Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Conversation On Scripture Alone

Every once in a while you will see a Roman Catholic expressing his/her revulsion of the doctrine of Sola Scripture (Scripture Alone). Yet almost every time the Protestant teaching is redefined or misunderstood. What is even worse is that even after attempting to correct the Roman Catholic as to what the definition of Scripture Alone is, they refuse to be corrected as to what Protestants are plainly saying.

Here are some statements by one Roman Catholic, Matthew Bellisario, that caused me to comment on his Blog post (you may read here),
Protestants follow their own forms of tradition, while rejecting the true Tradition of the Church, which has been revealed by God. The Protestant will go out and buy books by the truckload so that they can better understand and interpret the Bible. Yet, I thought the Bible was the only rule one needs? Isn't the Bible clear enough to understand without...
and again,
The Reformed position of Sola Scriptura tries not to dismiss the Church and her teachers from their doctrine. They claim that not everyone can understand the Scriptures equally, and that there are people who are called to teach the Bible in some sort of authoritative position. Yet if that is the case, then why do their authoritative teachers disagree on core teachings in the Bible?
In this kind of critique, not only does the RC not define the doctrine correctly, but he does not apply the same standards to his own position. So I am not sure which is more frustrating. Judge everyone else with one set of standards while not applying those standards to yourself, or judging a straw-man in the first place.

For instance, in the first quote Matthew confuses that which is the ultimate infallible authority with other sources. To use an illustration, my English teacher hands me a book that explains how I am to behave in the classroom. However, I have yet to learn to read. So the English teacher teaches me to read. Does this mean that the rule book is insufficient to explain to me what my behavior is to be? If I have to borrow a dictionary because I have not learned the definition of a word yet, does this make the rule book insufficient in explaining what my behavior in the classroom is to be? Does any of this change the ultimate nature of the rule book as being the ultimate rule book.

Why is the definition of Scripture Alone so difficult to understand? Perhaps it is because many Reformed Protestants have done such a poor job in explaining it. Yet Matthew Bellisario seems to know the definition. Yet like many people in religions with overriding authorities, they simply can't hear what is being said. They may say the words, but they are just not hearing the same thing.

In the comments section, he again redefines the Protestant position.
I pointed out that there is an appeal by Protestants of the need for teachers in the Church to teach Scripture. Let me know where you feel I have misrepresented your doctrine and I will be glad to correct myself or justify my position.
My response to this statement is that he just did redefine it! He clearly reads into the Protestant doctrine his own presuppositions and does not allow the Reformed Protestant position to be what it is. As can be seen in this statement,
Howard, I think part of the problem may be that your definition of Church, is not the correct definition of Church.
So now the Reformed Protestant must agree to his definition of church in order to define Scripture Alone. His forcing the Protestant to stand on his grounds and his definitions comes out clearly when I raised the issue of Romans 8.
The Catholic Church taught Romans 8 before Romans 8 was ever in written form. Do agree with this or disagree? If you agree then you realize the Church has no need to officially define Romans 8, because God revealed the teaching of Romans 8 in His Oral Kerygma in the Church before it was ever written.
Again, do you see where he redefines Scripture Alone? He assumes that since Romans 8 was taught before Romans 8 was written down, that Scripture Alone can't work. Why? Because he redefines Scripture Alone. No Protestant definition of Scripture Alone that I am aware of denies that the Apostles or Prophets or Moses before them first preached orally. The question is, where is their oral proclamation now? Reformed Protestants obviously see things just a little differently.

In conclusion, I probably shouldn't get into these conversations. They never get anywhere. When RCs refuse to allow Protestants to define their own position, when historical definitions are completely ignored, it is hard to see this going anywhere. But I guess we have to try.


Pilgrimsarbour said...

Greetings, Howard,

I've been spending a bit of time looking around your blog and like what I see. Keep up the good work!

Regarding this post, I too have been frustrated in conversations with Catholics about sola Scriptura. I try to put it this way:

The Bible is our sole infallible authority, that is, it is our final arbiter in matters of faith and practice.

Others sources of authority we do have, since Christ gave His Church teachers. They are those who are specially gifted to help the saints grow in grace. Not all of us have this gift. They are not, however, infallible.

The key word in the authority question for Protestants is the word infallible, in my view, not the words "sole authority."

Regarding M.B., it just may be that he does, in fact, know the real definition of sola Scriptura but is loath to represent it accurately in his continuing defence of the Roman system.

Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for your comment Pilgrim. I hope I have conveyed that definition of only infallible source because it is God-breathed. But I am not certain it would matter since they don't hear that since for them God speaks in and through the church.

They just can't separate the two.