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Sola Scriptura

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To commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this October 31st our church is covering one of the Five Solas on each Sunday this October .

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    • Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers

      Gregory of Nyssa responds to the Arians claimed that their tradition (or “custom”) did not allow for the Trinitarian position. Gregory responded with the following:   What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (Dogmatic Treatises, Book 12. On the Trinity, To Eustathius.)   When Arian custom ran contrary to Trinitarian custom, to what authority did Gregory appeal? The Scriptures.   As Gregory rightly understood, Scripture is a higher authority than tradition. That is why he appealed to the Word of God as the final arbiter in the debate over Arianism.   In so doing, Gregory provides a vivid illustration of the principle of sola Scriptura, twelve centuries before the Reformation. Of course, Gregory was not the only church father who shared in that conviction.   Though many others could be cited, here is a small sampling from eight church fathers who shared Gregory’s perspective on the authority of Scripture.   1. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. (Against Heresies, 3.1.1)   2. Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160–235) [in defending the truth of the Trinity against the heretic Praxeas:] It will be your duty, however, to adduce your proofs out of the Scriptures as plainly as we do, when we prove that He made His Word a Son to Himself. . . . All the Scriptures attest the clear existence of, and distinction in (the Persons of) the Trinity, and indeed furnish us with our Rule of faith. (Against Praxeas, 11)   3. Hippolytus (d. 235) There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn. (Against Heresies, 9)   4. Dionysius of Alexandria (ca. 265): We did not evade objections, but we endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures. (Cited from Eusebius, Church History, 7.24.7–9)   5. Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373) [After outlining the books of the Bible, Athanasius wrote:] These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’ (Festal Letter 39, 6–7)   6. Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386) [After defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit]: We ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures…Let us then speak nothing concerning the Holy Ghost but what is written; and if anything be not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Be those things therefore spoken, which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say. (Catechetical Lectures, 4.17ff)   7. John Chrysostom (344–407) Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer this to figures and calculation; but in calculating upon facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learnt what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things; which may we all obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.” (Homily on 2 Corinthians, 13.4)   8. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) Whereas, therefore, in every question, which relates to life and conduct, not only teaching, but exhortation also is necessary; in order that by teaching we may know what is to be done, and by exhortation may be incited not to think it irksome to do what we already know is to be done; what more can I teach you, than what we read in the Apostle? For holy Scripture establishes a rule to our teaching, that we dare not “be wiser than we ought;” but be wise, as he himself says, “unto soberness, according as unto each God hath allotted the measure of faith.” Be it not therefore for me to teach you any other thing, save to expound to you the words of the Teacher, and to treat of them as the Lord shall have given to me. (The Good of Widowhood, 2)   Augustine (again): For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be [true Christians], and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine. (Augustine, Letters, 148.15)   Clearly, the doctrine of sola Scriptura was championed by Christian leaders long before the Reformation.   Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers | The Master's Seminary WWW.TMS.EDU We Train Men Because Lives Depend on It  

      in Soteriology and Reformation Theology

    • Responding to Objections to Sola Scriptura

      The authority of Scripture holds supreme importance in a Christian worldview, especially for Protestant evangelicals who believe that their faith and the way they live depend upon Scripture. Other branches of Christendom and skeptics, such as the convert to Roman Catholicism Peter Kreeft, sometimes raise objections to this crucial distinction. (1) They suggest that this principle is incoherent or unworkable. Responses to seven common objections explain how sola scriptura impacts Christian theology.   Objection #1: Scripture itself does not teach the principle of sola scriptura; therefore, this principle is self-defeating.   Response: The doctrine of sola scriptura need not be taught formally and explicitly. It may be implicit in Scripture and inferred logically. Scripture explicitly states its inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, and its sufficiency is implied there as well. This passage contains the essence of sola scriptura, revealing that Scripture is able to make a person wise unto salvation. And it includes the inherent ability to make a person complete in belief and practice.   Scripture has no authoritative peer. While the apostle Paul’s reference in verse 16—to Scripture being “God-breathed”—specifically applies to the Old Testament, the apostles viewed the New Testament as having the same inspiration and authority (1 Tim. 5:18; Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 3:16). The New Testament writers continue, mentioning no other apostolic authority on par with Scripture. Robert Bowman notes: “The New Testament writings produced at the end of the New Testament period direct Christians to test teachings by remembering the words of the prophets (OT) and apostles (NT), not by accessing the words of living prophets, apostles, or other supposedly inspired teachers (Heb. 2:2-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:2; Jude 3-4, 17).” (2)   Scriptural warnings such as “do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) and prohibitions against adding or subtracting text (Rev. 22:18-19) buttress the principle that Scripture stands unique and sufficient in its authority.   Christ held Scripture in highest esteem. The strongest scriptural argument for sola scriptura, however, is found in how the Lord Jesus Christ himself viewed and used Scripture. A careful study of the Gospels reveals that he held Scripture in the highest regard. Jesus said: “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35); “Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matt. 5:18); and “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17).   Christ appealed to Scripture as a final authority. Jesus even asserted that greatness in heaven will be measured by obedience to Scripture (Matt. 5:19) while judgment will be measured out by the same standard (Luke 16:29-31; John 5:45-47). He used Scripture as the final court of appeal in every theological and moral matter under dispute. When disputing with the Pharisees on their high view of tradition, he proclaimed: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition” (Mark 7:13).   