How could "sola scripture" be correct?

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steve
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How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by steve » Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:11 pm

A Catholic named Fred has been corresponding with me about the Catholic/Protestant controversy over the policy of sola scripture. He asked my response to the following:

Fred wrote:
The Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

Challenge: God wants us to determine our theology sola scriptura (Latin, “by Scripture alone”). Each Christian should read the Bible and decide for himself what is true.

Defense: This is a view that couldn’t have been entertained until the early 1500s. Until then, multiple practical problems prevented it.

Among the problems are these:

(1) If every Christian is to read the Bible for himself and do the kind of study needed to decide delicate theological questions, then he must first have a Bible. But before the invention of the printing press (in the mid-1400s), Bibles had to be hand copied, and so they were fantastically expensive, costing far more than an ordinary person could afford. The widespread application of sola scriptura thus presupposes the invention of the printing press.

(2) It also presupposes universal distribution of Bibles. Copies not only have to be made, they have to be put in the hands of the people who are to use them. This requires a society with a developed economy and infrastructure capable of producing the wealth needed to print and distribute millions of Bibles.

(3) The recipients of these Bibles must be well educated. Illiterates can’t do the kind of detailed study needed to settle numerous theological questions. Sola scriptura thus requires universal literacy among Christians, as well as a high level of education in the critical thinking skills needed to sort through technical arguments about biblical passages and theological propositions.

(4) In addition to the Bibles, Christians would need to possess extensive scholarly support materials—commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and so on. No competent theologian would dream of doing his work without these resources, and they would be all the more necessary for a less-educated layman to accurately determine theological matters for himself.
Needless to say, these conditions didn’t apply in the early Church or for most of Christian history (or for many Christians today).

It’s easy to see why the Reformers—a group of well-educated individuals in the 1500s—got excited about the mass printing of Bibles and thought of having everyone decide his own theology. But this was not God’s plan for the first Christians, or for most Christians, which means it’s an anachronistic view that is not God’s plan.

Fred

Fred,

You make the question much too complex. The average peasant farmer in history, being either illiterate or else lacking access to a Bible of his own, would certainly not be expected to do his own independent study of the scriptures, and would be dependent upon the teaching provided in the churches. This means it is incumbent on the churches to teach faithfully what the scripture teach, since so many congregants depend upon them for their knowledge of God (James 3:1).

Of course, it is expected that the teachers of the church do have access to the Bible, or (in the earliest centuries) at least to some parts of it. If they do not, then they can hardly be responsible to teach what is not available to them. They and their churches would necessarily have to live with a great deal of unavoidable ignorance. It is possible to have a saving knowledge of Christ without a thorough knowledge of the Bible—but such ignorance is not desirable.

However, the condition of biblical illiteracy, even among church leaders, does not mean that they would then teach church traditions in place of the biblical teachings. It is highly unlikely that a church leader who lacks a Bible would, nonetheless, be schooled in the traditions of the church. Access to biblical truth, and usually a physical Bible, generally comes to a region along with the introduction of Christianity. If a generation of church leaders had learned traditions, but had not learned what the Bible teaches, then the fault is with the earlier generation, who educated those church leaders.

Luther did not initially intend to have every Christian develop his own individual theological system by personally reading the Bible. It was his intention to reform the teaching authority of the church itself, favoring scripture over hidebound human traditions. When the church excommunicated him for his efforts, he took the Bible to the masses, assuming (correctly, in my view) that the people should not be deprived of the truth available to them in scripture simply because corrupt church authorities refused to teach it.

People are not saved or lost because they can or cannot read a Bible, nor because they have adopted the most perfect theological system. People are saved or lost by their response to Jesus Christ—just as was the case when He was here and the New Testament did not yet exist.

My position is that we are obligated to follow the Truth as much as we are able to know and understand it. There are many who will be saved with very limited access to the truth. However, we are not in that circumstance. Our discussion relates to the responsibility of persons like ourselves, who have unprecedented access to scripture and to tools for biblical study. More is required of those to whom more has been given (Luke 12:48).

Since we are expected to embrace Truth to the extent that we have it available to us, the only question remaining is: Where is this Truth, in its most pure and reliable form, to be found? The reformers said "in scripture." The Catholic Church said, "in scripture and tradition." As one responsible before God to be a pursuer of Truth, my studies have brought me to the conclusion that the answer given by the reformers is the more correct answer.

Blessings!

Steve Gregg

BrotherAlan
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by BrotherAlan » Thu May 09, 2019 1:25 am

I propose that the question can not possibly be, "Scripture alone, or Scripture and Tradition?", but, rather, "Scripture, and WHICH Tradition?"

For, the fact is, that reading and interpreting Scripture necessarily depends on all sorts of traditions. Even purely human traditions, such as, the traditional meanings/usages of the words used in Scripture, must be taken into account in order for us to understand Scripture properly.

More importantly, it is an historical fact that the Scriptures themselves came out of the Church, which pre-existed the complete Bible, and which Church already had a living Faith in Christ and set of doctrines. It was this Church, with her pre-existing Faith (and set of doctrines), which discerned which Books belonged in the Bible (and, one of the criteria used to discern if any given book was truly inspired was whether or not the doctrines in the book consistent with the Church's pre-existing Faith and beliefs). So, the already-living Tradition of the Church was utilized in writing and forming the Bible (i.e., in determining the Canon of the Bible). So, it simply is not POSSIBLE to disregard all traditional teachings of the early Church and, at the same time, to claim to be believing Scripture "alone", for, as just stated, and shown, there were a number of pre-established teachings, beliefs, and traditions established in the early Church which were influential in giving us the Bible (and its Canon of Books).

