Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reply to the Arguments of a (Protestant) Panning Review of Dave Armstrong's Book, "100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura"

By Dave Armstrong (7-11-12)

This one-star review on Amazon was posted by a Matt, or Matthew (safely semi-anonymous, of course, so I can learn nothing else about the person). But we do know that he is a Protestant and proponent of sola Scriptura. The review is much more like a "limited rebuttal" of a few of the book's arguments. His words will be in blue. I shall cite the entirety of his review in my counter-reply.

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Truly a very confusing work. 

Truly a very confused and fallacious review . . . 

I bought this mainly due to the fact that Mr. Armstrong actually list the position of Sola Scriptura with its true definition. Unfortunately his arguments didn't reflect that.

This is important, because oftentimes, the sola Scriptura advocate will resort to the charge that the Catholic critic of it is merely fighting a straw man and has no clue whatsoever what he is talking about (and sometimes this is correct, but usually not). Matt takes a (rare) middle position: according to him I provided a correct definition in the Introduction (utilizing Protestants James White, Norman Geisler, and Keith Mathison), but failed to abide by or follow through with my own correct definition, in the subsequent arguments; so he thinks.

If I may list a few examples for the sake of review.

I'm delighted that he does, since it provides me with an opportunity to interact with his criticisms and show that they miss the mark. For that I thank Matt, and appreciate it very much. A previous three-star review gave me very little I could interact with at all: just mushy generalities. Specifics in argument are great: get right down to brass tacks . . .

1.) His treatment of Galatians 1:8-9 totally missed the use of this verse. He says "In appealing to this verse, Protestants assume that the gospel received was in written form only; therefore, sola scriptura is normative." This isn't even remotely how the argument goes (Unless he received this information from laymen apologist).

But he neglects to inform the reader that I also note three sentences later a second, more nuanced version of an argument from this passage, used by Protestants:

A more sophisticated version would contend that the gospel was originally preached, but later inscripturated in Paul’s letters, and that this would preclude Catholic traditions that are not explicitly (or, they say, implicitly) taught in the Bible. (p. 123)

The Argument is not to prove what armstrong claims but rather it is to show a clear example of Private interpretation rather than Rome's claim to full submission of fallible Judgement to its pope and bishops.

Clever. Sometimes it may be or is used in that particular form, sometimes not. The problem here is that there is no one set way that all these various prooftexts are used by Protestants. There may be a dozen significant variations for any one text used. No rule that gives the "official" gold-star interpretation or use a a sola Scriptura prooftext for any given one. The fact is that they are utilized variously, and the critic must necessarily narrow down a bit.

Thus I can accept that this other variation is out there, and needs to also be refuted. But it doesn't affect the rightness or wrongness of the counter-argument that I made. I happened not to deal with that specific slant in my treatment, because I can't do everything in this regard. Matt's "demand" here is unreasonable. Surely it can't be expected that I would deal with every conceivable variation of use of prooftexts in the Protestant world. They are innumerable. We Catholics have to confront them all (good, bad, or in-between arguments), when used against our positions.

But in any event, as an apologist I must deal with different uses in argument simply because they are "out there" and causing Catholics and Protestants to be wrongly persuaded in some respects. As it is, the reply to Protestant prooftexts was only a small portion and emphasis of the book: only 14 of the 100 arguments, and a mere 12 1/2 pages. The book of mine where the main purpose is to face Protestant arguments head-on are The Catholic Verses and Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin; not this one.

I also did a critique (half of a book) of William Whitaker (1548-1595). Yet all of Matt's examples come from this section. That's fine; he can write whatever he likes, and it is part of the book. I'm simply noting that this section is not by any means the main thrust of my book. It was almost an "addendum."

Matt claims that this passage refutes the idea of "submission of fallible Judgement to its pope and bishops." It does not, but I approached it from a different angle, as he notes. The vast majority of my book is devoted precisely to showing biblical indications for the binding authority of Church and tradition: i.e., those elements that Matt flatly denies above: especially in #61-83. I also wrote a separate book devoted to biblical arguments for an infallible Catholic Church and papacy. So I have done what he requires: just not in my reply to this particular Protestant prooftext.