Because Scripture came from God, Jesus considered it binding and supreme, while tradition was clearly discretionary and subordinate. Whether tradition was acceptable or not depended on God’s written Word. This recognition by Christ of God’s Word as the supreme authority supplies powerful evidence for the principle of sola scriptura.   When Jesus was tested by the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, he retorted, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). When confronted with the devil’s temptations, he responded three times with the phrase, “It is written,” followed by specific citations (Matt. 4:4-10). In this context, Jesus corrects Satan’s misuse of Scripture. Theologian J. I. Packer says of Jesus: “He treats arguments from Scripture as having clinching force.” (3)   Christ deferred to Scripture. Jesus based his ethical teaching upon the sacred text and deferred to its authority in his Messianic ministry (Matt. 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). His very destiny was tied to biblical text: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written” (Matt. 26:24). “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:46). Even while dying on the cross, Jesus quoted Scripture (see Matt. 27:45, cf. Ps. 22:1). His entire life, death, and resurrection seemed to be arranged according to the phrase, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56; Luke 4:21; 22:37).   Clearly, Christ accepted Scripture as the supreme authority and subjected himself to it (Matt. 26:54; Luke 24:44; John 19:28). Jesus did not place himself above Scripture and judge it; instead he obeyed God’s Word completely. A follower of Christ can do no less. A genuinely biblical worldview requires Scripture to be the supreme authority.   Objection #2: The earliest Christians didn’t have the complete New Testament. Therefore, references to Scripture by Jesus and his apostles apply only to the Old Testament.   Response: This objection fails for four reasons.   First, the early church had the living apostles to teach them. Though the inscripturation process took some time, immediacy wasn’t an issue because the apostles were still living. And the written New Testament circulated among the churches early in the first century.   Second, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit who would guide his apostles “into all truth” (John 16:13), as well as bring to their “remembrance” everything Christ said (John 14:26). In this way, Jesus put his stamp of approval on the New Testament yet to come (prospectively), as he had done for the previously written Old Testament (retrospectively). (4)   Third, considering his identity, the words of Jesus (Gospels) would carry at least the same authority as the words of the Old Testament prophets.   Fourth, Christ’s apostles, who were promised Spirit-guided illumination and recall, placed their writings on par with the Old Testament. The apostolic witness to Scripture claims it is inspired, infallible, and authoritative (Acts 4:25, 28:25; Rom. 3:2, 9:27, 29; 2 Tim. 3:15-16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).   Objection #3: The Roman Catholic Church wrote, canonized, and interpreted Scripture. The Bible cannot be greater than its cause—the Church.   Response: First, the claim that the church produced the Bible is wrong. (Note: Protestant scholars typically view the early church as catholic but not Roman). The church did not exist officially when the prophets and patriarchs wrote the Old Testament books. And the church accepted the Old Testament canon on the authority of Jesus Christ’s personal testimony. As an institution, the church did not produce the New Testament writings either. The apostles and their close associates (initial leaders of the church at large) wrote those books under the Holy Spirit’s direct inspiration.   Though the early church preceded the apostolic writings, it was the gospel message preached–later recorded and expounded in those writings—that by divine grace produced the church. This progression can be described as:   Gospel –> Church –> New Testament   The New Testament books became a permanent, infallible record of an oral message. Because Scripture is identified with the preached gospel, it is authoritative. The church (made up of gospel-believing communities) submits to the Word (gospel) that created it. Scripture derives no authority from the church; the authority of Scripture is inherent because the very words of God are the text (2 Tim. 3:16).   The early church did not create Scripture. The church merely received Scripture and recognized its inherent authority. God determined the canon by inspiring certain books and then guided the church to recognize and receive them.   The true church derives authority from rightly understanding and applying Scripture. The purpose of Scripture is to bear witness to Christ, who himself bears witness to the integrity and authority of Scripture: “You diligently study the Scriptures….These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).   Objection #4: Oral apostolic tradition is mentioned in Scripture (see 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:2) and granted divine authority alongside the apostolic writings.   Response: While living, the apostles could express their authoritative statements either orally or in writing, for they were hand-selected authoritative spokespersons for the Lord Jesus Christ. This apostolic authority in both forms must have been tremendously helpful as the early church emerged in the first century. It’s reasonable to conclude that the oral communication of the apostles was no different in content from their writings.   After the apostles’ deaths, however, the only way to confirm whether a particular so-called extrabiblical (apostolic) tradition is in accord with what the apostles taught and believed is to rely upon the permanent written Word (Scripture). Not all such claims were historically authentic and factually true even in apostolic times (John 21:22-23). Bowman makes this point: “Nowhere in the New Testament is it stated or implied that the church was commissioned to transmit to future generations oral traditions teaching doctrines or practices not found anywhere in the Bible—much less any guarantee that they would do so infallibly.” (5)   Ancient church traditions may serve as a type of noninspired subordinate norm in theology, but they possess a derivative and ministerial function only. However, such church traditions often suffer from being contradictory, biblically inconsistent, and even nebulous in nature.   Objection #5: Sola scriptura is an unhistorical position. Nobody believed in it before the sixteenth century. Sola scriptura was therefore a theological innovation of the Protestant Reformers.   