Friday, July 1, 2011

Sola Scriptura show notes

These notes are intended to be used in conjunction with the Blog talk radio program on this subject.

Opening statement:

The father of protestantism, and, thus, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, had this to say in the prologue to his commentary on the Gospel of Saint John;

"We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of GOD,
that we received it from them, and that without them, we should have no
knowledge of it at all."

Martin Luther was correct in saying this. It is an undeniable historical fact that it was the Catholic church that created the Bible and, if not for the Catholic Church, no one would have a Bible today.

I say this not as a gotcha argument but as something on which I would ask you to prayerfully reflect. For, when the Catholic Church set about the task of sorting through all the books that would purport to be Scripture, it was no small task, even if only by the sheer volume of works She had to sort through. For example, there were about 50 gospels that were eliminated, leaving us only the 4 we have now. Further, many of the books of the Bible do not record the authors in the text and how are we to know in which order the chosen books go?

This task speaks to authority. Before we can even begin a discussion of what are the best translations of Holy Scripture or what are the best interpretations, we must first be able to arrive at what is and is not Scripture, and to provide an index of how the books should be bound together in a single volume. Absent an infallible path for reaching these ends, we have no hope of looking to the scriptures for God's truth. This is argument #1 of how Sola Scriptura is untenable.

Imagine if the New Testament canon was given to us with the caveat that only 24 of the 27 books were inspired but the church had no idea which were the uninspired 3. If you went to 70 people in your church, how many different combinations of 3 books would you get?

About the second century BC, the Jewish leaders faced a simple problem. Since Greek was the universal language, they sought to create an Old Testament Bible. According to Jewish tradition, Seventy of the best Scripture scholars were employed for the task. They worked in isolation but when their work was complete all had miraculously translated all the same books exactly the same, word for word.

This translation became known as the Septuagint or LXX which both mean Seventy. This refers to the number of scholars, not the number of books.

Some of the books in this sacred translation were later removed by Luther and the first protestants. Two books that barely missed being cut were the epistle of James and the Book of Revelation. Luther referred to the Epistle of James as an epistle of straw, stating further that he should like to throw Jimmy into the stove. Luther described the Book of Revelation as having ;

".... no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character... Everyone may form
his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to
me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it."

Most protestants would be scandalized at the prospect of a Bible missing James or Revelation but Luther would not have stopped there. He also wanted to remover Esther, Hebrews, and Jude. This is in addition to the 7 that he did remove. So, I ask you. If Luther did not have the authority to remove Esther, Hebrews, Jude, James and Revelation, how can we then assert that he had the authority to remove Baruch, Maccabees and the others?

Imagine the temerity of a man who admits that were it not for the Catholic church, he should have no knowledge of the scriptures, now setting forth to reset the Bible canon by his own authority.

Argument #2- Translation.

Once we have arrived at an acceptable canon of scripture, placing the books in a categorized and indexed order, we must set about the task of translation.

This, also, makes Scripture alone impossible.

Mark 15:34 tells us that Jesus cried out from the cross Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtani. That is Aramaic. Mark translated it to Greek. In the 4th century, Jerome translated it to Latin when he produced the first Bible, the Vulgate. It wasn't until 1609, and the Douai Rheems, that those words were first translated to English in a Bible. Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English.

In addition to a genuine cry of anguish, Our Lord's words were a quote of King David, in Psalm 22. Those words were translated from Hebrew to Greek to Latin and then to English.

Yet, both passages are rendered correctly in English: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The translation of scripture is something that must be guided by the Holy Spirit whether the translation is a literal- by the letter of the text- translation or a dynamic-by the spirit of the text-translation. When you look at all the Bible translations that have been made, in all the languages they have been made in, the opportunity for translation error is monumental. Sometimes this error is the innocent result of some linguistic, grammatical or punctuation subtlety in one of the languages. However, other times, it is the result of the translator allowing his or her bias to influence the text. Examples of this are the King James Version's rendering of Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28, The New International Version's insertion of the word 'Woman' into Luke 11:27-28 and New World Translation which tries to eliminate Christ's Divinity out of John 1:1

All of these examples refute Sola Scriptura because they prove that the translation of the Scriptures must be safe guarded by a trust worthy authority.

