Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reply to C. Michael Patton on Sola Scriptura, Part One (Definitions & Introduction)




This series of replies will respond to a lengthy, multiple-post defense of sola Scriptura, written by C. Michael Patton, on the blog Parchment and Pen. He describes himself as an "historic evangelical." He is not an anti-Catholic (which is one major reason why I am taking a considerable amount of time interacting with him, because substantive and cordial dialogue is therefore possible). We've had amiable interactions in the past, and I trust that they will continue in this exchange (and any guy who likes U2 is fine with me!). Here is the listing of the entire series:

In Defense of Sola Scriptura

Part One
Part Two
Part Three (Dual-Source Theory)
Part Four (Dual-Source Theory)
Part Five (Tradition)
Part Six (Apostolic Succession)
Part Seven (Canon)
Part Eight (Divisions)
Part 8B (Divisions)

Related:

Fallible Canon
Doctrinal Disagreement to the Glory of God
Why I am Proud to Be a Protestant

His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

“If it ain’t in the Bible, I don’t believe it.” Have you ever heard said that? How about this one: “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” You might have that bumper sticker. Why not? Doesn’t this represent the glory of the Protestant Reformation’s elevation of Scripture to a position of the sole source of authority in the Christian’s life? Don’t these pithy statements represent the best of what it means to adhere to the doctrine of sola Scriptura?

No, they don’t. In fact they unfortunately represent a common misunderstanding of what sola Scriptura means.

That's right. I agree. Often, in Catholic circles (and even some Protestant ones), the very definition of the Protestant principle authority and rule of faith is misunderstood.

Where does one go for authority? In whom do we place our trust? The Church? Tradition? Scripture? The Pope? These represent important questions that are normally not understood outside the perspective of individual traditions.

And often within them as well. I wholeheartedly agree that it is an important, indeed a crucial, fundamental issue that every Christian must understand in order to properly function as a Christian with theology and an adherence to some particular form of Christianity. Good introduction to the discussion!

There are essentially five views that exist in the church today concerning the important issue of authority.

1. Dual-source theory

Belief that Tradition, represented by the magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church, is infallible and equal to Scripture as a basis for doctrine; the Church itself is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice since it must define and interpret Scripture and Tradition.

Adherents: Roman Catholics [see snazzy diagram for this]

I will argue in due course that, in effect, Protestant scholars, pastors, theologians, even radio preachers, serve as de facto "final authorities" (albeit not infallible ones) on a practical day-to-day level, because no book can do that by itself (especially not one as exceedingly lengthy and multi-faceted as the Bible). It always has to be interpreted. And one can, therefore, have an authoritative, infallible authority or a completely fallible one, contradicted by other ones within the same overall principle.

Notice that there is one complete deposit of faith, given by Christ to the Apostles. This one deposit is transmitted by two sources, written tradition (Scripture) and unwritten tradition. Notice also the dotted line as Scripture moves from the “Age of the Apostles” to the “Age of the Church.” This represents that the Scriptures were not complete in canonized form (all the books were not decided upon) until the fourth century. The Roman Catholic church believes itself responsible for the interpretation of both written and unwritten tradition. Because of their belief that the Holy Spirit protects the Roman Catholic church from error, they believe that they are the ultimate and final authority for the Christian. This is why this view is often referred to as sola ecclesia (”the church alone”).

But of course it is not sola ecclesia: rather, to be more accurate, it is a "three-legged stool" of Bible-Church-Tradition.

2. Prima Scriptura [see diagram]

Belief that the Body of Christ has two separate sources of authority for faith and practice: 1) the Scriptures and 2) Tradition. Scripture is the primary source for authority, but by itself it is insufficient for all matters of faith and practice. Tradition also contains essential elements needed for the productive Christian life.

Adherents: Some Roman Catholics (an alternate view)

This is not, again, describing the three-legged stool concept. Rather than try to present our beliefs through an inevitably (naturally) biased Protestant lens, wouldn't it be better to actually cite our authoritative documents? That would seem to be important at the outset, in order to properly understand one's opponent (I always seek to do this in dialogues): let them speak for themselves. And here is what the Catholic Church teaches about authority:

The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic Sec presiding therein,--keeping this always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing that one God is the author of both --as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod.
Vatican I (1870), Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 2: On Revelation
3. It is indeed thanks to this divine revelation, that those matters concerning God which are not of themselves beyond the scope of human reason, can, even in the present state of the human race, be known by everyone without difficulty, with firm certitude and with no intermingling of error. . . .

5. Now this supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, as declared by the sacred Council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us.

6. The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said Council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical.

