Friday, August 12, 2005

A Day in the Life of an Anti-Catholic: Steve "Whopper" Hays

Check out this wonderfully insightful, charitable comment, made by Steve Hays on "Pedantic Protestant's" blog, on 8-12-05:

Perhaps we've been wrong about this. Perhaps we should cut dear old Dave a little slack. After all, it's a high and lonely calling to be Dave Armstrong. Yes, the importance of being Dave. Imagine the sheer weight of responsibility--of living up to such exalted expectations. This is not a job everyone can do. Not just any Joe Six Pack can be Dave Armstrong. The job qualifications are just too daunting. So, by process of elimination, there is only one individual with the unique combination of unique abilities to aspire to the awesome and lonesome vocation of Davedom.

But remember, as he once explained to me on my own blog, that he's doing it for us, you know--for all the little people who would be like lost and straying sheep without the guidance of this sage and selfless shepherd. St. Dave, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death!

Does anyone still wonder why I have neither time nor patience any longer to try to seriously dialogue with people who express themselves in such an idiotic fashion? Yet Steve expects me to dialogue with him and to take him seriously. He's ticked off because of my policy of ceasing attempts at dialogue with anti-Catholics (oops! I forgot: there is no such category: only "anti-Protestants," as James White has once again reiterated on his blog. Sorry for the slip).

Since he's in that category, this policy includes (or should I say, excludes) him. I can't help it if he takes it personally and so has to lash out in a juvenile manner. That's his problem. He chose to be an anti-Catholic Protestant, which is his perfect right, and I chose to no longer try to dialogue with those holding a position which I consider ridiculous, self-defeating, utterly incoherent and indefensible, and intellectual suicide, which is my perfect right, especially given all the different topics I write about, and the usual time constraints (an 80-hour work week, a wife and four young children, etc.).

In any event, I haven't been able as of yet, to refrain from the urge of responding to such tripe with humor, so here I go again (heaven help me!):

A Day in the Life
(original lyrics by Lennon and McCartney, 1967)

I read the blogs today oh, boy
About the lying men who made the grade
And though the lies were rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the polygraph*

He blew his mind out; how bizarre!
He didn’t notice that the truth had changed
A crowd of groupies stood and stared
They’d heard his lies before,
Nobody was sure if he was from the house of the Lord.

I saw some bilge today oh, boy
The anti-Catholics had just lost the war
A crowd of papists turned away
But I just had to look
Having read White's book,
I’d love to turn your hearts...

--- The Hallucination ---

Woke up, got born again,
Ripped a Rosary to shreds
Found my way downstairs and read Steve Hays,
And looking up I knew that I was saved.

Found Bishop White and joined his chat
Started lyin' in seconds flat
Found my way back home to incense smoke,
Steve Hays spoke and he went into a scream

"Ah poor St. Dave, poor St. Dave, dear Old Dave.
We must get him saved, get him saved, get him saved."

I read the lies today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Steve Hays' reasoning
And though his facts were rather small
He tried to count them all,
Now they know how many lies it takes to make the papists fall.
I’d love to turn your hearts...

* Lie detector machine

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"How Does One Decide Which Church is True?"

BWL attends a Lutheran church. This was drawn (slightly-edited, with typos removed) from comments threads below. His words will be in blue. My old words will be in green.


The argument you are making is that sola Scriptura doesn't work because of the divisions among those who claim to adhere to it and the absence of any way (and especially any authority) to end said divisions. But churches who deny sola Scriptura and claim to adhere to Tradition are also in the same boat.

First of all, let everyone note what was done here (which is usually done): rather than deny the assertion and show that Protestantism does indeed have a way out of the dilemma, you immediately switch the matter back to Catholicism. That's fine in and of itself. Fire away! But it is no answer to an internal suggested problem of Protestantism to simply point out a possible internal problem of Catholicism. This is a variation of the old "your dad's uglier [or just as ugly] as mine" approach."

And that's part of what I mean when I say that Protestants never address the thorny problems of sola Scriptura head on. Almost always it is a diversionary tactic, or recourse to Honorius or the sexual scandal or some such ploy to avoid dealing with severe problems inherent in sola Scriptura. Just look at how the Protestants in this forum are acting when the topic comes up: they're all squirming: even outwardly so (don't get me wrong: I greatly appreciate the honesty of admitting that one is troubled by something). In any event, there is no doubt that it remains a huge problem for Protestants to resolve for themselves.

That said, I strongly deny that we are all "in the same boat" in this regard.

So the same question could be asked of you: how do non-Protestant Christians decide between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, the Coptic church, the Old Catholics, etc.?

The arguments are long, complex, and elaborate. There are no simple answers to be given that anyone should be convinced by. But I think that with proper study of all sides, one can be given enough information to make a good comparison of competing viewpoints and make the most plausible choice. I've shown, I believe, that the papacy is explicitly biblically-grounded, and that it developed in a consistent, sensible manner throughout Church history. It was part of Church policy and organization and the bulwark of orthodoxy. So to simply cut it out and separate from it doesn't make sense to me because it is not a consistent development of what was before. The same holds true of ecumenical councils. Orthodox and Protestants (to differing degrees) value the early Church councils. Everyone speaks of one Church in those days, yet later on it somehow gets split. Well, who is it that continues to have a pope and ecumenical councils, just as in the first millennium? It ain't the Orthodox or the Protestants! So, although it might still be argued that something fundamental changed so that Vatican II is a completely different species than Nicaea, at least we HAVE councils. A group that doesn't has to explained why they were normative before but not now (except in Catholicism).

I don't know much about the Copts, and so I can't speak about them. The Old Catholics refused to accept papal infallibility, which wasn't invented in 1870, but rather, was in place (practically-speaking) for a long time, and was a perfectly consistent development of papal supremacy. The Council decided that this was to be a de fide dogma (just like the early councils). The Church spoke. The Old Catholics didn't like it and split, just as all the heretics through the centuries had done: they knew better than the Church. It's rather obvious, then, that they are not the "mainstream" because (again) they changed what had been received Tradition. Continuity is the key. That's apostolic succession and development of doctrine. It's how we know what the Church and True Christian Tradition is. Thus taught St. Paul and the Fathers, and the Catholic Church today.

Etc., etc., etc.

And it's worth pointing out that at least for the RC, EO and Copts, they all were around before the Reformation (meaning divisions were not new before then) and all claim to be "the church" as well.

I think the Orthodox are certainly part of the Church. They don't have a correct view of the papacy, from our perspective, but they are part of us. There are other issues — many of which are highly abstract or merely cultural — but that is the basic difference.

In addition, if Protestantism is wrong, how is a Protestant suppose to decide between these churches who are all ancient and all claim Tradition?

I've given a "nutshell" answer. The long answer is found in many many of my papers. Like I said, it is too serious an issue to trivialize by trying to give short, pat answers to it.

I don't think that I would have the time to engage all of your arguments. I do have a job after all and this is just something I do on the side.

That's fine, but it remains true that in order to decide vexing, complex issues, we all have to devote considerable time, just as we went to school for thousands of hours to learn things. Theology, Bible study, and historical study are no different. It's irrelevant to me whether you work through all these things with me or not, but I contend that you must work through them in depth in some fashion if you hope to resolve these difficulties that you frankly admit exist in your viewpoint.

I really don't know how you write as much as you do sometimes. Honestly it's quite impressive. Maybe you just drink more coffee than I do:)

Actually no: it gives me a headache. I take bee pollen and eat naturally-sweetened stuff. I write very fast. Most subjects I've dealt with before, so the thoughts are already floating around in my head. I do this full-time (I do my second part-time job on top of the full-time hours). I can cut-and-paste many times. I love what I do, which makes it easier and faster. I get stimulated by opposing arguments, and that motivates me to write and brings up new thoughts and ideas.

