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Why I Don’t Believe in Sola Scriptura

A group of Baptist seminary students invited me to speak to them about why I reject the Protestant principle of sola scriptura (that doctrines come from the Bible alone). Here’s what I told them.

Speaker 1:

You are listening to Shameless Popery, with Joe Heschmeyer, a production of Catholic Answers.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Welcome back to Shameless Popery. I’m Joe Heschmeyer. So yesterday I had a really exciting opportunity to speak to a group of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the topic of Why I Don’t Believe in Sola Scriptura. It was a student group called Ratio Christi. And so it was about 12 students who invited me to come in and present a Catholic perspective, not to debate anybody, but just to give them a different point of view on an important issue. And then there was a really good lively Q&A session after I presented my main material. And I thought afterwards, wouldn’t that be good to share to a broader audience? So while I can’t give you every one of their questions, all of the enlivening dialogue that happened, I can at least give you a version of what I gave them, a version of the presentation I gave them yesterday.

So with that in mind, this is why I don’t believe in sola scriptura. And as I told them, the wording there is intentional, because I’m not saying these are the official Catholic teachings on why sola scriptura is wrong. It’s more these are the reasons I personally don’t subscribe to this doctrine. Sola scriptura, for those of you who may be watching this and not familiar, is the idea that doctrines must come from scripture alone. That scripture alone is infallible in scripture alone is our final authority. We’ll actually get into all of that very shortly. But I began by telling them what I wasn’t going to do. And the first was answer every question or objection they might have about Catholicism. The second was I wasn’t going to fully explicate or defend the ideas of sacred tradition or the magisterium.

Now those are important ideas. When we say we don’t believe in sola scriptura, and you say, well, what do you believe in? Well, then we have to talk about tradition and the magisterium. But for purposes of this talk, for length reasons largely, it made more sense to say however one understands tradition in the magisterium. Whatever you think of the Catholic church, sola scriptura is what’s on trial here, so to speak. Because you could reasonably say, I agree with you, sola scriptura seems untenable, and then maybe you become Eastern Orthodox. So I’m not immediately proving the Catholic case. I’m more testing the Protestant case. And so the third thing I’m not trying to do is to provide a fully fleshed out Catholic alternative to the evangelical vision.

Now, I think there is a Catholic version. I think it works, but for time reasons partly I chose not to go there. Also, it’s not enough to say I believe in sola scriptura because I reject the Catholic church. That’s just not a good enough argument. Because again, there are other ways of approaching Christianity than just sola scriptura or Catholicism. It’s a false binary. So in short, the entire focus is, is the evangelical vision correct on the issue of sola scriptura? And I argue, no. But to get there I’m going to ask five major questions. First, what is sola scriptura? What do we even mean when we use that term? Second, is there a principle difference between sola scriptura and what’s sometimes called solo scriptura or nuda scriptura? I’ll explain what all of that means.

Third, when from an evangelical perspective did sola scriptura become true? And this is the question that if you are a person who believes in sola scriptura, you should be asking yourself quite seriously. And if you’re a person who knows people who believe in sola scriptura, this is a question you should be asking them, and we’ll unpack that in a minute. Fourth, the obvious question is sola scriptura biblical? And fifth and finally, which scriptura? That is, which scriptures? Which Bible? If everything is from the Bible alone, well, which Bible? What do we need to know to be able to have sola scriptura? But before we get there, just one word on what the stakes are.

So B. B. Warfield, early 20th century, I believe Presbyterian, preacher, professor, theologian who’s a Princeton, he said that sola scriptura is the cornerstone of universal Protestantism, and on it Protestantism stands or else it falls. This is a high stakes doctrine. If there’s anything we can say is like distinctively Protestant, this would come very close to being that. Now, as with anything where you say, this is a Protestant view on X, Y, Z, you can find Protestants who say, well, I don’t believe in that, that there is no such thing as a Protestant pope, there is no such thing as a Protestant church. At the end of the day, and this is actually one of the critiques of sola scriptura, people are free to go their own way, and it doesn’t really matter what leading lights and Protestantism might say about that.

Okay, but with that said, let’s start with what do we even mean by sola scriptura? Well, I want to answer this in two ways. The first is from the Westminster Confession of Faith, I think they have a very good clear definition. They say the whole council of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life. So those four things, is either expressly set down in scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture. It’s either implicit or implied or logically entailed or it’s explicit. Under which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the spirit or traditions of men. So we don’t need to look to someone comes along and says, I found some tablets, I found these scrolls, doesn’t matter, it’s already a closed revelation and this is a once for all thing. And moreover, and this is important, manmade tradition doesn’t have any role there.

Nevertheless, the Westminster Confession does acknowledge that scripture alone, just the text itself is not actually sufficient, that you need something else, namely the inward illumination of the spirit of God. So this is a point in one form or another Catholics and Protestants are going to be able to agree on. That the Bible alone is not sufficient for salvation at all. The devil knows the words of the Bible. He’s not saved. So knowing what it says isn’t good enough, you need to, A, understand it and B, believe it. And to understand it or believe it, these are actions of the Holy Spirit. Now there are going to be really important questions about whether the Holy Spirit is infallibly leading the church into all truth as Jesus says, or infallibly leading the individual believer into all truth. But nevertheless, there is this role that the Holy Spirit has to play to make scripture have this efficacy.

There’s another caveat that the Westminster confession gives. That there are also these circumstances concerning the worship of God, the government of the church, human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed. In other words in saying that scripture alone is sufficient for all of those major things about Christian living, they don’t mean everyone just pick up the Bible and go your own way. That’s sometimes how it gets misinterpreted. That’s not what they’re saying. There is a need for these other authorities just for the regulation of Christian life, regulation of Christian worship. Someone has to figure out, okay, what’s the order of worship going to be at our local church?

What time do we celebrate our service? What does our service look like? All of those questions, someone has to actually go from what they’re reading on the page to implementing that vision in some kind of corporate way. So Westminster’s actually pretty clear this is not the only authority, but it is a special kind of authority and is the only of that special kind of authority. So hopefully that’s clear. The other source I looked at is Dr. Matthew Barrett. And one reason is because he’s good and clear on sola scriptura. Another is he teaches at MBTs, which is where I was speaking. I wanted to say, well, look, here’s someone that’s teaching, I think he largely teaches the grad students, but someone who I’m not just choosing some weirdo off the street, one of your own professors, here’s how he explains it.

