Why Do Catholics Reject Sola Scriptura?


images-1Dear Monisha,
We totally agree that appealing to Scripture is an excellent practice. If you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church you will find a multitude of Scripture references in the footnotes as references for our doctrines. However, the Catholic Faith and practice existed long before Martin Luther came along and decided, on his own authority, that ONLY what was in written Scripture (Sola Scriptura) was legitimate and all else was suspect or outright heresy.

As far as asserting that even Jesus relied only upon Scripture, I would have to disagree. He taught and behaved in ways diametrically opposed to what the sola scriptura Jews believed and judged him to be a dangerous heretic and so they plotted to destroy Him. For instance, when friends brought the man to Jesus for healing by letting him down through the roof, Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And what did the prominent and educated Jews think?

“Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (according to their scriptures)

Did Jesus then appeal to Scripture to absolve Himself? No.

And there are many other examples. Jesus was doing something new and unexpected. So, appealing to Scriptures is a wonderful and powerful practice but all Christian truth is not found in them and Scripture NEVER teaches that all spiritual truth is to be found in them alone. Martin Luther made that up. Not Jesus. Not the apostles. Not God.

You said,

It is not required of Scripture to have a statement to the effect, “The Bible alone is to be used for all spiritual truth,” in order for sola scriptura to be true.

Why not? How can one claim that all Christian truth must be in Scripture alone if that teaching, itself,  cannot even be found in scripture alone? It is not trustworthy for Protestants to say that if something is not explicitly taught in Scripture alone, except for the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura, then it cannot be believed, That doesn’t make sense.

You are exactly correct that all Christians do believe in doctrines not explicitly to be found spelled out in Scripture alone, like the Trinity, and the incarnation, the two natures of Christ etc. These doctrines were hammered out centuries before Martin Luther arrived on the scene by the Councils of the Catholic Church. It just so happened that Luther liked these doctrines and therefore adopted them even though they were not spelled out in Scripture alone. And therefore, according to this Protestant tradition, most Protestants still accept these Catholic doctrines down to this day.

However, there were other Catholic doctrines, Luther did not like and so, he used his novel assertion of Sola Scriptura to reject and repel anything he did not agree with. He even removed seven books from the OT and six from the NT that contradicted his beliefs. He was later persuaded to return the NT books. Therefore, today Protestant Bibles are missing 7 OT books from the Canon of the 4th century. –>The 7 books removed by Martin Luther.

If you say:

Many doctrines in the Bible are not clearly stated, yet they are believed and taught by the church

I would have to agree with you completely. That is precisely the Catholic position. All that the Church teaches is derived from both the oral and the written Teachings of the Apostles sometimes referred to as Sacred Tradition. So, you are correct that we do not adhere to Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone but we certainly love and honor the Scriptures and appeal to them when appropriate.

But, with regard to Sola Scriptura, it is NOT found anywhere in the Oral or Written Teaching of the Apostles or in any of the writings of the Early Church Fathers. It has no ancient pedigree of authenticity and therefore the Catholic Church rejects it as a novelty invented by Martin Luther a mere 500 years ago.

When you said,

So, for the Catholic to require the Protestant to supply chapter and verse to prove Sola Scriptura is valid is not necessarily consistent with biblical exegetical principles of which they themselves approve when examining such doctrines as the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.

You have a valid point. We certainly don’t use the Sola Scriptura paradigm because we reject it. However, I am constantly insisting that Protestants prove Sola Scriptura from chapter and verse in Scripture alone,  because Protestants generally do believe in Sola Scriptura and yet this very foundational doctrine CANNOT be found in Scripture alone at all. Therefore, Sola Scriptura must be illegitimate according to the Sola Scriptura Doctrine. Because, how can Protestants tell Catholics, “I do not find the Doctrine of Purgatory anywhere in Scripture, therefore I reject it and so should Catholics.” But. then turn around and say, “I do not find the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura anywhere in Scripture but I accept it and so should Catholics.” I am sorry that is way too much cognitive dissonance for me.

And not only that, even though Protestants do believe in doctrine that is not explicitly stated in Scripture, such as the Trinity, incarnation, etc. they are blinded to this fact and turn around and condemn the Catholic Church for believing in doctrine not explicitly found in Scripture alone. Huh? By asking Protestants to prove sola scriptura with scripture alone I am trying to get them to see that there is a very large inconsistency with their doctrine.

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