Biblical “Truth” (vs. “Primary & Secondary” Doctrines)

Biblical “Truth” (vs. “Primary & Secondary” Doctrines) October 21, 2019

The following material is a remnant of my discontinued book, 501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura (Lulu: Jan. 2009): which was revised and published as 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura (San Diego: Catholic Answers Press, May 2012).

The newer book is of a completely different structure, with the best arguments modified, improved, and honed down to get the best “meat” of the various arguments against sola Scriptura. It also contains several sections that are brand-new.

The older book was a compilation in the style of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (“thoughts”): short arguments or just observations, piled one on another. Oftentimes, an “argument” was only one sentence, and it had too much repetition, because it was compiled from many of my existing writings (from previous books or from the Internet).

To use an analogy: the original book was like a rehearsal of a band, with all kinds of “jams” and musical ideas or fragments, but a lot less structure. The new book is like the musical album that results from sessions: carefully produced to present to the public as a finished product.

In any event, some material of worth from the first book didn’t make it into the second. This chapter compiles a bit of that (ones not included in previous books of mine).


1) What does the Protestant tell the man on the street who is looking for spiritual and theological truth: “we can’t give you any certainty, but at least we’re not Catholic”?

2) People over time then tend to consider the doctrines that are highly disputed to be relatively unimportant, whereas from a biblical point of view, all spiritual and theological truth is important.

3) One has the burden of finding the “most true church” within Protestantism or else succumbing to doctrinal indifferentism and de facto relativism, as millions of Protestants do, because their system is of little use in leading them to theological certainty in faith.

4) God likes truth and certainty. He wants us to have it: the certitude of faith. Yet Protestants would have us believe that no such thing is possible, and it is almost an obsession lately with Protestants, that uncertainty and de facto theological relativism is fashionable, trendy; even desirable. Christianity is not a perpetual quest after theological truth. We ought to be questing after righteousness, not theology, our entire lives.

5) Protestants, in effect, if not literally, don’t have enough faith to believe that God could or would preserve His truth without error, in any institution of men: even if such an institution believes itself to be identifiable as the “Christian Church.” Most Protestants, if they think about it long enough, conclude that all of this is implausible and that it is beyond the realm of possibility. They assume this at the outset, without argument, as a self-evident truth.

6) Many Protestants are unable to accept Catholic authority in faith, based on Scripture and historical evidences, and so are left with the thoroughly unacceptable and unbiblical “alternative” of doctrinal relativism and no chance of finding one theological Truth or Church. This odd state of affairs doesn’t even comply with how Luther and Calvin and the original Protestants conceived of themselves. It’s a postmodernist corruption of historic or “classic, Reformation” Protestantism.

7) Protestants today often claim that no Christian tradition can reasonably claim apostolic succession, indefectibility, infallibility, or a self-consistency throughout Church history. This is standard Protestantism in the sense that it denies the existence of any infallible Church. But on the other hand, the early Protestants did still claim that each of their traditions was truer than the other ones (else why should they exist at all?). It was the claim to theological truth that largely drove these “reformers” to do what they did, for better or ill.

8) Liberals (both political and theological) and secularists speak of “diversity,” etc., because in their mind that bolsters their false opinions that no truth can be found, or that all opinions are on an equal plane and equally valid, because they are subjective to the person rather than objective. Cultural diversity is great. But in matters of theology, it seems utterly clear in the Bible that God wants the Church to be completely unified. Truth can be known. The Church can declare on what is true and what is not. But once one eliminates an infallible Church, then no one can definitely resolve the conflicts.

9) I disagree that everyone must have an outlook of skepticism, no matter what type of Christian they are. Rather, I contend that we should all seek Christian truth and not despair that it can never be found because of human foibles and follies. And I refuse accept the fashionable notion that anyone confident in his tradition as the best or fullest Christian tradition must inevitably be “triumphalistic”. I suppose that is how it will always look to someone less confident in his or her own position, but what can one say? Religious truth is no less able to be found (nor less important) than scientific or historical truths. Why must we be so pessimistic about it?

