Sola Scriptura / Scripture Alone???

Q.Why doesn’t the Catholic Church base its theology on Scripture alone?

A. For several reasons:

1. For 400 years after the birth of Christ, the New Testament, as we know it today, was non-existent. The books of our present New Testament were in existence, of course, but, so were hundreds of other writings, both Gospels, epistles, and histories. There was a lot of debate about what was worthy of canonization and what was not worthy of trust. List of trustworthy writings were begun in the 150’s A.D. but the New Testament Canon was not definitively and finally defined and closed until the early 400’s.

2. Since there was no canon of sacred scripture for nearly 400 years, it would have been impossible for all theology to be based on something that did not exist. The Church evangelized the world after Pentecost with the teaching of the Apostles, taught by Christ, and after they died these teachings were preserved in the Sacred Tradition (with a capital “T”) of the Church. Of course, the writings of Apostles were available and used but all must align with what was known to have been taught by Christ to His Apostles. That is why there is nothing in the teaching of the Catholic Church that confilcts with Sacred Scripture.

The Church taught FIRST from the deposit of Teachings given to the Apostles by Jesus. Then as the need arose to write epistles or Gospels these were written, SECONDARILY. So, Sacred Scripture, is derived from the teaching of the Apostles or Tradition. Not the other way around as in most Protestant Churches.

But Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and King Henry VIII cut themselves free from historical Christianity so they were left with nothing except the Bible. Therefore they draw their theology OUT of the Bible. And because, interpretations, cut off from historical Christianity vary wildly, there are now more than 40,000 Protestant sects in direct opposition to Jesus’ prayer, “that all of them may be one” John 17:21

3. The only Christian Church in the world for over 1400 years based theology on both Sacred Scripture and Tradition (teaching of the Apostles) until the advent of Martin Luther.

4. There is nothing in Sacred Scripture that commands the faithful to base theology on Scripture Alone/Sola Scripture.

5. Until some time after the invention of the printing press, the Bible, was an extremely costly book. At today’s minimum wages of $8.00/hr and only counting the time for one monk to write the whole Bible, it would take 10 months at a cost of $16,000. But that doesn’t count the second monk who checked the pages for accuracy, which would raise the cost of one Bible in today’s US Dollars to $21,424 And that still does not include the cost of materials, or for the time for another monk to decorate the pages and for someone else to bind the pages together and put on a cover. At these prices it is easy to see why every person could not have their own personal Bible for study and devotions. It also becomes clear why Churches chained the Bible in the Church to prevent the theft of this precious possession used every day at every Catholic Mass.

6. The idea of the necessity of Scripture alone for personal reading, salvation, and growth in holiness was a very late invention by Martin Luther etc. It could not be an eternal Christian principle because the majority of people, until the last several hundred years could not read. Even today, 20% of the world population cannot read. So, Our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom and mercy would not make salvation dependent upon personal reading of the Bible, as some Protestant sects teach.

6 Responses

  1. The phrase sola scriptura is from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings” – referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is ‘God breathed’ (given of inspiration of God) and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

    Sola scriptura was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible. Some examples are prayer to saints and/or Mary, the immaculate conception, transubstantiation, infant baptism, indulgences, and papal authority. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Protestant Reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with excommunication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther’s reply was, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, – unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, – and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”

    The primary Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that the Bible does not explicitly teach sola scriptura. Catholics argue, “the Bible nowhere states that it is the ONLY authoritative guide for faith and practice.” While this is true, it fails to recognize a crucially important issue. We know that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, and authoritative. We also know that God does not change His mind or contradict Himself. So, while the Bible itself may not explicitly argue for “sola scriptura,” it most definitely does not allow for traditions that contradict its message. Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines. The only way to know for sure what God expects of us is to stay true to what we know He has revealed – the Bible. We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition.

    The Word of God is the only authority for the Christian faith. Traditions are valid only when they are based on Scripture and are in full agreement with Scripture. Traditions that contradict the Bible are not of God and are not a valid aspect of the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is the only way to avoid subjectivity and personal opinion from taking priority over the teachings of the Bible. The essence of sola scriptura is basing your spiritual life on the Bible alone, and rejecting any tradition or teaching that is not in full agreement with the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth.”

    Sola scriptura does not nullify the concept of church traditions. Rather, sola scriptura gives us a solid foundation on which to base church traditions. There are many practices, in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that are the result of traditions, not the explicit teaching of Scripture. It is good, and even necessary, for the church to have traditions. Traditions play an important role in clarifying and organizing Christian practice. At the same time, in order for these traditions to be valid, they must not be in disagreement with God’s Word. They must be based on the solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church (and many other churches) is that it bases traditions on traditions which are based on traditions which are based on traditions – often with the initial tradition not being in full harmony with the Scriptures. That is why Christians must always go back to sola scriptura, the authoritative Word of God, as the only solid basis for faith and practice.

    On a practical matter, a frequent objection to the concept of sola scriptura is the fact that the canon of the Bible was not officially agreed upon for at least 250 years after the church was founded. Further, the Scriptures were not available to the masses for 1500+ years after the church was founded. How, then, were early Christians to use sola scriptura, when they did not even have the full Scriptures? How, then, were Christians who lived before the invention of the printing press supposed to base their faith and practice on Scripture alone if there was no way for them to have a complete copy of the Scriptures? This issue is further compounded by the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history. How does the concept of sola scriptura handle these issues?

