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Apologetics Devin Rose Ecumenism Faith Formation Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

If Sola Scriptura Is True

In a popular apologetics book written by one Catholic Sistas’ guest contributors Devin Rose, entitled If Protestantism Is True, an approach is taken to addressing the contrast between Catholic and Protestant ideals by assuming that Protestantism is true and attempting to make sense of Church history and theology based on that assumption. Being that Sola Scriptura is one of my favorite apologetics topics, I often find myself speculating on the issue and the logic behind the line of thinking that states the Word of God is strictly present in the written form, and therefore the Scriptures are our sole source authority.  For this post, I decided to adopt the approach of Devin Rose, assuming that Sola Scriptura is true and how that would have changed the course of salvation history, Jesus’ ministry, and even the Sacred Scriptures themselves.

If Sola Scriptura Is True…

…Jesus would not have spent the entirety of his ministry orally teaching the faith to the apostles. If God willed for His Word to be present solely through inspired writings, He would have spent His ministry writing down all of His Teachings in the form of letters, perhaps similar to the format St. Paul used in his many letters.

Jesus then would have taken His completed set of writings—already compiled in a Book because there would be no authoritative, Holy Spirit guided Church to do so for Him—and presented it to His apostles prior to His ascension. He might have said, “You are Peter, and to this rock I give this Book…” (rather than, “You are Peter, and on this rock I build my Church). He then would have instructed Peter, along with His other apostles, to go forth and “make disciples, reading to them this book and Teaching them to do all that I have written within” (rather than “Teaching them to do all that I [orally] commanded you”).

It stands to reason that Jesus would do these things, because if Sola Scriptura is true, then God’s Word will only ever be preserved in the written form—we will not have had any other source of authority in which we can rely for Truth. Jesus, therefore, would not have ascended into Heaven leaving His followers to spend over three-hundred years waiting on their authoritative source. He would not have left Earth before leaving His people with something to sit in His seat and be His authority on Earth; since this authority will not be a Church, according to Sola Scriptura, then He would have left His book at some point before His departure.

History, however, confirms the opposite: for the first one-hundred years of Christianity there were no written accounts of Christ’s Teachings, as they were at this time in the process of being written. For the first three-hundred years (until the councils of Hippo and Carthrage) there was not a compiled collection of inspired Christian writings that were publicly known and recognized as the New Testament. Therefore, if Sola Scriptura is true, then our God is a God of disorder. He established a system in which His authority would be found only through written inspiration, leaving nearly twelve generations to attempt to worship and follow Christ without a final, authoritative source of Christian Truth.

God could further be classified as a God of chaos, confusion, and disorder, if sola scriptura is true, because there would be no accompanying, authoritative voice (such as a divinely guided Church, a central Teaching office) to infallibly interpret these writings. Christians who lived several centuries and even a millennia after Christ and the apostles would then have to read these writings and draw their own conclusions. Several different people, all feeling guided by the Holy Spirit in their convictions, would come to contradictory interpretations of the Scriptures. Those who were illiterate, a large group that encompasses most of our human history, would be forced to choose which man’s interpretation to follow. As a result, multiple Christian theologies would exist in complete disunion with one another. There would be no refuge of unity within the Body of Christ, as there would be no additional source of divinely guided authority to settle these disputes.

If Sola Scriptura is true, then the Bible would make it clear. All passages referring to the “Word of God” would not describe Jesus as the Word made flesh (John 1:14) or teachings that were “received” or “heard”. The “Word of God” in the Scriptures would be a phrase always accompanied by the words “written”, “read”, or “book”. In passages regarding the Scriptures infallibility and authoritative purposes, the word “alone” would be included to emphasize that the Scriptures alone are infallible and they alone hold the authority, the only pillar and foundation of truth. In reality, the Scriptures say or imply none of the aforementioned.  Therefore, if sola scriptura is true, then it fails by its own standards.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. –I Thessalonians 2:15

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Adrienne Apologetics Faith Formation Sacred Scripture

Why Catholics Don’t Read the Bible

As Catholics, we’ve all heard it before, “Catholics don’t read the Bible.”, “Catholicism is unbiblical!”, “They don’t even have Bibles in their pews!”, followed by examples of Bible “abuse” in the past of the Catholic Church where she chained Bibles to the pulpits (true) so the faithful couldn’t study them (false), or burned copies of the Bible (true) because, again, the Church didn’t want the faithful to study them (false).  Allow me to explore this characterization, as it contains a bit of truth, along with some natural misunderstanding.