That is the bottom-line issue that both sides need to address, but if one side refuses to engage the most serious critiques of its fundamental principle and rule of faith, then what does that tell us? To me, it indicates that it is an indefensible system, with false premises, and that is not something I would want to be a part of. I would either seek to defend and uphold it or get out and adopt a more feasible and plausible position.

Well, I'm not so sure about this. James White frequently goes around crowing about how Catholics haven't properly addressed his critiques, etc.

Except with me (and several others I know of). In my case, he flees for the hills and tries to pretend that I haven't refuted him time and again. It remains a simple, indisputable, easily-documented fact that no Protestant has sustained a defense of sola Scriptura in the face of one of my critiques. This includes at least two people who wrote master's theses on the topic, one who was the editor of the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (brother of a good Baptist friend of mine), folks like Keith Mathison (who has a doctorate), and others of like education (though that was recent; frankly, I don't expect him to be any different; maybe he'll pleasantly surprise me. I hope so).

They were in the position to give the best answer. But even they couldn't do so. That's not because they are ill-equipped. It's because you can only get so much mileage out of something that isn't TRUE. When you have to make a case out of something so incoherent, it is extremely hard work. I don't blame anyone for not wanting to do so. But I eventually blame them if they refuse to acknowledge the problem and don't try to rectify it in their own spiritual life and theological outlook.

Granted, he is a real blowhard, but this is what a lot of people on both sides say.

Yes, they do. I can document everything I say. Many people have learned this the hard way. :-) Like Dizzy Dean used to say, "it ain't braggin' if you can DO it!"

My case, however, is a bit more complicated. My wife and family aren't too thrilled with Lutheranism, much less Catholicism. So part of the reason I'm Protestant is not simply because of certain doubts about Catholicism (which are much fewer than about Baptistic Evangelicalism), but because of worries about maritial/family problems that would ensue if I ever left Protestantism.

That's between you and God, and your family. Speaking for myself only, I would always maintain that an individual must follow his conscience, no matter what, and should convince others that he or she ought to be allowed to do so, but there are many situations, and wisdom and prudence dictate different responses or speeds of certain "moves" in different circumstances (also I didn't have to face these difficulties in my conversion, and so don't feel that it is my place to "lecture" others about it). May God bless you as you seek God in deciding what is best for your family. Only God knows all the variables and factors. No one else does. I'm just an apologist making my defense of what I believe. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be coerced or forced or made to happen "before its time," so to speak.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

If we Christians would labor one-hundredth as much to understand the Bible and apply it in our lives, as the monks did in creating gorgeous illuminated manuscripts like this one, then we'd be in great shape!

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha") in the New Testament (RSV)

Here are the links to the complete, eight-part series:

Mark and Luke

John and Acts


1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians

Philippians Through Titus

Hebrews and James

1 Peter Through Revelation


Derived from pp. 800-804 of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine), published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; see the web page from Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, which reproduced the list. NT passages listed in Nestle-Aland will be in blue, and Deuterocanonical passages in red.

Possible references listed by verse only at the end were deemed (by myself) dissimilar and questionable or non-convincing enough to not reproduce.

[Bible passages were retrieved from the RSV Bible, with Apocrypha, from the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center]

Recently, a Reformed Protestant wondered aloud what the purpose of collecting these possible references would be (if not apologetic in nature, as some sort of "proof" of the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical or so-called "Apocryphal" books). I agree with Jimmy Akin's comments in the above-cited web page:

I get a lot of requests for a list of the references the New Testament makes to the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, giving a list is not such a simple affair since it is not always obvious whether something is a genuine reference.

Hebrews 11:35 is an indisputable reference to 2 Maccabees 7, but many are not so clear as there may be only a single phrase that echoes one in a deuterocanonical book (and this may not be obvious in the translation, but only the original languages).

This is the same with New Testament references to the protocanonical books of the Old Testament. How many New Testament references there are to the Old Testament depends in large measure on what you are going to count as a reference.

As a result, many scholarly works simply give an enormous catalogue of all proposed references and leave it to the individual interpreter to decide whether a given reference is actual or not.

I will follow the same procedure . . .
So will I. This project is not, strictly-speaking, an exercise in apologetics, but rather, an aid in Bible study or a Bible "reference" tool. Furthermore, it is obvious (and crucial to understand) that many (if not most) of these proposed or real "references" are not literally citations, but rather parallels or strong similarities in language of a word or a phrase (or in thought, expressed with different terminology). Thus, this listing more often than not provides cross-referencing to such words and phrases in Deuterocanonical passages, just as most reference Bibles do: providing a cross-reference to similar words and phrases in other biblical books, or like a Biblical Concordance does with words, or a reference work like The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge does with phrases.

It is true that discovering all of these cross-references provides the Bible student with a fuller sense of the background of biblical texts, including the Deuterocanon (so neglected in Protestant circles because of the denial of the canonicity of these books). This is valuable whether one accepts the Deuterocanon as part of inspired, infallible Holy Scripture or not (just as cultural or linguistic background factors also are), but for those who do, it will provide a greater sense of the interrelatedness of the Deuterocanonical books with the other biblical books, and a better understanding of the Hebrew background of the thoughts and doctrines of the New Testament; perhaps even some measure of evidence for the canonicity of these disputed books (however indirect).

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha"): 1 Peter Through Revelation (RSV)

Derived from pp. 800-804 of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine), published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; see the web page from Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, which reproduced the list. NT passages listed in Nestle-Aland will be in blue, and Deuterocanonical passages in red. Alleged references listed by verse only at the end were deemed (by myself) dissimilar and questionable or non-convincing enough to not reproduce.

[Bible passages were retrieved from the RSV Bible, with Apocrypha, from the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center]



1a) 1 Peter 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1b) Sirach 16:12

As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof; he judges a man according to his deeds.

2a) 1 Peter 1:7

so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2b) Sirach 2:5

For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.


1a) 2 Peter 2:7

and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked

1b) Wisdom 10:6

Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities.

2a) 2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2b) Sirach 35:19

till he repays the man according to his deeds, and the works of men according to their devices; till he judges the case of his people and makes them rejoice in his mercy.


1a) Revelation 1:18

and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

1b) Sirach 18:1

He who lives for ever created the whole universe;

2a) Revelation 2:12

"And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

2b) Wisdom 18:16

carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.

3a) Revelation 7:9

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

3b) 2 Maccabees 10:7

Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place.

4a) Revelation 8:2

Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

4b) Tobit 12:15

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One."

5a) Revelation 8:3

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne;

5b) Tobit 12:12

And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you.

6a) Revelation 8:7

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, which fell on the earth; and a third of the earth was burnt up, and a third of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

6b) Sirach 39:29

Fire and hail and famine and pestilence, all these have been created for vengeance;

6c) Wisdom 16:22

Snow and ice withstood fire without melting, so that they might know that the crops of their enemies were being destroyed by the fire that blazed in the hail and flashed in the showers of rain;

7a) Revelation 9:3

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth;

7b) Wisdom 16:9

For they were killed by the bites of locusts and flies, and no healing was found for them, because they deserved to be punished by such things;

8a) Revelation 9:4

they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads;

8b) Sirach 44:18 etc.

Everlasting covenants were made with him that all flesh should not be blotted out by a flood.

9a) Revelation 11:19

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

9b) 2 Maccabees 2:4-8

It was also in the writing that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. 5: And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. 6: Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. 7: When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. 8: And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated."

