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. David says:

    Brian, Catholic is catholic. It means the universal Church that Christ founded. Unfortunately, right now, it doesn’t include Protestants completely, because Protestants don’t trust Jesus completely. They don’t believe everything he said.

    You call it lack of evidence, but I say the evidence speaks volumes. And you haven’t proven me wrong.

    I don’t disparage people to make me feel better Brian. I don’t need to do that.

  2. David, catholic means “universal,” period.

    Yesterday catholic meant “embracing all,” today it means “the universal church Christ found.” What will it mean tomorrow?

    When you say we don’t believe everything Jesus said, is that because you know of things Jesus said that are not in the Bible? Thus far you haven’t pointed to anything Jesus said that isn’t found in the Bible. Can you provide something…please?

  3. David says:

    Brian, do words have multiple meanings? Let me answer, yes, they do. Broken down, The Greek roots of the term “Catholic” mean “according to (kata-) the whole (holos)”. What’s the real difference between universal and embracing all? Nada.

    When I say you don’t believe everything Jesus said, I’m talking about your interpretation. You don’t believe that, when Jesus said that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, he was speaking literally. But you interpret other things literally, that aren’t literal, like Jesus having siblings.

  4. Okay so it’s back to meaning “embracing all.” It can mean whatever you want it to mean David.

    So when it comes to what Jesus said, it’s your interpretation verses mine. So, for the sake of fair-minded people who might read this, I have shown in great detail how the early church fathers did not interpret Jesus literally in John’s Gospel on the bread of life discourse. You have only your and your church’s interpretation. Let the folks decide.

  5. David says:

    Brian, it means what it means.

    And no, it’s not my interpretation vs yours, it’s the Catholic Church’s interpretation = apostles interpretation vs yours. “I only have me and my 2000 year old church….:/

    You say that the early church fathers (what church were they the fathers of, Brian?) did not interpret literally, but who did, Brian? Those around Jesus. Some of his disciples were disturbed by what he said, and went back to their previous lives. If Jesus was anxious for followers, don’t you think he would have amended what he said and called them back? Instead, he turned to his apostles and asked them if they were going to leave him as well.
    Usually, when someone asked Jesus what he meant by something, he explained it to them in words they could understand, usually parables. There’s no parable here…

  6. David, you commented on the Bread of Life Discourse article on this blog, which presumably means you read it, but maybe forgot what you read. I addressed the unbelieving disciples in that article. If you want to know my exegesis on the matter you can go there and read it. In addition, there is a great deal of information regarding what the early church believed about the Eucharist in my article, “Early Church Fathers Refute Real Presence.” I know you do not agree with my conclusions, but please at least read the articles before commenting. It will make me feel like I didn’t totally waste my time.

  7. Stuart Kirk says:

    Brian, These standard Protestant arguments do not hold up to close scrutiny (I have used them in the past myself). They basically for a kind of tautological argument. The point of Catholics asking certain questions is that there is no scripture listing the canonical books, nor the qualifications for a book being considered canonical. If evidence is required outside of the agreement of an Ecumenical Council, then we are all sunk. Because the standards normally put forward in the Protestant apologetic quickly implode on close examination.
    Exp. 1: Luke was not an Apostle, and wrote based on information compiled from interviews with various witnesses. His Gospel is obviously not Pauline in origin..How then is it canonical?
    Exp. 2: Not all the OT books are specifically mentioned or quoted in the NT. Some quotes from the OT are also blended quotes, or paraphrases. Yet in Hebrews 1:3 there is a close very paraphrase from the book of Wisdom 7:25-26. So, is Hebrews not canonical for the quote, or is Wisdom canonical? Jude 1:14-15 also quotes the pseudopygraphal book of 1 Enoch (1:9) as if Enoch actually made the statement.
    Exp. 3: Protestantism did not have absolute unity on canon. Luther disputed many books, and at his death had still not convinced that Revelation was divinely inspired writ, and could not personally commend it to canonical status. But on the whole, Protestants stood with Catholics on the NT, and some held the Deuterocanonicals as lesser, but,still useful for teaching. [They were in most Protestant Bibles until something like the late 18th or early 20th century.