Response: Because the doctrine of sola scriptura is derived from Scripture (see response to objection #1 above), it is not a sixteenth-century innovation. Sola scriptura did not appear as a fully developed and consistent theological position until the time of the Protestant Reformation, but the foundations for the position appeared much earlier in church history. Historical theologian Richard A. Muller explains:   The views of the Reformers developed out of a debate in the late medieval theology over the relation of Scripture and tradition, one party viewing the two as coequal norms, the other party viewing Scripture as the absolute and therefore prior norm, but allowing tradition a derivative but important secondary role in doctrinal statement. The Reformers and the Protestant orthodox held the latter view, on the assumption that tradition was a useful guide, that the trinitarian and christological statements of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon were expressions of biblical truth, and that the great teachers of the church provided valuable instruction in theology that always needed to be evaluated in the light of Scripture. (6)   Other historical theologians, such as Reinhold Seeberg and J. N. D. Kelly, cite a number of early church fathers as believing Scripture to be the absolute authority as a doctrinal norm. (7) Debates over the exact relationship between Scripture and church tradition took place long before the Protestant Reformers came along. In fact, some of the most powerful quotations concerning biblical authority can be drawn from two of the greatest Catholic thinkers in history, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.   Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote: It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place. (8) He [God] also inspired the Scripture, which is regarded as canonical and of supreme authority and to which we give credence concerning all the truths we ought to know and yet, of ourselves, are unable to learn. (9) There is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments…in the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. (10)       Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) stated: We believe the prophets and apostles because the Lord has been their witness by performing miracles…and we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings. (11) Only to those books or writings which are called canonical have I learnt to pay such honour that I firmly believe that none of their authors have erred in composing them. (12)       Objection #6: Private interpretation leads to denominationalism. Sola scriptura is therefore unworkable as an authoritative principle.   Response: Roman Catholic apologists in particular bring this major objection against sola scriptura. Simply stated, if the Bible is so clear, why are there so many denominations within Protestantism?   The first point is that not all denominational splits are scandalous. Wholesale departures from historic Christianity by theological liberalism must be opposed. When historic churches deny the very essence of the faith (the creeds), then division is obligatory. Packer gives a concise and forceful answer to this objection:   To the traditional Roman Catholic complaint that Protestant biblicism produces endless divisions in the church, the appropriate reply is twofold: firstly, the really deep divisions have been caused not by those who maintained sola scriptura, but by those, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike, who reject it; second, when adherents of sola scriptura have split from each other the cause has been sin rather than Protestant biblicism, for in conventional terms the issues in debate have not been of the first magnitude. (13)   Packer goes on to identify six concerns that divide Protestants: (1) God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom, (2) the Lord’s Supper, (3) ecclesiology (church order), (4) church/state issues, (5) baptism, and (6) eschatology (last things). (14)   One explanation for the differences on secondary issues is that diverse groups use a variety of hermeneutical approaches. Another factor is that no one has all of the spiritual and scholarly gifts and abilities to rightly interpret every detail of Scripture. It should also be noted that Catholicism, regardless of its Teaching Magisterium (15) (teaching office) and its claim to infallibility, has as much diversity as Protestantism. (16) And it must be remembered that the East/West (Orthodoxy/Catholicism) church schism of 1054 severely divided the church five centuries before the Reformation.   Objection #7: The original biblical manuscripts did not contain a table of contents to designate exactly which books were canonical and which were not. Therefore Protestants relied upon Roman Catholic tradition in order to even produce the canon of Scripture. This dilemma is self-defeating for the principle of sola scriptura.   Response: The process that the Christian community went through in deciding which books should be included in the canon is open to historical investigation. It seems unreasonable that a Protestant must rely upon Catholic tradition (as some type of revelation) to objectively investigate this historical process. The canonical debate is not part of what Catholics consider “apostolic tradition.”   Protestant Christians can warrant knowledge of the canon on the objective internal evidences of the biblical texts. Those books belong in the canon that: (1) profess to be Scripture or are acknowledged so by other such books; (2) are authentic (written by the persons to whom they are attributed); and (3) have some objective evidence supporting the claim that they are part of the inspired canon.   In practical terms, Protestants accept the Old Testament as canon because Jesus, whose inspiration is evident, did so. And Protestants accept the New Testament books as canon because it can be verified that Jesus’ apostles and their associates produced them with his authorization.   Catholic apologists admit that the ecclesiastical process that resulted in the biblical canon was long and drawn out. But this assertion seems inconsistent with their claim that the pope possesses the gift of infallibility. Why were there so many different lists and such strong disagreement about certain books? For example, even the great patristic scholars Augustine and Jerome differed over the canon. Why didn’t the pope at the time, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, simply intervene with the definitive list and settle the issue quickly and permanently? Could it be that in the early church the Bishop of Rome wasn’t recognized as having that power?   It is a mistake to assert that the early church determined or created the canon of Scripture. Rather, the early church recognized the inherent inspiration in the apostolic writings. In other words, an ecclesiastical pronouncement did not inspire scriptural writings; instead the pronouncement followed what had always been considered inspired revelation. When were the canonical books inspired? Not at the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) or Carthage (A.D. 397). Each book was inspired the day it was written. Clearly the inspiration of Scripture preceded the pronouncements of councils some three hundred years later.   The divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating (“God breathed,” 2 Tim 3:15-16). The church cannot function as the one who confirms Scripture’s authority (determining the canon), for only God can attest to the truth of his Holy Word. Therefore, an unofficial (but decisive) list of canonical books, namely, the self-authenticating books written by the apostles or their associates, emerges. Their inspiration identifies the books as canonical. The Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture provides the final confirmation that a book is canonical, not the church’s later recognition of that fact.   Source: https://www.whitehorseinn.org/2017/06/countdown-to-reformation-day-responding-to-objections-to-sola-scriptura/?utm_content=buffer21e44&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