10a) Revelation 18:2

And he called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird;

10b) Baruch 4:35

For fire will come upon her from the Everlasting for many days, and for a long time she will be inhabited by demons.

11a) Revelation 19:1

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

11b) Tobit 13:18

all her lanes will cry `Hallelujah!' and will give praise, saying, `Blessed is God, who has exalted you for ever.'"

12a) Revelation 19:11

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

12b) 2 Maccabees 3:25

For there appeared to them a magnificently caparisoned horse, with a rider of frightening mien, and it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hoofs. Its rider was seen to have armor and weapons of gold.

12c) 2 Maccabees 11:8

And there, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold.

13a) Revelation 20:12-13

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. 13: And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

13b) Sirach 16:12

As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof; he judges a man according to his deeds.

14a) Revelation 21:19-20

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20: the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

14b) Tobit 13:17

The streets of Jerusalem will be paved with beryl and ruby and stones of Ophir;

See also:

1 Peter 2:25 and Wisdom 1:6
1 Peter 4:19 and 2 Maccabees 1:24 etc.
1 Peter 5:7 and Wisdom 12:13

2 Peter 2:2 and Wisdom 5:6
2 Peter 3:18 and Sirach 18:10

1 John 5:21 and Baruch 6:72

Jude 13 and Wisdom 14:1

Revelation 2:10 and 2 Maccabees 13:14
Revelation 2:17 and 2 Maccabees 2:4-8
Revelation 4:11 and Sirach 18:1 and Wisdom 1:14
Revelation 5:7 and Sirach 1:8-9
Revelation 8:1 and Wisdom 18:14
Revelation 17:14 and 2 Maccabees 13:4
Revelation 19:16 and 2 Maccabees 13:4

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"NeoCaths" and Old Liberal Nonsense: Challenges to Fr. Joseph O'Leary's Trashing of Orthodox Catholic Apologetics

Once again we have witnessed the spectacle of a liberal Catholic (this time, sadly, a priest: Fr. Joseph O'Leary) trashing the apologetics movement ("The Rise of the Neocaths"), complete with the obligatory use of the term fundamentalist ("They argue by proof texts, in complete contempt of biblical scholarship and hermeneutics. Their ingenuity in defending their fundamentalist stances is extreme"), mocking of established Catholic sexual morality ("They insist that masturbation is mortally sinful, and have an especial enthusiasm for the teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and that homosexual acts can never be countenanced"), and use of a semi-novel pejorative descriptive: Neocaths.

The term Neo-Catholic is (somewhat ironically) normally used by "traditionalists" (equally improperly, as I have written about). This disdain for orthodox Catholicism and the sort of condescending, patronizing attitude shown, is a disturbingly frequent occurrence. One paper of mine along these lines was Apologia for Apologists and Apologetics. It was my meager addition to the response of several Catholic writers and apologists, including Mark Shea, Patrick Madrid, and Amy Welborn, to the article, "Do We Need a New(er) Apologetics?," by Richard A. Gaillardetz, Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo, Ohio. Note his similar charge of "fundamentalism":

The apologetical refutations of fundamentalist assaults on Catholicism often mirror the very methodology they condemn in their opponents. Many of the new apologists enter too willingly into “Bible wars,” in which Protestant biblical proof-texts are simply parried with a Catholic proof-text in support of a particular Catholic teaching or practice.
But this overlooks crucial, fundamental distinctions (pun intended) between the Protestant methodology of sola Scriptura, and the Catholic apologetic and/or exegetical use of Scripture within the overall framework of Sacred Tradition and the Church's teaching. I explained how engaging a Protestant's proof texts and offering counter-textual evidence, is not merely or necessarily a descent into that which we oppose (sola Scriptura and Protestant hyper-proof-texting), in my paper: Dialogue on Whether Extensive Use of Biblical Arguments Reduces to a Quasi-Sola Scriptura Position?

In 1997, Karl Keating firmly dealt with similar criticisms from Fr. Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. (see his book, Reconciling Faith and Reason: Apologists, Evangelists, and Theologians in a Divided Church, and also his 2002 article, "Another Generation Gap") in his "No Apology From the New Apologists" (see also his related paper, "No Apology Necessary: Vatican II and the New Apologetics"). Fr. Rausch, to his credit, had softened a bit through the years:

I have come to be more sympathetic to some of the new apologists’ concerns. There is no question that they are addressing some real needs for a considerable number of contemporary Catholics, for example evangelization and religious illiteracy. I too have become increasingly interested in evangelization, partly as a result of my involvement over the last 15 years with Evangelical Protestants and partly because I have long had a sense that Catholics are not very evangelical as a church—in spite of the great efforts of Pope John Paul II since the beginning of his pontificate to call the church to a greater sense of its evangelical mission. And after almost 30 years of teaching in a Catholic university, I have become increasingly concerned about the enormous religious and theological illiteracy of so many young Catholics today, something many of us experience even in our own families . . . The great popularity of the new apologists among conservative Catholics is evidence that they are addressing some very real needs. Many people have come back to the church through their influence.
And let's not forget Fr. Andrew Greeley's February 2004 article for The Atlantic Monthly: "Young Fogeys: Young reactionaries, aging radicals-U.S. Church's unusual clerical divide" (Fr. O'Leary makes reference to this article in his).

Related to this general outlook is the fashionable false antithesis between scholars and apologists, which I dealt with in my paper: A Defense of Amateur Apologetics a la C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. So this mentality is alive and well, and shows up every now and then. It needs to be vigorously opposed.

My friend Pedro Vega has done that in his six-part series, in response to Fr. O'Leary: A Neocatholic Strikes Back (Parts two / three / four / five / six). Kudos, Pedro!

My friend Christopher Blosser also has provided a penetrating critique: "The Perplexing Sayings of Fr. O'Leary."

His father, Dr. Phillip Blosser (what a powerhouse father and son Internet team, huh?), has written several papers documenting and opposing Fr. O'Leary's theological liberalism and heterodoxy:

Fr. O'Leary's unorthodox "hot tub" Christology (Part I)

O'Leary in the dock ...

Fr. O'Leary on the Resurrection

Recent convert to the Church and former Anglican priest Al Kimel has also chimed in with "Is the “spirit of Vatican II” Christian?"

Last but not least, fellow apologist Apolonio Latar III has issued "Response to Fr. Joseph O’Leary’s “Dogma and Religious Pluralism” Part 1 (+ Part II).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha"): Hebrews and James (RSV)

Derived from pp. 800-804 of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine), published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; see the web page from Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, which reproduced the list. NT passages listed in Nestle-Aland will be in blue, and Deuterocanonical passages in red. Alleged references listed by verse only at the end were deemed (by myself) dissimilar and questionable or non-convincing enough to not reproduce.

[Bible passages were retrieved from the RSV Bible, with Apocrypha, from the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center]



1a) Hebrews 1:3

He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

1b) Wisdom 7:26

For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.

2a) Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

2b) Wisdom 18:16 (see also Wisdom 7:22-30)

carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.

3a) Hebrews 5:6

as he says also in another place, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchiz'edek."

3b) 1 Maccabees 14:41

"And the Jews and their priests decided that Simon should be their leader and high priest for ever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise,

4a) Hebrews 7:22

This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.

4b) Sirach 29:14-19

A good man will be surety for his neighbor, but a man who has lost his sense of shame will fail him. 15: Do not forget all the kindness of your surety, for he has given his life for you. 16: A sinner will overthrow the prosperity of his surety, 17: and one who does not feel grateful will abandon his rescuer. 18: Being surety has ruined many men who were prosperous, and has shaken them like a wave of the sea; it has driven men of power into exile, and they have wandered among foreign nations. 19: The sinner who has fallen into suretyship and pursues gain will fall into lawsuits.

