Skip to comments.The Certainty of the Written Word of Truth The Lord Christ or the Pope of Rome?
Posted on 08/25/2006 12:39:24 AM PDT by Gamecock
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His great high priestly prayer, declared clearly the truth of Gods Word. He said, Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. Gods Word not only contains the truth but rather it is truth itself. This is consistent with the declarations throughout the Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit continually proclaimed that the revelation from God is truth, as for example Psalm 119:142, thy law is truth. The Lord Himself therefore identified truth with the Written Word. There is no source, other than written Scripture alone, to which the statement, thy word is truth can apply. That source alone, the Holy Scripture, is the believers standard of truth.
In the New Testament, it is the Written Word of God, and that alone, to which the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles refer as the final authority. In the temptation, the Lord Jesus three times resisted Satan, saying, It is written. For example, in Matthew 4:4, he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. In stating, It is written, the Lord used the very phrase that is used in the Holy Bible eighty times. The prevalence of this repeated phrase underlines its importance. The Lords complete acceptance of the authority of the Written Word is evident in His words found in Matthew 5:17-18,
Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
Christ Jesus continually castigated and rebuked the Pharisees because they placed their tradition on a par with the Word of God. He condemned them because they were attempting to corrupt the very basis of truth by equating their traditions with the Word of God. He declared to them [You are] making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such things do ye (Mark 7:13). These traditions of the Pharisees were precepts, ordinances, and rules of religious belief and practice that had been developed by learned religious teachers over time. They had been passed on by word of mouth and by selectively edited writings. These traditions, oral and written, formed a body of cultural material that became an official set of interpretations and guidelines for religious life. Even the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture was being sifted through them and modified to suit mens tastes and preferences. Furthermore, in refuting the errors of the Sadducees, the Scripture records the Lord saying, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29). Unlike the Pharisees, who mistakenly considered themselves the loyal followers of Moses, the Sadducees were a radical party of religious liberals who had appropriated the thinking of Greek agnostic philosophers. They manufactured beliefs on the basis of what seemed reasonable to them rather than what had been revealed by God in His Word. However, since Scripture alone is inspired, it alone is the ultimate authority, and it alone is the final judge of all human traditions and reasoning. The Word of the Lord says as a commandment in Proverbs 30:5, 6, Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. God commands that we are not to add to His Word. This command shows emphatically that it is Gods Word, and Gods Word alone, that is pure and uncontaminated.
Aligned with Proverbs, the Lords strong, clear declaration in Isaiah 8:20 is: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. The truth is this: since Gods written word alone is breathed out by Him, it and it alone is the sole rule of faith. It cannot be otherwise. Any who contradict Scripture, or attempt to assign it an inferior position in the life of faith, may safely be accounted as liars and deceivers bent on moving God off His throne that they may occupy it themselves.
From the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, when the Holy God wrote with His finger on the tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18), until this present day, the written word of God has been extant in the world. The term Sola Scriptura or the Bible alone as the measure of truth is short hand for saying that Scripture is the only point of reference for finding out what is to be believed about God and what duty God requires of man. The very phrase It is written means exclusively transcribed, and not hearsay. The command to believe what is written means we are to receive only the pure word of God. It separates out from all other sources the body of truth that we are to believe. What is at stake before the All Holy God is His incorruptible truth. For men, what is at stake is certainty, in the words of Proverbs 22:21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth. Certainty is needed for the salvation of immortal souls. In the very last commandment in the Bible God resolutely tells us not to add to nor take away from His Word.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
The principle of Sola Scriptura is consistent with the very way in which the word of truth that comes from God says it is to be interpreted, as Psalm 36:9 explains, For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light we see light. Gods truth is seen in the light of Gods truth. This is exactly the same as the Apostle Paul says, Which things also we speak, not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. It is precisely in the light which Gods truth sheds, that His truth is seen.
Scripture provides its own sufficient rule of interpretation.
The Apostle Peter, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, declares, Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Logically then, Peter makes it very clear that in order to maintain the purity of Holy Gods written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. Scripture can only be understood correctly in the light of Scripture, since it alone is uncorrupted. It is only with the Holy Spirit's light that Scripture can be comprehended correctly.
The Holy Spirit causes those who are the Lords to understand Scripture.
Since the Spirit does this by Scripture, obviously, it is in accord with the principle that Scripture itself is the infallible rule of interpretation of its own truth: it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth (I John 5:6). Those sincerely desiring to be true to Lord in this very matter of the standard of Sola Scriptura must turn to the Lord to obey His command, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. If one is yearning for truth in this essential matter, in the attitude of Psalm 51:17, with a broken and a contrite heart, the Lord God will not despise, but reveal to him or her the basic foundation where the Lord Christ Jesus and the Apostles stood. In the words of the Apostle John, This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. The Apostle John wrote, as did Peter and Paul, in order that those who are saved should know that his testimony is true.
The total sufficiency of Scripture is declared by the Apostle Paul, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. For final truth and authority, all that is needed is the Scripture. This is because the Word of God bears its own spiritual rule of historical-grammatical interpretation. Sections that initially appear obscure because of our lack of understanding are clarified by other parts where meanings are made plain.
The Holy Spirit Himself is given to the believer so that by prayer and diligent comparative study, knowledge of the Gospel and the will of God is made plain to him. It is this means alone, comparing Scripture with Scripture under the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, that safeguards the renewed reader from the danger of imaginative self-centered mystical deceit and the errors propagated by religious fanaticism and cultic heresies. Natural men, those not made alive by the Holy Spirit and indwelt by Him, have only their darkened understandings to guide them.
The Scriptures are so plain that even a child can come to faith through the Written Word. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Much of the Bible is quite plain and straightforward. For example John 3:36 says, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. There is no mystical or hidden meaning in this verse, as in most of Scripture.
In an attempt to justify tradition as an authority, an appeal is often made to the very last verse in Johns gospel where it is stated, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. Of course, there were many deeds and sayings of the Lord that are not recorded in Scripture. But Scripture is the authoritative record that the Holy God has given His people. We do not have a single sentence that is authoritatively from the Lord, outside of what is in the written word of the New Testament. To appeal to a tradition for authority when the Holy God did not give it is futile. The idea that somehow sayings and events from the Lord had been passed on by word of mouth and so preserved reliably in tradition is simply not true. Given the fluid nature of language, the fragility of verbal communication, and the reconstructive nature of human memory, such a claim is ludicrous in the extreme. Simply to believe in the traditions of men is superstitious naivety of spirit combined with an irrational gullibility. The Bible even gives an example of a false tradition already at work at the time of Johns writing of his Gospel. In John 21:23, John refutes a false tradition, a saying [note that it was not written] abroad among the brethren going around the church that the Lord would return before John died.
Another desperate attempt to justify tradition is the claim that the early church did not have the New Testament. However, the Apostle Peter speaks about the writings of the Apostle Paul when he states, " even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Peter also declares that he was writing so that the believers could remember what he said. So he wrote, "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
From the earliest times a substantial part of the New Testament was available. Under the inspiration of the Lord, the Apostle Paul commands his letters to be read in other churches besides those to which they were sent. This clearly shows that the written word of God was being circulated even while the Apostles lived. The Lords command to believe what is written has always been something that the believers could and did obey. In this matter one must have the humility commanded in the Scripture not to think above what is written: that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
The absurd rationale that because the early Church did not have the New Testament we need tradition ignores two very simple facts concerning Gods provision for the early Church. In the first place, before the canon of the New Testament was complete, the Apostles were present as Christs personally commissioned ambassadors, and thus He endorsed their authority as teachers as being from Himself. Second, even during the transitional stages of establishing the New Testament, the Apostles had no difficulty preaching the Gospel from the Old Covenant Scriptures, nor using them as an authoritative guide for that period in matters of faith and morals. The New Testament writings were incorporated and received into the canon of Holy Scripture when the last surviving Apostle had completed his work. Written revelation was at an end because the final prophetic word on salvation had been given in and from the Lord Jesus Christ. No further Word from heaven could have been given, nor should any more have been expected, then or now. The Gospels are the record of His first advent in the flesh; the Acts, His coming in the Spirit; the letters are the inspired comment on them. The book of Revelation is His Second Advent and preceding instruction and events. The documentation is finished and complete.
The Lord brings the topic of truth to bear on the believers love for Him. This again underscores its importance. Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Fathers which sent Me. And again, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Living His own life in this world to the glory of His Father, the Lord Jesus could say he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. In His supreme aim to please His Father, Christ looked to the authority and direction of the Scriptures alone. He confirmed the very message of the Old Testament, The law of the LORD is perfect.
The believer is to be true to the way of the Lord, holding alone to what is written: Thy Word is truth. All true disciples therefore must acknowledge that there is an absolute measure by which a thing may be judged to be truth or falsehood, and either pleasing or displeasing to God. In times past, that standard was called the rule of faith or the basis of truth, meaning the measure by which truth is known. This principle is, as is clearly demonstrated in both the Old and New Testaments, that the written word of God itself is the basis of truth. It is not possible to own the Lord Jesus Christ as Master but refuse the rule of the Fathers Word in and by Him. There are no halfway houses here in which the vacuous pretence of an anti-biblical piety can find safe-haven. It is a clear choice. If you love God, you love His Word alone, not His Word plus the words of men. You cannot say you love God and despise His Word, for the marks of authentic spiritual affection are patent in the Word itself, But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Within Roman Catholicism, the basis for truth is also absolute, but it is not the unqualified authority of God in His Written Word. Rather, it is the authority of a man, the Pope of Rome. The ultimate authority lies in the decisions and decrees of the reigning Pope. This is seen in documentation from official Roman Catholic sources. Canon 749 Sec.1 declares,
The Supreme Pontiff, in virtue of his office, possesses infallible teaching authority when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful...he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held as such.
The mandated response of the Christian faithful to this claimed infallible teaching authority is spelled out in Canon 752,
A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium
Any appeal or recourse against the totalitarian imposition of a claimed infallibility is silenced by the decree of Canon 333 Sec. 3, There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff. According to the Bible, however, infallibility is an attribute of God and not that of any man or group of men. Like eternity and omniscience, infallibility is among Gods incommunicable natural attributes, properties of His Being that cannot be passed or delegated to creatures. There are some things God declares He cannot do, He cannot lie, nor can He create another infallible one. The Papal claim to infallible teaching authority is essentially a claim to divinity. Romes doctrine exalts the Pope above all that is called God. Scripture makes clear the fact that revealed truth is solely from God, For prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Nothing more strikingly displays the arrogance of the Papacy than this appalling claim to infallibility. The Pope, in setting himself up as supreme, has de facto denied the absolute authority of God.
Skirting the problem by situational infallibility
Roman Catholic apologists generally object to ascribing divinity to the Papal office by virtue of this claim to infallibility. In fact, it is customary among them to point out that Romes own statements confine the Popes freedom from error only to those declarations concerning faith and morals that he, as the sole legitimate heir and successor of the Apostle Peter, pronounces. That is to say, a Roman pope is considered to be infallible, not in his own person, but in his office as supreme pastor and head of the Church.
This alleged chrism is granted to him standing at the head of the continuing Apostolic College of Cardinal bishops. The Popes infallibility, it is alleged, is situational and not inherent in his person. This evasion, however, does not alleviate in any way the blasphemy bound up in the Papal claim. Apostolic succession inhering in Rome and the Papacy is simply a lie. Nowhere in Scripture is there any suggestion of the existence of an apostolic succession. The Roman claim is completely inconsistent with the recorded commission that the Apostle Peter was to take the Gospel to the Jews, as was the Apostle Paul to the Gentiles, including those in Rome. In the New Testament, the Apostles appointed elders and deacons, and not a line of apostles. There remains also the fact that God cannot confer a limited infallibility any more than an unqualified infallibility. The contradiction still stands, even if the hair splitting seems convenient for Roman Catholic apologists. Infallibility is Gods own nature. As an incommunicable attribute, it cannot be passed or delegated to any creature.
The ascription of even a situational infallibility to the Papal office is a wicked assumption. It attempts to elevate the Roman Catholic Church to the very throne of God, and to establish one man and his attending retinue of ecclesiastical sycophants and lackeys as self-appointed lords over the consciences of men. As the Scriptures themselves state, There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
That a human power should claim infallibility to be as God defies imagination, but Papal and collegiate infallibility are now so sufficiently nebulous as to provide a wealth of material for historical comedy. In aping Gods attribute of infallibility, the system of Rome not only mocks the Godhead and His truth, it also denies the facts of history. Pope Honorious (625-638) was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681 A.D.). He was also condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo II, as well as by every other Pope until the eleventh century. So there were infallible Popes condemning another infallible Pope as heretics.
The Roman Catholic historian Bernard Hasler writes but [Pope] John XXII did not want to hear about his own infallibility; he viewed it an improper restriction of his rights as a sovereign, and in the bull Qui quorundam (1324) condemned the Franciscan doctrine of papal infallibility as the work of the devil. Ignaz von Dollinger, another leading Roman Catholic historian in Germany, warned the world in his own day regarding the consequences of such a doctrine,
The Popes authority is unlimited, incalculable; it can strike, as Innocent III says, wherever sin is; it can punish every one; it allows no appeal and is itself Sovereign Caprice; for the Pope carries, according to the expression of Boniface VIII, all rights in the Shrine of his breast. As he has now become infallible, he can by the use of the little word, orbi, (which means that he turns himself round to the whole Church) make every rule, every doctrine, every demand, into a certain and incontestable article of Faith. No right can stand against him, no personal or corporate liberty; or as the [Roman Catholic] Canonists put itThe tribunal of God and of the pope is one and the same.
Romes declaration of claimed infallibility is castigated by the Lords commandment, I am the LORD thy God thou shalt have no other gods before me. The basic blasphemy of Rome observed in this alleged infallibility is seen, although in different terminology, in her declaration that her tradition is divinely inspired.
To understand Romes traditions, one must appreciate her sacrilegious mindset in the bold assertion that her doctrines are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus she says,
Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) 
Thus Rome professes not to have the Bible, but rather to have the Word of God, incarnate and living. Thus she states,
Still, the Christian faith is not a religion of the book. Christianity is the religion of the Word of God, not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living.
Only men devoid of the Holy Spirit could have penned and published such a distorted view of Holy Scripture. The Bible, Gods Written Word, shows the brightness of the truth, holiness, majesty and authority of God, given to it by its Author, the Holy Spirit. Sacred Scripture has the stamp Gods excellence upon it, distinguishing it from all other writings. This is evidenced by the many fulfilled prophecies in the Bible, written hundreds of years before the actual event, pointing to Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son. Isaiah 9:6 says, unto us a child is born the Mighty God. Micah 5:2 says, But thou Bethlehem out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel. Zechariah 9:9 says, behold thy King cometh unto thee; He is just and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass. In Luke 19:43-44, Jesus prophesied of the destruction to come to Jerusalem in 70 AD. By contrast, no Catholic document has any fulfilled prophecy in it because no Catholic document is inspired of God! Fulfilled prophecy is Gods way of authenticating the Bible as the one inspired book. God in these last days has spoken by his Son. Divine inspiration is revelation given in written words, it is not formed or preserved in a tidal swamp of human tradition, All scripture [graphe] is given by inspiration of God . Romes claim to divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church is the ancient temptation and lie ye shall be as gods
again manifested. Rome would place herself on the throne of God declaring her tradition to be on a par with Scripture inspired by God. The Church of Rome does not stop there. In another document her assertions go so far as to contend that the very fullness of grace and truth belongs to the Catholic Church. From Dominus Iesus, Romes exact words are, Therefore, the fullness of Christs salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. And, The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church And, the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.
The Bible speaks of only One to whom the very fullness of grace and truth has been entrusted, His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Papal arrogance tallies well with what the Scripture predicted for such claims, he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. I will be like the most High. If Christ Himself were identified with the very fullness of grace and truth in the Church of Rome, He would have been responsible for all the torture and murder, heresy and intrigue of the Inquisition from the iniquitous Pope Innocent III in 1203 A.D., until its final dissolution in Spain and Portugal in 1808. The Christ of Scripture is separated from all such iniquity. He is the source and means of grace and truth. Far from being identified with her, He exposes her as the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs. He as the Lord of history reveals the rotten fruit that comes from her so-called divinely inspired tradition.
Having examined the claim for a tradition [that] comes from the Holy Spirit, an assessment to see just what that tradition is, follows. For example, Paragraph 1161 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.
This is idolatry, plain, simple, and condemned by the Lord God.
The Bible makes clear that God hates idolatry and forbids a representation in art of what is divine (Exodus. 20:4-6). Making images to represent God corrupts those who use them (Deuteronomy 4:13, 15-16). Images teach lies about God (Habakkuk. 2:18-20). God cannot be represented in art and all who practice idolatry are commanded to repent (Acts 17:29-30). The Holy Spirit orders in the New Testament as He did the Old, Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John. 5:21). The traditions of Roman Catholicism bring into the worship of God unholy water mixed with oil and salt, the smells of charcoal and incense, the lives of frustrated celibate men and women, and worst of all, it brings in the idolatry which God hates. With such images of our Lord and God, Rome commands the exhibition of the venerated angels, all the saints and saints bones which are venerated as Holy Relics.
Such teaching and behavior bring ridicule upon the Holy Spirit that Rome claims as the source of her tradition. The Church of Rome mocks God when she pretends that these traditions came from the Holy Spirit. As the promoter of lewdness in the institutions of her unholy traditions, there never was a more expressive or appropriate title applied to her than that penned by the Apostle John, And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
To maintain her pomp, ceremonies and sacraments, Rome officially states that her Tradition is sacred,
Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine wellspring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal. 
Rome claims not only that Sacred Tradition forms one thing with Gods Written Word but also that her Holy Tradition transmits Gods Word. She declares,
Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And [Holy]
Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.
Such teaching ascends from the pit of hell itself. It is a dishonor done to Gods Holy Name and a profanity against His Holy Word. The Bible teaches that the Written Word of God cannot be commingled with Romes tradition; in the Lord Jesus Christs own word, the Scripture cannot be broken. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? The Roman Catholic assertion that Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God is literally a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates His Word to believers. This is His design and purpose in transmitting His Word to His people. It is not the Holy Spirits endeavor to transmit an unholy tradition that upholds idolatry, superstition, and necromancy. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. It is true faith that the Spirit of God seals in the hearts of believers, as He alone is the Spirit of truth. By His own divine light, efficacy, and power, the testimony of the Holy Spirit is given to all believers in the Written Word. The Holy Spirits communication of His own light and authority to the Scripture is the evidence of its origin. The Holy Spirit brings His Word to believers.
Romes declaration that Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God not only denigrates the divine person of the Holy Spirit, it also focuses the mind on tradition and not on the divine person of the Holy Spirit to open the Word to him or her. This is the very desire of Rome, emphasized in italics in the beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 113, Read the Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church. Rome goes so far as to reprimand the tendency to read and to interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church. Believers being convicted by the Holy Spirit receive, embrace, believe, and submit to the Scriptures because of the authority of God who gave them to us. The system of Rome maligns the Holy Spirit in claiming that Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God. This Holy Tradition can also be an unwritten tradition, which the Roman Catholic Church feels no compunction to write down. This is actually the handy trick employed by dictators; the law is whatever the dictator says it is today. Since the law is not necessarily written down, it can be contradicted with impunity whenever the dictator so chooses. This is why written contracts are demanded in everyday life. Tradition, used this way is a very handy tool in the Roman Catholic arsenal. In so using it, she negates the very means by which a person is saved from his sin. Romes teaching is literally soul damning, in the words of the Lord, Woe unto you for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
The Apostle Paul urges the believer to look to the demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Just as a fresh supply of manna was given each day to the Israelites in the desert, so the Spirit of God ever breaks anew the Word of Life to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Gospel preachers to faithfully direct the poor deluded prisoners of the Papacy away from the words of men, and toward the Scripture wherein they may find One who said, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Under the heading called The Apostolic Tradition and the sub heading continued in apostolic succession, Rome claims the following,
In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it.
Nowhere in Scripture is there reference to the existence of an apostolic succession. In the New Testament the Apostles appointed not apostles but rather elders and deacons. Nonetheless Rome attempts to defend her position in the name of personal succession from the Apostles. If one wants to use the concept of apostolic succession, the true successors of the Apostles are the saints of the household of God who are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. If that doctrinal foundation is destroyed, instead of apostolic faith, one has apostasy. Apostolic succession without apostolic doctrine is a fraud.
It is only Biblical doctrine that makes one wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.
If one actually investigates succession with Roman Catholicism, the evidence of a sequence from Pagan Rome is what appears as obvious. This is documented by one of their own famous scholars, John Henry Newman, as he wrote of the pagan origin of many Roman Catholic practices,
We are told in various ways by Eusebius that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own .The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holidays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure . Images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.
Such a succession of tradition in incense, candles, votive offerings, holy water, processions, blessed oils, palms, ashes and forbidding people to marry and the ordering of abstinence from certain foods, is a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. The same Apostle spoke of the deterioration to follow; such in fact is the succession of Rome. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
It is the true Christ who speaks in Scriptures. In it He tells who He is, and who we are.
