As our readers may already know, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”) is a key part of many Protestants’ world view. Since Catholics believe in an inspired “Magisterium” and an inspired “Sacred Tradition,” both (supposedly) being on equal footing with Scripture, they have come up with a number of arguments against the Bible Alone concept. One of those is the “Constitution” argument.
The Constitution argument goes something like this:
“Sola Scriptura doesn’t work because, in this view, each person interprets the Bible for himself, causing all sorts of disagreements and confusion. You Protestants would never allow the interpretation of an important document like the Constitution of the United States of America to be subject to the whims of any and every citizen, would you? There would be no unity. This would only lead to chaos! So why would you allow this kind of abuse to happen to an even greater document, like the Bible?”
Ok, first of all, no true Sola Scriptura person believes that the Bible should ever be subject to the “whims” of anyone reading it. If you truly want to get something out of it, the Bible cannot be read flippantly or haphazardly. It should be studied carefully and read with a humble, prayerful and reverent attitude (Isaiah 66:2; 2 Timothy 2:15). It is not a toy to play with, or a book you can mold into anything you desire. This is a misrepresentation of Sola Scriptura.
Furthermore, there are basic hermeneutical principles involved in Bible interpretation on which we pretty much all agree. Hermeneutics is the science of Bible interpretation. Certain rules must be followed when reading Scripture, for example, observing the context of a passage (both immediate and overall), historical perspective, genre, grammar, and the writer’s intent. So again, the Bible cannot be interpreted “just any way you feel like it,” as those using the Constitution argument would accuse us.
Second, Catholics using the Constitution argument assume that there will be ONE human head over everyone in the church, just as there is one person (or body of persons) over the United States. But the Bible doesn’t say this about the church. The Constitution of the United States of America was meant to have a very specific group of elected officials to determine / interpret the exact meaning of the Constitution. But this concept of one person being over the church is absent from the Bible. So, this is not an accurate premise to start with, and thus, not a valid comparison.
When it comes to law and order (as in the Constitution), there must be a final human arbiter (to at least make people behave “on the outside”), but Scripture is able to deal with the heart and make people behave “on the inside,” as well. The law deals with the external behavior, but Scripture deals with the conscience. The judge’s responsibility is interpreting the Constitution for lawmakers. But God, the Creator, is able to reveal His truth (Scripture) even to babes, i.e., to the simple, humble and “unlearned” (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21).
No doubt, Catholics will say, “But we do have truth and sound doctrine. In fact, it is only the Catholic Church who has the ‘fullness of the truth’ (CCC #819).”
But not only does the Catholic Church not have the sound doctrine and “fullness of truth” that it claims to have (as this blog and many other websites attest), but it doesn’t even have the level of unity that it claims for itself. See here:
Interestingly, the Catholic Church’s idea of “unity” also includes union with Protestants (for example, the dangerous and unbiblical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document) and also union with pagan and demonic world religions, as well. See here:
We are here warning everyone that this same false unity will also be used by the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), also known as the antichrist, to form his ungodly one-world church (Revelation 13:7-8, 12). We can only hope and pray that this thought is just as disturbing to others as it is to us. You see, this craving for unity at any cost is very dangerous.
Having a single “authoritative” human authority over the church does not guarantee truth, just as a single ultimate authority over the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee that the right thing will be done. An ultimate human authority can become corrupt. This same “ultimate authority” over the Constitution has produced evil things like the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, which regrettably, became the law of the land. In the same way, having a person (pope) over the entire church does not guarantee truth or righteousness, either.
But the Catholic will say, “But, unlike the judges who interpret the Constitution, the pope is infallible!” Then why try to use the Constitution argument in the first place, since it is a false analogy? So, now they must admit that the Constitution argument is an invalid “apples and oranges” comparison, and the resulting mismatch negates this whole argument.
So, the bottom line on this unity issue is this - you can either:
1) Accept the fact that there are always going to be differences / disagreements in Bible interpretation, (yet with imperfect, but acceptable, levels of unity in different places) or
2) You can default and let someone else “infallibly” decide what Scripture says, like a church whose “unity” is an all-inclusive tolerance for false doctrine, or a dictator-type church with its forced unity.
This second type of “unity” does not work, and neither does the “Constitution” argument.