Over the past few weeks, a debate has bee going on concerning the Catholic leanings of my Roommate Jon, the main issue being that of sola scriptura. Continuing the debate from this post Jon said:

I am no longer so certain that oral tradition can be so easily changed. I suppose it can be changed, but I do not believe that the Church Fathers would have allowed such changes to take place. In fact, whenever somebody did speak out against the traditions they received from the Apostles, they rebuked those people harshly as heretics and excommunicated them. And this happened many times before anything close to a canon of the New Testament came into form. The fact is, the Church Fathers – who, in some cases, lived two hundred years before the New Testament was set – defended the truths of the faith with little more than oral tradition to go on. My point is that these were the Traditions of God, not the traditions of men. We have to make a distinction between the two, as St. Paul does.

I am interested in seeing some backing for this point, specifically regarding the excommunications of those who spoke out against the Apostles traditions. I am also interested specifically who the Church Fathers were that you refer to. And lastly, although the New Testament (NT) was not canonized until around 350 – 400 AD, the letters and documents that composed the NT were completed by 70 AD. Oral traditions had the help of written documentation at that time and before, because some of Paul’s epistles were written much earlier, and the Gospels were around as well.

I do not hold that the oral traditions were not important, or even that they did not hold a place of infallibility, only that at some point in time, their use was no longer needed with the maturity of a more perfect medium, one whose face could be looked upon by each Christian.

I will also say this, I don’t think the doctrine of sola scriptura should be used as an excuse for rebellion. Inside of church government all things have their place, including the authority of those who have been placed over us. What I do hold vital is the need for a written document to prevent the straying of man from God’s truth, because it is proven that man is fallible, wicked, and deceitful above all things and not to be trusted to remember or accurately convey the Truth all the time. This is illustrated by the fact that in Acts 17:10-12, when the saints in Berea studied the scriptures to verify the words of Paul and Barnabas to see if they were true.

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46 Comments

  1. I have been comprimised! After posting my last remarks, I realized teh futility of debating Catholic doctrine piece by piece. We can discuss any number of aspects (the divinity of Mary, the Sacrements, trnsubstantiation, etc.) with no positive results.
    I had a lengthy discussion with my mother yesterday concerning her experience with the Catholic church throughout the various stages in her life. Since Jason wants us to focus on sola scriptura I will not go into detail here, but her comments have bolstered my faith that, although many Catholics will be with us in heaven, the Catholic church does lead many people down a very dark road. For those of us with the ability to think clearly and logically the Catholic church offers a great deal, but I assure you that the church does not appeal to all people.
    When I say not appeal to all poeple, I’m not talking about being too harsh because we are all fallen creatures with no redeeming value on our own, you can’t hide that.
    Jon, I apologize for my arrogant attempts to derail you in the past. Most of it was an attempt to bait you into the open, but I see you are a more worthy opponenet that I gave you credit for.

    When was the last time any of you posters went to mass? Recieved the Holy Eucharist? Have you been through the religious classes required to join a Catholic church? I have not been to mass in a long, long time. I have never taken communion in a Catholic church, mostly because I have never been to confession. I have no been through their training classes, although I have seriously been considering it. My point here, fellow posters, is that I am weak at arguing what I don’t know. I would suggest that each of you go to a mass instead of your Sunday night service sometime. Until then, I don’t want to see anymore uneducated “guesses!”
    I guess talking about sola scriptura can resume.

  2. I totally disagree with Jason B. It seems whenever a christian debate arises, the ignorance card is always played. To assert that personal experience is a prereq for knowledge is like saying you can’t argue against porn without veiwing it. God gave us the truth and that is what we need, not necessarily to understand the perspectives of those who believe a lie (I speak in general, not about catholics specifically). To reach a catholic that may have misguided theology it is necessary to understand their theology but it is not necessary to “become” a catholic to argue against the theology we feel is misleading. Yes, I have been to a catholic mass and wedding but it has done nothing to help me find the truth about protestantism or catholisism. I do research on what the catholic church claims to believe and that is enough for me to argue at least on an intellectual level.

  3. Thanks to Jason for attempting to keep this discussion focused. Sorry for my tangents. I will try to stick to sola scriptura.

  4. Jason B.:
    When was the last time any of you posters went to mass? Recieved the Holy Eucharist? Have you been through the religious classes required to join a Catholic church? I have not been to mass in a long, long time. I have never taken communion in a Catholic church, mostly because I have never been to confession.

    I would definitely not recommend receiving the Eucharist in a Catholic church. They do not allow any non-Catholics (except for Eastern Orthodox) to partake in the Mass, due to St. Paul’s warning about discerning the body and blood of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11. That being said, yes, I have attended a Catholic Mass once, a few months back (with Jason W.). But, as David noted, doing so did not really guide me into any sort of intellectual knowledge about what Catholics teach. If you want that, pick up a copy of the Catechism at Borders.

  5. I’ll agree with David and Jon here, an indepth knowledge of Catholic ceremony and such does not really provide a foundation for a logical debate. More often that not it serves to obfuscate the issue, bringing up any number of things depending on how much you liked the service or such. David brings up a good point, concerning not having to have personal experience with something before being able to discuss it on a rational level. The US government teaches people to spot counterfit money by getting them so familiar with the real thing that when they come across a fake they notice because it doesn’t fit the picture of the real thing.

    You said you didn’t want to see any more uneducated guesses, and I completely agree. That’s what this debate is all about, founding are arguments on a solid agreed upon source, that of scripture. I’ve been doing some study some passages where scripture talks about itself and perhaps soon I’ll have some interesting comments to make. Til then.

