Catholic Rebuttal of
the Christian Research Institute Journal Article "What Think Ye of Rome"Part Three: The Catholic-Protestant Debate on Biblical Authority by Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie
from the Christian Research Journal, Spring/Summer 1994, page 24.The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
The Protestant arguments will be in italics, the Catholic response in bold normal print
Summary: Traditional Roman Catholicism has always, in its official pronouncements, held sacred Scripture in high esteem. Indeed, doctors of the church such as Jerome, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas -- when dealing with Holy Writ -- at times sound positively Protestant. Unfortunately, Roman Catholicism has not followed their lead and has elevated extrabiblical tradition to the same level as the Bible. The authors maintain this is a serious error, having dire consequences on the practical formation of the layperson's Christian faith. Scripture itself should be the final authoritative guide for the Christian. As the apostle Paul reminds Timothy, "From infancy you have known [the] sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15 [The New American Bible]).
I would like to assert right off the bat the disingenious use of words used by the authors. Note "Traditional Roman Catholicism," as though there are many different 'brands' of Roman Catholicism. I am only concerned here with what the Catholic Church teaches 'oficially,' as is expressed in Her Councils and other official proclamations. I may use other sources to help explain the teaching, nevertheless, my concern is ONLY the "official teaching of the Catholic Church.
Note above, as the "Traditional Roman Catholicism (and the Church Fathers) held Scripture in high esteem, "Roman Catholicism" (no defining verb) does not. Are there two separate entities here? Of course not. The authors threw in this curve ball to put it in your mind that the Roman Catholic Church of today is not the same as the one in Aquinas's time. This is ludicrous, as the rest of this rebuttal will show.
They say at times they (the Fathers) "sounded positively Protestant." What do the authors mean by that? Are they saying these Fathers at other times were 'positively Catholic?' Are they saying that it is impossible to hold to a 'high esteem' for the Sacred Writings while also being Catholic? Are they saying that Protestants are the only ones with the correct view of Scripture?
"Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13)." (Dei Verbum, Chap VI, Vatican Council II)
This sums up the Roman Catholic Church's opinion on the way Scripture is to be treated. Note that the council says that the Church is REGULATED by the Scriptures, she cannot contradict it. In this sense then, there is no "extra-Biblical tradition," only Tradition that helps us understand what is in the Written Word, whether explicit or implicit. (This is what is known as "material sufficiency." Material sufficiency teaches that every thing we need to know is in the Scriptures, it just isn't clear to all.) Indeed "The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord. . ." (Dei verbum). You can't get much more 'high esteem' than that!
The comment made that "The authors maintain this is a serious error, having dire consequences on the practical formation of the layperson's Christian faith," is important in that it seems the authors admit to a certain type of hierarchy in Christendom, one of the preacher (teacher), and another for the laymen.
The first paragraph then closes with 2Tim 3:15 as though this proves the Sola Scriptura case for the Protestant. Nothing could be further from the truth. This passage, taken in it's context, actually proves the Catholic position. "Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico'nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:10-17 (RSV)
Notice how Paul begins the section explaining how Timothy has learned from the example Paul set by his life. he then says "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it . . ." He is referring to the oral teaching he gave to Timothy. So you now have not only the example of Paul's holy life, but also Paul's teaching to Timothy. Only then does Paul add the ability of sacred Scripture to "complete" the man of God. So it is not Scripture alone, but the Catholic understanding of Scripture and Tradition.
How should evangelical Protestants view contemporary Roman Catholicism? In the first two installments of this series Kenneth R. Samples showed that classic Catholicism and Protestantism are in agreement on the most crucial doctrines of the Christian faith, as stated in the ancient ecumenical creeds. Nonetheless, he also outlined five doctrinal areas that separate Roman Catholics from evangelical Protestants: authority, justification, Mariology, sacramentalism and the mass, and religious pluralism.
Note again a defining verb in relation to Catholicism (contemporary and classic). Note too, that Mr. Samples used the ancient creeds as the method for determing the "most crucial doctrines." These 'creeds' were developed by the Catholic Church at councils called by the Catholic Church. These creeds developed out of necessity when some bishop or priest, using the 'Bible alone" theory, apart from Church tradition, came up with a new an interesting understanding of certain verses (Arius and Nestorius among others). The councils were then called to settle the disputes, and according to Mr. Samples (because he uses these creeds to establish orthodoxy), wound up with the right answer EVERY time.
