Get updates from Catholic and Enjoying It! delivered straight to your inbox
has 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura.
And they aren’t very convincing, unless you’re already Catholic.
Good counter argument.
I see your point. Sola scriptura is a belief of protestants, whose defining characteristic seems to be refusal to accept authority, especially Church authority, rather than support for anything else. In order to defend such refusal they will reject any argument with whatever convinces THEM.
Many thanks to Mark for the mention. Sure, they’re potentially convincing, IF (and it’s often a huge “if) a Protestant is willing to consider them with an open mind; precisely because these are all biblical arguments. Obviously if one claims to be a “Bible guy” then they can’t be dismissed so easily. One has to produce counter-arguments, if one is being honest with oneself (mustn’t one? LOL).
When I was attending a fundamentalist Bible institute in the 1970s, brought up on Sola Scriptura, I remember thinking, quietly to myself, that some of the verses used to support that concept didn’t actually seem to do so — and that some other verses did not seem to fit with what we were being taught, or what I had always been taught. I knew better than to ask my teachers — it would have caused an unpleasant upset. So I just prayed, and said to myself that no doubt the Lord would help me understand those things as I kept reading the Bible and became a more knowledgeable Christian.
When I became Catholic, many years later, I was astonished to find that there were, indeed, answers to the questions I had. No one had ever told me. So people might be more open-minded than you think, but it also takes the grace of the Holy Spirit to help them see.
Sure Catholic doctrine has Biblical roots, but Catholics read the Bible in another way than Protestants generally do (I have been one for many years). It’s a matter of frame. As long as a Protestant uses his frame reading Scripture literally comparing Scripture with Scripture (which is what Sola Scriptura really means), he won’t be convinced by these arguments.
The reason I converted to Catholicism had nothing to do with the Bible but with a private revelation and a gentle Catholic priest pushing me in the right way, without ever referring to Scripture.
Inge: You write:
“As long as a Protestant uses his frame reading Scripture literally comparing Scripture with Scripture (which is what Sola Scriptura really means), he won’t be convinced by these arguments.”
What Protestants need to see — what I certainly saw, and what started me on the journey to conversion, is that “reading Scripture literally comparing Scripture with Scripture” is ultimately an unworkable approach.
It doesn’t answer all the questions, even all the questions that need answering (for me infant baptism and women’s ordination were big question marks). It doesn’t work because scripture itself doesn’t support this as the sole final criterion of faith. It doesn’t work because scripture can’t even tell you which books ARE scripture.
These are important obstacles to the practice of sola scriptura that can certainly be made my argument. They rely on the receptiveness of the Protestant, of course. But it’s not true to say point blank “They aren’t convincing unless you are Catholic.” I wasn’t Catholic and I found some of them pretty convincing, over time.
I agree. But the moment you leave the Protestant frame and start adopting another frame, you’re leaving the Protestant way of reasoning and start becoming Catholic. That’s why I said it’s only convincing when you are Catholic (or start to adopt that frame of thought maybe).
Thus, as long as a Protestant stays within his frame of thought, he won’t be convinced. You say as much yourself: “I found some of them pretty convincing over time“.
The Protestant Church I’m originally from bends towards all directions trying to uphold it’s doctrines, even when Scripture seems to be more in favor with Catholic reasoning “because the Catholic Church obviously has it wrong“. There’s no reasoning against that, you can only pray that they will ever see the light.
By the way, I’m not sure if you’re aware that you’re preaching to the choir. 😉
“The reason I converted to Catholicism had nothing to do with the Bible but with a private revelation and a gentle Catholic priest pushing me in the right way, without ever referring to Scripture.”
That was the case with myself as well. The three main reasons were:
1) Moral and historical arguments regarding contraception.
2) Studying the 16th century Protestant Revolution from a Catholic perspective.
3) Reading Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.”
None of that had anything directly to do with biblical argumentation. I started doing my “Biblical evidence” thing after my conversion, in trying to explain to my Protestant friends how Catholicism was every bit as biblical as Protestantism. These treatises that I put out in the early 90s for my friends eventually became (revised), “A Biblical Defense of Catholicism.”
Of course, it goes without saying that, just because you and i and many others did not become Catholics due to biblical arguments, it doesn’t follow that many others cannot do so. They certainly can, and we know from reading conversion stories that many do follow this route. I know also from receiving hundreds of personal letters from recent converts.
I see a number of the 100 arguments are explications of the cardinal principles that a) sola scriptura is self-contradictory since b) scripture not only never teaches sola scriptura, which it would have to for it to be true, but c) teaches the opposite, affirming sacred tradition and Church authority in many ways.
What I don’t see are references to one of the most important and intractable arguments, the question of the canon, i.e., scripture alone can’t tell you which books belong to scripture. I guess this could be because it’s 101 BIBLICAL reasons, and the canon is kind of a META-biblical reason, but then so are e.g., arguments regarding perspicacity and denominationalism. Am I missing something?
“. . . comparing Scripture with Scripture (which is what Sola Scriptura really means) . . .”
This is NOT what sola Scriptura means, which is “the Bible is the only infallible and final authority [excluding Tradition and Church as infallible].”
Comparing Scripture with Scripture is a fundamental practice of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) that is fully shared by Catholics; therefore, not at issue with Protestants.
I reiterate that no one need be Catholic first in order to be convinced by the arguments in my book. All it requires is a respect for the Bible and logic (traits held in common by Catholics and Protestants). In other words, neither of those prerequisites in examining my arguments is exclusive to Catholics at all. The book is an extended examination of the internal incoherence and internal inconsistency of sola Scriptura: judged by the Bible itself.
It’s long been my practice in apologetics to meet theological opponents on their own ground (St. Paul said “I have become all things to all men, that by any means I may save some”). Any effective argument has to poke holes in the opposing view, by starting with their own premises. You don’t convince anyone by starting with premises that they don’t accept. This is a method used by both St. Paul and Socrates, the father of western philosophy. I’ve used it for over 30 years.
“I guess this could be because it’s 101 BIBLICAL reasons, and the canon is kind of a META-biblical reason,”
Exactly; by its very nature it is excluded because the Bible says nothing directly about it. I deal with the canon issue in my book, “A Biblical Defense of Catholicism”: pp. 19-23 and 259-264 (Deuterocanon). It is historical and logical argumentation, except (in the latter instance) providing three Scripture comparisons, showing that the New testament drew directly from the Deuterocanon (an argument I greatly expand elsewhere).
“but then so are e.g., arguments regarding perspicacity and denominationalism. Am I missing something?”
Yes. The difference is that one can find biblical arguments against those two things, whereas that can’t be done with regard to the canon, because the Bible never addresses that; it is historical and traditional by its very nature.
Hence in the book, one section is entitled, “The BIBLICAL Prohibition of Denominationalism, Theological Relativism, and Indifferentism”. And here are some of the arguments against perspicuity:
43. The Bible Itself Teaches that it Can be Misinterpreted
46. The Bible Teaches that Biblical Interpretation is Inherently Necessary
47. Jesus Reveals Hidden Scriptures to the Disciples at Emmaus
51. The Bible Asserts that Its Teachings Have to Be “Opened”
53. In the Old Covenant, Authoritative Teaching Authority Was Constantly Exercised
I suppose in places I descended into purely logical or historical argumentation, but the focus was to always center it on biblical argumentation. Since the Bible teaches against both denominations and perspicuity, it was possible to construct several arguments against those aspects. Perspicuity is far more of a complex issue, though, whereas denominations are clearly forbidden by the Bible (and this has always been a deeply troubling issue for many thoughtful Protestants who realize it is a huge problem).