  6. Excellent responses to all! I had not considered David’s argument that experience does not necessarily connote knowledge and is not always necessary. I think I will drop out of the sola scriptura debate for various reasons, such as a lack of knowledge and not much desire to continue to get trounced. Perhaps when I have more knowledge I can speak more on it, but for the time being, my ignorance seems to be showing!

    As a parting note about Catholicism, and in reference to my last post, I have very little experience with the doctrine and liturgy of the Catholic Church. As mentioned in the last post, my mother has a great deal of experience, mostly negative. In response to Jon’s statement that so many people misrepresent Catholic doctrine while in ignorance, I am guilty. Since hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law, I don’t feel qualified to speak based upon my mother’s experience. I do, however, feel compelled to understand why Catholics believe what they do, not just what they believe. The reasoning behind their convictions is just as important, if not more, than their actual beliefs. My mom always said that there was a lot of focus on Christ’s death, but not as much about his life, or the wonderful stories of the Old Testament. Is that true? How do I know? I can’t say for sure.

    I attend a Free Will Baptist Church (not so much on doctrine, but because I like the fellowship and I think that is God’s place for me now). I have attended for almost four years and there have been no sermons about how we have a free will and are not predestined. I am sure that many people in the church are not even knowledgeable about the differences in the doctrine. In this case, the doctrine is not so important a difference from, say Southern Baptists or even General Baptists. Where am I going with this? If a Catholic priest berates his parish with ideas about praying to the dead, purgatory, the Holy Eucharist, and other such divisive subjects, then yes, there is something wrong. But if he preaches on Christ’s sacrifice and how we should mimic Christ in our lives, then where is the issue? I recently read an exposition that had Dante and some guy named Paul discussing Purgatory. They came to the conclusion that one believed it would happen at once and one believed it would take a while, but that both of them would be in heaven. Are the differences so great that God does not accept both the Catholic and the Protestant?

    Not to sound pluralistic. Please don’t get me wrong. David said we could argue church doctrine with our minds. He is not incorrect. But I am more interested in what that laity is being taught. I do know that you must learn the holy sacraments, but what do they entail? How are they presented? Must you complete them to go to heaven? Is the Virgin Mary really sinless, as I have heard? What is the emphasis placed on these various aspects of church life for the common Catholic?

    I don’t know. That was the thesis of my last post. If this was not clear, then obviously my writing skills need honing. If I enroll in catechism class I will keep you all posted of my findings.

    By the way, (this is way off the subject!) I would like to have some people over to my house on Saturday, August 24, 2002. Everyone and their significant others, if applicable, is invited to my house in Saint Peters to fellowship, hang out, maybe BBQ, and perhaps we can discuss sola scriptura in person. My number is 636-441-0712 and my AOL screen name is jasonbutler42 if you want to contact me.

  7. You know… I hate too see you leave the debate Jason. In regards to the differences of the Catholic church and how they affect salvation, if I am not mistaken those differences are wide enough that salvation could be questioned. I do not mean to infer that all Catholic’s are doomed to hell, nor do I infer that all Protestants are going to heaven. I think the reason why the issue of sola scriptura is important is because the division is so wide and the consequences so vital. One of us is right, and the differences being what they are, a lot of people are being led in a lie and risk eternity by doing so. Not because we differ on the possible sinlessnes of Mary, but that the very nature of salvation is taught different, and because of this one must know for sure where to go to get the truth, and thus the importance of the sola scriptura doctrine and debate.

    The way I see it, some of the vital areas of study needed here lies in what the scriptures say about itself, early church history specifically the period of time before and directly after the cannonization of scripture. If we could start posting some reliable information, replete with source material, I think that would be a tremendous start.

  8. The way I see it, some of the vital areas of study needed here lies in what the scriptures say about itself, early church history specifically the period of time before and directly after the cannonization of scripture. If we could start posting some reliable information, replete with source material, I think that would be a tremendous start.

    This is a very good idea. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to what we think the Bible means; instead, we should go back to the time of the Apostles to see how their contemporaries understood their teachings. I don’t put much stock in what theologians today say if it is not grounded in what the early Church believed. Trying to understand the Bible as though it fell out of the sky into our hands is like trying to reinvent the wheel. Sure, maybe some of the ancient wheels are getting a little cracked and worn, but we should work to repair them, not create new ones. What an odd analogy that is…

    If you want to read the source documents from the early Church, browse around the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and click on “Church Fathers.” I very much want to get my hands on a printed edition of all these works, but the library doesn’t have them, and they’re expensive to buy.

  9. I hate to comment on this cause I feel it is off the subject but I do have to say that I agree to a large degree with Jason B on this one. I think there are two basic kinds of catholics; saved and unsaved (Just as there are two kinds of protestants). The foundational issues are those we find unity on. I will also say that I think JWall is right in that strictly on a theological basis, the differences may be “wide enough that salvation could be questioned.” (Hope I am not misquoting JWall, sorry if I am). On the other hand, the theif on the cross did not know theology and was still saved. So I think even a heretic that has faith in Jesus will also be saved. “For by grace are you saved through faith” Likewise there will be protestants that claim faith but rather live works (Paul was constantly reprimanding churches for this crime). Yes, I think theology and a right knowledge of God is very important, more important than a knowledge of anything else. I do think we should be careful to avoid condemning individual catholics (I feel like no one has yet) and assuming that if the church theology is in fact wrong, then the individual theolgy and or salvation may be wrong. Any way enough rambling from me. I will write on sola scripturia someday ;)

  10. Whew. I wish I were able to monitor this discussion a litttle more frequently.

    Ya’ll are on the right track though. The areas where doctinal issues can be dangerous if wrong are where they affect our understanding of Salvation. The Christian faith is nothing if Salvation does not exist. There is no greater thing to know than Salvation. The Issue of Sola Scriptura is therefore important to me because it is the foundation of my salvation. The Bible does indeed have some very good things to say concerning itself. I would be interested in seeing what everyone else can come up with on the Scriptures commenting on the Scriptures. The Word is referred to many times in Scripture and always as a living force or entity if you will with the power to affect our lives. I shall do some research later tonight and post the results on my WebLog.

