Friday, March 4, 2011

List of teachings Protestants cannot agree upon due to Sola Scriptura.

The following is a 'open' list of teachings (subject to further expansion) which Protestants cannot agree upon due to the doctrinal relativism caused by Sola Scriptura. Though many Protestants today would "solve" this problem by tossing a lot of these into the "non-essential" category, I believe the doctrinal issues I've mentioned have been clearly seen to cause division among Protestants:
  1. Once Saved Always Saved
  2. Universal versus Limited Atonement
  3. Infant Baptism
  4. Form of Baptism (e.g. full immersion vs pouring)
  5. Whether Baptism is necessary in ordinary circumstances
  6. Whether the Lord's Supper is purely symbolic or some sort of 'real' presence
  7. Divorce and Remarriage
  8. Whether icons/pictures of Christ are allowed
  9. Which doctrines are perspicuous/essential
  10. Whether Charismatic Gifts of the Spirit have ceased
  11. Whether instruments are allowed in church
  12. Female ordination
  13. The "biblical" form of church government
  14. Sunday versus any day worship / Whether the Sabbath is still in force in some sense.
  15. House churches versus dedicated congregational churches
  16. Dispensationalism
  17. Rapture/Tribulation
  18. Imputed Active Obedience
  19. Whether traditional categories like Person/Nature are true/valid
  20. Mary being "Mother of God"
  21. Mary's Perpetual Virginity
  22. Whether Inspiration of Scripture is plenary or limited to faith and morals
  23. Whether one can/should pray to the Holy Spirit
  24. Whether Sola Scriptura applied during the time of Christ and the Apostles
  25. How to define/understand Sola Scriptura, especially as it relates to Creeds and Councils
  26. Should Christians engage in politics, civil service, etc. 
  27. Whether Christians should pray the Our Father
  28. Whether prayer should be only spontaneous
  29. Whether keeping the Commandments is necessary for salvation
  30. Whether illness, suffering, poverty, etc, are due to sin or lack of faith
  31. Whether Free Will and Double Predestination are true or not
  32. Whether Mark 16:9-20, John 8:1-11, etc, are actually part of Scripture
  33. Which translation of Scripture should be normative (e.g. KJV)
  34. Which Protestant denominations are to be considered "Christian"
Feel free to mention some other examples in the comment box!


scotju said...

Nick, I think you pretty much covered the waterfront with your post. It is this sort of foolishness that convinced me that Protestantism's Sola Scriptura was a recipe for confusion. In order to figure out how the Apostle's teaching is to be carried out is by consulting the writings of the Church Fathers. When I did that, prior to my converison, all of my sola problems were sorted out, one by one. The Protestants can never use the Father's rightly, because they want to understand the Father's though their Protestant beliefs, instead of the Father's being allowed to speak for themselves.

Brian said...

Wheter or not we should pray the Our Father and if prayer must always be spontaneous.

If obeying the commandments is required for salvation.

Illness and suffering is due to personal sin or a lack of faith.

Nick said...


What's worse is that some Protestants today who are generally well read in the Fathers come to the "conclusion" that the Early Church Fathers "were neither Protestant nor Catholic"...can you believe that? In other words, it's a frank admission that Protestantism is ahistorical, but it's a 'so what?' situation for them anyway.


Great suggestions! I'll add them now!

CathApol said...

Hi Nick,
I recently have been in an exchange with "TurretinFan" on his blog, which after I pointed out a contextual faux pas he has asked me to stop commenting in that combox. I have part of that discussion on my blog... feel free to comment there too!


CathApol said...

Oh, BTW Nick, kudos to you too in the points you raised on TF's blog!


Jae said...

Nick you forgot the necessity of Sabbath Day observance for salvation and also the Lordship vs. Non-Lordship salvation.

Once the interpretation of Scripture resides on "self-conscience" authority doctrine of the protestants which really strips the Scripture of its authority, the end result is inevitable, Relativism.

Jae said...

Oh you already listed the Sabbatarian doctrine at no. 14.

How about the Deity of Christ? JWitnesses, Mormons vs. Trinitarian.

How about the necessity of producing good works/obedience for justification vs. total non-necessity.

How about determinism that was characterized by unconditional election vs conditional.


Michael said...

This is the first time I have read your blog. What you have written in the post is comedic. You beg the question in assuming that Sola Scriptura is to blame, when in fact men do twist the text of Scripture due to their rebellion. Why do you assume the existence of contrary doctrines is a result of a revelation that is incapable of communicating with clarity? Furthermore, one could point to the innumerable amount of discordance among the diverse ranks of Romanism and draw a hasty conclusion about the magesterium using your logic. The existence of doctrinal discontinuity does not provide a sufficient basis for one to assume an insufficient and unclear text. If it did, the existence of liberal Catholicism would undermine the very argument you are attempting to make.

Nick said...


I did include the Sabbath Day disputes, but I'm not sure what Lordship salvation is. Your determinism suggestion was a good one, which I'm framing it in more popular terms of free will and double predestination.

