Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Transcript: Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura? - James White vs. Jerry Matatics - Vintage
11/15/2012 - James WhiteOpening Argument
It is good to be with you this evening on a rather chilly evening outside. You need to remember that in Phoenix it has not been this cold in probably about 3,000 years. But I enjoy it, the air is clean and it is good to be with you here in Omaha.
I want to take you back, as we discuss sola Scriptura this evening, to the period following the Council of Nicaea in 325. You may recall from your church history that the Council of Nicaea the full deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ was affirmed by the council--that Jesus Christ was not a creature, he was not a created being-- yet you may also be aware that in the period that followed the Council of Nicaea, for the next number of decades, Arianism reigned supreme in the Church. For example, Athanasius, the great bishop, was driven from his See five times during the period of time following Nicaea because of the political activities of the Arians. During that particular period of time, Athanasius, writing to his friend, Adelphius, against the Arians, wrote the following. Please listen closely.
"Such then, as we have above described is the madness and daring of those men (speaking of the Arians). But our faith is right and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and tradition of the fathers, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old. For the Prophets say, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name 'Immanuel' which is being interpreted 'God with us.' What does that mean, if not that God has come in the flesh? While the apostolic tradition teaches in the words of blessed Peter, 'For as much then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh' and in what Paul writes, 'Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.'"
Now why do I bring this to your attention? First of all, if you read Athanasius' letter, he argues solely from the Scriptures as the rule of faith against the Arians. He argues that this is what defines what Christians are to believe. In fact, if you listened to the passages that he cited, for example, Titus 2:13, a passage that I have often cited in dealing with modern Arians and there are many of them out there today--Jehovah's Witnesses, The Way International, individuals who deny the deity of Christ--Titus 2:13 is one of the passages that I have frequently used as well. He uses those same Scriptures and he defines the apostolic tradition by the words of Scripture. Apostolic tradition, in this letter from Athanasius, refers to the Scriptures and that may explain why this same writer, Athanasius, said, for example, "The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth." And he also said, "These canonical books are the fountain of salvation so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them. In these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel. Let no man add or take away from them."
When the early Church Father, Basil, was attacked by his opponents regarding his beliefs about the Godhead, he replied much like Athanasius. When his opponents talked about the customs they had he responded, "If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them." Listen closely. "Therefore, let God-inspired Scripture decide between us and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the Word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth."
Now we have come here this evening to discuss sola Scriptura. Well, what does that mean? Well, first, I'd like to start with the negatives, what it doesn't mean, because I've discovered there's a lot of confusion about what it does mean. Let me tell you some of the things it doesn't mean. First of all, it is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. It is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. The Bible is not exhaustive in every detail. In John 21:25 we read that if everything that Jesus said or did had been recorded that the world itself would not be large enough to contain the books that would be written, but it does not have to be exhaustive, either, to be the rule of faith for the Church. We don't need to know the color of Matthew's eyes. We don't need to know the menu of each of the apostolic meals of the Lord Jesus by the Sea of Galilee to have a sufficient rule of faith for the Church. Curiosity that goes beyond what God has revealed is not godly.
Secondly, it is not a denial of the Church's authority to teach. I Timothy 3:15 describes the church as the pillar and foundation of the truth. And what is the truth? The truth, of course, is Jesus Christ. And how do we know Jesus Christ? We know Jesus Christ from his Word. The Church teaches truth and calls men to believe in the truth, calls men to believe in Jesus Christ. But the Church does not add revelation or rule over the Scriptures. The Church, being the Bride of Christ, listens to the Word of Christ, which is found in the God-breathed Scriptures.
Thirdly, it is not a denial that God's Word was, at one time, spoken. Apostolic teaching was authoritative in and of itself, yet the Apostles proved their message from Scripture. You'll note, for example, Paul's example, in Acts 17:2 or Apollos in Acts 18:28 demonstrating the consistency that existed between the message that they preached and the Old Testament Scriptures. And remember, also, that John commended those in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2 for testing those who claimed to be Apostles, and how would they have done that, if not by the Scriptures?
And finally, number four, it is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church. It is in no way a denial that the Holy Spirit is absolutely, positively necessary for anyone to have a full understanding of the Scriptures because they need to be spiritually discerned.
