficiency' James 1:4 would be it. Under the hermeneutic employed by the proponents of sola scriptura, in this passage James would be saying that all one needs it perseverance. . .” (Patrick Madrid, Answer Me This, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2003], p. 47).However, this argument isn’t thought out well and was answered by Eric Svendsen in his work Evangelical Answers: A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologists:

    "Catholic apologists often appeal to Jas 1:4 as an argument against the sufficiency of Scripture in the present passage (‘Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’). Perseverance (we are told) seems here to be ‘sufficient’ to make us mature and ‘complete.’ But (we are asked) are not other things needed beside perseverance before we can be ‘mature and complete?’ Aside from the fact that the Greek word used here is different than that found in 2 Tim 3:17 (τέλειος is used, not ἄρτιος), Catholic apologists miss the point of both passages entirely. Each passage refers only to those things for which the subject is fitted. In the case of Jas 1:4, perseverance accomplishes maturity and completeness only in the ‘testing of your faith’ (v. 3). In 2 Tim 3: 16-17, Scripture makes the man of God ‘fully equipped’ only to ‘teach, rebuke, correct, and train.’ Of course, the man of God also needs qualities such as love, patience, a chaste life, and other such virtues; but as far as the categories of teaching right doctrine, rebuking and correcting wrong doctrine, and training in righteousness are concerned, the Scriptures alone are said to make the man of God ‘fully equipped’" (Eric Svendsen, Evangelical Answers: A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologists, [Reformation Press, 1999], pp. 215-216 n. 145).(3) David T. King points out the error of another argument Sungenis uses where he erroneously equates words with root words:

    "Sungenis attempts to equate the participles ἐξηρτισμένος (exērtismenos) and ἡτοιμασμένον (hētoimasmenon), completely ignoring the verbal distinctions and the fact that these terms are not equivalents. He compares the Greek verb ἐτοιμάζω (etoimazo) which means ‘to put or keep in readiness, prepare’ in 2 Timothy 2:21 to the root of ἐξαρτίζω (exartizo) which is αρτίζω (artizo) instead of the actual verb ἐξαρτίζω (exartizo) itself used in 2 Timothy 3:17. The comparison is irrelevant. The root verb αρτίζω (artizo), which means ‘to get ready, prepare’ is never even used in the New Testament. But its intensified form, ἐξαρτίζω, is a much stronger term than αρτίζω and means ‘completely or thoroughly equipped.’ It appears in the New Testament, here in 2 Timothy 3:17, in connection with the purpose for which Scripture is profitable, namely, that the man of God may not just be complete (ἄρτιος - artios), but ‘fully equipped’ (ἐξηρτισμένος) for every good work” (David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume 1, [Christians Resources Inc, 2001], p. 83).(4) Another response of Roman apologists concerning 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is that 2 Timothy 2:21 will be cited. It states that, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, prepared for every good work.” Roman writers argue that since cleansing ones self makes you prepared for every good work, Protestants should not say Scripture is absolutely sufficient just because it says Scripture fully equips and makes the man of God competent for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). As Sungenis argues:

    "If we were to use the concept of ‘sufficiency’ that Protestants force into 2 Timothy 3:17, we could claim, in light of the similar language in 2 Timothy 2:21, that refraining from bad influences and behaviour is all that is needed to make a man useful for every good work” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 1997], p. 117).However, the error in Sungenis’ argument is that he doesn’t admit that all 2 Timothy 2:21 is saying is that those who flee iniquity cleansing themselves will be “prepared” (hētoimasmenon) for every good work. Prepared in what sense? Prepared to be used honourably as the text mentions. For, if one is in sin they are in no moral condition to be used honourably. There is a difference between being prepared spiritually so that you can be used honourably, thus being in a position where doing every good work is actually possible in the future, with being competent and fully being equipped (2 Timothy 3:17) for the task you are now spiritually prepared for. A person is "prepared" spiritually for every good work by fleeing from iniquity. But in order to have the material for doctrine and correction being "fully equipped," he needs Scripture. And Scripture is absolutely sufficient in regards to the class or category of doctrine and correction etc. Regarding this point Donald Guthrie notes that, “. . . he is prepared to do any good work, which stresses the readiness for performing a good work rather than the good work itself” (Donald Guthrie, The Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series: The Pastoral Epistles, InterVarsity Press, 1990], pp. 164-165).