5a) Hebrews 11:5

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.

5b) Sirach 44:16

Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations.

5c) Wisdom 4:10

There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up.

6a) Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

6b) Wisdom 10:17

She gave holy men the reward of their labors; she guided them along a marvelous way, and became a shelter to them by day, and a starry flame through the night.

7a) Hebrews 11:10

For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

7b) Wisdom 13:1

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;

8a) Hebrews 11:17

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,

8b) 1 Maccabees 2:52

Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?

8c) Sirach 44:20

he kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with him; he established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tested he was found faithful.

9a) Hebrews 11:28

By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the first-born might not touch them.

9b) Wisdom 18:25

To these the destroyer yielded, these he feared; for merely to test the wrath was enough.

10a) Hebrews 11:35

Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.

10b) 2 Maccabees 7:20-29 ( see entire passage: 6:18-7:42)

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. 21: She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them, 22: "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23: Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws." 24: Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. 25: Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. 26: After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. 27: But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. 28: I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. 29: Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."

11a) Hebrews 12:9

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

11b) 2 Maccabees 3:24

But when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, then and there the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused so great a manifestation that all who had been so bold as to accompany him were astounded by the power of God, and became faint with terror.

12a) Hebrews 12:12

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

12b) Sirach 25:23

A dejected mind, a gloomy face, and a wounded heart are caused by an evil wife. Drooping hands and weak knees are caused by the wife who does not make her husband happy.

13a) Hebrews 13:7

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.

13b) Wisdom 2:17

Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;


1a) James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greeting.

1b) 2 Maccabees 1:27

Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look upon those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that thou art our God.

2a) James 1:2

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials,

2b) Sirach 2:1

My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.

2c) Wisdom 3:5

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

3a) James 1:13

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;

3b) Sirach 15:11-20

Do not say, "Because of the Lord I left the right way"; for he will not do what he hates. 12: Do not say, "It was he who led me astray"; for he had no need of a sinful man. 13: The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. 14: It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. 15: If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. 16: He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. 17: Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. 18: For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; 19: his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. 20: He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin.

4a) James 1:19

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,

4b) Sirach 5:11

Be quick to hear, and be deliberate in answering.

5a) James 1:21

Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

5b) Sirach 3:17

My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.

6a) James 2:13

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

6b) Tobit 4:10

For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness;

7a) James 2:23

and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.

7b) Wisdom 7:27

Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

8a) James 3:2

For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

8b) Sirach 14:1

Blessed is the man who does not blunder with his lips and need not suffer grief for sin.

9a) James 3:6

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.

9b) Sirach 5:13

Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man's tongue is his downfall.

10a) James 3:10

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

10b) Sirach 5:13

Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man's tongue is his downfall.

10c) Sirach 28:12

If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if you spit on it, it will be put out; and both come out of your mouth.

11a) James 3:13

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

11b) Sirach 3:17

My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts

12a) James 4:11

Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12b) Wisdom 1:11

Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

13a) James 5:3

Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.

13b) Judith 16:17

Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; fire and worms he will give to their flesh; they shall weep in pain for ever.

13c) Sirach 29:10

Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

14a) James 5:4

Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

14b) Tobit 4:14

Do not hold over till the next day the wages of any man who works for you, but pay him at once; and if you serve God you will receive payment. "Watch yourself, my son, in everything you do, and be disciplined in all your conduct.

15a) James 5:6

You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

15b) Wisdom 2:10

Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.

15c) Wisdom 2:12

"Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

15d) Wisdom 2:19

Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

See also:

Hebrews 2:5 and Sirach 17:17
Hebrews 11:10 and 2 Maccabees 4:1
Hebrews 11:27 and Sirach 2:2
Hebrews 12:4 and 2 Maccabees 13:14
Hebrews 12:17 and Wisdom 12:10
Hebrews 12:21 and 1 Maccabees 13:2
Hebrews 13:7 and Sirach 33:19

James 3:9 and Sirach 23:1, 4
James 4:2 and 1 Maccabees 8:16

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How Different (In Nature and Ultimate Effect) Are SolO Scriptura and SolA Scriptura (vs. Keith Mathison): Part II

See Part I.

Keith Mathison's words will be in blue. I shall cite much of his article, "A Critique of the Evangelical Doctrine of Solo Scriptura" (taken from his book: pp. 237-253) and reply to it (with his footnotes also reproduced intact). He is welcome to come to this blog to defend his own position.


Unfortunately the widespread ignorance of the true Reformation doctrine makes it that much easier for purveyors of false doctrine to sway those who have been either unable or unwilling to check the historical facts.

I understand full well what "true Reformation doctrine" is (i.e., according to classical Protestantism). I understood this (and believed it myself) as a Protestant before I ever wrote one word of Catholic apologetics or had the slightest inkling that I would ever be a Catholic. My critique isn't based upon ignorance and straw men; it is based on taking a deeper look at the best presentation of sola Scriptura and demonstrating that it is still inadequate and incoherent, and unworthy to be believed by anyone who values the Bible and/or Church history. I think it collapses based on looking at the Scripture alone, before we even get to history. The Bible deals the death blow to the theory; Church history pounds all the nails in the coffin of sola Scriptura, and a foot of concrete on top too.


The modern Evangelical doctrine of Scripture, or solo scriptura, is untenable for a number of reasons. [21] Aside from the fact that it is a novel position based upon rationalistic secular philosophy,

Not quite. It is a novel Protestant position, based on the Anabaptists of the 16th century, who rebelled from the novel Protestant positions of Luther and Calvin by adopting their quintessentially Protestant principle of authority: private judgment. It can hardly be "based upon rationalistic secular philosophy," when it preceded it by 200 years. Rather, it was and is based on "Reformation philosophy." The so-called "Reformation" was an individualistic movement, led by individuals who had no basis for authority or legitimacy (Calvin, Luther, Bucer, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Cranmer, Oecolampadius, Bullinger, etc.)

and aside from the fact that it is dishonestly presented as if it were the Reformation position,

That's not true, either. It is indeed the "Reformation position": it is the position of the Anabaptist strain of that movement, which operated on the same Protestant principles and came to different conclusions than the self-proclaimed "magisterial" or "mainstream Reformers" did. Who is to decide who was right? The irony of it all is that no one can know who was right, because of the same Protestant reasoning that united all Protestants in the opinion that Catholicism was oh-so-wrong. The Anabaptists merely utilized Luther's rationale for rejecting the Catholic Church in some respects, in order to reject Johnny-come-lately Lutheranism in some respects. To this day, about all that almost all Protestants can agree upon is that Catholicism is wrong. That's supposed to be impressive for a spiritual seeker?

it is also unbiblical, illogical, and unworkable.

Absolutely. But so is SAS and Mathison's position (the so-called "mainstream Reformation" one). How well we can see flaws in the other guys' position, but not in our own!

At this point we must examine carefully some of the many reasons why solo scriptura fails.

And I will provide the service (at no charge) of showing why sola Scriptura (SAS) also fails at every point that SOS fails.


