Tag Archives: Sola Scriptura

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This essay was written by John MacArthur.

In this essay, MacArthur unapologetically answers Roman Catholic apologists.

The very first point is that we (as humans) have the tendancy to venerate tradition and there are many world religions that rely totally on tradition and oral transmission (Native American religions and Druidism, to name two.) Even among the religionsh, such as Hinduism, that use sacred writings, tradition is blended.

What happens is that it ends up that Scripture is read through the "translator" of tradition, thus rendering tradition the highest authority, because only through tradition can the Scripture be accurate.

Traditional Judaism follows this Scripture-plus-tradition pattern; the familiar books of the Old Testament alone are considered "Scripture", but the Jews have added the Talmud - this is the "lens" through which they read Scripture, rendering the Scripture in submission to the Talmud.

Christ told them:

"This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."

This was inexcusable; the Jews were in direct disobedience to God's Word: "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2).

MacArthur writes:

So the revealed Word of God, and nothing else, was the supreme and sole authority in Judaism. This alone was the standard of truth delivered to them by God Himself. Moses was instructed to write down the very words God gave him (Exodus 34:27), and that written record of God's Word became the basis for God's covenant with the nation (Exodus 24:4, 7). The written Word was placed in the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 31:9), symbolizing its supreme authority in the lives and the worship of the Jews forever. God even told Moses' successor, Joshua: "Be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night., so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it" Joshua 1:7 -- 8).

Thus, the principle of Sola Scriptura is given to us in the Word of God.

...continue reading

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This is at the request of a commenter, Elena.

Elena (for reference, Elena is a member of the Roman Church) posted an article with “problems” with the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura”. Quite frankly, I am on vacation and I have no desire to continue a senseless argument with somebody who has no desire to listen, only to argue. I’m going to close comments on the original post, so as to keep this on track.

Because I have no desire to drag this out into senseless and meaningless debate (again), I am placing limits on the debate. Each person entering into the debate will have a limit of 5 posts in which to put forth their arguments/rebuttals. This includes me (but not posts regarding administrative stuff). There is a limit of 40 posts in this thread, at which point comments will be turned off. (I don’t expect to have that many, since this is a new blog and I don’t think I have that many visitors, but it seems like enough time for whoever might pass by to get their word in). You may defend the doctrine, the problems, the reasons, the reasons for suppressing. As long as it pertains to “sola Scriptura”, it is not off topic in this thread.

Here is the doctrine: Scripture is the only infallible rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines.

That’s it. That’s the doctrine that seems to be the most hated by Rome.

As far as I know, these “problems” have never been considered problems by the officers of the Roman church or the bishop of Rome. The article was written by James Akin, a Roman Catholic, but I could not find where it was endorsed in any way by the Vatican. The teachers of the Roman church have always read Scripture out loud and have still considered it “Scripture”.

  1. Requires ability to [print!)

This “problem” says that in order for a person to have complete faith in the Bible for infallible rule, a person cannot have it read to them, they must be able to read it for themselves. This is silly. The Bible (God’s Word set down in writing) is God’s Word, whether it is read by the person receiving it, or read out loud. It is infallible, whereas man and tradition are not.

From the time Scripture was written on sheepskin, it was infallible and it remains infallible, and the method by which it is received is not relevant – it is still Scripture, just as Shakespeare is Shakespeare, whether silently read, or acted out on stage.
2. Requires mass distribution of bibles!
This “problem” says that in order for a person to be able to say, “that’s what the Bible says and that’s my final authority”, that person has to have his or her own personal copy. From the time that Scripture was written on sheepskin, nobody ever said that it wasn’t infallible because it was read out loud.

Scripture needs to be distributed, but not everybody has to have their own copy – even the Jews read the Torah and still considered it Torah.
3. Requires Christians be able to read! (this one I will address one of the comments)
…but also because the person needs to be able to go over the passage multiple times
I trust that God’s Word will not return unto Him void. Where the Spirit moves, there will be understanding. Besides, anywhere there is somebody who can read, there is probably somebody who can be asked, “what about…?”

4. Must have scholarly materials available.This “problem” is saying that if you want to depend fully on God’s Word, you have to also depend on the works of man.

Why? If the Bible is the final authority, why depend on the works of man? That’s the whole point.

5.Need time to study! ..."If he is working in the fields or a home (or, later, in the factory) for ten, twelve, fifteen, or eighteen hours a day, he obviously doesn't have time to do this, especially not in addition to the care and raising of his family and his own need to eat and sleep and recreate.

I recently watched “The Magdalene Sisters” – these imprisoned young women didn’t have time to recreate and barely had time to eat and sleep. But there was somebody reading the Bible while they ate. Possibly the only thing that was right.

In Old Testament times very few families could afford their own scrolls, yet even when all that was written was the law, Scripture exhorted them to that “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” Jews were to “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

These were people who were under the working conditions described above. Thus, since the Bible expected it, I believe it is possible.

6.Sola scriptura pre supposes universal adequate nutrition
What this “problem” is saying is that God in not powerful enough to work without the hearer having proper nutrition, but Rome is.

Personally, I have more faith in the power of God than that. In other parts of the world, people are starving and Christianity is flourishing – it’s because of the power of God, not the power of food.

