Saturday, September 11, 2021

Sola Scriptura Revisited (presentation of a 5 part series by James White posted by John Samson).

(Corrected a misspelling and reposted - original posting 2/3/2017).

SW: In listening to White's recent presentation he does cover many things we've already discussed here on the CathApol Blog - and he freely admits, much of this ground is already covered.  The topic he believes no Catholic apologist has ever defended is the nature of Sacred Tradition.  Karlo Brousard, the apologist White is answering to in the above linked series, says, according to White, that there is a difference in the nature between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Well really, is there?

SW: White likes to point out what sola scriptura is, and more importantly what it is not. He claims that many Protestant apologists get stuck because they attempt to defend something which sola scriptura is not - in other words, a Straw Man. White believes that many a time the non-Catholic apologist allows the Catholic apologist to define what sola scriptura is and they end up debating that instead of what sola scriptura actually is. He lists examples like, "sola scriptura contains all truth, so when we see truth outside of Scripture - sola scriptura is proven false;" and then states, "since Scripture does not tell us the color of St. Matthew's eyes or the menu they had in April of the second year of Jesus' ministry, Scripture is lacking and thus we need Sacred Tradition to fill in the gaps" (I'm paraphrasing a bit there). The problem I have with these statements is that I have NEVER heard or seen a Catholic apologist use those arguments! I've seen White throw them out before as to belittle the Catholic position - but I have never seen said arguments. Now I'm not saying said arguments have never been made - and I would agree with White that many Protestant apologists really don't know what sola scriptura means - which is understandable. There are several variations on the definition of sola scriptura, they even debate among themselves the difference between "sola" and "solo" scriptura!  (Linguistically speaking, the only difference in those Latin words is one is masculine and the other feminine and since "scriptura" is feminine, the "proper" phrase is "sola scriptura" so "solo scriptura" is not only contrary to Scripture, it is contrary to Latin grammar).  That some or even many apologists are confused is not incomprehensible. This is why, in the course of my debates (several have been with White in the past) I don't use other people's definitions - I use White's definition. White's definition is "sola scriptura is the teaching that Scripture alone is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church." He bases that statement on the nature of sola scriptura - that it is "God breathed" (in Greek, "theopneustos") and since nothing else is "God breathed," that Scripture, and Scripture alone, holds the highest spot in authority and teaching for the church. I believe I am accurately representing White here.

SW: Let's take a page from White's book(s) and define Sacred Tradition as to what it is and more importantly, what it is not. Let's start with what it is not.  Sacred Tradition is not expressed in every personal opinion of popes and/or Church councils whether ecumenical or non-ecumenical. White brings out the fact that there is no dogmatic decree on the Canon of Sacred Scripture until the 16th century at the Council of Trent. I agree with him on this point. Then he goes on to point out that though the non-ecumenical councils of Rome, Carthage and Hippo, late in the 4th century, named the Canon, that there were even popes after 382 AD which disagreed with the inclusion of "the apocrypha" (not really the best term here, and White knows this - the more proper/accurate term is "deuterocanonical").  382 was the year St. Jerome was commissioned to translate the ancient texts into the Vulgate, but it wasn't completed until 405 AD. This is significant because the Council of Trent refers to Jerome's Vulgate as "the" Canon.

SW: What then IS the nature Sacred Tradition?  Sacred Tradition is the oral teachings of Jesus Christ to the Apostles. It is that which has been believed and taught from the beginning, but was not necessarily written down until there became a need for it to be formally defined. A prime example of this is the Blessed Trinity. You will not find the word "trinity" in Scripture and the closest you will find it being scripturally expressed is in 1 John 5:7-8, which while theologically sound and accurate, is also known as the Johannine Comma and is believed to be a later addition to the text as "the comma" is not found in the earliest of the manuscripts we have of 1 John. The fact is, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity was not dogmatically defined until the Nicean Council about 300 years after Jesus and the Apostles walked the earth. Several heresies arose in those first 300 years, some denying the Trinity AND using Scripture to support their denials (Arianism being among the greatest of these heresies). Ultimately it would be the sacred authority of the Catholic Church along WITH Scripture which defined the Blessed Trinity and not Scripture Alone. The point is, when it was defined the Church stood on what was the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, and guided by the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, she defined the Blessed Trinity to end the debate/argument among faithful Christians. (Ken Temple summary of White's series)

Ken Temple's (KT) additional comments (in purple):
There are a few points that I would have added into the already excellent material.
(1) Dr. White made an excellent point about 2 Thessalonians 2:15, that the verb, “you were taught” is past tense, so it cannot include things like the (2) Bodily Assumption of Mary (1950) or (3) the Immaculate Conception of Mary ( 1854) or (4) the infallibility of the Pope ( 1870) nor certain dogmatic decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) – the ones against Protestantism and justification by faith alone.  I would add (5) also Purgatory, which all the elements of it only came together after Gregory the first, bishop of Rome from 590-640 AD.   (6) He made a good point that John Henry Cardinal Newman knew this, that is why he had to come up with his “development of doctrine” theory of the Roman Catholic Church.

