REBUTTAL ON THE SUFFICICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
The inerrancy of Scripture in this article will not be questioned. This is one area that the Catholic agrees with Jason on. What this rebuttal will therefore focus on will be "Is the Bible Sufficient. Or in other words, "Does the Bible teach that it alone is the sole and final rule of our faith."
"Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." - Psalms 119:89
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished....the Scripture cannot be broken" - Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-18, John 10:35)
"from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:15-17
Here are some proof texts that Jason offers us to begin his argument. Notice in the first verse, he apparently is limiting the "Word" to just written Scripture. This is something that most Protestants do. However there is nothing in the Bible anywhere that limits the "Word of God" to writing. Therefore, Jason has already begun his argument with a bogus text.
In the second text, I presume (because he hasn't explained it to us) that his argument is "the Scripture cannot be broken" means that that is all we need. It is a very weak position since makes assumptions that are not warranted by the text. The verse simply says that Jesus came to fulfill what was written in the old Law, not that the old Law is a complete compedium of Christian teaching.
And finally, this third verse which Jason takes out of context to try to twist Scritpure to his own liking. We read in the previous verse (14) "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it." Here Paul is placing his own teaching to Timothy on par with the Sacred writings. He links his teaching, what Timothy has learned from his childhood, with what he can learn from the Scriptures. Both of these together form the two-edged sword that rightly divides the Word of God. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:13) The Word is LIVING, it is not confined to writing.
One of the most important ideas that brought about the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura, the belief that the scriptures are sufficient as the Christian's rule of faith. Contrary to what many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists suggest, the concept of sola scriptura was not created during the Reformation. Some people in the early church adhered to sola scriptura, and other people, such as John Wycliffe and John Huss, did so between the early church and Reformation eras as well. Most importantly, Jesus and the apostles taught sola scriptura. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox concept of a body of apostolic teachings being reliably passed down by some means outside of scripture, from generation to generation, is historically untenable.
The rest of this rebuttal will deal with the issues Jason addressed in this paragraph. I will show that:
1.) Sola Scriptura is a human invention hatched by the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century.
2.) Jesus and His Apostle's did NOT teach Sola Scriptura;
3.) Apostolic Tradition has proven to be more reliable than the adage "Scripture alone."
To illustrate this, I wrote the following in response to Roman Catholic claims about "tradition" in a discussion forum on America Online:
Many Roman Catholics have a false understanding of "tradition" in the early church. Most of the references to "tradition" in the New Testament are actually negative rather than positive (Matthew 15:1-14, Galatians 1:14, Colossians 2:8, etc.). The scriptures, on the other hand, are always portrayed positively. Scripture is the higher standard by which the lower standard of "tradition" must be judged.
Already Jason has fallen into the error committed by many Protestants. That is, they lump all "traditions" into one pile and condemn them. Thus, prior to continuing, let is explain the Catholic understanding of what is, and what is not, "tradition."
In Catholic theology, there are two types of "tradition." Sacred tradition, always denoted with a capital "T", and human tradition, always denoted with a small "t". This human tradition is what the Bible condemns time and time again. But note that the Bible condemns these "traditions" only when they contradict the Word of God! This type of tradition is also condemned by the Catholic Church.
Sacred Tradition is different. It IS authoritative because it has been handed down directly from Jesus Christ through His Apostle's and their successors, the bishops of the Catholic Church. This teachimg is on par with Scripture (not above Scripture) because it flows from the same source - God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out of the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal" (CCC #80). When you hear Catholic's speaking of Tradition, this is the type they are usually talking about. It cannot transgress the commandments of God because God is the source of both. The fact of the matter is, Scripture IS Tradition that has been put in writing.
Dei Verbum states: "She has always maintained them (the Scriptures), and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture." (Dei Verbum 6:21) Notice that Tradition is not placed above, or over the Bible. Rather Scripture has a place of primacy in the Catholic Church.