      in Soteriology and Reformation Theology

    • A Defense of Sola Scriptura

      A PROTESTANT DEFENSE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA   As convincing as these arguments may seem to a devout Catholic, they are devoid of substance. As we will see, each of the Roman Catholic arguments against the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura fails, and they are unable to provide any substantial basis for the Catholic dogma of an infallible oral tradition.   Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?   Two points must be made concerning whether the Bible teaches sola Scriptura. First, as Catholic scholars themselves recognize, it is not necessary that the Bible explicitly and formally teach sola Scriptura in order for this doctrine to be true. Many Christian teachings are a necessary logical deduction of what is clearly taught in the Bible (e.g., the Trinity). Likewise, it is possible that sola Scriptura could be a necessary logical deduction from what is taught in Scripture. Second, the Bible does teach implicitly and logically, if not formally and explicitly, that the Bible alone is the only infallible basis for faith and practice. This it does in a number of ways. One, the fact that Scripture, without tradition, is said to be “God-breathed” (theopnuestos) and thus by it believers are “competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added) supports the doctrine of sola Scriptura. This flies in the face of the Catholic claim that the Bible is formally insufficient without the aid of tradition. St. Paul declares that the God-breathed writings are sufficient. And contrary to some Catholic apologists, limiting this to only the Old Testament will not help the Catholic cause for two reasons: first, the New Testament is also called “Scripture” (2 Pet. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7); second, it is inconsistent to argue that God-breathed writings in the Old Testament are sufficient, but the inspired writings of the New Testament are not. Further, Jesus and the apostles constantly appealed to the Bible as the final court of appeal. This they often did by the introductory phrase, “It is written,” which is repeated some 90 times in the New Testament. Jesus used this phrase three times when appealing to Scripture as the final authority in His dispute with Satan (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Of course, Jesus (Matt. 5:22, 28, 31; 28:18) and the apostles (1 Cor. 5:3; 7:12) sometimes referred to their own God-given authority. It begs the question, however, for Roman Catholics to claim that this supports their belief that the church of Rome still has infallible authority outside the Bible today. For even they admit that no new revelation is being given today, as it was in apostolic times. In other words, the only reason Jesus and the apostles could appeal to an authority outside the Bible was that God was still giving normative (i.e., standard-setting) revelation for the faith and morals of believers. This revelation was often first communicated orally before it was finally committed to writing (e.g., 2 Thess. 2:5). Therefore, it is not legitimate to appeal to any oral revelation in New Testament times as proof that nonbiblical infallible authority is in existence today. What is more, Jesus made it clear that the Bible was in a class of its own, exalted above all tradition. He rebuked the Pharisees for not accepting sola Scriptura and negating the final authority of the Word of God by their religious traditions, saying, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…You have nullified the word of God, for the sake of your tradition” (Matt. 15:3, 6). It is important to note that Jesus did not limit His statement to mere human traditions but applied it specifically to the traditions of the religious authorities who used their tradition to misinterpret the Scriptures. There is a direct parallel with the religious traditions of Judaism that grew up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures and the Christian traditions that have grown up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures since the first century. Indeed, since Catholic scholars make a comparison between the Old Testament high priesthood and the Roman Catholic papacy, this would seem to be a very good analogy. Finally, to borrow a phrase from St. Paul, the Bible constantly warns us “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).11 This kind of exhortation is found throughout Scripture. Moses was told, “You shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it” (Deut. 4:2). Solomon reaffirmed this in Proverbs, saying, “Every word of God is tested….Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver” (Prov. 30:5-6). Indeed, John closed the last words of the Bible with the same exhortation, declaring: “I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life…” (Rev. 22:18-19). Sola Scriptura could hardly be stated more emphatically. Of course, none of these are a prohibition on future revelations. But they do apply to the point of difference between Protestants and Catholics, namely, whether there are any authoritative normative revelations outside those revealed to apostles and prophets and inscripturated in the Bible. And this is precisely what these texts say. Indeed, even the prophet himself was not to add to the revelation God gave him. For prophets were not infallible in everything they said, but only when giving God’s revelation to which they were not to add or from which they were not to subtract a word. Since both Catholics and Protestants agree that there is no new revelation beyond the first century, it would follow that these texts do support the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura. For if there is no normative revelation after the time of the apostles and even the prophets themselves were not to add to the revelations God gave them in the Scriptures, then the Scriptures alone are the only infallible source of divine revelation. Roman Catholics admit that the New Testament is the only infallible record of apostolic teaching we have from the first century. However, they do not seem to appreciate the significance of this fact as it bears on the Protestant argument for sola Scriptura. For even many early fathers testified to the fact that all apostolic teaching was put in the New Testament. While acknowledging the existence of apostolic tradition, J. D. N. Kelly concluded that “admittedly there is no evidence for beliefs or practices current in the period which were not vouched for in the books later known as the New Testament.” Indeed, many early fathers, including Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Augustine, believed that the Bible was the only infallible basis for all Christian doctrine.12 Further, if the New Testament is the only infallible record of apostolic teaching, then every other record from the first century is fallible. It matters not that Catholics believe that the teaching Magisterium later claims to pronounce some extrabiblical tradition as infallibly true. The fact is that they do not have an infallible record from the first century on which to base such a decision.   