    In regards to the Greek, 2 Timothy 2:21 shows that cleansing ourselves merely makes us “prepared” (hētoimasmenon) for every good work; whereas 2 Timothy 3:17 shows that Scripture makes us “complete” (artios) and “fully equipped” (exērtismenos) for every good work. Sungenis concedes that 2 Timothy 2:21 is talking about preparedness, but then argues that, “the issue, however, is the degree of preparedness, whether perfect or imperfect” (pp. 116-117). However, even if one said that the text refers to one who is fully or perfectly spiritually prepared for every good work due to being cleansed from his sins, that doesn’t mean he is therefore also doctrinally equipped. Therefore, that argument is irrelevant. Sungenis may drink some water to prepare himself to speak to a group of Catholics. He may then be said to be fully prepared and ready to speak. However, he still needs his notes and projector to fully equip him for this specific task which he is ready to speak to. Until he has those things, he is not fully equipped for his presentation.

    (5) Roman apologists from long ago like John Henry Cardinal Newman (John Henry Newman, Inspiration, p. 131 n.) as well as modern Roman apologists like Karl Keating (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, [Ignatius Press, 1988], pp. 135-136) have asserted that the Scriptures Paul which fully equips the man of God is limited to the Old Testament. Therefore the Romanist will argue the Protestant can not use 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to say the Old and New Testaments are the material sufficient, ultimate authority. However, this claim is erroneous since Paul did not just have the Old Testament in mind here but also New Testament Scripture. He is stating that Scripture as a category is sufficient to fully equip the man of God for his doctrine, including New Testament Scripture.

    In the earlier epistle, namely 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul affirms that the Gospel of Luke is Scripture which nullifies this Roman claim. In 1 Timothy 5:18 we read:

    “For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’" (1 Timothy 5:18).The section where it says “You shall not muzzle an ox” is from Deuteronomy 25:4. However, when it says “The Laborer deserves his wages,” that is a quotation from Luke 10:7, a New Testament book. As Donald Guthrie confirms, “The . . . citation . . . is exactly paralleled by Luke 10:7, where the words are attributed to Jesus” (Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, ed. Leon Morris, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 117).

    Moreover, here are some proofs which affirm that Paul believed his own writings were divinely authoritative and sacred Scripture:

    "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).

    "For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down" (2 Corinthians 13:10).

    "Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you" (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

    "I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers" (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

    "And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13).

    "If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed" (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

    "And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:16).

    "since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you" (2 Corinthians 13:3).Therefore, it is completely fallacious to assert that in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 Paul is only instructing Timothy to adhere to the Old Testament or that Paul is teaching that only the Old Testament is Scripture. Again, Paul’s thought is Scripture as a category is sufficient to fully equip men for doctrine.

    Perspicuity of Scripture

    Roman apologists will fervently argue against the perspicuity or clearness of Scripture, since, if it is true then Catholicism is in error. Rome teaches the belief that tradition and the Roman magisterium are needed for proper interpretation of Scripture. This is enunciated by Roman Catholic apologist Mark Shea. He states:

    ". . .since the meaning of Scripture is not always clear and that sometimes a doctrine is implied rather than explicit, other things besides Scripture have been handed down to us from the apostles: things like Sacred Tradition . . . and the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church . . . Taken together, these three things-Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium-are formally sufficient for knowing the revealed truth of God" (Mark Shea, What is the Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition, ed. Robert Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 1997], p. 181).We will refute the Roman position and demonstrate Scripture teaches it is clear or formally sufficient apart from tradition and the Roman Magisterium.

    2 Corinthians 1:13

    In 2 Corinthians 1:13 Paul is hopeful his readers at the church of Corinth would be able to understand his letter of Scripture he is writing to them: “For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand” (2 Corinthians 1:13). If Rome is correct about the unclarity of Scripture then this inspired apostle should have known the Corinthians would not be able to understand his letter.

