Sunday, June 9, 2013

QUICK NOTES ON SOLA SCRIPTURA (Part 5)



“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 3:16-17 – NASV) 

The following specific objection against Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”) is also fairly common among Catholic apologists:

ARGUMENT #5 – THE PHRASE “EVERY GOOD WORK” IN 2 TIMOTHY 3:17 DOESN’T PROVE SUFFICIENCY.  THERE ARE OTHER THINGS PROFITABLE FOR “EVERY GOOD WORK,” NOT JUST SCRIPTURE.  FOR EXAMPLE, JAMES 1:4 SAYS THAT PATIENCE / PERSEVERANCE WILL EQUIP A PERSON FOR EVERY GOOD WORK, MAKING US “PERFECT AND ENTIRE, LACKING NOTHING.”  SO, ACCORDING TO PROTESTANT LOGIC, WOULDN’T THAT MEAN THAT PERSEVERANCE WOULD ALSO BE SUFFICIENT, AS A RULE OF FAITH?

This is just a variation of the “proves too much” argument (as in Part 4).  But this argument fails also, as we will soon see.

Those who are against Sola Scriptura (Catholics and others) will also point to verses like:

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)

They’ll say, “You see!  Here Paul is saying that avoiding certain things will make you prepared for every good work!  So it’s not just Scripture that is sufficient.”

But there is a major difference between verses like these and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  And that difference is CONTEXT.  The context of 2 Timothy 3 is about a God-breathed Rule of Faith that we can turn to in times of trouble and spiritual deception.  Paul, knowing that he would soon be killed for his faith (4:6), is giving Timothy critical information before his departure, and he wanted to leave no doubt as to where to turn in the troubling days that surely lay ahead.  The Holy Spirit is pointing to a time of great apostasy (i.e., falling away from the faith), emphasizing the approaching deception in the church (3:13), growing worse and worse.  So, Paul is describing to Timothy the purpose and nature of the one Source he could count on after he’s gone… that which is inspired by God… Sacred Scripture.  While this passage is establishing an infallible Rule of Faith, verses like James 1:4 and 2 Timothy 2:21 are not.  

Catholics are confusing Paul’s pointing to the infallible guide itself (in 2 Timothy 3) with the application of principles within the guide in these other passages.  In other words, 2 Timothy 3 is saying, “This is the Ultimate Standard, the Rule of Faith,” and the other passages are saying, “Here’s how to apply it.”  Two different contexts.

But what if someone wants to argue that these other verses are also in the context of a rule of faith?  What then?  Remember, the Catholic claims that his rule of faith is a “three-legged stool,” that is, Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium.  But does any Catholic want to add “perseverance” (James 1:4) or “purging oneself” (2 Timothy 2:21) as a fourth leg to his three-legged stool?   If those contexts really are about a rule of faith, as some may claim, then Catholics would necessarily have to add these things to their own rule of faith.  And this addition would have to mean that the Catholic’s own rule of faith (the “three-legged stool”) is not sufficient.

Either way, this argument doesn’t hold water.

17 comments:

  1. Acts 8:27-31New International Version (NIV)

    27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

    30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

    31 “HOW CAN I,” he said, “UNLESS SOMEONE EXPLAINS IT TO ME?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.


    Expect your conversion to Catholicism momentarily.....

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  2. Hello Anonymous,

    It’s no secret that we all need help understanding Scripture from time to time. Sometimes we might need someone to explain things to us. If that is your point here, then we both agree.

    But I suspect that your message here was that we need an INFALLIBLE interpreter. If this was your point, then please understand that this passage does not support your argument.

    Note that the Ethiopian eunuch was from far away (Ethiopia). He had apparently not heard of the recent events concerning the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. So, he had no way of knowing to whom Isaiah the prophet was referring. Of course, Philip, being placed in the right place at the right time by the Holy Spirit, began to explain how the recent events tied in with (and fulfilled) the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53.