Lastly, having clarified all these things, I will note an actual example of a prominent use of the text of Galatians 1:8-9 in a way contrary to how he claims it is normatively or usually used in Protestant circles (and in a fashion not unlike what I describe in my section on the passage). Even better, it comes from a source that he himself likes and recommends. In a panning review (one star again) of a book that actually defends sola Scriptura (but does so badly, according to Matt), he writes:

For those who are looking for a book that will teach you how to defend sola scriptura are best looking at books by Dr. James White, William Webster ect [sic] . . . Best critique of  Not by Scripture Alone [by Robert Sungenis] is found in David T King and William Webster's book Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith Vol 1-3 and Keith Mathison's Shape of Sola Scriptura. [bracketed sections and italics and some capitals added]

I cite White and Mathison (along with Geisler) in my Introduction, for definitional purposes, which is why Matt liked that part of my book. But he likes Webster and King as well. I think they are both atrocious debaters when it comes to Catholicism (complete with many basic factual / historical  errors), and I've refuted Webster twice and King with regard to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's supposed "modernism" that he ridiculously alleged (all three critiques unanswered, of course).

But I happen to own the self-published King / Webster three-volume series (a former evangelical anti-Catholic, now atheist gave them to me). Vol. 1, written by David T. King deals with Galatians 1:8-9. Note how what he argues is almost exactly the position I was arguing against, and not the argument as Matt presents it:

Each [Chrysostom and Aquinas] restricts the gospel of Jesus Christ to that which is contained in Scripture. The theologians who constituted what is known as Tradition from the patristic and middle ages teach us that Scripture alone is the source of all truth. (p. 259; bracketed clarification mine)

The fact of the matter is that St. John Chrysostom is not a proponent of sola Scriptura at all, as I have shown in a refutation of King's reasoning on that very point. Nor is St. Thomas Aquinas. Two pages later King says that Protestants teach that the Bible is "the ultimate source of appeal for all religious controversies."

But Matt, on the other hand, goes on to claim regarding Galatians 1 that:

The argument is actually as follows: Paul tells us in this passage not to believe anyone who comes preaching a gospel that is different than that contained in the original apostolic deposit (Oral or Written is irrelevant for this argument). All we need to do is compare the original apostolic deposit to the teaching of any supposed religious authority to see if the message is the same.

That's not how King argued it. He doesn't include authoritative oral tradition at all in his analysis. He is so radically "Scripture alone" that he claims (and absurdly contends that Aquinas claims) that Scripture Alone is the source of "all truth" -- not merely the only infallible authority for Christians, which is what sola Scriptura means. Thus he shows himself to be an extremist and not a mainstream expositor of the sola Scriptura position. Yet Matt thinks he is one of the best defenders of it.

Paul is not asking us to submit our fallible judgement to the teachings of a magisterial religious authority, by using the phrase "even if we" paul places even the apostles themselves in the category of those to be rejected if their message does not match the original deposit. It is clear that paul assumes here that we would be engaging in private judgement and interpretation of the original gospel to test the authenticity of any rival gospel that may come along.

Matt is eisegeting here and projecting and superimposing his subjective Protestant traditions onto Scripture. Here is how Galatians 1:6-9 actually reads (RSV):

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel -- [7] not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

Paul says nothing about "private judgment" in the sense that Matt and Protestants mean. He says nothing about a scenario in which mere laymen judge apostles and reject them. He simply says that if anyone preaches a different gospel (even supposed apostles or angels: since if they preached a false gospel, it would prove -- strongly implied -- they they were false apostles and demons), that they should be "accursed" for doing so.

None of this undermines Catholic authority or apostolic succession. Paul doesn't say (as Protestants would love to be the case), "even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be judged by you and rejected as authorities." None of that element is present at all. He simply places a curse on false prophets.