Samples observed that Roman Catholicism is foundationally orthodox, but it has built much on this foundation that tends to compromise and undermine it. He concluded that Catholicism should therefore be viewed as "neither a cult (non-Christian religious system) nor a biblically sound church, but a historically Christian church which is in desperate need of biblical reform."
My first question to Mr. Samples would be, "who has made you judge and jury over who is, or is not in need of "Biblical reform." It seems as though Mr. Samples is a 'pope' in, and of, himself
the first two installments of this series being largely devoted to
establishing that Catholicism is a historic Christian church, it is
appropriate that in the remaining installments we turn our attention
to the most critical doctrinal differences between Catholics and
Protestants. This is especially important at a time when many
ecumenically minded Protestants are ready to portray the differences
between Catholics and Protestants as little more important than the
differences that separate the many Protestant denominations. For
although the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants
do not justify one side labeling the other a cult, they do justify
the formal separation between the two camps that began with the
16th-century Protestant Reformation and that continues today.
Among the many doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants, none are more fundamental than those of authority and justification. In relation to these the Protestant Reformation stressed two principles: a formal principle (sola Scriptura) and a material principle (sola fide): The Bible alone and faith alone. In this installment and in Part Four we will focus on the formal cause of the Reformation, authority. In the concluding installment, Part Five, we will examine its material cause, justification.
PROTESTANT UNDERSTANDING OF SOLA SCRIPTURA
Let's tackle these five points together. we will be brief here, and later will expand the arguments.
By sola Scriptura Protestants mean that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source for all doctrine and practice (faith and morals). Sola Scriptura implies several things. First, the Bible is a direct revelation from God. As such, it has divine authority. For what the Bible says, God says.
The Catholic Church agrees that the Bible is a revelation from God, but not "direct" in the strict sense, it had to pass through the human authors, and thus needs to be interpreted in that light (see 2 Peter 1:20-21). Now if we can only decide on what books belong to the Bible, and which do not, then we will be making progress. This is something the "Bible alone" people cannot do using the "Bible alone." Thus the "Bible alone" stance is self-contradictory.
Second, the Bible is sufficient: it is all that is necessary for faith and practice. For Protestants "the Bible alone" means "the Bible only" is the final authority for our faith.
Again, if you are to use only the Bible, can you show me the proof of this doctrine from the Bible alone (that is, once you have figured out what is canon, and what is not).
Third, the Scriptures not only have sufficiency but they also possess final authority. They are the final court of appeal on all doctrinal and moral matters. However good they may be in giving guidance, all the fathers, Popes, and Councils are fallible. Only the Bible is infallible.
Vatican Council II said, the Church is regulated by the Scriptures.
This does not mean that every Tom, Dick, and Harry can put their own
personal interpretation on any given passage and be right. So,
while the Bible IS infallible, as the Church teaches, it is human
error in it's understanding of what the Bible teaches that needs
guidance. Thus the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, is the
final court of appeal, though this is done in light of it being
"regulated" by Holy Writ.
And tthe Catholic Church asserts that only the Bible is fallible. The problem is that our own personal interpretation of the Bible that is fallible.
Fourth, the Bible is perspicuous (clear). The perspicuity of Scripture does not mean that everything in the Bible is perfectly clear, but rather the essential teachings are. Popularly put, in the Bible the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. This does not mean -- as Catholics often assume -- that Protestants obtain no help from the fathers and early Councils. Indeed, Protestants accept the great theological and Christological pronouncements of the first four ecumenical Councils. What is more, most Protestants have high regard for the teachings of the early fathers, though obviously they do not believe they are infallible. So this is not to say there is no usefulness to Christian tradition, but only that it is of secondary importance.
is an interesting observation; "in the Bible the main
things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main
things." Who decides what are the plain things?
To me, the teaching of the "Real Presence in the Eucharist"
is a plain thing; the fact that one can lose their salvation is a
plain thing; the fact of the "Primacy of Peter" is a plain
thing. These are all taught by the same Church that the authors
draw their surety of the Christological pronouncements, yet the same
authors deny the truth of any of these. So, which are the
"plain things" and which are not? Who decides?