Scripture itself indicates that the Scriptures are the possession of the Church and that the interpretation of the Scripture belongs to the Church as a whole, as a community. In particular it has been entrusted to specially gifted men. This has already been examined in some detail in the previous discussion of the Bereans and the Jerusalem Council. The Apostles did not tell every individual believer to take their Bibles and decide by themselves and for themselves whether the Judaizers were correct. On the contrary, they gathered in a council as a body and discerned the truth of the matter. Their decision then was given to the various churches. The fundamental point is that Christ established His Church with a structure of authority that is to be obeyed (Heb. 13:7). Even in the first years of the Church, there were those who were specially appointed to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:2-4). In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul indicates that a special teaching ministry was to continue after his death (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 8:5-9). The modern Evangelical doctrine of Scripture essentially destroys the real authority of ministers of the Word and the Church as a whole.

This is all quite true. The only problem is that Keith cuts off the very branch that he is sitting on. If he believes this, then how can Martin Luther reject that same teaching authority and go his own way? And how was that any different from what SOS proponents do today? Luther couldn't care less about previous Church teaching or patristic teaching, if it disagreed with his own. In due course, he was willing to ditch St. Augustine because he disagreed too much with Luther. How, then, is this a view which respects Church authority? To paraphrase Keith and apply his reasoning to Luther:

The Apostles did not tell Protestants to take their Bibles and decide by themselves and for themselves whether the Catholic Church was correct. On the contrary, the Catholic Church always gathered in a council as a body and discerned the truth of the matter.

So the Catholic Church did that in the Council of Trent. Did the Protestants respect that biblically-based authority? Of course not. They disagreed with it, and so Calvin and the Lutheran Chemnitz promptly wrote up polemical pieces opposing the teaching of the Council. Their basis of truth and authority was their own arbitrary proclamation of it for themselves (based ostensibly upon the "Bible Alone," of course). So, according to Keith, the Church is to be obeyed unless and until the time (conveniently the 16th century) when it shouldn't be obeyed (i.e., when some self-anointed quasi-prophet knows better and decides to dissent and carry along whole countries with him).

Perhaps Keith would then (in desperation at this point to salvage the sinking SAS ship) argue that Protestant leaders simply jumped in and replaced the authority that was already in place and had been consistently developing for the previous 1500 years? Again, on what basis? Why did the Council of Nicaea or Chalcedon have authority to rebuke and anathematize Arian and Monophysite heretics, yet suddenly the 16th century Church no longer has the prerogative to rebuke Lutheran and Calvinist heretics? What sense does that make? On what grounds are we to adopt this radical change of principle?

On anti-traditionalist Lutheran and Calvinist grounds? But then they show themselves to be operating on exactly the same principles as SOS advocates today. Why is it that the SOS guys can't do this today, yet it was okay for Luther and Calvin to do it? For that matter, why were the Anabaptists not allowed to be anti-traditional against the five or ten-year-old "tradition" of Lutheranism or Calvinism, and why were they drowned by Lutherans and Calvinists for their dissent, while it was perfectly reasonable for the latter to be anti-traditional against the 1500-year-old Catholic Church? The inconsistencies and absurdities are literally endless. I could sit here all night typing yet more examples of this ecclesiological craziness.

Adherents of the Evangelical position also ignore the positive scriptural references to tradition. The Gospel was preached for at least 15-20 years prior to the writing of the first book of the New Testament, and that preached gospel was authoritative and binding. This apostolic tradition was the faith of the churches who received the first books of the New Testament, and it was the context within which these books and the books of the Old Testament were to be interpreted. This is the tradition to which the churches were commanded to adhere (e.g., 2 Thess. 3:6). We have already discussed the manner in which this apostolic kerygma was taught to every catechumen and recited from memory at baptism. It is important for our purposes here simply to note that this hermeneutical context of Scripture was not abrogated once Scripture was completed. The Scriptures were written to already existing churches, and this means that these churches had the Gospel before they had the completed Scriptures.

Fine and dandy again. So Protestants ought to respect tradition. But which one? Why is Catholic tradition unacceptable (except when it is acceptable)? On what basis is one tradition ditched and another retained? On the basis of the Bible (of course, is the standard reply). Okay; Luther interprets it this way, Calvin that way, and Zwingli a third way. The Anabaptists and the later Quakers offer fourth and fifth ways (just try baptism or the Eucharist as test cases to see what I mean). So which tradition is binding on believers? You just choose which church to join and accept their tradition because they say so? Talk about blind faith . . . And this is how it goes: on and on, in endless self-contradiction and ludicrous relativism, which is winked at, justified, and rationalized all day long. One tires of that eventually. The mind can take only so much cognitive dissonance and arbitrary nonsense. People want real Christian authority: precisely the kind which they observe in the Bible, and which Keith expounds eloquently. The only problem is that no Protestant sect can offer a cogent, compelling case for locating this true Christian tradition solely or preeminently in their own ranks. It's a joke to even attempt such a thing.


An extremely significant problem with solo scriptura is the subjectivity into which it casts all hermeneutical endeavors. Ultimately the interpretation of Scripture becomes individualistic with no possibility for the resolution of differences. This occurs because adherents of solo scriptura rip the Scripture out of its ecclesiastical and traditional hermeneutical context, leaving it in a relativistic vacuum.

Precisely as Luther and Calvin and the others did, so that they came to different conclusions. It was precisely because they thumbed their noses at the existing Christian tradition (with regard to several doctrines), that the problems arose. So again, we see them acting exactly like SOS Christians today do. Yet Keith condemns the latter while winking and overlooking the manifest contradictions of the former.

The problem is that there are differing interpretations of Scripture, and Christians are told that these can be resolved by a simple appeal to Scripture.

Yep. That's how Luther and Calvin argued. So this "problem" applies to them in full force too.

But is it possible to resolve the problem of differing interpretations of Scripture by an appeal to another interpretation of Scripture? The problem that adherents of solo scriptura haven’t noticed is that any appeal to Scripture is an appeal to an interpretation of Scripture. The only question is: whose interpretation?

Exactly! Amen!

When we are faced with conflicting interpretations of Scripture, we cannot set a Bible on a table and ask it to resolve our difference of opinion as if it were a Ouija board. In order for Scripture to serve as an authority at all, it must be read, exegeted, and interpreted by somebody. In order for the Holy Spirit to speak through Scripture, some human agency must be involved, even if that human agent is simply one individual reading the text of Scripture.

That's right. I couldn't agree more. Now who should that "agency" be? The Catholic Church in 1517, or one single monk? Does Keith wish to argue that the entirety of true Christian tradition rested upon Luther's (and later Calvin's) shoulders? If he says yes, I think it is self-evidently ridiculous position, unworthy of anyone's belief. If he says no, then he can't deny the right of the Catholic Church to demand of Luther that he recant his heresies and errors. But if he does that, then the very genesis of this so-called "Reformation" (Luther at Worms and all the rest of the melodramatic presentations and Protestant myths of origin) loses its meaning and force.

The adherents of solo scriptura dismiss all of this claiming that the reason and conscience of the individual believer is the supreme interpreter. Yet this results in nothing more than hermeneutical solipsism. It renders the universal and objective truth of Scripture virtually useless because instead of the Church proclaiming with one voice to the world what the Scripture teaches, every individual interprets Scripture as seems right in his own eyes. The unbelieving world is left hearing a cacophony of conflicting voices rather than the Word of the living God.

That's exactly why we reject the legitimacy of the Protestant Revolt, in its initial justifications and rationales. Because we see the so-called "reformers" doing this, we reject them as authentic teachers; also for other reasons presented above by Keith, and many more as well.

The doctrine of solo scriptura, despite its claims to uniquely preserve the authority of the Word of God, destroys that authority by making the meaning of Scripture dependent upon the judgment of each individual. Rather than the Word of God being the one final court of appeal, the court of appeal becomes the multiplied minds of each believer. One is persuaded that Calvinism is more biblical. The other is persuaded that dispensationalism is more biblical. And by what standard does each decide? The standard is each individual’s opinion of what is biblical. The standard is necessarily individualistic, and therefore the standard is necessarily relativistic.