What then, is Sola Scriptura?
Well, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura simply states that the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fide, the rule of faith, for the Church. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture and in no other source. That which is not found in Scripture is not binding upon the Christian conscience. To be more specific, I provide the following definition. The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement. Their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation. Their authority is not dependent upon man, church or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting and self-authenticating. The Christian Church looks to the Scriptures as the only and sufficient rule of faith and the Church is always subject to the Word and is constantly reformed thereby.
Now I want you to recognize that I am emphasizing that the doctrine of sola Scriptura is based upon the inspiration of Scripture. Now that term, inspiration, that you will find, for example, in II Timothy 3:16, is really not the best way of rendering the term. The Greek term, theopneustos, is best rendered as "God-breathed." And in fact, in the New International Version, that is how it is rendered. In II Timothy 3:16 we read that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work." We learn from this that Scripture's authority is God's authority. You don't have Scriptural authority over here then God's authority over here. You don't have different authorities in the Church. The authority of the Church is one: God's authority. And when God speaks in Scripture that carries His authority.
Notice, for example, from the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 22 when he is talking with the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, he says, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God, for in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels in Heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead have you not read what God spoke to you, saying 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'" Please notice that from the Lord Jesus' perspective that which was found in Scripture was God speaking and he held those men responsible for what God had said to them, even though what was spoken had been written a thousand years earlier. Scripture is God speaking to man. It is theopneustos. God-breathed.
Note as well Peter's words in II Peter 1:20-21, "Knowing this first of all that no Scriptural prophecy ever came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For no prophecy ever was born by the will of man. Rather, while being carried along by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God." That is why the Scriptures can function as a rule of faith for the Church, because they are God-breathed. What God says is the final authority for the Church.
The great reformer of Geneva, John Calvin, said concerning this, "This, then, is the difference. Our opponents (speaking of the Roman Catholic Church) locate the authority of the Church outside God's Word, that is, outside of Scripture and Scripture alone. But we insist that it be attached to the Word and to not allow it to be separated from it. And what wonder if Christ's bride and pupil be subject to her spouse and teacher so that she pays constant and careful attention to His words. For this is the arrangement of a well-governed house. The wife obeys the husband's authority. This is the plan of a well-ordered school, that there the teaching of the schoolmaster alone should be heard. For this reason the Church should not be wise of itself, should not devise anything of itself but should set the limit of its own wisdom where Christ has made an end of speaking. In this way the Church will distrust all the devisings of its own reason. But in those things where it rests upon God's Word the Church will not waiver with any distrust or doubting but will repose in great assurance and firm constancy."
Now, I think I can speak for Gerry to say that he does not deny that the Scriptures are inspired or inerrant. In fact, we spoke about that on the phone this week. He does not deny that. And I have to bring that up because there, unfortunately, are many Roman Catholics today who deny the inerrancy of Scripture and the full inspiration of Scripture, just as there have been liberal Protestants who have done the same thing. I believe that Gerry Matatics will agree that the Scriptures are a rule of faith for the Church. They are part of the rule of faith for the Church. But Mr. Matatics denies that the Scriptures are the rule of faith for the Church alone. The Roman Catholic Church claims there's something missing from the Protestant understanding. Something needs to be joined to Scripture, that when you put the two together gives you the complete picture. According to Roman Catholicism what is missing is oral tradition. Oral tradition. Oral tradition, the spoken Word of God and the written Word of God, together making the whole Word of God sacred tradition with a capital S and a capital T.
For most Roman Catholic writers sacred tradition is made up of both the written tradition, which is Scripture, and the oral tradition, which the Council of Trent defines as follows, "It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles, from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitting as it were, from hand to hand. Following then, the examples of the orthodox father, who receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence, all the books, both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both. Also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession."
Though it has changed with time Vatican II said, "It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accordance with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others and that all together and each in its own way, under the action of the Holy Spirit, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. She has always regarded the Scriptures together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith and will ever do so. Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition as its primary and perpetual foundation."