Besides, if the essential teachings are "perfectly clear," than why would you have to refer to those councils to decide if Jesus was the eternal Son of God; the second person of the Trinity; and had both a human nature and will, and a divine nature and will? These are so central to our faith it should be "perfectly clear" in the Scriptures, but it isn't. What it boils down to is a type of "Cafeteria Christianity." Protestant's have a 'high regard' for the Father's when they seem to agree with Protestantism, but ignore their other teachings when they disagree. They pick and choose among the Fathers only those things that are palatable to them.
Fifth, Scripture interprets Scripture. This is known as the analogy of faith principle. When we have difficulty in understanding an unclear text of Scripture, we turn to other biblical texts. For the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible. In the Scriptures, clear texts should be used to interpret the unclear ones.
again see the ambiguity of statements like these. Which are the
clear texts, and which are not? A text like "For he will
render to every man according to his works"( Romans 2:6), or
"Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not
men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as
your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ" (Col 3:24), seem
to clearly indicate that the Lord will reward us according to what we
have done in the body, yet Protestantism denies any human effort
whatever in relation to salvation. Again, who decides what are
the clear and unclear texts of Scripture. Let me propose
2 Peter 3:15-17 as a "clear" text: "So also our
beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things
in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to
their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You
therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be
carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own
To take it one step further, who decides which "clear" Bible passage are to be used to clear up the unclear ones? After all, do not the Mormons and JW's argue that John 17:11 is the perfect interpreter of John 10:30 in order to disprove the Christian Trinity?
CATHOLIC ARGUMENTS FOR THE BIBLE PLUS TRADITION
One of the basic differences between Catholics and Protestants is over whether the Bible alone is the sufficient and final authority for faith and practice, or the Bible plus extrabiblical apostolic tradition. Catholics further insist that there is a need for a teaching magisterium (i.e., the Pope and their bishops) to rule on just what is and is not authentic apostolic tradition.
Does it not stand to reason that if there is this Tradition in the Church, someone, or something, is needed to maintain it? Otherwise you'll have people everywhere disagreeing on what is, and what is not authentic. This is just like in Protestantism today, where you have churches differing as to what are, and are not the "clear texts" of Scripture.
Catholics are not all agreed on their understanding of the relation of tradition to Scripture. Some understand it as two sources of revelation. Others understand apostolic tradition as a lesser form of revelation. Still others view this tradition in an almost Protestant way, namely, as merely an interpretation of revelation (albeit, an infallible one) which is found only in the Bible. Traditional Catholics, such as Ludwig Ott and Henry Denzinger, tend to be in the first category and more modern Catholics, such as John Henry Newman and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in the latter. The language of the Council of Trent seems to favor the traditional understanding.
is another attempt by the authors to try to disprove the unity of the
Catholic Church. They place a false dichotomy between what they
call the "traditional understanding," and the "modern
Catholic." I say a false dichotomy because there are ways in
which we can see both interpretations as being correct. It is indeed
another source of revelation since it IS infallible and not clearly
deduced from Scripture, and comes from God, but it also, and at the
same time, explains more clearly the revelation that God deigned to
have placed in writing.
Notice that second understanding the authors threw in here: "Others understand apostolic tradition as a lesser form of revelation?" The authors know well that the Catholic Church does not teach this (and apparently could find no backers for this interpretation), yet they chose to throw it into the mix anyway, why?
what individual Catholic's believe on this issue is irrelevant, since
we are discussing what the Catholic Church officially teaches.
"In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what
He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide
perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all
generations. Therefore Christ the Lord in whom the full revelation of
the supreme God is brought to completion (see 2 Cor. 1:20; 3:13;
4:6), commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel
which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, and
to impart to them heavenly gifts. This Gospel had been promised in
former times through the prophets, and Christ Himself had fulfilled
it and promulgated it with His lips. This commission was faithfully
fulfilled by the Apostles who, by their oral preaching, by example,
and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of
Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did, or what they had
learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The commission was
fulfilled, too, by those Apostles and apostolic men who under the
inspiration of the same Holy Spirit committed the message of
salvation to writing.
But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, "handing over" to them "the authority to teach in their own place." This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2)" (Dei Verbum Chap II).
or not extrabiblical apostolic tradition is considered a second
source of revelation, there is no question that the Roman Catholic
church holds that apostolic tradition is both authoritative and
infallible. It is to this point that we speak now.