As in every case examined thus far, and the ones yet to come, this applies equally to Protestant origins and first principles. To illustrate this, I will simply paraphrase Keith's comment and show how it applies to Luther and Calvin, and thus to the "magisterial reformation," just as much as it applies to the Anabaptists and their followers (of SOS) today:

The doctrine of sola scriptura, despite its claims to uniquely preserve the authority of the Word of God, destroys that authority by making the meaning of Scripture dependent upon the judgment of each individual. Rather than the Word of God being the one final court of appeal, the court of appeal becomes the multiplied minds of each believer. Calvin is persuaded that his view is more biblical. Luther is persuaded that his view is more biblical. And by what standard does each decide? The standard is each individual’s opinion of what is biblical. The standard is necessarily individualistic, and therefore the standard is necessarily relativistic.


It should go without saying that solo scriptura was not the doctrine of the early Church or of the medieval Church.

Yes it should. And I'll let Keith and Protestants reading this in on a "dirty little secret" (now come close and I'll whisper): neither was sola Scriptura.

However, most proponents of solo scriptura would not be bothered in the least by this fact because they are not concerned to maintain any continuity with the teaching of the early Church. On the other hand, some are concerned to claim that their teaching is the doctrine of the classical Reformers.

Just as Luther, Calvin et al falsely claimed that their novelties were the teachings of the Church Fathers.

As we have demonstrated already, this is simply false.

No; it is simply applicable to a different portion of the "Reformation." What is false is an appeal to the Church Fathers as supposed advocates of sola Scriptura (SAS).

The classical Reformers did not adhere to Tradition 0 which is essentially all that solo scriptura is.

Except in those cases where they rejected received Catholic tradition . . .

Any claim by adherents of solo scriptura to be carrying on the teaching of the Reformers is incorrect.

I disagree. They carried on the teaching of the Anabaptist "reformers." Why should those "reformers" be deemed any less legitimate than Luther or Calvin? By what Protestant principle?

It is said either out of ignorance or deceit. The roots of solo scriptura lay not in the Apostles, not in the early Church, and not in the Reformers, but instead in the individualism of the Radical Reformation,

Well, now finally Keith backs into the historical truth, and acknowledges that there was a "radical Reformation." Of course, it wasn't "radical" to eliminate five of seven sacraments; to adopt a "mystical Eucharist," or to abominate the Mass as idolatry and blasphemy, or to ditch apostolic succession and binding Church and conciliar authority, or to go around smashing stained glass windows and statues of Mary and Jesus, or get married to nuns or to flat-out steal hundreds of churches and monasteries owned by the Catholic Church (as happened in England and other countries). Why would anyone think that those things were "radical" at all? That was all good ole conservatism and a high view of Christian (Catholic) tradition because Luther and Calvin agreed with one or other of these things?

the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and the democratic populism of early America.

These factors made the existing problems and tendencies worse, but the difficulties were already present at the roots. That is my argument.

The doctrine of solo scriptura also faces serious problems when we consider what rule of faith the Church used in the years between Christ’s death and the widespread availability of the entire Scripture. If solo scriptura is true, then much of the Church was left without any standard of truth for centuries. In the early centuries of the Church it was not possible to go to a local Christian bookstore and buy a copy of the Bible. Manuscripts of the Bible had to be hand-copied and were therefore not found in every believer’s home. The letters of the New Testament were written over a period of decades. Some churches had some portions, while other churches had others. Only gradually was the New Testament as we know it gathered and distributed as a whole. [22] Additionally, large segments of the Church were illiterate for centuries.

All of this applies to SAS, since it rejects a binding Tradition or Church. If Bibles weren't readily available (due to technological and financial limitations), then persons could hardly judge traditions in light of Scripture, even if they were sophisticated enough to understand the standard Protestant (unbiblical) principle that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith. SAS (like SOS) does not accept an infallible Church, so the latter could not have authority that was appropriately safe from error. If you have a binding Church, but that Church isn't infallible, then the believer is in ever-present danger of being bound to heresy and falsehood. That's why we believe that Tradition and Church have to be infallible in cases where believers are under binding, non-optional authority.

If the lone individual Christian is to evaluate everything by himself and for himself according to his Bible, as solo scriptura maintains, how would it have worked in the first centuries of the Church for those with no access to a Bible? How would it work for those who could not read a Bible even if they had access to one?

Proponents of SAS will attempt to nuance and qualify this, and refer to denominational traditions and teachers, etc., so as to avoid connection with the stereotypical SOS "lone ranger / atomistic individual," and so forth. But then, if we stop and think about it, how can even SAS work if the individual isn't personally familiar with the Bible? Does he simply accept the authority of various Bible teachers and charismatic figures like Luther to give him the truth and true biblical interpretations? What good is that? How is that preferable to simply accepting what the Church has already passed down? Instead of believing in an infallible Church, protected and guided by the Holy Spirit, now the individual has to subjectively wade through competing Protestant interpretation and traditions and subjectively, fallibly choose one fallible tradition as his own, and the supposedly "most biblical" one. This is a recipe for disaster. And the history of Protestantism has borne this out.

Again, the doctrine of solo scriptura is observed to be something tailor made by and for modern literate Christians. For many Christians throughout much of the Church’s history, it wouldn’t even have been possible.

Nor would SAS, as shown. Keith presents merely a series of distinctions without a difference (or so little difference as to be insignificant).

The doctrine of solo scriptura requires an anachronistic reading of modern conditions back into periods of history when those conditions did not exist.

So does SAS.


Solo scriptura is beset with numerous theological problems, the most significant being the problem of the canon. The canon is the list of books which are inspired by God. According to adherents of solo scriptura, the Bible is the only authority because its books are inspired, but the Bible nowhere includes an inspired list of inspired books. What this means is that solo scriptura can assert that Scripture is the only authority, but it cannot define with any absolute certainty what Scripture is.

Correct. But since SAS rejects an infallible Church, and this (infallible) Church gave us the canon, it is forced to fall back on a fallible list of infallible lists. That itself doesn't square with Protestant principles. If you can't know for sure what the Bible is, then you can't have either an SAS or SOS position, for obvious reasons. It's an insuperable problem for Protestantism, period. The stream can't rise above its source. Either the Church has binding power to declare the canon (among other things) or it doesn't. If it does, this contradicts the SAS understanding that Churches and Councils are always capable of error (thus it might be wrong in this instance, as one of a set of "possible fallible pronouncements"). If it doesn't, then we are left with individuals deciding (with the ostensible help of the Holy Spirit) which books are inspired and which aren't. That didn't work for the fathers, and it wouldn't for Protestants, either. So the choice is either radical uncertainty about the number and particulars of biblical books, or adoption of a contradictory instance of an infallible Church in one instance. Thus (I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but . . .) the problem is there in full force for adherents of both SOS and SAS.

When adherents do attempt to define and defend a particular canon, they cannot do so using the Bible as their only authority. In order for solo scriptura to be true, the Bible would have to include not only all of the inspired books of the Bible, but also an inspired table of contents telling us which books were really inspired. However, even this would not be enough, for we would not know that the table of contents was inspired apart from an extra-scriptural divine intervention or another inspired document telling us that the original list was inspired. Of course then we would just move the problem back another step, and so on into infinity.

