Apologetics for the Masses #232 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks,

I'll be traveling to Kalamazoo this coming weekend (March 29th) for their 11th annual men's conference.  If you're in the area, I'd love to have you come out and say hello.  You can get more information on the conference at this website: http://www.newmansbookshoppe.com/mens-conference.html.

Also, I'll be speaking at the Mobile Catholic men's conference on Saturday, April 12th.  For more information on that: http://www.mobilecatholicmen.com/.

And, one more upcoming trip - I'll be speaking at the Napa Valley Catholic Men's Conference on Saturday, May 3rd.  More information can be had here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Napa-Valley-Catholic-Mens-Conference/136753363162840.

Lastly, I wanted to remind you about my latest YouTube video in the "Questions Protestants Can't Answer Series."  The topic is: "What is the only perfect offering that has ever been offered to God?" It's taken from Malachi 1:11 and it's basically an apologetic for the Mass.  You can check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUj6ZH_WCwI.


Okay, some more from my book, "Blue Collar Apologetics."  We're starting chapter 3...

Blue Collar Apologetics - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - The Bible and Authority - Sola Scriptura (The Bible...Alone?)

The First Pillar of Protestantism
Let me start off this chapter by quoting from Scripture.  This quote is from Romans 10:14, “But how are men to call upon Him in Whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never read?  And how are they to read without a book?”  

Uh...wait a minute.  Something is a bit off, isn’t it?  If that verse doesn’t sound quite right to you, there is good reason.  That’s not what Romans 10:14 actually says.  It is, however, essentially how Protestant Christians interpret that verse. You see, the one Protestant doctrine that could probably be called a universal Protestant doctrine, is this doctrine referred to as Sola Scriptura, which is Latin for Scripture Alone, or the Bible Alone.  It is the first pillar of Protestantism.  It is the Protestant dogma.

I’ve been talking a good bit about the consequences of belief in Sola Scriptura, without formally naming it, in the first two chapters of this book.  Sola Scriptura is the Protestant belief that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the sole authority, or the sole rule of faith, that one needs in order to know what is and is not authentic Christian teaching and practice.  This doctrine is opposed to the belief of Catholic Christians that both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are authoritative and that both are necessary when deciding what is and is not authentic Christian teaching and practice.  

I’ll talk more about Catholic teaching in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition later on in this chapter, but for right now I want to focus on this belief in Sola Scriptura and analyze it a bit more thoroughly.  

At first glance, it seems that Sola Scriptura is a fairly reasonable belief.  After all, most of those who call themselves Christian - Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox - believe the Scripture to be the Word of God, so to follow the Word of God, and the Word of God alone, in all matters of Christian faith and morals, only makes sense, right?  And, actually, for Catholics, it does indeed make sense to put the Word of God first in all matters Christian.  Catholics hold the Word of God in the utmost of respect and we are indeed called, by our Church, to honor it and follow it above all else.  So, what’s the problem then?  

Well, the problem is twofold: 1) Who defines what is and is not the Word of God?  And, 2) Who is it that can authentically interpret the Word of God?  You see, there have been disputes about what is and is not the Word of God, since even before the time of Jesus Himself.  The Sadducees and the Pharisees disputed amongst each other as to what was and was not the Word of God.  The early Christians disputed amongst themselves as to what was and was not the Word of God.  There were even ruptures in the early Church over the question of what was and was not the Word of God.  Protestants obviously disagree with Catholics as to what is and is not the Word of God.  So, who gets to decide what makes up the Word of God?  That’s a problem.  

And, even if you had a common understanding among all Christians as to what is and is not the Word of God, would that solve any and all of the problems that exist between Christians today?  No, it wouldn’t.  You see, there is no dispute among Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox over 66 of the books that are currently in the Bible.  Those 66 books are considered by all Christians to be the authentic Word of God.  The problem is, though, that the interpretations of those 66 books,  commonly recognized by all Christians as being the inspired Word of God, are all over the place from a doctrinal and moral standpoint.  So, even though they are universally recognized by Christians as being the Word of God, if you don’t have someone who can authentically interpret the Word of God, where does that leave you?  It leaves you with a problem.

Even though all Christians put the Word of God first, that doesn’t make all, or really any, of the problems with this dogma of Sola Scriptura go away.  So, I want to look at this dogma from three perspectives - the perspective provided by logic, the perspective provided by history, and the perspective provided by Scripture - in the hope of thoroughly refuting and discrediting it.  But, before I get into these three perspectives, there is an issue that I want to address.  The issue of Solo Scriptura vs. Sola Scriptura.  The importance of addressing the distinction that some make between Solo and Sola Scriptura may not be apparent at first, but you’ll understand why I feel the need to do those once we get into the arguments against Sola Scriptura, particularly the arguments from logic and from history.  

Solo Scriptura
I have been told, on two, maybe three, occasions, that the definition of Sola Scriptura that I gave above, and that I will use throughout this book, of Scripture being the sole rule of faith for the Christian, or the sole authority for the Christian in matters of faith and morals, is actually a definition of something called Solo Scriptura, not Sola Scriptura.  I have been told that the distinction between the two is very important, and that I am quite wrong, and quite ignorant, to confuse these two terms.  

