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!