    It’s not that the eunuch could not interpret Scripture, or that only an infallible interpretation would suffice; he just didn’t know WHO Isaiah was referring to, that’s all (see Acts 8:34). It’s easy for us today to look back and say, yeah, Isaiah’s talking about Jesus on the cross. The message at that time was not yet spread throughout the world, like it is today. But this passage has nothing to do with infallible interpretations.

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  3. Hello Russell,

    I decided to read this article because you gave me a link to it a few months ago during one of our discussions. I truly appreciate how you take the time to explain why these arguments are false.It is actually important to recognize that reciting Scripture passages such as James 1:4 and 2 Timothy 2:21 are not actually convincing arguments against the usage of 2 Timothy 3:15-17 as a Sola Scriptura proof-text. You can tell that the passages are taken out of their proper contexts simply by reading or hearing them! I also have a few questions to ask.

    1)Would you recommend using Jude 3 as a supportive text for Sola Scriptura?
    2)How would you respond to a Catholics who attempt to use the Jerusalem Council of Acts chapter fifteen as evidence against Sola Scriptura?

    I hope that you had a merry Christmas and a happy New Year's Day!

    You are a man of God and I hope that He continues to bless you as you continue in your ministry to those who have a desire to seek knowledge of the Truth.

    God bless,
    Jesse

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  4. Hello again Jesse,

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, and I hope that you also had a wonderful Christmas and are having a blessed New Year!

    You asked if I would use Jude 3 as a support for Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). No, not really. I think it is a wonderful verse, urging us to “contend for the faith,” but this verse is not stressing using only Scripture. Although, I would say that the MAIN way that we contend for the faith is through the Scriptures, it just doesn’t say that it’s ONLY through Scripture here.

    Concerning the Jerusalem Council, no, this council does NOT prove that we can’t use Sola Scriptura. The apostle James IS using Scripture in Acts 15:15-18 (which is a prophecy quoted from Amos 9:11-12) showing that the Gentiles would one day be accepted.

    And Catholics often look at the Jerusalem Council as infallible and say, “See, the church’s councils are infallible, and we need infallible councils today!” And I would say, yes, the Council of Jerusalem was infallible… but only because this council had APOSTLES in it! Has any other council had living apostles presiding? No, indeed.

    So, this is not at all evidence against Sola Scriptura. Thanks again, Jesse, and I hope this helps.

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  5. Hello Russell,

    My apologies for getting back to you so late.

    I asked about Jude 3 because some Protestants claim that the phrase "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" somehow supports the concept of Scripture being the final authority in doctrinal matters.

    Thanks for the comments on the Jerusalem Council of Acts Chapter 15! I was struggling with the argument. When Catholics attempt to use this passage against Sola Scriptura, the argument actually backfires on them because the Apostle James used the Scriptures as the judge of the church council's rulings. Furthermore, notice how the Christians compared Paul's teachings to the written word to make sure if they were correct (Acts 17:11-12). Teachers and church councils are to submit to Scripture (not the other way around!). Acts chapter 15 and Acts 17:11-12 can be overlapped with other verses such as Isaiah 8:16-20,Matthew 15:1-9,Luke 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 4:6, and 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Do you notice the logical pattern?

    Below is a link to Bible.ca (by the way, this is a "Church of Christ" website). This website analyzes specific systems of doctrine such as Calvinism and exposes them. However, I would recommend being cautious on this website because it denies justification by grace through faith alone (the view of Sola Scriptura they believe is slightly different). Russell, the link that I am giving you demonstrates that 1 Corinthians 4:6 is a powerful Sola Scriptura proof-text:

    http://www.bible.ca/sola-scriptura-proof-texts-1-corinthians-4-6.htm

    Enjoy!

    Thanks for taking the time to assist me and others who have the desire to contend for the faith. I will be looking forward to your responses!

    "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5

    Jesse

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  6. Hello again Jesse,

    I was already familiar with that link you gave. Some of their articles are great, but there are some concerns with some of them, as you mentioned.

    Yes, I agree with your comments about Sola Scriptura above. I believe that a great (and biblical) case can indeed be made for this teaching. But it is interesting to see the lengths that Catholics (and others) will go to fight against the doctrine. It’s as if they must destroy all traces of it at any cost!

