Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - Nick's Response to 5 Questions

 Sola Scriptura Debate - Nick's Response to 5 Questions

I will now respond to the 5 questions Gerry asked me for the cross-examination portion of the debate:

Question 1:
1. Give me just one apostolic teaching that is proven to be:
a. originating from the apostles;
b. necessary for salvation; and
c. which I cannot find in Scriptures and which your teachers make no reference in Scripture
Please provide your sources for the above question.

Answer to Q1:
Responding to this answer is going to be tricky, since the parameters by which Gerry wants me to answer this question don’t necessarily reflect the way Catholic teaching is presented.

For example, in “b” he wants the teaching be necessary for salvation, but this depends on how “necessary” is being used. The teaching that Christ has a human will and a Divine Will is a true teaching, and binding on those who know about it, but a large percentage of genuine Christians have not heard of this teaching (or heresies associated with it) and are not bound to an explicit affirmation of it. The same can be said in regards to a whole host of Christian doctrines that are true and important but above the level of mainstream Christian understanding.

Another example of why answering Gerry’s question is tricky is because in “c” he says it is to have no reference in Scripture, yet since I believe teachings like the Immaculate Conception have support in Scripture, I cannot use such examples to answer his question. (I hold to a high degree of material sufficiency, in which I believe Scripture gives at least implicit support to almost all Catholic teachings.)

If I had to give an answer, I’d say the teaching of the Canon of Scripture would fit within Gerry’s three parameters. The 73 books which the Catholic Bible contains is (a) a teaching of the apostles, (b) necessary for salvation as far as one is aware they are bound to affirm this canon, and (c) does not have (sufficient) support in Scripture to determine. To clarify on “c,” while some books in Scripture are called “scripture,” others are not, so a book like Jude would have to be known as “Scripture” by a purely extra-biblical teaching.

Gerry asked that I “prove” this answer. The proof is in the fact that all Christians, including Gerry, accept more less the same canon of Scripture (though the Protestant canon is missing books). How does Gerry determine that Jude is Scripture if Scripture never says that this Writing is “Scripture”? The only way is through oral Apostolic Tradition - the very thing he denies exists and the very thing that disproves his thesis by definition.

Question 2:
2. Since you mentioned an argument about the canon, I would like to ask you the dreaded James White Question: How did the Jews who were born 50 years before Christ know that Isaiah and 2nd Chronicles are inspired? Please note that Christ has not been incarnated at that time, neither was His church founded, and neither was there an infallible magisterium.

Answer to Q2:
I am not sure why this question is to be “dreaded” since I don’t see it as a difficult question at all. The answer is simple: Inspired Oral Tradition. That is the way a Jew knew whether any given OT book was inspired or not. Nowhere in Scripture do we see each Jew individually out to determine whether this or that book was inspired. Rather, they were presented with books and writings from (manifest) human authorities like Moses or another Prophet and they accepted what their superiors said. When it came time for worship, they would hear whatever Books/Scrolls were read as Scripture in the Temple or Synagogue, not stopping to check for themselves if the book was inspired or not. The fact is, this question doesn’t help the Sola Scriptura case at all, since Sola Scriptura cannot answer this very question!

Question 3:
3. Of all the churches that claim to be founded by Christ and claim to know what is Scripture, please tell me what is the basis of your reliance on the church you belong right now is indeed the true church that is rightfully telling you what Scriptures are?

Answer to Q3:
I would first begin to answer this question by looking at the most possible candidates: Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Catholics.

Protestants don’t (generally) claim that their specific denomination was founded by Christ in any tangible way. In other words, most of them (especially in this modern age) would not say Christ founded their denomination and that their denomination is the One True Church to which all other Protestants and Catholics must submit. Because they don’t make this claim, they can’t be the Church Christ founded by definition. In this situation, there is no way to even define what is “heresy,” since no denomination will step up and claim Magisterial Authority to point out heresy and condemn it. For example, is there any Baptist church today - speaking as a authority for all Christians - that teaches infant baptism is a heresy and that to accept it would put one’s soul in jeopardy? I know of none. Someone like Baptist James White would say Catholics are not Christian since they deny Sola Fide, but he would not go as far as say a fellow Protestant of another denomination like a Presbyterian (who do baptize infants) is in heresy (and thus cannot be saved).

