Sola Scriptura & Mama Church

A while back, a person claiming to speak for the Roman Church argued in private exchange:

Regarding the belief that the bible is the sole authority with regards to matters of faith I believe the Catholic Church follows this rule better than any faith.

This claim is a good example of why it is so important when dealing with Catholic apologists to carefully examine what they write or say. A quick reading may leave the impression that the Roman Church buys into the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. That is not what he meant. The operative words in his statement are: follows this rule better than any faith. By comparing RCC conformance to Sola Scriptura with that of other faiths, he does not offer support for his assertion, only a smoke screen. When he promulgated the new Catholic Catechism, John Paul 2 assured Catholic bishops that:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith. -- John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, Promulgated on October 11, 1992

Well, the RCC Catechism certainly does teach that Scripture is an authority in matters of faith. It also mentions a few other sources of doctrine and faith - Tradition (capital T) and the Church's Teaching Authority, which are considered to be of equal authority with Scripture. Am I to understand that within the RCC, Scripture is the SOLE authority on matters of faith when combined with and evaluated through Tradition? In my understanding, 'sole' means 'only' or 'lone.' Apparently, in the RCC lexicon, it means 'lone, but not really.'

78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, 'the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.'[DV 8 # 1.] 'The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.'[DV 8 # 3.]--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Perhaps I misunderstood. Perhaps this Catholic apologist was correct and I had not properly grasped Rome's meaning. Perhaps, as this Catholic apologist had previously claimed, I had misquoted or misinterpreted Rome's teaching. If that were so, I stand condemned for my error. On the other hand, perhaps I do understand what Rome teaches and this Catholic apologist, in common with many of his kind whom I have encountered on the Internet, didn't really know what he was talking about. Perhaps this Catholic apologist, as has been the case with so many others of his kind that I have encountered, really had not researched his own church history or Canon Law or, heavens forefend, even the very catechism which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1993. In other words, like so many others who would defend the Whore on the Tiber, he appeared to be talking through his hat.

Am I wrong? Does the Catholic Church "follow the rule" that the Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith "better than any faith?" Let's see what the Catholic Church says 'officially' in her Catechism:

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, 'does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.'[DV 9.]--CCC, Op. cit.


Well, perhaps that is an aberration, a little something that slipped through the scrutiny of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There can't be anything more like that. Can there?

95 'It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.'[DV 10 # 3.]--CCC, Op. cit.

Oh! Well, the Catholic apologist did say that it was only his belief, which is but an opinion and, as I believe the above demonstrates, an uninformed opinion at that.

This Roman warrior had more to say.

The problems that most Protestants have with the RCC is that they do not like the Church's interpretation of the Bible.

I just love these global statements which seldom appear to be supported by anything other than the writer's fantasies. So many Catholic apologists that I have encountered love to claim what all or most or even many non-Catholics believe, think or do; yet they universally fail, in my experience, to provide any source for their claim. I asked this defender of Catholicism where he had acquired his information concerning the problems most Protestants have with anything; but received no reply. On the other hand, I freely admit that I personally do have a great deal of upset with the RCC's deceitful and self-serving interpretation of Scripture.

Another interesting issue here has to do with the appellation 'Protestant.' I certainly do not consider myself Protestant, nor do I personally know anyone who claims that label. My personal preference is 'Bible-believing Christian' or simply 'Christian.' This distances me, I feel, from a number of the pseudo-Christian cults like Roman Catholicism, the LDS, Church of Christ, etc., who talk the talk but certainly do not walk the walk.

But if anyone feels that this is not the case let them study what the church teaches.

Good grief! I so often wonder if any Catholic 'apologist' ever reads the material that Christians put on the Internet. Are they all too busy searching some Catholic copy-and-paste apologetics site that they don't have time to read that to which they are responding? A number of us Christians writing on the errors of Catholicism have 'gone the whole route:' baptism, confession (That's what they called it when I was a kid), first communion, confirmation. We either attended Catholic schools or CCD classes. Many of us males had served at the altar. From their articles that I have read, I believe that some of these writers have Catholic families. We read and post from the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Douay-Rheims Bible, the documents of various ecumenical church councils and, of course, from the innumerable bulls, encyclicals, decrees and constitutions that pour forth from the Holy See like water out of a boot. In addition to those official RCC sources, we frequently call upon the writings of a host of Catholic theological writers and educators. To suggest that Christians writing on the Web do not draw from Catholic sources when they respond or post, suggests that this person was responding either out of abysmal ignorance or deliberate deceit.

