Apologetics for the Masses #234 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks, 

My next speaking engagement will be on Saturday, May 2nd, in Napa, CA at the Napa Valley Catholic Men's Conference.  If you're in the Napa/Sacramento/Oakland/San Fran area, come on out.  I'd love to meet you and say hello.  For more information on the conference, check out: https://www.nccmc.net/


Continuing with Chapter 3 of my book, Blue Collar Apologetics.  I'm waxing eloquent on the topic of Sola Scriptura.

Blue Collar Apologetics - Chapter 3 (cont'd)

The Perspective Provided by History
I want to pick up right where I left off with the perspective provided by logic.  We were talking about how there are folks who claim they believe in some sort of authority or tradition outside of Scripture that they rely on in order to have their Bible in the first place; yet, they can’t necessarily name that authority, or identify exactly where that tradition came from, because they refuse to admit that it was the Catholic Church that was the authentic witness to the Scriptures...that it was the Catholic Church that gave us the Bible as we have it today.  So, they back themselves into an illogical and nonsensical corner.

But, there are those rare Sola Scriptura folks who are at least honest enough to admit that it was indeed the witness and the authority of the Catholic Church they rely on for their beliefs about the Bible...that it was indeed the authority and tradition of the Catholic Church that got us our Bible as we have it today.  And why do they admit to that?  Because of the witness of history.  Now, even though they admit this, these folks will then say that the Catholic Church, in later centuries, fell into error and is now the Harlot of Babylon, the Devil’s bride, and so on.  But, they at least know enough of their history to know that without the Catholic Church, they would not have their Bible.  

One such person, is Martin Luther himself.  Listen to this quote that was taken from one of his sermons that he gave on the Gospel of John, “Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it,” he’s talking here about the claim of the Catholic Church that it is the true Church of Christ, “Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede—as we must—that so much of what they [the Catholics] say is true: that the papacy has God’s Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?”  [LW 24:304].  What would we know of the Holy Scripture if it were not for them...if it were not, in other words, for the Catholic Church?  Martin Luther said so.

But, let’s go back a bit further than Martin Luther and look at some of the evidence.  Again, we have historical documents that show, for about 350 years or so after the death of Christ, there were a number of different lists of what was thought to be the inspired Scripture.  These lists sometimes include books that didn’t make the final cut of Scripture, and they sometimes left out books that did make the final cut of Scripture.  So, someone had to step in and make the decision - which books are inspired Scripture and which are not.  Who was that someone? 

Well, at the Council of Rome, in 382 A.D., Pope St. Damasus I issued a decree, the Decree of Damasus, that gave us all 73 books of the Bible...not just the 66 that are in the Protestant Bible...he gave us all 73 books of the Catholic Bible as we have them still to this day.  Now, there are those who say that this document, this Decree of Damasus, actually was not originally issued by Damasus I in 382 A.D., but was actually the work of some other author some 200 years later in the 6th century.  Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say the Decree of Damasus was actually written in the 6th century.  It still shows, from the early centuries of Christianity, that the Catholic Church had decided upon a canon of Scripture that included 73 books.  

Going back to the 4th century, though, we have the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and then the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D., and I believe St. Augustine was at both of those councils, both of which confirmed a canon of Scripture.  And which canon of Scripture was that?  The exact same canon that is in Catholic Bibles today - 73 books.  In 405 A.D., Pope Innocent I wrote a letter to a bishop in which he gave that exact same canon - 73 books.  So, we see the Catholic Church has a Tradition in regard to the canon of Scripture that dates back to the 4th century.  And listen to this quote, from St. Augustine: “I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."  The authority of the Catholic Church in regard to the Sacred Tradition of the canon of Scripture, is historically attested to very early on in Christianity.

Plus, what monks were copying Scripture by hand in their monasteries during the early and middle centuries of Christianity which helped to preserve the Scriptures as we have them today.  Were those Baptist monks?  Lutheran monks?  Evangelical or Presbyterian monks?  Maybe non-denominational monks?  No. They were Catholic monks.  As Martin Luther said, what would we know of the Scriptures, were it not for the Catholic Church?

Two more points from history.  Do you think the Christians of the 1st century believed in Sola Scriptura?  No, they couldn’t have.  Why not?  Because the only Bible they had was the Old Testament.  There was no written New Testament for many years after the death of Christ.  So, without a Bible as their sole authoritative source for their beliefs, to what, or to 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?  The Church.  The leaders of the Church...the bishops.  And the Bishops of which church?  The Catholic Church.   

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, some 1500 years after the death of Christ.  By the year 1600, it is said there were more than two hundred denominations.  By the year 1900, it is estimated the number of denominations numbered almost a thousand.  And, now, in the year 2013, there are thousands upon thousands, if not even tens of thousands of 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, or the same lines of authority, and many, many of them have doctrines that absolutely contradict one another.  Does the Holy Spirit lead people into contradiction?  Absolutely not!

The perspective of history teaches us that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura has done nothing but divide the Body of Christ.  

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails the test of history.  

Now, should you run into some Sola Scriptura folks, here are a few questions you might want to ask them.  First of all, ask them if the early Christians believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? As I’ve shown above, they could not have believed in Sola Scriptura, at least not as modern Protestants believe in it, since the only Bible they had was the Old Testament. They had to rely upon the Church for the doctrines and practices.

Another question to ask is this: Has the doctrine of Sola Scriptura proven to be a unifying factor or a dividing factor within the Body of Christ?  Based on history, that’s a pretty easy question to answer.  

Finally, ask them who exactly it was that decided the disagreements among Christians in the early centuries as to which books should and should not be considered inspired Scripture?  And don’t settle for a generic answer that mentions the “witness of the early Christians” or “the testimony of the early church.”  Ask them: “Which Christians?”  “Which church?”  Make them be specific.  They cannot answer those questions unless they admit that it was the Bishops of the Catholic Church that decided such matters.  And once they admit that, well, as we say here in the South, it’s Katy barred the door. 

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails the test of history.


I hope all of you have a holy and blessed Easter Triduum!

Apologetics for the Masses