Now this assertion of a second inspired source of God's truth has led, I feel, to some tremendously false beliefs. For example, John O'Brien, author of the popular work The Faith of Millions, wrote in a pamphlet entitled Finding Christ's Church, "Great as is our reverence for the Bible, reason and experience compel us to say that it alone is not a competent nor a safe guide as to what we are to believe." That is certainly not what I believe to be the faith of the Church historically or in any other way. As time permits this evening we shall see that such was not the view of the Apostles, of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prophets of old or the early fathers.
But right now, I want to focus our attention on what this debate must be about. To defend sola Scriptura is, in a sense, impossible. Why? Well, because sola scripture is a negative. It is a statement that there is no other source of authority for the Church. Let me give you an example. If I pull out this pen here and say, "This pen is absolutely unique. It is the only pen like it in all the world." How would I prove that? How could I prove that this is the only pen like it in all the world? I would have to go to every desk drawer, to every store in all the world and have to get on a spaceship and go to the moon and to Mars and to every planet in the cosmos and search everywhere to find out if there's another pen like this. I couldn't prove it. But, if I came in and made this assertion, that this is the only pen like this in the world, it would be very easy for Mr. Matatics to win that debate. Know how? He gets in his car, he goes down to the local business store, or stationery store, or whatever it is and he goes in and gets a Cross Medallist pen and he brings it in and stands up at the podium and he puts it next to this one and says, "See, there's another one just like it." And the debate's over. The debate's over. The uniqueness of this pen has been shown to be false.
Well, the Roman Catholic position must demonstrate that that the "oral tradition" that is supposed to exist not only contains revelation from God that differs in content from what is found in the New Testament, but that this "oral tradition" is theopneustos, that is, God-breathed, inspired. Without such a demonstration, the denial of sola Scriptura is empty and meaningless. Remember the title of the debate. We are talking about an infallible rule. Is the Bible the only infallible rule? And the only way to demonstrate that's wrong is to point to another infallible rule, that when placed next to Scripture shows that Scripture is not unique in being God-breathed, inspired revelation from God. That is the task that lies before us.
Now when the Mormon people, for example, claim that they have revelation outside the Bible in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the teachings of the Living Prophet in Salt Lake City, I challenge them on the basis of the inconsistency between the pretended revelation they put forward and the Scriptures themselves. They teach two different things, so obviously the Holy Spirit is not the author of both. In the same way I challenge the Roman Catholic claim that there is an additional revelation from God--this mysterious oral tradition that supposedly needs to be added to the Scriptures to have all that God would have us to have.
Now, to win this debate, since Mr. Matatics already agrees with me, I believe, that the Bible is inspired and, hence authoritative, he must demonstrate that there is an oral tradition that is both unique in its contents, that is that it contains revelation other than what we have in the New Testament or the Old Testament and that it is inspired on exactly the same level as the New Testament, that is that it is God-breathed. If not, if it is on some lower level of inspiration, if it is not God-breathed, then obviously you cannot unequally yoke it with the Bible. It cannot be an equal authority. Oral tradition must be inspired in exactly the same way as the Scriptures for it to function as Rome has claimed.
Now, how would be go about looking at this subject? Well, I notice that the flier said to bring your Bible, so I hope that you did. I'd like to ask you to look with me at Matthew 15:1-6. I will begin, as time is fleeting, with verse 3, "Jesus replied, 'Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother and anyone who curses his father and mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me as a gift devoted to God,' he is not to honor his father with it. Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition."
You're probably familiar with the background. The Korban rule. The rule that allows you to dedicate your material possessions to the temple, and hence not have to support your parents in their aging years. It's not my intention to go into the background so much as to point out the principle that is here presented to us. The Jewish people believed that their traditions were divine in that they had been given to Moses and passed down to that current generation. Now I don't know if there's anyone here tonight who believes that. I don't. I don't think that the Roman Catholic Church believes that the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees or the Sadducees were in point of fact divine traditions that had been handed down from Moses to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the point is, that that's what they believed and so what did the Lord Jesus do? What he tell all of us to do? To test that teaching, that tradition, not just corrupt tradition, any tradition, on the basis of the Scriptures. "Thus (verse 6) you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition." Obviously the Word of God does not fall into the category of tradition in that passage, does it? And yet it does in so many Roman Catholic writings as a part of sacred tradition. Tradition is tested by Scripture.
