Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #84

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Wow! What a response to last week’s newsletter! I received more than 10 times the normal number of responses…it numbered in the hundreds! I only received 3 or 4 negative responses, so I guess I’ll continue along the lines of what I outlined in the last newsletter.

To those who had objections, or concerns, let me say two things: 1) I will still be conducting exchanges with non-Catholics, it’s just that I’ll be adding these “revised” talks into the newsletter mix every so often; and 2) I will not be watering down the content of what I say. Making a talk more “Protestant-friendly” does not mean backing away from what I believe to be the truth. The main difference will be that when I give these talks, I will not be speaking in front of a Catholic audience, so I won’t be as energized and excited as I am when I talk to Catholics. I think some folks might be offended by my talks because they think I’m yelling at them, when actually I’m just fired up and passionate about my Faith. So, in these new talks, I’ll simply be more subdued and use some slightly different language, but I’ll essentially be saying the same things. Same gift, different package, so to speak.

To those who had suggestions for what topics I should cover, I want to reiterate that these will be updates of my current set of talks. I will start with Sola Scriptura, then move to Sola Fide, and go from there. After I’ve revised the current set of talks, I may look to add a new talk or two – on the Inquisition; the Crusades; the Divinity of Christ; etc. – but that will only be after I finish going through the current list.

One last thing, off the topic, but I understand a number of you received an “Opinion Poll” from our ol’ pal Dr. Joe Mizzi. In this survey, Dr. Mizzi asks the following question:

“According to the Bible, whose faith is accounted for righteousness?

* He who does not work but believes (33 votes) 29%

* He who works and believes (79 votes) 71%”

He is, of course, trying to show that the Bible states that it is “he who does not work but believes,” (Rom 4:5) whose faith is counted as righteousness; therefore, according to Joe, Catholics are going against the Bible when we teach that works have a role in our salvation. And, he will undoubtedly publish the “Catholic Opinion Poll” on his website in a dishonest attempt to show how Catholic belief “contradicts” the Bible.

The problem is that Joe has not taken into account all of the Bible. He has focused on one verse and left the rest of the Bible completely out of the picture. (That’s so unlike him!) So, I propose we send our own Opinion Poll to Joe to help him broaden his perspective on Scripture a bit.

I would ask everyone who received Dr. Mizzi’s “Opinion Poll” (and anyone else who may want to do this) to copy and paste the following “Opinion Poll” into an email and send it to Joe, to see how he answers:

Opinion Poll:

1) According to the Bible, God renders eternal life to every man according to what?

a) His works

b) His faith alone

2) According to the Bible, a man is justified by?

a) Works

b) Faith alone

The answer in both instances is, of course, (a) – but don’t tell Joe that, we’ll just wait and see how he answers, if he does. The pertinent Bible passages for these questions are Rom 2:6-8 and James 2:24, respectively.

I’m more than happy to take any “opinion poll” Joe comes up with, but I doubt he’ll be so willing to take one of mine.

One more thing. If you do not want to receive any more emails from Dr. Mizzi, send him an email to let him know. If he continues to send you emails after you request that he not do it, please let me know. If he does not honor your requests, it could end up causing him some problems.


This is continuing the revised talk on Sola Scriptura that I started last week. I’ll reprint the intro I wrote last week (with updates) and then go from there.

You’ll notice that I made a few changes to what I wrote last week based on your feedback. First, I went with “non-Catholic Christian” vs. “Protestant”. My original thinking was that non-Catholic Christian was too broad, since it includes Orthodox Christians as well, but I guess the Orthodox folk, should you come across any, will figure out that these talks are not, for the most part, aimed at them.

Second, I added the words “authority” and “binding” and “rule of faith” and “infallible” in the definition of Sola Scriptura because some folks complained that the original wording came across as being too narrow. There is a debate within Protestantism over a particular nuance of Sola Scriptura that some have come to call “solo” scriptura. In addition to it being bad Latin, “solo” scriptura is a nuance without any substantive difference from “sola” scriptura. But, I was told that my original wording sounded like “solo” scriptura rather than “sola” scriptura, so if I can make more people happy by including those words that I have now included…well, as you all know, I’m all about making people happy.