The rest of the idea of supposedly judging the very apostles is smuggled into the text and is nowhere present. It's a typical piece of Protestant polemical eisegesis and man-made tradition, desperately utilized in order to oppose the Catholic and straightforward interpretation of the text and the slightest "Catholic" implication or conclusion. There was a hierarchy in the Church, and (binding, infallible) Church authority, though, that Paul references in the next chapter, where he recorded James, Peter, and John confirming the legitimacy of his apostolic calling and extending to him and to Barnabas "the right hand of fellowship" (2:1-10; cf. 1:18-19). 

Thus I submit that Matt's analysis of Galatians 1 and criticism of my treatment of Protestant use of it as a prooftext for sola Scriptura falls flat in multiple respects.

His treatment of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 will speak for itself. His argument is essentially that if Paul was actually making reference to sola scriptura then he contradicts himself in several places because he cites "oral tradition" three times to timothy throughout this letter.

That's just a part of it. I mention several other factors, too, so I don't quite buy that the "essence" of my argument was as he portrayed it. But what I stated in that respect was true: if Paul states that oral tradition is just as binding, that is already foreign to sola Scriptura; runs counter to it, since the view is that there is or can be no binding, infallible tradition or Church authority. A straightforward reading of Paul simply doesn't give such an impression. But if people see only what they want to see, then it may appear (by viewing texts through that filter) that it does.

He list[s] three examples.

First is 2 timothy 1:3 [Dave: should be 1:13-14] "Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." Here's the problem, this argument doesn't contradict what Paul is saying in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 

I agree! They are perfectly harmonious, as I argue. What is contradictory, is smuggling in a meaning of sola Scriptura into the letter that isn't there. It's eisegesis (i.e., literally reading "into" Scripture rather than "out of" it). In other words,. oral tradition and written, biblical tradition are harmonious. The problem comes when Protestants try to deny authoritative, binding oral tradition as a category altogether. It's impossible to read Paul's letters as a whole and do such a thing. It amounts to radically selective acceptance, and making oneself the judge rather than accepting Paul's entire teaching as it is.

Its important to note armstrong's admission in the beginning that Sola Scriptura is not a denial that God's word was at times Orally proclaimed (Him quoting Dr. James white)

That's correct. But this is a different thing from claiming that oral tradition is now null and void altogether as a legitimate carrier of apostolic truth. Protestants (including White, Mathison, and others who argue like them) want to claim that the category ended at some point in history and now we go by the Bible alone as the onl;y infallible authority. But that notion itself is not in the Bible, as I will show further below. It's an arbitrary tradition of men.

If Paul's words and writings are both the words of God (When under the inspiration of the holy spirit) (1 Thessalonians 2:13 and2 peter 3:16) then paul's instruction would be synonymous with 2 timothy 3:16.

His teaching is self-consistent; however, it is not synonymous with, or exclusively contained by that portion of it that later became Scripture (as determined by the Church and Tradition, in figuring out what was inspired and what wasn't). The hidden assumption that Matt and Protestants make, is that all of what Paul taught by mouth was later included in Scripture. But they never prove this from the same Scripture. They simply assume it with no proof.

This is a very important point. What Catholics contend is that there are quite possibly other elements in tradition that are not explicitly laid out in Scripture. It doesn't mean that they contradict Scripture (not at all); only that they are sources of binding authority that are separate from Scripture and not necessarily explicitly spelled out there. But Protestants want to argue (on no basis in Scripture) that this is not the case. 

I quoted James White in my Introduction along these lines:

It is vitally important that the reader recognize that the Protestant position insists that all God intends for us to have that is infallible, binding, and authoritative today, He has already provided in the certain, clear, understandable, and reliable Scriptures. (The Roman Catholic Controversy; Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996, p. 58)

This is simply not true, and is nowhere stated in Scripture. If it were, we can be sure that sola Scriptura proponents would cite a verse where this was taught, but they never do. It just doesn't fly. Yet this is a key plank of the more "sophisticated" version of sola Scriptura that Protestants mistakenly think clears up all the biblical and logical difficulties inherent in the incoherent position.