Now one of the most important passages that we need to look at is II Thessalonians 2:13-15. Let me read just verse 15. I'll read verses 13 and 14 in a moment. "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught either by word or by a letter of ours." Now it is alleged by Roman Catholic apologists that here you have a positive command to pass on the oral tradition as a separate tradition, separate from the written, that this is to be passed on through the Church down through the ages. But is that what we have here? No, this is a command to stand firm and hold fast to a single body of traditions already delivered to the believers. There is nothing future about this passage at all. He says to stand firm and hold fast to traditions that will be delivered? No, already has been delivered to the entire church, not just the episcopate, not just the bishops, but to everyone in the church at Thessalonica.
This single body of traditions was taught in two ways. First, orally, that is, when Paul was personally with the Thessalonians, and by epistle, that being the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. Now, what does the term "orally" refer to? For the Roman Catholic to use this passage to support his position, two things must be established. First, that the oral tradition element refers to a specific passing on of revelation to the power of the episcopate and secondly that what is passed on is different in substance from what is found in the New Testament.
With reference to the first issue, we note that the context of the passage is the Gospel. Note again the verses which immediately precede verse 15--verses 13 and 14, "But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brethren loved by the Lord, for God chose you from the beginning for salvation by the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through faith in the truth, unto which he called you by our Gospel, so that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." The traditions of which Paul speaks are not traditions about Mary or papal infallibility. Instead, the traditions Paul is talking about is simply the Gospel message itself. Note what he said in his first epistle to the Thessalonians about what he had spoken to them, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
Now, in II Thessalonians 2:15 Paul says to "stand firm", the Greek term, stekete. He also uses that term in I Corinthians 16:13, when he says, "Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong." What Paul is saying in II Thessalonians 2 is that we are to stand firm in the Gospel message which has been preached to the people. There is nothing here about Immaculate Conception or papal infallibility, or some second source of inspired revelation whatsoever.
In the brief two minutes I have left, please turn with me to II Timothy 2:2. "But you, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. And which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these things entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others. Join in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Now did Paul teach something different in the presence of many witnesses than he taught in his epistle to the Romans or the Galatians? Certainly not. The deposit that has been given to Timothy is not different than what we have in Acts, Romans or Galatians. And I'm not the first one to argue that.
I will close my presentation by reading from the early Church Father, Tertullian, who addressed this very passage when refuting those false teachers of his day who claimed that the Apostles had two different teachings, one which was open and known to all and a second, secret doctrine known only to a few.
He says, "But here is just said the same madness and their allowing indeed that the Apostles were ignorant of nothing and preached not any doctrines which contradicted one another but the same time insisting that they did not reveal all to all men. For that they proclaimed some openly and to all the world, but they disclosed others only in secret and to a few because Paul addressed even this expression to Timothy, 'O, Timothy guard thou which is entrusted to thee,' and again, 'That good which is committed unto thee, keep.' What is this deposit? It is so secret as to be characterized as a new doctrine or is it a part of that charge which he says, 'This charge I committed unto thee, son, Timothy' and also that priesthood to which says, 'I charge thee in the sight of God who quickeneth all things and before Jesus Christ who witnessed a good confession under Pontius Pilate that thou keep this commandment.' Now what is this commandment and what is this charge? From the preceding and succeeding context it will manifested there is no mysterious hint darkly suggested in this expression about some far-fetched doctrine, but that a warning is rather given against receiving any other doctrine than that which Timothy had heard from himself, as I take it, publicly before many witnesses," is his phrase.
I agree with him about that and as time allows this evening we will continue to look at what the Bible says about the concept of tradition and the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
I want to thank all of you for coming out this evening and sharing with us in this debate. I want to thank my esteemed colleague here, Mr. James White, for being willing to come and to debate me again. We've had some debates before in the past and he pays me a compliment in being willing to debate me again. And I would like to finally tell all of you why, very briefly, I was willing to come out here and to engage in this debate.
I do so, primarily out of the motive of love. Love, first of all for you. And love, including of course, for also, my friend and fellow human being, Mr. James White. He is someone for whom Christ died, as are each one of you, as I am and Christ, who loves us so very much, came into the world as he said to Pontius Pilate, to bear witness to the truth. Jesus Christ believed that the truth is something that you and I can know, can be sure of. And he said, "If you continue in my word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." He promised the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples into all the truth.