10) Is it always “presumptuous” to dare to have a belief in an authoritative Church and to not be so fashionably uncertain that we garner respect from many for being “nuanced” and “sophisticated” and so on, because we haven’t figured out the answer to the question, and come to believe that no answer can possibly be obtained? If not, then I wish critics of the Catholic Church would please provide a “non-presumptuous” example of a defense of Catholic ecclesiology. Is such skepticism and agnosticism on ecclesiology the default position of Protestantism?

11) Many Protestants are reduced to embracing a counsel of despair: the very opposite of a hopeful, sunny biblical faith. In this mentality, one cannot find the one true Church of Scripture. It’s futile to even try. God is not able to preserve one truth or lead His followers to it. Many Protestants no longer think it is even possible to find and believe in one Christian truth (it is viewed as a “romantic” and childlike notion). This was not at all true of the original Protestant “Reformers” (Luther, Calvin et al), but it has been the sadly predictable outcome of a wild proliferation of contradictory beliefs.

12) It is exceedingly strange for many Protestants to essentially relegate the Eucharist to relativism and relative insignificance, when our Lord Himself made it a point of division. John 6:66 tells us of “many of his disciples” forsaking Him. Now, if the Eucharist were just minutiae on the grand scale of matters theological, why didn’t Jesus beg and plead with these people to stay? If the Protestant view is correct, it seems reasonable that Jesus should then have said, “Hey, don’t go: this isn’t a matter which should divide us. We agree that I am God. Who cares about what happens in the central act of Christian worship!?” And we know also that Jesus said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). But that’s “secondary”; “non-essential”? I can’t give my assent to such an incoherent and manifestly unbiblical viewpoint.

13) It is my contention that God wants to provide His people with doctrinal certainty and not confusion. Protestants deliberately chose private judgment and the primacy of abstract ideals over concrete, institutional unity and infallible received truths (via apostolic succession). Their mistake and naivete was the belief that abstract principles would lead to unity. Every decent Christian (Protestant) would inevitably arrive at the truths expounded upon by a self-proclaimed Protestant authority (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, English “Reformers” et al). We all know what it in fact led to. Lots of decent, equally committed Christian men came to all kinds of conclusions that were contradictory. Thus, the Church was divided against itself. God didn’t want that. Scripture gives no indication whatsoever of any notion of competing denominations and Christian “pseudo-truths.”

14) Protestants, since they can’t figure out theological truth once and for all, and must fight interminably, have to necessarily take a pessimistic view of things. So analogies from the Old Testament must needs be pessimistic. Therefore, they look at the corruption and all the nonsense that went on in ancient Israel, conclude that authoritative teachers are not to be had, and say that therefore, the chaos in Protestantism is justified because that is how it has always been. And so the individual is thrown upon himself as his own authority (a spectacle every bit as horrifying — if not more so — as having to weed through 17 false prophets to get to a true one). It’s as if there is no Holy Spirit, no further guidance, no death of Jesus on the cross (in terms of making a difference as to men’s ascertaining of truth); no apostolic deposit that we can know and identify, and no succession so that folks could identify the one Church with the one faith. We don’t say that the age of the Church is no more advanced than all the tragic Jewish history. No; the Christian has faith that because Jesus died and made it possible to obtain the graces of baptism and the Eucharist, and to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, therefore, now we can know what Christian truth is. Paul certainly presupposes this in his writing, constantly referring nonchalantly (as if it were self-evident) to the one true tradition, received, and passed along.

