Saturday, August 21, 2010

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. 

(1.a) Gerry said: “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.”

I am pleased to say that the definition I gave in my Opening Essay was very similar to how Gerry phrased his first sentence above. This means I am not misrepresenting the doctrine. What is problematic is Gerry’s second sentence, which says God’s inspired teachings are found only in the Scriptures after a certain point in time. Since he has conceded below that there was a time when the word of God was spoken to men before being written, he must supply Biblical support for this change and that “now” only the Scriptures carry this inspired information.

(1.b) In speaking of how the debate will be won or lost, Gerry said this about me: “the only way for him [Nick] to defeat Sola Scriptura is that he should show another source of rule of faith.”

This is a problematic comment for a variety of reasons. The most serious problem is that it confuses the original, agreed upon resolution, to which Gerry took the affirmative to. In taking the affirmative, one takes on the burden of proving the resolution. This comment is akin to shifting the burden of proof, which is unfair and an invalid argument. Also, this comment falsely assumes Sola Scriptura is true until proven false by me, but how is it fair to assume what needs to be proven? It would be like me saying there is life on mars, taking the affirmative, and saying my opponent now must go to mars and disprove my assumption. These and other problems with this comment are highlighted in Section 2 of my Opening Essay of parameters that must be maintained for truly proving the resolution.

(1.c) I am glad Gerry went onto clarify what Sola Scriptura is not, so as to avoid misrepresentations. I am glad to say that I don’t think I misunderstood or misrepresented the doctrine in any of those ways. I would just like to comment upon the last clarification he gave.

Gerry said: “Lastly, Sola Scriptura does not deny that the word of God was once spoken even prior to its writing. God did not simply drop a complete book but spoke through his anointed ones to write down His very words.”

This is important information, and I believe it’s actually a problem for Gerry’s position. Since Gerry is conceding here that the “word of God was once spoken,” he must show that all (not just some) of this oral teaching was eventually written down. Without a verse saying this, he’s assuming what he has to prove, which leaves Sola Scriptura untaught by Scripture. Just as important, this concedes that during the times prior to the writing, the people at that time could not have been practicing Sola Scriptura by definition, since the rule of faith was still coming into existence.

(2.a) As I rightly guessed in my Opening Essay, the main proof text Gerry would turn to was 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Fortunately for me, I have covered the bases in my Opening Essay. Unfortunately for Gerry’s analysis of this passage, he leaves much to be proven. This will have to be addressed in his Rebuttal as well as the Concluding Essays if he wants to prove his resolution with this very important text.

(2.a.i) Gerry began by commenting on the first few words, but didn’t address the “pasa graphe” issue. He did say “it is not referring to the Old Testament alone,” but this is something he needs to prove. He needs to prove this refers to the whole Bible and not the OT alone or even individual books and passages of the OT. (Note that I am not saying the New Testament is not inspired, as a Catholic I believe all the books of the Old and New Testaments are inspired. What I am saying is that: in the case of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, what scope did Paul have in mind?) Gerry seems to be saying this is in reference to Scripture in general, but that doesn’t work since a reading of ‘Scripture in general is sufficient’ doesn’t make sense.

(2.a.ii) Commenting on the Four Ends of Scripture, Gerry says: “These words speak for themselves. We can use the Scriptures to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness because they came from God. This completes the thought that the Scriptures are authoritative.”

I would readily agree “these words speak for themselves,” because the Scriptures came from God and thus authoritative. But being authoritative doesn’t in any way mean they are the sole authority or even sufficient. This is precisely what Gerry has to prove, not assume.

Gerry goes on to comment on verse 17, which says Scripture leads to the man of God being fully equipped, which I have no problems with - except Gerry’s reading which attempts to prove Sola Scriptura by it. I believe that if he properly parses the verse, as I have done, it will show that it’s the Four Ends that fully equip the man, and Scripture is “profitable” (not sole sufficient) towards achieving those Four Ends.

(2.a.iii) Gerry concludes with: “Paul has not pointed any other source that is God-breathed, that is profitable for teaching, and that will make a man thoroughly equipped to do all good works. If Paul would have known any other source then Paul should have directed Timothy to those other sources because it is important to salvation and Christian living. What does that tell us? Scriptures is the only source of infallible rule of faith and morals.”

This is a textbook example of begging the question, in this case jumping from a general to a particular. He’s fallaciously jumping from “Scripture is *an* authority” to “Scripture must therefore be the *only* authority.” If all I had was the book of Matthew, would it be right to assume ‘Sola Matthew’? No, so by the same principle it’s wrong for Gerry to jump from the general to the particular. Further, Gerry suggested that Paul did not direct Timothy to other sources “important to salvation and Christian living,” but Gerry is flat out wrong by suggesting this. In verses 10-14, Paul tells Timothy to remember Paul’s oral instructions and Paul’s own life testimony precisely so that he will stay on the right path. That’s not “Scripture alone” by definition.

(2.b.i) Gerry’s next proof text for Sola Scriptura is Matthew 15:1-9, a direct parallel to Mark 7, which I addressed in my Opening Essay. Gerry makes many of the very arguments I directly addressed, including why such arguments were invalid. Hopefully, Gerry will address this in his Rebuttal Essay and Conclusion. For now, I will comment briefly on his remarks:

(2.b.ii)  I feel his comments worth quoting in full: “We find our Lord Jesus Christ rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the Law under the light of Scriptures. He upheld the authority of the Scriptures as the word of God and subjected to it the tradition observed by the Pharisees. Some people may say Christ is only refuting manmade tradition. But what these people don’t realize is that the Pharisees considered the Corban rule as authoritative and Christ did not refer to any source other than the Scriptures to rebuke the Pharisees. Where else did Christ hold these Pharisees accountable other than from Scripture? This tells us that whatever teaching we adapt, they should be subjected to Scripture alone.”

True, Jesus did rebuke the pharisees in light of the Scriptures, as an authority to test other teachings, but that’s a far cry from Sola Scriptura. Catholics have no problem using Scripture as a standard by which to test other teachings (in this case the doctrine of Sola Scriptura itself!!), demonstrating this is not enough to say Scripture is the sole authority. Further, Jesus wasn’t condemning tradition in general or even extolling Scripture above tradition. Rather, in this place, Jesus is objecting to a specific teaching that nullifies a command from God given in Scripture. So Scripture is being attacked, and Jesus is defending it. Thus we need not expect this to be a ‘Scripture versus Inspired Oral Tradition’ scenario. Lastly, Gerry’s remarks tell us nothing of the binding authority of teachings that Scripture is silent upon. How can Scripture judge a teaching if Scripture is silent on the issue?

(3) After talking about these two texts, Gerry closes his Essay in a single paragraph: “Therefore, with the verses which we read from Scriptures, clearly God’s authority has been written down in Scriptures alone which makes a man complete to do all His good works. Again, for Sola Scriptura to be refuted, my opponent must point to me another source of infallible rule of faith and morals.”

There really isn’t much new information I can add here that I haven’t already touched upon here or especially in my Opening Essay. All I can say is that I’m a bit disappointed that Gerry didn’t go into much more depth, especially when he had plenty of time and space. He’s going to have to seriously pick up his game in his rebuttal and conclusion if he hopes to win this debate.


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