Thursday, November 19, 2015

MARTIGNONI AND SOLA SCRIPTURA



Last month, we specifically addressed the “authority to interpret Scripture” concept which we found in one of John Martignoni’s newsletters (#268).  Martignoni is a well known and influential Catholic apologist who has thousands of people who subscribe to his newsletter and other materials.  So, we feel that it is important to address some of his errors and misrepresentations.


This month, we will take a look at Martignoni’s view of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”).  In newsletters #83 through #85, which can be found here




Martignoni addresses Sola Scriptura and claims that this doctrine is not logical, not historical, and not scriptural.  But his foundational argument is based on a couple of false premises.  For example, Martignoni first defines Sola Scriptura in this way in newsletter #83:


“First, let me define the dogma of Sola Scriptura so that you know exactly what I mean when I use the term.  As I understand it, it is the belief that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the only thing that a Christian needs in order to know whatever they need to know about Christian teaching and practice.”


This definition is the first false premise.  Perhaps there are some Protestants who would define Sola Scriptura in this way, but that is certainly not a biblical definition.  We believe that Sola Scriptura is indeed a biblical concept and we would simply define it this way:


  • Scripture is the only infallible Rule of Faith for the church today.


Key word, “infallible.”  There are indeed other sources of authority (or rules of faith) in the church today, like church leaders, theologians, the writings of church fathers, archaeological and historical evidence, traditions, councils, Bible commentaries, catechisms, etc.  We are free to use these things to help us learn and grow spiritually, but none of these are infallible.  Scripture is the ultimate Rule of Faith today because it is the only infallible one.  But John Martignoni’s false premise is that those who believe in Sola Scriptura must use ONLY the Bible to learn anything spiritual.  But that is a misrepresentation of Sola Scriptura.

At the end of this particular newsletter, Martignoni appeals to his audience to help him by asking for advice from his readers so he can “tweak” his upcoming article on Sola Scriptura.  And, in fact, in newsletter #84, his readers are the ones who pointed out that his original definition was “too narrow,” and convinced him to use a somewhat more biblical definition of Sola Scriptura.  His second (refined) definition is this:

“The Bible is the sole authority that one needs to decide what is and is not authentic Christian teaching and practice.  Now, that is not to say that one cannot learn things from sources other than the Bible, but these other sources are not infallible, as is the Bible, and do not carry the kind of binding authority that the Bible carries.”

Here, it appears that he is starting to understand the meaning of Sola Scriptura.  But immediately after this, Martignoni turns right around and contradicts this new definition by saying:

“In other words, the Bible is the sole rule of faith for the Christian.  If it’s not in the Bible, then I, as a Christian, am not bound to believe it.”

He misses the fact that Sola Scriptura allows for the Christian to believe in other rules of faith, as long as that rule does not conflict with Scripture.  Again, he goes from “sole authentic teaching” to “sole rule of faith.”  He reverts back to his original (faulty) definition.

And once again, in newsletter #85, Martignoni does another word switch:

“Does the Bible teach that it is the sole infallible authority for deciding matters related to Christian teaching and practice?  In other words, does the Bible teach that it is the sole rule of faith for the Christian?”
 
Do you see what he does here?  In the first half, he gets the biblical definition right, but then turns right around and switches back to his original wording.  This is a typical bait-and-switch tactic.

Still again, he later contradicts his refined definition of Sola Scriptura by saying:

“However, it nowhere says anything about the Bible being the sole rule of faith for the Christian.”
 
Martignoni seems to have trouble maintaining a consistent definition of Sola Scriptura.  How many times do we need to remind him that Sola Scriptura DOES NOT mean that the Bible is the sole rule of faith.  It is the sole INFALLIBLE rule of faith.  There is a world of difference. 
 

Is Martignoni intentionally muddying the water?  A professional apologist like himself should know better; he should easily be able to recognize the difference between the two definitions.  Apparently (by his own admission) even his readers can tell the difference, since they were the ones who suggested the new definition.


John Martignoni’s second false premise in these articles is that we need infallible authority when we interpret the Bible and we cannot allow “individual interpretation” of Scripture.  But we already addressed that error in last month’s article here:




Again, this “authority to interpret” argument is one of Martignoni’s foundational arguments that he uses often.  For him, it is a major building block for many (if not most) of his teachings.  But exposing this false “need” for infallible interpretations undercuts Martignoni’s whole “authority argument” and brings it crumbling down.


We cannot emphasize this enough:  Even if John Martignoni’s church was infallible (and we strongly assert that it is not) and if they were able to perfectly and infallibly interpret Scripture, he would still be in the same “trap” as the Protestant.  He must still use his own fallible mind and faculties, along with common sense, to interpret his supposed infallible source (the Catholic Church).  He cannot claim that fallible interpretations are a problem for Protestants, but not for Catholics.  We are all fallible.
 

So, John Martignoni is off to a very bad start if he cannot even get the definition of Sola Scriptura right, and if one of his most foundational arguments (“authority to interpret”) is invalid.  Interested readers can find, in this blog, answers to Martignoni’s other arguments against Sola Scriptura, as well.  See these links:









We also have an eight-part series on Sola Scriptura starting here:








4 comments:

  1. Hello Russell,

    Let me start off by saying that I believe the real 'battle' between Protestants and Catholics is not over Sola Scriptura, but rather Sola Fide, specifically in the Epistles of St Paul, particularly Romans. I am Catholic because I believe a clear and definitive refutation of Sola Fide (as classically defined) is possible using Romans alone. See my blog or email me for the kind of apologetics I've done in that department.

    As for this post here on John Martignoni and Sola Scriptura, I have a few things I'd like to say.

    You said: Perhaps there are some Protestants who would define Sola Scriptura in this way, but >>that is certainly not a biblical definition<<. We believe that Sola Scriptura is indeed a biblical concept and we would simply define it this way: Scripture is the only infallible Rule of Faith for the church today.

    Here you are saying that Martignoni's definition is "not the Biblical definition," but you don't actually provide a Biblical definition yourself. In fact, your definition is not something I see taught in the Bible at all. And your qualification that Scripture is the only infallible Rule of faith "today" is even more dubious, for this entails that there was a point when SS was not being practiced, then "today" came along and suddely it was. If "today" refers to the period immediately after the last Apostle died, then you would have to show some clear Biblical proof that Sola Scriptura would suddenly kick in after a given event happens, which is not something I believe you can show from Scripture.

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    1. Paul, in 2 Thess 2:15, tell the Thessalonian church what was to define their faith....

      So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

      The "us" is Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, the individuals listed in the salutation.

      I am content to live by Paul's injunction. Are you?


      I will hold to what I have received from Paul, Timothy, and/or Silvanus, regardless of whether by word of mouth or letter.

      Now, since they are all dead, I am unlikely to hear from them by mouth. So, seems were are then limited to what they have told us "by letter"?

      Now, if you wish for a different standard, you would have to address why Paul would give different standards for different churches?

      Of course, this is generally expanded to all the inspired apostles and prophets, through whom the gospel and the faith was revealed.

      Eph 3 - 1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

      So, the standard is what we hear by word of mouth or by letter from God's holy apostles and prophets, speaking by the Spirit.


      Until we hear from their mouth, again, we are left with only their letters.

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  2. Hello Nick,

    It almost sounds like you don’t remember the many dialogues we’ve had before. We covered this material, and much more, extensively on my blog, as well as yours. So, none of this is new.

    Interested readers can find some of our discussions (in the comment section) in some of the links provided in the above article.

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  3. Oh my precious Russell... Oh how I worship Thee...

    ReplyDelete