And he says, for Luther and the reformers, sola scriptura meant that only scripture, because it is God’s inspired word, is our inerrant sufficient and final authority for the church. There’s four claims being made there. Only the Bible is God’s inspired word, only the Bible is inerrant, only the Bible is sufficient and only the Bible is a final authority within Christianity. And those arguments, those four points are really where Catholics and Protestants are going to disagree. Because we don’t believe that God’s inspired word is only the Bible. We think God’s inspired word or God’s word we should say, is first and foremost Jesus Christ. That if you want to know the revelation of God, it’s not the Old Testament, it’s not the New Testament, it’s not a book at all, the full revelation of God is Jesus and scripture clearly presents this. We can get into that.

But another area we disagree is in terms of the inerrancy and the sufficiency. We don’t see anywhere in scripture where God says, this book is all you need. And in fact, we see several places in scripture that point pretty clearly to this is not all you need. There’s something else you need. And we’re pointed to the church and we’re pointed to tradition. Additionally there seems to be these promises of at least particular kinds of an errancy for the church, that he who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me. And he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me. Those claims that Jesus makes suggest about the preaching done by the church. Point to there being something more than that. And in fact, we could say when you read the Bible, particularly when you’re reading say the Book of Acts, you see several moments where oral proclamations are also both inspired and of course in errant, meaning without error.

All that’s to say we’re going to disagree on those four things. But that’s a good description of what is meant by sola scriptura. And oh yeah, I didn’t mention, Barrett says only the Bible is a final authority within Christianity. We’re going to say no, tradition and magisterium are also final authorities, and we’ll get to why. But the second of the five questions I wanted to ask, sola scriptura, what’s sometimes called solo scriptura, what Barrett’s going to call nuda scriptura. Barrett explains it like this. He says, “Authority is a bad word in our day of rugged individualism, but the Bible is all about authority.” Amen, brother. We agree there. In fact, sola scriptura means that the Bible is our chief supreme and ultimate authority. Notice however that I didn’t say the Bible is our only authority.

And he says, “Sola scriptura is too easily confused today with nuda scriptura. The view that we should have no creed but the Bible. Those who sing this mantra believe that creeds, confessions, the voices of tradition and those who hold ecclesiastical offices carrying no authority in the church. But this was not the reformer’s position, nor should it be equated with sola scriptura.” Now, so far I actually agree, because as we just saw, the Westminster confession, Barrett himself, are really clear that in saying that the Bibles are final authority, they’re not saying the Bibles are only authority. Instead he says, “Solo scriptura acknowledges that there are other important authorities for the Christian, authorities that should be listened to and followed. Nonetheless, scripture alone is our final authority. It is the authority that rules over and governs all other authorities. It is the authority that has the final say.”

Now, Barrett is going to make two helpful clarifications. He’s going to say, first, we can say that while church tradition and church officials play a ministerial role, scripture alone plays a magisterial role. Now, magister is a Latin word for teacher. So he’s saying only scripture is our teacher. The teaching office in the church doesn’t exist, it’s only a ministry, it’s not a teaching office. So the tradition, the church officials, they’re not teachers, they’re ministers. The scripture alone is a teacher. That’s what it means to say magister. This means, he says, that all other authorities are only to be followed in as much as they align with scripture, submit to scripture and are seen as subservient to scripture, which alone is our supreme authority. We’re going to get back to that in just a moment, but I want to make sure that what he’s saying is clear, and this at least is my understanding. I hope I’m doing justice to his position.

If you think about it this way, look, I was a lawyer, so this analogy is helpful for me. It may not be helpful for you at all, but in the federal court system, you have district courts that then have courts of appeal above them. For instance, Kansas City is divided because part of the city is on the Missouri side, that’s in the Western district of Missouri, that then the court of appeals is the 8th circuit. On the Kansas side, it’s the district of Kansas and it’s the 10th circuit. So a case that goes on appeal in Missouri goes somewhere else and a case that goes appeal in Kansas. Why does this matter? Because if you’re a judge, you’re looking to what other judges have said. If it’s a judge directly above you, for instance, if you’re a district court judge in Western Missouri and the 8th circuit has said, the law means X, your hands are bound, you have to obey that, you have to follow the guidance you’ve received.

This is what’s called binding authority or controlling authority. And so of course the Supreme Court has that same role even over circuit courts and courts of appeal. On the other hand, if you are looking across and saying, you know what? Almost the exact same circumstances happened over in Kansas and the judges over there found X, Y, Z. This is what’s called persuasive authority. Because you’re going to look at that and say, well, all things being equal, I should do the same thing they did. The law should be predictable. People should have an idea that if there’s a federal law, it’s going to work the same way on this side of state line as that side of state line, and so I should come up to the same conclusion as those judges in Kansas. But here’s the kicker, and here’s why I bring this up.

The judge in Missouri could say, I think the judges in Kansas got this one wrong and simply go their own way. And so this is what you sometimes will hear as a split, like split circuits. That eight circuits said yes, 10 circuits said no. And in those kind of cases the Supreme Court sometimes has to intervene to clarify when there’s confusion. But that’s the idea. You’ve got persuasive authorities which are influential, but that you can freely dissent from if you think that they’re wrong. And then you’ve got controlling authorities which you actually have to listen to. They’re actually binding. They force your hand. So according to Barrett, and I think I’m doing a good job presenting sola scriptura in the way, I presented it like this to a room full of Baptists and nobody disagreed.

Sola scriptura says the only controlling, binding authority in this instance, the only final authority, the Supreme Court if you will, is the Bible itself. How anyone else interprets the Bible is a persuasive authority. So if my church interprets the Bible this way as a Baptist and yours interpreted that way as a Presbyterian, we can listen to our churches and that can be a persuasive authority. But here’s the kicker. Remember Barrett’s line, “All other authorities are only to be followed and as much as they align with scripture, submit to scripture and are seen as subservient to scripture.” Now that sounds great, because that is see normal limit of human authority. The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother.” And one sense of that is that children should obey their parents. That’s not all that that means, but that’s one part of it.

