By Keith Thompson
I was recently directed to a list of sixteen questions posed to Protestant sola scripturists which www.catholicapologetics.info evidently feels can not be answered. Therefore, we will address them one by one in order to show the author of this piece does not understand sola scriptura and that their questions can be answered. Afterward we will then pose our 16 questions for Roman Catholics.
It is clear from reading their questions that the author falsely thinks sola scriptura means Scripture is the only authority. However, as we will demonstrate, it doesn’t. It means Scripture is the ultimate, materially sufficient, clear authority. We believe other authorities such as creeds, catechisms, the teaching office of the church, and opinions of ancient writers. We just subject those authorities to the ultimate authority of Scripture.
Moreover, the author also thinks sola scripturists believe everything we believe must be explicit in Scripture. But, as we will demonstrate, we do not. We believe teachings can be implicit, that is, reasonably deduced from biblical texts. These presuppositions must be kept in mind as we go through the questions.
Sola Scriptura does not mean Scripture is the Only Authority
In an essay and in my documentary film Reformed Answers on the Roman Corruption of Christianity I already proved sola scriptura does not mean Protestants do not believe in other authorities. We simply subject other valid authorities to the ultimate authority of Scripture as Scripture commands us to. So I will briefly prove this is the classical Protestant view of sola scriptura.
No Reformation creed or catechism defines sola scriptura as meaning Scripture is our only authority. The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith actually shows other authorities can be valid as long as they are subordinate to Scripture:
"The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture"(1).
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith basically says the same thing. The Anglican 39 Articles also confirm that other sources of authority such as creeds are subordinate to Scripture and must be proved by it demonstrating that Scripture is the ultimate authority. Article 8 says, “The Three Creeds, the Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture”(2). With respect to general councils, Article 21 states that, “Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture”(3).
Reformed scholar Michael Horton affirms “both Lutheran and Reformed churches regard the ecumenical creeds, along with their own confessions and catechisms, as authoritative and binding summaries of Scripture, to which they are all subordinate”(4). Thus, we don’t view Scripture as the only authority or hold to a “Bible only” view as Catholics claim. Moreover, with respect to the Reformers, the Reformation scholar John Maxfield notes:
“Among the sixteenth-century reformers the principle of sola scriptura . . . meant that scripture was the supreme authority over all other authorities”(5).
In regards to Luther’s view of lesser authorities such as the church fathers and others, the historian James R. Payton notes that, “They stood as a significant religious authority, subordinate to the overarching and ultimate authority of Scripture”(6).
Concerning Martin Luther, again, theologian and author Richard J. Foster notes that:
“By stressing the primacy of the Word of God as contained in Scripture, Luther was not rejecting the teachings of councils or the great writers of Christian thought. But he was making them subject to Scripture: any time there is a discrepancy between the two, he said, the Bible is to be regarded as the authoritative source of faith and practice”(7).
Martin Luther stated that:
“All the other councils too must be viewed in this way, be they large or small . . . they do not introduce anything new either in matters of faith or of good works; but they defend, as the highest judges and greatest bishops under Christ, the ancient faith and the ancient good works in conformity with Scripture” (8).
Luther did not believe that Scripture was the only authority. He believed all authorities must be subject to Scripture. What is more, Luther’s successor Philip Melanchthon also affirmed that other sources of authority were valid insofar as they were made subject to the sure written Word. James R. Payton notes that, “For him, sola scriptura did not rule out but found itself buttressed by the subordinate religious authority of the church fathers, the ancient creeds and the doctrinal decrees of the ecumenical councils”(9).
In his work The Shape of Sola Scriptura Keith Mathison points out that the Protestant reformer John Calvin remarked that:
"The power of the church . . . resides partly in individual bishops, and partly in councils, either provincial or general . . . The power of the church is therefore to be not grudgingly manifested but yet kept within definite limits, that it may not be drawn hither and thither according to men’s whim . . . Power of the church, therefore, is not infinite but subject to the Lord’s Word and, as it were, enclosed within it”(10).