Third, I added some Bible verses in my discussion on how logic and history cannot be dismissed in this discussion. And, finally, I put in some words up front about how Catholics view Scripture so that it is clear that I am taking issue with a particular doctrine, and not with the Bible itself.

So, thank you to all who wrote in with comments, they are much appreciated and they have all been read and some incorporated into the text. Please let me know what you think about what I’ve added in this issue.


Sola Scriptura

This is the first of a series of talks addressed to non-Catholic Christians. Not to all non-Catholic Christians, but specifically those who are not Eastern Orthodox. Some of the names applied to these Christians are: Baptists, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Church of God, and so on. To avoid having to repeat the names of the various faith traditions over and over again, however, I will simply refer to all of these folks as “non-Catholic Christians”, or just “non-Catholics”. I am not doing this to diminish anyone’s faith tradition in any way, shape, or form, but simply to make this talk easier to follow.

Having said that, I want to start off this series by addressing the topic that seems to be the one common thread running throughout most, if not all, of the non-Catholic faith traditions. That is the topic of Sola Scriptura. There are two basic doctrines that separate Catholic Christians from non-Catholic Christians. Those two being: “Sola Scriptura” – which means Scripture Alone; and “Sola Fide” – which means Faith Alone. There are other doctrines that separate us as well, but these are the two basic ones. Now, while I have come across non-Catholics who do not believe in the doctrine of Sola Fide, I have yet to come across any who do not believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. That’s not to say there aren’t any, I’m just saying that I haven’t run into any.

So, near as I can tell, this doctrine of Sola Scriptura is the one doctrine that all, or almost all, non-Catholic Christians believe in. Which is why I wanted to start the discussion here.

First, let me define the term “Sola Scriptura” so that you know what I mean when I use the term. It is simply 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.

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.

Using that definition as a basis for this talk, I wish to examine this doctrine from several different angles, ask some questions about it, and contrast it with Catholic teaching. And, speaking of Catholic teaching, I want to say at the outset that Catholics hold the Bible in the highest of regard. We believe it is the Holy Spirit-inspired…inerrant…Word of God. The Scriptures are central to Catholic Christian belief and practice.

Having said that, however, we do not believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura – the doctrine that Scripture “alone” is the sole rule of faith for the Christian. In other words, the issue here is not the Bible, but rather a particular doctrinal belief. And this talk is all about explaining why we don’t believe that particular doctrine. And, as in anything where persuasion is involved, my hope is that you would, after examination and prayer, accept what I have to say on this matter as being true; however, my prayer is that, at the least, you will be able to see that the argument against Sola Scriptura is a substantive one and that you might find yourself thinking, “Well, I may not agree with the Catholics on this, but I can better understand the reasons for why they believe as they do.” In other words, I am hoping this talk will promote better understanding between faith traditions.

Now, I will examine this teaching on Sola Scriptura from three different perspectives – logical, historical, and scriptural – and show that it has difficulty passing the test in all three of these areas. In the past, some that I’ve talked to have moved to immediately dismiss the first two perspectives, since they believe Scripture alone is sufficient to decide the issue. But, I would remind them that God gave us our minds and He told us that we must love Him with all of our mind, as well as our heart (Matt 22:37). In addition, we see from 1 Cor 12 that wisdom and knowledge are gifts of the Spirit, and in Isaiah 1:18, the Lord says, “Come, let us reason together.” Logic, good logic, is of God.