The Catholic Argument for Holding the Infallibility of Apostolic Tradition
The Council of Trent emphatically proclaimed that the Bible alone is not sufficient for faith and morals. God has ordained tradition in addition to the Bible to faithfully guide the church.
I wish to thank the authors for researching Catholic documents in this treatise. Many non-Catholics do not, and only go by hearsay, so kudos are deserved here. But not only the Council of Trent, but the Fathers of the first four centuries likewise declared it. "As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. (St. Iraneaus, Against Heresies, Book 1, Chap 10)
Infallible guidance in interpreting the Bible comes from the church. One of the criteria used to determine this is the "unanimous consent of the Fathers." In accordance with "The Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent" (Nov. 13, 1565), all faithful Catholics must agree: "I shall never accept nor interpret it ['Holy Scripture'] otherwise than in accordance with the unanimous consent of the Fathers."
Catholic scholars advance several arguments in favor of the Bible and tradition, as opposed to the Bible only, as the final authority. One of their favorite arguments is that the Bible itself does not teach that the Bible only is our final authority for faith and morals. Thus they conclude that even on Protestant grounds there is no reason to accept sola Scriptura. Indeed, they believe it is inconsistent or self-refuting, since the Bible alone does not teach that the Bible alone is the basis of faith and morals.
In point of fact, argue Catholic theologians, the Bible teaches that apostolic "traditions" as well as the written words of the apostles should be followed. St. Paul exhorted the Thessalonian Christians to "stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15; cf. 3:6).
One Catholic apologist even went so far as to argue that the apostle John stated his preference for oral tradition. John wrote: "I have much to write to you, but I do not wish to write with pen and ink. Instead, I hope to see you soon when we can talk face to face" (3 John 13). This Catholic writer adds, "Why would the apostle emphasize his preference for oral Tradition over written Tradition...if, as proponents of sola Scriptura assert, Scripture is superior to oral Tradition?"
Roman Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft lists several arguments against sola Scriptura which in turn are arguments for tradition: "First, it separates Church and Scripture. But they are one. They are not two rival horses in the authority race, but one rider (the Church) on one horse (Scripture)." He adds, "We are not taught by a teacher without a book or by a book without a teacher, but by one teacher, the Church, with one book, Scripture."
Kreeft further argues that "sola Scriptura violates the principle of causality; that an effect cannot be greater than its cause." For "the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the Church, decided on the canon, the list of books to be declared scriptural and infallible." And "if the Scripture is infallible, then its cause, the Church, must also be infallible."
According to Kreeft, "denominationalism is an intolerable scandal by scriptural standards -- see John 17:20-23 and I Corinthians 1:10-17." But "let five hundred people interpret the Bible without Church authority and there will soon be five hundred denominations." So rejection of authoritative apostolic tradition leads to the unbiblical scandal of denominationalism.
Finally, Kreeft argues that "the first generation of Christians did not have the New Testament, only the Church to teach them." This being the case, using the Bible alone without apostolic tradition was not possible.
PROTESTANT DEFENSE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA
As convincing as these arguments may seem to a devout Catholic, they are devoid of substance. As we will see, each of the Roman Catholic arguments against the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura fails, and they are unable to provide any substantial basis for the Catholic dogma of an infallible oral tradition.
why do we have to play word games? Why say "to a DEVOUT
Catholic," implying that ONLY a "devout Catholic" will
Let's move on to see who's arguments are "devoid of substance."
the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?
Two points must be made concerning whether the Bible teaches sola Scriptura. First, as Catholic scholars themselves recognize, it is not necessary that the Bible explicitly and formally teach sola Scriptura in order for this doctrine to be true. Many Christian teachings are a necessary logical deduction of what is clearly taught in the Bible (e.g., the Trinity). Likewise, it is possible that sola Scriptura could be a necessary logical deduction from what is taught in Scripture.
Here you see the first inconsistency with the Protestant position. Remember earlier how the authors stated that everything that is "essential" or "main" is clear in the Scriptures? Well, according to Protestant theology, Sola Scriptura is one of the two planks of the Reformation. And as has been stated by these authors, it is the "formal principal" for separation from the Church of Rome. Now that sounds "essential" to me. So why is this not "clear" or "perspicous" in the Bible (and I argue not in the Bible at all)?