Calvin believed in other sources of authority as long as they were subordinate to the ultimate authority: Holy Scripture. He did not believe the misrepresentation known as solo scriptura which is so commonly attacked today as though it were the Protestant position.
What is often overlooked is the fact that us even having authorities such as creeds, confessions, catechisms, and a teaching office in our churches proves we do not view Scripture as our only authority. Again, it is our ultimate authority.
Sola Scriptura does not say Everything Protestants Believe Must be Explicit in Scripture
When Protestants affirm the material sufficiency of Scripture we are not saying everything we believe is explicit in it. We are saying everything one must believe for salvation is clear in Scripture and that our other teachings can at least be reasonably deduced from Scripture because of its sufficient clarity.
The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith states:
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (11).
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith echoes the Westminster Confession of Faith basically stating the same thing. Therefore, any attempt by Romanists to claim as sola scripturist Protestants must give a verse explicitly stating our beliefs simply does not understand our position. This must be kept in mind as we answer the questions posed to us.
Answering the Sixteen Questions
www.catholicapologetics.info’s questions will be in red
Our responses will be in black.
Question #1: Provide the verse(s) which say(s) God created the world/universe out of nothing
As noted, sola scripturists do not need to show this explicitly from a verse. We only need to prove it is at least implicit in Scripture. And it is. Creation ex nihilo is taught implicitly in Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). To say the universe was not made out of things that are visible is to say that God created the universe out of nothing. This is similar to when Paul says God created “light out of darkness” in 2 Corinthians 4:6. This is the position of noted scholars such as F. F. Bruce and Leon Morris. As Morris noted, “. . .the visible did not originate from the visible”(12). Also, when Genesis 1:1-3 says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth what is implicit is that prior to God’s creation there were not heavens with which to use to create the universe.
Question #2: Provide the verse(s) which Say(s) Scripture is the sole authority (i.e., there is no other authority for learning about God and/or salvation)
Like I said earlier, we do not believe Scripture is the sole authority. We believe it is the ultimate authority to which every other authority is subject. To see a case for the ultimate authority of Scripture see this essay. But to offer one argument here I will note that Matthew 15:2-9 proves traditions, no matter what their alleged pedigree, must never contradict Scripture, but must be subject to it. This is what Jesus taught when he castigated the Jews for holding to traditions they thought were inspired, but which actually invalidated Scripture. This is similar to when Protestants tell Catholics their tradition about Mary being sinless contradicts Scripture’s teaching on Mary’s and all of mankind’s sinfulness. Thus, here Scripture is treated by Christ as the final court of appeal in regards to if a tradition is valid or not. That is the doctrine of the ultimate authority of Scripture.
Question #3: Provide the verse(s) which Say(s) salvation is attainable through faith alone
We do not need a verse that has the words “faith alone.” Sola Fide can be arrived at just as legitimately through other means, such as Scripture saying justification is by faith and not by works (Romans 3:28; 4:3-5; Galatians 2:16; 3:11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:9-10). If works are ruled out of justification then faith is left by itself. Hence, you have justification by “faith alone.”
Question #4: Provide the verse(s) which Tell(s) us how we know that the revelation of Jesus Christ ended with the death of the last Apostle
This teaching is based on the fact that the apostles were commissioned by Christ and given special revelation to write Scripture as inspired men just like the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-17). Therefore, since it was the apostles to whom special revelation was given in order to write Scripture and proclaim the truth of the New Covenant, it follows that after this was accomplished the special revelation required for that to be carried out ceased.
Moreover, Ephesians 1:8-9 implies special revelation has ceased since it shows through Paul and others, wisdom and understanding came to the church “making known to us the mystery of his [God’s] will. . .” Therefore, it follows since because of the apostles believers now know God’s will in regards to the New Covenant, there is no need for further special revelation after this period.
Lastly, since according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Scripture makes the man of God complete and fully equipped for his doctrine and training in righteousness in regards to Christ and the New Covenant, there is no need for further special revelation.