But if your parents tell you, we need to go commit human sacrifice, you can say, no, sign me out for that. I’m not going to sin. I’m not going to do something abhorrent even if my mom and dad say so and I’m a minor. Even in those cases, their authority does not extend as far as telling you to do something immoral and unjust. Likewise, civil authority, we should honor the emperor, we should obey civil authorities, all of that’s right there in scripture. And yet nevertheless, just when the Christians are told to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, they say, we must serve God rather than men. So by all means, it is true that human authority is checked by they can’t order you to do something immoral. Why is this a problem here then? Because if the authority of the church is only as good as when you think the church agrees with the Bible, then it’s practically useless.

And here’s what I mean by that. The entire area this comes up is when you think the Bible says X, and the church thinks the Bible says Y. Because from the perspective of X, the Y people aren’t listening to the Bible. And from the perspective of Y, the X people aren’t listening to the Bible. That’s how almost every theological dispute happens. If the question is, should we baptize infants? Both sides are looking at scripture and coming to different conclusions. It’s not that one side is following the Bible, the other side says, who cares about the Bible? It’s that we’re reading the Bible differently. And so if the authority of the church only extends as far as if I agree with the church’s interpretation of the Bible, then it doesn’t extend very far at all, because precisely the place we need the church is on those questions of interpretation.

Imagine, going back to the legal example. If it was Supreme Court decisions should only be listened to by lower courts if they accord with the Constitution. That sounds great, but the problem is people don’t agree on what the Constitution says. That’s literally why the Supreme Court exists, to answer questions of legal interpretation. And so hopefully this makes sense. Because people say, well, why would you want a church that can contradict the Bible? It’s like, no, no, I want a church that can contradict your interpretation of the Bible, which is not the same thing. That’s the idea. That’s where the rubber hits the road. That in theory sola scriptura is not very much like solo scriptura because you have all these other authorities that should still be listened to, but in practice those other authorities are only as authoritative as when you agree with them. When you disagree with them, which is when their authority actually matters, you’re free to just write them off as not listening to the Bible.

Saint Jerome has a good saying about this, in his dialogue against the Luciferians. He says we ought to Romanian that church which was founded by the apostles and continues to this day. And he warns against any church that was founded later than the time of the apostles. And he says of these different later churches, these heretical groups, “Let them not flatter themselves if they think they have scripture authority for their assertions since the devil himself quoted scripture. And the essence of the scripture is not the letter but the meaning.” I love this quote. I go back to it a lot. You’ll probably hear me use it again if you listen to this show. Because he’s saying a couple important things.

One, anyone can make an argument from scripture no matter how ridiculous. He gives the example of a hypothetical church that says you can’t wear shoes and you can’t have two coats, because Jesus sends out the 72 with those instructions. Take no cloak with you. Don’t take a second pair of sandals. Okay. So this is our new church teaching. If anyone comes into church and they own a coat, we kick them out, we excommunicate them. And you’d say, that’s ridiculous. But that ridiculous church, and it’s intentionally a ridiculous example, can still say, well look, we are following the Bible. Why don’t you listen to the Bible? And what this proves is that it’s not the letter that matters, it’s the essence. What is Jesus actually expressing here? What’s the meaning? Because anyone can quote the letter and he gives the example of the devil.

In the temptations of Jesus, you may remember the devil quote scripture to him. He goes and he tries to get Jesus to throw himself off the temple and he quotes the Psalms to him about how he’ll protect your feet. And he’s taking scripture radically out of context, but he’s quoting it. And so if it’s just a matter of can I find support for this argument in the Bible, of course you can. That doesn’t mean your argument is true because you might just be misreading the Bible. I propose to the students at MBTs and I’d propose to those of you who are watching or listening to this, two case studies if you will. The first is Dr. Stephen Nimis on the Trinity, and the second is Dr. William Lane Craig. I believe it’s Dr. William Lane Craig on the human will of Christ.

Because in both of these cases, you’ve got very smart people who are making objections to basic aspects of Christian theology from what we would normally think of as a Christian perspective. These are not radical, I don’t believe in the Bible folks. These are people who are trying to be biblical Christians who are nevertheless calling into question basic things about Christianity. And so my question is not are they right or are they wrong? My question is on what principle can someone who believes in sola scriptura answer that question? They could say, I think Nimis is wrong about the Trinity. They could say, I think Craig is wrong about the human will of Christ, but do we have to just debate it or is there some principled way we can say this matter is settled, we don’t have to reopen it?

So let me give you both examples and then we can unpack it. First, Dr. Stephen Nimis on the Trinity. I’m just quoting parts of, he had a much longer thing, but in relevant part, he says, “The doctrine of the Trinity seems to be trying to say that three things are one thing.” Remember the Trinitarian doctrine that there are three persons in one substance, three hypostases in one ousia. And he’s saying, I don’t know what you mean by that. He says, “Either this is contradictory or else one is equivocating on the word thing.” And then he says, “The dogmatic confidence with which people hold to this doctrine is hugely disproportionate to its many theoretical problems. People may think that they’re simply being faithful to Christian tradition in holding to this doctrine with such fervor, but this is irrational.”

I think that they should say not everyone understands it the same. “And not everyone always believed it. Even if a lot of people did that doesn’t make it true.” And then he answers the what would be the Catholic objection, this is the judgment the church has come to about revelation. He says, “Yes, except for all those other Christians whose churches were confiscated and who were excluded or even killed for dissenting, consensus by exclusion and coercion is not a genuine rational consensus.” There it is. That’s I think a totally sensible objection to make. And the stakes are very high because traditionally, if someone denied the Trinity, we wouldn’t even consider them Christian, even if they said, I want to follow Jesus Christ, but I don’t believe in the Trinity, whether it’s Mormons or some forms at least of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One is Pentecostals. We’d say, you’ve stepped outside of Christianity, you don’t have a valid baptism.

This is a make or break sort of issue. To reject the trinity is a big deal. But Nimis is saying, I don’t really see how to make sense of this logically and I don’t see why I have to respect the church’s consensus on this. And from a Protestant perspective, I think that’s internally consistent and coherent. And I’d be curious, I didn’t get an answer to this from the Protestants I spoke to last night. I’d be curious if there is a Protestant case to make that someone has to listen to what Nicaea has to say. But before we get there, the second case study is William Lane Craig. William Lane Craig is a fantastic Christian apologist in that he does a very good job of explaining why Christianity’s true and atheism is wrong.