He tells us that He has come to save us from our sins, and for that purpose the Father sent Him into the world. In order to bring that work to completion in individual men, the Holy Spirit takes the truth of Scripture and applies it to believers. He will lead His people out the religion of baptized paganism embodied in Rome. For all imaginative habits of tradition, her teachings, worship, and emotional pseudo-spiritual experiences that arise from outside the Bible, are no more than vagrant deceits and self-willed deceptions. Beware says the Scripture, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. It is beyond doubt that the Pope with all his robes and rituals from tradition cannot be the Vicar of Christ as he pretends. He is rather the Vicar of hell.
The Church of Rome is forthright in stating where her certainty regarding doctrine lies. She officially teaches,
As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.
This statement is a formal denial of the sufficiency of Scripture and a repudiation of its unique Authority, for Scripture alone is vested with all the moral authority of God over His creatures. For a Church claiming to be Christian to affirm her equal love for Tradition and the Scripture is to make the Scripture to be of no worth. It is like a husband who declares that he loves his wife, and at the same time states that he also loves equally the woman across the street. Even as such love is adulterous, so also is Romes equal sentiments of devotion and reverence, for her Tradition translates as a rejection of Scripture and unfaithfulness to the God of Scripture.
It is the very nature of authority to bear rule in itself. The life of faith must have a rule. It cannot finally bear any contradiction.
If two alleged co-ordinate authorities stand in opposition on any point then, in the end, one will be taken as authority over the other. Romes pretence of an equal devotion and reverence for both Scripture and Tradition is merely the ecclesiastical equivalent to the authority principle of a famous barnyard where it was paraded that, all animals are equal, but subjoined with the qualifier, some animals are more equal than others. Tradition is always committee chairman with the deciding vote on matters of authority. That is how Rome lives out and continually enforces her rules. For example, in the Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent, the formula for submission is given with these words,
The apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all other observances and constitutions of that same Church I most firmly admit and embrace. I likewise accept Holy Scripture according to that sense which our holy Mother Church has held and does hold, whose [office] it is to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures; I shall never accept nor interpret it otherwise than in accordance with the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
The seat of authority, or the rule of faith, is firmly in the hands of the Roman hierarchy. The men who make up the hierarchy are holy Mother Church. They sit in judgment on the Scriptures. The end result is that the Catholic person ends up believing not the Almighty God and His Word, but rather holy Mother Church and her tradition. This way of thinking is drilled into the minds of those the Roman hierarchy degradingly calls, the faithful. An example of how the rule of faith is imposed is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Believing is an ecclesial act. The Churchs faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother
Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.
As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.
The final position of the Catholic faithful is that they are compelled to submit to holy Mother Church and accept her rule of faith. That rule of faith is easily exposed as whatever Mother says is true, is true, and, if the question is ever raised as to why this is so, the only reply is that it must be true because Mother says it. In Animal Farm, it was Napoleon who turned out to be the final authority in all matters of policy, including life and death for the other creatures. So in Roman Catholicism, its whirligig of equal sentiments of devotion and reverence ends up with the Holy Father telling the Catholic what to do based on Holy Mothers manufactured Tradition.
The Scripture cuts directly through all this, call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. The word father denotes an authority, a right to command, and a claim to innate filial respect. The Scripture teaches that this title belongs eminently only to God, and is not to be tendered to mere men. Genuine Christian brethren are equal before the Lord and are commanded to practice authentic spiritual submission one to another. Only God has supreme authority. Just as it is utterly immoral to call the Pope, Holy Father, so it is sinful and deceiving to call him and his hierarchy Holy Mother.
Romes pride in having people believe in her as Holy Mother Church is as basic as the blazing eruption of vanity in the heart of Eve, leading her to accede to the wicked insinuations, Yea, hath God said? and Ye shall be as gods. For this reason, the Scripture says: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. In equating Tradition to Scripture, the Roman Catholic Church has thereby stifled the truth in unrighteousness. The very element in which and by which the truth is known and enjoyed has thus become darkness. The Lords own teaching that ones spiritual understanding must be single, as opposite of twofold, is of uttermost importance in this regard. He the Lord declared, The light of the body is the eye: if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness. To have a twofold authority base for understanding all revealed truths in place of the exclusive authority of God in His Written Word is to walk in darkness, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
Christ Jesus the Lord showed His wrath against the Pharisees for the same offence because it undermines the very the authority and Person of God. He called them Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, as their sin was like unto that of Satan who denied the all sufficiency of the Lords Written Word. The severity of the Lords condemnation ought not to be a surprise because the system of the Pharisees was the base enemy of sound doctrine and the corrupter of the Scripture. Christ intended to strike dread into His people so that that they might guard against a similar deception. To deal with this debasement in any way but with the utmost seriousness would be to fail the Lord Jesus Christ and betray the souls of men. Making tradition a part of the rule of faith subverts the entire authority of Scripture and is a formal refusal of the Lordship of Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church states how she is communicated and perpetuated to every generation. Her official words are, Through Tradition, the [Roman Catholic] Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. It is absolutely tragic that this testimony is quite true. Romes doctrine, life, and worship, all that she herself is, and all that she believes, is perpetuated and transmitted to every generation. The fruits of this are seen in the pages of history and the crisis of faith worldwide concerning the truth for Catholics today.
As in the past, Catholics who have Tradition instructing them are easily shaken in their hearts. Utterly lacking the assurance of faith in Christ that belongs to the believer, the living witness to the truth in the heart brought by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the confirmation of the Written Word, the Roman Catholic must do battle with the all the motions of original sin and doubt that pervade the heart and assail the mind. Quite logically, major doctrines concerning judgment, the inspiration of Scripture, the afterlife, the Person of Christ, and place of the moral law all become relative to ones feelings and circumstances. Eventually a substantial percentage of professing Catholics become cynical and derogatory of Romes faith and practice.
The contemporary crisis of faith is documented by many Roman Ctholic periodicals. For example, in nothing but large print the cover of The Catholic World Report of February 1999 proclaimed, THERE IS A CRISIS IN FAITH A CRISIS CONCERNING THE ABILITY TO KNOW THE TRUTH. THE CRISIS OF FAITH IS WORLD-WIDE. The subtitle was, BLUNT TALK FROM THE VATICAN. The special report goes on for thirteen pages. Some conclusions are given on the cirisi in faith in Australia that are typical of the worldwide problem,
The Statement of Conclusions offered a number of general observations about the crisis in faith in Australia, which was understood to reflect the growing influence of secularism and a consequent declining belief in God, in the afterlife, and in the inspiration of the Scriptures. This crisis, the document states, has reduced a perception of Christ in many cases to just a great prophet of humanity; and the Church to a body of purely human origin. Truth, in the eyes of many Australians, is now seen to be based on the shifting sands of majority and consensus. At the same time, individual conscience had been elevated to an absolute, and heterosexuality and homosexuality viewed as two morally equivalent variations. This kind of thinking had found its way into the Church. Suck a situation was confirmed by recent Australian research which showed that between 1991 and 1996, among religious categories in the census statistics, no religion was the fastest growing, rising by 35 percent, whereas the general population had increased by only 5.4 percent over the same period. Of those raised as Catholics, over 20 percent would enter the no religion category in adulthood.
If only todays Bible believers could see as clearly as Catholics the evil fruit of Roman authority perpetuating itself to every generation! The Lords own cry when faced with sterile tradition and it fruits was, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! The very heart of the Lord Christ Jesus pours itself forth through human flesh and words, then and now. It is the incarnation of profound love pleading with men to bring them back to His finished and sufficient Word of truth in the Scriptures, and to His only efficacious sacrifice, and when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.
Rome has the uncommon audacity to advance the claim that the Church mentioned in I Timothy 3:15 is herself, the Catholic Church, governed by the Pope. The following bold assertion is directed as a requirement binding on those she calls her faithful,
The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuityrooted in the apostolic succession between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church: This is the single Church of Christ...which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peters pastoral care (cf. Jn 21:17), commissioning him and the other Apostles to extend and rule her (cf. Mt 28:18ff.), erected for all ages as the pillar and mainstay of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.
Any time Rome argues for her legitimacy, a careful watch must be made for any thought or line of reasoning that actually undercuts the authority of the Word of God. Rome is always seeking to introduce extra-biblical sources to undermine biblical authority and to place herself above the Bible.
In the above quote, it is historical continuity that accomplishes diminishment of biblical authority. Dominus Iesus here actually exposes the Roman Catholic Churchs deceptive reasoning, for it is stated unequivocally that she is first requiring the faithful to put their trust in historical continuity or to put it more plainly, what fallible history books say! So a Catholic is to put his trust in fallible history books, which root him in an apostolic succession the Roman Catholic Church does not have because she does not have apostolic doctrine. Rome here demonstrates again her dependence on historical continuity, or tradition, rather than the written word of the Lord. Therefore she proves that she is not the pillar and mainstay of truth.
Further, there is no continuity in faith and practice between the early Church and the state institutional system (i.e., the Roman Catholic Church) that latterly emerged under the sponsorship of Imperial Rome. The Roman Church must be by her very nature utterly excluded from the above Bible text because what is said refers to a church that is upholding the truth. Given her superstitions and empty blasphemous rituals, this would make the Church of Rome the last imaginable reference for the Apostle Paul who, to the contrary, was prophetically granted an insight into the rise of the seminal errors of that mystery of iniquity that would eventually appear as the Papacy.
The text itself states, But if I [Paul] tarry long, that thou[Timothy] mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The focus of the verse is on the behavior of the believer upholding truth. As with the wise man of Luke chapter six, he is founded on rock when he hears the Word and does what it says; so in this passage, Paul is telling Timothy how he ought to behave in the local church at Ephesus. He is to conduct himself in the house of God in such a way that the Church of the living God upholds truth and is in fact, grounded upon it. In the context this is the meaning of the verse. The verse cannot be understood to make the Church, independent of its being rooted in truth, to be the pillar and ground of truth.
No other Scripture text says this and in fact, the opposite is stated. The Church that is not rooted in truth is again and again seen failing in conduct, as Pauls letters to the Corinthians and Galatians make clear, and also the book of Revelation, chapters one to three. The Church in its members is born out of the Word of truth in the Scriptures. As the Holy Spirit so clearly tells us, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.  and that believers are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. The Lords Word gave life to the early Church as it does today. The true Church is the pillar of the truth as the historical continuance of the truth on which it rests. It witnesses to and preserves the Word of truth. He who is of the truth belongs by that very fact to the Church, for He belongs to Christ, its Head. The Lord Christ Jesus alone is the ground of the truth in the highest sense. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The Church rests on the truth as it is in Christ, and in His Written Word.
The Apostle Paul is not claiming that any church is truth, or can be the truth. He shows in many places the failings of particular churches in doctrine in many cities to which he writes. He is urging the behavior of the Church to be as a placard or billboard upon which the very Word of God is proclaimed in such a way to be the pillar and ground of truth. The Apostle was concerned about the behavior of Timothy and the local believers at Ephesus. He was not denying what he had declared so consistently in his letters, nor the principle outlined by Christ Jesus and through the whole of Scripture, that Gods Word is truth. When a church is erected for all ages as the pillar and mainstay of the truth, as is Romes spurious claim, horrendous results become manifest, as for example, the Church of Rome declaring that the sacraments are necessary for salvation; that Mary is the All Holy One, and all manner of errors, heresies, and blasphemies. If the true Church is the pillar and ground of truth, it is certain that this is not the Roman Catholic Church, where an avalanche of extra-biblical traditions have completely buried the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ under the accumulation of human works. The true Church was not instituted to be a chain to bind the body of Christ in idolatry, impiety, ignorance of God, and other kinds of evil. Rather, as the Apostle teaches, it was in correct behavior to train the believers in the fear of God and obedience of the truth, all of which is sufficiently taught already in the Word of God. The same Apostle declares that the Church is not founded either upon the judgments of men or a priesthood, but rather upon the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:20). The Bride of Christ washed clean in the blood of the Lamb is to be distinguished from the Mother of Harlots drunken with the blood of the saints.
The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be separated from the conspiracy of Satan by the discriminating test which our Savior has applied to all believers, He that is of God, heareth Gods words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. This vital test Rome utterly fails. The very fact that the Roman Catholic Church will not accept the Written Word of God as ultimate authority seals the fact that she is not of God.
The same Holy Spirit who has given His Word in the Scriptures uses it most fruitfully to convict of sin and to bring eternal life. All growth in the fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is also the fruit of Gods truth in His Holy Word. The Church of Romes skill and hypocrisy in placing Tradition on par with Scripture, as inspired, and equally to be accepted with certainty, is the same sin of the scribes and Pharisees. The difference is that the Roman Catholic Church far surpasses the Scribes and Pharisees in craft and deceitfulness of expression in upholding their traditions. Christ Jesus reproof is more profoundly true of Rome than when first applied to the Scribes and Pharisees. But woe unto you hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. The Church of Rome, having the same love and confidence in traditions as in the pure truth of Gods Written Word, is as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! Such harlotry begets false worship, idolatry, and pride. In Catholicism, people worship the communion bread as God, which is not God,
they give their hearts to idols, with a saint for every season and every ill. Doctrines, rites, and administrations take the place of what God has revealed and appointed in His Word. The reason is obvious. Rome has taken the Holy Gods truth and commingled it with the traditions of men, with such results as the dishonoring of marriage and the supporting of ungodly celibacy in monasteries and convents.
The source of all life and truth is God Himself. He has graciously communicated that life and truth by the work of the Holy Spirit in giving His own sure word of prophecy in His Holy Word. He has not granted or ceded any authority to add, change, or adapt His Word to a supposed infallible Holy Father in Rome. Spiritual Fatherhood belongs eminently and only to God. Only God has supreme authority. He only has a right to give laws, to declare doctrines that shall bind the conscience, and to punish disobedience. Gods Written Word alone has absolute authority.
Nevertheless, Romes grasping for power and authority with hands covered in traditions, leads not simply into false teachings, but also to assuming the divine right to impose her laws with force. Thus the present Pope and his system proclaim, The Church has the innate and proper right to coerce offending members of the Christian faithful by means of penal sanctions. The Lord Christ Jesus said, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them But ye shall not be so. One thousand seven hundred fifty-two is the number of Roman Catholic laws. The weight of guilt and torment under some one hundred sixty-four Pharisaic laws was light compared to the oppression exercised by the Pope, Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Episcopal Vicars, Vicars apostolic, Apostolic administrators, Vicar generals, and ordinary Priests. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Romes metaphysical, and psychological Aristotelian-Thomistic traditions have become the standard diet of millions. Greek and pagan mysticism have reappeared in Catholicism in ecstasies, apparitions, blessed bones, holy water, unity consciousness, and a hierarchy of virgins and saints. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? What safety or confidence does anyone have if the very foundation of the truth of Gods Word is confused with the smells, yells, and bells of traditions? By supplanting the Scripture with her tradition, and supplanting the Biblical means of grace by her sacrificial priesthood, the Roman Catholic Church moves once again to gather to herself all power and all authority over the souls of men. In Scripture all power in heaven and earth is given to Christ Jesus the Lord alone, and on earth His absolute authority undergirds His Written Word of truth alone. True believers must stand where He stands, for His Word is truth.
The written Word of God is like the sun. In its light all things are seen as they really are; without it, nothing is seen for what it really is. The Church of Rome does not simply place a cloud over the light of the Word by imposing her ceremonies and traditions; rather she makes void the very brightness of the revelation of God in His Written Word. She cannot concede on this vital foundational issue of ultimate authority, for if Rome agreed to forfeit her pomp and ceremony, she would cease to attract the world of the mind and flesh. Because of her incorrigible, unbending attitude, she decrees that the definitions of all Roman Pontiffs are irreformable by their very nature. The final and absolute authority for the true believer, however, is the Written Word of God alone, Thy Word is truth. As the Lord Himself denounced both the Pharisees and their traditions, so must the true believer earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Like King David, the true believer praises the Lord for His loving kindness and for His truth for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. The Church of Rome, however, has changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
The Church of Rome teaches that the Bible was given to her. Thus she states,
For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.
It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books.
The leaders of the early Church received the Old Testament as did the Jews, and they received the books of the New Testament recognizing that the inherent authority of those writings was given by the Holy Spirit from God. The New Testament was received as the Word of God as the common property of believers and heritage of the people of God. This was in the manner and humility of faith as expressed by the Apostle Paul, For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. This was in the centuries before the over-powering dictatorial supremacy of the Church of Rome was established. These Christians did not look on the Church as Holy Mother; rather for the most part, their attitude as believers was as that expressed by the Lord, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. Unlike present day Roman Catholicism, the early Church understood Apostolic Tradition as Apostolic doctrine, in line with the written Word of the Apostles, and not as a source distinct from Scripture. From the very beginning of the post apostolic age with the writings of what are known as the Apostolic Fathers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, the Didache, and Barnabus) there is an exclusive appeal to the Scriptures for the positive teaching of doctrine and for its defense against heresy. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers literally breathe with the spirit of the Old and New Testaments. In the writings of the apologists such as Justin Martyr and Athenagoras the same thing is found. There is no appeal in any of these writings to the authority of a verbal or extra-biblical tradition as a separate and independent body of revelation. It is with the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian in the mid to late second century that the concept of Apostolic Tradition that is handed down in the Church in oral form is first encountered. The word tradition simply means teaching.
Irenaeus and Tertullian state emphatically that all the teachings of the Bishops that was given orally, was rooted in Scripture, and could be proven from the written Scriptures. Both men give the actual doctrinal content of the Apostolic Tradition that was orally preached in the churches, and it can be seen clearly that all their doctrine was derived from Scripture. There was no doctrine in what they refer to as Apostolic Tradition that is not found in Scripture. In other words, the Apostolic Tradition defined by Irenaeus and Tertullian is simply the teaching of Scripture. It was Irenaeus who stated that while the Apostles at first preached orally, their teaching was later committed to writing (the Scriptures), and the Scriptures had since that day become the pillar and ground of the Churchs faith.
As has been seen at the beginning of this article, from the earliest times a substantial part of the New Testament was available to the believers. The four Gospels were known and read in the Churches. The letters of Apostles Paul and Peter were circulated and used even while the Apostles lived. These New Testament books did not become authoritative because they were being formally accepted as Scripture by any church or group of churches but rather because the believers received them as inspired, recognizing in their Apostolic authority the very Word of God. The life of Christ Jesus, in His role as the final and full revelation of God
culminated in the New Testament canon. It expressed the final prophetic word of grace and truth given in Him. The early believers accepted the Written Word of the New Testament, as like unto Christ Jesus Himself, unchangeable, final, finished and authoritative. In this they were totally unlike Romanism, with its unholy Tradition equally honoured and revered as Scripture, and its cleverly evolving doctrine, such as its recent acceptance of Islam.
Gods people in the first three centuries after Christ universally accepted what we now know as the New Testament. There were indeed controversies over individual books, all of which confirmed rather than impeded the certainty that they had Gods final Written Word which was once delivered unto the saints. The Lords people universally knew the contents of the canon of the New Testament well before the local Council of Hippo formally accepted it in 393A.D., and the provincial Council of Carthage in 397A.D. The teachings of Rome contradict the New Testament in her hierarchical pyramid of authority beginning in the Pope, her Mary, seven Sacraments, Purgatory and other unholy traditions. In the Romes acceptance of the Apocryphal books in the Old Testament, she also contradicts the teachings of the early Church. It is patently obvious, therefore, that the Roman Catholic Churchs identifying herself with the early Church and claiming that Bible has been handed over to her by God, is both false and historically absurd. In her more than 600 years of Inquisition against those who received, treasured, and lived by the Scriptures, she showed herself not as Holy Mother Church but rather as the Word of truth paints her, the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Two historical contradictions occur in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. First, the Canon of accepted books is not the one recognized by the Apostles or the primitive church. Romes official declaration is as follows,
It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New.
The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, [inserted additions to Daniel, Bel and the Dragon and the Song of the three Holy Children] Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.
The New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of St. Paul to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, the Letter to the Hebrews, the Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, and Revelation (the Apocalypse). 
Please note the many extra-biblical writings. The Catholic Church herself refers to these books as the deuterocanonical books, a term meaning second canon. They are Tobit, Judith, I and II Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and inserted into the book of Daniel in the third chapter; The Song of the Three Young Men, plus the additional Chapter 13 of Daniel with the story Susanna and Chapter 14 with the account of Bel and the Dragon. Hence from this complete list is plain evidence that Holy Mother Church does not rely on the apostolic Tradition and never intended to do so.
If she had purposed to follow Apostolic Tradition, she would not have broken the biblical prohibition of adding to the Word of God. This accretion was a historical deception formalized at the Council of Trent in 1546 with the express purpose of destroying the internal consistency of self-interpretation in Holy Scripture. By including these Apocryphal writings in their canon of Scripture, the Roman Catholic hierarchy was able to effectively undermine individual confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the Word to the seeking soul. The presence of human error, subsumed and bound by ecclesiastical cunning and craft into the Written Word of God, attempts to makes the Word of God of none effect. These books and other additions, while interesting in giving the believer insights into the period of history between Malachi and the Gospel of Matthew, yet because of magical divination in Tobit and Bel and the Dragon, and the sheer foolishness at times in the Wisdom of Solomon, prove to be spiritual land mines planted in the Word of God. A persons faith in the inerrant and All Wise God can be shattered as one wonders how inspired is the history of the Maccabees, since I Maccabees clearly teaches that there were no prophets of the Lord in the land in those days!