Questions #5, 6 Provide the verse(s) which Provide(s) a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament [and] a list of the canonical books of the New Testament
I combined questions 5 and 6. Rome claims her tradition is the basis for the establishment of the biblical canon by the church in the fourth century when the Council of Hippo and Third Council of Carthage spoke on the list of books(13). Rome’s two different views of tradition are (1) the idea the apostles handed on a body of oral teaching containing doctrine not found in Scripture; and (2) the idea that the tradition of the church clarifies the true meaning of Scripture.
However, the Council of Hippo and Third Council of Carthage which dealt with the canon never stated they knew what the canon was because they had a body of oral tradition from the apostles stating which biblical books were canon. Nor can we say they had a historic interpretation of the content of scripture and therefore came to the realization of the canon by that means. That makes no sense. Thus, Rome’s definitions of tradition can not be appealed to as the basis for the determinations of these councils concerning the canon. The councils instead used various criteria in order to discern the canon. They did not claim they had an oral teaching from the apostles stating which books were true. Their criteria for canonicity they used included: apostolicity (if the writer was an apostle or connected to an apostle), orthodoxy (if the content of the book was orthodox theologically), antiquity (if the book was early enough) and usage (if the book was used widely in the church prior to the council)”(14).
These are the questions Protestants are then faced with: if Scripture is the only authority then how do you know which books are inspired seeing as Scripture itself does not tell you? Or: if you hold to sola scriptura why do you hold to a New Testament canon which the authority of the church recognized? Is that not violating sola scriprtura?
There are a few problems with these kinds of arguments.
(1) They only apply to solo scriptura, that is the belief the Bible is the only authority, and not to sola scriptura which says Scripture is the ultimate authority. In sola scriptura there is nothing wrong with holding to outside authorities like the church as long as what it declares does not contradict and is consistent with Scripture at least implicitly(15). Thus, there is no problem with a sola scripturist affirming the church’s affirmation of the canon since the criteria the church used to recognize the canon in the fourth century can be validated biblically at least implicitly. For instance, the church used the criteria of apostolicity to decide if a New Testament book was Scripture (i.e., if a book was written by an apostle or companion of an apostle). Any good conservative New Testament introduction will give the internal biblical arguments that a book was written by an apostle or someone close to one (e. g. Donald Guthrie’s or D. A. Carson’s and Douglas J. Moo’s introductions etc). I have an essay doing the same here. In regards to the criteria of antiquity the church used, we can look at the book’s internal content to discover if it was written in the first century or if it is a later non-apostolic work. New Testament scholars do this regularly. Any good introduction will provide the internal arguments that a book was written in the first century. In regards to the criteria of orthodoxy the church used, we can see which books are internally consistent with each other and which are not. So there is nothing inconsistent about a sola scripturist affirming the authority of the church in recognizing the canon, since, when we go to the books it recognized, we see that its determination is consistent with Scripture at least implicitly.
(2) When making this argument and erroneously claiming Protestant’s violate sola scriptura while adopting the New Testament canon the Roman Catholic Church recognized, Catholic apologists assume those at those fourth century councils who recognized the canon were Roman Catholics or were part of a Roman Catholic Church. However, no one at those councils believed what modern Rome claims one has to believe in order to be a Roman Catholic (e.g. private and frequent confession to a priest over both venial and mortal sins, papal infallibility, the Assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary, the mass as the propitious re-sacrifice of Christ, the idea the pope alone has the authority to interpret Scripture etc). Hence, it is erroneous for modern Catholics to claim those at those councils which dealt with the canon were part of their modern religious system. The Eastern Orthodox Church also claims their church recognized the canon. So before Rome gets hasty they must deal with them.
Question #7 Provide the verse(s) which Explain(s) the doctrine of the Trinity
Sure. There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5-6). Yet there are three persons presented as deity in Scripture: the Father (John 6:27; Colossians 1:3), the Son (John 1:1-3, 14; 8:24; 20:28-29; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:10-12) and the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Samuel 23:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Lastly, these three are presented as distinct persons (John 8:16-18; Luke 11:1; 3:21-22; Galatians 4:6). Thus from Scripture we learn that although there is one God, there are three distinct persons who are deity. So the Trinity is the biblical position to hold to once one examines what Scripture teaches.