Also, God is the Lord of history. What happened in history, particularly in Christian history, is very important for us to know. The early Christians are important witnesses as to what Christianity was in their time, and thus to what it ought to be in our time. So to simply dismiss logic and history, out-of-hand, as not being important perspectives to consider when it comes to Christian teaching and practice, is to dismiss the God Who gave us our brains and told us to use them in loving Him and to dismiss the testimony of those who gave their lives to defend and preserve the Faith that we hold so dear. So, I will start with logic and history, then move on to Scripture, where I will spend the majority of my time.

The Perspective Provided by Logic:

All Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, consider the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, Word of God. But the question that needs to be asked is: Why? Why do we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, Word of God? What authority do we rely upon for our belief that the Bible is what we believe it to be? Where did the Bible come from? Most people never consider these questions. They merely take it for granted that the Bible is what they believe it to be. But the fact is, everyone who believes the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, Word of God, relies on some authority, whether they realize it or not, for their beliefs about the Bible. But, what authority do they rely on? The Bible? Well, for those who believe that the Bible is the sole binding authority for the Christian, it must be the authority of the Bible that Christians rely on for their belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God.

But this presents a little bit of a problem. There is a logical inconsistency here. We cannot believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God, based solely on the authority of the Bible. Why not?

Three reasons: 1) The Bible cannot bear witness to itself. There are a number of writings that claim inspiration from God, but we don’t accept them as the inspired, inerrant, Word of God, just because they claim to be. The Koran being one very obvious example of this. If we should believe something is what it says it is, simply because it says it, then we should accept the Koran as the word of God. But, we don’t, do we? Just so, we cannot accept the Bible as the Word of God based solely upon the witness of the Bible. As Jesus Himself said, “If I bear witness to Myself, My testimony is not true,” (John 5:31).

2) The Bible never claims that it is the sole, infallible, authoritative source for all matters pertaining to Christian belief and practice. I will, however, explore this reason more in depth when discussing the perspective from Scripture in a few minutes.

3) We can’t even be sure of what the Bible is, if we rely on the authority of “Scripture alone” in matters of Christian belief and practice.

Let me explain why I say that. You see, the Bible wasn’t put together as we have it today for more than 300 years after the death of Christ. One of the problems in putting the Bible together was that there was a lot of disagreement, among Christians, over what should and should not be considered inspired Scripture. There were a lot of books back then that people were saying were inspired; yet, these books did not end up in the Bible as we have it today. Books such as the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, the Letter of Barnabas, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, and several more.

There were also several books that did end up in our Bible that a lot of people were saying were not inspired and should not be considered as part of Scripture…books such as Revelation, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, and others.

In other words, there was a lot of dispute over just what was and what wasn’t inspired Scripture. So, how did they settle the disputes? Well, according to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, you just look in the Bible to find the authoritative answer to any question regarding the Christian faith. So, did they consult the Bible to find out what books should be in the Bible? Obviously not…they couldn’t! There was no Bible to consult because Scripture was what the disputes were over.

So, the question is, how does someone who believes in Sola Scriptura go about deciding a dispute as to which books should and should not be considered Scripture? You cannot consult the Bible for an answer, because the Bible is what the dispute is over. And, even if you consulted the non-disputed books of the Bible, that still wouldn’t help you because there is no list in any book of the Bible that tells us which books should be in the Bible.

So, in order to decide one of the most fundamental issues of Christianity…which books should and should not be in the Bible…which books are and are not inspired Scripture… some authority outside of the Bible had to be relied upon.

So, again, a big problem for those who believe that the Bible is the sole binding authority in matters of faith and morals, is that the Bible doesn’t tell us which books should be in the Bible! There is no list, in the Bible, of which books should be in the Bible. Some person, or group of persons, had to decide which books were, and which books were not, inspired Scripture. Think about it! In order to know which books should and should not be inside the Bible, we have to rely on some authority outside of the Bible to tell us. But, the belief in Sola Scriptura states that the Bible is the sole authority in matters of Christian belief and practice.

