Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #182

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

The March for Life in Washington, D.C. was quite an experience. Went up there with 325 or so folks from the Diocese of Birmingham – mostly high school kids, along with their chaperones. We joined about 400,000+ other folks from around the country to march for life. If you have never been, I strongly encourage you to go next year if at all possible. You won’t regret it.


This week I want to give you a little mental exercise. I’m going to give you some quotes from a book, “How To Study Your Bible,” by Kay Arthur, who is not Catholic and is apparently a very popular author in the Protestant/Evangelical world. I want you to think about these quotes, specifically, to think about what is wrong with these quotes, before you read my analysis.

There are some inherent contradictions in what she says…some major flaws in her thinking…that can be found within most Protestant theology. So, read over the quote from her book that I have below, but before reading my comments on it, take a few minutes to think about what is wrong with what she says and see if you are able to identify some of the problems and inconsistencies in her logic. This quote is from ch. 4 of her book, where she lays out “…seven basic principles which will help you interpret the Bible accurately.”

What I hope to do is train you to recognize fundamental contradictions in any given Protestant’s theology, so that you can then point out the contradictions and ask questions about the contradictions that will cause whoever you’re talking to to stop and pause, and maybe really think about what it is they believe and why they believe it, and maybe you will be able to plant a seed or two of the truth.


"How To Study Your Bible," by Kay Arthur (excerpt from chapter 4).

"Principle 4: Do not base your doctrine on an obscure passage of Scripture.

An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood.  Because these passages are difficult to understand even when proper principles of interpretation are used, they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.  Your doctrine should be based on the clear repeated teachings in the Scripture.

An example of this type of obscurity is found in 1 Corinthians 15:29 where the question is asked, ‘…what will those do who are baptized for the dead?’  Does this mean we are to be baptized for the dead?  Is this a teaching that should become a doctrine for believers to practice?  No, this is not a doctrinal statement.  In fact, the meaning here is not clear.  So without clear understanding and other scriptural support, it should not be considered a doctrine and applied to your life."

My Comments:

"Your doctrine should be based on the clear repeated teachings in the Scripture." 

First problem: Where in the Bible does it say this?  She basically just made a doctrinal statement, nay, a dogmatic statement – Sola Scriptura as the basis for "your doctrine," and not just any part of Scripture as the basis for your doctrine but the "clear repeated teachings" of Scripture – yet, nowhere in the Bible is there such a statement. 

Second problem: This statement is contradicted by actual occurrences in the Bible.  For example, in Acts 1:20, Peter uses an obscure line from Psalm 109:8 as a justification for doing something very, very important – finding a replacement for Judas to serve as the 12th Apostle.  According to Kay Arthur’s principle #4, Peter should not have done that. 

Third problem: Who gets to decide what passage of Scripture is or is not "obscure?"  For example, only one place that I can think of right off hand where Jesus breathes on the Apostles and says to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit," and then goes on to tell them that they now have the authority to forgive or retain sin.  Well, would that be an "obscure passage" since it is not repeated anywhere else in the Bible?  And, if you’re a Protestant, what exactly does that passage mean?  It can’t mean that the Apostles had the power to forgive or retain men’s sins on God’s behalf, can it?  Well, that’s what it seems to be saying, but we know that can’t be right, don’t we?  But, what does it mean then?  So, according to Kay Arthur, it must be an "obscure passage" because it is difficult to understand (that is, if you’re a Protestant who doesn’t believe in the Sacrament of Confession) and it isn’t a repeated teaching.  Yet, how can it be an "obscure passage" when it is the very first thing Jesus says and does the very first time He addresses the gathered Apostles after His resurrection?  Don’t you think this first thing Jesus says and does after His resurrection would be something that is very, very important? 

And, what about John 6:53-58, is that an "obscure passage?"  After all, nowhere else does Jesus say we will have eternal life if we eat His flesh drink His blood.  I mean, come on, what the sam hill is He trying to tell us?  I guess that would be an "obscure passage" that you can’t base "your doctrine" on, right? 

Also, the very passage she cites as being "obscure," 1 Cor 15:29, is not very obscure to Mormons.  They can tell you exactly what it means, at least, what it means to them.  So, for the Mormons, 1 Cor 15:29 is not an "obscure passage."  For the Catholics, John 20:21-23 and John 6:53-58 are not obscure passages. But, according to Kay Arthur’s definition, they are obscure passages. 

"Does this mean we are to be baptized for the dead?  Is this a teaching that should become a doctrine for believers to practice?  No…"  Kay Arthur, in her decision to label 1 Cor 15:29 as an obscure passage and thus decide that it has nothing to do with doctrine, is basically bringing her pre-formed beliefs to the Bible, and making the Bible fit what it is she believes.  Her belief system rejects baptism for the dead as a biblical practice, so, when she comes across a passage in the Bible that seems to clearly indicate that at least some early Christians were practicing baptism for the dead, well, that’s an "obscure passage," so we can’t use that to determine doctrine.  How nice and neat that is for her. 