    Type to yall later…

  11. I have posted those thoughts on my WebLog feel free to check them out along with a verse list for further research.

  12. These are the verses that Jeremy listed on his site: verses

  13. Looking over that verse list Jeremy compiled, I think it ought to be paired down a bit. Some of the passages are talking about ‘The Word of God’ which is somewhat under contention here, for at this point we are trying to determine from what sources ‘The Word of God’ is available at this current time.

    A note to those posting, certain characters will sometimes cause problems with the post. When I have time I will try to corrent them, but till then avoid using tabs, and the double quotation mark, and the <,>, and & characters, unless you are using an HTML tag. If you have need of those you can use the HTML character codes. Thanks.

  14. I agree. Many of those passages don’t have anything to do with Scripture. Many references to the “Word of God” refer either to Jesus Himself, or to the preaching of the Apostles.

  15. I posted those verses only so you could see which ones I had checked out so far. You are right in that many of them do not have a direct reference to the Scriptures. However since the issue at hand is whether or not the Scriptures are the only or final source of truth any passage which refers to such can be considered of value. As to their being references to Jesus or The Apostles speaking I consider all such passages useful in the debate to establish what was at that time considered a source of Truth. Thus my reference to them in my study. I hope time permitting to have a more detailed examination of them in the future. That is if my other duties and my ongoing study of the tower of Babel do not get in the way

  16. Hi all. I’m one of Jason Wall’s coworkers. He mentioned to me that this discussion was going on. I’ve caught up on all the posts, and I can’t resist jumping in.

    I can’t really say whether I believe in sola scriptura because I’m not sure I have have a good understanding of what is meant by the doctrine, but I’ll try to spell out my thoughts on the subject.

    I don’t believe that the Bible is our “sole source of truth.” Jonathan is correct that it never makes that claim for itself. To the contrary, “the heavens declare the glory of God” as Jeremy pointed out, and Rom 1:19-20 makes it clear that some of God’s attributes can be seen in His creation, so that no one is without excuse.

    I do believe the Bible is authoritative in all matters of which it speaks. I think it does make this claim for itself. 2 Tim 3:16 states that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (God said it – it is His word), and John 17:17 says “Thy word is truth”.

    I don’t think God has left vital special revelation out of the Bible. 2 Tim 3:14 indicates that scripture is adequate to equip the man of God for every good work.

    I do think that some church tradition has value. I have often heard even Protestants refer to church traditions, such as the tradition that Peter was crucified upside down because didn’t consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. The Bible itself seems to use tradition on occasion. For instance, the book of Jude mentions a dispute between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. It also quotes a prophesy from Enoch. I suppose it is possible that God revealed this information directly to Jude, but I think it’s more likely that this was Jewish tradition that had been passed down through the ages. I say this because both traditions are spelled out more fully in apocryphal Jewish works (the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch).

    I don’t think we can dismiss the possiblility that God may reveal something that is not contained in the canon of scripture we know today. I agree with Jonathan that 1 Cor 13:8-10 doesn’t prove that the gifts of prophesy, tounges, and knowledge have ceased. I believe the better interpretation is that these will cease when we reach heaven. I say this because of verse 12 – “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” We certainly don’t know fully now, or there would be no need for this discussion.

    If someone claims to be speaking for God, how do we know whether to believe them? The Bible gives several principles to guide us. Any predictions they make must come true (Deut 18:21-22). They must confess that Jesus came in the flesh from God (1 John 4:1-3). They cannot contradict the gospel that has already been revealed (Gal 1:8). In addition, it seems to be a pattern that when God reveals something new, he enables the messenger to perform miracles that confirm the message. I admit that I haven’t investigated many claims, but I’m not aware of any fresh revelations of truth.

    In NT times, it seems obvious that at least the vast majority of the heritage of revealed truth was contained in the OT scripture, not entrusted to Jewish tradition. I mentioned that the NT does seems to refer to some tradition, but these references are few and far between, and none of them to my knowledge contain significant doctrines. On the other hand, the NT refers to the OT hundreds if not thousands of times. Sixty of the quotes are identified with the catch-phrase “it is written” in my NASB. This indicates to me that scripture was considered the authority. The canon has expanded, but I see no reason to doubt that scripture is still to be our authority in all matters where it speaks.

  17. I’m not really certain where we should start this discussion. Perhaps a good starting place would be to examine the basis for our acceptance of Scripture in the first place. Protestants and Catholics alike agree that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, but they have slightly differing views on the reasons for its inspiration and acceptance. We can quote Bible verses at each other all day long, but what we really need is to build a case for the inspiration of Scripture. I think that doing that will help us understand why we believe in the Bible.

  18. Very good comments Chris, you made some very good points. I do think that Jon is right. Unless we can establish what basis we have for the inspiration of scripture. Furthermore we need to establish why we believe the canon as it stands now fits the category of inspired scripture. I assume that most reading and following this discussion believe the 66 books in the current Bible canon are Inspired. Some may include other books however such as the Apocryphal books. A shared definition for both would be essential for any clear discussion. Any one out there feel up to saying what they believe on those subjects and why? I may post on it later but I am at work right now and have a lot of things to take care of so bye for now

  19. Oh, you mean me? Well, I suppose I could do that… perhaps tonight if I have the time. I’ll have to prepare my mind for another theological onslaught.

