A reader sez…

Here’s another doctrine accepted by all Protestants that can’t be found in the Bible:

Jesus wasn’t married.

There is no doctrine in the world accepted by all Protestants, except perhaps, “God exists.” The basic Protestant reply to your comment is “It doesn’t say Jesus *was* married in Scripture, so saying he was married “adds to Scripture” and is false teaching.”

A tiny minority of Protestants do think Jesus was married. In order to show they are wrong–not just “Christians who have a different but legitimate viewpoint about something Scripture is silent on” but wrong and even “false teachers”, most sola scriptura Protestants adopt the “severe minimalist” approach to Scripture for a moment and declare that, if it’s not clearly taught in Scripture, it’s *false* to say X.

The problem, of course, is that Scripture also doesn’t clearly say “Polygamy is a sin for laypeople” or “The Holy Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son and is God, not a force or an expression of God’s power” or “Ecclesiastes is inspired” or “public revelation closed with the death of the apostles.” At this point, the quick-thinking sola scriptura advocate will say “We don’t reject Tradition altogether. It has its place. It’s just that it’s not revelatory.”

This is what professional theologians call “Trying to have your cake and eat it.” If Tradition is the determinative key to dealing with silence and ambiguity about these latter issues (and it is) then it is the key to dealing with the question of whether Jesus is married or (ahem) whether Mary was a Perpetual Virgin. That poses no problem for Catholic faith, since it freely acknowledges that revelation is handed on to us in both written and unwritten form. It poses a big problem for sola scriptura and the various inconsistent attempts to defend it, while attacking this or that Catholic doctrine. In order to prove a Catholic doctrine false, it is not incumbent on the Catholic to “prove” a doctrine from Scripture. Catholics freely acknowledge that many doctrines can’t be proven on the basis of the bare text alone. They, in fact, insist that you have to read the text through the lens of Tradition, not only in the case of so-called “Catholic” doctrines but in the case of a large number of doctrines shared by Catholic and Protestant alike.

Nope. To prove a Catholic doctrine false you have to show that it is absolutely positively contrary to Scripture. And that can’t be done.


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