    Calls to read and obey Scripture

    Concerning the perspicuity of Scripture, D. A. Carson argues “Certainly the repeated calls to hear or read or obey what is written presuppose that what is written is intelligible (e.g., Deut. 4:1-4; cf. 6:4-0; 31:9-13; Ps. 19:7-11; Rom. 4:22-25; 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-11; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 1 Pet. 1:22-2:3)” (D. A. Carson, Is the Doctrine of Calritas Scripturae Still Relevant Today?, ed. D. A. Carson, Collected Writings on Scripture, [Crossway, 2010], p. 180).

    2 Corinthians 3:15-16

    Consider how 2 Corinthians 3 affirms how turning to the Lord or repenting enables our minds to grasp or understand Scripture:

    "But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds, but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed" (2 Corinthians 3:15-16).Hence, contrary to the claim that Scripture is not clear enough to be understood or interpreted by the man of God apart from tradition defined by the pope and apart from the Roman Magisterium, this text clearly shows that when a Christian turns to the Lord the veil is lifted off their mind concerning the meaning of Scripture when, beforehand, a veil was present. Murray J. Harris states:

    "Moses’ laudable attempt was, however, unsuccessful; instead of recognizing the significance of his veiled face, the Israelites became dulled in their powers of perception. Paul finds evidence of this spiritual insensitivity in the fact that down to his own day, when the old covenant (= the OT) was read in the synagogue or the Torah studied, the ability of the Jews to recognize the impermanence of the Mosaic order was impaired. A 'veil' covered their hearts comparable to the veil that covered Moses’ face. Paul could call it the “same” veil, because in both cases a veil prevented vision, whether physical r spiritual, or because it was identical to the veil of ignorance about the transitory nature of the Mosaic economy covering the hearts of the contemporaries of Moses. The veil remained unlifted . . . in the case of the unbelieving Jew, because only as he came to be 'in Christ' was the veil set aside” Murray J. Harris, 2 Corinthians, The Expositors Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Volume 10, [Zondervan. 1976], pp. 337-338).D. Moody Smith likewise notes:

    "That Paul sees in the coming of Jesus Christ not only the turning of the ages but the turning point for understanding Scripture is apparent from 2 Corinthians 3…Paul is evidently talking about the reading of some part of what one could call the OT. Paul apparently understands the veil over Moses’ face (3:13) to have been removed by Christ (3:14). This means the veil over the Mosaic Scriptures (3:15), whether the law or the whole of Scripture, is in principle taken away. Yet when the Scriptures are read (3:14-15), presumably in the synagogue, the veil remains if the hearers have not (yet) turned to the Lord. Paul is loath to say that the veil lies over Moses any longer, so he says it lies over the readers’ (or ‘hearers’) minds…When one turns to the Lord, to Christ, the veil is removed (v. 16; cf. v. 14). Conversion makes the Scriptures plain" (D, Moody Smith, The Pauline Literature, eds. Barnabas Lindars, D. A. Carson, Hugh Godfrey Maturin Williamson, It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars, SSF, [CUP Archive, 1988], p. 282).However, modern Rome wants you to believe that the Scriptures are not plain; they are not clear, and so you need the pope’s defined traditions as well as the interpretations of the Roman Magisterium for clarity about what Scripture teaches. The Roman Catholic writer Albert J. Nevins states “An infallible Bible without an infallible interpreter is a meaningless Bible” (Albert J. Nevins, Answering a fundamentalist, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1990], p. 54). God’s written revelation says otherwise. When a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed from Scripture and its meaning is made clear.

    Deuteronomy 29:29

    Deuteronomy 29:29 presupposes that the Scriptures of the Law will be readable and understood by God’s people of all generations: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

    Psalms 19:7-8; 119:130

    Moreover, Psalms 19:7-8 Scripture can be understood by the simple leading to them becoming wise and that it enlightens the eyes of those who read it:

    "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalms 19:7-8).Psalms 119:130 confirms the same thing:

    "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130).What is clearly deduced is that Scripture provides understanding to the simple, it revives souls, it makes wise the simple, and it enlightens eyes. These are the functions of Scripture, not the functions of the Roman Magisterium and Rome’s "tradition". Notice how these texts affirm the doctrine of the perspicuity as explained by David T. King:

    "the average person may learn, as a result of reading the Bible or hearing it read, those things necessary for salvation, even without human instruction or explanation, though God often uses the word preached or taught to the same end" (David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume 1, [Christian Resources, 2001], p. 195).This is what Scripture teaches. However, the modern Roman Catholic Church takes issue with this clear teaching of Holy Scripture. In his encyclical of 1893 Providentissimus Deus Pope Leo XIII relays the Roman view on Scripture’s alleged unclarity:

    "the sacred writings are wrapt in a certain religious obscurity…no one can enter into their interior without a guide" (Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 1893).2 Timothy 3:15

    In his opinion Rome is the guide, of course. But again, Scripture clearly teaches the opposite. In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul reminds his pupil Timothy, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The Greek word for “able” there is δυνάμενά (dynamena) meaning “being able” or “having power.” Therefore, Scripture is able or powerful to make people wise for salvation. That is Scripture’s role. However, Rome teaches that Scripture can not make people wise for salvation, but the Roman Magisterium makes people wise for salvation by giving their interpretation of Scripture and tradition.

    2 Peter 1:19

    In 2 Peter 1:19 Peter employs a lamp metaphor when referring to Scripture demonstrating it is clear: “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

    Colossians 4:16

    In Colossians 4:16 Paul presupposes the clearness of Scripture and orders that his letters bee read by Colossian people and Laodicean people. Paul states, “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). There is no evidence Peter infallibly interpreted these letters for these churches during the time they were read. In fact the evidence is against that idea since there is urgency in Paul’s exhortation to have these letters read by the people which would make time for such papal interpretations less likely. Moreover, we know that Paul was not banking on traveling to Colossi to give them an infallible interpretation of his letters since, at the time of writing, he was in prison. In 4:3 he says that, “. . . I am in prison” (Colossians 4:3). Hence, there is no reason to think that Paul confidently believed the Colossians and Laodiceans would receive an infallible papal or apostolic interpretation of his letters, and yet he still commands that the letters “be read among you,” etc. This again demonstrates that Scripture teaches and presupposes its own clearness in accordance with classical Protestant teaching.

    2 Kings 22:8-13

    In 2 Kings 22:8-13 we see more evidence for the perspicuity of Scripture:

    "8And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, "Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD." 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. 11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, 13 "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us" (2 Kings 22:8-13).The doctrine of perspicuity is to be clearly deduced from this text because not only could Shaphan the secretary read and properly understand this Book of the Law personally and know which part to read to the king due to understanding it, but the king was also able understand this Book of the Law when it was read to him as well, so much so that he clearly perceived it taught him that, “the wrath of the LORD . . . is kindled against us.” How could this be if the Roman theory of a necessary infallible interpreter due to the unclarity of Scripture is correct? So although many Catholic writers such as Richard M. Hogan will assert that, “the Pope and the bishops in union with the Pope, authentically interpret Revelation found in Scripture and Tradition” (Richard M. Hogan, Dissent from the Creed: Heresies Past and Present, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2001], p. 23), the repeated teaching of Holy Scripture on this issue does not support that position. Because the teaching of Scripture supports the doctrine of perspicuity, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith is correct when it affirms that, “things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them” (London Baptist Confession of Faith, Ch.1, par. 7).

    The 17th century reformed theologian Francis Turretin highlighted the error of Rome’s teaching on this issue in light of how Romanism functions:

    ". . .by a preposterous order they wish the church to be believed before they teach what the church ought to believe; and they wish the people to follow their leaders before they know whether those teachers inculcate true faith and the way of salvation. Their design is clear: namely, to subject the people in blind obedience to their authority and to withdraw them from the study and reading of Scripture (which alone can make us wise unto salvation) that they may more easily reign in darkness and prevent their errors from being brought to the light of truth" (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger and ed. James T. Dennison, [Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1992], Vol. 3, p. 6).

  • #2
    Originally posted by William View Post
    It needs to be understood that the classical reformation view of Sola Scriptura allows for tradition, creeds, councils and the teaching office of the church to be authorities, just as long as they are subordinate to Scripture which is the ultimate authority above them. If something taught in one of these lesser authorities ..... cannot be proved from Scripture, then those teachings are to be rejected.
    You can dance with fancy foot work, but when the rubber hits the road this is Bible alone - whether you call it solo scriptura or sola scriptura!
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