Sola Scriptura: All Apostolic “Traditions” Are in the Bible   It is true that the New Testament speaks of following the “traditions” (=teachings) of the apostles, whether oral or written. This is because they were living authorities set up by Christ (Matt. 18:18; Acts 2:42; Eph. 2:20). When they died, however, there was no longer a living apostolic authority since only those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ could have apostolic authority (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1). Because the New Testament is the only inspired (infallible) record of what the apostles taught, it follows that since the death of the apostles the only apostolic authority we have is the inspired record of their teaching in the New Testament. That is, all apostolic tradition (teaching) on faith and practice is in the New Testament. This does not necessarily mean that everything the apostles ever taught is in the New Testament, any more than everything Jesus said is there (cf. John 20:30; 21:25). What it does mean is that all apostolic teaching that God deemed necessary for the faith and practice (morals) of the church was preserved (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It is only reasonable to infer that God would preserve what He inspired. The fact that apostles sometimes referred to “traditions” they gave orally as authoritative in no way diminishes the Protestant argument for sola Scriptura. First, it is not necessary to claim that these oral teachings were inspired or infallible, only that they were authoritative. The believers were asked to “maintain” them (1 Cor. 11:2) and “stand fast in them” (2 Thess. 2:15). But oral teachings of the apostles were not called “inspired” or “unbreakable” or the equivalent, unless they were recorded as Scripture. The apostles were living authorities, but not everything they said was infallible. Catholics understand the difference between authoritative and infallible, since they make the same distinction with regard to noninfallible statements made by the Pope and infallible ex cathedra (“from the seat” of Peter) ones. Second, the traditions (teachings) of the apostles that were revelations were written down and are inspired and infallible. They comprise the New Testament. What the Catholic must prove, and cannot, is that the God who deemed it so important for the faith and morals of the faithful to inspire the inscripturation of 27 books of apostolic teaching would have left out some important revelation in these books. Indeed, it is not plausible that He would have allowed succeeding generations to struggle and even fight over precisely where this alleged extrabiblical revelation is to be found. So, however authoritative the apostles were by their office, only their inscripturated words are inspired and infallible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; cf. John 10:35). There is not a shred of evidence that any of the revelation God gave them to express was not inscripturated by them in the only books — the inspired books of the New Testament — that they left for the church. This leads to another important point. The Bible makes it clear that God, from the very beginning, desired that His normative revelations be written down and preserved for succeeding generations. “Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord” (Exod. 24:4), and his book was preserved in the Ark (Deut. 31:26). Furthermore, “Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them… which he recorded in the book of the law of God” (Josh. 24:25-26) along with Moses’ (cf. Josh. 1:7). Likewise, “Samuel next explained to the people the law of royalty and wrote it in a book, which he placed in the presence of the Lord” (1 Sam. 10:25). Isaiah was commanded by the Lord to “take a large cylinder-seal, and inscribe on it in ordinary letters” (Isa. 8:1) and to “inscribe it in a record; that it may be in future days an eternal witness” (30:8). Daniel had a collection of “the books” of Moses and the prophets right down to his contemporary Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2). Jesus and New Testament writers used the phrase “It is written” (cf. Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) over 90 times, stressing the importance of the written word of God. When Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders it was not because they did not follow the traditions but because they did not “understand the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). All of this makes it clear that God intended from the very beginning that His revelation be preserved in Scripture, not in extrabiblical tradition. To claim that the apostles did not write down all God’s revelation to them is to claim that they were not obedient to their prophetic commission not to subtract a word from what God revealed to them.   Sola Scriptura: The Bible Does Not State a Preference for Oral Tradition   The Catholic use of 3 John to prove the superiority of oral tradition is a classic example of taking a text out of context. John is not comparing oral and written tradition about the past but a written, as opposed to a personal, communication in the present. Notice carefully what he said: “I have much to write to you, but I do not wish to write with pen and ink. Instead, I hope to see you soon when we can talk face to face” (3 John 13). Who would not prefer a face-to-face talk with a living apostle over a letter from him? But that is not what oral tradition gives. Rather, it provides an unreliable oral tradition as opposed to an infallible written one. Sola Scriptura contends the latter is preferable.   Sola Scriptura: The Bible Is Clear Apart from Tradition   The Bible has perspicuity apart from any traditions to help us understand it. As stated above, and contrary to a rather wide misunderstanding by Catholics, perspicuity does not mean that everything in the Bible is absolutely clear but that the main message is clear. That is, all doctrines essential for salvation and living according to the will of God are sufficiently clear. Indeed, to assume that oral traditions of the apostles, not written in the Bible, are necessary to interpret what is written in the Bible under inspiration is to argue that the uninspired is more clear than the inspired. But it is utterly presumptuous to assert that what fallible human beings pronounce is clearer than what the infallible Word of God declares. Further, it is unreasonable to insist that words of the apostles that were not written down are more clear than the ones they did write. We all know from experience that this is not so.   Sola Scriptura: Tradition and Scripture Are Not Inseparable   Kreeft’s claim that Scripture and apostolic tradition are inseparable is unconvincing. Even his illustration of the horse (Scripture) and the rider (tradition) would suggest that Scripture and apostolic tradition are separable. Further, even if it is granted that tradition is necessary, the Catholic inference that it has to be infallible tradition — indeed, the infallible tradition of the church of Rome — is unfounded. Protestants, who believe in sola Scriptura, accept genuine tradition; they simply do not believe it is infallible. Finally, Kreeft’s argument wrongly assumes that the Bible was produced by the Roman Catholic church. As we will see in the next point, this is not the case.   Sola Scriptura: The Principle of Causality Is Not Violated   Kreeft’s argument that sola Scriptura violates the principle of causality is invalid for one fundamental reason: it is based on a false assumption. He wrongly assumes, unwittingly in contrast to what Vatican II and even Vatican I say about the canon,13 that the church determined the canon. In fact, God determined the canon by inspiring these books and no others. The church merely discovered which books God had determined (inspired) to be in the canon. This being the case, Kreeft’s argument that the cause must be equal to its effect (or greater) fails.   