So with that said paul's focus is on the content of his words not the oral nature of them.

That's true (but for different reasons than Matt supposes), because for Paul (unlike Protestants) whether his authoritative teaching came through preaching, talking, or writing, is absolutely irrelevant as to its truthfulness and binding nature.

The only way Mr. Armstrong Would have a point is if he can prove that the Oral Teaching that Paul is referring to is separate from what one finds from Holy Scripture.

That's obvious by common sense and logic, since whenever Paul refers to oral teaching, it is quite clear that this would include some teaching that did not later make it into Scripture. In one long night of discussion with Paul, he would probably say at least five times more words than what is included from him in Scripture. According to Paul, they would still carry the same authority. So to argue that Paul could never have taught anything in discussion -- any idea or doctrine -- that isn't in the Bible or isn't explicitly there, is, frankly, absurd and ridiculous. I submit that no one can possibly consistently defend such a hyper-implausible view. Therefore, there is oral teaching not contained in the New Testament. And it was binding and apostolic. But this is precisely what sola Scriptura (any form of it, including the most scholarly, nuanced, and sophisticated) denies.

When the Protestant thinks about teaching "separate" from Scripture he concludes that it is usually or often, "contradictory" to Scripture. Catholics think of it, on the other hand, as "twin fonts of the same divine wellspring": harmonious with Scripture: just from a different source, as to how it was first received and passed down. This is in perfect accord with how Paul presents the matter. There is such a thing as an extrabiblical tradition that is in line with biblical teaching.

This is what the Church fathers taught. My book devoted to them has over 150 pages devoted to Bible, Tradition, and Church authority: mostly consisting of quotes from the fathers. They assuredly did not believe in sola Scriptura. Nor do King and Webster prove that they do. n Vol. III of the aforementioned set, they devote 130 pages devoted to the fathers and material sufficiency of Scripture.

But this is all beside the point, because most Catholics accept the notion (including myself, and e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Newman), and are perfectly permitted to do so, though it is not a formal dogma. And it is not the main aspect of sola Scriptura, which is, rather, the formal sufficiency of Scripture. So Webster and King (almost humorously so) major on the non sequitur "minor" of material sufficiency, while devoting all of 14 pages to "the ultimate authority of Scripture": which is still logically distinct from "formal authority": the central, fundamental issue in the discussion.

They entitle their second section "The Formal Sufficiency of Scripture," but they deal with secondary issues of perspicuity (clearness) and the alleged self-interpreting nature of Scripture: important components of sola Scriptura, but not in and of themselves proof that God intended the Bible to be the sole infallible authority. Besides, Catholics often agree in particulars that Scripture is clear and/or self-interpreting to a large extent, so many of those arguments carry no weight against our position.

The context of 2 timothy 3:16 is clear that this is an instruction relating to the context of the future (After Paul's soon departure) when false teachers will arise ( 2 timothy 3:1-13) paul at this moment is giving an instruction for that time. 

Ah; now we're getting to the real heart of the discussion. Here is a claim that Paul is allegedly previewing or foreseeing a time when infallible oral proclamation will cease and no longer be binding, while Scripture will henceforth be the sole infallible authority in Christianity. This is exactly what needs to be established from Scripture, and never is.

David T. King, in his book (Vol. I) reiterates this groundless claim repeatedly. For example:

. . . Protestant Evangelicals do affirm the binding authority of apostolic tradition as delivered by the apostles. What they preached and taught in the first century Church was authoritatively binding on the consciences of all Christians. However, we reject Roman Catholic claims that extrabiblical, apostolic traditions have been preserved orally apart from the Scriptures. (pp. 55-56)

Non-Protestants assume (without proof) that what the apostles taught orally differed substantively from that which was later inscripturated. (p. 59)

. . . Protestants have always accepted apostolic teaching that was oral in nature and which preceded its inscripturation. But apostolic revelation which God desired to preserve has been inscripturated in its entirety. (p. 71)

Let's look closely and see if the text actually teaches what Matt claims, or if this is merely more eisegesis and wishful thinking.