  20. Sorry Jon, I am going to beat you to it. One of my prior engagements was rescheduled for a later time so I am using my newfound moment of freedom to post a small response to myself.

    1. I believe that the 66 books Genesis to Revelation are the inspired Word of God.(2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pe 1:21)
    2. I believe that because they are the inspired Word of God they are infallible. (2 Tim 3:16; Ps 19:8, 111:7; Eze 12:25; Mt. 5:18)
    3. I believe that because they are infallible they are useful as a measuring stick against other sources of information.
    4. I believe as a result any source of information that disagrees with those 66 books can be be true or correct.

    Since I believe that the Bible is infallible that is my foundation for “Knowing” anything is true. As an established source of Truth I can trust it. Any Source that Disagrees with it must therefore be untrue. I think that God speaks to us in many ways, but I also think that the bible is the single most trustworthy way he does so. Anything I read in it TRUE. I guess I lean ,not so much toward Scripture Alone, as toward Scripture infallible. If I ever come across a person, writing, tradition, or custom which disagrees with the Scripture then I must discount it as untrue. I do allow discussion as to what the Scripture actually means about various subjects but I do not allow discussion as to whether it is true. There is a fine distinction but an important one there.

    I will never accept that Scripture is wrong. Anything else may or may not be wrong but Scripture is never wrong. In a dispute between Scripture and the Pope, my pastor, Literature or church tradition. I must always side with scripture.

    Hope that made sense to you folks.

  21. Small note:

    On my final point labled D it is supposed to read: “I believe as a result any source of information that disagrees with those 66 books cant be be true or correct”.

    Not: “I believe as a result any source of information that disagrees with those 66 books can be be true or correct.”

  22. Interesting thought. Making a case that the Bible is infallible based on the Bible presupposes that the Bible is infallible. Making a case that the Bible is infallible based on our own logic or observations sets us up as the ultimate evaluators of truth. I have heard both arguments, which is better???

  23. Aside from asking difficult questions, I guess I will try to express my conviction that the scripture (Bible as we know it) is wholly accurate, complete, and infallible. First, is the testimony of the physical, all that I see, hear, and learn as I grow, if analyzed correctly, can and does support the entirety of scripture as truthful. I realize that this is a very limited support but it is there none-the-less. Next is the testimony of God in the word of God. Yes it does sound a little like circular reasoning but the Bible does claim for itself to be inspired, and truthful. This is important to me because if it didn’t, I could have infinitely more questions than I do now. Finally there is the testimony of the Spirit. Again this is not fool-proof either. Mormons especially appeal to the testimony of the Spirit and I don’t believe they have the truth. But, for what it is worth I feel in my heart that the scripture is in fact the word of God. I don’t know at this point which one testimony would be most impressive. I do accept the Bible for all of these reasons.

  24. I have been reticient in posting, and I offer my most humble apologies. I have been watching the posts, and I think we still are wandering off the main line of reasoning for this debate.

    There is no dissagreement on the infallibility of scripture, but on the existence of other infallible sources in today current time. There were other sources of infallible truth during the days of the OT, and during the formative years of the NT, and those are not in contention. The question is, did those sources at some point in time cease leaving scripture as the sole infallible source available to us as Christians today.

    My argument has been that not only does scripture fortell the ceasing of those sources, but it states that it is enough if scripture is all we have. I have used 1 Cor 13 in the past as a reference to that effect, but it has been disputed by a couple people, and thus I feel that it would be good to post my reasons for thinking that passage. I will be posting a new post concerning just that passage within the next week, so look for that. Perhaps if we can come upon an agreement for that passage we will have a basis for moving on to some of the other key issues here.

  25. Dave, I’m not sure that your post really answers the question I raised (and here rephrased): Why do we believe the Bible to be inspired, infallible Scripture?

    Let’s start back in history a bit. At the time of Jesus, the “Bible” of the Jewish people was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures:

    The Septuagint, commonly designated LXX, is the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament of the Bible, the title “seventy” referring to the tradition that it was the work of 70 translators (or 72 in some traditions). The translation was made from the Hebrew Bible by Hellenistic Jews during the period 275 – 100 BC at Alexandria.

    The term is derived from the Latin word septuaginta (“seventy”; hence, the customary abbreviation LXX), which refers to the 70 (or 72) translators who were once believed to have been appointed by the Jewish high priest of the time to render the Hebrew Bible into Greek at the behest of the Hellenistic emperor Ptolemy II.
    (Source: History of the Bible: Septuagint.)

    From what I understand, the Jewish people did not have a set canon of Scripture until the Septuagint (LXX), and afterwards, many people still disagreed with the canon of the LXX. For instance, the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, claimed that only the Torah (the five books of Moses) should be considered as Scripture. However, Jesus and the Apostles apparently used the LXX as their “Bible,” since nearly every scriptural quote we have from them is straight from the Greek LXX (I don’t have a source for this off the top of my head, but I have heard this asserted a number of times).

    One thing of interest about the LXX is that its canon included what we would call the Apocrypha, which Martin Luther excised from the canon of Scripture. This is important, because the Bible that Jesus and the Apostles used and quoted apparently included books which are not in today’s Protestant Bibles. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, a group of Jewish rabbis met in the city of Jamnia to form their own scriptural canon. In doing so, they removed every book for which they did not have a Hebrew original (i.e., the “apocryphal” books). The Church rejected this canon, and reaffirmed the canon of the LXX. It wasn’t until the Reformation that this canon was denied. (Source: Questions About the Biblical Canon.)