This intrusion of the Apocrypha into the inspired and inerrant Word of God is of utmost importance.
The additions amount to nigh one quarter of the size of the Old Testament in what is called a Roman Catholic Bible. The entire Word of God is thereby polluted. The Lords gift to the believer is like unto the Lord Himself, a Word in which there is neither uncertainty nor shadow of deceit. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Quite a contrast is the false Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. It is one of irregularity, fickleness, and vacillation in a large portion of what is wrongly called the Word of the Living God. The same Pope who kisses this unholy Bible has also publicly kissed the Quran of Mohammed. It looks indeed that such kisses are the same as those of the woman of Proverbs Seven who invitingly declared, I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.
Since the errant apocryphal additions have not been removed from the Roman Catholic Bible, it stands as a morbid witness against Rome and her presumptions. Romes own polluted Bible is the clear evidence that there is no similarity historically or doctrinally between the Apostolic Church and the one who dares to call herself Holy Mother.
Reasons why the Apocrypha cannot be accepted
The four main reasons why the Apocrypha cannot be accepted as part of the Bible are:
The Lord Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament did not accept the Apocryphal books as Gods Word. It is extremely significant that although there are numerous quotations and references to almost all of the canonical books of the Old Testament in the New Testament, the Lord and the writers of the New Testament never once quoted from the Apocrypha.
2. The Old Testament was given by God to the Jewish people, in the words of the Apostle, unto them were committed the oracles of God. The Jews have never accepted anything more than the canonical books of the Old Testament. For example, the Jewish scholars of Jamnia in A.D. 90 recognized the books of the Old Testament, as did the Early Church and Christians of today. They did not recognize the Apocrypha. The Jewish historian, Josephus (A.D. 30-100), explicitly excludes the Apocrypha.
3. There is a conspicuous absence of a claim to be inspired in the books of the Apocrypha themselves; rather, in fact some of the books themselves state that the Lord was not speaking through His prophets at that time, e.g. I Maccabees 9:27, I Maccabees 14:41.
4. The Apocrypha contains errors, fables, superstitions, magic, deceit, and wrong doctrine such as praying for the dead. All of these things are totally at variance to the pure word of God in the canonical books. For example, in Wisdom 8:19 Solomon is made to say, Now I was a well favored child and I came by a noble nature. But this is at variance with Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Another example is II Maccabees 12:45. This verse is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify communion with the dead and prayer for the dead bound by their sins. The official teaching based on the lie of II Maccabees 12:45 is the following,
Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins [II Mac. 12:45] she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
This pagan practice of communion with the dead is forbidden in the Bible, for example, There shall not be found among you any one...that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer, [one who calls up the dead].
Then the false humanistic assumption, that man is left to his own resources when it comes to salvation, is taught in Ecclesiasticus 15:14 in the Roman Catholic Bible. This deadly error is quoted in the present day Vatican II documents of Rome,
It is, however, only in freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good. . . . For God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel [Ecclesiasticus 15:14] so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.
This type of soul damning teaching shows why the Roman Catholic Church included the Apocrypha, and how unashamedly she uses it to propagate lies. Other blatant examples of ghastly errors are found in Tobit 12:9, Judith 10:11-13, and Baruch 3:4.
As an unusual exception to the general rejection of the Apocrypha by the Early Church, Augustine and two local councils in North Africa in the late fourth century and early fifth century argued for the acceptance the Apocrypha. Using this exception (it was not even in itself perfectly clear just how much Augustine approved of the Apocrypha), the Council of Trent in 1546 accepted and endorsed the Apocrypha as part of Gods Holy Word. The reader should note, however, that the Roman Catholic Church itself did not accept and formally sanction the lying treachery of these additions to the Written Word of God until 1546, and only then with the express purpose of nullifying the potent biblically-based critiques directed against her by the Protestant Reformers.
The frank examination of the Roman Catholic Churchs doctrine of authority made here leads to the conclusion that her authority is not simply without true biblical foundation, but it also is an attempt to completely usurp the divine authority of the Lord God in His Written Word. Holy Mother Church, in biblical terms is neither holy nor, strictly speaking, a church.
She is rather clearly the successor to the Imperial Roman Empire embodied in her arrogance in law, traditions and pagan customs. The Barbarian overthrow of the Roman Empire was succeeded by the gradual rise of papal Rome. A very significant event in this evolution took place in the sixth century. The Emperor Justinian, who was living in the East in Constantinople, handed over his title of Supreme High Priest (Summum Pontifex) to Vigilius, Bishop of Rome. This he did in the sixth century. The date given by some is 538 AD. The bestowal by Justinian of the title of the Supreme Pontiff, which entailed the universal oversight of the entire Christian World, exalted the Bishop of Rome to become what we know as the Pope. He was, as Supreme Pontiff, to become spiritual head of the restored Roman Empire. In 800 AD, the work of Charlemagne completed the evolution of that movement by the creation of the Holy Roman Empire of medieval and modern times. It is in this office as the Supreme Pontiff that the Pope claims the divine attribute of infallibility,
The Supreme Pontiff, in virtue of his office, possesses infallible teaching authority.
Furthermore we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they, by necessity for salvation, are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff 
The biblical-prophetic identity of Rome is not in any doubt to those given eyes to see. The specter haunting Holy Mother Church (including some of her devout apologists) is that she is in fact the Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth, that was, and is not, and yet is. That is, the city of Rome was a seat of arrogance, idolatry and persecution in a purely pagan form under the civil Emperors, who also simultaneously held the pagan religious title of Supreme Pontiff. The base of the city of Romes power at that time was its military might.
That form, based in Imperial Romes military might, is no longer in existence. Yet in a certain sense it really does still exist because the same city, now under the religious and spiritual power of Roman Catholic Supreme Pontiffs, is still a civil state, still claims supreme power, and still practices idolatry even in some of the same buildings. The old civil-religious form or title of Supreme Pontiff, handed down from Imperial Rome through the Holy Roman Empire, today stands primarily on a spiritual power base, but one which claiming to be Christian while her final authority is herself rather than the written Word of God. They that dwell on the earth wonder at her, the weird Holy Mother Church that acts as if she were supreme over God and the Holy Bible.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
In attributing her Tradition to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and His leading to such preposterous claims as Papal infallibility, is in the strict sense of the term a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is why there can never be any negotiation, compromise, or alliance between the Vatican and Bride of Christ. The Temple curia of the Pharisees, in the Lords time identified themselves with all that was good, upright, and holy. There was no question in their minds but that God worked wholly in, by, and through their teachings and administrations. Christ Jesus, however, showed them to be like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens bones, and of all uncleanness. In a similar manner, the proud privileges and claims of the Roman System to be the very mouthpiece of God are shown by the Word of the Lord to be rather seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. Even the testimony of history shows that this system has been an instrument of persecution of true biblical faith and a tool of assimilation whereby pagan shrines and artifacts have become grottos of Mary and images of her person. The Roman religion and her form of godliness has become a cloak to cover her paganism. Her basis of all of this is the plea that her Tradition is to be equally honored as the Lords own Written Word. To the destruction of the faithful, therefore, her traditions include Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. Her false basis in Tradition has allowed her to construct a worldwide empire where she enforces her will over 814,779 women who are her nuns, 57,813 men whom she calls religious brothers, and 404,626 men whom she calls her priests. 
The Holy Spirit, foreseeing all these things, as the Guide and Comforter of the true Church, has graciously provided a divine answer for the dangerous, ubiquitous, and deceiving System of Rome and her fabricated Authority base. God Himself Who began the writing of the Word with His own finger, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. This Son has authenticated the Old Testaments writings and as the Alpha and Omega, having all Authority in heaven and on earth, He commanded the finishing of the New Testaments writings in His words to the Apostle John, What thou seest, write in a book The Lord Jesus Christs mind and counsel come unto the believers in writing, the Bible, as a merciful and steadfast relief against all that is confusion, darkness, and uncertainty, including the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Bible, the Spirit of God has portrayed the Church of Rome as wonderful in the eyes of the world; but to the eyes of true believers she is shown to be that great city that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! To the believers, He has broken her magic spells; he has lifted her mask, and as something already come to pass, He publishes her fall, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
The believers of old, the Vaudois, the Waldenses, the Lollards, and the Bohemians, saw those things clearly and were thereby fortified and equipped. Likewise throughout the 600 years of the Inquisition, and to the Reformers, the office of the papacy was recognized as the Man of Sin and the Antichrist. The Imperial Roman Empire, revived as the so-called Holy Roman Empire, they saw as the Babylon of Revelation 17 and 18. These doctrines were embodied in their confessions of faith and sealed by the blood of countless martyrs. Confidently they saw that the papacy and those who believe in its system would most surely be terminated, as the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. In the meantime, the Gospel of Christ saves multitudes from her. The Lord Christ Jesus, the Exalted Head of the Church, and His Sovereign Spirit give comfort and victory, for The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.. All of this is absolutely established on the unwavering and unchangeable Authority of the Lord God in His Written Word. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. II Timothy 3:16-17 ¨
Permission is given by the authors to copy this article if it is done in its entirety without any changes. WebPage www.bereanbeacon.org
 II Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God . Inspiration in Greek is theopneustos, literally meaning, breathed out, that is, Scripture is breathed out by God as His Word.
 Psalms 12:6, 18:30, 119:128, 140; Romans 7:12.
 I Corinthians 2:13.
 II Peter 1:20, 21.
 John 14:16, 17, 26.
 Proverbs 1:23.
 John 21:24.
 II Timothy 3:16, 17.
 Proverbs 4:19, 1 Corinthians 2:14
 II Timothy 3:15
 John 21:25.
 II Peter 3:15, 16.
 II Peter 1:12.
 I Corinthians 4:6.
 Acts 17:3, 18:28, 28:23; Galatians 3:8; Romans 9:17.
 Hebrews 1:1, 2.
 Revelation. 1:1, 2.
 John 14:23, 24.
 Matthew 24:35.
 John 8:29.
 Psalm 19:7.
 Luke 6:46.
 Isaiah 66:2.
 Canon 749, Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Ed., New English Tr., 1999 (Washington DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1983). All canons are taken from this source unless otherwise stated. Bolding in any quotation indicates emphasis added in this paper.
 Isaiah 43:10, Titus 1:2.
 The Greek word for above can mean in a place of or as much as. It seems to be this meaning that applies the text rather than superior to God, cf. Strongs Hebrew-Greek Dictionary, # 1909.
 II Peter 1:21.
 Galatians 2:7-8.
 Acts 13:46-48, 18:6; Romans:1:5, 11:13; Galatians1:16; I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11.
 The terms overseer and elder/pastor are used interchangeably (Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4).
 James 4:12, see also: Isaiah 33:22, Jeremiah 10:7, Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:5, Revelation 15:4.
 Bernard Hasler, How the Pope Became Infallible (USA: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1981) pp. 36, 37. Originally published in German under the title Wie der Papst Unfehlbar Wurde
(Verlag, Munchen: R. Piper & Co., 1979).
 Ignaz von Dollinger, A Letter Addressed to the Archbishop of Munich 1871, as quoted in MacDougall, The Acton Newman Relations (Fordham University Press) pp. 119, 120.
 Exodus 20:2-3.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco, CA:
Ignatius Press, 1994) Para. 1161. CCC hereafter.
 CCC, Para. 108.
 Deuteronomy 18:22,Isaiah 41:21-29,Isaiah 42:9, Isaiah 43:9-12, Isaiah 45:21. Isaiah 48:14, John 13:19, John 16:14
 Hebrews 1:2.
 II Timothy 3:16.
 Genesis 3:5.
 Dominus Iesus, September 5th 2000, Section 16.
 John 1:14.
 II Thessalonians 2:4.
 Isaiah 14:14.
 John 1:14, 17.
 Revelation 17:6.
 Revelation 17:5.
 CCC, Para. 80.
 Square brackets are in the original text.
 CCC, Para. 81.
 John 10:35.
 Jeremiah 23:29.
 Isaiah 55:11.
 DOMINUS IESUS September 5th 2000 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html
 Luke 11:52.
 I Corinthians 2:4, 5.
 John 7:38.
 Catechism, Para. 77, 78.
 The terms overseer and elder/pastor are used interchangeably, Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4.
 To the Pharisees of Jesus time the Scripture did not mean a finished revelation. Their basic allegiance was to a living Torah. Their real loyalty was to that living knowledge they claimed came through tradition from Moses. In precisely the same way, the system of Rome claims a living transmission called Tradition by means of apostolic succession.
 Ephesians 2:20.
 John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1960) pp. 352-353.
 II Timothy 3:5.
 Acts 20:29.
 Colossians 2:8.
 CCC, Para. 82.
 Orwell, George, Animal Farm (Heineman, 1979) p. 85.
 Denzinger, Henry, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Tr. By Roy J. Deferrari, 30th Ed. of Enchiridion Symbolorum, Rev. by Karl Rahner, S. J. (St Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1957) # 995.
 Catechism, Para. 181.
 Catechism, Para. 169.
 Catechism, Para. 171.
 Matthew 23:9.
 Ephesians 5:21; II Corinthians 1:24, 4:5.
 Genesis 3:1.
 Romans 1:18.
 Matthew 6:22, 23.
 Matthew 23:33.
 Luke 19:14.
 Catechsim, Para 78.
 The Catholic World Report (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press) February 1999, p. 49.
 Matthew 23:37.
 Luke 19:41.
 Declaration Dominus Iesus, Section 16.
 II Thessalonians 2:7, I Timothy 4:1-3
 I Timothy 3:15
 James 1:18
 I Peter 1:23
 I Corinthians 3:11
 John 8:47
 Matthew 23:13.
 Ezekiel 16:32.
 There should be no doubt in anyones mind that all the faithful ought to show to this most holy sacrament the worship which is due to the true God, as has always been the custom of the Catholic Church. Nor is it to be adored any the less because it was instituted by Christ to be eaten. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,
No. 9, Eucharisticum Mysterium, Austin Flannery, ed. (Northport, NY: Costello Publ. Co., 1975) 1981 ed., Vol. I, Sec. 3, p. 104. All Vatican Council II documents are taken from this source unless otherwise stated.
 II Peter 1:19.
 Code of Canon Law, Latin-English edition (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1989) Can. 1311.
 Luke 22:25, 26.
 Psalm 11:3.
 Flannery, Vatican Council II Documents, No. 28, Lumen Gentium,21 Nov. 1964, Vol. I., p. 380.
 John 17:17.
 Jude 3.
 Psalm 138:2
 Romans 1:25
 Catechism, Para 105.
 Catechism, Para 120.
 I Thessalonians 2:13
 Matthew 23:8
 William Webster, Sola Scriptura and the Early Church, pp 1,2 www.bereanbeacon.org
 Hebrews 1:1-2.
 See our paper, The Papacy and Islam. www.bereanbeacon.org,
 Catechism, Para 120
 Proverbs 22:21
 James 1:17
 Proverbs 7:16
 Romans 3:2
 Catechism, Para. 958
 Deuteronomy 18:10-11
 Flannery, Vatican Council II Documents, No. 64, Gaudium et spes, 7 December 1965, Vol. 1, Sec. 17, p.917.
 LeRoy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1978) Vol. I, p. 513.
 See Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 15.
 Canon 749.
 Denzinger, Henry, Unam Sanctum, Nov. 18, 1302, #469.
 Revelation 17:4
 Revelation 17:8
 Matthew 23:27
 I Timothy 4:1
 I Timothy 4:3, Forbidding to marry: see Flannery, Vatican Council II Documents, No. 63 Presbyterorum Ordinis, Sec. 16, Vol. I, p. 893. Re abstain from meats: see Canon 1251.
 2001 Our Sunday Visitors Catholic Almanac (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2001) p. 343.
 Hebrews 1:2
 Revelation 1:11
 Revelation 18:16
 Rev 18:2
 II Thessalonians 2:8.
 Romans 1:16
Assorted Evangelical Ping
And this Bull, Qui quorundam (1324), is dealing with problems Pope John XXII was trying to settle among the Franciscans, not infallibility! You would think an ex-Catholic priest would know that.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
"These troubles among the Franciscans were increased by the quarrel about evangelical poverty which broke out among the Conventuals themselves. The general chapter of Perugia, through their general, Michael of Cesena, and other learned men of the order (including William Occam), defended the opinion of Berenger Talon, that Christ and His Apostles had no possessions either individually or in common. In 1322 Pope John declared this statement null and void, and in 1323 denounced as heretical the assertion that Christ and the Apostles had no possessions either individually or in common, and could not even legitimately dispose of what they had for personal use. Not only the Spirituals, but also the adherents of Michael of Cesena and William Occam, protested against this decree, whereupon in 1324 the pope issued a new Bull, confirming his former decision, setting aside all objections to it, and declaring those who opposed this decision heretics and enemies of the Church. Summoned to appear at Avignon, Michael of Cesena obeyed the summons, but refused to yield and, when threatened with imprisonment, sought safety in flight. Leaving Avignon on 25 May, 1328, and accompanied by William Occam and Bonagratia di Bergamo, he betook himself to Louis of Bavaria for protection."
Well, here's the Bull.
Your article states "in the bull Qui quorundam (1324) condemned the Franciscan doctrine of papal infallibility as the work of the devil.
Please show me where in that Bull it specifically says that papal infallibility is the "work of the devil." I read the Bull twice. I never saw the word devil or Satan. I did a word search also. It's not there.
When an author uses subterfuge in one instance, it calls into question everything he says. His credibility is shot.
Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus
Does this include Koran kissing?
Amazing. The guy was a priest and he thinks that Tradition supplants scripture? Almost makes me think the guy must've just signed off on someone else's writings.
These Calvinist rants are funny in a way. They make straw man assertions, and then assert that the Catholic Church is contradictory when the Catholic Church contradicts the straw man.
Teofilo expressed it perfectly. Tradition consists of Scripture, the historical Hermeneutics of scripture from those around at near the time of its writing, and the Order of the Mass. Why don't any of the prophecies of the Catholic Church come true? Because the Catholic CHurch does not prophesy! It's inspiration is in the gift of interpretation (hermeneutics). Public Revelation was complete with Christ (for now, and I suppose until He comes again). Although if anyone wants to check out some pretty amazingly accurate private revelation, the children at Fatima, for instance, pretty well described the entire subsequent 20th century. But even they were only recognized inasmuch as they were consistent with scripture, for private revelation cannot contradict public revelation.
I must note: this is an interesting strategy. A recent post, strictly on the issue of sola scriptura was devestatingly contradicted by Catholic. So now we get a much, much longer post, made so much longer not by having more thorough evidence, but by countless tangents.
It sounds like the Bull is clarifying that, although previous popes established the Franciscan General with authority as to the rule of St. Francis, that authority was not conferring on the Franciscan General the grace of infallibility, since that grace is not the popes' to infer.
Two authors are listed. I'm guessing Mr. Nicholson wrote most of it, and Mr. Bemnett signed off on it. If you read most Protestant-turned-Catholic apologists, they don't read like Catholics. IN fact, part of why they are such a gift to apologism is that they think in terms of their audience believing in sola scriptura, etc. This just doesn't read like something an educated Catholic would write. A Catholic who never understood his Catholic upbringing brought up in a thoroughly Protestantized American culture, and then "brought to the Lord" might write something like this, but besides the terrible understanding of the Catholic faith, there's simply nothing that suggests that the man was once immersed in the Catholic religious culture.
That said, so many American seminaries are just so horrible...
I guess it's Jack Chick time again at Free Republic!