Yes, St. Paul talks about false teachers and decadence in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 but he never says that they should be opposed by the Bible as the only infallible authority, to the exclusion of oral authority (which is the claim, after all). He simply says "avoid such people" (3:5). He doesn't say (anymore than in Galatians 1) that each atomistic Christian individual with Bible in hand will determine who is a heretic or not. None of this undermines Church authority or establishes sola Scriptura private judgment.

He mentions Jannes and Jambres as an authoritative piece of tradition in verse 8, which is fascinating, since this is not an Old Testament reference. I dealt with this passage in argument #13 in the book. So now Paul is supposedly making an (ultimately) "anti-traditional" argument in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, yet cites a prominent oral tradition in order to do so? That's pretty odd, isn't it? In 2 Timothy 3:14, he states:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

See the "continue"? This doesn't imply some radical change in the future in the principle of authority, but rather, the same as what was before. Timothy, and by extension, all Christians, are to "continue" to abide by the apostolic tradition that was received from St. Paul ("from whom") as an oral proclamation. Paul is talking about what Timothy already knew before this letter. He is to continue in that tradition. He goes on to say that Scripture is part of that (of course it is), but it is not in a sense of being exclusively so, as if nothing besides Scripture is also authoritative. Paul in the same passage thought a Jewish tradition not recoded in the Old Testament was authoritative, and so he casually mentioned it as a fact.

(SInce Sola Scriptura is not a position that applies during times of new revelation but to the normative conditions of the church) the same thing can be applied to the other two verses he cites (2 timothy 2:2 and 3:14).

Is that so? We have seen how nothing Matt cited has established his premise in the first place: that once Scripture arrives, it is the sole infallible authority. That's all man-made tradition. He then takes the false tradition and uses it to interpret other equally clear Bible passages (2 Timothy 2:2 and 3:14). But 1:13-14, 2:2, and 3:14 -- all mentioned by me in the book as counter-texts to sola Scriptura all neglect to reference Scripture at all in the context of what true teaching consists of. 2 Timothy 3:16 does. All that proves is that both the Bible and Tradition have authority. Paul doesn't pit them against each other as Protestants do. Sometimes one is mentioned; sometimes the other is. What it doesn't prove is that only Scripture possesses such infallible authority.

I conclude that the entire argument falls to pieces, since it is radically circular:

1. After the apostolic period, the Bible alone is the only infallible authority. [Matt's contention]

2. This notion is not in the Bible itself, as shown; thus it is a man-made tradition.

3. Moreover, if it is not in the Bible, it isn't infallible, since only the Bible is that, according to sola Scriptura.

4. If it's not infallible, any Christian believer has the perfect right and duty to reject it, by private judgment.

5. Only things that are clearly taught in the Bible, the sole infallible authority, are binding upon Christians.
6. If indeed it can't be established by this criterion that  the Bible alone is the only infallible authority after the apostolic period, then one is equally justified (from a consistent Protestant perspective) in holding the opposite, fallible position that tradition or the Church are also authoritative (since neither is proven in the Bible, according to the Protestant view). If views are constructed without biblical sanction, then one is as good as the other.

Etc., etc. One could attack it from any number of angles, but it is always -- always -- the case that the Protestant employs circular and self-defeating reasoning where sola Scriptura is concerned. One simply has to analyze it deeply enough.

His treatment of john 20:30-31 is probably the best example of his lack of dealing with the actual arguments.

Excellent! So if I dismantle his criticism of supposedly my worst argument, and if even my "worst" can't be defeated by his analysis, then I'm in great shape!