That's right. Good so far. So what is the Protestant solution? That is, the sophisticated one that avoids all the errors of these backwoods fundamentalist, anti-intellectual, know-nothing simpletons (Keith's opinion of certain of his Protestant comrades, in effect, and in so many words) who adopt SOS? Will Keith ever provide us with that? Don't hold your breath . . .

Most proponents of solo scriptura simply ignore the problem of the canon as if the Bibles they hold in their hands dropped whole and complete from heaven.

And most proponents of SAS simply ignore the implications of a fallible Church declaring an infallible canon of inspired biblical books, and what this means for their epistemology and rule of faith. They know the Church had to be involved, but they don't see the contradiction for their worldview. It's at the very least a difficulty, if not a fatal blow to the entire edifice of sola Scriptura.

Yet this is not what happened in actual history. The individual books of Scripture were written over a period of one thousand years. Even the New Testament books were written over a period of decades and only gradually found their way to all of the churches. Numerous apocryphal gospels and epistles were written, some of which were considered authoritative in certain churches. It took time for the New Testament canon of twenty-seven books that we have today to be universally recognized.

And how did that come about? By the authoritative declaration of the Catholic Church, of course. And even then, this authority wasn't good enough for Luther, Calvin, and their cohorts, since they decided to pick and choose from the previously "universally recognized" tradition of the canon, and discard seven books from the Old Testament. So once again we see the nonsensical tradition of "accepting tradition until one arbitrarily rejects particulars of that tradition" which is the particular difficulty of SAS, over against SOS, which has no place for tradition whatsoever (except for personal unacknowledged ones).

The doctrine of solo scriptura presupposes a complete and closed canon that it cannot account for or defend on its own principles. This fundamental self-contradiction is one of its most obvious flaws.

But for some reason Keith can't see the obvious self-contradictions in his own position, as just outlined. Why is that?

The doctrine of solo scriptura also reduces the essential doctrines of the Christian faith to no more than opinion by denying any real authority to the ecumenical creeds of the Church. We must note that if the ecumenical creeds are no more authoritative than the opinions of any individual Christian, as adherents of solo scriptura must say if they are to remain consistent, then the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity and the Chalcedonian doctrine of Christ are no more authoritative than the doctrinal ideas of any opinionated Christian. The doctrine of the Trinity and deity of Christ become as open to debate as the doctrine of exclusive psalmody in worship.

This is all true, and shows the great superiority of the SAS position over the SOS. But there are difficulties here for SAS too, as always. It will accept the decrees of these ancient councils only insofar as they agree with preconceived theologies. Therefore, they don't have true binding authority, and can still be rejected by the individual SAS proponent. With regard to creeds, let's look at the Nicene Creed, which most proponents of SAS recite every week at church. It contains the line, "We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." Yet most SAS Protestants (excluding Lutherans) don't believe in baptismal regeneration, which is what this means. They don't believe that baptism has the power to wipe away sins.

If we look at early councils, we find that SAS Protestants will ignore ecclesiastical Marian proclamations, such as Mary's perpetual virginity and sinlessness. Many don't even like the title Theotokos, or God-bearer, which even Calvin and Luther and Zwingli fully accepted (along with her perpetual virginity). Again, I ask, then: what good is supposed Church "authority" if the individual can still pick and choose what they will accept and not accept? Obviously the individual is still in the driver's seat. So how is that all that superior to SOS, when all is said and done? I just don't see all that much difference. One ignores tradition, while the other gives it lip service only when it agrees with the views he has already predetermined by other means. In this way, SOS is at least more self-consistent. It holds to its own principle, rather than asserting it and wantonly violating it.

It is extremely important to understand the importance of this point. If the adherents of solo scriptura are correct, then there are no real objective doctrinal boundaries within Christianity. Each individual Christian is responsible to search the Scripture (even though he can’t be told with any certainty what books constitute Scripture) and judge for himself and by himself what is and is not scriptural doctrine. In other words, each individual is responsible for establishing his or her own doctrinal boundaries — his or her own creed.

If this is such a bad and alarming thing, then why were Luther and Calvin allowed to do it, with millions of their followers hanging on their every word today, as if they had any legitimate ecclesiastical authority? Or do they get a "pass" from the usual supposed "rules" of Protestantism (respect for sub-infallible tradition and all) because they claimed to be God's anointed (as if self-report apart from the Church carries any weight in such matters)?

If the ecumenical creeds have no real authority, then it cannot be of any major consequence if a person decides to reject some or all of the doctrines of these creeds — including the Trinity and the deity of Christ. If the individual judges the Trinity to be an unbiblical doctrine, then for him it is false. No other authority exists to correct him outside of his own interpretation of Scripture. This is precisely why solo scriptura inevitably results in radical relativism and subjectivity. Each man decides for himself what the essential doctrines of Christianity are, each man creates his own creed from scratch, and concepts such as orthodoxy and heresy become completely obsolete.

Just as they did when Luther and Calvin decided to toss out this, that, and the other Catholic doctrine, based on their arbitrary, self-proclaimed "authority." Granted, they kept much also (and much of the most important elements of orthodox theology), but it is still a problem that they rejected things and also (equally as important) introduced other radical concepts which were never before taught in the Church (such as the two pillars themselves: sola Scriptura and sola fide). Most SOS proponents are trinitarian, accept sola gratia and sola fide and the Resurrection, etc., so no one's "starting from scratch." That's a bit of melodramatic language, to exaggerate the differences between SOS and SAS.

The concept of Christianity itself becomes obsolete because it no longer has any meaningful objective definition. Since solo scriptura has no means by which Scripture’s propositional doctrinal content may be authoritatively defined (such definition necessarily entails the unacceptable creation of an authoritative ecumenical creed), its propositional content can only be subjectively defined by each individual. One individual may consider the Trinity essential, another may consider it a pagan idea imported into Christianity. Without an authoritatively defined statement of Christianity’s propositional doctrinal content, neither individual can definitively and finally be declared wrong. Solo scriptura destroys this possibility, and thereby destroys the possibility of Christianity being a meaningful concept. Instead, by reducing Christianity to relativism and subjectivity, it reduces Christianity to irrationalism and ultimately nonsense.

Not quite. Baptists and non-denominationalists and other SOS, low church, more congregational and individualistic Protestants (which was mostly where I resided as a Protestant) follow some creed or at least a denominational or congregational statement of belief. It's not simply "every man for himself." That's why they retain the skeletal structure of Nicene Christianity or "mere Christianity": that core of Christian beliefs that virtually all Christians have in common. To that extent they are not much more "anti-traditional" than SAS Protestants. They may have a lousy historical sense and a dim understanding of why they believe what they do, but the basics are still there in most cases.

If Keith wants to paint a "worst case scenario" for his SOS Protestant brothers, I can just as easily oblige him by a very similar analysis of how and where his own SAS principles break down into incoherence and inconsistency and uncertainty. I believe I've been doing that throughout this paper. Keith seems to be much harder on his own brethren than I am on Protestants as a whole, coming from a critical Catholic perspective. Perhaps SOS-ers provide an easy scapegoat and a way to make these harsh criticisms while pretending that one's own position suffers from no such difficulties?


The problems listed above all reveal practical problems inherent in the doctrine of solo scriptura. It is simply unworkable in either theory or in practice. We have already discussed the practical hermeneutical problems that arise from solo scriptura. At this point we must discuss how solo scriptura necessarily leads to schism and factionalism, and how it undermines real ecclesiastical authority.

The Christian Church today is split into literally tens of thousands of denominations with hundreds of new divisions arising daily. Much of the responsibility for this divisiveness rests with the doctrine of solo scriptura. When each individual’s conscience becomes the final authority for that individual, differences of opinion will occur. When men feel strongly enough about their individual interpretations, they separate from those they believe to be in error. In the world today, we have millions of believers and churches convinced of thousands of mutually contradictory doctrines, and all of them claim to base their beliefs on the authority of Scripture alone.