Without affirming in an Infallible Magisterium (which Protestants deny by virtue of accepting Sola Scriptura), one cannot be the Church Christ founded by definition. There was clearly a Magisterium in the Apostolic Age, as texts like Matthew 16:18, 18:18 and Acts 15 show, so the Protestant must claim this model died off with the Apostles. Since Scripture doesn’t teach teach this model disappeared, this leaves only the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox left as options.

Part of Gerry’s question said that the Church had to claim what was Scripture, yet I’m unaware of any settled upon canon of Scripture among Eastern Orthodox. For example, the Confession of Dositheos from a major Eastern Orthodox council in the 1600s was affirmed by all five EO Patriarchs and affirmed the same canon of Scripture that the Catholic Church holds. However, many EO don’t believe Dositheos was binding, and thus hold to different canons of Scripture. For example, a major Catechism of the Russian Orthodox is the Catechism of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow (from the 1800s), and it denied certain books (basically the same 7 that Protestants reject) were of the same status to the other accepted Old Testament books and thus not Scripture in the truest sense. Such confusion cannot be part of the Church Christ founded.

This leaves only the Catholic Church, who has openly and continually claimed to be the Church Christ founded and has laid out the Canon of Scripture many times in history, but most formally and infallibly at the Council of Trent (in response to the Protestants tampering with the canon, e.g. when Luther wanted books like James to be of inferior status to books like Romans).

Question 4:
4. Has your church ever gave an official interpretation of all verses in all books of the Bible and all oral traditions? Please expound on your answer.

No, but I don’t see why it would have to. It would be akin to asking a Protestant to list off all the teachings and interpretations of Scripture that are required for salvation. Further, Catholics hold to the notion that most passages of Scripture can be taken in multiple senses (without contradicting eachother, i.e. all true), and thus it would be impractical (if not impossible) to write out all the possible interpretations. Protestants generally deny there are multiple ways Scripture can be taken, as the Westminster Confession 1:9 says, “the true and full sense of any not manifold, but one”. In some instances, the Catholic Church has bound Christians to accept certain interpretations of a given passage, without denying other (non contradicting) interpretations as well.

Question 5:
5. How do you understand 2nd Timothy 3:16 and 17?

Answer to Q5:
In my opening Essay (section 3.A), I explained why 2 Timothy 3:16f cannot be teaching Sola Scriptura as well as a few facts about some of the Greek and properly parsing the text. Since most of that was spent explaining what it cannot mean, I will now turn to what I believe it is saying. The term “Scripture” carries with it the built-in assumption that it is an inspired writing, so I think it redundant to read v16 as “all inspired writings are inspired by God and also profitable” and rather think the proper understanding is something akin to “all Scripture, being inspired by God, is thus profitable.” Many Protestants would agree with this. Given that “scripture” here is in the singular, I take it to mean Paul is saying that every individual book or passage of Scripture, by virtue of its inspiration is profitable - and this is to emphasize that even though not all passages are as helpful and exciting and readable as others, they are still inspired by God. So, for example, Genesis might be more helpful and exciting than Obadiah, but the latter is also inspired by God and thus profitable. While I believe the NT writings are inspired just as much as the OT, I don’t see enough evidence in this passage to grant that Paul was speaking of more than the OT in this context. This is also taking into consideration that there is no indication that this very Epistle of “2nd Timothy” (a private correspondence) was counted as “Scripture,” as well as the fact verses 3:10-14 tell Timothy to follow along in Paul’s footsteps as well as other human teachers rather than to consult their writings (i.e. Paul is by no means telling Timothy to turn exclusively to Scripture).