15) The Catholic believes in faith that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and we believe that one can trace the Church back to apostolic times in unbroken historical succession. Apart from this faith aspect, the Catholic claims that our view of ecclesiology and theology is backed up by both history and the Bible, as well as reason. I would argue (among many other things) the fact that the Bible teaches one true Church, as evidenced by the early Protestant internal divisions. In the early days, they still believed that each school was the one, and the true Church in some sense. There was a visible structure (e.g., Calvin’s Geneva, or the Lutheran princes, who took over from the bishops). They believed in one church and one truth, however they may have defined it. Today’s Protestants, however, are much less concerned with that and oftentimes become literally ecclesiological relativists, where church affiliation comes down to worship styles, a good choir, a pastor who gives “meaty” or heart-stirring sermons, etc.). I exaggerate a little to make a point. This is how many people choose where to go to church: not by a long study and comparison of competing doctrines or reading apologetics. I know many Protestants detest this as I do, but it still exists and is a problem. And it comes from the extreme application of the principle of “private judgment”.

16) It’s almost as if there is a “cult of uncertainty” today in some Protestant circles. It is fashionable and tolerant (and all the other buzzwords) to be uncertain, so that one is not perceived as “triumphalistic” and closed-minded and “rigidly orthodox” or “fundamentalist.” Many folks seem to have a hard time with any claims of religious certainty. Why is it that religious truths are placed (more and more today) in a category of radical uncertainty? This is itself not a traditional Christian outlook. It is, at bottom (in my hopefully humble opinion), a post-Enlightenment skeptical, hyper-rationalistic viewpoint. And so those of this bent view folks who claim more certainty (people like Catholics, who have a very firm faith) as somehow psychologically troubled; faced with an unbalanced, abnormal need for certainty which cannot be attained in this world. This is reminiscent of a famous atheist retort to all of Christianity: the “psychological crutch” and infantile need for a father figure and spoon-fed truth, in order to face the day and the world with an illusory framework of (supposedly) objective truth to fall back on. That’s what many atheists think about all or virtually all Christians, yet now I see this same kind of mentality applied by Protestant Christians who feel less certain about doctrine to those of us who claim relatively greater certainty in faith. Now fellow Christians are making analyses that only atheists would have made, for the most part, say, 100 years ago. I find that equal parts fascinating and tragic.

17) I don’t see anywhere indicated in Holy Scripture that only some can know the whole truth of Christian doctrine, or that no one can, or that there are competing schools that contradict each other, rather than one unified Church, or that doctrinal dissensions and disagreements are to be expected and tolerated, let alone praised and glorified as open-mindedness or the status quo, etc. Jesus and the Bible writers (St. John and St. Paul above all) all assume that there is one truth (“the truth”), one tradition, one doctrine: that can be known with God’s help, and the Church’s guidance:

Luke 1:4 (RSV) that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. (cf. 8:31-32)

John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; (cf. 14:6; 16:13; 17:17-19) 

John 18:37 . . . For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

John 19:35 He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe.

Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit,

1 Corinthians 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. (cf. 2 Cor 13:8) 

Galatians 5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 

Ephesians 5:9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), (cf. 6:14) 

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

Colossians 1:3-10 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth, as you learned it from Ep’aphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

1 Timothy 3:15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

1 Timothy 4:3 . . . those who believe and know the truth. 

2 Timothy 2:25 God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, (cf. 1:14; 3:7-8) 

2 Timothy 4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness,

Titus 1:14 instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth. 

Hebrews 10:26 . . . the knowledge of the truth, . . .

James 5:19 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, 

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. (cf. 1 Pet 1:22)

1 John 2:27 but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him. (cf. 2:21)

1 John 3:19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him. (cf. 4:6)

1 John 5:7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 

2 John 1:1-2 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us for ever: 

3 John 1:3-4 For I greatly rejoiced when some of the brethren arrived and testified to the truth of your life, as indeed you do follow the truth. No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.

3 John 1:12 Deme’trius has testimony from every one, and from the truth itself; I testify to him too, and you know my testimony is true.


Related Reading:

Bible vs. Denominationalism and Against “Primary / Secondary” Doctrines [8-18-06]

“Reply to Calvin” #4: “Primary” & “Secondary” Doctrines [4-3-17]


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