I agree with your conclusion, and it's similar to my own: when Protestants are confronted with all these disputed arguments, they must admit their Sola Scriptura paradigm forces them into doctrinal relativism, which in it's modern form states the only "essential" is to believe "Jesus is Lord," with all those other issues being "non-essential" and thus left to personal "taste".

I didn't include the JWs, LDS, or other similar issues, because Protestants are generally agreed upon those.

Nick said...


I certainly understand where you're coming from. Technically speaking, Scripture could be so clear on all these subjects that the only reason for division is the ignorance or hard-heartedness of men. But in reality this doesn't appear so, for in the overwhelming majority of examples I quoted, I know of such disputes happening *within* denominations. For example, I know of well informed Calvinists that dispute numerous doctrines on that list with other well informed Calvinists. Also, most Christians would agree Scripture doesn't speak clearly on many of those issues, yet they end up being divisive.

The truth is, each sect can only claim "hard heart" only so much, before it becomes a cop-out. The truth is, only Magisterial authority can settle many of those disputes, and if you think God has no problem with believers being free to take as long as they want to work things out, I'd say that's a dangerous approach. For example, if divorce is forbidden, then how much de-facto adultery has to be condoned by Protestants allowing divorce before we can say there needs to be a stop to this?

Your secondary objection was that Catholics "disagree" on doctrines as well, meaning I'm using a double standard. The truth is, Catholics can only disagree on what is not defined by the Church, and we recognize degrees of assent we must have depending on the subject. Given this, there technically is no such thing as a 'liberal' or 'conservative' Catholic, only a faithful and less than faithful one. The term "liberal" is just a convenient title. In regards to the list I gave, the Church has spoken definitively on virtually all the doctrines on the list, so there isn't such discord among Catholics on them.

On the other hand, the items on that list expose the Protestant being in a vicious spiral downward of endless compromises between unity and doctrine.

Michael said...

You have given away the farm. You stated, "there technically is no such thing as a 'liberal' or 'conservative' Catholic, only a faithful and less than faithful one." Among those who affirm the bible as authoratative and who name Christ as Lord, there are only those who are more faithful and less faithful in their adherence to what the text of Scripture clearly teaches. You simply place a human magesterium in the place of Scripture. Furthermore, you remain in a state of circular reasoning, as you assume that the insufficiency/lack of clarity of Scripture is to blame for doctrinal discord. It is that assertion you must prove, and not simply posit. Given the fact that men are fallen, which is the more likely case? So too given that Scripture itself attests to its own clarity and sufficiency, I'd say you have quit a burden of proof to bear...

Nick said...


I agree there are people who are less faithful to Scripture than others as far as creating a liberal-conservative characterization goes for Protestants AND Catholics. The thing is though, this doesn't work with many of the doctrines I gave, because it's more about "essential" versus "non-essential," meaning it's a matter of optional versus necessary. One is not "less faithful" to Scripture if they differ on a non-essential.

Another important point is that you seem to be thinking I am speaking of Scripture as non-perspicuous in a pejorative sense. I believe Scripture is clear for many things, but I see nothing in Scripture indicating it is clear on all essentials, or even what those essentials are.

Michael said...

Either an individual believes what Scripture teaches regarding an issue (more faithful), or they dissent (less faithful, depending on how far they have gone). The dichotomy between essential and secondary doctrines is one that is present in your religion too; dogma v doctrine.

Scripture isn't clear on the essentials? That is an outright falsehood. Tell me, what essential Christian doctrine is Scripture not clear on? Let me guess, the Trinity, or the deity of Christ as your friend alluded too earlier? You see, if what you were saying is true, then the text of Scripture would contain falsehoods, because it is the word of God that attests to it's own sufficiency. This I have demonstrated here:

Nick said...


The dogma vs doctrine distinction can exist in Catholicism because there is a central teaching authority to lay out what is Dogma. This doesn't exist in Protestantism, resulting in no way to distinguish between essential and non-essentials, and hence the disagreements.

The more-faithful versus less-faithful dichotomy breaks down quickly when it comes to addressing just what is "essential."

You said: "Scripture isn't clear on the essentials? That is an outright falsehood. Tell me, what essential Christian doctrine is Scripture not clear on?"

If it's an outright falsehood, then surely you can provide a list of these "essentials". I've not found a Protestant who can provide me with the list.

Scripture is clear on a lot of things, but as I said, that's not logically equivalent to being clear on all essentials. If the Bible were sufficiently perspicuous, then it's likely the Arian crisis would never have happened, nor other divisive doctrines like infant baptism.

Jae said...

If Sola Scriptura is really from the Bible, where and when did Jesus teach sola scriptura? did the apostles even teach sola scriptura?

If the doctrine is not even found nor taught in the Bible (which is considered essential) then why would one believe in such a novel idea?

If there exist a dispute between two abiding Christians on some key doctrines/dogmas of christianity which is a Divine Revelation by itself, then who can settle the dispute?

If sola scriptura doctrine and the concomitant private interpretation of the Bible is not the source of Protestant doctrinal chaos, what is the source of the doctrinal chaos within Protestantism?