But when he does theology within Christianity, he occasionally goes, I would say, off the rails. And one of those areas is on the human will of Jesus Christ. He says in his words, this is from his podcast, “I along with certain others I think believe that this council…,” He means they’re the third council of Constantinople in the year 680. “Really went wrong and got it wrong in affirming that Christ has both a human will and a divine will.” And he thinks that this idea, that Christ has two wills, leads you into the heresy called historianism. He says, “How could Christ have two wills and yet not be two persons? How could he have a human will and a divine will and yet not be two persons, a human person and a divine person?” Again, this is a good question, because he thinks that the church’s councils have contradicted themselves.

And you know what, the reformers claimed that the churches councils had contradicted themselves. So the question is, does he have to believe that Christ has a human will? Because from a traditional Christian perspective, yes, to say that Christ doesn’t have a human will is to say he’s not fully human, it’s to deny the full meaning of the incarnation. It’s a big deal. But from Craig’s perspective, he doesn’t understand how we could say Jesus is one person, a divine person, that somehow has both a divine will and a human will. So this becomes really important because it also has Trinitarian implications. When Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and he says, not my will but yours be done. The traditional is understood, is that his human will is facing the natural human revulsion to death and that he is nevertheless submitting himself freely and in faith, not faith exactly, but freely in submission to God in following the divine will rather than the human will.

But if you don’t believe Jesus has a human will, then you have to say the second person of the holy Trinity’s divine will is being subordinated to the first person of the holy Trinity’s divine will. And it raises all kinds of questions about, well, could the first and second person of the Trinity disagree with each other in the first place? Is there a need for that? It raises some important questions there. I’m not saying those questions are insuperable, but it raises some important questions. Again, the point in bringing up these two issues is not to even resolve them. The point is to say, using the principle of sola scriptura, you can end up in both of these places. And it’s very unclear, at least to me, when and how people know they need to listen to the church, because the church has answered both of these questions.

Both of these guys know the church has answered these questions. Both of these guys openly reject what the church has said. This is not a case where they’re ignorant, nor is it a case where they’re just not very well read. You can’t just hand them a book and say, this will solve all of your problems. And so we’re left at a juncture. If you are a sola scriptura person, it seems that you just have to say, well, we have to debate this out. And here’s the thing, even though William Lane Craig is wrong on this issue, I’ve got no doubt he could beat almost all of us in a debate. Even when he is wrong, he’s just a better debater. He’s better read than most of the people watching this, listening to this. So is that the standard theology is just decided by who is more persuasive?

Because if so, Christology is not going to bode well for good Trinitarian theology. That’s the second point, that sola scriptura on paper doesn’t lead to these problems, but in practice it actually does. That you may not proclaim no creed but the Bible is the only creed that can actually withstand dissent. Because if someone says, I disagree with Jesus, people who believe in sola scriptura have an answer to that. If someone says, I disagree with Council of Nicaea, who knows? Maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong. That leads a third of the five questions. When did sola scriptura start? And here I’m indebted to my colleague Jimmy Akin, who I think this is a very good way of presenting this idea. And so I’ve adapted something he told me, but we’ll start with this.

Was sola scriptura true during Jesus earthly ministry? In other words, when Jesus was on earth, were people expected to go from the Bible alone? Now, if you listen to the very first episode, the Bible in Jesus day, I believe is the name of it, where I look at what even the Bible looked like at the time of Jesus. And you know there wasn’t a closed cannon, that there wasn’t one set of books that were universally recognized as the Bible. There were some books that were recognized as biblical books. There were other books that were in more of a gray area. So sola scriptura wouldn’t really work there. Nevertheless was sola scriptura true during Jesus’s earthly ministry? And the answer is quite clearly, no. In the first chapter of Mark, we see Jesus going into Capernaum, he goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath and he teaches.

And the people that are astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one who had authority and not as scribes. That is Jesus is himself a magisterial authority. He is the supreme magistrate, the supreme teacher, and they say, what is this? A new teaching. So quite explicitly, they’re not saying this is the same old teaching we’ve gotten from the Jewish scriptures up to this point. No, the New Testament is actually new. There’s new stuff that hadn’t been found before and people were both free to believe it and in fact had to believe it. Sola scriptura was not true at this point. Okay, that’s an important point. Maybe an obvious one. Well, was sola scriptura true on Easter? And again, the answer is, no. Because if you remember from John 20, the women go to the tomb. Mary Magdalene runs back and says to Simon, Peter and John, they’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb. We do not know where they’ve laid him.

John and Peter then run to the tomb. John famously gets there first. Peter goes in. “Then the other disciple who reached the tomb first also went in, and we’re told, and he saw and believed for as yet they did not know the scripture that he must rise from the dead.” Now, that’s John 20:8-9 there. This is a critical part, because it means that the original believers in Easter, Peter and John, the first two to come to this belief that Jesus rose from the dead, believed it, not because it’s taught in the Old Testament, but because they witnessed the empty tomb. John tells us that. In other words, it is true that the scriptures teach that Jesus must rise from the dead. The Old Testament properly understood, teaches that, but these adult Jewish believers hadn’t ever read scripture in that way.

And so they are not believing in the resurrection because the Bible tells them so. They are believing in the resurrection because they’ve seen the evidence for it with their own eyes. Hopefully that’s an obvious point, but this is a major doctrine, the central doctrine of Christianity, and it’s not believed in by the earliest Christians on the basis of sola scriptura. It literally doesn’t matter if you say, but they could have believed in it that way, but it doesn’t matter. That’s not in fact how the earliest Christians came to a saving faith. They don’t come to faith in the resurrection from scripture alone. Third, was sola scriptura true during the apostolic period? That is while the apostles are alive, was sola scriptura true then? And the answer again is, no.

We see this pretty obviously because there’s inspired oral proclamations. We get this all over the book of Acts, in Acts 2, beginning in verse 14 on Pentecost. Peter stands up with the 11 and we’re told he lifted up his voice and addressed them saying, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem let this be known to you and give ear to my words.” In other words, he is pointing out this is an oral proclamation. Now we now have that proclamation in some written form, but the first time it’s proclaimed when 3000 people come to faith, they aren’t reading Acts 2, because it hasn’t been written down yet. It won’t be written down for decades. They’re hearing what later becomes part of Acts 2, and that’s leading them to faith. So sola scriptura not true during the apostolic period.