Secondly, when Jesus in Matthew 28:19 says “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” this proves the persons of the Trinity, although distinct in who they are (person), are one in what they are (being). This is because Jesus speaks of the singular one “name” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As New Testament scholar R. T. France notes, “. . .the fact that three divine persons are spoken of as having a single ‘name’ is a significant pointer toward the Trinitarian doctrine of three persons in one God”(16).
Question #8: Provide the verse(s) which Tell(s) us the name of the "beloved disciple"
I wrote about this already here. So I will re-produce what I have already written with some minor variations.
We are told the “beloved disciple” is an eyewitness of the life of Christ and the author of this fourth Gospel. In John 21 we see one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples and near the end of the encounter we read:
“20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at the table close to him and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" 22Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" 23So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" 24This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:20-24).
The beloved disciple who we are told authored this Gospel and was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life was John son of Zebedee. Earlier comments in chapter 21 narrow down the list of possible “beloved disciple” candidates to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James son of Zebedee, John son of Zebedee, and two unnamed disciples by placing them at this post-resurrection appearance where the beloved disciple is present (John 21:2). Of these seven we can easily rule out Peter, Thomas, Nathanael and James as being the beloved disciple(17). And supporting the orthodox belief that it was John son of Zebedee and not one of these two unnamed disciples is the fact that John son of Zebedee isn’t mentioned by name in the fourth Gospel even though other less known apostles are such as Philip, Lazarus, and Judas (not Judas Iscariot); and even though the synoptic Gospels often mention John the apostle by name. Could it be that for some reason John, being the author, deliberately avoided including his own name in the fourth Gospel?
Further support for Johannine authorship is the fact that in the fourth Gospel the beloved disciple and the apostle Peter are linked closely together (John 13:23; 20:2-9; and 21:1-25). John 19:26 is the only time the beloved disciple is mentioned without Peter. Interestingly the non-Johannine New Testament data very strongly links John son of Zebedee and Peter as well (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Luke 22:8, Acts 3:1, 11; 4:13; 8:15-25; Galatians 2:9). This further supports the beloved disciple being John. Moreover, Donald Guthrie argues that in light of John the Baptist being identified simply as “John”, that this presupposes that the author’s audience would identify the apostle John with another name (i.e., “beloved disciple”). He argues that
“… John the Baptist is described as ‘John’ without further qualification, which strongly suggests that the writer intended the apostle John to be understood under another title. It cannot be denied that the absence of specific reference to him creates a definite predisposition toward Johannine authorship and any alternative views must reckon with this peculiarity and provide an adequate explanation.”(18)
F. F. Bruce argues that the beloved disciple is John the apostle based on the special relationship James, Peter and John had with Jesus. After narrowing down the possible “beloved disciple” candidates to one of the twelve in light of the synoptic data regarding the Last Supper he states:
“… of the twelve, there were three who were on occasion admitted to more intimate fellowship with the Master – Peter, James and John. It was these three, for example, whom he took to keep watch with Him during His vigil in Gethsemane after the Last Supper (Mk 14:33). We should naturally expect that the beloved disciple would be one of the number. He was not Peter, from whom he is explicitly distinguished in John 13:24, 20:2, and 21:20. There remain two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who were included in the seven of chapter 21. But James was martyred not later than AD 44 (Acts 12:2), and therefore there was little likelihood that the saying should go abroad about him which went abroad about the beloved disciple, that he would not die. So we are left with John”(19).
Bruce referred to John 21:21-23’s discussion between Jesus and Peter regarding the beloved disciple not dying until Jesus came and took his life naturally and the followers of Christ spreading this rumour up to the time that the Gospel of John was written. He correctly observed that this rumour could not circulate about James up to that point since he died in A.D. 44 long before the Gospel of John’s composition. Thus it would have to refer to John son of Zebedee.
Some scholars assert that the beloved disciple was Lazarus and not John. However, we know that the beloved disciple was at the Last Supper (John 13:23) as one of the twelve. However, Lazarus was not there. According to the synoptic data only the twelve were present at that gathering(20). Since Lazarus was not present at the Last Supper as one of the twelve, this rule’s him out as being the beloved disciple. What is more John’s consistent style is to not name the beloved disciple but identify him as such. Therefore, since Lazarus is named fifteen times in the fourth Gospel it is problematic to assert that he is the beloved disciple.