7.Must be skilled in evaluating arguments
What this “problem” appears to be saying is that accepting only Scripture as your authority is not enough, you have to be able to think for yourself. While thinking is helpful in arguing, I know many people with a simple faith that need not turn to arguments. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” means just that. They can (and do) fall on Scripture (God said it and I believe it).

The question that popped up in my mind: What do people who cannot think embrace, if not Scripture? Is that why people follow those who think for them?

Part 2
The hatred of “sola Scriptura” by Roman Catholics begs the question, “why?”

Why is “Scripture alone” so heavily condemned by the Roman church?

(History lesson) By 500 AD the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages. Around that time Rome decided that only Latin was a suitable language for the Bible (and how many people knew Latin?) and that anybody found in possession of a Bible not in Latin would be executed.

Why was it so important to Rome that the church control Scripture, that they were willing to kill those who wanted to read it?

Why were Bibles not in Latin burned?

There were many abuses and persecutions – I am speaking strictly of the attempts by the Roman church to so subdue the population as to keep them from the Scripture.

Why? What was the Roman church so afraid of?

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I'm posting again, largely because I'm addressing some misconceptions.

Here is a list of "problems" that was posted on another blog. (Again, Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that the Word of God is the only infallible rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrinesour final authority). These problems disappear when you use the Reformer's definition "Sola Scriptura."

1. Requires ability to print.

- actually, it requires the ability to hear. Sola Scriptura does not require literacy, it requires faith in the Word of God.
- Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

2. Requires mass distribution of bibles!

- these two list items do require a goal of distributing Bibles and teaching people to read, a goal that the Roman Catholic church has opposed in the past. Is this a bad goal to have?
- but be that as it may... Sola Scriptura does not require literacy, or even owning a Bible, it requires faith in the Word of God.
- There are churches (and synogues) that do not preach. All they do is read the Word.
- because faith comes from hearing the message

3. Requires Christians be able to read!

- Again, Sola Scriptura does not require literacy, it requires faith in the Word of God.
- A person does not have to read, they have to understand because
- faith comes from hearing the message.

4. Must have scholarly materials available.

- Scripture is the final authority, not the work of man. Read Roman 3:23. Can you figure it out for yourself?
- Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
I doubt that David had a copy of Calvin's Commentaries, or even the Catechism. The Word was enough.

5.Need time to study! ..." If he is working in the fields or a home (or, later, in the factory) for ten, twelve, fifteen, or eighteen hours a day, he obviously doesn't have time to do this, especially not in addition to the care and raising of his family and his own need to eat and sleep and recreate.

- Remember the story of Abraham Lincoln? Work all day and then come home and read for just a few minutes?
- Arguing from the extreme raises bad arguments and in fact, only exposes the weakness of your position.
- When I'm gardening or doing something with my hands, I'm recite Scripture. In the past, this was common. Part of "hiding the Word in the heart"

6.Sola scriptura pre supposes universal adequate nutrition

- Any more so that hearing the teachings of any teacher? No. So, under this "problem", hearing the teaching of the bishop of Rome (or any other teacher) would require just as much "adequate nutrition.
- The Bible teaches us, "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa 55:11)
- The Bible does not teach us that about the teaching of man and tradition. Paul told his readers to pay attention, listen - but only the Word of God has the guarantee, so I'd be more concerned with the teachings of humans being lost in malnutrition than God's Word.

7.Must be skilled in evaluating arguments - Sola Scriptura requires thinking.

-Stop and think about the ramifications of this "problem".
- Is the reverse true? People rely on the teaching of man and tradition because they cannot think?

3 Comments

I'm posting this tonight, before getting my "stuff" around for tomorrow - and tomorrow will be a long day, I'm driving Manda halfway to Chicago to spend the week with my husband's sisters (they're still a big part of our life). They'll be heading up to the Wisconsin Dells so I'll be missing my girl.

I'm going to start with what I believe to be true, starting with the "Five Solas".

I am pretty new to Reformed Theology, but once I got my mind wrapped around the idea that what I grew up with had more problems than what I wanted to deal with, I embraced this. I also chose one of the more liberal Reformed demoninations (on purpose).

Anyway...my belief about Sola Scriptura is that the Holy Scriptures are our final authority. It is not that we don't recognize any other authority - we recognize our spiritual mentors, pastors, etc. But all of the other authorities are measured against Scripture.

Paul praised the Bereans for examining what he said against Scripture; we do the same. We don't have our Scripture interpreted for us through man - the man is judged against Scripture. If they don't agree - Scripture wins.

If a person tells me that something is permissible, but the Bible says that it is not - the Bible wins (example: homosexuality).

If a person tells me that something is not permissible, it is up to him to show me in the Bible where the law comes from (example: having a drink with dinner).

If a person is teaching a doctrine that is not in the Bible, that doctrine is rejected (Tongues as the sign of the New Covenant).

I'm not such a big fan of Martin Luther, but this is what he said, "Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons -- for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another -- I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God's Word."

I also have problems with parts of the Reformed confessions (as does my church) and the confessions are not my authority, the Bible is. However, when they put things in a better way than I can come up with, I'll quote them. The Belgic Confession says, "We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein...Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God... Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule"

In short, every authority, every standard and every message must be examined against the Scriptures. There is no man, no tradition that has more authority than the Word of God.