Second, the Bible does teach implicitly and logically, if not formally and explicitly, that the Bible alone is the only infallible basis for faith and practice. This it does in a number of ways. One, the fact that Scripture, without tradition, is said to be "God-breathed" (theopnuestos) and thus by it believers are "competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added) supports the doctrine of sola Scriptura. This flies in the face of the Catholic claim that the Bible is formally insufficient without the aid of tradition. St. Paul declares that the God-breathed writings are sufficient. And contrary to some Catholic apologists, limiting this to only the Old Testament will not help the Catholic cause for two reasons: first, the New Testament is also called "Scripture" (2 Pet. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7); second, it is inconsistent to argue that God-breathed writings in the Old Testament are sufficient, but the inspired writings of the New Testament are not.
While it is true that Scripture, and only Scripture is said to be "God-breathed," something the Catholic Church teaches emphatically, it does not logically follow to the author's conclusion of proof of sola Scriptura! The authors' interpretation of 2 Tim 3:15 is badly flawed. We explained one reason why earlier, that is it is taken out of it's immediate context. A second reason is that 2 Tim 3:15 does not say Scripture is SUFFICIENT, but that Scripture is "profitable" (RSV/KJV), or "useful" (NIV/NAB) for the man of God. Something that is profitable, or useful, is not necessarily sufficient. Water is useful in one's diet, but without the aid of regular food, one is bound to die.
Further, Jesus and the apostles constantly appealed to the Bible as the final court of appeal. This they often did by the introductory phrase, "It is written," which is repeated some 90 times in the New Testament. Jesus used this phrase three times when appealing to Scripture as the final authority in His dispute with Satan (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).
we can show just one example of the Jesus or the Apostle's not using
Scripture as the final court of appeal, then this idea goes up in
smoke. We all know that the Council of Jerusalem was resolved
with no reference to Scripture but that "it has seemed good to
the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28).
Secondly, we also know that in Matt 3:23, we see the reference: "and he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene." Yet there is no reference in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene! Was Matthew referring to an 'oral tradition?'
Finally, note one of the texts Jesus referred to in His dispute with Satan: "man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3)." Since Jesus is Lord, do we have "every word that proceeds out of (His) mouth?" Of course not. Thus, this argument is does not stand up to closer scrutiny.
Of course, Jesus (Matt. 5:22, 28, 31; 28:18) and the apostles (1 Cor. 5:3; 7:12) sometimes referred to their own God-given authority. It begs the question, however, for Roman Catholics to claim that this supports their belief that the church of Rome still has infallible authority outside the Bible today. For even they admit that no new revelation is being given today, as it was in apostolic times. In other words, the only reason Jesus and the apostles could appeal to an authority outside the Bible was that God was still giving normative (i.e., standard-setting) revelation for the faith and morals of believers. This revelation was often first communicated orally before it was finally committed to writing (e.g., 2 Thess. 2:5). Therefore, it is not legitimate to appeal to any oral revelation in New Testament times as proof that nonbiblical infallible authority is in existence today.
fact that no new revelation is being given today is what 'begs the
question.' As the authors admit, the Catholic Church recognizes
this fact. But why do you need new revelation to have an
authoritative teaching body? The two are not the same. 1
Cor 12:28 tells us that God has given to the Church the office of
Apostle. Nowhere does it say this role will ever cease.
If it is an "office," then it would continue for the life
of the Church. Note why Peter had to replace Judas (see Acts
1); because it was an office, and that office needed someone to sit
in the chair.
Who said that the "only reason Jesus and the apostles could appeal to an authority outside the Bible was that God was still giving normative (i.e., standard-setting) revelation for the faith and morals of believers?" This is a conclusion drawn by the authors to fit into their theological box. Nowhere can it be found in the Scriptures that this is the case.
The authors conclude the paragraph with: "This revelation was often first communicated orally before it was finally committed to writing (e.g., 2 Thess. 2:5). therefore, it is not legitimate to appeal to any oral revelation in New Testament times as proof that nonbiblical infallible authority is in existence today." We see again a conclusion drawn by the authors that has no basis in Scripture, supposedly the 'fianl court of appeal'! There is no evidence that everything would eventually be written down! Thus, there IS legitimacy to the Catholic claim that the references to oral teachings in the New Testament (1 Thess 2:15, 2 Thess 3:6, et al) validate Sacred Tradition.