    The problem with this argument is that it is essentially saying that Scripture’s authority is based on its availability. This is not the case. Scripture’s authority is universal; because it is God’s Word, it is His authority. The fact that Scripture was not readily available, or that people could not read it, does not change the fact that Scripture is God’s Word. Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. While it was unrealistic for every Christian to possess a complete copy of the Bible, it was possible that every church could have some, most, or all of the Scriptures available to it. Early church leaders should have made studying the Scriptures their highest priority so they could accurately teach it. Even if the Scriptures could not be made available to the masses, at least church leaders could be well-trained in the Word of God. Instead of building traditions upon traditions, and passing them on from generation to generation – the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2).

    Again, traditions are not the problem. Unbiblical traditions are the problem. The availability of the Scriptures throughout the centuries is not the determining factor. The Scriptures themselves are the determining factor. We now have the Scriptures readily available to us. Through the careful study of God’s Word, it is clear that many church traditions which have developed over the centuries are in fact contradictory to the Word of God. This is where sola scriptura applies. Traditions that are based on, and are in agreement with God’s Word can be maintained. Traditions that are not based on, and/or are in disagreement with God’s Word, must be rejected. Sola scriptura points us back to what God has revealed to us in His Word. Sola scriptura ultimately points us back to the God who always speaks the truth, never contradicts Himself, and always proves Himself to be dependable.

  2. Jeronie,

    All of your arguments are based on a false premise. That premise is that all Christian truth can be found in Sacred Scripture and ONLY sacred scripture. The irony is that this Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.

    You base your beliefs and criticism of the Catholic doctrine on Protestant interpretation of scripture which is actually Protestant Tradition.

    Click the links for more posts on Catholic TRADITION

  3. Hello,

    I think that maybe no one will ever find my post, but what the heck. I am a Catholic, and i “protested” from the CC for about 6 years and am now back and loving my faith. Because of this period of time, most of my friends are Protestants. Knowing them and their hearts and their faiths i have been closely looking at Sola Scriptura.

    Tradition is defined as: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

    Now it may be a stretch but I see a great deal of Tradition in my friends faiths.
    1. I believe that Sola Scriptura in itself, based on the definition of trad. has become tradition.
    2. History in my mind is tradition. So how can anyone read the bible with it’s original context in mind, without relying on tradition.
    3. All the protestants i know adhere to original sin, Jesus: true man and true god, the trinity, Pro-Life, etc. All of which can be found in the bible, in some for or another, but are teachings of tradition.
    4. Nearly all people i know who are into their faith read books by authors such as C.S. Lewis….etc. So if Sola Scriptura is true, then why read any of these books?

    I could be very wrong in my understanding of this. I do not mean to offend anyone who may read this. I am simply conveying my perceptions.


  4. Dear Eugene,
    Welcome home!! And I am sure you appreciate it so much more now.
    I would love to know what inspired you to come back.

    Yes, Protestants also have their traditions and ours as well. But sola scriptura is truly a ‘tradition of man”–Martin Luther invented it 500 years ago.

    Using grape juice instead of wine (contrary to scripture)

    “Asking Jesus into my heart” I don’t mean to denigrate the concept which is truly beautiful but it is not found in scripture.

    The fact is they are not as “sola scriptura” as they like to think. At a joint Protestant/Catholic Bible study last night we were discussing
    I Cor. 10:4. My Protestant husband was pointing out that the Israelites “drank the same spiritual/supernatural drink from the rock that followed them, and the rock was CHRIST.” My husband was pointing out that in this context it prefigured the Eucharist which is Christ and we drink a spiritual drink which is Christ.

    And one of the Protestants began a long dissertation about why the rock did NOT follow them and the Rock was NOT really Chirst.

    All this despite the fact that this is clearly stated. So, they tend to take things literally when it favors their theology and reinterpret when it favors Catholic theology. Of course we both interpret some passages literally and others non literally. the difference is that we have 2000 years of historical understanding on the side of our methods of interpretation.

    • And we have the writing of the early Church Fathers that help out as well; some of which was written before a completed Bible was formed!

  5. Hello bfhu!

    Thank you! First off, the main reason I left the church wasn’t because I disagreed with any of the teachings (I was only 13) but really because as a youth there were no youth programs or anything realistically that catered to me. So when i began to really want to understand what the CC was about only my parents could answer my questions, and as a teenager the last thing I wanted was to listen to them (which is ironic now)! It was truly a journey of which God laid the path. A ministry called Young Life (non-denominational) was where i got first my answers. And through this ministry I began attending four square churches and youth groups. I actually took on a sort of anti-Catholic attitude during this time sadly. This attitude was contrasted by my decision just a few years ago to go to a Catholic school. Here i was challenged by the campus priest to do my research, and prove Catholic teaching wrong. To be honest, I did the research on every subject I could think of until I just realized that everything i had looked into was legit.

    I still don’t know everything, and i don’t really want to! But whenever I’m questioned by my Protestant friends and i don’t know the answer, i go back into research mode. To sum it up, it’s been a journey and it’s definitely going to continue, but I have found home and an interesting place as a almost a “diplomat” to my Protestant friends.

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