    Thanks for your research and your witness, Jesse. Keep up the good work.

    In His Name,
    Russell

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  7. Hi Russell,

    I am glad that you know about (and have read) the article commenting on 1 Corinthians 4:6 and how it supports the principle of Sola Scriptura. That passage alone delivers an irrefutable blow to those who oppose our position on the Scriptures. Honestly, 1 Corinthians 4:6 is my most favorite passage on the topic! What is yours?

    It is indeed a good thing that you and I agree on the authority of the Bible. In fact, we probably agree on practically every doctrine in the Christian faith. This fact alone demonstrates that doctrinal unity can be accomplished without the help of the fallible Roman Catholic Church!

    I have another question. Would you use Psalms 19:7-14 as a proof-text for the sufficiency of the Scriptures or as a supplement to 2 Timothy 3:15-17?

    God bless,
    Jesse

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  8. Jesse,

    Concerning Psalms 19:7-14, yes, this is a very good passage that I would use as a supplement to 2 Timothy 3:15-17. And of course, the 2 Timothy passage is my favorite in proving Sola Scriptura.

    God bless!

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  9. Hi Russell,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments and answer my questions. I am pretty sure that I will have more questions to ask as I continue studying these theological issues.

    1)Would you use 2 Peter 1:3-4 as a supplementing text to 2 Timothy 3:15-17?
    2)Do you think that 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 shows us that oral revelation would cease with the completion of the New Testament canon? If so, then you could use this passage as evidence against Nick's claim that your definition of Sola Scriptura has absolutely no scriptural support. I asked you about the 1 Corinthians passage because other Christians interpret the word "perfect" in verse ten to mean the New Testament Scriptures.

    Did you ever get my message to your last post on the other blog? If not, then I will simply re-write it.

    Thanks again,
    Jesse

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  10. Hello Jesse,

    I wouldn’t use 2 Peter 1:3-4 as a stand-alone passage to prove Sola Scriptura, but perhaps to support or complement it. Jesse, remember, with passages like these, Catholics would say, “Peter is exalting God’s Word, all right, but it doesn’t say ONLY Scripture!” That’s what I keep telling you. There has to be a strong inference or implication in a passage that the speaker is referring to ONLY the Scriptures. You could ask me about a thousand different verses that talk about the Word, but this same principle that I just stated will apply to each and every one. But I’d rather have just a FEW really strong verses to demonstrate our case, rather than a thousand verses that don’t really make our point.

    Now, concerning 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, I don’t believe that “that which is perfect” refers to Scripture at all. In the context, Paul is contrasting our knowledge NOW and our knowledge in the FUTURE (which will be perfect). Notice that In the future, when we are glorified (at the Rapture / Resurrection) we will know “as well as we are known” i.e., by God (v. 12). We will then be perfect, and tongues (or ANY of the gifts) will no longer be needed. This is the context of the passage, so it’s not about Scripture.

    Hope this helps you.

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  11. Hello Russell,

    You mentioned how I supposedly failed to recognize that you have repeatedly told me that it is best to use passages that emphasize the "SOLA" part of Sola Scriptura. I completely agree with your point. However, you are misinterpreting the context of what I am saying. Notice that I usually occupy words such as "supplement" or "supportive" when I ask if any particular Scripture passages could relate to the subject of Scripture being the final authority in doctrinal matters. I sometimes use the word "PROVE" when I ask about passages such as 1 Corinthians 4:6. As stated before, I typically ask if a Bible verse supports (or implies) the concept of Sola Scriptura. Perhaps I need to clarify what I am talking about or expound on the ideas that I mention.