He says the following "The Bible communicates the gospel that saves. This doesn't prove the principle of sola scriptura. It doesn't exclude the Church or Tradition (or any Catholic distinctive)." Again Mr. Armstrong does not understand the argument. Protestants use John 20:30-31 to prove the material sufficiency (The bible contains all NECESSARY doctrine for salvation) since John himself says "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, So by believing you may have life in his name." If what was contained in John was sufficient for salvation then how much more is for the rest of the NT? For the record Mr. Armstrong does not deny the material sufficiency of Scripture.

Fair enough. Indeed, this is one way to go about it. But as noted above, Catholics have no dogmatic beef with material sufficiency, so this particular tack doesn't oppose us in any serious sense: to assert it of one Bible passage or many.  One can be saved (in the end) as a result of reading the truths of Scripture and accepting them and deciding to be a true follower of the Savior and redeemer Jesus. No Catholic would disagree with this.

But note that saying, "one can be saved by Bible-reading" or "all that is necessary for salvation is in Scripture" does not logically contradict or preclude a possibility of being saved in some other way. This is why the prooftext fails. One could become a serious Christian and undergo conversion of heart and life as a result of a vision from an angel or a tragedy that makes them reach out to God, or the sharing or example of a Christian friend, or an uplifting Christian movie; any number of things. To assert that "x can be achieved as a result of y": where y is the Bible and x, salvation, is not to also assert, "x can only be achieved as a result of y". This is the fallacy. The Bible asserts the former, but not the latter, and the latter is what it would have to teach in order for Matt's argument to succeed in the way he wishes.

My friend Lane Core, in an excellent critique of sola Scriptura, makes other interesting observations about the passage:

First, verse 30 specifically refers to “this book.” Centuries would go by before the New Testament scriptures were all assembled in a single compilation, so “this book” refers only to the Gospel of John. Therefore, those who appeal to John 20:30-31 as a definition of the rule of faith [or as an example of material sufficiency] must take the Gospel of John alone as their rule of faith — lest they be violating the very scripture they are quoting.

Second, verse 31 specifically mentions the purpose of what is written: that we may believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God. Therefore, those who appeal to this passage as a mandate of Sola Scriptura must restrict their beliefs to nothing more than “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” — lest, again, they be violating this scripture to which they appeal. [bracketed comment added presently]

In one sense it is a distinction without a difference. The whole end-purpose of the Christian life is to be saved and to go to heaven.The Protestant asserts two things:

1. Scripture is the only infallible source of authority in the Christian life [sola Scriptura].
2. Scripture is materially sufficient for the purpose of salvation [material sufficiency].

But what is the goal of the Christian life? Salvation, of course. If Matt claims that John 20:30-31 is used primarily for the purpose of proving material sufficiency of Scripture (that most Catholics agree with), it's still not that different from proposition 1 above. Catholics agree with #2 as well (in terms of revelation; salvation technically comes through Jesus and grace, regeneration, justification, etc.). All we disagree on is whether the Bible is exclusively sufficient for that purpose. It's the same argument regarding #1. We deny the exclusivity of Scripture in both senses, and Protestants largely disagree.

As an example of how the two notions are closely related, note how anti-Catholic polemicist Michael Scheifler argues, after stating that "the Bible contains everything you need to come to a saving faith":

John speaks of some of what Jesus did as being unrecorded, signs, miracles, etc., but does not even hint at unrecorded doctrines essential for salvation, in fact he adequately refutes such a notion. So, rather that having a hole (21:25) big enough to drive a truck through (filled with unbiblical doctrines), the book of John completely closes off any attempt to introduce spurious doctrines under the guise of Tradition (20:30-31).

In other words, "no extra-biblical tradition allowed." Scripture is the only infallible authority, or sola Scriptura, as opposed to material sufficiency alone. Insofar, then, as #2 is not all that different from #1, specifically in terms of what the discussion is with regard to the truth or falsity of sola Scriptura, to say that John 20:30-31 only has to do with #2 within the framework of the overall Protestant polemic, is not to assert anything all that different from #1, once the background premises are taken into account. It's the "either/or" or "dichotomous" or "exclusivistic" mindset that Catholics (and the Bible) oppose.

