Friday, August 3, 2012

Sorta-Scriptura or Sola-Scriptura?

Those who follow this blog (and my comments) know that I am a huge fan of Biblical exegesis, that is making apologetics arguments from properly interpreting Scriptural texts. Everyone is well aware that Protestants like to parade around holding up the Bible as if it is their trusted book for guiding their paths, but over the years I have come to see how utterly false and deluded this attitude is. In reality, it is just the opposite: Catholics are the ones who base their teachings from Scripture, while Protestants do not. And any Truth in Protestantism was already considered Truth in Catholicism, so it follows that any uniquely Protestant doctrines are unscriptural by this very fact. Since Protestants do not follow Scripture alone but rather traditions of men, Catholics need to start insisting the term "Sola-Scriptura" is inaccurate and rather opt for the more correct slogan: "Sorta-Scriptura". I say this for the same reason that Catholics should stop granting Protestants the use of the term "Reformation" when in reality what happened was a DEformation. St Francis de Sales (patron of this Blog) was even in the regular habit of calling Luther and Calvin "Pretend Reformers," because they didn't do any genuine reforming at all.

What does Sorta-Scriptura mean? It means Protestants "sort-of" follow Scripture. Throughout Protestant history they have had good insights to various texts when defending traditional Catholic teachings, so this should not be discounted. In those situations, Protestants are following Scripture. But when it comes to unique Protestant teachings (including Sola Scriptura itself), most Catholics have no idea just how embarrassingly shallow the Protestant proof-texts are. Take the widespread doctrine of The Rapture as one prime example: the chief Protestant proof-text is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, which they claim teaches that Jesus will "take up" (Rapture) all true Christians just prior to the Great Tribulation in order spare them the suffering it will entail. Yet this passage indicates no such thing, instead it is plainly talking about the very end of the world, when Jesus returns and separates the Sheep from the Goats to judge them (Matthew 25:31-46). Can you believe that millions of American Protestants (including many with Ph.D.'s) actually believe in the Rapture and think that there is all this great Biblical proof for it? Or take another example, the Reformed teaching that Christ, in our place, kept all the commandments we were required to keep: their chief proof-text is Romans 5:19, yet the "obedience" mentioned here says nothing about keeping the commandments for us. Rather, when the Bible uses the term "obedience" in reference to Christ, it is referring to Christ's sacrificial "obedience unto death" for us (Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8).

Other examples of significant Protestant doctrines being built on the most laughable of "Biblical foundations" are: the Baptist notion that Baptism is purely symbolic; the Anglican idea that the King of England holds a supreme leadership position in God's Church; the Lutherans name their church after Luther and give Luther a Popish status; the Seventh-Day Adventists say Ellen White is a prophetess and that Jesus judged the world in the year 1844; the Salvation Army rejects the Sacraments of Baptism & Communion; and the Pentecostals believe speaking in tongues is a ordinary rather than an extraordinary gift. The list could go on, but you get the idea.

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: Protestantism is not built on Divine Revelation, but rather on traditions of men, and so the Protestant mind first embraces the tradition of men and only then proceeds to "find" Biblical support for it. Catholics would do well to remind other Catholics and Protestants that Catholicism is the only Biblical religion while Protestants reject and denigrate the full teaching of Scripture. The Bible is a Catholic book, and the Catholics who know their Bible can easily trounce any Protestant of any denomination.


Anil Wang said...

" Catholicism is the only Biblical religion "

I disagree. Not because Catholicism is wrong, but because it's simply not possible to have a Biblical religion.

In order to interpret the Bible, you inevitably bring in some hermeneutic, and you'll always say some parts are symbolic, some are literal, some are historical, and some poetry. And you'll always interpret less clear passages by more clear passages, but your hermeneutic will determine which is which. The provides for a huge number of possible interpretations.

The Bible is a complex collection of documents, so its no surprise that contains at least 30,000 theologies.

The key thing is not, are Protestants Biblical or not. The key question is, which hermeneutic is correct?

Is a hermeneutic that corresponds with what the Early Church fathers believed, and how the Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Church of the East interpreted the Bible for 1500 years despite their separation the hermeneutic to pick?

Or should the hermeneutic be from some guy 1500-2000 years after the Jesus walked the earth that thought that everyone who came before got it wrong?

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Protestantism is like Rabbical Judaism. The Prots have their "rabbis" who issue dogmatic commentaries that interpet the same scriptures in totally different ways. The interpetations eventally nullify the real meaning of the Word of God, just like the rabbis in Jesus's day did.

Jae said...

