Thursday, September 14, 2006

Debate with "Ricky" on Sola Scriptura: Part 1

This is one of my longer debates. It was with a poster named "Ricky" from the Holy Culture Radio forum. He wrote a very lengthy defense of Sola Scriptura. Here is my response in four parts. He never answered my response. His words are indented and italicized
- - -

First I want to thank you for writing this. I'm assuming that I played a part in you taking up this task, and I appreciate it. I will try to give a thorough response, since that is what your work here deserves.

For the sake of brevity, I linked to my Scripture citations, only writing out the passage if I thought it was absolutely necessary. Also, I skipped most of the beginning of your post because I'm not interested in the work-up and the commentary as much as the defense. However, I do have two things I want to address.

When the protesters(specifically Luther, Zwingli, Calvin), which were later to be called protestants, called into question the authority of the popes and councils as our rule of faith they were driven immediately to the bible to find direction on this issue and unanimously concluded that as Protestants they maintained that the Scriptures ALONE was and is our authority for doctrine, rule and religious practice. [. . .]
I also want to make clear that we are not arguing that the Church , both the people of God and the ministerial office, is not of great importance, value and help in understanding the Scriptures. We believe that the church universal(not Rome) is the interpreter of Scripture and that the church is the only institution that has been gifted with interpreting Holy Writ, but we also deny with boldness that church pertains or refers to particular persons or a particular see or succession of men.
Well, then is that really bible alone? Wouldn't the Church then (how you define it) become another rule of faith for you, since you see it as an authoritative voice with which to determine what to believe? To me, that looks like the same rule of faith that I hold too (Scripture, Tradition, and Church). Maybe our debate should be about the nature of the Church instead ...

[. . .] I posed the question not for the purpose of wanting to know his position for that is clear but was intended to show that his desire to want a biblical defense (notice I said biblical not just a defense but a Roman Catholic wanted a biblical one) is a direct contradiction in his Roman Catholic presupposition. Why? Simple. If their final authority is not Scripture then why in the world does this person want a SCRIPTURAL defense?
I'm honored to have a cameo in your writing! Anyway, I'll tell you why: because I want to show that Sola Scriptura (SS) is false. Now, if I wanted to prove that to a Catholic, I would bring in the ECF's and the Church. But, in order to prove that to you I need to operate within your own parameters. You claim that SS can be defended by Scripture, so let's see it. That's what it's all about. The atheist analogy was odd, but I can assure you there will be no running back and forth. Quoting a Church Council wouldn't do much good, now would it?

Now, before we get into the OT evidence, I want to say something about the OT in general. What do you think the Jews had for direction for thousands and thousands of years before anything was ever written down? They had three things: the theophanies or revelations of God, the prophets, and the tradition of God's dealings with His people passed down from generation to generation. Now, assuming the writer of Genesis is Moses, how else would he have known anything about the Adamic, Noahic, and Abrahamic covenants if not through oral tradition? They all took place long before he was ever born! The books of Judges, 1/2 Kings and 1/2 Chronicles were also written long after the events they describe.

Even when they had the law, the prophets did not cease to be an authoritative voice. Just a few examples from Leviticus alone include 1:1-2; 6:25; 17:2,8; 21:1,17 and 22:2-3,18. Moses' words had authority right then and there once he relayed the word of God to the people, not just once they were written down for everyone to read. That said, on to your OT evidence ...

Now lets dive into our Authority the Bible. I’ll be reading from the NKJV.

Deuteronomy 31:9 reads: “So Moses wrote this law…..” The people were instructed by the writings of Moses’ law to which Moses also ordered that it be read to them “that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law…” (verse 12)
It's interesting that you chose Deut 31. The next two verses, vs. 10 and 11, say that the law was only read every seven years. What were the people to do the rest of the time? Were they just lawless, without a rule of faith or anyone to guide them with authority? Of course not! They relied on the prophets and the priests for direction. "For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts" (Mal 2:7). In 2 Chron 15:1-4, we see that the Lord's word was mediated through a man (in this case, Azari'ah) in times when there was no law. His word to Asa was surely authoritative. Note also the mention of "a teaching priest" listed with the law as a guide for the people. Furthermore, when the Lord is describing to Aaron his responsibilities as high priest, one of them was "to teach the people of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by Moses" (cf. Lev 10:8-11). Of the levitical priesthood, the Lord says, "They shall teach Jacob thy ordinances, and Israel thy law; they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt offering upon thy altar" (cf. Deut 33:8-10). They are not only to teach, but to teach without taking bribes (cf. Micah 3:11).

Many more examples could be provided. The point is that the prophets and the priests were just as much a rule of faith for the people as was God's law, and were their only rule of faith when there was no law or Pentateuch in writing

Moses then declares to all Israel before his death: [note: see Deut. 32:46,47]

Lets look at the clear principles in these passages.

A. The Words Moses spoke was written down.
B. The people CAN and MUST listen and be instructed by it.
C. These Words of Moses brings life.

Notice that Israel did not need any additional institution to interpret the Word.
How is that evident from the passages you cited? An affirmation of the law is not simultaneously a rejection of the other authoritative rules

The duties of the prophets and priests was not to add to or even clarify the law but rather the leaders of Israel surely functioned to help the people ministerially and help the people to apply this Word as does the true Church today. But the Word alone was sufficient for salvation and teaching/doctrine.
Well, it obviously wasn't, or you wouldn't have the Lord revealing his word to them through the prophets in addition to what he revealed to them through the law. The people received the law from the mouths of patriarchs before it was written down for them. In the OT, the Lord's word is simply not restricted to writing. The phrase "word of the Lord" does not even refer only to what has been written (cf. 2 Sam 23:1-2; Isa 1:10; 59:21; Jer 1:7-9; Ezek 33:30).

Besides that, these verses you are providing don't even say that all Scripture is our sole rule of faith. For one, they're not even about all Scripture, they're about the law, which is only a subset of all Scripture. At the most, they would say that the law is sufficient. But, you're in somewhat of a bind there because then you must dismiss everything else that makes up Scripture. Furthermore, as these verses pertain to the law, they only declare its material sufficiency, not its formal sufficiency. In other words, the law is an authority, but not the only one. And this makes perfect sense. Afterall, the prophets spoke with the utmost authority ... and many of them did not write a word. So, knowing all that, it seems rather ridiculous to me to use what the Bible says about the Law as proof that all of Scripture is our only rule of faith.

What I find is that Sola Scriptura is just as ahistorical to OT Judaism as it is to NT Christianity. I'll look at your NT evidence in a subsequent post ...


  1. I think that for the purpose of the blog you could have summed up his work up, that is the beginning of the post.

    It seems that all of these things come back to the nature of the Church...

  2. who are you? (just curious)


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