Sola Scriptura: Rejection of Tradition Does Not Necessitate Scandal   Kreeft’s claim that the rejection of the Roman Catholic view on infallible tradition leads to the scandal of denominationalism does not follow for many reasons. First, this wrongly implies that all denominationalism is scandalous. Not necessarily so, as long as the denominations do not deny the essential doctrines of the Christian church and true spiritual unity with other believers in contrast to mere external organizational uniformity. Nor can one argue successfully that unbelievers are unable to see spiritual unity. For Jesus declared: “This is how all [men] will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Second, as orthodox Catholics know well, the scandal of liberalism is as great inside the Catholic church as it is outside of it. When Catholic apologists claim there is significantly more doctrinal agreement among Catholics than Protestants, they must mean between orthodox Catholics and all Protestants (orthodox and unorthodox) — which, of course, is not a fair comparison. Only when one chooses to compare things like the mode and candidate for baptism, church government, views on the Eucharist, and other less essential doctrines are there greater differences among orthodox Protestants. When, however, we compare the differences with orthodox Catholics and orthodox Protestants or with all Catholics and all Protestants on the more essential doctrines, there is no significant edge for Catholicism. This fact negates the value of the alleged infallible teaching Magisterium of the Roman Catholic church. In point of fact, Protestants seem to do about as well as Catholics on unanimity of essential doctrines with only an infallible Bible and no infallible interpreters of it! Third, orthodox Protestant “denominations,” though there be many, have not historically differed much more significantly than have the various “orders” of the Roman Catholic church. Orthodox Protestants’ differences are largely over secondary issues, not primary (fundamental) doctrines. So this Catholic argument against Protestantism is self-condemning. Fourth, as J. I. Packer noted, “the real deep divisions have been caused not by those who maintained sola Scriptura, but by those, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike, who reject it.” Further, “when adherents of sola Scriptura have split from each other the cause has been sin rather than Protestant biblicism….”14 Certainly this is often the case. A bad hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) is more crucial to deviation from orthodoxy than is the rejection of an infallible tradition in the Roman Catholic church.   Sola Scriptura: First Century Christians Had Scripture and Living Apostles   Kreeft’s argument that the first generation of Christians did not have the New Testament, only the church to teach them, overlooks several basic facts. First, the essential Bible of the early first century Christians was the Old Testament, as the New Testament itself declares (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6). Second, early New Testament believers did not need further revelation through the apostles in written form for one very simple reason: they still had the living apostles to teach them. As soon as the apostles died, however, it became imperative for the written record of their infallible teaching to be available. And it was — in the apostolic writings known as the New Testament. Third, Kreeft’s argument wrongly assumes that there was apostolic succession (see Part Four, next issue). The only infallible authority that succeeded the apostles was their infallible apostolic writings, that is, the New Testament.   Source: http://www.equip.org/articles/a-defense-of-sola-scriptura/

      in Soteriology and Reformation Theology

    • Responding to Objections to Sola Scriptura

      The authority of Scripture holds supreme importance in a Christian worldview, especially for Protestant evangelicals who believe that their faith and the way they live depend upon Scripture. Other branches of Christendom and skeptics, such as the convert to Roman Catholicism Peter Kreeft, sometimes raise objections to this crucial distinction. (1) They suggest that this principle is incoherent or unworkable. Responses to seven common objections explain how sola scriptura impacts Christian theology.   Objection #1: Scripture itself does not teach the principle of sola scriptura; therefore, this principle is self-defeating.   Response: The doctrine of sola scriptura need not be taught formally and explicitly. It may be implicit in Scripture and inferred logically. Scripture explicitly states its inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, and its sufficiency is implied there as well. This passage contains the essence of sola scriptura, revealing that Scripture is able to make a person wise unto salvation. And it includes the inherent ability to make a person complete in belief and practice.   Scripture has no authoritative peer. While the apostle Paul’s reference in verse 16—to Scripture being “God-breathed”—specifically applies to the Old Testament, the apostles viewed the New Testament as having the same inspiration and authority (1 Tim. 5:18; Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 3:16). The New Testament writers continue, mentioning no other apostolic authority on par with Scripture. Robert Bowman notes: “The New Testament writings produced at the end of the New Testament period direct Christians to test teachings by remembering the words of the prophets (OT) and apostles (NT), not by accessing the words of living prophets, apostles, or other supposedly inspired teachers (Heb. 2:2-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:2; Jude 3-4, 17).” (2)   Scriptural warnings such as “do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) and prohibitions against adding or subtracting text (Rev. 22:18-19) buttress the principle that Scripture stands unique and sufficient in its authority.   Christ held Scripture in highest esteem. The strongest scriptural argument for sola scriptura, however, is found in how the Lord Jesus Christ himself viewed and used Scripture. A careful study of the Gospels reveals that he held Scripture in the highest regard. Jesus said: “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35); “Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matt. 5:18); and “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17).   Christ appealed to Scripture as a final authority. Jesus even asserted that greatness in heaven will be measured by obedience to Scripture (Matt. 5:19) while judgment will be measured out by the same standard (Luke 16:29-31; John 5:45-47). He used Scripture as the final court of appeal in every theological and moral matter under dispute. When disputing with the Pharisees on their high view of tradition, he proclaimed: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition” (Mark 7:13).   Because Scripture came from God, Jesus considered it binding and supreme, while tradition was clearly discretionary and subordinate. Whether tradition was acceptable or not depended on God’s written Word. This recognition by Christ of God’s Word as the supreme authority supplies powerful evidence for the principle of sola scriptura.   