7. These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.

8. Now since the decree on the interpretation of Holy Scripture, profitably made by the Council of Trent, with the intention of constraining rash speculation, has been wrongly interpreted by some, we renew that decree and declare its meaning to be as follows: that in matters of faith and morals, belonging as they do to the establishing of Christian doctrine, that meaning of Holy Scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture.

9. In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers.

Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) (1965)
Chapter II: Handing on Divine Revelation [complete]

7. In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations. Therefore Christ the Lord in whom the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion (see 2 Cor. 1:30; 3:15; 4:6), commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching [1], and to impart to them heavenly gifts. This Gospel had been promised in former times through the prophets, and Christ Himself had fulfilled it and promulgated it with His lips. This commission was faithfully fulfilled by the Apostles who, by their oral preaching, by example, and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The commission was fulfilled, too, by those Apostles and apostolic men who under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation to writing [2].

But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, "handing over" to them "the authority to teach in their own place" [3]. This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2).

8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jud. 3) [4]. Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God; and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit [5]. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke 2:19, 51), through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfilment in her.

The words of the holy Fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the Word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).

9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this Word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence [6].

10. Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 8:42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort [7].

But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on [8], has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church [9], whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

Chapter III; Sacred Scripture, Its Inspiration and Divine Interpretation

11. 11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on such to the Church herself [1]. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him [2] they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them [3], they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted [4].

Therefore since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings [5] for the sake of our salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

12. . . . But, since holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same spirit in which it was written [9], no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgement of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgement of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the Word of God.

[see also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, #74-141; especially #80, 84-86]
[I skip over his presentation of eastern Orthodox notions of authority, which I am not at all sure is accurate, but I'll let Orthodox defend themselves]

4. Sola Scriptura [see diagram]

Belief that Scripture is the final and only infallible authority for the Christian in all matters of faith and practice. While there are other authorities, they are always fallible and the must always be tested by and submit to the Scriptures.

Adherents: Reformed Protestants/Evangelicals

Good description . . .

Notice that the only difference between the sola Scriptura view and the regula fide view is that in the sola Scriptura view tradition is not infallible. It is very important to realize that advocates of sola Scriptura would believe that there were two sources of authority for the first 300–400 years of the Church. Like the previous view, tradition would be understood as a summary of what was written in Scripture that had always been accepted by the universal Church. Unlike the previous view, this summary is not infallible.

This is where sola Scriptura starts to break down and is seen to be internally inconsistent (one of many such times, as I will show throughout). If the view is that Scripture is the final and only infallible authority, then we would expect to find in this same Scripture (which alone can provide us infallible Christian teaching, apart from the necessary, required authoritative interpretation of the Church), not only a plain statement of that principle (which is nowhere to be found), but also some clear indication that tradition is on a lesser scale of authority (i.e., not infallible) than Scripture. But I can't find that anywhere in the Bible (perhaps Michael will help me locate it as we proceed in this dialogue: I've searched for 17 years and have been unsuccessful every time). False Traditions of men are indeed condemned, but not tradition altogether. The Apostle Paul does not appear to make any differentiation. In fact, he regards tradition with such high and sublime authority, that he equates it with both the Word of God and the gospel:
1) Traditions "delivered" (1 Cor 11:2), "taught by word or epistle" (2 Thes 2:15), and "received" (2 Thes 3:6).

2) The Gospel "preached" and "received" (1 Cor 15:1-2, Gal 1:9,12, 1 Thes 2:9).

3) Word of God "heard" and "received" (Acts 8:14, 1 Thes 2:13).

4) Doctrine "delivered" (Rom 6:17; cf. Acts 2:42).

5) Holy Commandment "delivered" (2 Pet 2:21; cf. Mt 15:3-9, Mk 7:8-13).

6) The Faith "delivered" (Jude 3).

7) "Things believed among us" "delivered" (Lk 1:1-2).
Moreover, Paul draws no qualitative distinction between written and oral tradition:
2 Timothy 1:13-14 (RSV) Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul even proclaims as binding teaching, the decision reached by the council in Jerusalem, which was reached in an infallible manner (with no Scripture involved at all) and the direct supervision of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29). He goes around with Timothy, passing along this tradition, along with his proclamation of the gospel:
Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
But Protestants would have us believe that now there are no longer such councils, let alone ones that reach binding decisions in an infallible manner. There were in the early Church, but all of a sudden, the authoritative Church ceased to exist (most Protestants don't even believe in bishops, in the manner that they existed in the early Church), and it's the individual believer and his Bible (and the Holy Spirit). The Bible is the abstract final infallible authority, but the individual is the final authority in the practical sense, because no one has the authority to authoritatively interpret this infallible Bible. He decides, in the end. Protestants have many teachers and guides, but as Michael has stated, none are infallible. The individual can question each one. He can accept a denominational (non-infallible) authority, but that is only as good as it doesn't contradict another denomination, and who's to say who is right?