As I explained in my opening Essay, when verses 16-17 are properly parsed, Paul is saying “Scripture is profitable towards Four Ends (i.e. teaching, correcting, rebuking, righteousness)” and that “these Four Ends fully equip the Man of God.” If Timothy wants to be a well rounded Christian leader, he needs to well trained in doctrine, maintain righteous living, and have the courage to rebuke and correct dissenters. Scripture is very helpful in building these qualities. But as verses 3:10-14 (and throughout 1 & 2 Timothy) we see Paul’s living testimony and oral teachings contribute to those qualities as well. This ties directly into Paul’s immediate instructions following in 4:1-5. People must take care when reading 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that they don’t rip it out of it’s context and make it more than what it really is focused upon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - 5 Questions for Nick

Sola Scriptura Debate - 5 Questions for Nick

We are now in the cross examination portion. Here are my five questions for my opponent, Nick:

1. Give me just one apostolic teaching that is proven to be:

a. originating from the apostles;
b. necessary for salvation; and
c. which I cannot find in Scriptures and which your teachers make no reference in Scripture

Please provide your sources for the above question.

2. Since you mentioned an argument about the canon, I would like to ask you the dreaded James White Question: How did the Jews who were born 50 years before Christ know that Isaiah and 2nd Chronicles are inspired? Please note that Christ has not been incarnated at that time, neither was His church founded, and neither was there an infallible magisterium.

3. Of all the churches that claim to be founded by Christ and claim to know what is Scripture, please tell me what is the basis of your reliance on the church you belong right now is indeed the true church that is rightfully telling you what Scriptures are?

4. Has your church ever gave an official intepretation of all verses in all books of the Bible and all oral traditions? Please expound on your answer.

5. How do you understand 2nd Timothy 3:16 and 17?

Sola Scriptura Debate - Rebuttal Essay by Gerry

I would like to thank Nick once again for posting his opening statement. The entirety of Nick's argument is found here.

His opening however is quite unusual since it contains rebuttals to Evangelical evidences which should be done in his rebuttals and not on the opening statements. Furthermore, it presented Evangelical evidences which I didn’t present in my opening as evidences and now I am supposed to defend what I didn’t present. I will reiterate this later.
I will only tackle the things Nick said which I find objectionable:

(b) The burden of proof is upon my opponent. Since he has chosen to take the affirmative side to this resolution, any argument assuming Sola Scriptura is true until proven false is begging the question and invalid. Further, this also means that Sola Scriptura doesn’t automatically become true just because a given Catholic doctrine is unproven or even false.

Of course we will not utilize the fallacy of ignorance on this debate as it is unfair to anyone. However, my requirement to refute Scripture alone by presenting another rule of faith is valid and logical. Roman Catholics have attempted without success to refute Sola Fide or Faith Alone by proving that works is also necessary in salvation. So common sense will tell us that to dispute what is “alone” another related item must be presented. And this is what I will hold my opponent for the duration of this debate.

On Nick’s exegesis of 2nd Timothy 3:16 concerning “All Scriptures:

Based on the Greek grammar of the text, with the word “pasa” generally meaning “every” and “graphe” in the singular meaning “[individual book or verse of] Scripture,” the text most accurately reads “every individual book or verse of Scripture.” It could possibly mean “all Scripture [as a whole],” but that is only a maybe, based on an exception to the general rule. If one doesn’t see the implications of this grammar, the following substitution and analogy should better highlight the problem:
“Every individual book or verse of Scripture is sufficient” is akin to saying “Every individual letter of the alphabet is sufficient for writing any word.”
“All Scripture as a whole is sufficient” is akin to saying “All letters of the alphabet, taken together, are sufficient for writing any word.”