Quotes emphasizing Sacred Tradition and the Authority of the Catholic Church to uphold and proclaim the Truth
"Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you." I Corinthians 11:2 (NKJV)
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." II Thessalonians 2:15 (NKJV)
"the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" I Timothy 3:15 (NIV)
"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." II Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)
"There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, ONE FAITH, one baptism...." Ephesians 4:4-5 (NIV)
"But if they will not believe the doctrines of the priests, let them believe Christ's oracles, let them believe the admonitions of angels who say, 'For with God nothing is impossible.' Let them believe the Apostles CREED WHICH THE ROMAN CHURCH has always kept undefiled" To Sircius
"The confession arrived at Nicaea was, we say, more SUFFICIENT and ENOUGH BY ITSELF, for the subversion of all irreligious heresy, and for the security and furtherance of the doctrine of the Church" Ad Afros 1
"But the WORD OF THE LORD which came THROUGH the Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea, abides forever" Ad Afros 2
"...forcing on the divine oracles a misinterpretation according to their [the heretics] OWN PRIVATE sense" Orat 1,37
"...that He was not before that time, but is wholly man by nature and nothing more. But this is NO sentiment of the CHURCH, but of the Samosatene and of the present Jews..." Orat 1,38
"This then I consider the sense of this passage, and that, a VERY ECCLESIASTICAL sense." Orat 1,44
"Who heard in his FIRST CATECHISING, that God has a Son and has made all things by His proper Word, BUT understood it in THAT SENSE in which we now mean it? Who on the rise of this odious heresy of the Arians, was not startled at what he heard, as strange" Orat 2,34
"However here too they (Arians) introduce their private fictions, and contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise 'one,' or 'like,' as the CHURCH preaches, but as they themselves would have it" Orat 3,10
"If we now consider the OBJECT of that FAITH which we Christians HOLD, and using it as a RULE, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches to the reading of inspired Scripture. For Christ's enemies, being ignorant of this OBJECT, have wandered from the way of truth, and have stumbled on a stone of stumbling, thinking otherwise than they should think" Orat 3,28
"Let us, retaining the GENERAL SCOPE of the faith, acknowledge that what they interpret ill, has a RIGHT interpretation" Orat 3,35
"Had Christ enemies thus dwelt on these thoughts, and recognized the ECCLESIASTICAL SCOPE as an ANCHOR for the faith, they would NOT have made SHIPWRECK of the faith..." Orat 3,58
"We are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the Fathers hold this." Epis 59
"But our faith is right, and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and TRADITION of the FATHERS, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old." Epis 60
"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, BUT DO NOT hold such opinions as the SAINTS HAVE HANDED DOWN, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they DO NOT rightly KNOW THEM nor their power" Festal Letter 2
"Scarcely, however, did they begin to speak, when they were condemned, and one differed from another; then perceiving the straits in which their heresy lay, they remained dumb, and by their silence confessed the disgrace which came upon their heterodoxy. On this the Bishops, having negatived the terms they had invented, published against them the SOUND and ECCLESIASTICAL faith....And what is strange indeed, Eusebius of Caesarea in Palestine, who had denied the day before, but afterward subscribed, sent to his Church a letter, saying that this was the CHURCH'S faith and the TRADITION of the FATHERS" De Decretis 3
"Are they not then committing a crime in their very thought to gainsay so GREAT and ECUMENICAL a Council?" De Decretis 4
"For, what OUR FATHERS have delivered, THIS IS TRULY DOCTRINE; and this is truly the TOKEN of doctors, to CONFESS THE SAME THING with each other, and to vary NEITHER from themselves nor from their FATHERS...Thus the Greeks, as not witnessing to the SAME doctrines, but quarreling one with another, have no truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable HERALDS OF TRUTH AGREE TOGETHER, and do not differ...preaching the same Word harmoniously" De Decretis 4
"...and it is seemingly and most irreligious when Scripture contains such images, to form ideas concerning our Lord from others which are neither in Scripture, nor have any religious bearing. THEREFORE let them tell us FROM WHAT TEACHER OR BY WHAT TRADITION they derived these notions concerning the Savior?...But they seem to me to have a wrong understanding of this passage also; for it has a RELIGIOUS and VERY ORTHODOX sense, which had they understood, they would not have blasphemed the Lord of glory" De Decretis 13
"...and in dizziness about TRUTH, are full set upon accusing the COUNCIL, let them tell us what are the Scriptures from what they have learned, or WHO is the SAINT by whom they have BEEN TAUGHT..." De Decretis 18
"MUST needs hold and intend the decisions of the Council, suitably regarding them to signify the relation of the RADIANCE to the LIGHT, and FROM THENCE gaining the illustration TO THE TRUTH" De Decretis 20
"We are PROVING that THIS view has been TRANSMITTED from FATHER to FATHER, but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many FATHERS CAN YE ASSIGN to your phrases? Not one of the understandings and wise; for all abhor you, but the devil alone; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the beginning sowed you with the seed of this IRRELIGION, and now persuades you to slander the ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, for committing to writing, not YOUR doctrines, but that which from the BEGINNING those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the COUNCIL has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the BLESSED FATHERS so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy..." De Decretis 27
"...For they dissent from each other, and, whereas they have revolted from THEIR FATHERS, are not of ONE AND THE SAME MIND, but float about with various and discordant changes" De Synodis 13
"For it is right and meet thus to feel, and to maintain a good conscience toward the FATHERS, if we be not spurious children, but have received the TRADITIONS from them, and the LESSONS of religion at their hands" De Synodis 47
"Such then, as we confess and believe, being the SENSE of the FATHERS..." De Synodis 48
"...but do you, remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast the TRADITIONS of the FATHERS, pray that now at length all strife and rivalry may cease and the futile questions of the heretics may be condemned..." De Synodis 54
"Of course, the holy Scriptures, divinely inspired are self-sufficient for the proclamation of the truth. But there are also numerous works composed for this purpose by blessed TEACHERS. The ONE WHO READS THEM will UNDERSTAND the INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures AND will be ABLE to GAIN knowledge he desires" C. Gentes 1
"But the sectaries, who have fallen away from the TEACHING of the CHURCH, and made SHIPWRECK concerning the faith" C. Gentes 6
"But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the CHURCH'S TEACHING which you must know..." C. Gentes 33
"But what is also to the point, let us note that the very TRADITION, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and PRESERVED by the FATHERS. On THIS the Church was founded; and if anyone departs from THIS, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian." Ad Serapion 1,28
ANTONY OF EGYPT
"Wherefore keep yourselves all the more untainted by them, and observe the TRADITIONS of the FATHERS, and chiefly the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learned from the SCRIPTURE, AND of which you have often been put in mind BY ME" Vita S. Antoni 89
"For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty...The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church, so does her authority, inaugerated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The SUCCESSION of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the APOSTLE PETER, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave it in charge to feed his sheep, down to the present EPISCOPATE...
"The epistle begins thus: 'Manicheus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father. These are the wholesome words from the perennial and living fountain.' Now, if you please, patiently give heed to my inquiry. I do not believe Manicheus to be an apostle of Christ. Do not, I beg you, be enraged and begin to curse. For you know that it is my rule to believe none of your statements without consideration. Therefore I ask, who is this Manicheus? You will reply, 'An Apostle of Christ.' I do not believe it. Now you are at a loss what to say or do; for you promised to give knowledge of truth, and here you are forcing me to believe what I have no knowledge of. Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manicheus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing in the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For MY PART, I should NOT BELIEVE THE GOSPEL EXCEPT MOVED BY THE AUTHORITY of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manicheus, how can I BUT CONSENT?"
C. Epis Mani 5,6
"Wherever this tradition comes from, we must believe that the Church has not believed in vain, even though the express authority of the canonical Scriptures is not brought forward for it" Letter 164 to Evodius of Uzalis
"To be sure, although on this matter, we cannot quote a clear example taken from the canonical Scriptures, at any rate, on this question, we are following the true thought of Scriptures when we observe what has appeared good to the universal Church which the authority of these same Scriptures recommends to you" C. Cresconius 1,33
"It is obvious; the faith allows it; the Catholic Church approves; it is true" Sermon 117,6
"If therefore, I am going to believe things I do not know about, why should I not believe those things which are accepted by the common consent of learned and unlearned alike and are established by most weighty authority of all peoples?" C. Letter Called Fundamentals 14,18
"Will you, then, so love your error, into which you have fallen through adolescent overconfidence and human weakness, that you will separate yourself from these leaders of Catholic unity and truth, from so many different parts of the world who are in agreement among themselves on so important a question, one in which the essence of the Christian religion involved..." C. Julian 1,7,34
"The authority of our Scriptures, strengthened by the consent of so many nations, and confirmed by the succession of the Apostles, Bishops and Councils, is against you" C. Faustus 8,5
"No sensible person will go contrary to reason, no Christian will contradict the Scriptures, no lover of peace will go against the CHURCH" Trinitas 4,6,10
BASIL THE GREAT
"Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture AS WELL those which have been gathered concerning it as those which we have RECEIVED from the UNWRITTEN TRADITION of the Fathers" On the Holy Spirit 22
"Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have delivered to us in a mystery by the Apostles by the TRADITION of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the SAME FORCE" On the Holy Spirit 27
"The day would fail me, if I went through the mysteries of the Church which are NOT in Scripture. I pass by the others, the very confession of FAITH, in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, from what WRITTEN document have we?" On the Holy Spirit 67
"While the UNWRITTEN TRADITIONS are so many and their bearing on 'the mystery of godliness' is so important, can they refuse us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers; which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches; a word for which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery" On the Holy Spirit 67
"In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form 'with the Spirit' has NO written authority, we maintain that if there is not other instance of that which is UNWRITTEN, then this must not be received. But if the GREAT NUMBER of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution WITHOUT written authority, then, in company with many others, let us receive this one. FOR I HOLD IT APOSTOLIC TO ABIDE BY THE UNWRITTEN TRADITIONS. 'I praise you,' it is said, 'that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered them to you' [1 Cor 11:2]; and 'Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our Epistle' [2 Thess 2:15]....One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their SUCCESSORS, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time. If as in a court of Law, we were at a loss for documentary evidence, but were able to bring before you a large number of witnesses, would you not give your vote for our aquittal? I think so; for 'at the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established' [Matt 18:16; Deut 19:15]. And if we could prove clearly to you that a long period of time was in our favour, should we not have seemed to you to urge you with reason that this suit ought not to be brought into court against us? For ancient dogmas inspire a certain sense of awe, venerable as they are with hoary antiquity" On the Holy Spirit 71
"....and I have not allowed my judgement concerning them to rest wholly with myself, but have followed the decisions given about them by our Fathers." Epis 204,6
Basil continues affirming that he would receive the Arians if they started:
"...accepting the Nicene Creed..." Epis 204,6
"...is to be received without hesitation and difficulty, citing in support of his opinion the unanimous assent of the Bishops of Macedonia and Asia" Epis 204,6
Again repudiating private opinion and affirming Scripture, Tradition and Church. Regarding the authority of St. Athanasius, the unanimous consent of the Bishops, and the Nicene Creed, Basil writes:
"...considering myself bound to follow the high authority of such a man and of those who made the rule, and with every desire on my part to win the reward promised peacemakers, did enroll in the lists of communicants all who accepted that Creed. The fair thing would be to judge of me, not from one or two who do not walk uprightly in the truth, but from the multitude of Bishops throughout the world, connected with me by the grace of the Lord...you may learn that we are all of one mind and of one opinion. Whoso shuns communion with me, it cannot escape your accuracy, CUTS HIMSELF OFF from the whole Church." Epis 204,6-7
"Not to accept the VOICE of the Fathers as being of more authority than their OPINION deserves reproof as something filled with pride!" Epis to Canonicas
CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE
To Pope Cornelius:
"After all this, they yet in addition, having had a false bishop ordained for them by heretics, dare to set sail, and to carry letters from schismatic and profane persons to the CHAIR OF PETER [which is] the PRINCIPAL CHURCH, whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise. They fail to reflect that those Romans are the same as those whose faith was publicly praised by the Apostle, to whom unbelief CANNOT have access" Epis 59,14
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
Speaking of his own teachers,
"But they, safeguarding the TRUE TRADITION of the blessed teaching, which comes straight from the Apostles Peter, James, John and Paul and transmitted from father to son have come down to us with the help of God to deposit in us those ancestral and apostolic seeds" Stromata 1,11
After Clement repudiates the private interpretation of the Gnostics he writes:
"For US...having grown old in the Scriptures, PRESERVING the Apostolic and ecclesiastical correctness of doctrine, living a life according to the Gospel, is led by the Lord to discover the proofs from the Law and the prophets which he seeks." Stromata 7,104
COUNCIL OF NICAEA I (AD 325)
"We believe in ONE HOLY CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC ++++CHURCH++++" Nicene Creed
COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE II (AD 553)
"We confess that (we) hold and declare the faith given from the beginning by the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ to the Holy Apostles, and preached by them in the whole world; which the SACRED FATHERS CONFESSED and EXPLAINED, and HANDED DOWN to the holy churches, and especially (those Fathers) who assembled in the FOUR sacred Synods, whom we follow and accept through all things and in all things...judging as at odds with piety all things, indeed, which are not in accord with what has been defined as RIGHT FAITH by the same FOUR holy Councils [Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon], we condemn and anathematize." Denzinger 212
COUNCIL OF NICAEA II (AD 787)
"If anyone rejects all ecclesiastical tradition either written or not written...let him be anathema." Denzinger 308
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM
"But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that ONLY, which is now DELIVERED TO THEE BY THE CHURCH, AND which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures." Catechetical Lectures 5,12
"Learn also diligently, and FROM THE CHURCH, WHAT are the books of the Old Testament, and WHAT are the books of the NEW" ibid 5,33
"These mysteries which the CHURCH now explains to you who are passing from the ranks of the catechumens...." ibid 6,29
"This is the CHURCH'S TRADITIONAL instruction...." [or Schaff: "Of these things the CHURCH admonishes and teaches thee..." ibid 6,34
"And to speak more briefly, let us neither separate nor confuse Father and Son; and never say that the Son is alien to the Father, nor receive those who say that the Father is at one time Father and at another Son; for such expressions are strange and impious and not the TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH." ibid 11,18
To show Cyril has different understandings of the word "proof" (compare with ibid 4,17 above) :
"So, therefore, you have the PROOF from Scripture: [Cyril cites Daniel 9:25]...For the present, then, you have this PROOF of the time, though the weeks of years foretold in Daniel ARE INTERPRETED VARIOUSLY." ibid 12,19
"Our teaching is no invention on our part, but derived from the Sacred Scriptures, particularly from the prophecy of Daniel just read....According to the TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION of the Fathers, this is the kingdom of the Romans [referring to Daniel 7:23]." ibid 15,13
"To prevent some in ignorance from thinking, because of the different titles of the Holy Spirit, that these are different spirits and not one and the same (and One only), the Catholic Church has provided for your SAFETY in the TRADITIONAL CONFESSION OF THE FAITH [Schaff: "the Catholic Church guarding thee beforehand hath delivered to thee in the profession of the faith"], which commands us to 'believe in one Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who spoke by the prophets...'" ibid 27,3
"The word itself and the title of 'Spirit' are applied to Them in common in the Holy Scriptures, for it is said of the Father; 'God is spirit' [Jn 4:24], as it is written in the Gospel according to John; and of the Son: 'A spirit before our face, Christ the Lord' [cf. Lam 4:20] as Jeremia the Prophet says; and of the Holy Spirit: 'but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit' [Jn 14:26], as it has been said; YET the ORDER OF THE CREED, if devoutly understood, EXCLUDES the ERROR of Sabellius." ibid 27,34
"Faith in the resurrection of the dead is a central precept and teaching of the holy Catholic Church...." ibid 28,1
"Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, 'In one holy Catholic Church,' on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it TEACHES UNIVERSALLY AND COMPLETELY [Jurgens translates "infallibly"] ONE AND ALL THE DOCTRINES which ought to come to men's KNOWLEDGE, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts." ibid 18,22-23
"'So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by an epistle of ours' [2 Thes 2:15]. Hence it is MANIFEST, that they did NOT deliver all things by Epistle, but MANY THINGS UNWRITTEN, and IN LIKE MANNER BOTH the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the TRADITION of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition seek no farther." Homilies on Second Thessalonians 4,2
"We may answer, that what is here written, was sufficient for those who would attend, and that the sacred writers ever addressed themsleves to the matter of immediate importance, whatever it might be at that time: it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are MANY THINGS which have been delivered by UNWRITTEN TRADITION. Now while all that is contained in this Book is worthy of admiration, so is especially the way the Apostles have of coming down to the wants of their hearers: a condescension suggested by the Spirit who has so ordered it, that the subject on which they chiefly dwell is that pertains to Christ as man. For so it is, that while they discourse so much about Christ, they have spoke little concerning His Godhead: it was mostly of the manhood that they discoursed, and of the Passion, and the Resurrection, and the Ascension." Homilies on Acts 1,1
"Not in vain did the APOSTLES order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the sacred mysteries" Homilies on Philippians 3,4
EPIPHANIUS OF SALAMIS
"But for all the divine words, there is no need of allegory to grasp the meaning; what is necessary is study and understanding to know the MEANING of each statement. We must have recourse to TRADITION, for all cannot be received from the divine Scriptures. That is why the holy Apostles handed down certain things in writings but others by TRADITIONS. As Paul said: 'Just as I handed them on to you' [cf. 1 Cor 11:2,23ff; 15:1ff]." Panarion 61,6
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS
"My sheep hear my voice, which I heard from the oracles of God, which I have been taught by the Holy FATHERS, which I have taught alike on all occasions, not conforming myself to the opportune, and which I will never cease to teach; in which I was born, and in which I will depart" Orat 33,15
"I desire to learn what is this fashion of innovation in things concerning the Church...But since our faith has been proclaimed, both in writing and WITHOUT writing, here and in distant parts, in times of danger and of safety, how comes it that some make such attempts, and that others keep silence?" Epis 101
GREGORY OF NYSSA
"Let [Eunomius] first show, then, that the Church has believed in vain that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not made such through adoption by a Father falsely so-called, but existing as such according to nature, by generation from Him Who Is, not estranged from the nature of Him who begot Him....It suffices for the PROOF of our statement that we have a TRADITION coming down from the FATHERS, an inheritance as it were, by SUCCESSION from the Apostles through the SAINTS who came after them." C. Eunomius 3(4)
"...I say, that the Church teaches this in plain language, that the Only-begotten is essentially God, very God of the essence of the very God, how OUGHT one who OPPOSES HER DECISIONS to overthrow the preconceived opinion?" C. Eunomius 4,6
"They, on the other hand, who change their doctrines to this novelty, would need the support of their arguments in abundance, if they were to bring over to their views, not men light as dust, and unstable, but MEN OF WEIGHT and steadiness: but so long as their statement is advanced without being established, and without being proved, who is so foolish and so brutish as to account the teaching of the evangelists and Apostles, AND of those who successively shone like lights in the churches, of less force than this undemonstrated nonsense" ibid 4,6
HILARY OF POITIERS
"It behooves us not to withdraw from the CREED which we have received...nor to back off from the faith which we have received through the prophets...or to back-slide from the Gospels. Once laid down, it continues even to this day through the TRADITION of the FATHERS" Ex Oper Hist Fragment 7,3
HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME
"It is NOT by drawing on the Holy Scriptures NOR BY GUARDING the TRADITION of some holy person that the heretics have formulated these doctrines." Refutation of All Heresies 1,Preface
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH
"I beseech you, therefore, do nothing in a spirit of division, but act according to Christian teaching. Indeed, I heard some men saying, 'If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures (OT), I will not believe the Gospels.' On my saying to them, 'It is written,' they answered me, 'That remains to be proved.' But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death and resurrection, and the FAITH which is by Him are undefiled monuments of antiquity." Epis Phil 8,2
"Follow the Bishop, all of you, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the presbyterium as the Apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of God. Let no one do anything with reference to the Church without the Bishop. Only that Eucharist may be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated with the bishop or his delegate presiding. Where the Bishop is, there let the community be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." Epis Smyrn 8,1-2
"The Apostles at that time FIRST PREACHED the Gospel but later by the will of God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith" Against Heresies 3,1,1
"Since, therefore, the TRADITION from the Apostles DOES thus EXIST in the Church, and is PERMANENT AMONG US, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those Apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him" ibid 3,5,1
"Through none others know we the disposition of our salvation, than those through whom the gospel came to us, first heralding it, then by the will of God delivering to us the Scriptures, which were to be the foundation and pillar of our faith....But when, the heretics are accusing the Scriptures, as if they were wrong, and unauthoritative, and were variable, and the truth could not be extracted from them by those who were ignorant of tradition...And when we challenge them in turn what that TRADITION, which is from the Apostles, which is guarded by the SUCCESSION of elders in the churches, they OPPOSE THEMSELVES TO TRADITION, saying that they are wiser, not only than those elders, but even than the Apostles.