And in fact, St. Paul’s quite clear about this fact. He says, “So then brethren stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us either by word of mouth or by letter.” Now that is I think the biggest, most decisive verse on the topic of sola scriptura and we will return to it. Paul is saying two important things. First, tradition. A tradition is something handed on, traditio. Anything passed on, it could be good, it could be bad, it could be neutral. But anything handed on from Jesus and from the apostles as a teaching, that apostolic tradition, sacred tradition, that’s actually binding, they’re supposed to stand firm and hold to it. So we’re told apostolic tradition is binding.

He doesn’t call it that. He calls it traditions, which you were taught by us, but the US there is the apostles, and we call that apostolic tradition as a shorthand.And it takes two forms, word of mouth and a epistle. So there’s a written form of tradition which we call scripture, and there’s an unwritten form of tradition which we call tradition, but they’re the same thing in two different modes. When I say they’re the same thing, I don’t mean they’re extensive, because he doesn’t say that. I mean they both have the same origin and source in the same binding authority. And if you think about this logically, the different books of the New Testament are written at different times and they include different information.

So Paul for instance, doesn’t go into any great detail about the virgin birth. He doesn’t teach it at all in fact. So there’s a time where maybe Paul’s letters have been written and you don’t have the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke yet. People disagree about the order of the books come, but you can fill in the blank, whatever books you think are first, don’t have some of the content, some of the dogmatic teachings, some of the binding Christian teachings that are found in later books. But that doesn’t mean that someone could just say, well, I no longer believe in the virgin birth because Paul hasn’t mentioned it yet. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t just start with what’s the first book and that’s all I’m going to believe in.

So during the time the apostles are alive, sola scriptura doesn’t work and it’s not true. And of all people, Dr. James White, who is not usually someone who presents Catholic arguments will say, makes this point quite clearly. He says, “You will never find anyone saying during times of inscripturation, that when new Revelation was being given, sola scriptura was operational.” Now, I would quibble with this. I have found people who claim sola scriptura was true during the time of the Apostles, but nevertheless, James White says it wasn’t. He says, Protestants do not assert that sola scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be since the rule of faith to which it points was at that very time coming into being. One must have an existing rule of faith to say it is sufficient.

It is a canard to point to times of revelation and say, see, sola scriptura doesn’t work there. Of course it doesn’t. Who said it did? So certainly James White would agree with everything I’ve said so far about was sola scriptura true at the time of Jesus? No. On Easter morning? No. During the lifetime of the Apostles? No. That leaves us with the question. So when does sola scriptura become true? And there’s a number of ways I could imagine someone trying to answer this question. Like I say, well, when John wrote the last letter of the book of Revelation, he writes that amen. And when he gets to the last punctuation there, then sola scriptura becomes true. The problem there is that nobody knows that. They don’t know this is the last book of the New Testament yet. They may not even have the book of Revelation yet.

The doctrine suddenly came into force and nobody knew about it. That’s very strange teaching. To have a cornerstone doctrine be that there is this moment where boom, suddenly sola scriptura is true and the apostle John while alive does not observe this or report, from now on we have a new rule of faith scripture alone. That’s a strange thing to believe. Or you could say, well, maybe it’s not then, maybe it’s when John dies, because now there are no living apostles. Okay. I get the logic there, but there are still people who heard the oral teaching of the apostles. And moreover, there are a lot of Christians who may not have all of the books of the New Testament because they haven’t been gathered up into one place yet. So are they bound by scripture alone? And if so, which scripture?

If this is a community that’s only received some of the letters, are they free to ignore the other things they know to be true because they haven’t seen those things in writing yet? What’s the rule of faith here? What’s the standard? So maybe you say, well, it’s only when the church clarifies the full biblical candidate. Only when we know exactly which books are in the Bible and everybody has the full Bible, then sola scriptura becomes true. You could say that. But when is that? Because as we’re going to see in question five, Protestants don’t actually think that the church got the question of the Bible right. They disagree with what the early Christian Bible looked like. And so when does sola scriptura become true? Hopefully you can see why this is a pretty serious problem.

This is going to actually tie in nicely to the question of which scriptura, but we’re not going to get there yet, because first I wanted to say, well, is sola scriptura biblical? Does the Bible teach sola scriptura? There’s an important point. Remember the thing James White said, while the apostles are in times revelation while scripture is still being written, sola scriptura is not true. One important consequence of that logically is that no New Testament verse written in present tense could be teaching sola scriptura. Let me repeat that. Scripture is not written to us. Scripture is written for us. Scripture in the New Testament is written to particular audiences in the first century, and according to James White, and I think most people who believe in sola scriptura, at the time, it’s written, to the people, it’s written sola scriptura was not true. Catholics agree on that.

So this means that the Bible doesn’t teach sola scriptura in any verse written in the present tense. Think about that as we unpack the biblical case offered for sola scriptura and then a counter case. But in answer to the question is sola scriptura biblical? This is the fourth of the five questions I want to cover. There’s really three questions within this fourth question. Does sola scriptura need to be biblical? And then are there verses in the Bible that teach sola scriptura? And then are there verses in the Bible that reject or contradict sola scriptura? Let’s first say, does sola scriptura need to be biblical? Because you’ll find people who realize that this is really not a teaching that the Bible supports, and they say, well, it doesn’t need to be. This is the only rule of faith I know about, and therefore I’m going to live according to that.

That doesn’t work. And here’s why that doesn’t work. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, as we have already discussed, the whole council of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life are either implicitly or explicitly in scripture. Well, sola scriptura certainly falls within that category. It is clearly related to the glory of God, to man’s salvation, to faith in Christian living. And yet this principle is not in the Bible. So the question is, if there’s a principle governing how we glorify God, how we’re saved, what our faith looks like and how we live, that principle according to the Westminster Confession of Faith has got to be in the Bible or else a necessary deduction from the Bible, an implicit part of the Bible you could easily deduce from.

Well, you can see the problem there. So this means sola scriptura has to be biblical to be true. And of course this makes sense, right? Again, remember the B. B. Warfield quote I mentioned in the very beginning, this is the cornerstone of universal Protestantism. This is a doctrine, and on it, Protestantism stand is it’s a false. This is about as big a doctrine as it gets in terms of the doctrines dividing Catholics and Protestants. If there was a major church dividing doctrine between Catholics and Protestants and Protestants pointed out, hey, you Catholics have this doctrine that’s not found in the Bible, and we just said, who cares? I don’t think a sola scriptura Protestant would say, yeah, that’s a good enough answer. I think they’d say, well, it should be.

