Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Biblical Argument For Sola Scriptura

(This article was originally posted by Nate Taylor at Reason From Scripture).

Often times Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists object to the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura on the grounds that it is not found in scripture. That is, they argue that this is a self-refuting proposition because the phrase “scripture alone” is itself not in scripture. In this blog post I plan to give a correct definition of Sola Scriptura that avoids these misunderstandings and then I intend on giving Biblical arguments for this definition of Sola Scriptura.

This is what Sola Scriptura means According to Protestant Reformed scholar Dr. W. Robert Godfrey:

“The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”

We can see by this definition that there is no contradiction here because the Bible clearly teaches this proposition in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This verse teaches the sufficiency of scripture for faith and practice. It also seems implicit within this text that if scripture can by itself equip every person for every good action then it seems that we would have to individually understand it. This is not the only text that teaches Sola Scriptura, there are two other texts that I believe imply this doctrine.

1 Corinthians 4:6 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Paul is teaching that the Corinthians not ought to be judgmental and puff themselves with arrogant pride rather they are to be submissive to what is written and not to go beyond it. If this holds true when Paul is saying this to a church in the first century when the Holy Apostles were alive, then how much more should we follow this principle when there is no more living apostles? This is what Reformed Theologian Michael Horton has argued in his class lectures. If Paul is arguing not to go beyond what is written then it is clear that Scripture is necessary for all things pertaining to our salvation, practicing our faith and he is also presupposing in this that we can understand what is written in Holy Scripture.

Acts 17:11 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

In this text, Luke is saying that it was a noble thing that the individual believers were themselves examining the scripture to see if what Paul the Apostle had been saying was true. This shows that it is a noble task to even check the scriptures even against a Holy Apostle. If that was true then, then it would be true today when there are no more Apostles. This shows that individual believer can sufficiently understand and interpret the things in scripture because Luke says this is a noble task if they were getting everything wrong by their individual interpretations then it certainly would not be noble.


Therefore, I believe to have shown two things from this post: 1) The definition of Sola Scriptura is coherent contra Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologist and 2) this definition is biblical derived.

Works Cited:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Problems With Eastern Orthodox: The Person/Nature distinction

In Eastern Orthodox theology there is a distinction between a person and a nature. A nature in this view would be a thing that has instantiated properties. A person is not a nature nor is it an instantiation of a nature. The reason this is so is to avoid Christological heresies such as Nestorianism. For if a person is an instantiation of a nature or is a nature itself then you have two persons in the incarnation which would be Nestorianism. I do not think one has to buy this distinction to avoid Christological Heresies, but nonetheless their motivation is a good one. The problem with this position is that it leads to pure nominalism:

P1: Nominalism is the view that general predications of individual things are merely names and not instances of universals.

P2: The Person is not a instantiation of a universal

C: All predications of a person are nominalistic

If a person does not instantiate any universals then what is predicated of the person is merely a fictional title or a title based on names alone. This is significant because the Eastern Orthodox often accuse Protestants of being nominalists because of their view of legal justification by faith alone (as if nominalism in all respects were irrational or theoretically deficient). But here it seems that the Eastern Orthodox reasoning on this point is inconsistent and arbitrary since with regards to persons they have no problem with being nominalistic. Thus, this shows two things 1) the eastern view of person is nominalistic, 2) Eastern Orthodox no longer has a philosophical critique about the Protestant view of Justification on the basis that it is nominalistic.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Spoken Traditions

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
- II Thessalonians 2:15

This verse has been used several times in the course of discussions on this blog as a kind of "proof text" showing that there were unwritten Apostolic traditions (i.e. traditions not recorded in the Bible). These authoritative traditions were handed down by word of mouth within the Christian churches. Thus it would seem that even the Bible admits to the falsity of Sola Scriptura, since it admits to the existence of extra-biblical authoritative traditions. But is this really the case? I believe that there are passages elsewhere in II Thess. itself that call this line of reasoning into question.

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
- II Thessalonians 2:5

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
- II Thessalonians 3:10

In both of these verses Paul refers to a teaching that he had already given orally to the Thessalonian church. Yet he finds reason to repeat his teachings in writing. What is the significance of this? Well, for starters, it means that II Thess. 2:15 cannot necessarily be referring to oral traditions that were never written down as Scripture. Moreover, because we have a precedence for Paul repeating important teachings in Scripture, it is not at all unreasonable for the Protestant to assume 2 things, one weak and one strong. The weak assumption being that Paul also wrote down other oral teachings in Scripture, and the stronger assumption being that all oral teachings that were/are necessary to salvation, as well as church piety and practice, were also recorded as Scripture. Note, I have not argued that these verses in II Thess. actually prove this Protestant assumption correct, but they do make it reasonable (especially in light of other passages that deal with the place and purpose of Scripture itself), and they also refute the Catholic/Orthodox argument that the oral teachings Paul refers to must be teachings that are not included in Scripture.

Finally, I should mention that upon examination of II Thess. 2:15 itself, without reference to either 2:5 or 3:10, there is actually no indication given by Paul that when he says, "either by our spoken word or by our letter" he is referring to different teachings. Such a reading must be imposed on the text.