Posted by: L. E. Barnes | September 16, 2010

Sola Scriptura: Is It Scriptural?

 The following audio clip contains excerpts from debates between a Catholic and a Protestant over the legitimacy of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (i.e., that scripture alone is the sole rule of faith and practice):

In the first segment, the Protestant debater (James White) insists that 2 Tim. 3: 16-17 clearly supports sola scriptura. The verse reads as follows (in the NAB): “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” In response, the Catholic debater (Gerry Matatics) points out that those two verses say that scripture equips “for every good work,” not doctrine, nor do they say that scripture is sufficient or the only rule. His argument therefore comes down to the fact that no verse in the Bible teaches scripture alone as the sole rule of faith and practice.

Next, even Mr. White concedes that the apostles and other early Christians did not teach or practice sola scriptura. Furthermore, the Bible contains no authoritative list of what writings should constitute the canon of scripture, so how can one be sure–without some other infallible authority to guide them–that the writings they accept as authoritative scripture are in fact authoritative scripture? Mr. White tries to pin Mr. Matatics down by arguing that because Catholics make a fallible decision to blindly follow Rome, any decisions that follow will likewise be fallible. Mr. Matatics easily parries that thrust by pointing out that deciding to follow the Bible alone is itself a fallible decision. (Note the audience’s response!)

In the next part of the clip, Mr. White debates Mr. Madrid (a Catholic). He starts off by arguing that Catholics try to put Protestants in the position of having to prove a negative (an impossiblity, of course). Mr. Madrid makes hash of that remark by using Mr. White’s own words. That is, for sola scriptura to be valid, it must be taught in scripture, so one need look no further than the Bible. Then our Catholic debater delivers the coup de grace: The canon of scripture–which is nowhere presented in the Bible–is an apostolic tradition that is nonetheless binding on Christians. Touche, Mr. Madrid!

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  1. […] Sola Scriptura: Is It Scriptural? […]

  2. The sola scriptura teaching is one of the things I have the biggest problems with. It is absolutely incoherent. If it is true, then why do so many Protestants write books? If it is true, then why do so many Protestant churches have traditions for how they do things, traditions that, if violated, cause huge arguments in the church? I am still a Protestant, but this is one of the issues pushing me toward Rome.

    • I couldn’t go back to being Protestant, in large part because I simply can’t buy into “sola scriptura” any longer. Not only does it stand on extremely shaky theological ground, but it just doesn’t work. It’s nothing but a recipe for disunity. Even Martin Luther admitted that there are as many interpretations of the Bible “as there are heads.”
      And you’re absolutely right that Protestant too have their own traditions that they will hold onto with a passion. When I was growing up in charismatic evangelical churches, I was almost led to believe that “tradition” was a dirty word, yet they had their set way of doing things as well.

  3. Good questions, Magister. Patrick Madrid’s argument is so clear. I’ve read some of his books and they are really good.

    This is a really good video and a great resource for apologetics on the subject of sola scriptura.

    • I haven’t read any of Madrid’s books, but maybe I should. That’s one of the main bones of contention between Protestants and Catholics. The former insist on being shown a Bible verse that, in their opinion, explicity says either to do/not do or believe/not believe something, or else they’ll insist that you’re teaching things contrary to scripture.


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