Now back to Jason's comments above. He says "most of the references to tradition in the New Testament are actually negative rather than positive." First he says "most" not "all." So this leaves room for tradition that is good and binding on its hearers (see 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6; & 1 Cor 11:2). Secondly, and seemingly in direct contradiction to one of his arguments against the papacy, he plays a numbers game to prove that tradition is bad since there is more "negative" references than "positive." In his treatise against the papacy, he criticized Catholic apologists who cite the fact that Peter's name is mentioned more times than all other Apostle's combined in the Gospels and Acts. Now here, he is using the same argument to bolster his position. So Jason, is this a legitimate argument or not?
He throws another comment in: "The scriptures, on the other hand, are always portrayed positively." Who argues this? It seems thrown in to let the reader believe that Catholics don't think the same way. It is poor argumentation.
Oral teaching was authoritative during times of revelation, such as when the apostles were alive. The Thessalonians could adhere to oral teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:15) because that oral teaching had come from the apostles themselves. Once the apostles are dead, though, especially when we're about two thousand years removed from them, it would be ridiculous to rely on "oral tradition", especially when those "traditions" cannot be traced back to the apostles (Immaculate Conception, papacy, indulgences, Assumption of Mary, etc.).
Wouldn't it be nice if Jason could provide one Scripture passage that backs up this claim that once the last Apostle dies, we would be Scripture alone Christians? Notice he doesn't provide any. He doesn't provide any because none exist. He calls relying on oral tradition "ridiculous." Be careful, Jason, if this is the method God chose to transmit His doctrine to all believers, then you've just called God "ridiculous."
Let's face it, by relying on Scripture alone, we've come to the staggering amount of 26,000 Protestant denominations. That's about one denomination for every verse of Scripture! yet, every denomination claims to go by the "Bible alone," all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, yet all disagree on something so important inregards to doctrine that they've found the need to split off into another church. So which method is "ridiculous" in practice?
And there's something else that Catholics often overlook in regard to 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Paul's immediate audience is one church (the Thessalonian church). What Paul taught orally to the Thessalonians may have been written elsewhere. For example, although Paul didn't write to the Thessalonians about spiritual gifts, and may have taught the Thessalonians on that subject orally, Paul did write to the Corinthians about that subject. Likewise, while Paul didn't write to the Galatians about the Antichrist and the rapture, he did write to the Thessalonians on those subjects. In other words, just because Paul taught some subjects to the Thessalonians orally, that does not warrant an assumption that those doctrines had been taught to EVERY church orally rather than in writing. There's no basis for assuming that 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is a reference to a SEPARATE body of doctrines that aren't recorded in writing. And it would be even more unreasonable to assume that the separate body of doctrines was committed solely to a church in Rome. The Catholic interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 rests on a lot of unwarranted assumptions.
There is so much in this one paragraph to dissect. Jason ends with "the Catholic interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 rests on a lot of unwarranted assumptions." Lets see who is making the assumptions.
Jason says: "What Paul taught orally to the Thessalonians may have been written elsewhere," and "may have taught the Thessalonians on that subject orally." Here are two statements that Jason frankly admits MAY have happened. Note the word MAY. There is no evidence in Scripture that Jason's assumptions are correct. You see, jason has to assume these things so that this verse will fit into his theological box.
Next he notes: "just because Paul taught some subjects to the Thessalonians orally, that does not warrant an assumption that those doctrines had been taught to EVERY church orally rather than in writing." Let's see, Jesus said to "preach" the Gospel, not write the Gospel down in a book. Paul said that "faith comes by hearing" (see Gal 3:2). Paul told Timothy to "teach" others (2 Tim 2:2). The Jews who knew the Scriptures didn't recognize the one to whom they pointed to (John 5:39). All of Paul's letters are addresses to churches which he had already instructed orally in the faith (with the exception of Romans), the vast majority of information in these letters are simply reminders of what he had already taught (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:5). Yet you want to tell uis that there is no warrant that these churches weren't all taught individually? Or are you implying that Paul left a city after preaching an incomplete Gospel?