This is only a small example of the errors in this book. 

I hope Matt will emerge, show himself and continue the discussion. I'd be delighted to grapple with more of his arguments.

It is obvious that Mr. Armstrong did not deal with the best works on the subject in writing this book. 

Really? Mathison, White, Geisler, Webster, King, William Whitaker, Chemnitz, Luther, Calvin, were not enough? I have read them on this topic, and sometimes (with, e.g., Whitaker) engaged them at great length. I did not intend to directly refute them in this particular book. But I know the arguments, having written about and debated this topic far more than any other for 21 years now, and with two books devoted to it, and one-third of yet another book of mine, as well as portions of several others.

This Books would get two stars for effort if there was any effort put into this book unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case. 

I'll be glad (as always) to let fair-minded readers decide where the truth lies in this debate. I do thank Matt for this opportunity to construct a number of arguments: some of them ones I haven't thought of before. I think it's wonderful. The case against sola Scriptura gets stronger every time one deals with the topic, and this "pillar" of the so-called "Reformation" continues to be (with great irony) one of the weakest and most unbiblical of the false doctrines that we believe are present in Protestantism, alongside (blessedly) many true and good ones.

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Andrew Gutierrez said...

The truth lies in the Catholic Church! I am definitely going to buy the book now after reading your critique of a critique of your own book! Thank you for this useful apologetics work.

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for buying!

Michael Brandon said...


While we ae on to sola scriptura, you might be interested in this Posting over at Credo House.

When I read it, I thought of responding to it myself, but thought I woud like to read your shot at it.

God Bless You

Michael Brandon

Dave Armstrong said...

I have many dialogues with Michael Patton about sola Scriptura posted. I doubt that this piece would cover much new ground. You should answer it! I'm working hard on my new book of St. Augustine quotations.

john said...


Grubb said...

Hey Everyone,

It's been a while since I stopped by, so I thought I'd say hi. The topic of sola scriptura is always intriguing, so I read much of your reply Dave. You said,

Paul says nothing about "private judgment" in the sense that Matt and Protestants mean. He says nothing about a scenario in which mere laymen judge apostles and reject them. He simply says that if anyone preaches a different gospel (even supposed apostles or angels: since if they preached a false gospel, it would prove -- strongly implied -- they they were false apostles and demons), that they should be "accursed" for doing so.

Suppose we take it out of the hands of "mere laymen" and allow the Reformed Church to decide. Is that acceptable? We've got Elders at our church who teach at a local seminary, and they believe based on Scripture that sola scriptura is right and that the Roman Catholic Church has added doctrine. Now it's no longer Grubb the "mere layman" exercising his "private judgment," it's a genuine body of Christ followers with wise elders exercising its wise judgment.

Wouldn't that be in line with what Paul was saying? If not, why not?

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Grubb,

Good to hear from ya, buddy!

We would say that the "Reformed Church" has no ultimate authority, since it departed from the line of apostolic succession, and holds views different from the received tradition as passed down by same. This is how the Church fathers always reasoned.

Now, Reformed Protestants get many things right, where they agree with Catholic tradition, but overall, because of differences, we deny its authority per se, based on the biblical, patristic notion of apostolic tradition and apostolic succession, and specifically because it differs from what the Church in Rome has held in unbroken succession all the way back to the apostles and Jesus Christ Himself.

In other words, Rome is the criteria of orthodoxy, which goes back to Peter being the leader of the apostles and being given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and being made the "rock" upon which the Church was built.

Grubb said...


Good to hear from you. Sorry I didn't reply sooner; I thought I had checked the box to let me know when someone replied...apparently I didn't. : )

The Bereans (Acts 17) weren't comparing what the apostles said to what they had already heard from Rome. They were comparing it to what the Word of God said and were commended for it. That's what the Reformed Church did (and does) as well.