The term “Scripture” (graphe in Greek) is used about 50 times in the New Testament, virtually always referring to the Old Testament as a whole or individual verses or passages of the Old Testament. The only clear exception for any New Testament writing being called “Scripture” is 2 Peter 3:16, speaking of Paul’s Epistles in general as Scripture, but even then that doesn’t tell us which of his writings in specific are included or even if this is what Paul was speaking of to Timothy. (For example: Does 2 Peter 3:16 include Paul's private correspondence to Titus and Timothy? Or what about the 'lost letters' of Paul (e.g. 1 Cor 5:9; Col 4:16) which either were uninspired or are speaking of some other NT work?) Given this, Paul could very well have simply been speaking of only the Old Testament at this point, which doesn’t help the Sola Scriptura case for similar reasons as given in (i) above.  

This is more polemical than scholar. Even if you don’t resort to going to the Greek manuscript, context will tell you that what Paul is telling us the nature of Scripture – God breathed. Common sense will tell you that what is not God-breathed is not Scripture.
On the allegations that the apostles did not practice Sola Scriptura, Nick put malice in Dr. James White:

What is important to point out, as many have done, is that James White has effectively conceded Sola Scriptura (especially via 2 Timothy 3:16f) is functionally impossible and thus false. Since 2 Timothy 3:16-17 applied during a "time of enscripturation," it couldn't have been teaching Sola Scriptura without falling into the fallacy of anachronism (that is, reading back into a text a historically impossible detail). The truth is, the Protestant can only speculate as to when the last NT book was written and when. Many NT Scholars actually say Revelation was the last book to be written.

James White is telling us what is moot and academic. Do we expect an Old Testament Jew to believe that Christ built a church wherein that period Christ wasn’t born yet? Let’s presume that all Roman Catholic doctrines are true, can a Jew during the Old Testament time believe in the Assumption of Mary or do they pray the rosary? Of course not. Mary wasn’t born yet and the New Testament Magisterium wasn’t established yet. The same is true for Scriptures. If God is giving new revelations, we should listen. As I have mentioned in my opening, Sola Scriptura does not deny that the Scriptures were once spoken. But what do we do when God is not giving any new revelations? Christ holds everyone accountable to their deeds in the light of Scripture.

(iii) The term “sufficient” doesn’t actually appear in 2 Timothy 3:16, and rather the term is actually "profitable" (which is a much ‘weaker’ term). A Protestant might read the text as 'Scripture is [or must be] sufficient to fully equip the Man of God', but that’s a jumping to conclusions and improperly parsing (i.e. splitting up) the text.

I need not refute any further as I made no such argument. What I did make is to explain the relationship of verses 16 and 17.
Nick made rebuttals on some proof text Evangelicals used in favor of Sola Scriptura:

(b) Acts 17:11. It is often claimed that the Bereans of Acts 17 exemplified the teaching of Sola Scriptura since they “examined the Scriptures daily” to see if Paul’s teaching was indeed “biblical”.
(c) 1 Corinthians 4:6. The phrase “do not go beyond what is written” is taken by some to mean ‘do not go outside the pages of Scripture for your doctrines’.
(d) John 20:30-31. This verse is taken to mean that even though Jesus did and said many things, only what was sufficient for salvation was written down, and thus Scripture Alone is all that the Christian needs.
(e) Matthew 4:1-11. The argument is that since Jesus turned only to Scripture and quoted it as the highest authority, that Sola Scriptura must be true.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t use the above verses as evidences. Therefore, I am not required to answer Nick’s rebuttal. I believe this is a technicality.

(f) Mark 7:5-13. It is often claimed that here Christ definitively rejected tradition in favor of Scripture alone.
This reading is very problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, the “tradition” Jesus condemned was a human tradition, not inspired tradition which the Apostles passed on before any NT writings came into being. These “traditions of men” were condemned precisely because they overturned other commandments of God, not even simply because they were “traditions”. These “traditions of men” were more akin to something resembling Sola Scriptura than anything else, for the “tradition” condemned here was having one Scripture trump another, namely the command to stay true to your donation vow (Numbers 30:2) with the command to honor and support your parents. Jesus only condemned two traditions, the “Corban Rule” and the “Unwashed Hands”, which is hardly a warrant for saying Jesus condemned tradition in general.
In short, this passage was not a blanket condemnation of any and all tradition by any means, yet that is precisely the oversimplified definition one must project onto the chapter for it to support Sola Scriptura. 