In John 20:21 we read: "Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." If the Father sent Jesus to give the Spirit to the Apostle's, and the Apostle's are sent "in the same way," why cannot they give the Spirit to others "in the same way"?
By the way, where is the passage that says revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle?
What is more, Jesus made it clear that the Bible was in a class of its own, exalted above all tradition. He rebuked the Pharisees for not accepting sola Scriptura and negating the final authority of the Word of God by their religious traditions, saying, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?...You have nullified the word of God, for the sake of your tradition" (Matt. 15:3, 6).
Read the text! The Jewish leaders were rebuked, not so much for their traditions, but the fact that their traditions "nullified the Word of God!" Notice the words "YOUR traditions." Not "Apostolic" or "Sacred" tradition. All the times that tradition is rebuked is because the traditions "contradicted" the Word of God. Meanwhile in 1 Cor 11:2, St. Paul says: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you." Obviously, not all traditions are condemned.
It is important to note that Jesus did not limit His statement to mere human traditions but applied it specifically to the traditions of the religious authorities who used their tradition to misinterpret the Scriptures. There is a direct parallel with the religious traditions of Judaism that grew up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures and the Christian traditions that have grown up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures since the first century. Indeed, since Catholic scholars make a comparison between the Old Testament high priesthood and the Roman Catholic papacy, this would seem to be a very good analogy.
is a neat attempt at trying to sidestep the clear meaning of
Scripture. I don't see any evidence that the religous leaders
of Jesus' day used their traditions to "misinterpret Scripture,"
but they contradicted the meaning of it in practice. As Matt
23: 1ff says, they taught properly (and their teaching had to be
followed), it was their practice that was poor. Verse 3 says:
"for they preach, but do not practice."
As to the charge that the Catholic Traditions have negated Scripture, we'll deal with later.
Finally, to borrow a phrase from St. Paul, the Bible constantly warns us "not to go beyond what is written" (1 Cor. 4:6). This kind of exhortation is found throughout Scripture. Moses was told, "You shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it" (Deut. 4:2). Solomon reaffirmed this in Proverbs, saying, "Every word of God is tested....Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver" (Prov. 30:5-6). Indeed, John closed the last words of the Bible with the same exhortation, declaring: "I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life..." (Rev. 22:18-19). Sola Scriptura could hardly be stated more emphatically.
argument falls into the "Word of God means Scripture"
category. Protestants see"the Word of God" and
immediately translate that into Scripture. The Bible never
teaches that the Word of God is confined to writing. Thus,
Apostolic tradition IS the Word of God. And if you take that
away, you've subtracted from the Word of God. Thus, all
Protestants fall into this category.
It's strange how Protestants use 1 Cor 4:6 to try to prove sola scriptura. We must again go back to the context of the passage. Prior to the charge "not to go beyond what is written," Paul says that he has applied this to himself and Appollo's. What is the "this" Paul is referring to? It cannot be Scripture because in Chap 10 Paul breaks his own rule. He refers to a Jewish oral tradition when he said "The rock that followed them was Christ." The Old Testament does not tell us the rock followed them, but Jewish tradition did.
The most likely explanation of the "this" is the boasting the converts were doing, and the "this" was Paul's own admonition (the Letter to the Corinthians) to them.
It is obvious from the context of the Revelation passage that it is intended for the Book of Revelation only, not the whole Bible.
Of course, none of these are a prohibition on future revelations. But they do apply to the point of difference between Protestants and Catholics, namely, whether there are any authoritative normative revelations outside those revealed to apostles and prophets and inscripturated in the Bible. And this is precisely what these texts say. Indeed, even the prophet himself was not to add to the revelation God gave him. For prophets were not infallible in everything they said, but only when giving God's revelation to which they were not to add or from which they were not to subtract a word.
Niether is the Church infallible in every thing she teaches, but only on the doctrines she has put forth as such.
Since both Catholics and Protestants agree that there is no new revelation beyond the first century, it would follow that these texts do support the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura. For if there is no normative revelation after the time of the apostles and even the prophets themselves were not to add to the revelations God gave them in the Scriptures, then the Scriptures alone are the only infallible source of divine revelation.
question asked before still stands; "where is the verse that
supports 'no new revelation beyond the first century?'" It
seems the authors have borrowed from Catholic Tradition to teach
We again have this confusion in the minds of the authors that you need new revelation to have an authoritative, infallible teaching authority. Where does that idea come from?