There's no reason to believe that the Pope or the RCC cannot err. First of all, it's not put forth in scripture; and secondly, local churches wouldn't compare to scripture what passers by said, they'd just compare it to what the RCC & Pope say. But clearly, comparing what religious people say to Scripture is not only acceptable, it's advisable and commendable.

If a third of the angels (ANGELS!!) could spiritually err, a Pope and the RCC can too. That's why it's good always to go back to the written Word, because it doesn't change. The RCC and Popes do.

Dave Armstrong said...

What do you do when men don't agree on the interpretation of what this inspired, infallible Bible teaches? Fall back on denominational traditions of men? If so, how is that better than the Catholic system?

You've simply put your faith in the "Reformed" denomination: which, of course, teaches several things that are unbiblical, as interpreted (and proven) by unbroken apostolic, patristic, and Catholic tradition through the centuries.

Grubb said...

What do you do when men don't agree on the interpretation of what this inspired, infallible Bible teaches? Fall back on denominational traditions of men? If so, how is that better than the Catholic system?

In many instances, we agree to disagree. Romans 14:1-6 allows for differences on many issues, and some were major issues in their day: what they could or couldn't eat and what days to observe or not. And this wasn't just at the church or denomination level; it was at the individual level.

We can't agree to disagree on major issues like the Trinity or salvation by faith in Christ, but with things like infant baptism vs believer's baptism (as long as one doesn't believe baptism = salvation), we agree to disagree.

On serious issues such as homosexuality or female pastors, we point to scripture that condemns both and encourage wayward churches to change their theology and ways.

Hebrews 4:11-13 says, "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

It's the Word that does the convicting not the man. So with those whom have faulty theology we "correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction." (II Tim 4:2b)

Dave Armstrong said...

You prove my point that your system is unworkable. Baptism is not a minor issue at all (as you hold). It's tied directly to salvation several times in Scripture. That's pretty important:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;

1 Peter 3:18-21 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'

Romans 6:3-4 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (cf. Romans 8:11, 1 Cor 15:20-23, Col 2:11-13)

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Mark 16:16 [disputed manuscript, but still indicates the early Christian, apostolic belief] He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Paul seems to imply an organic connection between baptism (washed), sanctification and justification.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

Compare this to John 3:5:

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (cf. 3:3: "unless a man is born again ...")

The two passages are almost exactly parallel:

Titus: "saved" / John: "enter the kingdom of God"

Titus: "washing of rebirth" / John: "born of water"

Titus: "renewal by the Holy Spirit" / John: "born . . . of the Spirit"

Grubb said...

I wasn't clear enough with my categorization. There's indisputable doctrine that, if denied, would cause one to discern one to be unsaved: the trinity, salvation by faith in Christ, all men are sinners,...

Then there's major doctrine that's very clear in the Bible: homosexuality is a sin, lying is a sin, and female pastors are not allowed. To deny those things is serious but doesn't necessarily exclude one from salvation.

Then there's doctrine that can be viewed multiple ways (not necessarily minor): what day you worship the Lord, what you eat (or don't eat), whether one is baptized as an infant or as a believer,... What day one worships & what one eats or doesn't were MAJOR issues in Paul's day, but they're not now. And apparently they were disputable.

There's no command to be baptized as an infant. There is a command to believe and be baptized. There are instances of whole households being baptized but no confirmed infants being baptized. If there were, Southern Baptists would baptize infants.

Paul equates baptism to circumcision, which is why Methodists baptize infants, however neither of us believes baptism brings salvation. That's why Baptists & Methodists can agree to disagree even though it's not a trivial matter.

Rosary Guy said...

Dave, you say, "He is so radically "Scripture alone" that he claims (and absurdly contends that Aquinas claims) that Scripture Alone is the course of "all truth" -- not merely the only infallible authority for Christians, which is what sola Scriptura means."

I suspect this is a typo. Shouldn't "course" be "source"? If so, can you change it in the original? If not, can you explain what you mean by "the course of all truth"?

Dave Armstrong said...


Dave Armstrong said...

Yeah, it was a typo (now corrected). Thanks for pointing this out.