Catholic Claim – We can’t go by “the Bible Alone,” because the Bible itself, in I Timothy 3:15, calls the Church (and not the Bible) the “Pillar and Ground of the Truth.” So, we need the Church also.
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Tim. 3:15)
Catholics seem to believe that this verse somehow suggests infallibility for the church, making the church equal with Scripture, and thus disproving the concept of Sola Scriptura. But this is simply wishful thinking on their part. Now, I am not saying that we don’t need the church. The church is established by God and it certainly has its place. But if you look at the context of I Timothy 3, Paul is describing the RESPONSIBILITIES and OBLIGATIONS of church leaders. He is speaking of the EXPECTATIONS of the church (…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself). He is not speaking of privileges and special powers. He is not saying, “Hey Timothy, just kick back and relax, and bask in your infallibility, since we never have to worry about teaching false doctrine.” No, there is absolutely nothing in this context to suggest infallibility, nor is there any guarantee of being exempt from error. But again, he IS speaking of the duty and responsibility of those in the church (especially leaders) to preach, proclaim, and share the Truth.
Yes, the church is a “pillar,” but remember, a pillar is a support which holds something ELSE up. If a person sees the pillars / supports on your porch or balcony, and he says, “Hey, these are a nice roof.” You would think he is pretty naive and would tell him that these are not the roof, itself, but rather, they are SUPPORTS which hold up the roof. In the same way, the responsibility / obligation of the church is to “hold up,” “proclaim,” and “support” the truth. The church itself is not the Truth, but is called to be the support (pillar) of it. Scripture is that standard, that Truth, which the church is obligated to hold up (John 17:17).
Another problem with this Catholic argument is that if this verse is indeed saying that the “church” is infallible, it is proving too much. A “house” / “household” is not just composed of leaders, but of subordinates, as well. If the church is the household of God, and the church is infallible, then the whole household is infallible. But I don’t think that Catholics would want to say that. And neither would I. So, for more than one reason, this is another Catholic argument that doesn’t wash, and it certainly does not disprove Sola Scriptura.
In His Name,