    During the first centuries of the Church, the canon of the New Testament was greatly debated. Here are a few examples:

    • The Ethiopian Orthodox church adds four extra books to its New Testament, and another two to the Old Testament.
    • Writing around 300 AD Eusebius, the historian of the early church, listed Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation as dubious or false.
    • The Syrian Orthodox and Chaldean Syrian traditions continue to reject 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
    • Irenaeus, who is credited with standardizing the number of gospels at the present four, included a book called The Revelation of Peter in his canon.
    • Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete New Testament manuscript that has come down to us (fourth century AD) includes Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas.
    • As late as the fifth century the Codex Alexandrinus included 1 and 2 Clement.

    (Source: ibid)

    These disputes were more or less settled at a council held in Carthage, where the list of canonical books was set. (Source: African Canons (Carthage) – Canon XXIV.) This canon was never seriously contested until the Protestant Reformation, at which time it was reaffirmed at the Council of Trent.

    Something to note is that the Church councils believed that they had the right and ability to authoritatively declare what the canon of Scripture was. They certainly did a great deal of research to examine the veracity of each book considered, but at the end of the day, it came down to the Church declaring what the canon was in order to settle the matter.

    I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit “verifies” the books of the Bible for Christians in some cases, nor that its internal consistency is great evidence for its inspiration, but only an authoritative declaration from the Church was able to settle the matter of which books should be included. So, I think that in the issue of the canon, the burden of proof is on the Protestant who denies the canon laid down before the time of Christ. And, if the Church was right to claim such authority in declaring such matters, then apparently the Church is necessary for a correct understanding of doctrine and morals. That is, the Bible alone is not sufficient for such things.

  26. Very well reasoned response Jon. I like your clear thinking and well worded posts.

    I have a return question for you. Given the state of flux the canon has been in through the centuries, with the addition and subtraction of various books, and the fragmentation of denominations and Church Bodies even of the Orthodox churches. Where can you make an authoritative decision on what is the Word of God and what is not? I personally believe that God is actively working to preserve his Word and keep it unchanged. Thus I believe that one way to know is to examine those books in the canon which have consistently been selected as Inspired. This requires faith in His Spirit guiding the selection process but with books like Genesis, John, and others which have consistently met the test I believe we can trust that they are the infallible Word of God. Given a known infallible source all other sources must be somewhat secondary to that infallible source. Also, for any other source to be considered infallible it must agree with the prior infallible source.

  27. Where can you make an authoritative decision on what is the Word of God and what is not?

    That’s a very good question, and it’s also the reason why ultimately this all falls back on ecclesiology, not bibliology (is that the right word?). Our understanding of Scripture necessarily flows from our understanding of the what the Church is. If our beliefs about the Church are wrong, then our beliefs about Scripture are going to be at least partially wrong. We only believe what we believe about the Bible because we are taught by our pastors and teachers, and their understanding comes from whatever church authority is over them (if any). We can’t just assume something about Scripture and then figure out about the Church; it has to be the other way around.

  28. Hey everyone. I know I said I would drop out, but reading through the recent posts piqued my interest again.
    This debate is discussing whether or not scripture is the only thing neccessary to a Christian’s life, right? I would go further and ask, is scripture even neccessary for a Christian? Sure it helps us out by giving documentation of past events and a physical source to refer to, but would it be possible to be a Christian, serve God, and go to heaven having never so much as seen a bible?
    Jon’s thinking comes from a very good historical source. Before the new testament was canonized, what did the early Christians use? The old testament. (BTW, excellent work on the research Jon. That’s what I like to see!) Jon has really done his homework. He is able to do that because the church has done very well in keeping records.

  29. At this point I would like to make a few informatory comments. The early church depended upon the OT as well as the NT Prophets for instruction and development of the early church. Remember also that the Apostles were there to give instruction and leadership, having learned from Christ Himself what they needed to know to establish and carry on the work of the Church.

    Is scripture necessary to be a Christian? No, faith in Christ and belief on His death and ressurection are necessary to be a Christian. Yet without the Word, in some form or another, a Christian is berift of many things vital to his growth, perhaps even of ever having faith, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

    The issue here in this debate is what are the sources of God’s word. We all agree that scripture is God’s word and infallible. We all agree that prophets and holy men of God spoke God’s word to man in times past. We now must decide if those voices still speak God’s word, or have they fallen silent?

    The Word of God determines both bibliology and ecclesiology, and the veracity and authority of both.

  30. In regards to the formation of the Bible a set of small histories can be found here, a table at the bottom of this page details a little on which books were considered canon and when.

  31. Jon, you mentioned that the septuagint was used by the early church and you use that as a basis for the inclusion of the aphocrypha. I just wanted to point out that it was reasonable for the church at that time to use the only greek translation available of the Hebrew texts. The Hebrews did not consider the apocryphal books as authoritative, but included them for their historical significance. Here is a somewhat more detailed explanation of some of the reasons why it was not included as an authoritative voice.

  32. James Huckabee on

    A few thoughts:

    1) The canon was not invented by the Church- it was discovered. God gave it, the Holy Spirit led the early believers to it, and they codified it.

    2) In order for a book to be considered inspired, it had, among other things, to be written by an apostle or prophet, or someone who had close association with one (Luke and Mark, to Paul and Peter respectively). The problem is in how you define apostle. The Catholics would say there is an unbroken succession of apostles, in the person of the Pope. In point of fact, apostles may only be commissioned by Christ Himself. He called the 11 disciples personally prior to His crucifixtion, and Paul on the road to Damascus following His ascension. Thus the issue over scripture. If you correctly reject the extra-biblical concept of the papacy, then you must reject anything other than the 27 books of the NT canon.

