Steve Ray, pilgrimage peddler, has posted an apparently fictional letter from “Lenny” to “Beau”:
Hi Beau, you mention “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us.” There is a problem with your statement is this; it is not in the Bible. Nowhere does it say that we should follow Scripture alone “Sola Scriptura” or that it is all sufficient. Isn’t it interesting “Sola Scriptura” (Bible alone), which is believed to be Biblical by many people is not even in the Bible!
Steve Ray thinks that the idea that the Scripture is sufficient to teach us isn’t found in the Bible. Remarkable, eh? Can it be that Steve Ray has never read these texts?
2 Timothy 3:15-17
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Are the Scriptures able to make you wise unto salvation? Are they able to illuminate one and make one wise than one’s teachers? Was the Bible written for the very purpose that we would read it and believe? Did Jesus himself commend people to search the Scriptures.
The moment someone believes “Bible alone,” they already believe a concept not found in the Bible. And those who believe “Bible Alone” reject the authority of the Church, a concept found in the Bible. “Bible alone” is one of three pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The problem is that it is self-refuting, because the moment you believe it, you already believe something not in the Bible. And so “Sola Scriptura” crumbles under its own weight.
There are churches mentioned in the Bible, and these churches do have authority. Parents are also described in the Bible, and parents have authority. Are parents infallible? No. Are church infallible? Also no. What’s misleading on Steve Ray’s part is to suggest that just because churches, like parents, have authority – it means that this authority can never be questioned. Steve Ray knows that there is such a thing as subordinate authority, but he pretends that there are only two categories: Roman totalitarianism and anarchy. There is a third way. The third way is that the churches have authority that is subordinate to the Word of God. They are not authorities over Scripture, they are authorities under Scripture.
That’s why Jesus commended the searching of Scripture, and why the Bereans were praised as “more noble,” because they searched the Scriptures daily to judge the truth of the teachings of the very apostles.
Let me relate to you a story. I was talking to a couple of people from the Milwaukee Church of Christ. He pointed out to me a verse in 2nd Timothy. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2nd Tm 3:16). And so he said the Bible is it and I agreed the Bible is it. So he said, let’s go on. And I said fine, but before we do, I think we should also follow the Church.
And we should follow our parents too! But both our parents and the church are subordinate to Scriptures. The Scriptures are the inspired word of God, parents and churches are men (humans, for those who think “men” refers exclusively to males). When there is a conflict between parents and Scripture or church and Scripture, we have to follow the Scripture. So, for example, when the Scriptures teach us that religious veneration should be reserved for God alone, and Rome demands that Mary be given the religious veneration of hyper-dulia, we have to pick what Scripture says, over what Rome says, even if Rome happens to be our church at the time.
He became a little irritated with me and he said, we just went through this and you agreed the Bible is it. And so I asked him what he thought the pillar and foundation of truth was. He said, the Bible! I informed him, he was incorrect because the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth; “You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Steve Ray’s “gotcha” moment with the person who didn’t know this particular verse is pretty trivial. After all, “the church” in that verse doesn’t mean “a hierarchy,” it means a local congregation. Look at the context:
1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
In this verse, “the church,” refers to the local congregation – the house of God. It’s the place where Timothy is going to be behaving himself properly or not. When we expand out the context a little more:
1 Timothy 3:14-16
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Notice two things: first the truth that the local church upholds and protects is the gospel, of which Paul provides a short summary; second, the letter is being written because it contains something Timothy wouldn’t otherwise have, while “in the church” (in the absence of Paul’s personal presence). In other words, the text doesn’t affirm the sufficiency of “the church,” but rather the deficiency of the church, even while affirming the purpose of the church.
I wasn’t being disingenuous when I said the Bible is it. I believe this totally so long as we believe it (the Bible) totally. And the Bible tells us to listen to the Church so it must be included in order to follow the whole Bible. This is the 2nd reason “Sola Scriptura” is wrong, it ignores all the passages that give the Church real authority.
It’s disingenuous to say that the position of “Sola Scriptura” ignores verses that deal with church authority. None of those verses say or even suggest that the churches wield an infallible authority.
Again your statement “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us” is not Biblical. However, had you included the Church in your statement it would have been correct. The concept of “Sola Scriptura” is a Protestant understanding but it is rejected by many Protestants today because it is not Biblical.
Steve Ray is putting himself in a corner. Scripture never says that the church is sufficient, nor that “the church” has to be added to Scripture in order for Scripture to be sufficient. “Protestants” may reject Scripture’s sufficiency, but not for lack of clear Scriptural teaching. Moreover, are “Protestants” really able to read and understand Scripture? If Steve Ray says “yes,” then he’s conceded the key point of our contention, which is that people can read and understand Scripture and judge whether Rome is teaching the apostolic faith. If he denies that “Protestants” can read and understand Scripture, then why is he appealing to their interpretation of it?
By the way what church do you belong to? Is it 7th day Baptist or Adventist or say Pentecostal? Usually it’s like pulling teeth to get an Evangelical to say the name of their Church and where they are coming from. I get the impression that they are embarrassed. They make less than complimentary statements about the Catholic Church all the while they are reluctant to mention where they are coming from. And I might add, there are Evangelicals who are not into the Catholic bashing business. Some of them are my friends.
Steve Ray does not seem to get that Evangelicals are not, for the most part, ultra-sectarians like he is. They are about bringing people to Christ and the gospel, whereas Steve Ray is about bringing people to Rome.
When by our preaching people come out of Rome to a Reformed church, God is bringing them to the gospel. He’s also bringing them to a particular church and a particular congregation – but they are converting to Christianity not to a sect.
So, it’s not that we’re embarrassed – it’s that our focus is on presenting Christ. The gospel transcends our denominational boundaries, so that we can have unity of the gospel, even with those who are not of our particular denomination. There’s no Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist “Unam Sanctam.”
But is Steve Ray embarrassed to be associated with Rome? Perhaps he should be. Not just because of the scandals of the modern times, but because of the persecution of the gospel and her messengers, back when Rome had more political power. The history of the papacy is something lurid and shameful, not something to be proud of.
More than that, though, the key thing he should be ashamed of is the departure of his church from the apostolic faith found in Scripture. After all, the Scripture tells us what the Apostles taught and believed – and that doesn’t match up well with what Rome practices and teaches. Rome’s celibate bishops don’t match up with the mostly married apostles and elders in the Bible. Rome’s prayers to Mary and the saints don’t find Biblical precedent. Rome’s bowing down to images of men and angels is contradicted by Scripture, and we could go on and on.
More than all the scandals – which could happen to any fallible church – the most shameful thing is that Rome has departed from the gospel and declared herself to be infallible and irreformable in her dogma. That’s a hardness of heart worthy of great shame.