Fourth problem: Didn’t Jesus say that man is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4)?  Yet, Kay Arthur is saying that we are not to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  She clearly states that there are certain passages of the Word of God that "should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine" and that they should not be "applied to your life."  Were I a Sola Scriptura believer, Matthew 4:4 would cause me many sleepless nights if I thought as Kay Arthur does.  How can I live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, as Scripture clearly tells me I should; yet, I admit that there are "obscure passages" that I have no clue what they mean?  Wouldn’t that be scary?  How could you ever be satisfied that there isn’t something really, really important in these "obscure passages" that could impact your entire belief system?  Or, that could contradict some major component of your belief system?  In other words, how do you know that there isn’t something in the Word of God that could impact your salvation, but you don’t know it because it is "obscure" to you?  After all, Jesus did not say that man should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God as long as it is not an obscure word that has proceeded from the mouth of God. 

Fifth problem: Where in the Bible does it say that each individual who reads the Bible gets to decide for themselves what is or is not true doctrine based on their ability to interpret the Bible?  "Do not base your doctrine…"  What about Jesus’ doctrine?  W/hat about the Apostles’ doctrine?  Since when is Christianity all about "your doctrine?"  A natural result of her methodology, is that the better educated one is in things pertaining to Scripture, the less "obscure passages" one will come across in their reading of the Bible."  Which puts an awful burden on those who don’t know a whole lot about Scripture, when they pick up the Bible to read it.  I’m thinking, in particular, of brand new Christians.  How will they know what is obscure and what isn’t obscure?  What they should base their doctrine on and what they shouldn’t base their doctrine on?  How will you determine "your doctrine" with any degree of confidence if you are new to the Bible?  Or, as I’ve already pointed out, if you’re a well-versed Bible reader but you still run into some "obscure passages" here and there, like Kay Arthur apparently does?

Furthermore, where does the Bible say that you are to use the Bible to determine "your doctrine?"  Did the early Christians use the Bible to determine their doctrine?  No!  They didn’t have a Bible, at least not a Bible that had a New Testament in it, that they could turn to in order to determine doctrine.  They had their doctrines in place before a single word of the New Testament was written.  The New Testament, then, was simply putting down in writing the teaching of the Apostles, which they had received from Jesus Christ Himself, and which the early Church already believed and taught.  They did not determine their doctrines from the written Word, as their doctrines had already been taught to them by the Church.  So, when Christians today turn to the Bible to determine their doctrines, they are doing things exactly backwards from the way the early Christians did them.  As Catholic Christians, we do not turn, individually, or with each successive generation, to the Bible to determine our doctrine.  Our doctrine is indeed in Scripture – directly or indirectly – and is confirmed by Scripture, but our doctrine existed before the written New Testament did.  The written New Testament is based upon our doctrine, upon the sure Word of God that had been passed on orally from the Apostles to the early Church, not the other way around. 

Sixth problem: There are any number of passages in Scripture that are not obscure, and which are repeated and very easily understood, yet Kay Arthur does not believe them.  For example, just about every passage in the New Testament that speaks of judgment, has man being judged on whether or not he has faith alone, right?  No!  Rather, judgment is rendered to everyone based on what they have or have not done – works!  To those who by patience in well-doing (good works) seek for glory, immortality, and such, the Bibe says they will receive eternal life (Rom 2:6-7).  And many other similar passages.  By Kay Arthur’s methodology, one should, therefore, believe that works are important to one’s salvation.  But, she doesn’t believe that.  Why not?  Because, as I’ve already said, she comes to the Bible with pre-set beliefs and she makes the Bible fit her beliefs, rather than making her beliefs fit the Bible.  It is arbitrary and subjective.

In summary, Kay Arthur’s whole methodology is flawed.  The underlying assumptions are flawed.  The practice is flawed.  It is entirely subjective.  Different passages are "obscure" for different people.  "Obscure passages" can indeed be very important and can indeed teach doctrinal matters and should indeed be applied to your life. Each individual believer gets to determine his or her doctrine based on his or her own private, fallible, non-authoritative interpretation of the Bible.  And, if those doctrines conflict, is there anyone you can turn to in order to decide the matter so that the people of God may be sure that they have the truth?  Some authority that can rule authoritatively in such disputes?  No, at least, not if you’re a Protestant. 

In Conclusion

Did you recognize some of these problems on your own? Are you beginning to see that the underlying assumptions that much of Protestantism is built upon, are logically inconsistent? Are you able to see these inconsistencies when in discussion with a Protestant and have you been able to call them on it…to point out the inconsistencies to them? Always look for the assumptions underlying someone’s argument, and feel free to go after them with gusto…

’Til next time…

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Apologetics for the Masses