Sola Scriptura Debate - Gerry's Response to 5 Questions
Here are my responses to Nick's questions:
(1) What do you believe are the top 3 passages that most strongly teach Sola Scriptura?
Well, as I have presented in my opening statement, 2nd Timothy 3:16 and 17 is the leading proof text because this shows the nature of Scripture (theopneustos), its usefulness (teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness), and the effect on the man of God (thoroughy equipped unto all good works). If Scriptures were not sufficient, should the last word say "that the man of God is partially furnished to some good work"?
Next you have Matthew 15:1-9 which is a parallel to Mark 7:5-13. In this scenario Christ rebuked the Pharisees using Scriptures. Interesting enough to note that Christ equates the Scripture as word of God, Christ did not mention anything else as word of God.
Lastly, though not part on my opening statement, I consider Romans 15:4 as evidence:
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Paul here does not mention what else were used as a source of teaching salvation. This also in tune to the principle of Sola Scriptura for those in the present time since the Scriptures were written in the past for the hope of the present.
(2) How do you know what books belong in the Bible?
I know where you're going with this: the Bible does not have an inspired table of contents so if I appeal to an outside source I'm violating Sola Scriptura.
Well in this present time I know the books in the Bible because somebody taught me. But I don't consider the person who taught me as authoritative. You may conclude that it is by tradition that I know what Scriptures are. In a sense this is true, but I don't go about saying the books in the Bible are this and that because this is what has been taught all throughout generations. Tradition here pertains only to the means of learning what is Scripture, but not establishing the books of the Bible. The Christians of the present time don't need to re-invent the wheel. The question rather becomes how those who first compiled the Bible know which books are to be included?
The nature of the Scripture determines which books belonged in the Bible. Since Scriptures are God-breathed it bears a characteristic of God which only those who have a relationship with him can recognize. I have explained this in my rebuttal. This is similar to recognizing a friend even when you are blindfolded. Your friend's non-visual characteristics (e.g. sound, manner of speaking) which you have known due to your relationship will help you recognize him/her.
(3) How do you interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:15?
"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed (didasko) on to you, whether by word of mouth or (eite) by letter."
As I have explained in my rebuttal, Paul is stating how tradition is taught/passed: orally and in writing. The phrase "by mouth or by letter" is pertaining to "didasko" and not the word tradition. Making it more problematic for you is the conjunction "or" which leaves out room to distinguish tradition. So the actual message is tradition is passed either by speech or in writing.
If you say that there is oral tradition which is different from written tradition, then I challenge you to present me those apostolic traditions which I cannot find in Scripture.
(4) How could Jesus, the Apostles, and early Christians practice Sola Scriptura before all the books of Scripture were written?
The situation is similar of how could Jesus, the apostles, and early Christians pray the rosary (assuming this is permitted by God) if the Marian Mysteries has not been written yet or the cross and the beads have not been stringed together yet.
Sola Scriptura is temporarily inoperative when God is giving new revelations that were previously not written. Needless to say, Sola Scriptura does not function when there is no Scripture. I don't think this is something you should rejoice about because it is moot and academic. But when God is not giving any revelation, like in our current time, what operates? Christ quoted from Scriptures that were available at that time and held everyone accountable to it.
A support of that can be drawn from Matthew 22:29-32:
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
It's ironic that Christ did not say "have you not read what God WROTE to you" but we find it's "read" and "said". Meaning, after God has spoken His words, people wrote it down as authoritative. After some moments when God is not revealing, the people referred to what has been written.
That has been the practice ever since Moses, whom God spoke with to reveal his laws, died: Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it (Joshua 1:8). And we all know God revealed more things after Moses' death, but people wrote it down so that it can be referred to when God is not making any revelations.
So if you're going to argue that how could Christ practice Sola Scriptura if the Bible has not been completed, then you're arguing in the wrong time frame. It is much like me arguing how could a Jew who was born during the Old Testament times believe in the Second Coming of Christ.
(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?
My friend, it is God who controls what man needs to learn from Him. Listen to what Isaiah 55:10-12 says,
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
It is God who decided what to reveal, when to reveal, and how to reveal his words.
Your question is like asking how do I know that all apostolic teachings have been contained in Scripture. That would make Paul a liar when he the said the Scripture makes a man thoroughly equipped for all good works if there are teachings not contained therein.