Therefore, what Jason has done with his "theory" is nullify the Word of God by (his) tradition" (Matt 15:6).After all, Jason wants us to believe that after the last last Apostle died, faith no longer comes by hearing (cf Gal 3:2), but by reading; that Jesus really meant to tell His Apostle's to write books (cf Matt 28:20), and to have all people read it to come to know the truth; that Paul should've told Timothy to write books and let others read them (cf 2 Tim 2:2)
Jason then adds: "And it would be even more unreasonable to assume that the separate body of doctrines was committed solely to a church in Rome." Where did this curve ball come from? What specifically does the city of Rome have to do with it. the Catholic Church is a worldwide church, not a local church. Rome just happens to be its headquarters. This would be like saying, "why would the ruler of Russia be talking to Washington DC about peace in the US." It is not Washinton DC so much aas that iti is the place where the US government operates. It is not America, but symbolically represents it. Similarly, Rome is not the Church, but its headquarters, and represents its unity.
Besides, if Jesus Christ did establishe His Church on earth, and that church just happened to make its headquarters in Rome, thwn what is so unreasonable about that? The fact is Jesus did establish a church on earth (see Matt 16:18), he did make Peter its head (or shepherd, see John 21:15-17), and Peter died a martyr's death in Rome. Thus, Rome is where the Church established its headquarters.
So the Catholic takes the verse in question at face value. Here is that verse in its entirety; "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." Who is making the assumptions here?
Some church fathers, such as Irenaeus and Basil, did believe in "tradition". However, they did not believe in Roman Catholic tradition. The "tradition" that some church fathers cited was what they perceived as a general consensus among the churches about what the apostles had taught. Thus, even the scriptures would be referred to as "tradition". For example, in his Letters (56.1, 60.6), the church father Athanasius refers to the scriptures as "the teaching of the Apostles and the tradition of the fathers" and "Apostolic tradition". When we see phrases like that today ("the teaching of the Apostles and the tradition of the fathers", "Apostolic tradition"), we tend to associate those phrases with a separate body of doctrines outside of scripture. Athanasius was referring to the scriptures themselves with those terms, though. Likewise, when people like Irenaeus and Basil use the term "tradition", they are not referring to doctrines such as the papacy, the Assumption of Mary, and indulgences, which are not recorded in scripture. To the contrary, Irenaeus explains that the "traditions" of the apostles were open and manifest to everybody. There were no "secret traditions", contrary to what the Gnostics claimed and what the Roman Catholic Church claims today. The reason why doctrines such as the papacy and the Assumption of Mary were not mentioned by the early church fathers is because they were not part of the TRUE "apostolic tradition". If doctrines such as the papacy and the Assumption of Mary had actually been taught by the apostles, those teachings would have been mentioned over and over again in the early writings of the church, and they would have been open and manifest to everybody. They weren't, though, and that's because those Roman Catholic doctrines actually are not apostolic in origin.
I wonder why Jason didn't include the whole quotes so we could decide for ourselves what Basil or Athanasius meant. I think it is amazing that Jason knows exactly what these guys meant and everybody else is wrong. let us clear a few things up.
After due research, here is the passage "Such then, as we have described, is the madness and daring of those men. But our faith is right, and starts from the teaching of the Apostle's and the traditions of the fathers, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old."
Do you see how Jason misinterprets this passage? Note how Athanasius that the "teaching of the Apostle's andthe traditions of the fathers" are VERIFIED by "both by the New Testament and the Old." There are two teachings, one from the Apostle's, and one from the fathers, and that match nicely with the Scriptures.