    As to whether the Bible claims authority, it does, in several places:

    “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
    For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
    But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
    For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:8-12

    Scripture is a work of prophecy, received from God by those to whom He selected to give it (one of the special purposes of the apostles, to either receive the Scripture of the NT themself, or validate the revelation received by others).

    “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life.” Revelation 22:18-19

    The words of John, under inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Pretty clear warning not to add to or take away from the revelation of God. Some hold, as do I, that since this is the last book of the NT canon, that this also applies retroactively to the books given before it. Among other things, we know from Church history that John, who lived the longest, as Christ said He would, used his apostolic authority and the wisdom he had from God to verify the many documents floating around towards the end of the first century, as to which were authentic, inspired documents, and which were Gnostic counterfeits.

    The NT canon closed with Revelation, near the end of the first century, and no other revelation was given thereafter.

    As to why it took ’til the Council of Carthage for this to be formally codified, it doesn’t mean that the authenticity of the canon was in question before then, or that the churches had not discovered it, but only that this was the formal proceeding declaring its existance. What doubts may have existed at the time about Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, James, and Revelation, were resolved by the fourth century, and stemmed primarily from some bad documents of Alexandrian extraction in circulation that cast a bad light on these inspired books. But God preserved His word (Psalm 12:6-7), and good copies survived, to validate these books also, who along with the other proofs of canonicity, were recognized as canon also.

    “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Deut 12:32

    “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do [them], that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
    Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deut 4:1-2

    “Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
    Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

    Some OT references, in case you were wondering about the OT canon, which Jesus refers to in Luke 24:44.

    That pretty well sums it up. The Bible really is God-breathed. As soon as we begin to accept that it was in any way a Church creation, then its very authority becomes questionable, and even interchangable with the writings of other religions, who did create their scriptures. At some point you have to accept, with the same faith that you accepted Christ, that the Bible is God’s work, and, on the basis of your trust in Him, that He has preserved it exactly as He intended it to be received by His church.

    “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

  33. I don’t check the internet as much now that I am not working. I agree with James quite a bit but I will say that I hold most of those because I find it consistent with that which I hold to be true and not because those ideas are biblically obvious. For the entirety of the old testament time period and the in the new testament God was communicating with man through prophecy and maybe tongues (at times) and through Jesus (special occurrence). The Word of God, whether in spoken or written form, should always be considered infallible. Now, I have not yet heard a good biblical argument that God does not speak to man through prophecy today so I would say the Bible is not the only infallible source today. That being said, I do think that the Bible is and claims to be wholly sufficient for all Christians everywhere. Why then do I believe that prophecy exists if it is not necessary? (ie. the cessionist argument). Because the bible advocates prophecy and that is all the reason I need. Anyway that all aside, if the Bible is all sufficient then why must we argue if there are other infallible sources? If all we need is the Bible than it does not matter whether or not God speaks through the Pope. I know the argument becomes that an infallible interpreter is necessary for the correct interpretations. I understand this concept but I would like to distinguish, if possible, between the infallible interpretation of God’s Word and the infallible Word of God itself. I say this because, as I see it, an infallible interpreter of the Word of God has not yet appeared. Certainly, Catholicism has not interpreted the Bible infallibly. I believe there are some protestant sects that come pretty close to what I understand the Bible to say but even they are fallible (as I am). The Spirit is the only infallible interpreter of the infallible Word of God, and it seems that the Spirit chooses not to interpret all at once. So that is my take on the subject.

  34. James,

    I don’t have time to respond to your entire post at the moment, but I do have a few comments about some statements you made:

    1) The canon was not invented by the Church- it was discovered. God gave it, the Holy Spirit led the early believers to it, and they codified it.

    I don’t think that any Catholics would disagree with this. They would say that the Holy Spirit moved in the Councils to make them formulate the correct canon of Scripture. But – and this is important – the canon that they decided upon included the “Apocrypha.” Here is the canon listed at the Council of Carthage in the fourth century: African Canons: CANON XXIV.

    The problem is in how you define apostle. The Catholics would say there is an unbroken succession of apostles, in the person of the Pope. In point of fact, apostles may only be commissioned by Christ Himself. He called the 11 disciples personally prior to His crucifixtion, and Paul on the road to Damascus following His ascension. Thus the issue over scripture. If you correctly reject the extra-biblical concept of the papacy, then you must reject anything other than the 27 books of the NT canon.

    I don’t think that Catholics say that there is an unbroken line of apostles, but that there is apostolic succession in the office of the bishop. They believe that the twelve Apostles had a unique mission in the founding of the church that was not passed on in totality. For instance, the Catholic church does not expect to receive any more public revelation or additions to the canon of Scripture in this age. And, by the way, the Catholic canon of the New Testament is exactly the same at the Protestant canon (although Martin Luther tried to demote the status of James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation); it’s only the Old Testament canon that differs.

    Among other things, we know from Church history that John, who lived the longest, as Christ said He would, used his apostolic authority and the wisdom he had from God to verify the many documents floating around towards the end of the first century, as to which were authentic, inspired documents, and which were Gnostic counterfeits.

    I have never heard it claimed that John did any work in defining the canon. Do you have a source for this? Also, I don’t recall Jesus saying that John would outlive all the Apostles, though He does imply that John would outlive Peter.

    As soon as we begin to accept that it was in any way a Church creation, then its very authority becomes questionable, and even interchangable with the writings of other religions, who did create their scriptures.

    I don’t see what the big deal is in saying that the Bible was written and canonized by the Church. Were not the Apostles the building stones of the Church? Did they not write Scripture? The Bible comes from the very foundations of the Church, not from some people living hundreds of years after the fact.

    At some point you have to accept, with the same faith that you accepted Christ, that the Bible is God’s work, and, on the basis of your trust in Him, that He has preserved it exactly as He intended it to be received by His church.