Here's a reputable Catholic source for you:

The Bible actually denies that it is the complete rule of faith. John tells us that not everything concerning Christ's work is in Scripture (John 21:25), and Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition that is handed down by word of mouth (2 Timothy 2:2)--Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on 'Romanism' by 'Bible Christians, Ignatius Pressco (c) 1988, p. 136)

Those two Bible passages are frequently addressed on apologetics forums, but I would like to clarify one point  concerning John 21:25.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.--John 21:25

Jesus lived about 33 years, only the final three of which were His active ministry. A fast reader likely could read the entire Book of John in 33 minutes, so it seems rather apparent that everything Christ did, as a baby, as a child, as an adolescent, as a young man and as a prophet could not be included in that short book. For that matter, do we really want to know everything He said or did? Would it be really useful to one's faith walk to know how many times baby Jesus had His diapers changed? Or how many feedings He had when He was four months old? Do we need to know what He ate at every meal or when He had a bowel movement? What Scripture does provide is historical evidence of the fulfillment of prophecies in the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Scripture provides us our spiritual genealogy and a broad brush treatment of our family history. It also provides the teacher (the Law) through which we learned what sin is and the crystal clear message that no one can be saved by works of the Law. Then, we are shown the only way by which the sinner can be saved and are introduced to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Through eyewitness accounts, we learn of some of the miracles by which His divinity was confirmed and of His frightful atoning death and miraculous resurrection. In the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, we receive from the Apostles and others the same teachings the members of the early Church received and the final end times prophecies.

Now, if Rome were to use John 21:25 to disqualify the Bible from being the complete rule of faith, then Rome is gonna get cut with the same sword she swings against Sola Scriptura, for Rome's tradition certainly does not fill in the gaps suggested by John. I have read thousands of pages of Roman and ECF writings, yet I have found nothing even approaching an exhaustive account of the 'missing chapters' in Christ's life.

And don't go to sources outside the RCC but read what the saints have written.

And why in the world should we deny ourselves the benefit of the study of other Christians? There was no Roman Catholic Church as we know it until years after Emperor Constantine published the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Prior to that time, every attempt by the arrogant bishops of Rome to exercise control or authority over the bishops of other churches was met with contempt and, occasionally, ridicule.

"Read what the saints have written?" Which saints? Is he talking about those thousands of dead people Catholics like to pray to? The ones who have magical powers, like St. Maurus or St. Jude? Is he talking of the wonder working saints like St. Brigid? Oops! I forgot, the Bollanders 'unsainted' her back in the 1960's. Maybe he is refering to St. Christopher. Nope. The Bollanders got him also. Perhaps he means such saints as Anselm, the guy who wrote incredibly erotic love letters to his male students. Or perhaps St. Catherine of Sienna, some of whose writings would be at home on the pages of today's Hustler magazine.

All right. I confess that I am having a little fun with the idea that thousands of people have managed to escape the fires of Purgatory, the Roman church's cash cow, and gone straight to Heaven to be with Catholic Mary and those other figures in the Roman Catholic pantheon. I imagine the reference is to the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Is there inconsistency here? I mean, in his opening slam, he stated a belief that the RCC does a better job than any other faith in keeping the rule that the Bible is the sole authority on matters of faith. Now, he points to the writings of men, many of whom were under the Roman yoke, to validate the Catholic position on biblical authority. Isn't this rather like asking a fox whether it is okay to kill chickens?

All faiths have skeletons in their closets.

To my knowledge, I never have argued that only the Catholic Church has done things to be ashamed of. However, the article to which this person was responding dealt with Roman Catholic teachings and doctrine.

ALL HAVE. So don't use the sins of the members of the church to discredit the Teachings

There he goes again, with those global statements and the arrogance to command. I can jolly well point to the sins of the many horrible men who have, down through the years, been the Pontifex Maximus of the Roman church if I choose to do so. For centuries, the Roman popes and other princes of the RCC were numbered among the most corrupt men of their times. One could check that out, for example, in Richard McBrien's Lives of the Popes. Personally, I shall be guided by Paul's words to Timothy:

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.--2 Timothy 4:2-4

At this point, the 'apologist' pulled up one of Rome's pet passages to 'validate' his way of doing business:

Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.--Matthew 23:2,3

I think I shall examine that passage in a bit more detail. Let us begin with the preceding verse, which sets the scene. Jesus had been dealing with the trick questions of scribes and Pharisees, shaming them into silence with His responses. He then turned his attention back to the crowd that had gathered:

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: --Matthew 23:1, 2

What exactly was Moses' seat? This is the only instance it is mentioned in all of Scripture. Well, bear in mind that in this passage, Jesus is speaking to Jews in Jerusalem. They shared a common upbringing and religious heritage with Him. They understood His references in the context of their daily lives. To the casual reader, the passage seems to support the authority of the scribes and Pharisees to teach oral tradition to the people. It should be remembered that, at this time, scribes had moved into authority positions in terms of interpreting and teaching from the Scriptures. They were the guys who carefully copied the sacred writings, counting every jot and tittle, and who spent their days reading and writing God's revelation. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the 'experts' on the unwritten oral law or tradition. The scribes and Pharisees, working together, were to Judaism what the Magisterium is to Catholicism. Read through this chapter to get an idea of how Jesus felt toward the scribes and Pharisees.

