Critical Questions for Adherents of Sola Scriptura: My Answers

The following questions are asked by Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, in one of his recent newsletters published on his website. The questions challenge the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. There are three general areas in which Martignoni disputes Sola Scriptura: Logic, History, and Scripture. This post will answer Martignoni’s five questions from the perspective of logic.

1. Where did the Bible come from?

We believe the New Testament was orally preached to the first believers. The Apostle Paul wrote letters to various churches, which were compiled as early as the late first or early second century and circulated among Christians. Along with the Pauline Corpus the four Gospels were compiled by the mid second century along with First Peter, Jude, Revelation, and two of John’s letters.

It is certain that 22 of the 27 canonized books of the New Testament were well rooted in the ancient Christian church of the first two centuries. There is no record of these 22 books ever being disputed or doubted until 150 years later in the fourth century when some disputed the book of Jude. Even if we move Jude out of the list of undisputed books, we still have 21 books of the New Testament that were considered authoritative Scripture in the early church.

2. What authority do we rely on for our belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God?

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) states that the Bible is the only infallible authority for Christian faith, and that it contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. It does not claim to come from the Bible as though the apostles could have known the scope of its contents. Their calling was to lay the foundation of the church and in so doing left their writings to continue their work in these last days.

Nevertheless, if a person believes the Gospel message and puts their trust in the Bible as the word of God, it does not mean they profess the entire Bible to be inerrant or even inspired. Every believer who draws closer to Christ will gain understanding and insight into the more difficult areas of the Bible. Gaining biblical understanding, however, is not something that is accomplished in isolation. The body of Christ has structure and organization. “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-13)

Some things may never be understood to the point of an individual being able to honestly say that the Bible is inerrant in its entirety. As the formally blind beggar said to the Pharisees who accused Jesus of being a sinner, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (Jhn. 9:25) When believers draw closer to Christ they begin to understand the harmony of the Scriptures, which in turn enables them to gain trust in its contents – even if they know little or nothing of its history.

As Christians mature in the faith it becomes evident that the authority of the Bible is God Himself. When Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Jesus answered saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat. 16:17) And so it is with all who put their faith in Christ!

3. Is there a list of books in the Bible, which tells us which books should be in the Bible?

This question is obviously meaningless. Catholic apologists formulate it in order to set up what they believe to be a trap of contradiction for Sola Scriptura. Unfortunately for them, Sola Scriptura claims nothing of the kind. It would be a waist of time for any Catholic to use this tactic. Sola Scriptura is not a biblical doctrine; it is a doctrine born out of the Reformation to protect faithful Christians from the corrupt traditions and brutal spiritual oppression of the Catholic hierarchy.

4. What authority decided the disputes among Christians as to which books should and should not be considered inspired Scripture?

Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, history has provided no evidence that twenty of them were ever disputed. These twenty books alone, which include the four Gospels, all of Paul’s epistles except Hebrews, Acts, First Peter and First John are enough to validate the Bible as authoritative. The remaining seven books were scrutinized thoroughly in the early church and found to be acceptable. Anyone familiar with the Bible can determine for himself or herself whether these books harmonize with the other twenty. I don’t think one would find many believers who find them objectionable.

5. What authority prevents me from disagreeing with the canon of Scripture as we currently have it and putting my own Bible together?

The only people in history who have ever done that are those who hold themselves as their authority. Our authority is Christ!

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24 Responses to Critical Questions for Adherents of Sola Scriptura: My Answers

  1. Stuart Kirk says:

    A couple of other things to consider, from an age nearly six centuries after the printing press, and which has largely moved beyond it.

    Back in the early days of Christendom (and until the press was invented) most people had ZERO access to copies of books of the Bible. Distribution was not easy or geographically even. So, it was impossible for the Christendom as a whole to have this alleged universal agreement on the NT canon prior to, and apart from church councils. Those councils met to debate, deliberate, and draw conclusions on these, and numerous other issues. Locally drawn conclusions were, if necessary, reviewed and ruled on by regional councils of bishops, and so on. If an ecumenical council was not possible (due to persecution, wars, etc), the rulings were (when possible) sent to more significant sees for review, and so on.

    The idea of simple universal agreement about the NT canon as knowable on doubted books simply by a Christian perceiving them as so by reading them, is nonsense. Nowhere in scripture is there a promise that the Spirit bears witness to our spirits regarding which books are canonical. That smacks of both wacko fringe charismatic-ism (not to mention arugmentum ad populum). The fact is, early Christians with access to the manuscript had doubts about some books that are now in our canon. Reconsidering the canon, so did Luther.