Mr. Keith Mathison a well-known Evangelical reformed apologist claims that any Christian is free to reject whatever his church teaches if he feels he is following his conscience:

Mathison grants that each individual may appeal to Scripture to correct the Church, disobey the Church and leave the Church, so long as he is following his conscience.

(Ref: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority):

This novelty of the Reformation, this “primacy of conscience” doctrine, is the root cause of the “radical individualism” that Mathison deplores as being the cause of the “chaos and anarchy that exists within the Protestant church.”

There you are straight from the reformed heart itself.

Pax et bonum

Jim Paton said...

There seems to be a problem with this, namely contradiction:

"This “radical individualism” that Mathison deplores as being the cause of the “chaos and anarchy that exists within the Protestant church.”

But Mathison states that "each individual may appeal to Scripture to correct the Church, disobey the Church and leave the Church, so long as he is following his conscience."

How can he deplore radical indivdualism and at the same time allow for each individual to appeal to Scripture to correct the Church? And who is there within Protestantism to say when the individual has went too far? Oh that's right, Scripture is the infallible interpreter of Scripture. That will stop the individual. Yeah right!

It amazes me that it hasn't struck people like Mathson as nuts to suggest that an inanimate object can interpret itself. Not just interpret itself, but infallibly interpret itself. And to believe that these people are taken seriously by sane individuals.LOL.
Lord have mercy, the loonies have taken over the asylum.

Jae said...

@ Nick,

The "lordship salvation" controversy (also "Lordship Controversy") is a theological dispute of soteriology within Protestantism, mostly limited to adherents of Evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism in North America during the 1980s and 1990s.[1]

While all Evangelicals affirm salvation by grace alone, some believe that grace is received by faith alone, while others believe that this grace results in conscious submission to the moral law of God. In Evangelical parlance, this distinction is expressed as accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour on one hand, and as "Lord" on the other. "Lordship salvation" is thus the belief that the possibility of salvation depends on two separate conditions, the acceptance of Jesus Christ not only as Saviour, but also submission and obedience to Jesus Christ as "Lord", also expressed as "Trust and Obey".[1]

Opponents of "lordship salvation" argue that it promotes a works-centered view of justification neglects the principles of faith alone and grace alone. Proponents argue that "lordship salvation" does adhere to these principles, since it regards good works not as the cause but as the consequence of salvation.

@ Jim,

You hit right on the mark. A holy dominican priest once said about protestantism, "at the heart of heresy is a contradiction".

They can't seem to understand that SOMEONE is an authority not SOMETHING. (Text as Authority that is.)


Nick said...


What you point out is the 'elephant in the room' that Mathison and other folks don't seem to realize. The Called To Communion crowd even pointed out a major quote from Reformed Super-Theologian Francis Turretin who said precisely what Mathison says: that should it come to a point where the believer feels his 'church' isn't faithful to Scripture, his private interpretation must ultimately prevail.


That is astonishing but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The lordship controversy does go against the 'historical' Protestant idea that good works will automatically follow, but I can see how the controversy erupted since logically evil works don't affect one's standing before God.

And I've added another doctrine to the list, this time pointing out how Protestants cannot agree on whether Mark's Epilogue is inspired Scripture or not, despite the fact they claim the Holy Spirit testifies to each individual telling them what the correct canon is.

The Catholic Sojourner said...

wow - what a comprehensive list, impressive - I agree wholeheartedly from my years as an evangelical - Sola Scriptura has a glaring logical fallacy at its heart, but strangely cannot be seen by so many -

I tried to lay out the same sort of thing, very simply, from a different angle on my blog:

Friends and family of mine who are still Protestant have read this and have not converted - I see now that it is not therefore up to providing the right knowledge or the perfect logical argumentation - as I know from my own conversion, one cannot see this unless the grace of God reveals it - until then it is, like I said, strangely invisible


Nick said...

Hi Todd,

Your conclusion is something that is hard to accept, but any seasoned Catholic will have to accept. You can present the superior argument all day long, but human Reason only goes so far - ultimately, the Holy Spirit must lift any blinders off of them, which also should keep us humble so as not to give ourselves undue credit.

I'll check out your link.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Just discovered this blog. Very good. I love the fact that the critique of Protestantism is obviously well-informed on the details of Protestentalia. Excellent.

Miguel Sastre said...


While browsing through your blog I came across your "litany" of Protestant disagreements that you attribute to sola scriptura.

It got me thinking, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had blogged my own reply, since I so often see that sort of objection in Roman apologists, but so seldom see any corresponding acknowledgement of doctrinal disagreements within your own communion.

So here it is:

Amenra said...

It is possible because paper writers for hire from there don't lack practice in completing assignments for my class-mates and college friends. This service does its job the same way our goals are set and can refer to the act of reflection of an educated person.

Correcting Plagiarism in a Research Paper said...

That's a very genuine and honest move of going ahead to list down the doctrinal issues that are seen to cause division between Catholics and Protestants. We can only hope that a time will come when Christianity will become one as it was meant to be.

Jesse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse said...

Darn it! I wonder how I could obtain permission to view that Protestant blog.