When Jesus was tested by the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, he retorted, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). When confronted with the devil’s temptations, he responded three times with the phrase, “It is written,” followed by specific citations (Matt. 4:4-10). In this context, Jesus corrects Satan’s misuse of Scripture. Theologian J. I. Packer says of Jesus: “He treats arguments from Scripture as having clinching force.” (3)   Christ deferred to Scripture. Jesus based his ethical teaching upon the sacred text and deferred to its authority in his Messianic ministry (Matt. 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). His very destiny was tied to biblical text: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written” (Matt. 26:24). “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:46). Even while dying on the cross, Jesus quoted Scripture (see Matt. 27:45, cf. Ps. 22:1). His entire life, death, and resurrection seemed to be arranged according to the phrase, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56; Luke 4:21; 22:37).   Clearly, Christ accepted Scripture as the supreme authority and subjected himself to it (Matt. 26:54; Luke 24:44; John 19:28). Jesus did not place himself above Scripture and judge it; instead he obeyed God’s Word completely. A follower of Christ can do no less. A genuinely biblical worldview requires Scripture to be the supreme authority.   Objection #2: The earliest Christians didn’t have the complete New Testament. Therefore, references to Scripture by Jesus and his apostles apply only to the Old Testament.   Response: This objection fails for four reasons.   First, the early church had the living apostles to teach them. Though the inscripturation process took some time, immediacy wasn’t an issue because the apostles were still living. And the written New Testament circulated among the churches early in the first century.   Second, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit who would guide his apostles “into all truth” (John 16:13), as well as bring to their “remembrance” everything Christ said (John 14:26). In this way, Jesus put his stamp of approval on the New Testament yet to come (prospectively), as he had done for the previously written Old Testament (retrospectively). (4)   Third, considering his identity, the words of Jesus (Gospels) would carry at least the same authority as the words of the Old Testament prophets.   Fourth, Christ’s apostles, who were promised Spirit-guided illumination and recall, placed their writings on par with the Old Testament. The apostolic witness to Scripture claims it is inspired, infallible, and authoritative (Acts 4:25, 28:25; Rom. 3:2, 9:27, 29; 2 Tim. 3:15-16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).   Objection #3: The Roman Catholic Church wrote, canonized, and interpreted Scripture. The Bible cannot be greater than its cause—the Church.   Response: First, the claim that the church produced the Bible is wrong. (Note: Protestant scholars typically view the early church as catholic but not Roman). The church did not exist officially when the prophets and patriarchs wrote the Old Testament books. And the church accepted the Old Testament canon on the authority of Jesus Christ’s personal testimony. As an institution, the church did not produce the New Testament writings either. The apostles and their close associates (initial leaders of the church at large) wrote those books under the Holy Spirit’s direct inspiration.   Though the early church preceded the apostolic writings, it was the gospel message preached–later recorded and expounded in those writings—that by divine grace produced the church. This progression can be described as:   Gospel –> Church –> New Testament   The New Testament books became a permanent, infallible record of an oral message. Because Scripture is identified with the preached gospel, it is authoritative. The church (made up of gospel-believing communities) submits to the Word (gospel) that created it. Scripture derives no authority from the church; the authority of Scripture is inherent because the very words of God are the text (2 Tim. 3:16).   The early church did not create Scripture. The church merely received Scripture and recognized its inherent authority. God determined the canon by inspiring certain books and then guided the church to recognize and receive them.   The true church derives authority from rightly understanding and applying Scripture. The purpose of Scripture is to bear witness to Christ, who himself bears witness to the integrity and authority of Scripture: “You diligently study the Scriptures….These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).   Objection #4: Oral apostolic tradition is mentioned in Scripture (see 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:2) and granted divine authority alongside the apostolic writings.   Response: While living, the apostles could express their authoritative statements either orally or in writing, for they were hand-selected authoritative spokespersons for the Lord Jesus Christ. This apostolic authority in both forms must have been tremendously helpful as the early church emerged in the first century. It’s reasonable to conclude that the oral communication of the apostles was no different in content from their writings.   After the apostles’ deaths, however, the only way to confirm whether a particular so-called extrabiblical (apostolic) tradition is in accord with what the apostles taught and believed is to rely upon the permanent written Word (Scripture). Not all such claims were historically authentic and factually true even in apostolic times (John 21:22-23). Bowman makes this point: “Nowhere in the New Testament is it stated or implied that the church was commissioned to transmit to future generations oral traditions teaching doctrines or practices not found anywhere in the Bible—much less any guarantee that they would do so infallibly.” (5)   Ancient church traditions may serve as a type of noninspired subordinate norm in theology, but they possess a derivative and ministerial function only. However, such church traditions often suffer from being contradictory, biblically inconsistent, and even nebulous in nature.   Objection #5: Sola scriptura is an unhistorical position. Nobody believed in it before the sixteenth century. Sola scriptura was therefore a theological innovation of the Protestant Reformers.   Response: Because the doctrine of sola scriptura is derived from Scripture (see response to objection #1 above), it is not a sixteenth-century innovation. Sola scriptura did not appear as a fully developed and consistent theological position until the time of the Protestant Reformation, but the foundations for the position appeared much earlier in church history. Historical theologian Richard A. Muller explains:   The views of the Reformers developed out of a debate in the late medieval theology over the relation of Scripture and tradition, one party viewing the two as coequal norms, the other party viewing Scripture as the absolute and therefore prior norm, but allowing tradition a derivative but important secondary role in doctrinal statement. The Reformers and the Protestant orthodox held the latter view, on the assumption that tradition was a useful guide, that the trinitarian and christological statements of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon were expressions of biblical truth, and that the great teachers of the church provided valuable instruction in theology that always needed to be evaluated in the light of Scripture. (6)   Other historical theologians, such as Reinhold Seeberg and J. N. D. Kelly, cite a number of early church fathers as believing Scripture to be the absolute authority as a doctrinal norm. (7) Debates over the exact relationship between Scripture and church tradition took place long before the Protestant Reformers came along. In fact, some of the most powerful quotations concerning biblical authority can be drawn from two of the greatest Catholic thinkers in history, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.   Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote: It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place. (8) He [God] also inspired the Scripture, which is regarded as canonical and of supreme authority and to which we give credence concerning all the truths we ought to know and yet, of ourselves, are unable to learn. (9) There is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments…in the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. (10)       Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) stated: We believe the prophets and apostles because the Lord has been their witness by performing miracles…and we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings. (11) Only to those books or writings which are called canonical have I learnt to pay such honour that I firmly believe that none of their authors have erred in composing them. (12)       Objection #6: Private interpretation leads to denominationalism. Sola scriptura is therefore unworkable as an authoritative principle.   Response: Roman Catholic apologists in particular bring this major objection against sola scriptura. Simply stated, if the Bible is so clear, why are there so many denominations within Protestantism?   The first point is that not all denominational splits are scandalous. Wholesale departures from historic Christianity by theological liberalism must be opposed. When historic churches deny the very essence of the faith (the creeds), then division is obligatory. Packer gives a concise and forceful answer to this objection:   To the traditional Roman Catholic complaint that Protestant biblicism produces endless divisions in the church, the appropriate reply is twofold: firstly, the really deep divisions have been caused not by those who maintained sola scriptura, but by those, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike, who reject it; second, when adherents of sola scriptura have split from each other the cause has been sin rather than Protestant biblicism, for in conventional terms the issues in debate have not been of the first magnitude. (13)   Packer goes on to identify six concerns that divide Protestants: (1) God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom, (2) the Lord’s Supper, (3) ecclesiology (church order), (4) church/state issues, (5) baptism, and (6) eschatology (last things). (14)   One explanation for the differences on secondary issues is that diverse groups use a variety of hermeneutical approaches. Another factor is that no one has all of the spiritual and scholarly gifts and abilities to rightly interpret every detail of Scripture. It should also be noted that Catholicism, regardless of its Teaching Magisterium (15) (teaching office) and its claim to infallibility, has as much diversity as Protestantism. (16) And it must be remembered that the East/West (Orthodoxy/Catholicism) church schism of 1054 severely divided the church five centuries before the Reformation.   Objection #7: The original biblical manuscripts did not contain a table of contents to designate exactly which books were canonical and which were not. Therefore Protestants relied upon Roman Catholic tradition in order to even produce the canon of Scripture. This dilemma is self-defeating for the principle of sola scriptura.   Response: The process that the Christian community went through in deciding which books should be included in the canon is open to historical investigation. It seems unreasonable that a Protestant must rely upon Catholic tradition (as some type of revelation) to objectively investigate this historical process. The canonical debate is not part of what Catholics consider “apostolic tradition.”   Protestant Christians can warrant knowledge of the canon on the objective internal evidences of the biblical texts. Those books belong in the canon that: (1) profess to be Scripture or are acknowledged so by other such books; (2) are authentic (written by the persons to whom they are attributed); and (3) have some objective evidence supporting the claim that they are part of the inspired canon.   In practical terms, Protestants accept the Old Testament as canon because Jesus, whose inspiration is evident, did so. And Protestants accept the New Testament books as canon because it can be verified that Jesus’ apostles and their associates produced them with his authorization.   Catholic apologists admit that the ecclesiastical process that resulted in the biblical canon was long and drawn out. But this assertion seems inconsistent with their claim that the pope possesses the gift of infallibility. Why were there so many different lists and such strong disagreement about certain books? For example, even the great patristic scholars Augustine and Jerome differed over the canon. Why didn’t the pope at the time, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, simply intervene with the definitive list and settle the issue quickly and permanently? Could it be that in the early church the Bishop of Rome wasn’t recognized as having that power?   It is a mistake to assert that the early church determined or created the canon of Scripture. Rather, the early church recognized the inherent inspiration in the apostolic writings. In other words, an ecclesiastical pronouncement did not inspire scriptural writings; instead the pronouncement followed what had always been considered inspired revelation. When were the canonical books inspired? Not at the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) or Carthage (A.D. 397). Each book was inspired the day it was written. Clearly the inspiration of Scripture preceded the pronouncements of councils some three hundred years later.   The divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating (“God breathed,” 2 Tim 3:15-16). The church cannot function as the one who confirms Scripture’s authority (determining the canon), for only God can attest to the truth of his Holy Word. Therefore, an unofficial (but decisive) list of canonical books, namely, the self-authenticating books written by the apostles or their associates, emerges. Their inspiration identifies the books as canonical. The Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture provides the final confirmation that a book is canonical, not the church’s later recognition of that fact.       Kenneth Richard Samples is senior scholar at Reasons to Believe (a science-faith think tank) and an adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University. This article is an excerpt from Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 120-27.   Source: https://www.whitehorseinn.org/2017/06/countdown-to-reformation-day-responding-to-objections-to-sola-scriptura/

      in Soteriology and Reformation Theology

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