Roman Catholics admit that the New Testament is the only infallible record of apostolic teaching we have from the first century. However, they do not seem to appreciate the significance of this fact as it bears on the Protestant argument for sola Scriptura. For even many early fathers testified to the fact that all apostolic teaching was put in the New Testament. While acknowledging the existence of apostolic tradition, J. D. N. Kelly concluded that "admittedly there is no evidence for beliefs or practices current in the period which were not vouched for in the books later known as the New Testament." Indeed, many early fathers, including Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Augustine, believed that the Bible was the only infallible basis for all Christian doctrine.
we see Protestants "hijacking the Fathers" as Patrick
Madrid says. The quote from J. D. N. Kelley includes Vincent of
Lerins. Read the whole quote: "But here some one perhaps
will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of
itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there
to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?
For this reason, — because, owing to the depth of Holy
Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one
understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it
seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are
interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another,
Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus,
Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius,
another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary,
on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the
rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should
be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and
Catholic interpretation. Moreover, in the Catholic Church
itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith
which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly
and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name
itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all
universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality,
antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that
one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world
confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those
interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our
holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity
itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of
all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors."
Thus, though Vincent says Scripture is sufficient in one way, it is insufficient in another. That is, you need the Church to guard from erroneous interpretations. The same can be said for all the other Fathers noted above. St. Augustine is noted for the famous saying "I would not believe the Gospel were not the Catholic Church compelling me to do so."
So what the Fathers taught was "material sufficiency," not "formal sufficiency." In other words, all the truth is in there, but it is very difficult to extract, thus you need an authoritative Church.
Further, if the New Testament is the only infallible record of apostolic teaching, then every other record from the first century is fallible. It matters not that Catholics believe that the teaching Magisterium later claims to pronounce some extrabiblical tradition as infallibly true. The fact is that they do not have an infallible record from the first century on which to base such a decision.
What clever reasoning have we here? The authors assert that because there is no infallible record to draw from, the Church cannot come to any knowledge of the truth. Who says you need an infallible record to come to an infallible conclusion. Without any infallible authority to guide me, I can come to the infallible conclusion that two plus two equals four. I can research what country my family originates from, and without an infallible authority to guide, I can come to an infallible conclusion. So why not the Church, who has the Holy Spirit promised to it to guide it?
Apostolic "Traditions" Are in the Bible
It is true that the New Testament speaks of following the "traditions" (=teachings) of the apostles, whether oral or written. This is because they were living authorities set up by Christ (Matt. 18:18; Acts 2:42; Eph. 2:20). When they died, however, there was no longer a living apostolic authority since only those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ could have apostolic authority (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1). Because the New Testament is the only inspired (infallible) record of what the apostles taught, it follows that since the death of the apostles the only apostolic authority we have is the inspired record of their teaching in the New Testament. That is, all apostolic tradition (teaching) on faith and practice is in the New Testament.
I repeat, that there is no evidence in the New Testament that supports the authors contention. In fact, the New Testament supports the Catholic practice. 2 Tim 2:2 says: "and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Why didn't Paul tell Timothy to only teach faithful men until the last Apostle died? He didn't. He tells him to teach others who are to teach others. Why does he say this if Apostolic authority ends with the death of the last Apostle? It is because the office of Apostle is just that, an office that stays with the Church till Christ comes again.
This does not necessarily mean that everything the apostles ever taught is in the New Testament, any more than everything Jesus said is there (cf. John 20:30; 21:25). What it does mean is that all apostolic teaching that God deemed necessary for the faith and practice (morals) of the church was preserved (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It is only reasonable to infer that God would preserve what He inspired.
Of course "It is only reasonable to infer that God would preserve what He inspired." But why does the Protestant insist that this preservation must be in writing? Why can it not be preserved in the 'traditions' mentioned to by Paul (1 Cor 11:2, or 2 Thess 3:6) too? I would argue that EVERYTHING Jesus said was important. He is God. God does engage in idle chit-chat, but "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Besides, we are to live "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
The fact that apostles sometimes referred to "traditions" they gave orally as authoritative in no way diminishes the Protestant argument for sola Scriptura. First, it is not necessary to claim that these oral teachings were inspired or infallible, only that they were authoritative. The believers were asked to "maintain" them (1 Cor. 11:2) and "stand fast in them" (2 Thess. 2:15). But oral teachings of the apostles were not called "inspired" or "unbreakable" or the equivalent, unless they were recorded as Scripture.