At this time, Scripture was in the process of being recognized (canonized) and the teachings of the apostles which had been passed on through word of mouth (tradition) was only reliable for the first 100 years (or so) of Church history.

On what basis does Michael conclude that "word of mouth (tradition)" was only reliable for 100 years? He can say that the apostolic age ceased around A.D. 100, and we agree (we also agree that public revelation ceased around the same time), but why would he make the additional conclusion that all non-apostolic tradition was unreliable? Where does that come from? The Bible itself doesn't state such a thing. The early Church fathers seemed to show no awareness of this sea change in authority. St. Ignatius of Antioch gives extraordinary authority to the bishops. St. Clement of Rome functions as a strong bishop (if not a pope) in his letters. Other early fathers (particularly St. Irenaeus, but many many others) explicitly teach apostolic succession and appeal to this as an unimpeachable authority, along with scriptural proofs, in combating the heretics.

So why do Michael and Protestants as a whole reject this? On what basis do they do so, except creating their own arbitrary, purely subjective, non-biblical tradition about the atomistic authority of the Bible in radical isolation, over against Church and Tradition that it acknowledges itself, and building their entire belief-system on top of this, even though it is a self-defeating principle from the outset? Even the Protestants' very Bible (except for seven deuterocanonical books that they arbitrarily removed in the 16th century, even though the early Church accepted them) was authoritatively proclaimed in its parameters (the canon) by the Catholic Church and Tradition. So they necessarily pass through the gate of an authoritative Church and tradition, to get to the place of sola Scriptura, which now proclaims that no traditions or churches are infallible. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? It's about as clear and coherent and consistent and plausible as mud . . .

The majority of Scripture (Gospels, Acts, and Pauline corpus which makes up at least 80 percent of the NT) was accepted as authoritative by A.D. 200, if not earlier.

I agree, but this doesn't alleviate the host of related Protestant difficulties, only briefly summarized above. It's a logically circular observation, anyway, because the hidden premise is that the Bible consists of those books declared to be canonical by an authoritative Church. The Protestant then has the benefit of hindsight. He then can say that "80 percent" of the books were widely accepted by a certain date. But that presupposes which books belong in the Bible in the first place . . . it is a vicious circle. The Protestant is accepting a non-biblical binding authority and not doing so at the same time. He'll proclaim one or the other back and forth and not even be aware of the glaring self-contradiction.

At the same time, the teachings of the apostles that were being passed on through word of mouth was becoming increasingly obscure and unreliable.

How does he know that? Sure, there were false prophets from the beginning, as Jesus and Paul both stated would happen, but that doesn't mean that, therefore, there could be no reliable sacred or apostolic tradition preserved.

Once the New Testament had been circulated throughout the Church, and once the canon had been recognized, the Church became totally reliant upon the Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments) for ultimate authority in all matters of faith and practice.

If that were truly the case, then why in the world wouldn't Scripture itself state such a thing, and make it perfectly clear, and logically coherent within a sola Scriptura paradigm? Instead, we see a ludicrous methodology whereby Michael must appeal to a completely arbitrary, man-made tradition, not found in Scripture at all (this idea that 400 years would pass and then sola Scriptura would suddenly become the new rule of faith) to establish this principle that the Protestant makes the foundation for the rest of his theology. The Bible alone is the sole final and infallible authority, yet it never states this, and such a notion has to be superimposed onto it from without. We have a word for that, and it is eisegesis: literally, "reading into" the biblical text one's prior predispositions.

The Catholic Church is indeed totally reliant upon Holy Scripture, and cannot contradict it in any of its teachings, but it doesn't follow that the Church cannot infallibly interpret this same Scripture. Then Holy Spirit was promised to the Church to lead it into all truth, and we actually see a plain example of that in the Jerusalem Council.

Scripture is always to be interpreted according to the accepted, albeit fallible, regula fidei of the early church as represented in the early creeds and councils.

Well, now Michael is talking like a Catholic, but of course, in so doing, he contradicts himself and what he claimed earlier in his same article. How can he say, on one hand, that only Scripture is infallible, and on the other that we must "always" interpret according to fallible early Church traditions? That's a "loophole" as wide as the Grand Canyon. Let's try it out. It won't take long for readers to see the difficulty Michael has just opened up (almost as a gift for a Catholic critic of his position such as myself):
1) The early Church unanimously interpreted baptism, as presented in Scripture, as the cause of regeneration. But Michael and many Protestants reject this. So if they are "always" to interpret Scripture according to the early creeds and councils, then they would agree that baptism regenerates, but most of them don't. So much for early tradition . . .