Anyway, as used here, Moses' seat is the rough equivalent of a university's 'chair of philosophy.' To figuratively "sit'" in this chair was, symbolically at least, to be teaching from the Torah, the Book of the Law, written by Moses under divine inspiration. A more appropriate translation would be "[they] have seated themselves in Moses' seat" which more clearly suggests that they had claimed this imaginary authority for themselves. Now, there was a legitimate sense in which the priests and Levites actually did have authority to decide matters of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the Word of God (15:39). For that, Jesus condemned them (vv. 836).

While, in this passage, the meaning does not necessarily indicate a literal chair, there is archeological confirmation that such a seat did exist, at least in one synagogue (Hamath), right next to the place where the Torah was kept. Apparently, at some moment in the synagogue worship, a lector would sit on that stone seat and read from Torah.

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.--Matthew 23:3

What is Jesus telling the crowd now? It seems likely the lector would exhort the assembly to conform to the Law, with particular emphasis on the passage under study. It seems clear to me that Jesus here is telling His audience to do as the scribe or Pharisee lector instructs, in so far as it accords with the Word of God. The Roman Catholic Church promotes the fantasy of Holy Tradition, which essentially is that whoever sits in Moses' chair can teach whatever he wants and, because he is in the symbolic seat of Moses, the Catholic faithful are bound to obey.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.--Matthew 23:4

The Pharisees, like today's Roman church, were prone to bind "heavy burdens" of extrabiblical traditions and put them on others' shoulders. Jesus explicitly condemned that sort of legalism Actually, this passage provides clear support for the biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,--Matthew 23:5

The Pharisees and scribes not only abused their authority by imposing foolishly strict and burdensome requirements on the people, they also made a big deal of their self-proclaimed authority over the common herd. They made a big show of their piety, dressing to show their 'holiness' and authority kinda like the Roman clergy to this day. These hypocrits wore extra long tassels on their prayer shawls, while today's Catholic cleric is likely to wear a floor length gown or robe.

Due to an overly literal interpretation of passages like Exodus 13:9,10 and Deuteronomy 6:8, pious men of the times would wear phylacteries on their foreheads and left arms when praying. The phylactery was a leather box containing a slip of parchment, upon which was written, in four columns, Exodus 13:1-10, 11-16 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21. Apparently, the Pharisees would use extra wide leather straps to bind the phylacteries to their heads and arms, to make the object more noticeable.

Messiah continued to slam the hypocritical self-anointed religious leaders of His day throughout this chapter, but you should have the idea by now. His reference to the chair of Moses in no way supports Rome's fantasy of holy Tradition.

If I want to know what an organization preaches I ask the leaders of that organization and read what the founders have to say.

That sounds like a good plan. However, there is a slight flaw. It is darned near impossible to pin the Roman hierarchy down on matters of doctrine and faith for some of these are declarations 'infallibly' arrived at and later are 'infallibly' altered or abrogated by some other agent acting with equal 'infallibility.' I have shown, in other articles, how the Catholic hierarchy has striven and is striving to deny the sufficiency of Scripture and dilute the authority of the Word of God. The guy asked for Catholic sources, how about these words concerning the Holy Scriptures?

They do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation.--James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, John Murphy Co., Baltimore, Md. (1917), p. 73

Scripture replies:

For indeed his divine power has granted us all things pertaining to life and piety...--2 Peter 1:3

Cardinal Gibbons also wrote:

...Nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice.--James Cardinal Gibbons, Op. cit,, p. 72

Scripture responds:

All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice, that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work.--2 Timothy 3:16,17

Other Catholic words on the sufficiency of Scripture:

Far from being hostile to the Bible, the Catholic Church is its true mother. She determined which are the books of religion from the many writings circulated as inspired in the early Christian ages and assembled them all within the covers of a single book. ..She is not the child of the Bible, as many non-Catholics imagine, but its mother. She derives neither her existence nor her teaching authority from the New Testament.--John A. O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, Our Sunday Visitor, (c)1974, .126

We must, therefore, conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith...because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance --James Cardinal Gibbons, Op. cit., p. 73

The Bible does not pretend to be a formulary of belief, as in a creed or catechism. There is nowhere in the New Testament a clear, methodical statement of the teaching of Christ--Bertrand L. Conway, Question Box, The Columbus Press, (c) 1913, p. 66

The very nature of the Bible ought to prove to any thinking man the impossibility of its being the one safe method to find out what the Savior taught.--Ibid., p. 67).