" Catholicism is the only Biblical religion "

I definitely 100% agree (though not triumphalistic). The ONLY Church where the hermeneutic is quaranteed always correct from the Petrine Primacy to Church Ecclesiology and that God's promise is not forfeited to this time and the next. (John 16:13).

Nick said...

Hello Anil,

I understand what you're saying, and thus there is a sense in which it is inaccurate for me to speak of Catholicism as being "Biblical". That said, it is possible to have a 'biblical religion' because the Bible must correspond to whatever religion 'owns' the Book. In this case, the Catholic Church does. In Old Testament Times, the Torah applied specifically to the Israelites, and thus while it is correct to say Judaism was the religion of the OT Bible, it was anachronistic to say Judaism was being OT 'biblical'.

The reason why one must take care when saying Catholicism is "Biblical" is because it implies the Bible is denominationally neutral and that different denominations come and pick it up and 'compete' to 'find' the most plausible hermeneutic. Rather, there is only one true hermeneutic that the Bible was inspired by God to have, and thus the Magisterium who possesses that hermeneutic can never be divorced from the Bible. I think you are saying this in another way.

The only reason why I speak of Catholicism being "Biblical" is when I am speaking to Protestants to get across to them that the Bible is a Catholic book that teaches Catholic doctrines, not Protestant ones.

Nick said...


That is actually a very brilliant analogy. Protestant pastors are treated very much like Popes/Rabbis who wield virtual dogmatic power, while also denying any such Magisterium can exist.

Steven Reyes said...

I would disagree with Anil to a certain respect as well, the Scriptures as spoken by the Holy Spirit according to the Truth are ours. The problem is that such and such Truth and grace is poured out by God at His own pleasure, but is more abundantly available and protected within the Church. I would however, disagree in some respect that Catholicism is the only Church that is 'biblical' or at least respects the Bible in the context of Tradition. I would include the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches as more truly biblical than Protestants, though I of course would have to say that they are not in Communion with the Bishop of Rome and so have some problems in Scriptural analysis. We must not say that they are filled with overwhelming amounts of heresies unless we want to condemn our Eastern Catholic brothers who hold many of the same traditions and doctrines as the Eastern Orthodox while mutually accepting Latin Catholicism's truths as acceptable interpretations to reach the same teaching.

The post is a bit polemical, though I can see you're not trying to pull any punches here. There's still a great deal that I think Protestantism gets right, even if they re-express other doctrines to the point of error.

Getting back to the hermeneutic convention. I'm not sure this is a route us Catholics want to go down entirely. While true, we must reflect on our tradition of Lectio Divina as Scripture being God's revelation to man about His sacred truths. But from this we must understand that this must be done in Communion with Him and His teachers as rightfully taught in Scripture and the Apostles.

Just my two cents.

Nick said...

I agree that the terminology of "hermeneutic" is problematic and even dangerous, since the term "hermeneutic" gives the impression the Bible is a book that can be 'systematically analyzed' as long as you have the right lens, rather than the Bible being in some sense an open communication (to this very day) from God to the Church.

Rocky2 said...

[Bravo, Nick. Saw this on the net.]

Catholics Did NOT Invent the Rapture !

Many assert that the "rapture" promoted by evangelicals was first taught, at least seminally, by a Jesuit Catholic priest named Francisco Ribera in his 16th century commentary on the book of Revelation.
To see what is claimed, Google "Francisco Ribera taught a rapture 45 days before the end of Antichrist's future reign."
After seeing this claim repeated endlessly on the internet without even one sentence from Ribera offered as proof, one widely known church historian decided to go over every page in Ribera's 640-page work published in Latin in 1593.
After laboriously searching for the Latin equivalent of "45 days" ("quadraginta quinque dies"), "rapture" ("raptu," "raptio," "rapiemur," etc.) and other related expressions, the same scholar revealed that he found absolutely nothing in Ribera's commentary to support the oft-repeated claim that Ribera taught a prior (45-day) rapture! (Since the same scholar plans to publish his complete findings, I am not at liberty to disclose his name.)
Are you curious about the real beginnings of this evangelical belief (a.k.a. the "pre-tribulation rapture") merchandised by Darby, Scofield, Lindsey, Falwell, LaHaye, Ice, Van Impe, Hagee and many others?
Google "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Wily Jeffrey," "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by D.M., "The Real Manuel Lacunza," "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism," "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" - most of these by the author of the 300-page nonfiction book "The Rapture Plot," the highly endorsed and most accurate documentation on the long hidden historical facts of the 182-year-old pre-tribulation rapture theory imported from Britain during the late 19th century.