Although I did not quote from Mark 7:5-13, it is nevertheless a parallel to Matthew 15:1-9.
Unfortunately for Nick, that’s not how the Evangelical argument goes. When Christ was rebuking the Pharisees, he used the Scriptures. He didn’t quote from any oral tradition which cannot be found in Scripture. Christ didn’t even say, “Hey, your magisterium does not approve of that tradition!”
Now for a more serious discussion, Nick presented his arguments against Sola Scriptura:

(a) Christ nor the Apostles engaged in Sola Scriptura. In section 3.a.ii it was shown why Christ and the Apostolic Church couldn’t go by Sola Scriptura, the Bible wasn’t complete yet. All throughout the Gospels, Christ is introducing new doctrines and information that wasn’t written down (until later) and the same can be said of the Apostolic preaching throughout most of Acts. Also, Christ never told the Apostles to write anything down nor that He would leave a book behind for future generations.

I already refuted a similar argument earlier. A Jew during the Old Testament time is not expected to believe in the second coming of Christ. Why? Christ hasn’t been incarnated yet.

(b) The canon. The Protestant position presupposes what books belong in Scripture, without sufficient Biblical evidence. Without the (proper) canon of Scripture, Sola Scriptura cannot function. To argue something along the lines of ‘Matthew is inspired because it was written by the Apostle Matthew’ is already leaving the pages of Scripture. This kind of information can only ultimately come from inspired Oral Teaching.

This argument suggests that there must be an infallible entity to determine what Scriptures are. But the problem with this is that a person must first determine which is the infallible entity, how will he do that? The believers of God identify what is Scripture because they have a relationship with God. Having this relationship, they know the actions of God like a boyfriend knowing the actions of his girlfriend as gained from their bonding times. John 10:4-5 says:

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
By the way, will a person go to hell for not knowing that Matthew wrote Matthew?

(d) The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). The Council of Jerusalem didn’t appeal to Scripture in any way akin to how Sola Scriptura operates. There was a major doctrinal controversy, but rather than turn to Scripture, the Apostles made an authoritative ruling. The only quote from Scripture the Council turned to was a generalized Old Testament prophecy that didn’t touch directly upon the issue of circumcision. The Church acted infallibly when it issued the decree “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (15:28), and made these teachings binding on all(16:4), which rules out Sola Scriptura by definition.

This is a lie, in Acts 15:15 to 18, James was quoting Amos 9:11-12 in support of his declaration. So who says they didn’t appeal to Scripture? Furthermore, since the Holy Spirit was revealing this to them, it is a period of ensrcripturation.

(c) The Word of God. While many mistakenly think the phrase “word of God” refers to the Bible, the fact is the phrase “word of God,” as used in Scripture, most often refers to the oral teachings of the Apostles, especially in reference to the Gospel. Texts such as 1 Thessalonians 2:13 say this “word of God” is explicitly the oral teaching of the Apostles. For Sola Scriptura to work, it would have to be shown that this oral teaching was eventually (sufficiently) written down, but the Bible never says this.
(e) 2 Thessalonians 2:15. This texts tells us to hold onto the traditions the Apostles passed on whether they came in oral or written format. This indicates the presence of oral as well as written teaching from the Apostles, explicitly refuting Sola Scriptura. The context of this verse is very much is that of a “rule of faith” scenario, explaining this all pertains to the Gospel and salvation.