My 3rd argument speaks to the historical untenability of Sola Scriptura. Since we hold that Jesus died in 33 AD, we can say that the church survived for about it's first 17 years without even one of the New Testament books having been written. In fact, it is entirely possible that the Epistle of James, that Luther despised so much, was, in fact, the first New Testament book written circa 50 AD. The next 26 would be written over about the next 50 years, most likely ending in about 100 AD with John's gospel and His 3 Epistles. It would be about another 300 years before these 27 specific books would be chosen as our New Testament at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage and another 1000 years from there to the invention of the Gutenberg press.

In other words, the Christian church was about 1,450 years beyond the death of Jesus before the idea of Sola Scriptura could have even been suggested as a plausible, practical possibility. Further, there is no evidence, whatsoever, that any historical person had ever suggested the Bible alone as authority prior to Luther in the 16th century.

The 4th argument, and most important, which nullifies this doctrine is the fact that it is explicitly refuted by the very text it purports to uphold. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 tell us that we are to obey all that is handed down to us- Oral AND written. 2 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the Church, not the Bible is the pillar and foundation of all truth. Matthew 18:17 tells us that the Church is the final arbiter on a dispute over sin. Matthew 18:18 tells us that what the Church binds on earth is bound in heaven. Luke 10:16 tells us that who HEARS, not reads mind you, HEARS His apostles hears Him and he who rejects them, rejects Him. Romans 13 tells us that he who rejects the earthly authority God has put in place, risks Judgement.

The word Church appears more than 100 times in the New Testament, the word Bible 0. This is because the Church gave us the Bible, not the other way around.

Finally, the Bible itself tells us in John 21:25 that the whole teachings of Jesus could not be contained in all the books contained since the foundation of the world.

The Bible tells us that Scripture is inspired, infallible, profitable for reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Inspired, infallible and profitable. We agree. However, we are not arguing that. What we are arguing is the practical sufficiency of Scripture and nowhere in Scripture is that even suggested.

In fact, as we have said, it is explicitly refuted. 1 Peter 1:20 tells us that no scripture is a matter of personal interpretation and 2 Peter 3:14-16 tells us that Paul's letters, and all the other Scriptures, are written according to the wisdom implanted in the writers, with which the unstable and ignorant will twist to their own destruction.

Sola Scriptura is untenable Logically, Historically, practically and Biblically. Finally, it has been proven unworkable in practice by the splintering of Christendom into more than 33,000 different denominations. The Bible says a House divided against itself cannot stand. Sola Scriptura creates exactly such a house.

Rebuttals of expected arguments:

Expected argument:

2 Timothy 3 says;
16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Answer: Profitable for every good work and sufficient for every good work are two different things. The preceding verses are key

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The scriptures are important but as important are who Timothy learned the Scriptures from. Here Paul is telling Timothy directly that the Scriptures are subject to the Church. Further, these were the Scriptures learned from Timothy's childhood, when no New Testament books had been written, to now, when only some had been written including only 2 of the Gospels.

Expected argument: The Bible says "Do not go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Answer: Of course we are not to go beyond what is written but that does not mean that we are not subject to the authority of who wrote it! In this very same chapter, Paul tells the Corinthians that he became their spiritual father through the gospel and is sending Timothy to teach them. Paul threatens to return with a rod if he must.

Expected argument: Do not add to, or subtract from, God's Word.

Answer: Again, going above or below God's Word is not the issue with regards to Sola Scriptura. The issue is who decides where that line actually is and who is crossing it. When one is using this angle, they are making a circular argument. In saying that going beyond God's Word necessitates going beyond Scripture, they are stating an unsupportable premise. Direct revelation can very clearly be seen in scripture.

Matthew 16:
17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

The Bible shows us that Jesus gave the Church the Keys to the Kingdom and He told His disciples to go forth and preach. He told not one of them to go forth and write. In fact, only 5 of the original 12 wrote at least one book making the NT canon.

Expected argument: 2 Timothy 2
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Answer: We are indeed to study, including the study of Scripture. But what is the basis of that study?

Acts Chapter 8
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?"

Proverbs 3
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

These verses very clearly tell us that Scripture is subject to a teaching authority and study means studying what has been revealed, not trying to figure it out ourselves.

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