Monday, February 20, 2012

The Truth About "Sola Scriptura" or "Is That in the Bible?"

I have been amazed to discover that a large number of former Protestant ministers have become Catholic, and while each path was unique, a common thread was the discovery, one by one, that certain Catholic tenets of the faith were indeed scriptural, and that the Evangelical view these men previously held was a misrepresentation of Catholic beliefs and traditions. The Protestant Reformation was based upon the battle cries, "Sola Scriptura" and "Sola Fide," and it is the former that I will focus upon here, through the analysis of David B. Currie's Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. 

Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the only Christian authority. Some Protestants think that Catholics do not use the Bible, or think it is important, but that their traditions are the only authority. The truth is that Catholics read the Bible at every mass (church service), and are encouraged to read it on their own, and that the Bible is interpreted through the lens of Church Tradition, which includes those teachings passed down orally, not just those that are written. Tradition and Scripture are interdependent and cannot be separated. This is biblical:  "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Th 2:15).

Currie states, "This verse, even if it were the only one on this topic in the entire Bible (it is not), would mortally wound the Protestant view that Scripture is all we need to know of the will of God for our salvation. Elsewhere Paul instructs Timothy to take this truth he has learned and find men capable of protecting it and passing it on (note the emphasis on the oral nature of this truth): 'And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others' (2 Tim 2:2). This is a natural extension of Jesus' command to 'go and make disciples.' Christianity is a living religion, protected and passed on by people, not paper."

He goes on to say, "The verse I always used to quote on the sufficiency of Scripture actually reinforces the Catholic view:  'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness' (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible is useful for all these, but this verse certainly never promotes Scripture as the final authority for our faith."  In fact, in his studies of what the earliest Christians believed, Currie found such representative statements as, "The bishop embodies the authority of God the Father, him every mark of respect...defer to him". And again: "It is proper for you to act in agreement with the mind of the bishop; your unity taking your keynote from God, you may with one voice through Jesus Christ sing a song to the profits you, therefore, to continue in your flawless unity, that you may at all times have a share in God."  Passages such as these had previously prompted Currie to write to a friend, "For fifteen centuries the bishop was the final authority. Along came Protestant reformers and set up a new authority."

It is poignant to note in the above passages that the unity of the Church was so important. There was supposed to be only one Christian Church. Peter was the first head bishop (pope):  "And I also say that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build by church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mathew 16: 18, 19).

"By virtue of this divinely-appointed authority, the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture (what books belong in the Bible) at the end of the fourth century. We therefore believe in the Scriptures on the authority of the Catholic Church. After all, nothing in Scripture tells us what Scriptures are inspired, what books belong in the Bible, or that Scripture is the final authority on questions concerning the Christian faith. Instead, the Bible says that the Church, not the Scriptures, is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and the final arbiter on questions of the Christian faith (Matt. 18:17). It is through the teaching authority and Apostolic Tradition (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2) of this Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26; 16:13), that we know of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the manifold wisdom of God (cf. Ephesians 3:10)."  [This paragraph is from an online source.]

The Church spoken of in the Bible is today called the Catholic Church, which regards other Christian denominations as "separated brethern" and as fully Christian brothers and sisters. In contrast, I have heard Protestants say that Catholics are not real Christians or that they are not saved! Which reflects a truly Christian attitude of love? Here is the thing. Once the lid has been opened, you can't put it back on and deny that you have found the truth. The question should not be exclusively, "Where is that in the Bible?" but also, "What does the Church teach about our faith?" For me, obedience to God as a Christian means membership in his Church. That is why I am becoming Catholic, with all due respect to my fellow Christians who belong to other faith traditions.

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