    To avoid the arguments about texts by non-apostles, or a claim of canon by arugmentum ad populum, evangelical apologists developed alleged proofs of NT canonicity based on authors with ties to the Apostles. This is asserted to vouchsafe the authors’ employment by God for composing divinely inspired writings. But as mentioned previously, this does no such thing, especially when an author like Luke provides his methodological approach to gathering information for his compositions. How does being a companion of Paul yield divine inspiration? A large number of conservative scholars also hold that Paul is not the author of Hebrews. So, how are proposed authors not of the original twelve (such as Apollos) considered worthy and reliable vessels for composing divinely inspired scripture? It just doesn’t hold up. It’s like apologists that say there could not be Apostles after the twelve in Acts 1. Proof of that is 1 Cor. 9:1. But reading the context, one can easily see they are proof-texting. Beyond that, it seems peculiar that one of Paul’s proofs for being an Apostle is the claim of being an Apostle (“…Am I not an Apostle?…”). Why need he say more, if that tautological claim were proof?

    Finally, on an interpretive note, Augustine held that Christ’s used symbolic language in John 6, at least for the immediate crowd / circumstance regarding Christ’s demand that they eat His body and drink His blood to have life. Yet in numerous other statements, Augustine makes it abundantly clear that he holds to a “real presence” that is transubstantial. Perhaps consider Leonhard Goppelt’s comment:
    “From 6:51 onward eating is not just appropriating Jesus’ self-offering to faith, but the self-offering in word becomes self-offering in the eucharist, and believing hearing becomes believing eating. The uncurtailed incarnation of the Word demands Eucharistic reception. Word and sacrament thus belong together.” [Quoted in commenting on the theological meaning of “trogo” in John 6, in Kittle’s TDNT.]

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  2. Kevin says:

    No Stuart, Rome didn’t have a formal canon until Trent. They added in the duetercannonicals which were not accepted historically as scripture.

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  3. Kevin says:

    It wasn’t Roman Catholic. The men at Nicea knew nothing of Rome’s novelties. Jesus was never re sacrificed in the Supper. Kneeling wasn’t allowed in the early church. Hypopotolis, and 2 other father’s had Mary committing serious sin, one calling her a sign of the synagogue, yet Rome’s Marian ego resulted in idolatry of the highest level. Jesus trapped in small tabernacle lonely in need of people to come see him while Mary going between heaven and earth gracing everyone. You can’t find a religion more false and antichrist than the one you defend. When I watch your leader get his ring kissed I think to myself hell is filled with these men, who actually claim they are the
    Vicar of the Son of God, stripping that title from the Spirit. Sad. Repent of your idolatrous religion and believe in the gospel Mark 1:15.

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  4. Did you even read my response to your first comment? The canon, in its current form, did develop over time, but the majority of the books have been accepted as genuine from the earliest times. You speak as though all the books were decided in an ecumenical council. If that is what you are peddling then you are peddling a lie.

    It seems you have swallowed the Catholic propaganda hook, line, and sinker. They’ve convinced you to hate the sufficiency of Scripture to such an extent that reason has no place in your arguments. The sufficiency of Scripture has nothing to do with Scripture defining the limits of itself. The sufficiency of Scripture can be defined in one simple statement from the Apostle John, “These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and by believing have life in His name.”

    Have you ever considered why the church in Rome had a canon of Scripture in the second century that was different from what they had in the fourth century? This church you place your faith in and believe to be guided by the Holy Spirit, appears from history to be stumbling in the dark. And your use of the word, “Catholic” is misplaced; it is an adjective that means universal and in the context of which you used it, it should not be capitalized.

    The post-apostolic church was anything but universal and Ignatius’ use of the word does not change that. Look no further than Rome’s refusal to accept the epistle to the Hebrews as proof. It’s funny that you pointed out the differences in the accepted canons of the east and west then go on to say, “Just how Catholic was all this?” It wasn’t catholic at all! How can you point out their differences then call it universal? It makes no sense.

    Cyprian taking a threat of excommunication from the bishop of Rome seriously is nothing more than Catholic propaganda. There was no direct threat of excommunication aimed at Cyprian. In fact, the response from Cyprian was to exclaim to an assembly of African bishops that no one made himself a bishop of bishops, and all must give their true opinion. The remark was undoubtedly aimed at Stephen who refused to accept the messengers sent to Rome to convey the minutes.

    As for Cyprian backing down to Stephen, well, let’s just call that fake news. Cyprian’s response to Stephen was to write a letter of support to Firmilian, the bishop of Caesarea. The bishop responded in part with this:

    “But let these things which were done by Stephen be passed by for the present, lest, while we remember his audacity and pride, we bring a more lasting sadness on ourselves from the things that he has wickedly done. And knowing, concerning you, that you have settled this matter, concerning which there is now a question, according to the rule of truth and the wisdom of Christ; we have exulted with great joy, and have given God thanks that we have found in brethren placed at such a distance such a unanimity of faith and truth with us.” (Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, to Cyprian, Against the Letter of Stephen. A.D. 256.)

    He even compared Stephen, the bishop of Rome, to Judas. There was a gradual alignment in doctrine between Carthage, Rome, and the East, but it took years and Stephen had nothing to do with it. The church in Rome didn’t even seem to be aware that similar practices to Carthage were prominent in the east. Just how catholic would you say that was?

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