"The TRADITION of the Apostles, manifested 'on the contrary' in the whole world, is open in every Church to all who see the truth...And, since it is a long matter in a work like this to enumerate these successions, we will confute them by pointing to the TRADITION of that GREATEST and MOST ANCIENT and UNIVERSALLY KNOWN Church, founded and constituted AT ROME by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, a TRADITION which she has had and a faith which she proclaims to all men from those Apostles" ibid 3,1 and 3,3
For Irenaeus "tradition" included three things:
1) the Christian faith that was handed on -- oral or in writing
"For how should it be if the Apostles themselves had NOT left us their writings? Would it not be necessary to follow the course of the TRADITION which they handed down to those whom they did commit the Churches?" ibid 3,4,1
2) a living authority
"Wherefore it is incumbent to OBEY the presbyters who are in the Church...those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of TRUTH..." ibid 4,26,2
3) transmission and preservation by succession
"In this order, and by this SUCCESSION, the ecclesiastical tradition from the Apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is MOST abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed down in truth" ibid 3,3,3
"Then I have pointed out the truth, and shown the preaching of the Church, which the prophets proclaimed (as I have already demonstrated), but which Christ brought to perfection, and the Apostles have handed down, from which the Church, receiving [these truths], and throughout all the world alone preserving them in their integrity, has transmitted them to her sons. Then also having disposed of all questions which the heretics propose to us, and having explained the doctrine of the Apostles, and clearly set forth many of those things which were said and done by the Lord in parables -- I shall endeavor, in this fifth book of the entire work which treats of the exposure and refutation of knowledge falsely so called, to exhibit proofs from the rest of the Lord's doctrine and apostolic epistles; [thus] complying with demand, as thou didst request of me (since indeed I have been assigned a place in ministry of the word); and, labouring by every means...and convert them to the Church of God...that they may preserve steadfast the faith which they have received, guarded by the Church in its integrity, in order that they be in no way perverted by those who endeavor to teach them false doctrine..." ibid 5,Preface
"Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the Bishops to whom the Apostles committed to the churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition of the Apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same....And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world...For the Church preaches the truth everywhere...." ibid 5,20,1
"Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters....It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures." ibid 5,20,2
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who as I have shown, possess succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of Bishops, have received the CERTAIN GIFT OF TRUTH, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in SUSPICION others who DEPART from the primitive succession of the succession, and assemble themselves....But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishments as Jeroboam did" ibid 4,26,2
"Heretics assent neither to Scripture nor to tradition" ibid 3,2,1
"Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did NOT REST on the authority of the Scripture the CONSENSUS of the WHOLE WORLD in this respect would have the force of COMMAND..." C. Dialogue Luciferians 8
"And let them not flatter you themselves if they think they have Scripture authority since the devil himself has quoted Scripture texts...we could all, while preserving in the letter of Scripture, read into it some novel doctrine" ibid 28
"So, then in expectation of His coming we worship toward the East. But this tradition of the Apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten" Orthodox Faith 4,12,16
"Moreover that the Apostles handed down much that was unwritten, Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, tells us in these words: 'Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught of us, whether by word or epistle' [2 Thess 2:15]. And to the Corinthians he writes, 'Now I praise your brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered thefm to you' [1 Cor 11:2]." ibid
"He who does not believe according to the tradition of the Catholic Church is an unbeliever" C. Nestorians
MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR
"I have no private opinion, but only agree with the Catholic Church" (cited in From the Housetops Vol 9 No 2 Ser 23, p 28)
"The Church's preaching has been handed down through an orderly succession from the Apostles and remains in the Church until the present. That alone is to be believed as the truth which in no way departs from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition" First Principles 1,preface,2
"We do not take our scriptural teaching from the parables but we interpret the parables according to our TEACHING" Purity 9,1
"Let them show the origins of their churches, let them unroll the list of their Bishops (showing) through a succession coming down from the very beginning that their first Bishop had his authority and predecessor someone from among the number of Apostles or apostolic men and, further, that he did not stray from the Apostles. In this way the apostolic churches present their earliest records. The church of Smyrna, for example, records that Polycarp was named by John; the Romans, that Clement was ordained by Peter. In just the same way, the other churches show who were made Bishops by the Apostles and who transmitted the apostolic seed to them. Let the heretics invent something like that" De praescr haeret 32
THEODORET OF CYRUS
"This teaching has been handed down to us not only by the Apostles and prophets but also by those who have INTERPRETED their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory...and other lights of the world and before them, by the HOLY FATHERS gathered at Nicaea whose confession of faith we have kept intact, as the inheritance from a Father, while those who dare to VIOLATE THEIR TEACHINGS, we call corrupt and enemies of truth" Epis 89
"...This being an anxious matter to Nectarius, Sicinnius advised him to avoid all dialectic contests, and to APPEAL to the STATEMENTS OF THE ANCIENTS, and to put the question to the heresiarchs from the Emperor whether they made any account of the doctors who belonged to the Church before the division or came to issue with them as aliens from Christianity" Hist 5,10 (from Socrates)
VINCENT OF LERINS
Vincent of Lerins remarks (as many Fathers do) that the first thing the heretic says to affirm his position is:
"It is written...."
"When anyone asks one of these heretics who presents arguments: Where are the proofs of your teaching that I should leave behind the world-wide and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? He will jump in before you have finished with the question: 'It is written!' He follows up immediately with thousands of texts and examples...." Commonitoria 1,26
"Here perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the Scripture is complete and more than sufficient in itself, why is it necessary to add to it the authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? As a matter of fact, [we must answer] Holy Scripture, because of its depth, is not universally accepted in one and the same sense. The same text is interpreted differently by different people, so that one may almost gain the impression that it can yield as many different meanings as there are men. Novatian, for example, expounds a passage in one way; Sabellius, in another; Donatus, in another; Arius, and Eunomius, and Macedonius read it differently; so do Photinus, Apollinaris, and Priscillian; in another way, Jovian, Pelagius, and Caelestius; finally still another way, Nestorius....Thus, because of the great distortions caused by various errors, it is, indeed, necessary that the trend of the interpretation of the prophetic and apostolic writings be directed in accordance with the rule of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning" Commonitoria 2
Compiled by Joe Gallegos originally for CorUnum Catholic BBS
A Former Protestant's Response to Bennett:
Sola Scriptura: An Unbiblical Tradition
Refutation of Dr. John MacArthur and Richard Bennett
by Dave Armstrong
Former Catholic priest Richard Bennett is a prominent anti-Catholic apologist, and editor (with Martin Buckingham) of Far from Rome, Near to God: The Testimonies of 50 Converted Catholic Priests (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers & Authors, Inc., 1994), where we learn such interesting and fascinating tidbits of information such as, for example, well-known anti-Catholic Bart Brewer's initial reason for forsaking Catholicism:
I also cherished teaching my religion class at the Carmelite high school . . . I enjoyed watching the girls giggle as they flirted with teasing boys . . . my attention was drawn to one of the more diligent students, who thoroughly captivated my interest . . . She was lovely and shyly responded as we stole moments talking alone after class. This was a new adventure, and I soon interpreted our newly discovered affection as love . . .
I listened with interest as some openly discussed the impractical nature of mandatory celibacy . . . For the first time in my life, I doubted the authority of my religion. (pp. 31-32)
Mr. Bennett's paper which will be refuted below, is entitled "It is Written: Sola Scriptura," and is available online.
Richard Bennett's words will be in blue. The sub-titles are his, from the original paper (the Roman numerals have been added, for reference purposes). They will be colored brown.
I. SCRIPTURE ALONE IS INSPIRED AND INHERENTLY AUTHORITATIVE
The Biblical message breathed out by God is revelation in written form. (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The Biblical claim is that what God has inspired was His written word (2 Peter 1:20-21). When the Lord Jesus Christ said, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), He was speaking of God's written word. The events, actions, commandments, and truths from God are given to us in propositional, i.e. logical, written sentences.
Catholics do not disagree with this, as we, too, accept the inspiration and infallible authority of Scripture. We simply don't pit it against Church and Tradition, which Holy Scripture considers as possessing authority also.
God's declaration in Scripture is that it and it alone, is this final authority in all matters of faith and morals. Thus there is only one written source from God, and there is only one basis of truth for the Lord's people in the Church.
This is a clever mixture of truth and falsehood. Nowhere does scripture proclaim that "it alone, is this final authority in all matters of faith and morals," if by that, Bennett means (as I am assuming) the formal system and rule of faith of sola Scriptura. I submit that this would explain why no Scripture is offered here to illustrate this supposed biblical claim. If he offers such alleged "proof" below, it will be shown to be altogether insufficient to establish this claim of Bennett's, and of Protestants generally-speaking. We agree that there is one written and inspired, "God-breathed" revelation. As for "one basis of truth" (as opposed to "one truth") this truth is not limited to the Bible, but also includes prophetic and apostolic proclamation and oral tradition, as well as teaching not included in the Bible itself, as seen in the following biblical passages (RSV):
Mark 4:33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them . . .
In other words, by implication, many parables are not recorded in Scripture.
Mark 6:34 . . . he began to teach them many things.
None of these "many things" are recorded here.
John 16:12 I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
Perhaps these many things were spoken during His post-Resurrection appearances alluded to in Acts 1:2-3 (see far below). Very few of these teachings are recorded, and those which are contain only minimal detail.
John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.
John 21:25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
II. THE TRUTH AND THE SCRIPTURE
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His great high priestly prayer, declared clearly the truth of God's Word. He said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." This was consistent with the declarations right through the Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit continually proclaims that the revelation from God is truth, as for example Psalm 119:142, "thy law is truth." The Lord Himself therefore identified truth with the written Word. There is no source other than to Scripture alone to which such a statement applies. That source alone, the Holy Scripture, is the believerï¿½s standard of truth.
This is lousy logic. To say that something is true does not mean that it (even if inspired) is the sole source of truth. The Psalmist could also have cried, "2 + 2 = 4 is truth," or, "That David, the one who killed Goliath, was King of Israel is truth." To establish this grandiose claim, the Bible would have to state something like, "only the written word contained in the Bible is true, and nothing else is true or authoritative." No such passage can be found, and much can be found which would contradict this bogus claim, based on an illogical application of a few Scripture passages. So, Bennett unwittingly commits this fallacy (very common in Protestant circles) and then follows up with a second: the notion that only the written word is authoritative, or a "standard of truth." Scripture certainly is a "standard of truth" (we agree fully), even the preeminent one, but not in a sense that rules out the Church and Tradition.
Furthermore, "Word" in Holy Scripture quite often refers to a proclaimed, oral word of prophets or apostles, not only to the written word later compiled as the Bible. Prophets spoke the word of God, whether or not their utterances were later recorded as written Scripture (undoubtedly much of their preaching was not recorded for posterity, just as in the case of, for example, John the Baptist). This is utterly obvious, and can be profusely documented. So for example, we read in Jeremiah 25:1-9 (NIV):
1 The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 2 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years-from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day-the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.
4 And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. 5 They said, "Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you."
7 "But you did not listen to me," declares the LORD , "and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves."
8 Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: "Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon," declares the LORD , "and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy  them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin.
Note how the Lord equates His words with those of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, as God's prophet, spoke His words, when they "came to" him. This was the word of God or word of the Lord whether or not it was recorded in writing and whether or not it made it into later canonized Scripture. It had equal authority in writing or as proclamation-never-reduced-to-writing. This was also true of the Apostle Paul and other apostles, as will be shown below. When the phrases word of God or word of the Lord appear in Acts and the Epistles, they almost alway refer to oral preaching, not to Scripture. For example:
1 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God . . . (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:6 below)
Equally obviously, no one would be foolish enough to claim that every sermon and plea and prophetic warning of Jeremiah or any of the other prophets was recorded in writing and preserved in the Bible. In one long night alone, if Jeremiah had kept talking, that would add up to more words than we have in the entire book named for him. If this had been the "word of the Lord," it would not have been recorded, just as, for example, Jesus' words explaining the messianic prophecies concerning Himself, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, were not recorded, but they were true, and inspired, since they came from Jesus Himself (see Luke 24:26-27). The hearers of both Jeremiah and Jesus were bound to obey their words. Thus, the words carried a binding authority before they were written down and regardless of whether they were ever later written down. This realization refutes Mr. Bennett's words above.
In the New Testament, it is the written word of God and that alone to which the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles refer as the final authority. In the temptation, the Lord Jesus three times resisted Satan, saying, "It is written" as for example, in Matthew 4:4, "he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." In stating "It is written," the Lord used the exact same phrase that is used in the Holy Bible forty six times. The persistence of the repeated phrase underlines its importance. The Lord's total acceptance of the authority of the Old Testament is evident in His words found in Matthew 5:17-18,
Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
Of course Jesus accepted the authority of the Old Testament. This is not in dispute. But what is most disputable is Mr. Bennett's claim that "it is the written word of God and that alone to which the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles refer as the final authority." This is simply untrue, and demonstrably so. The rhetoric may sound nice, but it must be backed up by fact, and not refuted by counter-factual evidence. I shall provide that counter-evidence by citing a passage from my second book, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: (pages 54-55; passages: RSV)
a) Matthew 2:23: the reference to ". . . He shall be called a Nazarene " cannot be found in the Old Testament, yet it was passed down "by the prophets." Thus, a prophecy, which is considered to be "God's Word" was passed down orally, rather than through Scripture.
b) Matthew 23:2-3: Jesus teaches that the scribes and Pharisees have a legitimate, binding authority, based on Moses' seat, which phrase (or idea) cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament. It is found in the (originally oral) Mishna, where a sort of "teaching succession" from Moses on down is taught. Thus, "apostolic succession," whereby the Catholic Church, in its priests and bishops and popes, claims to be merely the Custodian of an inherited apostolic Tradition, is also prefigured by Jewish oral tradition, as approved (at least partially) by Jesus Himself.
c) In 1 Corinthians 10:4, St. Paul refers to a rock which "followed" the Jews through the Sinai wilderness. The Old Testament says nothing about such miraculous movement, in the related passages about Moses striking the rock to produce water (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13). Rabbinic tradition, however, does.
d) 1 Peter 3:19: St. Peter, in describing Christ's journey to Sheol/Hades ("he went and preached to the spirits in prison . . . ", draws directly from the Jewish apocalyptic book 1 Enoch (12-16).
e) Jude 9: about a dispute between Michael the archangel and Satan over Moses' body, cannot be paralleled in the Old Testament, and appears to be a recounting of an oral Jewish tradition.
f) Jude 14-15 directly quotes from 1 Enoch 1:9, even saying that Enoch prophesied.
g) 2 Timothy 3:8: Jannes and Jambres cannot be found in the related Old Testament passage (Exodus 7:8 ff.).
h) James 5:17: the reference to a lack of rain for three years is likewise absent from the relevant Old Testament passage in 1 Kings 17.
Since Jesus and the Apostles acknowledge authoritative Jewish oral tradition (even in so doing raising some of it literally to the level of written Revelation), we are hardly at liberty to assert that it is altogether illegitimate. That being the case, the alleged analogy of the Old Testament to sola Scriptura is again found wanting and massively incoherent.
Jesus attacked corrupt traditions only, not tradition per se, and not all Oral Tradition. The simple fact that there exists such an entity as legitimate Oral Tradition, supports the Catholic "both/and" view by analogy, whereas in a strict sola Scriptura viewpoint, this would be inadmissible, it seems to me. It is obvious that there can be false oral traditions just as there are false written traditions which some heretics elevated to "Scripture" (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas).
This is precisely why we need the Church as Guardian and Custodian of all these traditions, and to determine (by the guidance of the Holy Spirit) which are Apostolic and which not, just as the Church placed its authoritative approval on the New Testament Canon. Holy Scripture is absolutely central and primary in the Catholic viewpoint, just as in Protestantism. No legitimate Oral Tradition can ever contradict Scripture, just as no true fact of science can ever contradict it.
III. OTHER SOURCES OF AUTHORITY CONDEMNED (??)
Furthermore, in refuting the errors of the Sadducees, the Scripture records the Lord saying, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Christ Jesus continually castigated and rebuked the Pharisees because they made their tradition on a par with the Word of God. He condemned them because they were attempting to corrupt the very basis of truth by equating their traditions to the Word of God. So He declared to them in Mark 7:13 "[You are] making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such things do ye." Since Scripture alone is inspired, it alone is the ultimate authority and it alone is the final judge of Tradition.
The Bible does not teach that all "tradition" is bad or evil or merely the "traditions of men." Rather, it teaches that there are indeed such bad and untrue traditions (see, e.g., Matt 15:2-6, Mk 7:8-13, Col 2:8), but that there are also true, apostolic traditions which are positively endorsed. These apostolic traditions are -- far from being contrary to Scripture -- in total harmony with the Bible. Catholics believe that the true traditions must always be consistent with Scripture. In that sense, Scripture is its "final Judge," but not in the sense that Scripture somehow rules out or makes impossible all Tradition and Church authority. It does not at all. In fact, it asserts those things. Here are instances where the Bible espouses true tradition (RSV):
Luke 1:1-2 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses . . .
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.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth, or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
The Apostle Paul explicitly grants oral proclamation or teaching the same authority as written:
2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me . . . guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Most shocking of all (to a Protestant sola Scriptura mindset) is the fact -- established by a simple biblical cross-referencing -- that Tradition, Word of God, and the Gospel are regarded as essentially identical in Scripture. All are conceived as predominantly oral, and all are referred to as being delivered and received. I now cite a passage from my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 7-8):
1 Corinthians 11:2 . . . maintain the traditions . . . . even as I have delivered them to you.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . hold to the traditions . . . . taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . the tradition that you received from us.
1 Corinthians 15:1 . . . the gospel, which you received . . .
Galatians 1:9 . . . the gospel . . . which you received.
1 Thessalonians 2:9 . . . we preached to you the gospel of God.
Acts 8:14 . . . Samaria had received the word of God . . .
1 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . you received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .
2 Peter 2:21 . . . the holy commandment delivered to them.
Jude 3 . . . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. [cf. Acts 2:42]
In St. Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians alone we see that three of the above terms are used interchangeably. Clearly then, tradition is not a dirty word in the Bible, particularly for St. Paul. If, on the other hand, one wants to maintain that it is, then gospel and word of God are also bad words! Thus, the commonly-asserted dichotomy between the gospel and tradition, or between the Bible and tradition is unbiblical itself and must be discarded by the truly biblically-minded person as (quite ironically) a corrupt tradition of men.
The Word of the Lord says as a commandment in Proverbs 30:5,6 "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." God commands that we are not to add to His Word: this command shows emphatically that it is God's Word alone that is pure and uncontaminated.
All this is saying is that one must not contradict or corrupt God's word, which (as shown) can be both oral and written. Of course, the inspired revelation is pure and uncontaminated, but this doesn't logically (or biblically) rule out other sources of truth; otherwise Jesus and the apostles would not have cited other sources in order to back up various claims (as also demonstrated above, from Scripture).
Aligned with Proverbs, the Lord's strong, clear declaration in Isaiah 8:20 is: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." The truth is this: since God's written word alone is inspired, it -- and it alone -- is the sole rule of faith. It cannot be otherwise.
It certainly can be "otherwise" since it is in fact, according to the Bible itself (thus showing sola Scriptura to be a self-defeating concept, since it cannot even be established from Scripture Alone -- the very concept under consideration). This thinking is shot-through with internal contradiction. One falsehood is accepted, and then the system is built upon it, by adding other falsehoods. But a structure with a weak foundation cannot stand.
Mr. Bennett keeps appealing to the Old Testament to "prove" his nonexistent case, as if (his hidden, unspoken assumption) the Jews of that period accepted sola Scriptura as he does. But they did not. And this fact is clearly attested by reputable Protestant scholarly sources, such as The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (edited by Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987 -- from Bijbelse Encyclopedie, ed. W.H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands, 1975 --, 1014-1015). In its article on "Tradition," we read:
Because oral communication was more significant in biblical than in modern societies, oral tradition in the form of standardized forms of stories, sayings, and the like was part of the process toward the composition of every type of biblical literature . . .
While the Sadducees viewed the written text of the Torah as alone authoritative, the Pharisees cultivated an elaborate interpretive tradition . . . The resultant "tradition of the elders" (or "oral Torah") was considered equal in authority to the written text elaborated by it. It represented simply the unfolding of what was implied in the written commandments, and was said to have been received by Moses from God on Mt. Sinai along with the written commandments and passed down orally from that time . . .
Jesus did not totally reject the oral tradition. He affirmed the traditional rules on the tithing of herbs ("these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others"; Matt. 23:23), though he insisted on the relative triviality of the practice. His own interpretation of the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount employs the scribal principle of "building a fence about the Torah" . . .
Appeals to authoritative Church tradition are found already in the earliest New Testament writings, the letters of Paul . . . 2 Thess. 3:6 . . . 1 Cor. 11:23-26 . . . 15:3-7 . . . 11:2; Phil. 4:9; 2 Thess. 2:15; cf. Rom. 6:17; Gal. 1:9) . . .
. . . the New Testament writings were first valued not as inspired Scripture but as deposits of apostolic tradition in fixed written form, to be interpreted authoritatively by the bishops and according to the rule of faith . . .
Catholic theologians have regarded Scripture and tradition as a single authority (they "flow from the same divine wellspring"), noting with some historical justification that Scripture is itself a part and product of apostolic tradition.
In Scripture, moreover, besides the teaching about authoritative apostolic tradition, the Church also had a binding authority. This is seen in the passages about "binding and loosing," a rabbinic term:
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 18:18 . . . Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
The same Protestant source above, in its article on "binding and loosing" (p. 158), explains the meaning of these terms:
In rabbinic usage the terms mean "to forbid" and "to permit" with reference to interpretation of the law, and secondarily, "to condemn" or "place under the ban" and "to acquit." Thus, Peter is given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and life . . . and to demand obedience from the Church, reflecting the authority of the royal chamberlain or vizier in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 22:22 . . . ).
We see the binding authority of the Church in Paul's statement: ". . . the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Paul himself binds and looses in the following two passages:
1 Corinthians 5:3-5 . . . I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (see 5:1-2)
2 Corinthians 2:6-8,10-11 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him . . . Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive . . . in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Paul binds in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7,10, acting as a type of papal figure in 2 Corinthians 2:10, much like St. Peter among the Apostles. He forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the offense was not committed against them personally. Clearly, both parties are acting as God's representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the remission of sin's temporal penalties.
We find ecclesiastical authority in Matthew 18:17, where "the church" is to settle issues of conflict between believers. Above all, we see Church authority in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:6-30), where we see Peter and James speaking with authority. This Council makes an authoritative pronouncement (citing the Holy Spirit -- 15:28) which was binding on all Christians:
. . . abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. (15:29)
In the next chapter, shortly thereafter we read that Paul, Timothy, and Silas were traveling around "through the cities." Note how Scripture describes what they were proclaiming:
. . . they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
This is Church authority, far more like Catholic ecclesiology than sola Scriptura Christianity, which cannot be found in the Bible itself, and is an arbitrary tradition of men. Even the apostle Paul was no lone ranger. He did what he was told to do by the Jerusalem Council. As I wrote in my biblical treatise on the Church (where many additional biblical indications of Church authority can be found):
In his very conversion experience, Jesus informed Paul that he would be told what to do (Acts 9:6; cf. 9:17). He went to see St. Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days in order to be confirmed in his calling (Galatians 1:18), and fourteen years later was commissioned by Peter, James, and John (Galatians 2:1-2,9). He was also sent out by the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4), which was in contact with the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-27). Later on, Paul reported back to Antioch (Acts 14:26-28).