And so likewise, Catholics can turn around and say, okay, if that’s the standard you’re going to hold Catholic teaching too, your own teaching should be held to that standard as well, right? It just makes sense. Sola scriptura needs to be found in the Bible. And here’s the problem, it isn’t. Nothing in the Bible read in its proper context, teaches it. I’m going to look at just a few of the most common verses cited to, and in each case I think you’ll see they’re taken out of context. First, 2 Timothy 3 says that all scripture is inspired by God, or you can say, all scripture is God breathed more literally. And this passage gets cited too quite a lot to say, aha, this proved scripture alone is necessary. But let’s give it in its context, and I think you’ll see that this verse is being ripped out of context.

St. Paul is talking to Timothy and he tells him to continue in what you’ve learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 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. Think about that for a moment. Timothy grew up knowing sacred writings that were capable of leading to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. What sacred writings were those? Was that the New Testament? No. The New Testament hadn’t been written in Timothy’s childhood. It was being actively written literally as Paul is writing this letter to him. It’s not written a generation earlier. However you date 2 Timothy, it’s not a generation after the New Testament.

So when Paul is reminding Timothy of the scriptures he read as a kid, he’s very clearly referring to the Old Testament scriptures. So anyone who says that, he’s saying this is all you need, would logically have to say, it would seem, that all we need is the Old Testament. We don’t need the New Testament at all, because the Old Testament is enough to lead us to a saving faith in Jesus. And that is clearly not what Paul is saying. And so when you read it in context, you realize, no, he’s not teaching sola scriptura. The second reason we know he is not teaching sola scriptura is why? Because sola scriptura wasn’t true in the lifetime of Paul or in the lifetime of Timothy. We’ve already seen that in the last point.

Paul then says, “All scripture is inspired by God,” Again God breathed. “And profitable for teaching, for a proof, for correction, and for training and righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Well, by all means Catholics believe in that, but saying that scripture is profitable for those things doesn’t mean that’s all you need. And saying that you need it to be complete doesn’t mean it’s all you need. I’ll give a really simple example. Imagine a syllabus that just says, you got weekly presentations worth 15% of your grade, participation’s 15%, the take home midterms 20%, the final presentation’s 15%, and then the take home final is 35%. It adds up. Don’t worry.

If you say, I’m not going to do the midterm, I would say to you, you know what? You need that to be complete. If you don’t do that, you are going to get an incomplete for the class, because that’s 20% of your grade. And if you don’t do that, it’s not complete. But if you then said, okay, so the midterm is all I need? I would say that is a basic failure to understand logic or English, because I didn’t say that, I said it was necessary for completion. That does not mean it’s the only thing you need. If you did only the midterm, you’re getting at best at 20% in the class. You don’t just get an incomplete, you get an F. Well, likewise, Protestants read this passage that say, scripture is profitable for Christian completion in all these other ins and say, though, therefore it’s all I need. No, it didn’t say that. And logically it doesn’t mean that.

And in fact, as we’ll see, St. Paul doesn’t just point Timothy to the scriptures. He also points him to the church, which she calls the pillar and bulwark of truth. So Paul clearly doesn’t believe what Protestants are trying to pretend or claim that he believes, which is that scripture alone is necessary. He doesn’t say that. He says it’s necessary, he doesn’t say it’s only necessary. That’s the first verse or first passage. The second passage. This one is an interesting one because it is so cryptic. I understand how people get to this conclusion because there’s a line where Paul says not to go beyond what is written. And people say, that sounds like he’s saying go with the Bible alone. But here again, if you read it in context, you realize he’s saying nothing of the sort.

1 Corinthians, if you remember the early chapters of 1 Corinthians, he’s dealing with in-fighting in the church. Some say they’re part of Paul, some say they’re part of Apollo, some say they’re just part of Jesus, they’re trying to be non-denominational. And Paul is just telling them all to cut it out, because this is all denominationalism and factionalism. And it’s leading them to be really judgmental with each other. And so he tells them, 1 Corinthians 4, beginning in verse five, “Therefore did not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart, then every man will receive his commendation from God.” So clearly the context of what we’re reading is about not being judgmental.

And he says, “I’ve applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” So he’s saying, don’t be factional, don’t be denominational. He’s not actually saying follow the Bible alone. And one of the ways we know that is because it would make no sense for him to be saying that here. Think about it logically. Are sola scriptura Christians more immune from denominationalism than everybody else? No, it’s the exact opposite. There’s more factionalism, more denominationalism, more schism within Protestantism than there is within orthodoxy or Catholicism. We’re not immune from those tensions. We’re not immune from those tendencies. But anyone who’s looked at the last 500 years of Protestantism will say sola scriptura does not keep you from becoming arrogant, and it does not keep you from becoming denominational.

And so it’s very bizarre to suggest that Paul is saying, if you want to be humble, use sola scriptura, because that doesn’t really fit the context of what he’s saying at all. So the question is, well, what is he saying? And this is frankly a harder question. A lot of scholars think that he’s using an axiom or an adage that would’ve been immediately clear to his audience, but that because he didn’t feel the need to explain it to the Corinthians, we’ve lost the cultural context of that expression or that phrase, that it just seems a little opaque. There is one intriguing theory that I want to throw out there. I can’t say this theory is correct. I can say it’s interesting. This is from L.L. Welborn in an essay called a Conciliatory principle in 1 Corinthians 4:6.

And it’s a quotation of a treaty of friendship, like a peace treaty basically, between the Magnesians and the Smyrnaeans in this area near Corinth. And in the peace treaty it says, “I shall abide by the agreements which I have concluded for all time, and I shall transgress nothing of what is in the agreement, nor shall I change for the worst of things written in it in any way or on any pretext, and I shall live in Concord and without faction.” Now, that’s intriguing because this is around the right time, around the right era and around the right region, and it suggests that this don’t go beyond what is written, maybe the language of something like a peace treaty. Now that would fit perfectly in the context of 1 Corinthians 4.