    2 Peter 1:3-4 could be used as a stand-alone passage to prove Sola Scriptura because it states that God has given us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness. Also, notice that 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that Scripture equips us for EVERY good work. Both passages say pretty much the same thing. So, if 2 Peter cannot be used as legitimate evidence for Sola Scriptura on the basis of the Catholic quibble that you mentioned, then we should also reject 2 Timothy as a proof-text (since it does not say "only" Scripture is "inspired by God..."). On the contrary, no honest Bible-believing Christian would ever agree with such an absurd conclusion! The context of the passages reveal that such characteristics apply only to Scripture. Russell, what else "equips us for every good work"? Nothing.

    I really do appreciate you taking the time to explain the meaning behind 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. The passage became confusing to me after doing a lot of research on the meaning behind the controversial Bible verse. This inclines me to ask if you believe in Cessationism. (or do you believe in continuationism)?

    You are certainly helping me when you answer my questions.

    God bless your soul,
    Jesse

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. seems like russ deleted the comment because of a temper problem

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  13. Hey Jesse,

    Concerning Cessationism, I haven’t really given this a great deal of thought. The sign-gifts were indeed for the early church (1 Corinthians 12-14), but they seemed to have greatly dwindled, even into the late apostolic era. It seems that these supernatural gifts were mainly to authenticate their message or their apostleship, etc., although I would not say that the gifts are completely gone.

    I know that God certainly CAN still heal today and can still use someone to operate in the gifts, such as prophecy or tongues, etc., if He chooses to. But, concerning tongues, for example, I believe that the great majority of what we see today described as “tongues” is not true biblical tongues (as on the Day of Pentecost).

    Anyway, I don’t want to get off topic, but that’s briefly my take on Cessationism.

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  14. Hey Russell,

    Sorry for getting off topic.

    If we could conclusively prove that oral revelation ceased with the completion of the New Testament canon, then Catholics and others who deny the concept of Sola Scriptura would see that they errantly believe that Scripture is not the final authority for the church. Would you not agree with this?

    Maybe evidence for this could be found in 2 Peter 3:1-2. Consider the following:

    "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." 2 Peter 3:1-2
    1.Here we have a reference to oral traditions, "spoken beforehand".
    2.Although traditionalists claim oral tradition, they cannot come up with even one phrase or the apostles Jesus said, that is not recorded in scripture!
    3.Yet Peter uses scripture as the method of reminding Christians of this oral tradition.
    4.Since there is no known "oral tradition" of the specific words spoken, it is obvious that scripture replaced oral tradition.

    If the above statements formulate a successful argument to prove that oral revelation has been replaced by Scripture, then we have got our case constructed! Would you know of any other passages that could be used to demonstrate such?

    Jesse

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  15. Hi Jesse,

    First of all, this can be a somewhat complex topic, so I don’t want to go too far into it. But I wouldn’t exactly say that oral revelation ceased with the completion of the New Testament, but rather it ended, more probably, with the death of the last apostle (John). Since John was still alive (at least for a while) after he wrote Revelation (thus, finishing the Bible), and since he was an apostle, he still could have given some other infallible information to the church that has not been preserved. That’s why I believe that infallible “oral revelation” ended with the death of the last apostle.

    But, Jesse, I believe that the Catholic Church would AGREE with us on that point. So, if we could prove the above, I don’t think it would change their view on Sola Scriptura anyway. Regardless, I believe that there is enough proof in Scripture to make our case.

    Concerning your four points above, I do think that you’ve made a pretty good case. This certainly undermines their claims of some infallible, must-have (yet nebulous) “Sacred Tradition.”

    Keep up the good work!

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  16. Hello Russell,

    Thanks for correcting me on the time that oral revelation ended. I actually meant that it ended with the death with the last apostle but I did not know how to properly express the idea in my own words.

    Since the concept of cessationism is a rather complicated issue, we will end the discussion at the last point mentioned.

    You commented on my four points about "apostolic" oral traditions and told me that they were reasonable. This leads me to ask if you know any other arguments that injure the Romanist view on extra-biblical tradition.

    Another point that should be addressed is the fact that the Bible condemns extra-biblical doctrinal development (Galatians 1:8-9;2 Thessalonians 2:2;1 Timothy 1:3-4). Do you think that this hold any significance?

    Jesse

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