    But I do believe that the Bible is God’s work (and word). Have I given the impression otherwise? I believe that the Bible is God’s word because the Holy Spirit, working through the Church, has defined it as such.

  35. Ahhh Symantics, such confusing and often wonderfully debatable symantics.

    Jon,
    I still think that if you have sources that you can define as true. Then it follows that any source which disagrees it must be defined as false. So again I ask you which source ranks as the highest on your scale. You can’t have multiple sources all ranking equally. “no man can serve two masters.” Inevitably you will end up with a disagreement between the sources. So which one would you choose. As an hypothetical example. The Pope speaking from the chair, I believe that’s the term, says we must embrace homosexual behavior as normal. The Bible on the other hand is very clear that Homosexual behavior is deviant and an abomination. In this situation who do you side with? There lies the real crux of this debate. What do you do when one the Church appears to disagree with Bible? You could perhaps say The True Church would not do so. But then you have just defined the church through agreement with the Bible, putting the Bible on a higher plane than the Church. In essence you got nowhere. The other option would of course be to say well since the Church disagrees with this piece of scripture then that verse or verses must not be true scripture. In which case, you have put the Church above the Bible. Either way you have to choose one and not having a clear choice from the beginning could make that messy. Myself I would prefer to lean on scripture since I can be certain it does not change, that God protects it, and it is useful for teaching, correction, and doctrine. That way I have a solid foundation on which to base my faith and not one of shifting sand as what I percieve as the church sometimes seems to be.

  36. small note:

    MY example was hypothetical and not meant to suggest the pope has or has not ever done such a thing. Please do not take is as anything other than what it is.

  37. This is so much fun… I’m probably going to start sounding like a broken record… I’ve enjoyed watching this thread for a few reasons, the foremost being that it roots out some misunderstandings between what is and what is not actually taught in differnt denominational groups.

    What I hoped to accomplish with the help of more knowledgeable people than myself is to establish the authenticity of extra-biblical revelations, and also the reliability of infallible interpretations. It is these two issues that compose the most key difference between Catholics and Protestants and the issue that Jon has taken up personally and has been defending as a sort of devils advocate, as he has not committed to either interpretation as yet.

    On another note, the issue of apocryphal writings and their inclusion into the canon weather that be true or false is of import to this discussion as it could be of use as source material to deciding the previous mention issues.

    In my research, I have come across sources claiming that the apocrypha was included in the cannon at Carthage and also that it was not. Is their perhaps some way to find a reliable determination on this?

  38. Bravo to Jon for aptly answering James’s assertions, I do think that Jeremy brings up a very important point that must be addressed. I know the ultimate issue is not catholics vs protestant, but I still see this as the proof-in-pudding. If the church has equal infalliblity status as the Bible (at least in the interpretaion thereof) then how could the two offer opposing ideas.

  39. Jeremy said:

    I still think that if you have sources that you can define as true. Then it follows that any source which disagrees it must be defined as false. So again I ask you which source ranks as the highest on your scale. You can’t have multiple sources all ranking equally. “no man can serve two masters.” Inevitably you will end up with a disagreement between the sources. So which one would you choose.

    Perhaps it would be constructive to talk about what “infallibility” is. Infallible simply means “not fallible,” or “without error.” It is a negative, not positive, assertion; i.e., it does not positively reveal truth, but rather negates falsehood. When the Apostles were writing the epistles, they may have written extensively about their grocery list, and it could be called infallible, but it would not be any sort of inspired Truth. In other words, they could have said things that everybody already knew, and even though it would be free from error, it would not be “revealed” in any special sense of the word. This is how the Catholic church views the infallibility of the pope. They do not say that the pope can define whatever he feels like, nor that the Holy Spirit reveals some previously-unknown spiritual Truth, but rather that when he speaks authoritatively, he will not make any mistakes.

    I think that this is a problem with the Protestant view of Scripture, because many people assume that every jot and tittle of the Bible is a Grand Revealed Spiritual Truth, when in reality most of the books are simply accounts laid down by eyewitnesses and investigators, or reiterations of oral teachings already in effect. The book of Revelation is nearly the only record of a direct revelation in the New Testament (although Jesus can be considered a revelation, Himself).

    But yes, if you have two sources that you consider true, and one contradicts the other, then at least one of them has to contain error. I would counter by saying that often what we consider to be contradictions are not really contradictions at all. For instance, there are certain parts of the Bible which seem to speak against each other, but do we not have faith that they can be reconciled, even if we do not understand precisely how? A skeptic of Christianity can come up with hard biblical passages all night long; a Protestant skeptic of Catholicism can come up with “unbiblical” teachings for a month.

    As an hypothetical example. The Pope speaking from the chair, I believe that’s the term, says we must embrace homosexual behavior as normal. The Bible on the other hand is very clear that Homosexual behavior is deviant and an abomination.

    I know that you’re only using this as a hypothetical situation, but it doesn’t seem particularly useful as such. Perhaps it would be more constructive if you could produce an official teaching which you think clearly contradicts what is taught in the Bible. We could discuss such an example, and not resort to “what-if’s”.

    In this situation who do you side with? There lies the real crux of this debate. What do you do when one the Church appears to disagree with Bible? You could perhaps say The True Church would not do so. But then you have just defined the church through agreement with the Bible, putting the Bible on a higher plane than the Church.

    First, I would point out that Jesus appointed the Church to be the pillar and foundation of Truth. It should be noted that Jesus never commissioned the Apostles to write books or epistles, nor did He command the Church to collect whatever writings the Apostles left (indeed, some of their letters are lost to us). It was the Church’s idea to collect a new canon of Scriptures for the New Covenant sometime in the third and fourth centuries, and it seems a little odd to use the Book that the Church put together against her like that.