If he’s saying make peace, wave the white flag. If I use that expression, anyone familiar with modern axioms and idioms will know wave the white flag means like surrender. Stop fighting. Someone reading this 2000 years later, first of all, welcome, thank you for walking this, 2000 years from now. Might say, what is this bit about waving a white flag? This is totally unclear, but with the right digging into the history, you you’d understand this is an idiomatic expression. So likewise, it’s not 100% clear. I can’t say this is definitely what Paul meant, but it seems that he’s using the language of a peace treaty to say, don’t be puffed up, but instead live in Concord and without faction like this peace treaty says, and other treaties like it have similar language, make peace with one another in other words.

That makes sense in 1 Corinthians 4, that fits the context. But finally on this point, again, Paul is definitely not teaching them sola scriptura, because sola scriptura wasn’t true. This is 1 Corinthians. All the stuff in 2 Corinthians hasn’t been written yet. All the stuff in so many other books of the Bible haven’t been written yet. He’s not telling them only believe in the stuff that’s already been written because there’s a lot of teachings that haven’t been written yet. And in fact, to the Corinthians, as we’re going to see, he praises them for following all the teachings he’s previously given them. Now that previous teaching is not coming from another letter of Paul’s probably, it’s coming from the things he’s orally proclaimed to him while he was with them.

So it would be contradictory to say 1 Corinthians both teaches sola scriptura and not sola scriptura in the same letter. It doesn’t make sense, but we’ll get into the other part of 1 Corinthians in a bit. Before we get there, there’s one more passage I want to point out. Revelation 22. Now, this one’s an interesting candidate for a different reason because it’s in the last chapter of the Bible. And in it St. Johns says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of 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 of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this book.” And I’ve seen people say, aha, if you had or removed anything from the Bible, like tradition, you’re cursed. This is teaching sola scriptura and this is the last chapter written in the Bible. Perfect.

Well, there’s two problems with that. The first is this book is the book of Revelation. There isn’t a 66 or a 73 book collection known as the Bible at this point. So this is referring to this prophecy quite clearly. So unless you’re going to say the Book of Revelation is all we need for Christian life, and that would be insane to try to live a theology rooted only in the Book of Revelation, then clearly that’s not what he is teaching. Second, tradition isn’t adding or removing words from the Book of Revelation. If you believe the Book of Revelation is true and so is the Gospel of Luke, you’re not adding words to the Book of Revelation. That’s ridiculous. Likewise, if you believe the book of Revelation is true and also some things that weren’t written down in the New Testament, you’re not adding words to the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 22 simply is not teaching sola scriptura. So as you can see, in my experience the three most common passages cited to that allegedly teach sola scriptura aren’t each case ripped radically out of context, don’t mean anything like what they’re being forced to mean by people using these verses in a totally decontextualized sort of way. And this is exactly the kind of reading of scripture that Jerome warns against, that you’re getting the letter and not the meaning. I want to address one final point on the pro sola scriptura side, because someone could say, you just keep saying, well, none of this stuff is true at the time, so it couldn’t be saying that, but isn’t that creating an impossible burden? In other words, if sola scriptura wasn’t true during the time of the apostles, how in the world could they have written about it? And the answer is, well, they could have written in the future tenses about it.

I’ll give you two examples. First in Isaiah 66. In Isaiah 66, at a time when the people of God are still the Jewish people is Israel, there’s a prophecy that God is going to come and that he’s going to gather all nations and tongues and he’s going to bring them in just as he has the Israelites. This incorporation of the Gentiles wasn’t fulfilled in the lifetime of Isaiah, but Isaiah prophesied that the day was coming when it would be. Well, likewise, the Apostles could easily have prophesied sola scriptura, not true yet, but it’s going to be when we die, or it’s going to be true in 325 or whenever, 1517, this is going to become a new teaching that is now binding. They could have done any of that. They don’t do that. And so instead, sola scriptura becomes a post-Christian new revelation, which is exactly the thing it’s trying to prevent, right?

Remember the Westminster Confession is all about, don’t want any further revelation. But because it’s not taught in the Bible, it becomes a post apostolic revelation. There’s a new dogma, a new teaching that has come up from somewhere, we can’t say where we can’t give you any biblical citation, we can’t tell you when, that is now the cornerstone of Protestantism. That is a major problem. So the other, I said I would talk about future stuff and say we see plenty of stuff in the Old Testament that is predictive of stuff in the New Testament. We also see things in the New Testament. In John 17, the Last Supper, Jesus says to the future generations, those who believe in him through the teaching of the apostles to remain one as he in the father of one. So he warns against schism and denominationalism in future generations.

So he doesn’t tell the reformers in the future, you need to follow sola scriptura. He tells them, don’t split off and form your own churches. That’s John 17:20-23. Now I’m obviously paraphrasing, he doesn’t say dear reformers, but he does tell future generations to remain one. So Jesus and the apostles are perfectly capable of speaking to future generations and we have a clear instances in which they do, and yet they don’t tell these future generations to follow sola scriptura, they tell them not to go into schism, to remain one. Okay, so that is the pro sola scriptura case from the Bible as I understand it and why I don’t believe in it. The flip side to that, are there verses that refute it? I’m going to give you a few. I know this is a longer than usual episode.

I’ve already mentioned one of them, 2 Thessalonians 2, where St. Paul says to stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by epistle, by letter. I also referenced the fact that he tells the Corinthians in, 1 Corinthians 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” That Paul delivered traditions to them not apparently in written form. And they were to be maintained. They were to be binding. And then Jude 1:3 refers to Revelation not as an ongoing thing or one book and then another and then another, but instead he calls it the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. So the fullness of revelation is given in Jesus Christ and is in attested to once for all.

And so we hear it attested to in pieces, but the full revelation is given in Christ and it’s not given in written form. The full revelation is given in the person of Jesus. It is attested to in both written and in unwritten forms. Jesus also sends out the 72 probably, it’s a little unclear from the context who he was speaking to, but it’s probably in the 72. And tells them in Luke 10:16, “He who hears you, here’s me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me.” And then in Hebrews 13:17, we’re told to obey our leaders and submit to them. There’s some clear indications that there’s an actual binding authority that the church has, that it can speak in the words of Jesus and that we’re to submit to our leaders and there to have a spiritual account for us.

In Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem says, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, that the church shows itself capable of speaking on behalf of God and confronting crises in theology. They don’t just debate the Judaizers and then everybody agrees to disagree. The church is actually able to say, no, you’re wrong, on behalf of God you’re wrong, here’s the actual standard. That is not sola scriptura. What we see in the working life of the church is not sola scriptura. And then finally I mentioned that Paul has words to say to Timothy that are not sola scriptura. He tells him, I hope to come to you soon, but I’m writing these instructions to you so that if I’m delayed you may know how you ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

The reformers treat scripture as the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Scripture treats the church as the pillar and bulwark of the truth. And so you don’t get to just cut the church out of the equation and expect to still hold on to biblical truth. It doesn’t work like that. That’s not actually the biblical way of approaching the Bible. Okay, the fifth and final question, which scriptura? In other words, which books count? If we say that all these teachings have to come from the Bible alone and the Bible alone is the final inerrant authority? Well, which books of the Bible meet that criteria? As you can imagine, this is a pretty essential thing to get right.

Now, Dr. Matthew Barrett, I mentioned him before. He says, “Lest we miss the obvious. It is important for us to note that for Luther, sola scriptura was directly connected to the inerrancy of scripture.” Luther doesn’t use the word inerrancy in his writing or in his debate, yet the concept is present thinking on the matter. If scripture is not inerrant, then sola scriptura is without a foundation. That is if you just say, I don’t think Luke is inspired when he is writing this chapter of its gospel, well then it doesn’t have any authority. It only has that authority because it’s inspired or it’s inerrant at least. Now, Barrett is writing against evangelicals who reject an errancy. And he says to them, can in reduction, meaning cutting out parts of the Bible is not inerrant, is not a sustainable option for evangelicals.

If we limit inerrancy to some parts of scripture but not others, then two questions naturally arise. A, what parts of scripture are inerrant and therefore authoritative and what parts are not? And B, who gets to determine what parts of scripture are inerrant and therefore authoritative and what parts are not? Well, those questions, again, Barrett means those to people who say, I reject Jesus’s forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery, or I reject this part of the gospel that I don’t think the author was inspired for that. But logically this is going to also apply to all Protestants to reject not just a section of a book here or there, but reject entire books in total. But we’ll get to that. Because there’s another guy I want to address. R.C. Sproul.

He says, “What difference does the inerrancy of scripture make? Why does it matter?” There are many ways in which it matters a great deal. However, ultimately the inerrancy of scripture is not a doctrine about a book. The issue is the person and work of Christ. He describes in this essay, a friend of his who’d come to doubt inerrancy, and Sproul by his own account kind of a jerk to the guy. He tells to him, “You want to affirm the Lordship of Christ, but your Lord is impotent. He has no way of conveying any mandate to you whatsoever because you stand above the recorded mandates of Christ in scripture.” Okay, why am I talking about inerrancy? Why am I talking about Sproul and Barrett? Because of a few things.

Number one, the Bible has no inspired table of contents. Number two, there were disputes in the early church, but which books belonged in the Bible and which ones didn’t? And number three, the conclusion of the early Christians was in favor of a 73 book Bible still in use by the Catholic church today, which is rejected by Protestants. Now that’s a conclusion largely in the West. The East has a more complicated history at the canon, still does not come to the 66 book canon used by Protestants. So Protestants think nearly every single early Christian gets the question of the Bible wrong. That’s a major problem, right? Because then to put the shoe on the other foot, how do you know that your 66 books are right? From a sola scriptura perspective, you can’t appeal to tradition, you can’t appeal to the church. You can’t say you are bound to believe in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they are of apostolic authority and they’re inspired, and say, you don’t need to believe they’re of apostolic authority or inspired.

It doesn’t work, right? It doesn’t make any sense to say that. So if anyone is bound by scripture, they’re also bound by the contents of scripture. That is, to put it another way, if I say I’m going to follow the Bible alone, but I think the only book of the Bible is Luke, I’m going to have a terribly wrong theology. And you’re not going to solve that by saying, well, you need to believe in the Bible. I’ll say I do. My Bible’s just one book long. So on what basis can you tell me to believe in any other books? So R.C. Sproul puts the problem like this. He says, “Roman Catholics view the canon, that is a biblical collection, as an infallible collection of infallible books. We believe that through tradition in the church, the Holy Spirit guides the process by which we rightly recognize God’s revelation, that through the Holy Spirit we rightly recognize which books are and aren’t in the Bible.”

Protestants, says Sproul, view it as a fallible collection of infallible books. And so he says, “Rome believes the church was infallible when it determined which books belong in the New Testament. Protestants believe the church acted rightly and accurately in this process, but not infallibly.” And here, let’s just make the point really clear, the Church didn’t just define the New Testament, the church defined the entire Bible. And Protestants don’t as a rule believe the church acted rightly and accurately. They say the church acted not only not infallibly, but that the church actually aired that there were seven books that were included that weren’t supposed to be in there, that the Holy Spirit didn’t actually protect this. That’s the actual Protestant claim. Because there’s seven books that the reformers throw out or the successors to the reformers throw out.

And so if you believe that there’s a real problem, because going back to Barrett’s earlier questions, well then, what parts of scripture are inerrant and therefore authoritative and what parts are not? Can you just throw out seven entire books? Because if you’re going to do that, you really are not in any place to quibble with someone who says, I’m going to throw out Mark 16 because I don’t trust it’s authoritative, or I don’t like Leviticus I’m going to throw it out. Well, you can’t complain about that if you’ve thrown out first and second Maccabees. And then Barrett’s second question, who gets to decide? Who gets to determine what parts of scripture are inerrant and therefore authoritative and what parts are not?

So like I said, I know this is a longer episode, but I wanted to present that vision. Sola scriptura doesn’t work because from scripture alone you can’t know which books are in the Bible, because from scripture alone you can’t find the principle of sola scriptura. That scripture alone isn’t the way Christians lived or were meant to live either in the first century or in the centuries after. That this is just not a biblical principle, that this cornerstone principle of Protestantism is an invention largely after the invention of the printing press. It’s not how Christianity is supposed to work. And we’ve seen it doesn’t actually work. It doesn’t resolve division. It can’t solve theological controversies. It doesn’t really leave the church in a position where it can do the teaching roles it’s meant to do by God.

And so it’s simply not a workable or biblical or historic or logical principle. Followed to its logical end, it only undermines the authority of scripture because it leaves individual believers free to reject not only the authority of the church, but also the inspiration and authority of any books of the Bible they choose to reject. Thanks. I’ll pray for you. Please pray for me. God bless.

Speaker 1:

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