2) The early Church unanimously interpreted the Eucharist, as presented in Scripture, in terms of the Real, Substantive Presence of Christ. But Michael and many Protestants reject this. So if they are "always" to interpret Scripture according to the early creeds and councils, then they would agree that Jesus is Really, Substantively present in the Eucharist, but most of them don't. So much for early tradition . . .
I could go down a list of many such doctrines: infused justification, bishops, the perpetual virginity of Mary, her sinlessness, penance, the sacrifice of the Mass, the intercession of the saints, prayer for the dead, merit, purgatory (about which more was stated by the early Fathers than they wrote about original sin), and on and on. So this supposed honoring of early Church tradition soon goes by the wayside when we closely examine what the early Church actually believed (over against the Protestant myth of what it supposedly believed), and all of a sudden it is back to a more or less ahistorical sola Scriptura position: lip service to the early Church and tradition (just like their fathers Luther and Calvin tried to do), but not much of a correspondence of belief in reality. They agree with the fathers where Catholics also do, but where they disagree with Catholics, they also disagree with the fathers.

As an important and related sidenote, there has been much recent discussion among Protestants and Orthodox concerning the similarities in the two traditions’ view of authority. In fact, mutual consent has been attained and confessions of misunderstanding given from both sides. Notice here the agreed statement from The Dublin Agreed Statement 1984 involving Anglicans and Orthodox:

“Any disjunction between Scripture and Tradition such as would treat them as two separate ‘sources of revelation’ must be rejected. The two are correlative. We affirm (1) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of the Holy Tradition or not; (2) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scriptures in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message” (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), 50–51.

We agree with this, so it is a non-issue. I've already shown above, that the Catholic Church does not accept two separate sources of revelation, because we believe in ". . . sacred tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring . . ." The two always agree. They don't come from different places, but the same spring. Secondly, this was an agreement with Anglicans, who have a higher regard for Tradition in the first place, than most species of Protestants do. So it can hardly be totally applicable to Michael's own position, if he is in line with Calvin.

[passed over a Lutheran-Orthodox statement]

5. Solo Scriptura or Nuda Scriptura [see diagram]

Belief that Scripture is the sole basis and authority in the life of the Christian. Tradition is useless and misleading, and creeds and confessions are the result of man-made traditions.

Adherents: Radical Reformers, Fundamentalists, Restorationist Churches

I appreciate the distinction drawn, and it has some value in being more like traditional Christianity than these other forms of Protestantism, but it by no means alleviates all difficulties in the mainstream sola Scriptura position, which (when closely examined) also has severe difficulties leading to vicious logical circularity and self-defeat (oftentimes granting lip service to Christian tradition and the hallowed "early Church" but in the end dissenting from them). I've already demonstrated a bit of that above, and will be happy to show it many more times as we proceed.

This is not a formal position but a pejorative designation of a practical one. It represents the unfortunate position of many evangelical or fundamental Protestants who misunderstand sola Scriptura believing that it means that the ideal place for believers to find authority and interpret Scripture is to do so in a historical vacuum, disregarding any tradition that might influence and bind their thinking. Not only does this undermine the Holy Spirit’s role in the lives of believers of the past, but it is a position of arrogance, elevating individual reason to the position of final authority. It also disregards the fact that it is impossible to interpret in a vacuum.

All in all, a good statement, and one can hold this belief without falling into the absurdities of anti-Catholicism. But in the end, reason is still pretty much king in the sola Scriptura position, because the individual remains the final arbiter of what is true Christian teaching or tradition and what is not. Or if he appeals to an authority figure like Luther and Calvin, then we need only examine their position and ask why they are accorded such authority, when they massively contradict prior Christian history, and introduce a host of novelties, corruptions, heresies, and traditions of men? And of course the answer is that they have no inherent authority and have merely arbitrarily claimed it as their own. on their own. They all, of course, appeal to the Bible, but as soon as they contradict, we have a huge problem. Who to believe, and why? Simple appeal to an abstract principle of "Bible Alone" as final and ultimate authority is only "good" till it encounters its first internal contradiction.

Protestants have many authorities in their lives. Whether it be parents, government, the church, or traditions. The doctrine of sola Scriptura does not mean that we don’t have any other authorities or even sources of revelation, but that the Scripture alone is the final and only infallible source—it is the ultimate source.

Yes, and it is good for people to understand the position, but there are plenty of difficulties remaining to be resolved. I contend that they cannot be solved. It's impossible. They're insuperable. It's like a bucket with a hundred holes trying to hold water.

Just for good measure so that I cannot be accused of not trying to get in trouble, here is how I would chart some traditions and denominations. [see diagram]

Next, I will begin to give a more formal defense of sola Scriptura.

I look forward to it. Thanks for the opportunity of being able to critique your view and to present mine as a logically consistent, and more biblical and historically continuous alternative.

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