The Bible was not intended to be a textbook of Christian religion.--John Francis Knoll, Catholic Facts, Our Sunday Visitor Press, (c) 1927, p. 50

The Scripture indeed is a divine book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, and cannot exercise the action which the preacher can obtain.--Joseph Bruneau, Our Priesthood, B. Herder Company, (c) 1911, p. 155.

In early times, the Bible was read freely by the lay people, and the Fathers constantly encourage them to do so, although they also insist on the obscurity of the sacred text. No prohibitions were issued against the popular reading of the Bible, New dangers came in during the middle ages. When the heresy of the Albigenses arose there was a danger from corrupt translations, and also from the fact that the heretics tried to make the faithful judge the Church by their own interpretation of the bible. To meet these evils, the Councils of Toulouse (1229) and Tarragona (1234) forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. Pius IV required the bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of Scriptures, unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such reading was likely to prove beneficial,--John Gilmary Shea, Ed., The Catholic Educator, (c) 1902, Peter J. Ryan, p. 81

Of all the advice that we can offer your holiness we must open your eyes well and use all possible force in the matter, namely to permit the reading of the gospel as little as possible in all the countries under your jurisdiction. Let the very little part of the gospel suffice which is usually read in mass, and let no one be permitted to read more. So long as people will be content with the small amount, your interest will prosper; but as soon as the people want to read more, your interest will fail. The Bible is a book, which more than any other, has raised against us the tumults and tempests by which we have almost perished. In fact, if one compares the teaching of the Bible with what takes place in our churches, he will soon find discord, and will realize that our teachings are often different from the Bible, and oftener still, contrary to it.--excerpt from an address given by the Cardinals to Pope Pius III, preserved in the National Library in Paris, Folio No. 1068, Vol. 2, pp. 650-651

The reading of the Bible in the vernacular was never unconditionally forbidden, though the reading of unauthorized versions was prohibited, and from 1564 to 1757 the reading of vernacular versions without peermission of parish priest or confessor. This regulation, though technically withdrawn only in the latter year, had fallen into general deseutude for almost a century previously, and had been limited by many local exemptions. Only in Spain did a decree of the Spanish Inquisition totally forbid Bible-reading in the vernacular; this decree was withdrawn in 1782--Donald Attwater, Ed., Catholic Dictionary, The McMillan Company (c) 1942, p. 544

Like the Early Church Fathers? Here are some things they had to say about the sufficiency of Scripture:

These [canonical] books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them: in these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel; let no man add to or take away from them.--Athanasius, Fest. Ep. 39

The apostles at that time first preached the Gospel but later, by the will of God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith.--Irenaeus, Ad Her. I:3:1

These [canonical] books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them: in these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel; let no man add to or take away from them.--Athanasius, Fest. Ep. 39

In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures--Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 4:17

The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.--Basil, Moralia, 72:1

The Catholic 'apologist' continued to press his case:

If I want to know what Lutherans say I read what Martin Luther himself wrote. For Calvinist I read Calvin and so on."

If that is this fellow's approach to doctrinal study, I suggest that it is hopelessly simplistic and likely produces results comparable to those the Magisterium works up for the few passages of Scripture they deign to even consider. In other words, the results of such "investigation" likely would be taken out of context and incomplete, inaccurate and hardly worth reading. I don't know much about Luther; I have never read any of his work. I have read a little in Calvin's Institutes and nothing else that he wrote.

As a Bible-believing Christian, I look to the Bible as authority and not the writings of any man. Certainly, I refer to the commentaries and insights of many theologians and apologists, but not as authorities. But perhaps this fellow could not grasp that. Perhaps he was, like other Catholic apologists who have written me, interested only in examining Christian doctrine in the light of Catholicism. In doing that, why be different from Mother Church? Why bother to read anything written by respected Christian theologians? It has been my observation that, the few times I have encountered non-Catholic quotations at all in a Catholic 'apologetic,' the writers quoted are carefully chosen from those out there on the fringe of reality. However, all who call themselves Christian not necessarily are. Take the leaders of the RCC, for example, the ones who worship the Earth-goddess Catholic Mary.

At this point, the 'apologist' uttered another grievance:

Too many times in my studies I have read people misquoting what the church teaches and people follow that quote as gospel truth. And that goes for Protestants and Catholics alike. If one is going to critisize he should at least have full knowledge of the issue.

Why would someone such as I be required to have a "full knowledge" of Roman Catholicism when not even the pope himself is required to be a competent theologian? I wonder what this fellow knows of Christian beliefs? I am not referring to the Catholic version of Christian beliefs, which I consider an oxymoron, but the things that mature, Bible-believing Christians hold as truth? Did he have full knowledge of what he condemned? That seems unlikely, given that he had demonstrated that he did not know much about his own church the religion he arrogantly attempted to defend.

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