SW: Let's take a look at Mr. Temple's points.
  1. That 2 Thes. 2:15 uses a past tense verb is not troublesome to the Catholic apologetic.  First off, just because something wasn't in writing at the time does not mean it was not taught and/or believed.
  2. In 51-52 AD the Blessed Mother may not have finished the course of her life on earth. From "Scripture Alone" we cannot say for sure when her passing was - but I'm certain no Protestant believes she did not pass.
  3. The Immaculate Conception is deduced from Scripture, especially the point of her being named "Full of Grace."  Yes, Protestants argue that the title does not necessarily equate to the Immaculate Conception - but their arguments do not negate the scriptural basis of Catholic teaching. 
  4. We must not forget that Scripture also records that both St. Peter alone and the council of bishops (the Apostles being our first bishops) were granted the authority to bind or loose whatsoever they chose to - and said binding not only was bound on Earth, but also in Heaven. Therefore, the infallibility of the Pope (St. Peter's successor) and the Council of Trent (an ecumenical council of bishops) can be validly argued to have infallible authority - are based in Scripture.
  5. Likewise, there are several scriptural references which support the doctrine of Purgatory.
  6. That doctrine developed cannot be validly equated to the doctrine/teaching not previously existing.  The fact that definitions of doctrine became necessary at various times throughout Christian history is not an argument against the doctrines already existing - in fact, the definitions simply define pre-existing teachings so that the faithful can have certainty in these teachings.  To paraphrase St. Augustine, after Rome has (infallibly) spoken, the cause (for argument) has ended.  (Sermon 131).
KT continues:
KT: 1. I would add something about the early date of 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (51-52 AD) and so the oral traditions include things written earlier in Galatians (49-50 AD), and 
2.. also, it seems certain that the oral traditions that Paul is saying are binding there in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, were all later written out in the rest of the NT books – Romans, Ephesians, 1-2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philippians, John, Acts, Luke, (even by other authors in Hebrews, Matthew, John, Mark, Peter, James and Jude – “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”, (Jude 3), etc.
SW: There is nothing in any of those (later) books which states all oral traditions were included in them!  Mr. Temple's eisegesis is clearly pointed out in this fact. Since he is slinging verses, how about considering 3 John "13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face."  St. John, the Apostle who wrote much, did NOT want to put everything in writing! He wanted to wait until he could speak to them, face to face - orally.  Mr. Temple's use of Jude 3 has nothing to do with sola scriptura as Jude is referring to a specific situation of those who have turned against the Lord and are infiltrating the faithful to try and get them to turn away also (so much for once saved, always saved too, but that's a whole different topic) and certainly Temple is not implying that the tiny book of Jude contains ALL which is necessary to be taught and learned for salvation! Is he? Also, that Galations might include things "spoken" of in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 does not say there were not other things passed on by word of mouth and NOT written, such as our example from 3 John 13-14, a much later epistle.
Let us continue...
KT:  Acts 15:19 – the apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, says, “I judge” – Dr. White made a great point:  “but James, don’t you know “the Vicar of Christ” is seated here right next to you?” The fact that Peter was right there with him, shows there was no such thing as a Pope; and Peter was not the “first Pope.”
SW:  St. James was the Bishop of Jerusalem, I don't think even our Protestant detractors deny this fact, and as such - he was "responsible" for the Council of Jerusalem, regardless of the fact that the "Vicar of Christ" (a title which comes later) is sitting there with him.  The fact of the matter is that it was St. Peter who stood up and ended the debate!  St. James "judgment" is simply affirmation of what St. Peter already declared!
KT:  3.  also, I would point out that 2 Tim. 3:16-17 is expanding “the sacred Scriptures” of v. 15 from OT to all Scripture; even NT books written later.
SW: I, for one, do not deny the sufficiency or profitablility of Scripture - which is spoken of in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, but sufficiency is not the point of the debate - "sola" is!  That Jim-Bob's Bike Shop can sufficiently supply the cyclist with everything he needs doesn't mean that Billy-Bob's Bike Shop cannot do just as good a job supplying the cyclist.  A claim of sufficiency (satis scriptura) or profitability does not validly answer the challenge the adherent to sola scriptura is presented with.
KT:  4.  Paul already put Gospels on same level as Torah in 1 Timothy 5:18. “Paul is enlarging on the previous reference . . especially by his use of πασα.”  (πασα = pasa = “all”) George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 448
SW: This is a non-argument in the sola scriptura debate - I am not aware of any Christian who does not put the Gospels on the same level as the Torah. The bigger point here is not just the Gospels, which among Christians were widely accepted as Scripture, but also the Epistles which were also accepted as Scripture - as well as some of the other books which were included in early canons of Scripture, but ultimately rejected as such in the late 4th century (and they are still good reading, just not "on the same level as Torah").

SW: In summary, the best that White, Samson and Temple can come up with is an argument for satis scriptura - which Catholics do not deny! What we, Catholics, do deny is sola scriptura - and what's more is, Scripture itself does not teach sola scriptura! That said, in light of the fact that Scripture itself teaches us that Scripture is NOT the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church in Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:18, we have "the other pen" (also an argument White likes to make) so Scripture certainly is NOT alone so far as infallibility is concerned.

Thus, when a pope speaks ex cathedra (defining something to be part of Sacred Tradition) or an ecumenical council infallibly defines a teaching, this puts Sacred Tradition, not above or below Sacred Scripture, but equal to Sacred Scripture as both are infallible. White can no longer claim that no Catholic apologist has or will defend the nature of Sacred Tradition (and I am not the first to do this).

Scott Windsor<<<

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