I would anticipate Mr. Bennett and other Protestants to object that Pharisaical tradition was cited, and that Jesus and the early Christians were totally opposed to this as hypocritical "traditions of men" -- lock, stock, and barrel. But what must be understood was that the Pharisees were not entirely corrupt as a class. Jesus Himself followed the Pharisaical tradition, as argued by Asher Finkel in his book The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth (Cologne: E.J. Brill, 1964). He adopted the Pharisaical stand on controversial issues (Matthew 5:18-19, Luke 16:17), accepted the oral tradition of the academies, observed the proper mealtime procedures (Mark 6:56, Matthew 14:36) and the Sabbath, and priestly regulations (Matthew 8:4, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:4). This author argues that Jesus' condemnations were directed towards the Pharisees of the school of Shammai, whereas Jesus was closer to the school of Hillel. The Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: 1971) backs up this contention, in its entry "Jesus" (v. 10, 10):
In general, Jesus' polemical sayings against the Pharisees were far meeker than the Essene attacks and not sharper than similar utterances in the talmudic sources.
This source contends that Jesus' beliefs and way of life were closer to the Pharisees than to the Essenes, though He was similar to them in many respects also (poverty, humility, purity of heart, simplicity, etc.). The Sadducees were the liberals of Jesus' time, and they believed in sola Scriptura. But Jesus and the early Church did not follow their tradition; rather, they were much closer to the Pharisaical tradition, as I argued in More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: (pages 59-60):
Many people do not realize that Christianity was derived in many ways from the Pharisaical tradition of Judaism. It was really the only viable option in the Judaism of that era. Since Jesus often excoriated the Pharisees for hypocrisy and excessive legalism, some assume that He was condemning the whole ball of wax. But this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Likewise, the Apostle Paul, when referring to his Pharisaical background doesnï¿½t condemn Pharisaism per se.
The Sadducees, on the other hand, were much more "heretical". They rejected the future resurrection and the soul, the afterlife, rewards and retribution, demons and angels, and predestinarianism. Christian Pharisees are referred to in Acts 15:5 and Philippians 3:5, but never Christian Sadducees. The Sadducees' following was found mainly in the upper classes, and was almost non-existent among the common people.
The Sadducees also rejected all 'oral Torah,' -- the traditional interpretation of the written that was of central importance in rabbinic Judaism. So we can summarize as follows:
a) The Sadducees were obviously the elitist "liberals" and "heterodox" amongst the Jews of their time.
b) But the Sadducees were also the sola Scripturists of their time.
c) Christianity adopted wholesale the very "postbiblical" doctrines which the Sadducees rejected and which the Pharisees accepted: resurrection, belief in angels and spirits, the soul, the afterlife, eternal reward or damnation, and the belief in angels and demons.
d) But these doctrines were notable for their marked development after the biblical Old Testament Canon was complete, especially in Jewish apocalyptic literature, part of Jewish codified oral tradition.
e) We've seen how -- if a choice is to be made -- both Jesus and Paul were squarely in the "Pharisaical camp," over against the Sadducees.
f) We also saw earlier how Jesus and the New Testament writers cite approvingly many tenets of Jewish oral (later talmudic and rabbinic) tradition, according to the Pharisaic outlook.
Ergo) The above facts constitute one more "nail in the coffin" of the theory that either the Old Testament Jews or the early Church were guided by the principle of sola Scriptura. The only party which believed thusly were the Sadducees, who were heterodox according to traditional Judaism, despised by the common people, and restricted to the privileged classes only.
The Pharisees (despite their corruptions and excesses) were the mainstream, and the early Church adopted their outlook with regard to eschatology, anthropology, and angelology, and the necessity and benefit of binding oral tradition and ongoing ecclesiastical authority for the purpose (especially) of interpreting Holy Scripture.
IV. THE EXPRESSION "SOLA SCRIPTURA"
From the time of the giving of the Decalogue on Mt. Sinai, when Holy God wrote with His finger on the tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18), until this present day, the written word of God has been extant in the world. The term "sola Scriptura" or "the Bible alone" as the measure of truth is short hand, as it were, for the emphatic and repeated statements of Scripture and of the commandment of God. The very phrase " It is written" means exclusively transcribed, and not hearsay.
No one is denying that "written" means "written" (which would be silly), but "word of God" is not always the equivalent of "written" in Scripture, as shown, and not all oral Tradition can be conveniently (and quite unjustly and groundlessly) collapsed into the pejorative term, "hearsay." Mr. Bennett has a problem with the Bible and Jesus Himself and the Apostle Paul (not just the Catholic Church), because all accepted the authority of Tradition and the Church alongside Scripture: they are all of a piece: one harmonious whole, or a "three-legged stool," as Catholics like to describe them.
Mr. Bennett has yet to show that the Bible teaches Bible Alone as a formal principle or Rule of Faith. It can't be done, as I've observed in many dialogues on the subjects with several Protestants who have a measure of expertise on the subject. They make a valient effort, and offer many alleged proof texts, but the reasoning is filled with erroneous assumptions and false, untrue conclusions flowing therefrom. I believe the inadequacies of this argument are being more than amply demonstrated presently.
The command to believe what is written means to believe only the pure word of God. It separates from all other sources the corpus what a man is to believe. What is at stake before the All Holy God is His incorruptible truth.
To believe what is written and inspired does not preclude also believing in authoritative pronouncements of apostles and of the Church which preserves (by the assistance of the Holy Spirit) the apostolic deposit passed on from the apostles (who in turn received it from our Lord Jesus).
In the very last commandment in the Bible God resolutely tells us not to add to nor take away from His Word.
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19)
This refers only to the book of Revelation (as seen in the words "if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy" -- not all Scripture is prophetic in nature). That's all it is referring to. It does not in any way prohibit an authoritative extrascriptural or oral teaching.
His Word is absolutely sufficient in itself. (Psalm 119:160)
The text does not make this more grandiose claim, that Mr. Bennett tries to interpret in terms of the conception of sola Scriptura ("sufficient" -- i.e., somehow ruling out other authorities, which doesn't follow from being sufficient, anyway). The text simply says (RSV):
The sum of thy word is truth; and every one of thy righteous ordinances endures for ever.
Who would argue against this? But it is no proof whatsoever of the full-blown Protestant invention and previously-unknown novelty of sola Scriptura.
V. THE PRESCRIPT AND INTERPRETATION
The principle of "sola Scriptura" is consistent with the very way in which the word of truth that comes from God, is to be interpreted, as Psalm 36:9 explains, "For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light we see light". God's truth is seen in the light of God's truth. This is exactly the same as the Apostle Paul says, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13). It is precisely in the light which God's truth sheds, that His truth is seen. (Cp. John 3:18-21, II Corinthians 4:3-7.)
The Apostle Peter, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, declares, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21). Logically then, Peter makes it very clear that in order to maintain the purity of Holy God's written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. Scripture can only be understood correctly in the light of Scripture, since it alone is uncorrupted. It is only with the Holy Spirit's light that Scripture can be comprehended correctly. The Holy Spirit causes those who are the Lord's to understand Scripture (John 14:16-17, 26). Since the Spirit does this by Scripture, obviously, it is in accord with the principle that Scripture itself is the infallible rule of interpretation of its own truth "it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (I John 5:6).
Catholics agree that comparing Scripture with Scripture is an excellent way to do exegesis and systematic theology. It doesn't follow, however, that we are left with this method alone in seeking to understand Scripture. This isn't necessary; it is not explicitly taught in Scripture (nor are other methods condemned), and there are many contra-indications, as I will demonstrate shortly. Furthermore, this belief in a clear or "perspicuous" Scripture (to the extent that an individual needs no necessary outside help) has not in fact, produced the marvelous unity and agreement on doctrine which was always the dream of the early Protestants, but which has never managed to become a concrete reality. See my papers: Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura, and The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture.
The Jerusalem Council authoritatively interpreted Scripture, and not by simply comparing Scripture with Scripture. "Binding and loosing" is also exercised by the apostles (and priests and bishops later on). Nor did the Old Testament Jews interpret in this way (Mr. Bennett has again given us Old Testament Scripture in supposed support of sola Scriptura -- Psalm 36:9). From my second book once again (pp. 56-57):
The Jews did not have a "me, the Bible, and the Holy Ghost" mindset. Protestants have, of course, teachers, commentators, and interpreters of the Bible (and excellent ones at that ï¿½ often surpassing Catholics in many respects). They are, however, strictly optional and non-binding when it comes down to the individual and his choice of what he chooses to believe. This is the Protestant notion of private judgment and the nearly-absolute primacy of individual conscience (Luther's "plowboy").
In Catholicism, on the other hand, there is a parameter where doctrinal speculation must end: the Magisterium, dogmas, papal and conciliar pronouncements, catechisms -- in a word (well, two words): Catholic Tradition. Some things are considered to be settled issues. Others are still undergoing development.
All binding dogmas are believed to be derived from Jesus and the Apostles. Now, who did the Jews resemble more closely in this regard? Did they need authoritative interpretation of their Torah, and eventually, the Old Testament as a whole? The Old Testament itself has much to "tell" us (RSV):
a) Exodus 18:20: Moses was to teach the Jews the statutes and the decisions -- not just read it to them. Since he was the Lawgiver and author of the Torah, it stands to reason that his interpretation and teaching would be of a highly authoritative nature.
b) Leviticus 10:11: Aaron, Moses' brother, is also commanded by God to teach.
c) Deuteronomy 17:8-13: The Levitical priests had binding authority in legal matters (derived from the Torah itself). They interpreted the biblical injunctions (17:11). The penalty for disobedience was death (17:12), since the offender didn't obey the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God. Cf. Deuteronomy 19:16-17, 2 Chronicles 19:8-10.
d) Deuteronomy 24:8: Levitical priests had the final say and authority (in this instance, in the case of leprosy). This was a matter of Jewish law.
e) Deuteronomy 33:10: Levite priests are to teach Israel the ordinances and law. (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:3, Malachi 2:6-8 -- the latter calls them messenger of the LORD of hosts).
f) Ezra 7:6,10: Ezra, a priest and scribe, studied the Jewish law and taught it to Israel, and his authority was binding, under pain of imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and even death (7:25-26).
g) Nehemiah 8:1-8: Ezra reads the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and who helped the people to understand the law. Much earlier, in King Jehoshaphat's reign, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). There is no sola Scriptura, with its associated idea "perspicuity" (evident clearness in the main) here. In Nehemiah 8:8: . . . they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly [footnote, "or with interpretation"], and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
So the people did indeed understand the law (8:12), but not without much assistance -- not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself, but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc.
h) I think all Christians agree that prophets, too, exercised a high degree of authority, so I need not establish that.
The Catholic Church continues to offer authoritative teaching and a way to decide doctrinal and ecclesiastical disputes, and believes that its popes and priests have the power to "bind and loose," just as the New Testament describes. Protestantism has no such system.
The Old Testament and Jewish history attest to a fact which Catholics constantly assert, over against sola Scriptura and Protestantism: that Holy Scripture requires an authoritative interpreter, a Church, and a binding Tradition, as passed down from Jesus and the Apostles.
Those truly desiring to be true to Lord in this very matter of the standard of "sola Scriptura" must turn to the Lord to obey His command, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you" (Proverbs 1:23). If one is yearning of truth in this essential matter, in the attitude of Psalm 51:17 "with a broken and a contrite heart", the Lord God will not despise, but reveal to him or her the basic foundation where the Lord Christ Jesus stood, as did the apostles. In the words of the Apostle John, "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true." (John 21:24). The Apostle John wrote, as did Peter and Paul, in order that those who are saved should know that his testimony is true.
This is all well and good, and we believe it, but it doesn't prove a single thing that Mr. Bennett is trying to prove, and doesn't disprove in the least the host of counter-factual biblical evidences that I have brought to bear, or the different view of authority that flows logically from them. Protestant defenses of sola Scriptura are almost always of this simplistic, "take-it-for-granted" nature, They simply assume what they are trying to prove from the outset and struggle mightily to make Scripture itself fit into their preconceived notions. That's what is called in logic, "circular argument" or "begging the question." But it is a losing battle. What Protestant defenders of sola Scriptura think is so "obvious" and "clear" is not at all that, when objectively examined.
Protestants think sola Scriptura is "obvious" and "unquestionable" in the way that a fish in an aquarium (with -- theoretically -- no people ever to observe it) thinks it is "obvious" that the entire world consists of water and that all creatures live in it. John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote eloquently about this strong tendency:
That Scripture is the Rule of Faith is in fact an assumption so congenial to the state of mind and course of thought usual among Protestants, that it seems to them rather a truism than a truth. If they are in controversy with Catholics on any point of faith, they at once ask, Where do you find it in Scripture? and if Catholics reply, as they must do, that it is not necessarily in Scripture in order to be true, nothing can persuade them that such an answer is not an evasion, and a triumph to themselves. Yet it is by no means self-evident that all religious truth is to be found in a number of works, however sacred, which were written at different times, and did not always form one book; and in fact it is a doctrine very hard to prove . . . It [is] . . . an assumption so deeply sunk into the popular mind, that it is a work of great difficulty to obtain from its maintainers an acknowledgment that it is an assumption.
(An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1955; originally 1870, 296)
I am here to try to persuade Protestants that there is a respectable, plausible, cogent, coherent and consistent, biblical way of thinking which is contrary to sola Scriptura: that the latter "worldview" or schema of authority is not "all there is" or the only way to faithfully read and interpret Holy Scripture, and that Scripture itself teaches this, rather than sola Scriptura.
If sola Scriptura is all one knows or hears about, then of course one will come away with that viewpoint. "We are what we eat." But if the biblical, patristic, and pre-16th century ways of viewing authority are presented, it can readily be seen that the case for them is far superior. I believe that is evident above. Mainly I have presented scripture and scholarly commentary on it and on the ancient Jews and the early Christians. The case presents itself and is very strong. It doesn't depend on my own skills or cleverness.
VI. THE ADEQUACY OF SCRIPTURE
The total sufficiency of Scripture is declared by the Apostle Paul, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). For final truth and authority, all that we need is the Scripture.
But the passage doesn't teach formal sufficiency, which excludes an authoritative role for Tradition and Church. Protestants merely extrapolate onto the text what simply isn't there. Catholics accept the material sufficiency of Scripture. All true Christian doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly or implicitly, or clearly deduced from biblical evidences.
Readers who wish to delve into the issue of "sufficiency" in all its multi-faceted aspects might want to peruse my paper, The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity). For an extremely in-depth discussion with a Protestant apologist on whether the Church Fathers believed in sola Scriptura or a more Catholic view, see my papers, Reply to Jason Engwer's Catholic But Not Roman Catholic Series on the Church Fathers: Sola Scriptura (An In-Depth Analysis of Ten Church Fathers' Views Pertaining to the Rule of Faith) and Dialogue on Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers. I proposed a contextual, analogical, and exegetical argument against this standard Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, in my first book (pp. 9-11):
In 2 Timothy alone (context), St. Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (1:13-14, 2:2, 3:14). In the latter instance, St. Paul says of the tradition, knowing from whom you learned it. The personal reference proves he is not talking about Scripture, but himself as the Tradition-bearer, so to speak . . . The "exclusivist" or "dichotomous" form of reasoning employed by Protestant apologists here is fundamentally flawed. For example, to reason by analogy, let's examine a very similar passage, Ephesians 4:11-15:
Ephesians 4:11-15 And his gifts were that some should be apostle, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are able to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
If the Greek artios (RSV, complete / KJV, perfect) proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy, then teleios (RSV, mature manhood / KJV, perfect) in Ephesians would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors, teachers and so forth for the attainment of Christian perfection. Note that in Ephesians 4:11-15 the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, knowledge of Jesus, the fulness of Christ, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3:16-17, yet it doesn't even mention Scripture.
Therefore, the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves too much, since if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to synthesize the two passages in an inclusive, complementary fashion, by recognizing that the mere absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. Thus, the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching. This is precisely the Catholic view. Neither passage is intended in an exclusive sense.
VII. THE CLAIM THAT SOLA SCRIPTURA WAS NOT POSSIBLE
In an attempt to justify a tradition as an authority, an appeal is often made to the very last verse in John's gospel where it is stated, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen". (John 21:25) Of course there were many of the deeds and sayings of the Lord, which are not recorded in Scripture. Scripture is the authoritative record that Holy God has given His people. We do not have a single sentence that is authoritatively from the Lord, outside of what is in the written word. To appeal to a tradition for authority when Holy God did not give it is futile. The idea that somehow sayings and events from the Lord have been recorded in tradition is simply not true.
But we have seen above (in many instances) that the Bible itself teaches differently. So this is not true. The advocate of sola Scriptura needs to deal with all the counter-arguments that Catholics present. usually they do not, so their position attains a false facade of invulnerability.
Another desperate attempt to justify tradition, is the statement that the early church did not have the New Testament. The Apostle Peter speaks about the writings of the Apostle Paul when he states, "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter also declares that he was writing so that the believers could remember what he said. So he wrote, "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12).
All this shows is that there was such a thing as a written revelation, which was supremely important in the Christian life. But Catholics wholeheartedly agree with that and it is not at issue. It's irrelevant to the discussion of whether sola Scriptura is true and biblical. The Protestant needs to show that both an authoritative Church and Tradition (always in harmony with Scripture in the Catholic view) are excluded by the Bible. This cannot be done. It is impossible because the Bible doesn't teach it. Sola Scriptura cannot be proven by simply citing all passages about a written scripture. To prove that a written Scripture exists and that it possesses inspiration and authority is not the same thing as proving that it is formally sufficient without Church or Tradition. This is such an obvious truth of logic and common sense that it is often overlooked.
From the earliest times a substantial part of the New Testament was available. Under the inspiration of the Lord, the Apostle Paul commands his letters to be read in other churches besides those to which they were sent. This clearly shows that the written word of God was being circulated even as the Apostles lived. The Lord's command to believe what is written has always been something that the believers could obey and did obey.
But authoritative commands to believe (recorded in the Bible itself) were not confined to the written word. Paul gave oral tradition the same weight and authority, as shown above. Jesus accepted various oral traditions of the Jews.
In this matter we must have the humility commanded in the Scripture not to think above what is written. "that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another" (1 Corinthians 4:6).
I dealt with this supposed "proof text" also, in my first book (pp. 11-12):
The whole passage is an ethical exhortation to avoid pride, arrogance and favoritism, and as such, has nothing to do with the idea of the Bible and the written word as some sort of all-encompassing standard of authority over against the Church. St. Paul's teaching elsewhere . . . precludes such an interpretation anyway. One of the foundational tenets of Protestant hermeneutics is to interpret less clear, obscure portions of Scripture by means of more clear, related passages. St. Paul is telling the Corinthians to observe the broad ethical precepts of the Old Testament (some translators render the above clause as keep within the rules), as indicated by his habitual phrase, it is written, which is always used to precede Old Testament citations throughout his letters. Assuming that he is referring to the Old Testament (the most straightforward interpretation), this would again prove too much, for he would not be including the entire New Testament, whose Canon was not even finally determined until 397 A.D.
To summarize, then, 1 Corinthians 4:6 (that is, one part of the verse) fails as a proof text for sola Scriptura for at least three reasons:
1) The context is clearly one of ethics. We cannot transgress (go beyond) the precepts of Scripture concerning relationships. This doesn't forbid the discussion of ethics outside of Scripture (which itself cannot possibly treat every conceivable ethical dispute and dilemma);
2) The phrase does not even necessarily have to refer to Scripture, although this appears to be the majority opinion of scholars (with which I agree);
3) If what is written refers to Scripture, it certainly points to the Old Testament alone (obviously not the Protestant "rule of faith"). Thus, this verse proves too much and too little simultaneously.
VIII. THE REGULATION AND OUR LOVE OF GOD
The Lord brings the topic of truth to bear on our love for Him. This again underscores its importance. "Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent Me" (John 14:23-24). And then again "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
But this presupposes that Jesus was always talking about His words recorded in Scripture, rather than all of them, recorded or not. It thus begs the question once again (an extremely common and annoying occurrence in apologias for sola Scriptura). In Matthew 28:19-20, in the "Great Commission" passage, Jesus tells the disciples to evangelize and baptize, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (28:20). There is no reason (textually or contextually) to believe that He intended the "all" here to be confined to a written word.
The disciples who heard Jesus say this certainly would not have understood the injunction in that way, either, as there was no written Gospel during Jesus' lifetime. The Gospels were written after He died. Evangelical Bible scholar Donald Guthrie, in his huge work, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, revised one-volume edition, 1970), dates Matthew anywhere from 80-100 A.D. (p. 46), Mark from 60-70 (p. 74), Luke from 90-100 (p. 112), and John, between 90 and 110 (p. 283).
The hearers would have understood the Lord as telling them to pass on to others what they had learned from Him, orally. We have no record of Jesus Himself writing anything. So Mr. Bennett's argument above is plain shortsighted, if not downright silly in its excessive simplicity. This point is verified in the following passage as well:
Acts 1:2-3 . . . the apostles . . . To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. (cf. Luke 24:15-16,25-27)
The Lord himself looked to the authority of the Scriptures alone, as did His apostles after Him.