“According to the apostle Paul, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God and who does not know scripture does not know the power or the wisdom of God, then ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.

A.D. 408, St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

Children of God whom are nurtured by Sola Scriptura as their rule of faith have a very different relationship with Sacred Scripture than both modern and historical Catholics.  These devoted Christians have at least one copy of God’s Written Word, and many will lovingly delve into those pages daily for their source of God given nourishment.  They can’t imagine a spiritual life that isn’t drenched in the pages of Scripture.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5)  Thus, they are simply appalled that a Catholic may not own a Bible at all!  And again wonder, why are there no Bibles in the pews at a Catholic church?!

Modern Catholics do not share this same relationship with Sacred Scripture because historical Catholics did not.  Catholicism has a 2,000 year history, and due to this, the average Catholic has been brought up in the vestiges of an ancient faith that predates wide spread literacy and the printing press.  For the first 1500 years of the Church, all Bibles were hand written by scribes, to painfully exact standards.  If a scribe made a single mistake on a piece of parchment, the entire piece of parchment would be destroyed and rewritten, to ensure pristine copies of Sacred Scripture were released to the public.  These Bibles took years to complete and cost three years’ wages (like a modern day house, which we purchase with 30 year mortgages).  These copies of God’s Word were so expensive and rare, that the local churches would chain them to the pulpits to prevent theft, protecting the availability for all of the congregants.  The average layperson did not own one of these Bibles because of the expense and rarity, not to mention that person’s inability to read would have been troublesome even if they did have a copy.  Their daily spiritual lives did not revolve around individual study of Sacred Scripture, instead they found spiritual nourishment in other ways –  namely prayer and the Mass.  The historic Catholic would travel to mass (available daily) to hear God’s word read from the ambo, and explained in a homily.  His soul would be nourished not only by hearing the written word, but also by his prayerful presence with the Blessed Sacrifice of the Mass.  Outside of the Mass, his daily life would be sustained through a devotion to prayer.

God’s having allowed for the invention of modern technology has been fantastic for education and the spread of His Word, but it has also brought about changes in our relationships with Him.  When the printing press came on the scene in the 1400s copies of Bibles were being printed left and right!  And not at all with the same careful consideration the scribes had used.  The Church, in her effort to preserve the distribution of pristine copies of God’s Word, did indeed burn many poor prints or translations.  Around this time literacy grew and continued to grow, and soon the famous Reformation was born.  While our Sola Scriptura brethren grew in a faith formation focused on the pages of God’s word written in Scripture, our Catholic ancestors continued with their sturdy 1500 year old faith formation based on the mass and prayer.

Today, first world Catholics still may not own Bibles, though many do.  We’re still raised with an emphasis on mass attendance, frequency of sacraments, and a rich prayer life for our faith formation.  No, we still don’t have Bibles in our pews, but instead, we have missals which contain the passages to be read each day for mass.  These missals ensure that our priests are reading the same three to four selections of God’s written Word as all of the other priests in the other parishes that day.  The missal ensures that all faithful Catholics are read the entire Bible in three years of daily mass attendance, which makes for a pretty hefty emphasis on Sacred Scripture.

As God, in His providence, would have it, the latest advancements in technology have allowed for widespread conversions to Catholicism amongst many of God’s devoted children from the Sola Scriptura traditions.  These converts, having had their faith muscles strengthened on the written Word coupled with a vibrant passion for Christ, are uniting with the ancient Church and Her fullness of Christ’s teaching for an explosive combination!  God is showing us that we are weakened by our separation, and are strongest when we unite!  Our newest Catholics are inspiring us cradle Catholics to discover the Biblical Truth of Catholicism, providing us the knowledge armor of Sacred Scripture in conjunction with Sacred Tradition.  Study of the Scriptures in light of Tradition is eye opening and amazing.  But let us never forget that Holy Mother Church protected and provided these Scriptures for us.  We can never divorce the Scriptures from their Mother, for when we separate the two, we will be mislead by our own weaknesses.

Many thanks to the Holy Spirit for our Sacred Scriptures, and also, many thanks to all of our convert Catholics for bringing into the Church their passion for God’s Written Word!