As I said above, Scripture IS Tradition! So for a Church Father to include Scripture in the word Tradition causes no difficulty for a Catholic. No Church Father limited God's Word to Scripture alone. Below are some more quotes from Basil and Athanasius:
"And I hear that even rasher innovations than those of the foolish Sabellius are now ventured on among you. It is said, and that on them evidence of ear witnesses, that your clever men go to such an extreme as to say that there is no tradition of the name of the Only-begotten, while of the name of the adversary there is; and at this they are highly delighted and elated, as though it were a discovery of their own. (St. Basil, Letters 210)
"There is going on among you a movement ruinous to the faith, disloyal to the apostolical and evangelical dogmas, disloyal too to the tradition of Gregory the truly great, and of his successors up to the blessed Musonius, whose teaching is still ringing in your ears. For those men, who, from fear of confutation, are forging figments against me, are endeavoring to renew the old mischief of Sabellius, started long ago, and extinguished by the tradition of the great Gregory." (St. Basil, Letters 210)
"The one charge which is now sure to secure severe punishment is the careful keeping of the traditions of the Fathers. For this the pious are exiled from their homes, and are sent away to dwell in distant regions. (St. Basil, Letters 243)
And from Athanasius;
"But let the Faith confessed by the Fathers at Nicaea alone hold good among you, at which
all the fathers, including those of the men who now are fighting against it, were present, as we said above, and signed: in order that of us too the Apostle may say, ‘Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and as I handed the traditions to you, so ye hold them fast." (LETTER OF NINETY BISHOPS OF EGYPT AND LIBYA INCLUDING ATHANASIUS, Chapter 10)
"For what is so manifestly shewn to be evil, it is not necessary to waste time in exposing further, lest contentious persons think the matter doubtful. it is enough merely to answer such things as follows: we are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the fathers hold this. But lest the ‘inventors of evil things ‘ make entire silence on our part a pretext for shamelessness, it will be well to mention a few points from Holy Scripture, in case they may even thus be put to shame, and
cease from these foul devices." (Letter 59, To Epictus)
"For as the Son, according to the Fathers, is coessential with the Father, but is not the
Father Himself, but is called coessential, as Son with Father, so the Body, which they call coessential with the Word, is not the Word Himself, but a distinct entity." (Leter 59, To Epictus)
Note that he says "according to the fathers," not "Scriptures." It is clear from these and other passages that Athanasius and Basil were true Catholics. While they reverenced the Scriptures as they reverenced the Body of Christ (See CCC # 103), they also saw the invaluable teaching of the Fathers of the Church.
Just because a church father believed in "tradition", that does not mean that he believed in Roman Catholic tradition, or even that he believed in a separate body of doctrines that were not recorded in scripture. When Roman Catholic apologists cite references to "tradition" in the writings of the early church, and imply that those church fathers therefore believed in Roman Catholic tradition, they're being dishonest. Context is crucial, and the only way that Roman Catholic apologists can make the early church appear Roman Catholic is by quoting church fathers out of context.
Notice the game Jason plays. The very thing HE does, he accuses others of. HE is the one who is quoting out of context, yet accuses us of it!! If the "tradition" refferred to by Basil and Athanasius and all the other Fathers was not "Tradition" in the Roman Catholic sense, then what was it, Jason. You've denied our position, but have given no hint that you know what they WERE talking about.
The apostle Paul advised people not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), and that advice surely applies to us today, when we're nearly two thousand years removed from the apostles. Thus, sola scriptura. Many of Rome's supposed "oral traditions" cannot even be traced within 100 years of the apostles, much less can they be traced back to the apostles themselves.
What?? That's it? This one verse "proves" Sola Scriptura??? You talk about taking a verse out of context!!!! From the context of 1 Cor 4:6, it should be obvious to anyone that Paul is not discussing the whole of Scripture, which, at this time, would only be the Old Testament! What he is worried about is the "boasting" of the Corinthians. The injunction which he applied to the Corinthians he also applied to himself. That would mean that Paul himself couldn't write new Scripture, which would go beyond what was already written, or couldn't preach this New Testament of God. It is silly, therefore to say that this verse teaches Sola Scriptura.
In fact, Paul, himself, goes beyond what is written 6 chapters later by appealing to an oral tradition of the Synagogue by saying " the rock that followed them was Christ." there is nothing written about the rock that followed the Israelites in the desert, only that it was there. yet, in Jewish oral tradition, we have the teaching that the rock FOLLOWED them. Was paul contradicting himself? Or did Jason misunderstand the passage?