Neither did this, as shown.
They confirmed the very message of the Old Testament. "The law of the LORD is perfect" (Psalm 19:7). The believer is to be true to the way of the Lord, holding alone to what is written: "Thy Word is truth."
This has already been dealt with. We see, then, that Mr. Bennett's case is virtually non-existent or extremely weak at all fundamental points. It collapses under its own weight of internal contradiction and false premises. This is always the case where sola Scriptura is concerned. One must sympathize with the plight of sola scripturists, in a sense. It's an uphill battle to argue for something which isn't true in the first place. Even the most brilliant minds, skilled arguers, and eloquent rhetoricians will fail in that impossible task. And the reason why Catholics believe it is not true have been presented above, almost entirely from the Bible itself, which is where the "battle" for sola Scriptura must be fought and either won or lost.
Refutation of Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr's article, "The Sufficiency of the Written Word: Answering the Modern Roman Catholic Apologists"
Dr. John MacArthur is an influential and well-known radio preacher, Bible expositor, and author, well-worth listening to (until he gets to the subject of Catholicism . . . ). I will quote a great deal of his article, but not all (unlike Mr. Bennett's piece, which was reproduced in its entirety). Dr. MacArthur's words will be in red. The subtitles are his own.
Teaching as Doctrines the Precepts of Men
. . . The Jews of Jesus' day also placed tradition on an equal footing with Scripture. Rather, in effect, they made tradition superior to Scripture, because Scripture was interpreted by tradition and therefore made subject to it.
It doesn't follow that because interpretation exists, therefore, Scripture is "subject to it," in the sense that it is somehow lesser or inferior. That is simply an unbiblical and false Protestant dichotomy (one of many). Interpretation must exist because that is simply the reality with regard to all written documents: even inspired ones. This is presupposed in Scripture itself (RSV):
. . . no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation . . .
(2 Peter 1:20)
. . . Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him . . . in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their destruction.
(2 Peter 3:15-16)
In Nehemiah 8:1-8, we find that Ezra reads the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and who helped the people to understand the law. Much earlier, in King Jehoshaphat's reign, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). There is no sola Scriptura, with its associated idea "perspicuity" (evident clearness in the main) here. In Nehemiah 8:8: . . . they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly [footnote, "or with interpretation"], and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. So the people did indeed understand the law (8:12), but not without much assistance -- not merely upon hearing.
See other examples of such interpretation in Old Testament times in Section V above.
Whenever tradition is elevated to such a high level of authority, it inevitably becomes detrimental to the authority of Scripture.
This doesn't follow, either. To say that supremely authoritative Scripture has to be interpreted is not to denigrate it in the slightest. Many Protestant scholars have pointed out that the Catholic Church's regard for Scripture is in no wise inferior to that of evangelical Protestantism:
Roman Catholicism has a high regard for Scripture as a source of knowledge . . . Indeed, official Roman Catholic statements concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture would satisfy the most rigorous Protestant fundamentalist.
(Robert McAfee Brown, The Spirit of Protestantism, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1961, 172-173)
There was never a time in the history of the western Church during the 'Dark' or 'Middle' Ages when the Scriptures were officially demoted. On the contrary, they were considered infallible and inerrant, and were held in the highest honour.
(Peter Toon, Protestants and Catholics, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1983, 39)
After quoting 19 eminent Church Fathers to the effect that Scripture is infallible and held in the
highest regard (bolstering his own thesis in this book), and citing all sorts of examples of Protestant denominations lowering their view of biblical infallibility and inerrancy, Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today and well-known evangelical scholar, has this to say about the Catholic reverence for Scripture:
The view expressed by Augustine was the view the Roman Catholic Church believed, taught, and propagated through the centuries . . . It can be said that the Roman church for more than a thousand years accepted the doctrine of infallibility of all Scripture . . . The church has always (via Fathers, theologians, and popes) taught biblical inerrancy . . . The Roman church held to a view of Scripture that was no different from that held by the Reformers.
(The Battle For the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976, 54-56)
Jesus made this very point when he confronted the Jewish leaders. He showed that in many cases their traditions actually nullified Scripture. He therefore rebuked them in the harshest terms:
"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death'; but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother, thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that (Mark 7:6 -- 13).
A half-truth is little better than a lie. Protestant defenders are always presenting these passages where unbiblical traditions of men are condemned, and then making out that this is the biblical and apostolic view of all notions of tradition whatsoever. In other words, for them, Tradition is a "dirty word." This is manifestly false, as I have shown by many many Scriptural proofs in Section III above. To be fair to Dr. MacArthur, he later deals with some of the verses about "tradition" that Catholics present, but he misinterprets them, as I will show.
It was inexcusable that tradition would be elevated to the level of Scripture in Judaism, because when God gave the law to Moses, it was in written form for a reason: to make it permanent and inviolable. The Lord made very plain that the truth He was revealing was not to be tampered with, augmented, or diminished in any way. His Word was the final authority in all matters: "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). They were to observe His commandments assiduously, and neither supplement nor abrogate them by any other kind of "authority": "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:32).
This was dealt with at length in the refutation of Richart Bennett: following the written word does not automatically rule out an oral tradition.
So the revealed Word of God, and nothing else, was the supreme and sole authority in Judaism. This alone was the standard of truth delivered to them by God Himself. Moses was instructed to write down the very words God gave him (Exodus 34:27), and that written record of God's Word became the basis for God's covenant with the nation (Exodus 24:4, 7). The written Word was placed in the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 31:9), symbolizing its supreme authority in the lives and the worship of the Jews forever. God even told Moses' successor, Joshua: "Be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night., so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it" Joshua 1:7 -- 8).
This is patently untrue, and was dealt with in Sections II, III, and V above.
Of course, other books of inspired Scripture beside those written by Moses were later added to the Jewish canon -- but this was a prerogative reserved by God alone. Sola Scriptura was therefore established in principle with the giving of the law. No tradition passed down by word of mouth, no rabbinical opinion, and no priestly innovation was to be accorded authority equal to the revealed Word of God as recorded in Scripture.
Then why did Jesus appeal to authoritative oral and/or non-biblical written Jewish traditions, as in many examples shown in Section II above? Either our Lord Jesus was right or Dr. MacArthur is. They can't both be right. I rather prefer Jesus, if I must make a choice between the two . . .
Agur understood this principle: "Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:5 -- 6).
The Scriptures therefore were to be the one standard by which everyone who claimed to speak for God was tested: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20, KJV).
The Old Testament itself and the conclusions of Old Testament scholars lead to an understanding that the ancient Jews did not believe in sola Scriptura, so it is foolish to appeal to the Old Testament as "proof" that they did, or that this is the biblical position.
In short, tradition had no legitimate place of authority in the worship of Jehovah. Everything was to be tested by the Word of God as recorded in the Scriptures.
Tradition can be in harmony with the written word, which is the possibility that Dr. MacArthur either doesn't realize, or won't allow because of preconceived notions which won't allow this.
That's why Jesus' rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees was so harsh. Their very faith in Rabbinical tradition was in and of itself a serious transgression of the covenant and commandments of God (cf. Matthew 15:3).
Insofar as they transgressed true tradition, yes. But that is not the whole "ball of wax." One who loves Holy Scripture won't ignore or "sweep under the rug" certain portions of it (ones I have detailed above).
The Rise and Ruin of Catholic Tradition
Unfortunately, Christianity has often followed the same tragic road as paganism and Judaism in its tendency to elevate tradition to a position of authority equal to or greater than Scripture. The Catholic Church in particular has its own body of tradition that functions exactly like the Jewish Talmud: it is the standard by which Scripture is to be interpreted. In effect, tradition supplants the voice of Scripture itself.
No evidence is given for such a wild assertion. It is merely anti-Catholic cynicism and prejudice. Dr. MacArthur can't even accurately detail what Scripture says in the first place about tradition. He gives us only a small portion of that (not coincidentally the verses where false traditions of men are being condemned). Now he goes on to make false and unsubstantiated claims about the Catholic Church.
How did this happen? As James White has demonstrated in his chapter on "Sola Scriptura and the Early Church," the earliest church Fathers placed a strong emphasis on the authority of Scripture over verbal tradition. Fierce debates raged in the early church over such crucial matters as the deity of Christ, His two natures, the Trinity, and the doctrine of original sin. Early church councils settled those questions by appealing to Scripture as the highest of all authorities. The councils themselves did not merely issue ex cathedra decrees, but they reasoned things out by Scripture and made their rulings accordingly. The authority was in the appeal to Scripture, not in the councils per se.
Of course the Fathers appealed to Scripture as supreme authority in doctrinal matters (so do Catholics; it is the overwhelming emphasis of my own apologetic and evangelistic ministry). But the Fathers did not believe in sola Scriptura, which is a different thing. Dr. MacArthur is seriously mistaken. I proved this in an extremely lengthy exchange with a Protestant apologist recently, and I will also list other relevant papers in this vein (all dialogues with informed, educated Protestants):
Reply to Jason Engwer's Catholic But Not Roman Catholic Series on the Church Fathers: Sola Scriptura (An In-Depth Analysis of Ten Church Fathers' Views Pertaining to the Rule of Faith) (Dave Armstrong vs. Jason Engwer)
Dialogue on Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers (Dave Armstrong vs. Jason Engwer)
Dialogue on Whether the Fathers Taught "Perspicuity" of Scripture and Denied the Necessity of Tradition and an Authoritative Church
(Dave Armstrong vs. Carmen Bryant)
The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity) (Dave Armstrong vs. E.L. Hamilton, "Cranmer," & Tim Enloe)
Unfortunately, the question of Scriptural authority itself was not always clearly delineated in the early church, and as the church grew in power and influence, church leaders began to assert an authority that had no basis in Scripture.
That's an unproven assumption, as are many remarks following, which I will delete for the sake of space. What is "biblical" or not, or consistent with Holy Scripture or not has to be established in lengthy discussions on each particular topic.
Tradition, according to Roman Catholicism, is therefore as much "the Word of God" as Scripture.
That is what the Bible itself clearly teaches, as conclusively shown in Sections II and III above.
So in effect, tradition is not only made equal to Scripture, but it becomes the true Scripture, written not in documents, but mystically within the Church herself. And when the Church speaks, her voice is heard as if it were the voice of God, giving the only true meaning to the words of the "documents and records." Thus tradition utterly supplants and supersedes Scripture.
How, then, does Dr. MacArthur deal with the Council of Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit led the delegates to pronounce an authoritative interpretation, which Paul, Timothy, and Silas then went out and preached in many cities (see Section III above). Was that an instance in which the very apostles themselves "supplanted and superseded Scripture"?
Modern Catholic Apologetics and Sola Scriptura
In other words, the official Catholic position on Scripture is that Scripture does not and cannot speak for itself. It must be interpreted by the Church's teaching authority and in light of "living tradition."
The Bible itself teaches that, as shown repeatedly. We are not saying that the Bible is radically unclear (we believe it is more often than not clear, and materially sufficient as well); only that men will, in fact, disagree on its interpretation (for whatever reason); thus making some form of authoritative interpretation necessary. The Bible is not clear or "perspicuous" enough to render unnecessary such authority. Nothing illustrates this point better than the history of Protestantism itself. See my papers:
Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura
Protestant Ecclesiology and Epistemology is Always Ultimately Self-Defeating
(Dave Armstrong vs. Tim Enloe)
The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture
De facto this says that Scripture has no inherent authority, but like all spiritual truth, it derives its authority from the Church.
That doesn't follow at all, logically, and is a gross distortion of our position. It is not a matter of whether or not Holy Scripture possesses authority. It certainly does (and inherently, intrinsically so), as it is inspired, "God-breathed" revelation. The only question is how to best interpret what is not self-evidently clear, simply by virtue of its existence (if it were that clear, then we wouldn't have all the divergent interpetations of its teachings, even between Protestants, who supposedly all accept sola Scriptura and perspicuity of Scripture).
Furthermore, the Bible itself gives authority to both Church and Tradition, as shown over and over in the refutation of Mr. Bennett. So the authority of those entities is the biblical position. Dr. MacArthur, on the other hand, is neglecting a vast area of relevant biblical passages, and instead misrepresents and caricatures the Catholic position (probably not deliberately, but it is still equally false and slanderous and unfair).
Only what the Church says is deemed the true Word of God, the "Sacred Scripture... written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records." This position obviously emasculates Scripture. That is why the Catholic stance against Sola Scriptura has always posed a major problem for Roman Catholic apologists. On one hand faced with the task of defending Catholic doctrine, and on the other hand desiring to affirm what Scripture says about itself, they find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They cannot affirm the authority of Scripture apart from the caveat that tradition is necessary to explain the Bible's true meaning. Quite plainly, that makes tradition a superior authority. Moreover, in effect it renders Scripture superfluous, for if Catholic tradition inerrantly encompasses and explains all the truth of Scripture, then the Bible is simply redundant. Understandably, sola Scriptura has therefore always been a highly effective argument for defenders of the Reformation.
I've been doing Catholic apologetics for thirteen years now, and have a published book and many published articles (in books and magazines) and one of the three most-visited Catholic apologetics websites on the Internet, according to Alexa Web Search. I've discussed this issue with Protestants dozens of times. I've probably written more on this than on any other topic (and I have authored ten books and written nearly 500 papers on this website). I can testify that I haven't had the slightest problem refuting sola Scriptura and defending the Catholic position on Bible, Church, and Tradition.
The reader can see plainly in this very paper how much Scripture Protestant polemicists are ignoring. I've debated people on this matter who had Master's degrees specializing in sola Scriptura (Carmen Bryant, Dr. James White), or who edited books like the revised Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Jerome Smith), or who have written whole books on the subject (Dr. James White). They simply ignore many of the biblical passages that can be brought to bear. Nor have they ever proven that the Bible itself teaches sola Scriptura. I've yet to see it. I contend that it cannot be done; period.
Furthermore, Protestant apologists and defenders of sola Scriptura can't show that the Fathers believed anything like this. In my recent dialogue with Jason Engwer (cited and linked above), I was critiquing his claim that the Fathers believed in sola Scriptura. I set out to show how ten Fathers (as representative examples) did not in fact believe this -- with copious documentation. Mr. Engwer was apparently not very confident in his own thesis, seeing that he departed the discussion (a public one on the large Protestant CARM Discussion forum) after counter-replying to my arguments regarding only four of the ten Fathers I dealt with at length. Dr. MacArthur can wax triumphant if he likes, but the facts show otherwise. I will inform him and Mr. Bennett of this very paper, and the reader can follow my website to see if they ever respond. I can almost guarantee that neither one of them will, if past experience is any guide.
Now, if someone wishes to interpret that as the Protestant position concerning sola Scriptura being superior and the Catholic one inferior and supposedly reduced to special pleading and distorting the biblical facts, so be it. I think the Protestant silence of counter-argument speaks volumes. Perhaps other Catholic apologists have had a different experience, but that is mine. In fact, I would say that refuting sola Scriptura is one of the very easiest of my tasks as an apologist. It's a piece of cake; easy as pie. Every time I have dialogued on this topic, I come away even more amazed at the virtual nonexistence of the Protestant case, and the strength of the Catholic argument.
In my own opinion, this is the biggest weakness in Protestant thought: the "Achilles' Heel," so to speak, because it is of such fundamental importance; so much is built upon it, and because the Bible can offer nothing whatsoever to conclusively establish this view. It is indeed an unbiblical "tradition of men" (which is supremely ironic and tragi-comic). It came out of nowhere in the 16th century and cannot be sustained from the Bible, no matter how futilely and desperately and quixotically someone tries to do so. There is literally nothing in the Bible which would even suggest (let alone "prove") sola Scriptura.
So it is not hard to understand why in recent years Catholic apologists have attacked sola Scriptura with a vengeance. If they can topple this one doctrine, all the Reformers' other points fall with it.
Exactly; so much rests upon it, as I just stated (and I am answering as I read, so I didn't know Dr. MacArthur was about to state this). And this is why (I speculate, but with much firsthand knowledge) Protestant apologists are scared to death to deal with this topic in the depth it deserves, with a Catholic opponent. Too much is at stake. I think they sense this, so they avoid the topic like the plague (in terms of seriously debating it; really getting to the bottom of this issue), for fear of the consequences, should they be shown a more biblical and logical way.
For under the Catholic system, whatever the Church says must be the standard by which to interpret all Scripture. Tradition is the "true" Scripture, written in the heart of the Church.
It should be noted in passing that all Christian groups have some tradition, whether or not they outwardly deny this. Sola Scriptura is one such Protestant tradition (and not even a biblical one). Dr. MacArthur is a Calvinist. If he were to start interpreting certain Scriptures about falling away from grace and from the faith as literally suggesting something other than perseverance of the saints or eternal security, he would be suspect in the eyes of his Calvinist comrades, as a biblical exegete. He would not be allowed to interpret in such a way in his own circle of fellow Calvinist believers, sola Scriptura or no, perspicuity of Scripture or no, supremacy of conscience and private judgment or no. Thus, there is a limit and a barrier as to how far a Calvinist can go in interpreting Scripture.
If a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) pastor started asserting that the Eucharist and baptism were purely symbolic, he would be in big trouble (as classic orthodox Lutheranism holds to the Real Presence -- consubstantiation -- and baptismal regeneration). If a Baptist pastor or theologian adopted a belief in infant baptism, he would be told that he doesn't see the clear evidence of Scripture for adult, believer's baptism, and would probably soon be out of a job. And so on and so forth. So the Catholic Church, too, has parameters and standards of orthodoxy (like everyone else) beyond which a Catholic is not allowed to go. There may be relatively more of these, granted, but the restrictions are not different in kind from any Protestant restrictions on dogma and hermeneutics and exegesis. All Christian groups do this. So it is foolish to chide only the Catholic Church for allowing only so much leeway in biblical hermeneutics.
Besides, it is a little-known fact that the Catholic Church has only required the interpretation of a mere nine Bible verses as absolutely binding. See my paper: The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete. The Church is not (in effect) staring over every Catholic's shoulder as they read the Bible (that's much more likely to be true of the local pastor, in many Protestant denominations). To claim that it is doing so is to be exceedingly ignorant of the Catholic ethos and approach to theology and the Bible.
The Church -- not Scripture written in "documents and records" -- defines the truth about justification by faith, veneration of saints, transubstantiation, and a host of other issues that divided the Reformers from Rome.
Dr. MacArthur simply assumes that "Reformed" doctrines are biblical and Catholic ones are not. But this begs the question. I've devoted my life's work to showing that the Catholic positions are eminently biblical and not anti-biblical at all, with my website, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, and first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. And why must Church be pitted against Scripture as if the two are unalterably opposed and cannot be synthesized? This is not the way that the Bible presents the relationship between the two, or between Scripture and Tradition. Why is it impermissible to believe (in faith) in a harmony between the three and a protection by the Holy Spirit from error?
Protestants believe this about Scripture. Why cannot Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit can also protect God's apostolic deposit from error? In fact, the gift of ecclesial infallibility is easier to believe in faith than biblical inspiration, because it is only a negative protection against error, not a positive guarantee that every word in Scripture is "God-breathed."
To put it another way, if we accept the voice of the Church as infallibly correct, then what Scripture says about these questions is ultimately irrelevant.
That doesn't follow at all, and is a gross distortion, if in fact (as Catholics believe) Scripture and Church teaching are harmonious, as just argued. Protestants simply assume that Catholic doctrines can't be harmonized with Scripture; therefore they conclude that there is a fundamental disconnect between the two, with Church authority or Tradition placed higher than the Scripture they supposedly contravene. But the premise remains to be proven. Most Protestants are also unaware of Catholic (and patristic) biblical arguments in favor of their doctrines.
This statement is as fallacious as saying that the human proclamation of the canon of Scripture somehow undercuts the inspiration and inherent status of the books of the Bible. It does not; it is merely authoritatively proclaiming what already is true of its own accord (and this is precisely what the Catholic Church believes about the canon). That is the case with Church and Scripture. Scripture doesn't somehow become "irrelevant" merely because the Church says something about it. This is a ludicrous assertion . . .
And in practice this is precisely what happens. To cite but one example, Scripture very plainly says, "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Nonetheless, the Catholic Church insists that Mary is her Son's "co-mediatrix."
And in practice, most Protestants don't have a clue as to what this means, or the reasoning behind it. I have many papers explaining it and defending it from the Bible, on my Blessed Virgin Mary page. Again, Dr. MacArthur assumes what he is ostensibly trying to prove. He pulls out an example that he knows will resonate with all Protestant readers, because they are probably least-familiar with Catholic Mariology, of all the Catholic distinctives. Then in effect he proclaims, "A-ha! See how radically unbiblical Catholicism is??!!" But he hasn't proven this; he has only asserted it. I understand that one can't prove every assumption on the spopt, but the repeated use of this tactic among Protestant polemicists gets a bit annoying.
And in the eyes of millions of Catholics, what the Church says is seen as the final and authoritative Word of God. First Timothy 2:5 is thus nullified by Church tradition.
Not if the Catholic belief on Mary in this regard is shown to be not at all at odds with many biblical indications . . . it is not explicitly biblical, but it is not at all contrary to biblical thought
Obviously, if Rome can prove her case against sola Scriptura, she overturns all the arguments for the Reformation in one fell swoop.
