A brief argument against sola Scriptura…

“16 He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. 17 And the seventy-two returned with joy, saying: Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name.” — Luke 10

Christ predicated His post-Ascension authority upon the reception of His words by way of His own Apostles. Whoever heeds the Apostles, heeds Christ. Running verse 16 as a modus tollens, it follows that whoever does not hear the Apostles, does not hear Christ.

Now, according to Protestants, we hear the Apostles, and thus the authentic, binding teaching of Christ, solely in the canonical Scriptures. (Who made that canon in the first place is its own famous can of worms, but let’s ignore that problem for now.) The problem is that the Scriptures do not contain writings from all the Apostles. Therefore, with Scripture alone, it is impossible to hear the same Apostles to whom Christ said, “He that heareth you, heareth me.” If the only means by which we can hear Christ is by way of hearing the Apostles, and if the only way we can hear the Apostles is by reading the Scriptures, then the Scriptures must contain the complete voice of the Apostles–yet they do not.

Does this mean that the Apostles were silent, and therefore the voice of Christ fell mute upon the world without their contributions to Scripture? No, for there is a well established means by which all the Apostles authoritatively echoed Christ for our benefits, namely, by the ecclesial Tradition which flowered as a result of their historic missionary efforts.

The objection may be that we still need some canon besides these pillars of Tradition to sort out the complexities of what those apostolic roots–as the voice of Christ–bequeathed to the Church. This, however, is irrelevant because the Church agrees that Tradition is not enough. Just as there is an undivided unity of Persons in God (ad intra), so there is an undivided unity of media by which God as Beauty, Goodness, and Truth is known in the Church (ad extra). Scripture is the Lamp of the Spirit lighting the Way of Tradition, but that Lamp is held by no other Hand than the Magisterium qua the concrete endurance of the Apostles’s foundations. If the Lamp is set down upon the Way, the Church stays in one frame of the Tradition, chained to that patch of the Kingdom (rather like the Eastern Orthodox). The Hand is equally vital for the Journey to the Father. Likewise, if the Hand walks the Way without the Lamp, the Church will wander blindly, rather like Gnostics. Similarly, if the Hand carries the Lamp into the forest simply to enjoy the warm glow without obeying the contours of the Way, it will become lost in the immediacy of its bright but aimless short-sightedness (i.e. Protestantism).

So, while the triune nature of Christ’s headship–Scripture, Tradition Magisterium–does not of itself remove the need for working out apparent contradictions and growth into the truth, it does at least provide all the resources Christ knew we would need in order to overcome any obstacle on the Journey to the Father. Never forget that when Christ said the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church built on the supernaturally faithful Peter, He gave us an offensive mandate, not a merely defensive assurance. As Stephen Beale notes,

Reading hell in this way reverses how we see the gates—the gates are not to be thought of as a monstrous opening from which hell vomits forth demonic armies upon the Church. Instead, the gates of death could be thought of as prison doors that once barred the way to heaven. According to this interpretation, Jesus is saying that the gates of hell can no longer hold back members of the Church—just as they could no longer contain the fathers in limbo.

So, boys and girls, don’t take any bunkum from the powers of darkness, knowing that We Win. To that end, never surrender the trident given us by Our Lord for the Battle: a Traditionally informed Scriptural faith that is obedient to the Magisterium.

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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4 Responses to A brief argument against sola Scriptura…

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    Very interesting argument. Only issue I think is that the Protestant will disagree on the interpretation of Luke 10:16-17. They will massage out an interpretation of how to exclude the interpretation that is required for the argument.

    Personally, I believe that all arguments from Scripture against the Protestant position has that “weakness” in that Protestants will simply come up with an alternate interpretation for the particular passage used in the argument. Then to argue why their interpretation is false will require that one get in to discussion of other Scripture passages/concepts (to show how the Protestant interpretation will conflict with it) and pretty soon the original simple argument turns in to a very complex one with just too many things to attack in order to show the validity of the argument.

    I usually have in recent times felt it easier to attack the “what reason and authority do we have to think your particular interpretation of Scripture is right?” line of attack. The discussion is then less theological and concentrated more on the plain of common human reason and experience. At that stage I think it is easier to show that one should trust in the Apostles and Apostolic Successors certified by them as the most reasonable place to turn to and how absurd it is to turn to oneself. Turning to oneself is like a man trying to treat his illness (perhaps a grave one like a cancer) by reading a biology text when there are Doctors around. If the Protestant can be gotten to the point of accepting that, then s/he has to pretty much accepted the teaching authority of Apostolic Successors (and therefore Tradition. Since it contains their teachings, it also become part of the deposit of faith to be protected and handed down).

  2. joe m says:

    “one should trust in the Apostles and Apostolic Successors certified by them as the most reasonable place to turn to and how absurd it is to turn to oneself. ” Hard to do when those men choose to communicate in hard to nail down prattel. Jesus spoke in some riddles, but the New Testament Apostles seemed far more direct than their modern counterparts. Meanwhile, Protestant Evangelicals often sound very, vey much like their New Testament forbearers, making Catholic arguments sound a little bit like the apply only to a paper church. Simply pointing out the pragmatic apologetic reality.

  3. Tony Jokin says:

    I see what you mean.

    But “authority” in this sense is not reliant on the behavior or clarity of the successor. So you can have a medical doctor who is a pedophile and very bad when it comes to explaining things but it does not justify abandoning that he is the reliable source and our private judgement. In the same way, a normal person like you (assuming you are not a medical doctor for the sake of this post) and me could be very articulate in throwing around medical terminology and making it seem like we have authority. But if we have no line to show us been certified by a medical authority, then we are merely self designating ourselves and not trustworthy.

    So I think if one identifies the natural mechanisms and reasoning behind transmission of authority with respect to fields of knowledge and how an outsider gains information or gains authority in a field of knowledge, it becomes clear that every Protestant has adopted the biggest deception: everyone is practically self designating themselves authority of Scripture (or Christianity to be precise) or being granted such authority by those who had self designated themselves as such around the 16th century.

    What we as Catholics see today is that the ones holding the authority today in the Catholic Church are very bad at communicating truths and building an environment that facilitates living these truths. To give an analogy out of the top of my head, today’s situation is like a having the body of medical doctors teaching about Malaria and treatments for it without telling anyone to beware of Mosquitoes or how to defend themselves from it. Sometimes they make it even more convoluted by talking extensively about the beauty and possible contribution of Mosquitoes haha.

  4. IOW, the reigning penchant for “authenticity” does NOT necessarily equate to the demonstration of authority, much less fidelity.

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