    Further, Catholics believe that Peter and his successors were given a special gift of the Holy Spirit to keep from falling into heresy. They believe that this gift is implied in Jesus’ promises to Peter, and that it is passed on to succeeding generations of his bishopric. As such, no pope (it is said) can ever fall into a state of teaching heresy (though he may privately believe heresy), nor can he officially contradict the teachings of the Apostles which are contained in the Scriptures and in the oral Tradition passed on.

    The whole point hinges on whether or not one believes that Peter and his successors were given the special gift of infallibility, or “non-error”. Did Jesus really give that promise to Peter and the Church? If not, then you’re right in saying that popes and councils may err (or may not, as the case may be), though you still would have no other standard to judge them by, because the Scriptures exist in the first place only on the Church’s authority. But if Jesus did give that promise to Peter, then one would be asked to trust the pope even when he doesn’t seem to make sense, just as you would trust the Bible even when it doesn’t make sense.

    Myself I would prefer to lean on scripture since I can be certain it does not change, that God protects it, and it is useful for teaching, correction, and doctrine. That way I have a solid foundation on which to base my faith and not one of shifting sand as what I percieve as the church sometimes seems to be.

    Here’s my question to you: What basis do you have for saying that the Bible is perfect, protected by God, and useful for teaching? How do you know this to be true? How do you know that the letters the Apostles wrote were protected from error? How do you know that the selected canon was correct? If you say that the Holy Spirit guided the Church to make the right choices, then why do you not trust that the Spirit guided the Church through the other choices and doctrines she has taught? It seems as though you are picking and choosing which teachings of the Church are correct without any basis but your own preferences. Why accept the Church’s teaching on the Bible, but deny her teaching on the Eucharist? Every doctrine a Protestant holds comes either from the Catholic church, either in its purity or in its corruption. There is no such truth as “the Bible alone,” because it is not good for Scripture to be alone. Isolation breeds discontent and, ultimately, heresy. If it is not Scripture and the Church then it is Scripture and the individual, and the tyranny of the one is infinitely worse than the tyranny of the many.

  40. Aside from a long succession of Popes, the infallibility of Peter comes into question. Did not Paul reprimand Peter for his hypocritical actions? Of course Peter may not have had a chair to speak from.
    It is accepted, by faith or otherwise, that Peter’s writings in the scripture are infallible (without error), But to say that Peter was made infallible (unable to fall into heresy) I think is unfounded and not supported by scripture.
    You say that scripture is given authority by the Church.
    “Scriptures exist in the first place only on the Church’s authority”
    Rather, any authority the church has today is given by scripture.
    You know the scriptures that support the infallibility of scripture, That all scripture is given by inspiration of God, that it is useful for doctrine, reproof, ect. Again it is circular reasoning to support the truth of scripture with scripture, but ultimately it comes down to a matter of faith.
    I disagree with your definition of infallibility, I do believe it asserts positive truth, There are only two options, one is truth, the other is non-truth, anything that is not non-truth is truth.
    Finally, you use the word Church as synonymous with Catholic Church, why? Why not a particular Protestant denomination or even Mormons? How can you prove that the succession of infallibility has flowed through the Papal line?

  41. Why do my posts always run together in one long paragraph? I divide it into many paragraphs when I write it and then I hit submit and boom, it becomes one long unreadable paragraph. Oh well.

  42. Dave,
    If you want your paragraphs to show up right, you need to learn a bit of HTML. Here’s the quick-and-dirty of it:

    <p>Normal paragraph</p>
    <blockquote>Quoted paragraph</blockquote>

    This will show up as this:

    Normal paragraph

    Quoted paragraph

    If you want to bold or italicize your text, do it like this: <i>italics</i> <b>bold</b>. (It will appear like this: italics bold.)

    For a normal line break, like
    so, type in <br>.

  43. My apologies… i never intended for the comments to become this kind of forum, and just ahven’t gotten around to converting line breaks and such. In fact, this seems like a good time to suggest moving this discussion over to Hucksworld Forums, graciously hosted by James. Anyone feel up to a summarization post to get us started over there?

  44. Hmm, I’m not sure that I really care to discuss this topic in a messageboard format. Personally, the way we’re doing it now is already tiring. Perhaps if one or two of you would like to continue, you could e-mail me at jon@mcstuff.net, and I could post your messages and my replies on my website. I think that such a setting would make all of us think a little more about what we’re saying before we say it. Here or on a messageboard, one tends to type out whatever he’s thinking before considering the validity of the arguments. If this would interest any of you, let me know.

  45. Thanks for the html help
    I personally like the format we have going here. it allows us to read back and keep track of the conversation better (maybe)

  46. I’m a Catholic googling around trying to find out what a “cessionist” is since the term came up on a listserv that I moderate and I never heard it before. This site was one of my hits and I notices the anti-Catholicism of the side bar and specifically the claim that the Catholic church believed in “the divinity of Mary.” I’d just like to say that that simply isn’t true. The Catholic Church does not believe that Mary is divine. We do believe that she was supremely blessed, hence the Blessed Virgin Mary and that she was the “God-bearer” — I do endore the comment that it is wrong to discuss that which you are ignorant of.

    I suppose Catholic instruction can be called “training classes” but that’s a bit amusing. The reason I’m amused is that they are usually so poor as to be worthless at least judging from my own parish’s classes. I would recommend at least going to a mass. You would be welcome and some of the most serious misunderstandings might be cleared up.

    The blessings of the Lord be with you all!

    Regards, Ray
    BTW what is “cessionism”? I found it applied to Tozer as an anti-cessionist.