In some, there is a solid biblical case John is the beloved disciple. We do not need later papalism to tell us this is the case.
Questions #9, 10, 11, 12, 13 Provide the verse(s) which Contain(s) the name of the author of the Gospel of Matthew, the name of the author of the Gospel of Mark, the name of the author of the Gospel of Luke, the name of the author of the Gospel of John, the name of the author of the Acts of the Apostles
We combined questions #9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 because they are all addressed here. In that essay I show biblically that the orthodox list of biblical writers can be deduced from the text of Scripture itself. It’s not necessary to appeal to later traditions. Consult that essay for biblical proof of traditional authorship for Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts as well. In regards to the Gospel of John and the author being John the beloved disciple, see our response to question #8.
Question #14 Provide the verse(s) which Tell(s) us the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the Trinity
See answer to question #7.
Question #15 Provide the verse(s) which Tell(s) us Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man from the moment of conception (e.g. how do we know His Divinity wasn't infused later in His life?) and/or tells us Jesus Christ is One Person with two complete natures, human and Divine and not some other combination of the two natures (i.e., one or both being less than complete)
That at conception Jesus was both fully man and fully God and his deity was not infused later in life is evidenced in Matthew 1:23. In this text Jesus’ conception is connected to His being called Immanuel or “God with us.” It says: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). This strongly suggests Jesus was God at conception and not later infused with deity. Moreover, no text says later in His life He was infused with deity. So our position is further strengthened. Moreover, in Isaiah 9:6 we are told a Son is given who is Mighty God, not that a Son is given and then later in his life is he infused with deity. As soon as He is given he is already considered Mighty God.
In regards to how we know biblically that Jesus had two full natures, one human and one divine, this is an odd question. Where does Scripture say it is possible to have two natures, one of which is incomplete? Our Catholic opponents would need to prove this is even possible or logical before it is considered as an valid alternative. We do know from Scripture that Christ had both a human and divine nature, and unless we are shown it is possible to have two natures, one of which is incomplete, we are justified in affirming what we currently maintain. That Jesus has these two natures being both fully man and fully God is evidenced in various texts. In 1 Corinthians 2:8 we are told Jesus’ enemies “crucified the Lord of glory.” Jesus’ human nature is highlighted with the mention of crucifixion. And His divine nature is highlighted with the title “Lord of glory.” Moreover, Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus was “tempted” (human nature) and was yet “without sin” (divine nature). Therefore, it is deduced Jesus was both fully man and fully God. Again, unless our opponents can prove it is possible to only have a partial nature (or explain what that even means), we are left justified in our position.
Question #16 Provide the verse(s) which Tell(s) us Jesus Christ is of the same substance of Divinity as God the Father
To say Jesus is of the same substance or essence as the Father is to say He shares in the same incommunicable, essential attributes of God the Father which no creature shares in. And we can show this biblically. Like the Father Jesus is omniscient (Luke 9:47; John 21:17; Revelation 2:23), omnipotent (John 5:19b; 2 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 1:17), and omnipresent (Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 1:48). For biblical support Jesus shares the Father’s other essential attributes see Bowman’s and Komoszewski’s work on Christ’s deity(21).
Sixteen Tough Questions for Roman Catholics
Question #1 Why do Catholics argue Scripture is not clear enough to provide Christians with what they need doctrinally when the following Scriptures teach its own perspicuity and material sufficiency? (e.g. the calls to read and obey Scripture which presupposes its clarity such as Deut. 4:1-4; cf. 6:4-10; 31:9-13; Ps. 19:7-11; Rom. 4:22-25; 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-11; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 1 Pet. 1:22-23; also the clarity of Scripture as seen in Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Kings 22:8-13; Psalms 19:7-8; 119:130; 2 Corinthians 3:15-16; Colossians 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:19; and the material sufficiency of Scripture as seen in John 20:31 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Question #2 Why would Catholics want to attack the Holy Spirit’s ability to clearly communicate God’s truths to Christians in Scripture by saying we need other authorities such as a pope and extrabiblical traditions to understand Scripture due to its alleged unclarity and insufficiency?