The two are related. This is what I require since my opening statement. You do not know how every Roman Catholic misunderstood 2nd Thessalonians 2:15. The verse does not say hold on to oral and written traditions. It says hold on to traditions that was delivered orally and in writing. The manner of transmitting tradition was done through oral and written means. The verse does not suggest that there are oral traditions which cannot be found in written traditions. It only distinguishes the manner of delivery.

(f) Jude 1:14-15. In St Jude’s Epistle, he quotes a prophecy of the Old Testament Patriarch Enoch. While some would say Jude was quoting an apocryphal source, this doesn’t do justice to the fact this is an inspired prophecy kept for centuries. What is more accurate is that this was a truly inspired prophecy uttered by Enoch, but it was never written down and was rather passed on orally. The same thing can be said in regards to Jude 1:9 and St Michael the Archangel. This obviously disproves the notion of Sola Scriptura.

And up to now, Vatican has not determined if the source of Jude’s quotation is useful for the church. To say that this comes from oral tradition or some assumed source simply because it cannot be found in the Old Testament is arguing from ignorance. How about the possibility of being directed by the Holy Spirit? It’s a big leap for Nick and not to mention wishful thinking.

Overall, Nick is repeating the same banana that the likes of Patrick Madrid, Gerry Matatics, and even Stephen Ray have been banging. These arguments have long been refuted yet it is often repeated stubbornly.
Like I said, in order for Nick to defeat Sola Scriptura he must show me another rule of faith. He must prove that Scripture alone is not alone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - 5 Questions for Gerry

Sola Scriptura Debate - 5 Questions for Gerry

(1) What do you believe are the top 3 passages that most strongly teach Sola Scriptura?

(2) How do you know what books belong in the Bible?

(3) How do you interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:15?

(4) How could Jesus, the Apostles, and early Christians practice Sola Scriptura before all the books of Scripture were written?

(5) If you believe there was orally inspired teaching at one point in time, particularly at the time of the Apostles, how do you know this oral teaching was at some point confined to Scripture?

Sola Scriptura Debate - Rebuttal Essay by Nick

Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?

Rebuttal ESSAY

I would like to start off by saying I’m not sure why Gerry’s Opening Essay was so short, using approximately 1/4 of the essay word limit. Given that this is a Rebuttal Essay of his Opening Essay, I will attempt to address everything he wrote that I deem problematic for proving his thesis. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - Opening Essay by Gerry

Sola Scriptura Debate - Affirmative Opening Essay by Gerry

As an Evangelical Christian, I firmly believe that the Bible alone is sufficient to function as the infallible rule of faith and morals. I believe that God’s inspired word is found in no where else but in the Scriptures. This is what we call, Sola Scriptura. Although man may embrace traditions and interpretations, those things are subject to the scrutiny of the Scriptures. For the next series of blog entries, I will prove my stand using the Bible itself.

Sola Scriptura Debate - Opening Essay by Nick

Debate Resolution: Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?
Affirming: Gerry (Protestant)
Denying: Nick (Catholic)


I want to begin by thanking my opponent, Gerry, for being open to having this debate. We both know just how much hangs in the balance with the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, so it’s obvious that this doctrine should be a major focus for those trying to see if the Catholic or Protestant side is the correct one.

Sola Scriptura Debate Announcement

I am pleased to announce an upcoming debate I'm having on Sola Scriptura with a Protestant. His name is Gerry, from the Philippines. His blog is Solutions Finder Apologetics.

Debate Resolution: Does the Bible teach Sola Scriptura?
Affirming: Gerry
Denying: Nick

The "clock" started on August 8, 2010 (yesterday), but I've been so busy that I haven't had time to even post this! Thankfully, everything else seems on schedule.

The format will be as follows:
August 14  -  Opening Essays due (4k words)
August 21 - Rebuttal Essays due (4k words)
August 21 - Submit 5 questions to the other due
August 28 - Response to questions due (1k words response per question)
September 4 - Concluding Essays due (4k words)

There aren't many other details other than an optional extra week grace period per person in the event we get too busy.