So, the question is, again, WHICH Tradition is one going to lean on in order to properly understand the Word of God, the Bible? The traditions of the so-called "Reformers" and those who followed in their footsteps? Or the more ancient, and Apostolic, Catholic Tradition?

And, since we are on this topic, it is well worth pointing out that that Church which delivered to us the Canon of Books of the New Testament, in the late 4th century, already had clearly established beliefs on such strong Catholic beliefs as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, devotion to the Virgin Mary, and a hierarchy in the Church (with the Roman Pontiff holding the highest position). Thus, if one is going to rely on THAT Church to accurately discern and give us the Canon of the New Testament, then why would one also not rely on that Church to accurately deliver to us the true and proper Christian teachings, based on these Scriptures themselves, on these other matters (the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, the Church hierarchy and the Roman Pontiff, etc.)? To reject all traditions of the early Church-- which was the Catholic Church-- is to pull the rug out from under our belief in the authority of the Scriptures, for it was from this very Tradition of the early Church that we get our Christian belief on the Divine Inspiration of the Written Word of God, the Bible.

In Christ, the Incarnate Word of God and Son of Mary,
Brother Alan
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."

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Homer
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Homer » Fri May 10, 2019 11:29 am

BrotherAlan,

The scriptures are truth. Truth does not change but your Roman traditions have changed many times. How can they be truth?

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Paidion
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Paidion » Fri May 10, 2019 6:46 pm

Homer, you wrote:BrotherAlan,

The scriptures are truth.
Homer, isn't that statement a little too broad? For example, Jude wrote:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14, 18 ESV)


I happen to possess a copy of the book of Enoch. But as I looked for it right now, I see that I must have misplaced it; I cannot find it. So I ask you to take my word for what I now write. In Enoch, I found similar words to those to which Jude referred in the quote above. However, clearly the historic Enoch did not write the book (although early Christian writers other than Jude also thought the ancient Enoch had written the book).
For the writer makes reference to a people group who were unknown in history until a few centuries before Christ. (When I find my book, I can tell you what that people group was). It is now believed that the writer of the book of Enoch, wrote it in the third century B.C.

So it appears that Jude's statement IS NOT TRUTH— for the source of the words which he quoted are not the words of the historic Enoch, the seventh from Adam, but those of a much later writer.
Paidion

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Homer
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Homer » Sat May 11, 2019 11:04 am

How do you delete a post?
Last edited by Homer on Sat May 11, 2019 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Homer
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Homer » Sat May 11, 2019 11:06 am

Hi Paidon,

Whether there are errors in the scriptures is of no concern regarding the point I was making. The point is that the scriptures and Catholic tradition are different categories. The scriptures do not change but the Catholics change their tradition. For example, time once was when papal infallibility was denied by one of their popes and as time progressed this was changed. And their stance on whether any non Catholics can be saved has changed over the years.

BrotherAlan
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by BrotherAlan » Sat May 11, 2019 4:57 pm

Greetings,
First, Scripture can not contain any error since the Holy Spirit is its primary author, and the Holy Spirit, being God, can not err.

Secondly, Catholic Tradition, in terms of DOCTRINE, can DEVELOP, but it does not change in its substance. Catholic tradition, in terms of DISCIPLINE, can change; but that does not affect the truth of the Church's doctrine.

Third, the key issue is that the Scriptures came out of the Church's pre-existing Faith/Tradition, and so must be read in light of that Faith Tradition. Also, it's not possible to read Scripture without the influence of a prior tradition, so it's a question of WHICH tradition does one use?

In Christ, Son of God, Son of Mary,
BrotherAlan
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."

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Paidion
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Paidion » Sun May 12, 2019 9:09 pm

Homer wrote:Hi Paidon,

Whether there are errors in the scriptures is of no concern regarding the point I was making. The point is that the scriptures and Catholic tradition are different categories. The scriptures do not change but the Catholics change their tradition. For example, time once was when papal infallibility was denied by one of their popes and as time progressed this was changed. And their stance on whether any non Catholics can be saved has changed over the years.
Thank you, Homer, for that explanation. Much appreciated!
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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BrotherAlan
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by BrotherAlan » Fri May 17, 2019 8:31 pm

And, yet, to hold that there is even one error in Scripture is to deny the inspiration, i.e., the Divine Authorship, of the Scriptures. For, God can neither deceive, nor be deceived, and so could never be the author of error. But, He is the author of the Scriptures; so, there can not possibly be any single error in the Scriptures.

In Christ, the Truth,
BrotherAlan
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."

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Paidion
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Re: How could "sola scripture" be correct?

Post by Paidion » Wed May 29, 2019 7:42 pm

Brother Alan, you wrote:And, yet, to hold that there is even one error in Scripture is to deny the inspiration, i.e., the Divine Authorship, of the Scriptures. For, God can neither deceive, nor be deceived, and so could never be the author of error
Inspiration and divine authorship are two different entities.

God was NOT the author. Human beings (though they were inspired by God) were the authors, and human beings can make errors. God permits free will to operate. He would not take over the author's minds completely so as to prevent them from making any factual error. That would be overriding free will.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 81.

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