Question #3 Where does Scripture say the traditions of the apostles are teachings one can not find in Scripture, but are instead things like the assumption of Mary, papal infallibility etc?
Question #4 Why do Catholics claim Christians need to come to Rome to solve the problem of Scripture’s alleged unclarity on doctrinal issues when Rome has only “dogmatically” interpreted about eleven texts for Catholics as even Catholic scholars admit?(22).
Question #5 Why claim Christians should become Catholic to avoid the risk of Scripture misinterpretation when Catholic scholars admit Romanism can not do away with that risk? Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin admitted, “. . .if you know your Catholic faith well then that will help you discern what a particular passage of Scripture DOESN’T mean, but it normally will not help you identify precisely what it DOES mean. Consequently, there is always risk of error in Scripture interpretation. We [the Catholic Church] can’t eliminate that risk”(23).
Question #6 How can Protestants logically become Roman Catholics if we can’t study Scripture and find out it allegedly supports Catholic teaching due to Scripture’s alleged unclarity? Should we blindly first become Roman Catholics without first seeing if Scripture supports Roman Catholicism?
Question #7 Why do Catholics claim Catholic tradition was needed in order to discern the canon in the fourth century when the councils that did so never claimed to appeal to some body of oral teachings from the apostles on the issue (which is how Tridentine Catholicism defines “tradition”), but instead used various criteria such as usage, antiquity, apostolicity, and orthodoxy?
Question #8 Why do Catholics claim the doctrine of sola scriptura means the Bible is the only authority when that’s not how the Reformers or Protestant creeds/confessions defined it?
Question #9 Why do Catholics claim the doctrine of sola scriptura entails the idea that everything a Christian believes must be explicit in Scripture when the Reformers and the Protestant creeds/confessions do not say that?
Question #10 Why do Catholics claim the Catholic Church gave Protestants the canon when no one at the fourth century councils which discerned the canon believed the teachings modern Rome says one must believe in order to be Catholic and which have always allegedly been believed by the church such as the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary, papal infallibility, private and frequent confession to priests over even venial sins, etc?
Question #11 If the assumption of Mary was an oral teaching of the apostles why don’t Christians in the early church (i.e., the church fathers) affirm such a teaching in their writings?
Question #12 Why do Roman Catholics claim the early church fathers held to their understanding of “tradition” when none of them defined tradition as doctrinal content from the apostles one cannot find in Scripture as even Catholic scholars admit(24)? Can you prove they defined tradition in such a way?
Question #13 If the early church viewed tradition and scripture equally and had access to extrabiblical traditions, why did they only make a canon of Scripture and not a canon of apostolic traditions? Does this not show that the early church had a higher view of Scripture than of tradition much like Protestants?
Question #14 Why do Catholics believe in an ethereal concept of tradition no one actually has access to? That is, why is there is no list or book of apostolic, extra-biblical traditions from the Catholic church if they actually possess them? How do you know you are holding fast to the alleged extrabiblical traditions the apostles taught – something you claim we must all do according to your misuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15?
Question #15 Why do Catholics claim the Trinity is not clear in Scripture and therefore we must submit to Catholic tradition and popery when Church Fathers like Ambrose affirmed that doctrine is clear in Scripture: “God, then, is One, without violation of the majesty of the eternal Trinity, as is declared in the instance set before us. And not in that place alone do we see the Trinity expressed in the Name of the Godhead; but both in many places, as we have said also above, and especially in the epistles which the Apostle wrote to the Thessalonians, he most clearly set forth the Godhead and sovereignty of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”(25)?
Question #16 Why do Roman Catholics believe what Rome says about extrabiblical tradition when popes have shown themselves to be completely untrustworthy by selling indulgences, selling the papal office, massacring the Cathars and Waldensians (including women and children), carrying out the inquisitions (involving brutal torture and mass murder), putting the dead bodies of past popes on mock trial and mutilating them, creating papal forgeries like the Donation of Constantine and Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals to deceive people to believe popery, having orgies in the Vatican, murdering their own cardinals, covering up sexual abuse cases involving priests and participating in the Pornocracy? For proof of all these things see this essay.
1) Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10.
2) Anglican 39 Articles, Article 8.
3) Anglican 39 Articles, Article 21.
4) Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, [Zondervan, 2011], p. 187.
5) John A. Maxfield, Luther's Lectures on Genesis and the Formation of Evangelical Identity, [Truman State University Press, 2008], p. 43.
6) James R. Payton, Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 139.
7) Richard J. Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith, [HarperCollins, 1998], p. 293.
8) Martin Luther, On the Councils and the Church. Taken from Theodore G. Tappert Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Volume 1, [Fortress Press, 2007] pp. 313-314.
9) James R. Payton, Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 147.
10) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.VIII.1. cited in Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, [Canon Press, 2001], pp. 112-113.
11) Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6.
12) Leon Morris, Hebrews, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, [Zondervan 1981], p. 114.
13) Robert Sungenis, Point/Counterpoint: Protestant Objections and Catholic Answers, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 1997], p. 270.
14) The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, eds. Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles, [B&H Publishing Group, 2009], p. 13.
15) Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6-7; 1:10.
16) R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, ed. Joel B. Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007], p. 1118.
17) The beloved disciple is distinguished by name from Peter (John 13:23-24; 20:2-9; 21:20). Thus the beloved disciple is not Peter. James son of Zebedee was martyred around A.D. 44 toward the end of the reign of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2), while the beloved disciple lived long enough for the rumour about him not dying until Christ came for him was seen to be true (John 21:23). Moreover, James died too soon for him to author the fourth Gospel. Thus James son of Zebedee is ruled out as being the beloved disciple. Most scholars who examine the actual evidence affirm Nathanael was not one of the twelve (Bauckham 2006). The beloved disciple was, however. We know this because he attended the Last Supper (John 13:23) when only the twelve attended (Mark 14:17-18). What is more, since it is part of the fourth Gospel’s nature to not name the beloved disciple even when others are named concerning events he is involved with, it is specious to say that Nathanael, who is often named, should be regarded as the beloved disciple. This rule’s out Nathanael from being the beloved disciple. With respect to Thomas, he can not be the beloved disciple because John 20:8 says the beloved disciple immediately believed after seeing the empty tomb with Peter. Thomas, however, remained doubtful and didn’t believe until later when Jesus appeared to him in John 20:25-29.
18) Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 257.
19) F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 45.
20) Some say that because Mark 14:13 says Jesus “sent two of his disciples” into the city to prepare Passover and that later “he came with the twelve” to eat (Mark 14:17) that Jesus ate with the twelve as well as the two others outside the twelve whom he first sent. However, in Luke 22:8 we learn that the two disciples Jesus sent into the city to prepare the Passover were Peter and John. Hence, Jesus did not send two outside of the twelve to prepare the meal but two within the twelve. Thus, when we read that Jesus ate the Last Supper with the twelve (Mark 14:17-18) that demonstrates there were none outside the twelve present. Hence, because Lazarus was not one of the twelve, (see list of the twelve in Matthew 10:2-3) and thus not at the Last Supper, when the beloved disciple was, we can rule him out as being the beloved disciple. F. F. Bruce puts it in this way, “According to Mark 14:17,when our Lord arrived at the upper room for the Last Supper, He was accompanied by the twelve apostles, who reclined at a table with Him, and there is no suggestion in the synoptic Gospels that anyone else was present with Him on that occasion.” F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 45.
21) Robert M. Bowman Jr, J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place, [Kregel, 2007], pp. 283-284.
22) Peter M. J. Stravinskas, The Catholic Church And The Bible, 2nd ed., [Ignatius Press, 1996], p. 8; Peter Williams, Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture, [Gregorian & Biblical Book Shop, 2001], p. 115.
23) Jimmy Akin, Scripture Commentary Recommendation, (http://jimmyakin.com/2006/01/scripture_comme.html) brackets mine.
24) Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition, [Ignatius Press, 2004], p. 15.
25) Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book III, Ch. 14. 94.