So, what’s the difference?  Solo Scriptura, according to these folks, is the belief that Scripture is the only authority for the Christian on matters of faith and morals.  Sola Scriptura, however, is the belief that Scripture is the only infallible authority for the Christian when it comes to faith and morals.  So, according to these Sola Scriptura purists, there is authority within Christianity other than Scripture - the authority of the church, Church councils, tradition, the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Chalcedonian Creed), and so on - but since Scripture is the only infallible authority, that makes it the ultimate authority in Christianity, with all other authority being subordinate to the authority of Scripture.

This definition of Sola Scriptura allows the folks who believe in it to get around, so they think, some of the arguments from Catholics against Sola Scriptura.  Arguments which I will get into momentarily when I start talking about the perspective on Sola Scriptura provided by logic.  

There are problems, though, with this distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura that make it, in reality, a distinction without a difference.  First of all, why do I, as a Catholic, use the definition of Sola Scriptura that I gave above?  I use it because that is the definition that I have learned from...guess who?  Protestants.  The definition of Sola Scriptura that the vast majority of the Protestants I have talked with over the years - which is probably a couple of thousand or so - is that Scripture is the sole authority for Christians in all matters regarding faith and morals.  Period.  Forget about the church.  Forget about tradition.  Forget about anything else other than the Bible.  Oh, yes, there are other types of authority in Protestantism, for example, the pastor has the authority to buy a new stove for the church kitchen, or the deacons have the authority to hire a new pastor, and so on, but the only authority one need to consult on matters of faith and morals is the Bible, according to these folks.  

These Protestants I’ve heard from who accuse me of using a faulty definition of Sola Scriptura readily admit that the definition I use is indeed the working definition for a majority of Protestants today.  So I told them their problem, then, is with their fellow Protestants, and not with me.  I also asked them what authority they claim to have that they can tell me their definition of Sola Scriptura is the “real” definition of Sola Scriptura.  After all, who within Protestantism, gets to define such things?  The response I received to that question was quite intriguing.  They told me that their definition of Sola Scriptura, versus what they describe as Solo Scriptura, is the “classical definition” as used by the “Reformers.”  

Do you see the problem here?  The Sola Scriptura purists can trace their definition of Sola Scriptura all the way back to the teaching of the “Reformers,” i.e., Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, and so forth.  It is the “classical” Reformation teaching on the matter.  I was never told it was the classical Thomist teaching on Sola Scriptura.  Or the classical Augustinian teaching on Sola Scriptura.  Or the classical Patristic teaching on Sola Scriptura.  No, it was always the classical Reformation teaching on Sola Scriptura.  Which tells me that the Protestant teaching on Sola Scriptura that these purists hold to, can be traced back to the 1500's.  Go figure.

Another problem with this Solo vs. Sola Scriptura distinction, is that the folks who make this distinction actually argue with me as if Scripture is indeed the only authority on matters of faith and morals.  In other words, they may talk about other types of authority in Christianity besides Scripture, but when it comes down to arguing matters of doctrine with Catholics, what do they do?  They tell the Catholic that if it isn’t found in Scripture, then it can’t be an authentic Christian belief.  I have never, ever, had a Protestant appeal to the authority of the Church, or to a Church Council, or to tradition, or to one of the Ecumenical Creeds to tell me I was wrong.  Never!  

I have never had anyone tell me that some Catholic belief is contrary to one of the Ecumenical Creeds, or to one of the Church Councils, or to tradition, or anything of the sort.  The one and only question I get is: “Where is that in the Bible?”  And, should I appeal to Tradition, or to a Church Council, or to Church authority, I am always and forever told, “That’s not from the Bible, so I don’t have to accept it because it holds no authority.”  In other words, on the one hand, some folks try to make a distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura, but when it comes down to it, they argue from a Solo Scriptura position - that Scripture is the only authority in all matters pertaining to Christian doctrine and morals.  

Finally, one last problem with this whole Solo vs. Sola Scriptura thing.  In one of the major articles I’ve seen arguing that this distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura is a real and important distinction - an article written by a gentleman named Keith Mathison, who has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary - the author emphasized how Solo Scriptura, as opposed to Sola Scriptura, “...undermines the legitimate ecclesiastical authority established by Christ. It negates the duty to submit to those who rule over you, because it removes the possibility of an authoritative teaching office in the Church.”  

Uhmm...doesn’t that pretty much describe what Martin Luther did?  He undermined the “legitimate ecclesiastical authority established by Christ.”  And, he did not “submit to those who rule[d] over [him],” and he rejected the “authoritative teaching office of the Church.”  So, cannot one argue that Martin Luther was a believer in, and practitioner of, Solo Scriptura?  

I could go on for another few pages with more arguments on this matter, but I think what I’ve written so far will suffice to prove my point: The distinction between Solo vs. Sola Scriptura is a distinction without a difference.  Folks can argue all they want about some theoretical difference between the two, but when it comes down to it, there is no practical difference between the two, which is why the vast majority of Protestants hold to the definition of Sola Scriptura that I have given above, and which I will use throughout this book.  

I keep wondering how it is any Protestant who holds to the ideals of the “Reformation,” can  claim to believe that there is any authority other than Scripture, whether it be the authority of the Church or of tradition, when Martin Luther himself rejected and undermined that authority and did not adhere to his “duty to submit to those who rule over you?” 


I hope all of you have a great week.  I probably won't be able to get a newsletter out this coming week, as I'll be traveling, but I should be able to pick back up with chapter 3 the following week.  I hope and pray your Lent has been spiritually rewarding so far.  'Til next time...

Apologetics for the Masses