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:
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.
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!
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).
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 Scripture...is 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.
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.