I'm delighted to hear Dr. MacArthur state this. In fact, I think he goes too far. I wouldn't even argue this, but I would say that overturning the Protestant Rule of Faith would be a severe blow, which should cause Protestants to reconsider their system of belief and how it is arrived-at. Thus, the lack of substantive reply that I always receive when arguing this point is all the more alarming, and the consequences very serious for the Protestant position.
If she can establish her tradition as an infallible authority, no mere biblical argument would have any effect against the dictates of the Church.
We never regard our authority as in such a radical dichotomy or adversarial relationship with Holy Scripture, but rather, of a piece with it. This is a caricature of our position, and it does not follow at all from it.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
First, it is necessary to understand what sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.
Catholics agree with the last sentence; that is what is called material sufficiency. We even agree with the sentence before it, as long as such authority is not pitted against Church and Tradition.
It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture.
Since Scripture teaches us about an authoritative Church and Tradition, then those things, too, must be binding on Christians, as they are biblical, which alone can bind us, according to Protestantism. It's as if they cut off te limb they are sitting on.
Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved, and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That -- no more, no less -- is what sola Scriptura means.
This standard must be interpreted by human beings somewhere along the line (even Protestants have creeds and confessions, which presuppose interpretation).
So sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is sufficient. The fact that Jesus did and taught many things not recorded in Scripture John 20:30; 21:25) is wholly irrelevant to the principle of sola Scriptura. The fact that most of the apostles' actual sermons in the early churches were not written down and preserved for us does not diminish the truth of biblical sufficiency one bit. What is certain is that all that is necessary is in Scripture -- and we are forbidden "to exceed what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).
This has all been dealt with above (as has 2 Timothy 3:15-17, which is brought up next -- as it always is). The Bible teaches that oral tradition is also authoritative, so Dr. MacArthur is simply wrong.
How Do We Know the Doctrine of the Apostles?
Now let's examine the key Scriptures Rome cites to try to justify the existence of extrabiblical tradition. Since many of these passages are similar, it will suffice to reply to the main ones. First we'll examine the key verses that speak of how apostolic doctrine was transmitted, and then we'll explore what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of "tradition."
2 Timothy 2:2: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." Here the apostle Paul instructs Timothy, a young pastor, to train other faithful men for the task of leadership in the church. There is no hint of apostolic succession in this verse, nor is there any suggestion that in training these men Timothy would be passing on to them an infallible tradition with authority equal to the Word of God. On the contrary, what this verse describes is simply the process of discipleship . . .
Dr. MacArthur misses the point. This passage is (usually) not used as a proof of either apostolic succession or infallibity, but for the presence of authoritative oral tradition per se. Apostolic succession can be proven elsewhere in the Bible. See: Apostles Can Become Bishops (Apostolic Succession).
What was this truth? It was not some undisclosed tradition, such as the Assumption of Mary, which would be either unheard of or disputed for centuries until a pope declared ex cathedra that it was truth. What Timothy was to hand on to other men was the same doctrine Paul had preached before "many witnesses." Paul was speaking of the gospel itself. It was the same message Paul commanded Timothy to preach, and it is the same message that is preserved in Scripture and sufficient to equip every man of God (2 Timothy 3:16 -- 4:2).
Precisely; I agree. And I have shown above (Section III) that Tradition, Word of God, and the Gospel are regarded as essentially identical in Scripture, and by Paul. There is no dichotomy. That is merely a Protestant fiction, or invention. Tradition can't be separated out; that would be like trying to separate hydrogen atoms from a water molecule.
In short, this verse is wholly irrelevant to the Catholic claim that tradition received from the apostles is preserved infallibly by her bishops. Nothing in this verse suggests that the truth Timothy would teach other faithful men would be preserved without error from generation to generation.
No one is arguing that; one has to be clear what is a proof or indication of what. Yet Dr. MacArthur would say that the Gospel was preserved infallibly. If, then, we can show that it is equated with "tradition" in the Bible (as I think I have done), then we have gone 90% of the way towards winning the "battle," if not all the way.
That is indeed what Scripture says of itself: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16), but no such assertion is ever made for tradition handed down orally.
Tradition is equated with the Word of God and the Gospel; therefore, this is said of tradition. See, e.g., verses like Jude 3 and Acts 2:42. More than just the Bible is being referred to.
Like Timothy, we are to guard the truth that has been entrusted to us. But the only reliable canon, the only infallible doctrine, the only binding principles, and the only saving message, is the God-breathed truth of Scripture.
This assumes what it is trying to prove, once again . . .
Acts 2:42: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This verse simply states that the early church followed the apostles' teaching as their rule of faith. Once again this passage says nothing about apostolic succession and contains no hint of a guarantee that "the apostles' teaching" would be infallibly preserved through any means other than Scripture.
As the New Testament was not yet compiled at that point, this was clearly an oral tradition. As for infallibility, that would be deduced from passages like Matthew 16:18 and John 16:13 and Acts 15:28. One doesn't have to prove everything from one passage. Dr. MacArthur seems to assume that is the Catholic burden or outlook, and proceeds to tear down such a silly methodology. But it's a straw man in the first place. The Catholic biblical argument is a cumulative one, based on many strands of evidence from throughout Scripture.
Note also that this verse describes the attitude of the earliest converts to Christianity. The "they" at the beginning of the verse refers back to verse 41 and the three thousand souls who were converted at Pentecost. These were for the most part rank-and-file lay people. And their one source of Christian doctrine (this was before any of the New Testament had been penned) was the oral teaching of the apostles.
Exactly. How that is an indication for sola Scriptura is beyond me.
This verse is even more irrelevant to the question of infallible tradition than 2 Timothy 2:2. The only point it asserts that is remotely germane to the issue is that the source of authority for the early church was apostolic teaching. No one who holds to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura would dispute that point. Let it be stated as clearly as possible: Protestants do not deny that the oral teaching of the apostles was authoritative, inerrant truth, binding as a rule of faith on those who heard it. Moreover, if there were any promise in Scripture that the exact words or full sense of the apostolic message would be infallibly preserved through word of mouth by an unbroken succession of bishops, we would be bound to obey that tradition as a rule of faith.
This is all well and good, as far as it goes, but where the Protestant goes wrong is to assume that nothing besides Scripture could ever have authority after Scripture was completed. That is overthrown by Jesus' own multiple appeals to non-biblical literature or oral traditions.
Scripture, however, which is God-breathed, never speaks of any other God-breathed authority; it never authorizes us to view tradition on an equal or superior plane of authority; and while it makes the claim of inerrancy for itself, it never acknowledges any other infallible source of authority. Word-of-mouth tradition is never said to be theopneustos, God-breathed, or infallible.
This is untrue, as has been shown in a variety of ways, in the Richard Bennett portion of this paper. I knew that these two men would ba making many of the same arguments, which is why I combined the refutation into one paper, to save a lot of re-writing.
What Tradition Did Paul Command Adherence To?
We've already noted, however, that Catholic apologists claim they do see verses in Scripture that accord authority to tradition. Even non-Catholic versions of Scripture, speak of a certain "tradition" that is to be received and obeyed with unquestioning reverence.
What of these verses? Protestants often find them difficult to explain, but in reality they make better arguments against the Catholic position than they do against sola Scriptura. Let's examine the main ones:
1 Corinthians 11:2: "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." Those words of Paul to the Corinthians speak of tradition, do they not?
Yet as is often true, the meaning is plain when we look at the context. And examining the context, we discover this verse offers no support whatsoever for the Roman Catholic notion of infallible tradition.
First of all, the apostle is speaking not of traditions passed down to the Corinthians by someone else through word of mouth. This "tradition" is nothing other than doctrine the Corinthians had heard directly from Paul's own lips during his ministry in their church . . . In this case, however, it refers only to Paul's own preaching -- not to someone else's report of what Paul taught . . .
Why would Dr. MacArthur think he is disproving that Paul is referring to authoritative tradition merely by stating that Paul delivered it? It makes no sense. Whether Paul or anyone else delivered it has no bearing on what it is. Elsewhere, Paul speaks many times of doctrines which he received and is passing on. So if Dr. MacArthur's point is that this instance was not passed on (therefore, it isn't tradition), there are two other instances in Paul's writing to the Corinthians where he describes a tradition that he recieved (Greek, paralambano) and in turn passed on, or delivered (Greek, paradidomi) ; thus his argument in this regard collapses (RSV):
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
I Corinthians 11:2 . . . is nothing but Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians that they remember and obey his apostolic teaching. It reflects Paul's own personal struggle to protect and preserve the doctrinal tradition he had carefully established in Corinth. But again, there is no implication whatsoever that Paul expected this tradition to be infallibly preserved through any inspired means other than Scripture.
Paul assumes that it is binding and authoritative. Thus, it is reasonable to infer that he regarded it as infallible, lest he be commanding them to follow a mistaken doctrine. He writes, for example:
2 Thessalonians 3:14 If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.
Romans 16:17: . . . take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in
opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.
Paul didn't write:
. . . . in opposition to the pretty-much, mostly, largely true but not infallible doctrine which you have been taught . . .
2 Thessalonians 2:15: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." This is perhaps the favorite verse of Catholic apologists when they want to support the Catholic appeal to tradition, because the verse plainly delineates between the written word and oral "traditions."
Again the Greek word is paradosis. Clearly, the apostle is speaking of doctrine, and it is not to be disputed that the doctrine he has in mind is authoritative, inspired truth.
So what is this inspired tradition that they received "by word of mouth"? Doesn't this verse rather clearly support the Catholic position?
No, it does not. Again, the context is essential to a clear understanding of what Paul was saying. The Thessalonians had evidently been misled by a forged letter, supposedly from the apostle Paul, telling them that the day of the Lord had already come (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
The entire church had apparently been upset by this, and the apostle Paul was eager to encourage them. For one thing, he wanted to warn them not to be taken in by phony "inspired truth." And so he told them clearly how to recognize a genuine epistle from him -- it would be signed in his own handwriting: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write" (3:17). He wanted to ensure that they would not be fooled again by forged epistles.
But even more important, he wanted them to stand fast in the teaching they had already received from him. He had already told them, for example, that the day of the Lord would be preceded by a falling away, and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness. "Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" 2:5). There was no excuse for them to be troubled by a phony letter, for they had heard the actual truth from his own mouth already.
Now, no one -- even the most impassioned champion of sola Scriptura -- would deny that Paul had taught the Thessalonians many things by word of mouth. No one would deny that the teaching of an apostle carried absolute authority. The point of debate between Catholics and Protestants is whether that teaching was infallibly preserved by word of mouth. So the mere reference to truth received firsthand from Paul himself is, again, irrelevant as support for the Catholic position.
What is irrelevant, and -- beyond that -- absurd, is an argument like the one above, in which it is asserted that Paul could not be talking about tradition even when he uses the very word and refers to oral teaching. What else is needed or required, for heaven's sake? Even when the proof is this clear, the Protestant polemicist has to weasel out of it by special pleading. This is what Dr. MacArthur attempts to do, and it is effective until exposed, as presently. He tries to argue (using his own words in quotes):
1. "it is not to be disputed that the doctrine he has in mind is authoritative, inspired truth."
2. "The Thessalonians had evidently been misled by a forged letter, supposedly from the apostle Paul." "He wanted to ensure that they would not be fooled again by forged epistles."
3. "he wanted them to stand fast in the teaching they had already received." "they had heard the actual truth from his own mouth already."
4. "The point of debate between Catholics and Protestants is whether that teaching was infallibly preserved by word of mouth."
5. "Certainly nothing here suggests that the tradition Paul delivered to the Thessalonians is infallibly preserved for us anywhere except in Scripture itself."
6. "he was ordering them to receive as infallible truth only what they had heard directly from his own lips."
This is very clever, and a vigorous attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but ultimately it is illogical special pleading, and I will now show why I consider that to be the case, by commenting on each proposition in turn:
1. How is it that a doctrine specifically called a "tradition" by Paul and delivered orally as well as by letter -- which even Dr. MacArthur describes as "authoritative, inspired truth" -- is somehow seen to not be a tradition and not a disproof of the Protestant notion that binding doctrine can never rest on oral transmission? Dr. MacArthur might just as well argue that black is white or that a square is a circle. He can (quite remarkably) see something plainly before him, yet make it into a different thing, because it creates a difficulty for his Rule of Faith.
2. Paul is concerned about a forged letter; therefore, there exists no such thing as authoritative tradition???? Is this logical? Does it make any sense? Students of logic can see that several steps in the needed logical progression of thought have either been entirely skipped over (suggesting a shortcoming in logical thinking) or assumed to be true without proof (which is circular argument). Either way it is a terribly shoddy "argument."
3. The Thessalonians had received oral teaching from Paul already, and he wanted them to hold to it, therefore there is no such thing as authoritative oral teaching, and the real truth in matters of authority is Bible Alone. Huh???!!!
4. This is correct. According to Jesus, various traditions before His time were preserved in such a way (as shown in Section II). That would seem to be sufficient for any Christian, but here we are merely trying to show that there is such a thing as authoritative oral tradition. Whether it was infallible or not is a separate issue logically (technically or philosophically speaking), but I would strongly contend that Paul (and all the apostles) casually assumed that the message they were delivering (orally, in most instances) was infallible. There is certainly no indication that they regarded it as fallible. When Paul spoke of receiving such traditions, he showed no indication whatever that it was fallible or that he questioned it because it came from oral transmission rather than written. Thus he appears to easily assume and take for granted that which Dr. MacArthur has the hardest time grasping and accepting, even when it is staring him right in the eye on the pages of the very Scripture that he grants the highest inspired authority (as Catholics do).
5. This skips over several points or steps in the logical progression of the argument Dr. MacArthur wishes to make. It is not at all clear that Paul's teaching could only have been faithfully preserved in Scripture and nowhere else. That is simply the later conception of sola Scriptura smuggled into the text. At this point there was no compiled New Testament; in fact, the letters to the Thessalonians are some of the earliest portions of the New Testament (possibly as early as 50 A.D., according to scholars). So it is absurd to even apply an analysis of sola Scriptura (regardless of whether that concept is true or not) to this scenario. At this point in history, Paul regards oral tradition as equally authoritative, as clearly shown in this verse, despite Dr. MacArthur's clever attempts to evade its clear meaning and import for our topic. It is equally ludicrous to assume sola Scriptura, and then contend that the apostles always intended for subsequent Christian teaching after their deaths to be by the written word in the Bible alone, and never by oral or Church tradition, for the simple reason that this is never taught in Scripture, either. It is a bald assumption made by Protestants; assumed with no proof or argument whatever, other than some supposed mythical connection with verses which in fact (closely-scrutinized) don't support sola Scriptura at all, like 2 Timothy 3:15-17. On the other hand, Scripture plainly teaches that the Church would have authority, as seen in the Jerusalem Council, and the "binding and loosing" passages, among many others.
6. Dr. MacArthur evidently thinks that "if Paul said it, even if it is oral (though this is not a tradition, of course), then it is binding, and will (almost always) be recorded in Scripture later, anyway, so we know exactly what Paul was telling them." None of this is at all certain. Besides, this epistle was actually from Silvanus and Timothy also (see 2 Thess. 1:1). He (as primary author) often uses the plural "we" or "us" (see, e.g., 1:3-4,11, 2:1,13). Thus, in the passage under consideration, Paul is not only considering his own instruction authoritative, but also that of Silvanus and Timothy ("traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us"). This undercuts much of Dr. MacArthur's "Paul as the pastor of the Thessalonians" contextual argument. This plurality is reiterated again in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 (RSV):
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,
So we see that this tradition was larger than simply Paul's own teaching, to be recorded in the Bible, and there alone, without one whit of it being transmitted in any other fashion. Thus Jude (3) can speak of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." What faith? By whom? This was not just Paul and it was not the New Testament. It was already known and was proclaimed by the apostles, in its fullness (Matthew 28:20 -- see particularly the word "all"). This is not sola Scriptura, pure and simple. Catholics agree that Scripture contained this deposit, but not all of it explicitly or not absolutely every jot and tittle of apostolic tradition. If the Protestant says we are not bound to anything not found explicitly in Scripture, we ask them where in Scripture do we find such a notion, and why should we think ourselves in a better place than the earliest Christians, before the New Testament was compiled? Paul and the other apostles show no indication whatever that pre-New Testament Christians were somehow in a less-prepared or equipped position vis-a-vis Christianity than us "Bible Christians" today are. Sola Scriptura is unbiblical and unhistorical mythology.
Paul was urging the Thessalonians to test all truth-claims by Scripture, and by the words they had heard personally from his own lips. And since the only words of the apostles that are infallibly preserved for us are found in Scripture, that means that we, like the Bereans, must compare everything with Scripture to see whether it is so.
Where did Paul urge them to "test all truth-claims by Scripture" in 2 Thessalonians? Dr. MacArthur must have a very different Bible than I do (I use the RSV). "Gospel" is mentioned twice (1:8 and 2:14), "tradition" twice (2:15 and 3:6), but neither "Scripture" nor "Scriptures" appears. "Word of the Lord" appears once (3:1), but it appears not to refer to the Bible:
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you.
This is referring to the proclamation of the gospel (i.e., Jesus' death on the cross on our behalf, Resurrection, Ascension, Atonement, and Redemption -- not a technical theory of soteriology and justification, as many Protestants mistakenly define the biblical "gospel"), which is what St. Paul and his aides were doing, not going around passing out Bibles like the Gideons or something. The New Testament was far from being compiled at all at this early stage, so the above could not possibly have been referring to it. It can't refer to the Old Testament because that was not the new Good News that they were preaching.
Yet somehow Dr. MacArthur gets out of this book that it offers no support for Catholic notions of tradition whatever and completely supports sola Scriptura because of the Bereans mentioned in the book of Acts? This is very curious exegesis indeed. As for the standard Protestant argument concerning the Bereans, it is no proof, either, as my friend, Catholic apologist Steve Ray has shown in his paper, Did The Noble-Minded Bereans Believe In The Bible Alone?.
A similar state of affairs occurs in 1 Thessalonians also. "Scripture" or "Scriptures" never appear. "Word," "word of the Lord," or "word of God" appear five times (1:6,8, 2:13 -- twice -- , 4:15), but in each instance it is clearly in the sense of oral proclamation, not Scripture. We have no reason from the text to believe that this oral "word of the Lord" was understood to be restricted to what was later recorded in the New Testament. Dr. MacArthur assumes this, but he has no proof. It is simply an inadequate Protestant way of dealing with all this authoritative oral proclamation and tradition going on in the Bible itself.
Roman Catholic apologists protest that only a fraction of Paul's messages to the Thessalonians are preserved in the two brief epistles Paul wrote to that church. True, but may not we assume that what he taught the Thessalonians was the very truths that are found in generous measure throughout all his epistles -- justification by faith alone, the true gospel of grace, the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ, and a host of other truths?
For the most part, yes; this is a reasonable assumption (I note that Paul didn't teach faith alone, and that phrase never appears in the Bible, either, except to be denied twice, in the book of James), but it doesn't prove that there was nothing else. That there was indeed more is an equally reasonable assumption to make, and is certainly not ruled out by the text. I would maintain that it is more likely than the contrary option, given the text of 2 Thessalonians.
The New Testament gives us a full-orbed Christian theology. Who can prove that anything essential is omitted?
An indisputable, explicit proof of sola Scriptura is omitted. And as Dr. MacArthur has told us, sola Scriptura is an essential, fundamental principle of Protestantism -- the absence of which would cause the system to collapse.
On the contrary, we are assured that Scripture is sufficient for salvation and spiritual life (2 Timothy 3:15 -- 17).
And that same Scripture teaches an authoritative tradition and Church.
Where does Scripture ever suggest that there are unwritten truths that are necessary for our spiritual well-being?
In the many passages I have detailed. I have shown that gospel and word of God and tradition are identical concepts in Paul's mind and that of the other Scripture writers. Dr. MacArthur surely would not deny that the gospel is "necessary for our spiritual well-being."
One thing is certain -- the words in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 imply no such thing.
I'm content to let readers decide between my interpretation and his. That's the beauty and utility of dialogue (or critique, as the case may be).
2 Thessalonians 3:6: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us." This is the only other verse in all the New Testament where Paul uses the words tradition or traditions to speak of apostolic truth that is to be obeyed.
That is true as far as the Greek word paradosis, yet the concept of tradition is also clearly present in these six passages: 1 Corinthians 11:23, 15:1-3, Galatians 1:9,12, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:13-14, and 2:2.
By now, Paul's use of this term should be well established. This cannot be a reference to truth passed down from generation to generation. Again, Paul is speaking of a "tradition" received firsthand from him.
So what? Elsewhere he clearly teaches the concept of a tradition he received, passed on or delivered to others, and which they should also "maintain" (1 Cor 11:2), "stand firm" in and "hold to" (2 Thess 2:15 -- a mere eight verses before 3:6, in a New Testament originally without chapter or verse numbers); one that should be "followed" and "guarded" since it was "entrusted . . . by the Holy Spirit" (2 Tim 1:13-14), and "entrusted to faithful men" in order to "teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2). What more does one need? Protestants are the ones always stressing comparison of Scripture with Scripture and the necessity of checking context for proper hermeneutics and exegesis. I have done all that. But Dr. MacArthur seems to not even know that these other relevant passages exist. He is ignoring all this evidence and special pleading.
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