Which presents a logical dilemma. The question of where the Bible came from presents the same kind of problem to those who believe in Sola Scriptura, as the question of where matter came from presents to those who believe in evolution, yet do not believe in God. If you believe in evolution, you have to believe the matter used in evolution came from somewhere. But, if there is no God, then where did matter come from? If you believe in Sola Scriptura, you have to believe the Bible came from somewhere. But, if there is no binding authority outside of the Bible, then where did the Bible come from?

In other words, if you believe in Sola Scriptura, you believe in something that is logically inconsistent. You believe the Bible is the sole authority in deciding Christian belief and practice; yet, you believe in a binding authority outside of the Bible which gave us the Bible in the first place. Therefore, the Bible cannot be the sole authority in matters of faith and morals. There is some authority outside of the Bible that we have to have in order to have the Bible in the first place!

And, I would like to add that I believe, based on historical documentation, that it was the Catholic Church that put the Bible together as we have it today. Now, there are many who disagree with me on that, but whether you agree that it was the Catholic Church that put the Bible together or not, you have to agree that someone did. Someone with binding authority on Christians decided the disputes about which books should and should not be in what we now call the Bible.

In other words, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, fails the test of logic.

Questions to ponder:

1) Where did the Bible come from?

2) What authority do we rely on for our belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God?

3) Is there a list of books in the Bible, which tells us which books should be in the Bible?

The Perspective Provided by History:

What does the perspective of history tell us in regards to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura…the belief in the Bible as the sole rule of faith for Christians?

Well, the main thing the perspective of history tells us is that the early Christians did not believe in this doctrine. We know that because there was no Bible, as we have it now, for them to consult as their authoritative guide in questions of Christian teaching and practice. As previously mentioned, the Bible did not come together as the document that we now call “the Bible” for more than 300 years after the death of Christ. Plus, the first book of the New Testament was not written for at least 10 years or more after the death of Christ. So, for at least 10 years, Christians were having to decide questions of doctrine and practice without a single book of the New Testament to consult.

Furthermore, the last book of the New Testament wasn’t written for at least 40, and probably more likely 60 years or more, after the death of Christ. And, because of the state of transportation and communication in the world of the 1st century, it could often be years before a particular Christian community received a copy of this or that book of the New Testament. In other words, the early Christians went many decades without even the possibility of being able to use the Bible as the sole source of authority in matters of Christian teaching and practice. Which means they could not, and did not, believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

The question is, though, without a Bible as their sole authoritative source for their beliefs, to what, or whom, did the early Christians turn for authoritative decisions on matters of faith…on matters of doctrine? Who decided doctrinal disputes when they arose between Christians if there was no Bible to consult? Who? Well, as I’ll show in a moment, from the Bible, it was the leaders of the Church who decided – infallibly – on matters of doctrinal disputes. So, again, we see a binding authority, outside of Scripture, that was relied upon by the early Christians.

Another part of the historical perspective is this: When Martin Luther broke from the Catholic Church, and started teaching the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, it was around the year 1520. By the year 1600, it is said there were more than two hundred non-Catholic denominations. By the year 1900, it is estimated there were almost a thousand denominations. And, now, in the year 2008, there are estimated to be some thirty thousand or more non-Catholic denominations! Each denomination claims to be based on the Bible alone, and each claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit; yet, none of them have the exact same body of doctrine, and many, many of them have doctrines that absolutely contradict one another.

How can that be? Can the Holy Spirit – which is supposed to lead us unto all truth – can this same Holy Spirit lead different people into different doctrines – doctrines that contradict each other? No. In other words, the historical perspective shows that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura has resulted in division within the Body of Christ.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails the test of history.

Questions to ponder:

1) Did the early Christians believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura?

2) Has the doctrine of Sola Scriptura proven to be a unifying factor or a dividing factor within the Body of Christ?

The Perspective Provided by Scripture:

In Conclusion

I’ll finish up with the “Perspective Provided by Scripture” next week. Comments are welcomed and all will be read. I hope all of you have a great weekend!

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Apologetics for the Masses