With this argument, the Protestants are accusing the Apostle's of legalism. They are commanding their flocks to do things that aren't important. This is crazy. We all know how Paul cared little for the 'extra's,' but was only concerned in teaching what they really needed to know.
The apostles were living authorities, but not everything they said was infallible. Catholics understand the difference between authoritative and infallible, since they make the same distinction with regard to noninfallible statements made by the Pope and infallible ex cathedra ("from the seat" of Peter) ones.
While there is a difference between 'infallible' and 'authoritative' statements, the fact remains that there is no evidence on the Protestant side that the 'traditions' mentioned in Paul's writings were only authoritative and not infallible. We're made to assume that by these authors. One thing is sure, it certainly wasn't an option for the readers of the letters to accept or reject. And if the the hearers then could not reject these 'teachings,' why do these authors feel we can reject them today?
Second, the traditions (teachings) of the apostles that were revelations were written down and are inspired and infallible. They comprise the New Testament. What the Catholic must prove, and cannot, is that the God who deemed it so important for the faith and morals of the faithful to inspire the inscripturation of 27 books of apostolic teaching would have left out some important revelation in these books. Indeed, it is not plausible that He would have allowed succeeding generations to struggle and even fight over precisely where this alleged extrabiblical revelation is to be found. So, however authoritative the apostles were by their office, only their inscripturated words are inspired and infallible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; cf. John 10:35).
the Protestant must prove and cannot, is how does he know for sure
there are only 27 New testament books!
The author notes: "Indeed, it is not plausible that He would have allowed succeeding generations to struggle and even fight over precisely where this alleged extrabiblical revelation is to be found." The Catholic agrees. That is why God gave us the Church. So that all peoples of all ages would have access to the truth. It doesn't matter whether or not you can read (the Church proclaimed the Gospel orally), or couldn't hear (the Church used sacred art). No matter what the handicap, the Church found a way to proclaim the Gospel.
There is not a shred of evidence that any of the revelation God gave them to express was not inscripturated by them in the only books -- the inspired books of the New Testament -- that they left for the church.
Well, there is not a shred of evidence that it all was inscripturated. And again, there is not a Protestant out there that has come up with a half-way convincing argument as to how they know which books belong in the New Testament and which do not.
leads to another important point.
The Bible makes it clear that God, from the very beginning, desired that His normative revelations be written down and preserved for succeeding generations. "Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord" (Exod. 24:4), and his book was preserved in the Ark (Deut. 31:26). Furthermore, "Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them... which he recorded in the book of the law of God" (Josh. 24:25-26) along with Moses' (cf. Josh. 1:7). Likewise, "Samuel next explained to the people the law of royalty and wrote it in a book, which he placed in the presence of the Lord" (1 Sam. 10:25). Isaiah was commanded by the Lord to "take a large cylinder-seal, and inscribe on it in ordinary letters" (Isa. 8:1) and to "inscribe it in a record; that it may be in future days an eternal witness" (30:8). Daniel had a collection of "the books" of Moses and the prophets right down to his contemporary Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2).
Sure it's true that the Word of the Lord was written down whenever possible. That does not prove sola Scriptura! Look at these passages. You will see that the plain folk did not have a set of Scriptures in front of them to read at their leisure. The Word of the Lord had to be read to the people, then explained. It doesn't sound like sola Scriptura to me.
Jesus and New Testament writers used the phrase "It is written" (cf. Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) over 90 times, stressing the importance of the written word of God. When Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders it was not because they did not follow the traditions but because they did not "understand the Scriptures" (Matt. 22:29). All of this makes it clear that God intended from the very beginning that His revelation be preserved in Scripture, not in extrabiblical tradition. To claim that the apostles did not write down all God's revelation to them is to claim that they were not obedient to their prophetic commission not to subtract a word from what God revealed to them.
It is interesting to note that only 4 of the Twelve Apostle's left us anything in writing. Matthew, John, James, and (some say) Jude were the only Apostle's to have inspired writings of the original twelve. Did the others fail in their commision? Why didn't Jesus tell His Apostle's to write Scripture, all he told them to do was PREACH?!