“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)
This will be the eighth and final article in this particular series on Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”). Today we will specifically address an argument that is very commonly used by Catholics (as well as others). Many enemies of Sola Scriptura consider this argument to be the super-duper, one-punch-one-kill, granddaddy-of-all-arguments against the teaching of Sola Scriptura. It is an argument about the canon (i.e., the list of books that are included in Scripture). And it goes like this:
ARGUMENT #8 – HOW CAN ANYONE BELIEVE IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE BIBLE ALONE WHEN THE BIBLE NEVER EVEN REVEALS ITS OWN CANON? WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE CANON IS WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, AND SINCE IT’S NOT IN THE BIBLE, WE NEED ANOTHER INFALLIBLE SOURCE TO TELL US.
Again, let’s remember the definition of Sola Scriptura… that the Bible is the only infallible Rule of Faith for the church today. And because of that, it is our ultimate moral standard. But this does not mean that the Bible has to be an exhaustive source of every bit of spiritual information that ever existed.
It is true that the Bible does not contain a specific list of all its books. God indeed chose not to place such a list within its pages, but this doesn’t make the Bible insufficient as a rule of faith (as is evident in 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Catholics often boast about their infallible certainty, but if infallible certainty on the canon is so important to the Catholic Church, then why was the canon not “infallibly” defined until the Council of Trent in 1546? It seems that the Catholic Church talks a good talk, but has done a very poor job of actually providing its members with any real certainty, much less the certainty that it so proudly claims. For the first 1500 years of church history, Catholic Tradition has failed to provide infallible certainty on the canon issue. Not only that, but their present canon also has some problematic issues (see the links below). So, this “infallible-certainty-on-the-canon” argument sounds good, but it is nothing but a delusion.
See also these articles:
Only 100 verses in 2,000 years? If this is any indication of the rate of progress for “infallible certainty” in the Catholic Church, then take heart, dear Catholics – you only have a half-million years or so (620,000 to be exact) to achieve complete infallible certainty on the whole Bible! This should hardly be reassuring to Catholics. If the Catholic Church is all that it claims to be, and it is really concerned about giving its people “infallible certainty,” it surely could have done better than this in 2,000 years.
If the Catholic Church feels the need to infallibly interpret Scripture in the first place, then why so few verses? Why not all of it, or at least most of it? And isn’t it interesting how certain uniquely-Catholic concepts (however unbiblical) have made their way into this list of “infallible” teachings (e.g., the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, etc.). Is it just me, or is this suspicious to anyone else? Are they perfectly satisfied with just a few verses interpreted this way, as long as some of their pet doctrines can achieve this “infallible status”?
Catholic apologists may object and say that it was never the intention of the Church to infallibly interpret ALL Bible verses, and they only did this when disputes came up. But many, many disputes came up over the centuries that never ended up in the “infallibly declared” category, so this is not a valid objection.
Another problem with the canon argument is that many (if not most) Catholics today seem to believe in the “material sufficiency” view of the Bible (See Part 6 of this series). This view states that the Bible has all the necessary “material” in it. If that’s true, then the canon (which is not in there) must not NEED to be in the Bible. So, if the “material sufficiency” view is correct, this canon argument against Sola Scriptura cannot be true. No one can hold to the canon argument and to the “material sufficiency” view at the same time.
One more objection against the canon argument is that if a rule of faith (the Bible) must have a list of its contents (the canon), then what about the Catholic Church’s own rule of faith? Where is the “canon” of Catholic Tradition? It does not exist. So, if the concept of Sola Scriptura fails because the Bible doesn’t have an infallible list of its own books, then Tradition also fails since it doesn’t list its own contents, either. This is certainly a double standard on their part.
So, the fact that the canon is not specifically listed within the pages of Scripture does nothing to affect the Bible’s sufficiency as our Ultimate Rule of Faith.