All of this is almost equally true of SAS. It's only a matter of relatively small degree. It's not the case that the two views are fundamentally different, as Keith makes out.

Not only has solo scriptura contributed heavily to this division and sectarianism, it can offer no possible solution. Solo scriptura is the ecclesiastical equivalent of a nation with a constitution but no court of law to interpret that constitution. Both can lead to chaos. At best solo scriptura can offer an abstract doctrinal statement to the effect that “Scripture” is the sole authority. But using Scripture alone, it cannot tell us what “Scripture” is or what it means. It simply cannot resolve differences of interpretation, and the result is more and more division and schism. The resolution of theological differences requires the possibility of authoritatively defining the propositional doctrinal content of Christianity, and it requires the possibility of an authoritative ecclesiastical “Supreme Court?’ Since neither of these possibilities are allowed within the framework of solo scriptura, there can be no possibility of resolution.

Ditto. Without belief in a binding authority besides a book, SAS is little different, and is in the same boat: maybe in a better cabin or the "first class" section, but still the same one. One tires of having to explain these manifest difficulties over and over, but we must understand the difficult position that Protestants are in, and exercise compassion for their predicament. Sola Scriptura is such a bedrock foundation to their system that it is extremely threatening to even entertain any criticisms of it which have any remote potential of demolishing this premise. For once sola Scriptura goes, one ceases to become a Protestant. It's as simple as that. Very few people enjoy taking a hard look at something that, if toppled, will mean that they have to make a big change in their life and worldview.

Therefore, Protestants tend to either ignore these difficulties (out of sight, out of mind) or play the sort of games that Keith is playing: putting all the blame on extreme proponents ("Bible Only") so as to avoid taking a close look at their own myriad difficulties and insuperable problems. And, of course, given the fear and ignorance of, and prejudice towards Catholicism that plagues so many Protestants, the reluctance to examine first principles becomes even greater, because a major alternative is "unthinkable" (or close to being so). If you have the view of "Protestantism or nothing," then you stay with a thing rather than nothing, no matter how many problems it has. Until Catholicism becomes a live, plausible option for someone, they'll prefer to find ways to avoid taking a hard look at this severely flawed system of sola Scriptura. And so this is what I've always found in trying to discuss this matter with Protestants.

Solo scriptura also undermines the legitimate ecclesiastical authority established by Christ.

Which is what, pray tell? When pressed, my Protestant friends tell me that this is not something that Scripture defines; hence the many forms of Protestant ecclesiology. But presumably Jesus Christ established only one Church and one way of authority, no?

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.

How can one truly "submit" when one always has the option of concluding "this person's teaching isn't biblical"? How can a Church be "authoritative" when it was set up without proper authority and when its adherents always have a loophole to escape it? Again, SAS is just as subject to this criticism as SOS.

To place any kind of real hermeneutical authority in an elder or teacher undermines the doctrine of solo scriptura. Those adherents of solo scriptura who do have pastors and teachers to whom they look for leadership do so under the stipulation that the individual is to evaluate the leader’s teaching by Scripture first.

The same thing happens in SAS: it's just more subtle and sophisticated. And of course Luther and Calvin did just this. No one can prove that they did otherwise. They looked at Catholic teaching and decided in many cases that it wasn't biblical, and so they rejected it.

What this means in practice is that the individual is to measure his teacher’s interpretation of Scripture against his own interpretation of Scripture.

Yep, that fits Luther and especially Calvin to a tee.

The playing field is leveled when neither the ecumenical creeds nor the Church has any more authority than the individual believer, but Christ did not establish a level playing field.

How in the world is Luther's stance at the Diet of Worms in 1521 squared with this observation?

He did not establish a democracy. He established a Church in which men and women are given different gifts, some of which involve a special gift of teaching and leading. These elders have responsibility for the flock and a certain authority over it. Scripture would not call us to submit to those who had no real authority over us (Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28).

Which is why we need an authoritative Church: either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. The other Christian groups simply don't have the credentials to qualify as the Church.


Ultimately, the fundamental problem with solo scriptura is the same problem that exists within the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox concepts of Scripture and tradition. All of these concepts result in autonomy.

Is that so? It takes a considerable amount of -- shall we say -- chutzpah, to assert that extreme (arguably consistent) proponents of sola Scriptura are closer to Catholics and Orthodox in their view of the Bible than to their fellow Protestants who are trying to be as much like Orthodox and Catholics as they can, regarding tradition and Church "authority."

All result in final authority being placed somewhere other than God and His Word. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrines result in the autonomy of the Church.

Really? That's news to me. Is it too much to ask to see actual arguments and reasoning for this opinion? I guess so . . .

Solo scriptura results in the autonomy of the individual believer who becomes a law unto himself. Scripture is interpreted according to the conscience and reason of the individual. Everything is evaluated according to the final standard of the individual’s opinion of what is and is not scriptural. The individual, not Scripture, is the real final authority according to solo scriptura. This is rebellious autonomy, and it is a usurpation of the prerogatives of God.

SAS reduces to the same thing. Tradition and Church are mentioned, but they possess no binding or real authority in the end. If they did, the "Reformation" could have never gotten off the ground. The authority of what was there when it began had to be undermined, in the very nature of the case. A revolt had to occur.

Adherents of solo scriptura have not understood that “Scripture alone” doesn’t mean “me alone.” The Bible nowhere gives any hint of wanting every individual believer to decide for himself and by himself what is and is not the true meaning of Scripture. The classical Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura meant that Scripture is the sole final and infallible authority. It does not mean that the lone individual is the one to determine what that Scripture means. Scripture was given to the Church within a certain pre-existing doctrinal context that had been preached by the Apostles for decades. Solo scriptura denies the necessity of that context, and it denies the necessity of that Church. In doing so it denies Christ who established that Church and who taught that doctrine to His disciples. It is rebellion in the name of God against the authority of God for the sake of preserving the authority of man.

Nothing new here. The same criticisms explained above apply.


Proponents of solo scriptura have deceived themselves into thinking that they honor the unique authority of Scripture. But unfortunately, by divorcing the Spirit-inspired Word of God from the Spirit-indwelt people of God, they have made it into a plaything and the source of endless speculation. If a proponent of solo scriptura is honest, he recognizes that it is not the infallible Scripture to which he ultimately appeals. His appeal is always to his on fallible interpretation of that Scripture. With solo scriptura it cannot be any other way, and this necessary relativistic autonomy is the fatal flaw of solo scriptura that proves it to be an unChristian tradition of men.

Ditto. The author has failed to convincingly persuade us that SAS is essentially different than SOS. Everywhere we turn we find similarities which cannot be rationalized away. Sola Scriptura is false, no matter how one regards it. It's unbiblical, unhistorical, unreasonable, and impossible to successfully implement in the real world. It's a Protestant myth: one of many, but more influential and wide-ranging in effect than all the others.

16. For an introduction and scriptural critique of this new heresy, see C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999).
17. Ed Stevens, “Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy,” Unpublished Paper. Emphasis mine.
18. Ibid.
19. John Noe, Beyond the End Times, (Bradford, PA: Preterist Resources, 1999), 213.
20. No author, (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2000).
21. In one sense this section has already been covered by virtually every published Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox critique of what they term solo scriptura. These published critiques tend to focus only upon Tradition 0 or solo scriptura.
22. For an outstanding study on the canonization of the New Testament, see Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987).