    As Protestants, we usually choose not to see the weaknesses in our own arguments.

  8. Stuart, thank you for your comment.

    It seems to me that your view of the forest is obstructed by the trees. The pronouncement of an ecumenical council is not evidence of anything other than that they arrived at a consensus. Actually the consensus in Carthage was to close the cannon not form it.

    The best evidence for what should be canonized as Scripture is that which has been recognized as Scripture from the earliest times. As I said in the article, there are twenty New Testament books that fit that description. Arguing against the authenticity of those twenty books would be an impossible task to say the least.

    But what of the other seven books? What is the basis for their inclusion? Is it because a church council decided they should be included? Not at all, but this is exactly what folks who choose to rely on man rather than seek God believe. What can people who have no relationship with God do except believe what they are told to believe?

    If we go back to the mid second century we find from the Muratorian Fragment that 22 of the New Testament books were recognized. And in the writings of Irenaeus there are references to 23 of the books. In the early fourth century, Eusebius lists James, Jude, 2Peter, 2John and 3John as disputed but recognized by many. He lists the Apocalypse of John as generally accepted but rejected by some. He also gave an explanation of why certain other writings were universally rejected. And there is a consensus among scholars that the codex Sinaiticus is one of Eusebius’ fifty bibles produced for Constantine and it includes all 27 books!

    And finally, Athanasius’ thirty-ninth festal letter in 367 A.D. presented a twenty-seven book list of the New Testament. All this long before any ecumenical council took up the issue.

    What actually implodes upon examination, Stuart, is the arguments of those who tout ecumenical councils as evidence for Scripture authenticity. The only evidence produced is that of their own lack of desire to actually learn the history, which stems from their lack of desire to seek God.

  9. Kevin says:

    That’s right, there were a working 27 books of the NT very early. As far as the OT, cmon!? Is there really a question. The RC added the Deutercannonicals at Trent. But the RC is always adding or turning things around. I’m in a discussion on another site where the RC’s have been clearly shown in the scriptures and early father’s where antitype meant symbol or figure. Yet, those RC’S are more interested in the meaning from Websters than the context of scripture or early fathers. Hebrews 9:24 says the earthly holy place was the antitype and the heavenly holy place was is the true holy place. But the RC’S there can’t face it. Jesus is never called an antitype in scripture. He is the last Adam 1 Corinthians 15, and the builder of the House. Oil was the antitype for the Holy Spirit, Baptism was the antitype. And bread and wine were antitype.

  10. Stuart Kirk says:

    I suggest additional historical study.

    One of the reason Luther doubted some books is because they were not broadly accepted among the churches (the “antilegomena”). Probably tops among those was Revelation.
    Ironically, the earliest list of books used is in Rome (the “Muratorian Canon”) in the 200’s. But it includes the Rev. of Peter, and the Wisdom of Solomon, and is missing 4 books of our current canon. Origin’s list is missing 6 disputed books, and Eusebius the same six. So, this idea of universally accepted and used 27 books of our current canon is just plain propagandist nonsense.

    The first clear reference to a 27 book canon is with Athansius.(c. 367), who calls them canonized. But that may refer to local or regional regard. It is, after all, one record, of one Bishop in Alexandria, Egypt in the late mid fourth century.

    The Synod of Hippo Regius (Africa yet again) follows with it in 393, and IS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE 27 BOOK NT CANON STANDARD. It also includes as canonical the OT canon with the deuterocanonical books..The Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419 follow doing the same (Augustine was among the Bishops). In the latter, they saw it as necessary to consult with the Church of Rome for its approved opinion on the canon. It was such rulings that universalized the canon, though in the church far to the East, the OT canon was even longer.

    Just how Catholic was all this? These African councils were also ruling issues of validity of certain baptisms, on penance for those who had returning to the church after falling away during persecution, etc. At one point, in the mid-3rd century, the Pope dangled a threat of excommunication at St. Cyprian over an issue, and Cyprian took it seriously. He backed down.

    You see, even prior to Nicea (325), as well as after, the church was very, very Catholic. The canon did not just arise. It was also decided, and imposed.

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