And that's the second and perhaps the more important reason that I wanted to have this debate with Mr. White tonight. Not only out of love for my fellow human beings, for neighbors, as God commands, but out of love for truth, which is really, ultimately, out of love for God, who is truth, Himself. And I believe that if you came tonight you believe in truth, also. You believe that there is such a thing as truth, with a capital T. And that this truth can be known and you believe that if a certain proposition is true, such as the proposition that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith in practice, then the opposite proposition must be false. You believe, in other words, in what we call the law of non-contradiction. If you don't believe in the law of non-contradiction then ultimately, I think you would have to conclude, if you reasoned it out, you don't believe in God, or at least you don't believe in the God that the Christians worship. The God who is truth as opposed to error. The God who affirms right as opposed to wrong. The God who says, for example, that if murder is wrong, that if the preservation of life is right, then murder, the taking of innocent life, is wrong. That if a certain style of life that is correct than the opposite, the distortion, the perverse of that kind of life, is wrong.
The Bible speaks of truth and error, right and wrong, light and darkness. And it commands us to give ourselves, every day of our lives, afresh to God and ask Him to show us the truth and to give us the courage to stand for the truth and to change our opinions when God, in His mercy, in His undeserving grace, shows us that what we formerly held to be true was wrong. That was the case with me, because, for those who may not know my background or my story, several years ago and for several years, I believed exactly what Rev. White believes and what he has very effectively, very eloquently proclaimed tonight: the Protestant principle of sola scriptura.
This was one of the two great principles that sparked the Protestant Reformation. One was sola fide, that we are justified by faith alone and that no action on the part of any man can be added to the work of Christ, or is necessary to make us righteous in the sight of God. The other was sola scriptura, that we arrive at the truth of God's Word by Scripture alone and that Scripture can act on its own to bring us the fullness of Christian faith.
The Reformers, John Calvin, Martin Luther and others, were willing to risk the whole Reformation on the truthfulness of these two principles. Repeatedly in their sermons and their writings they said, "If either of these two principles can be shown to be erroneous then even though we have been driven by what we believe in sincerity, and in an honest desire to reform the Church and to proclaim the Gospel, then all of what we are doing is a revolutionary movement absolutely elicit and illegitimate in the eyes of God, and we should recant, we should retract, we should repent and we should recognize that though we thought we were fighting error, in fact we ourselves have been guilty in spreading the most pernicious error imaginable."
I have changed my position on sola scriptura against my own initial prejudices, my own initial convictions, nurtured and sustained in my own Protestant seminary training and in my life as a Protestant minister. When I began to study the case for Catholicism, I was amazed and overwhelmed to discover that the Catholic Church rejected sola scriptura, this principle which Mr. White has explained and supported and stood up and defended before you, on the basis of the fact that it is not taught in Scripture itself and that is the basis upon which I want to explain why I reject it and I believe every Bible-believing Christian, whether you call yourself Protestant or Catholic or something else, ought to, in honesty and in obedience to God, reject the principle of sola scriptura.
So this is a debate and this is a discussion about truth. And I think it's appropriate then, since tonight is, or is supposed to be, about truth and is not primarily a contest in cleverness or an exercise in ingenuity or any type of beauty contest between Mr. White or myself. As a matter of fact, I am quite willing to concede that Jim, in a Protestant standard, might be a far more faithful Christian than I am. He might be a far more intelligent man than I am. I certainly believe that he is a far better prepared apologist than I am, given the week that I had have to go through.
As a matter of fact, I will take moment here to make an aside and to say that I, in all honesty, and humility, do not believe that I am actually the best person qualified to rebut Mr. White or Protestantism. There is someone that I got to speak with, as a matter of fact, for the very first time yesterday. We spent a little bit of time on the phone yesterday. And, as a matter of fact, this gentleman, a Catholic apologist by the name Vincent Lewis, has challenged Mr. White to debate him on this or on any issue of Mr. White's choosing. And I am convinced, that even from a one-time conversation with Mr. Lewis, that he would do a far more capable, competent, and I believe absolutely indestructible job of presenting the truth of the Catholic faith and critiquing and absolutely demolishing the fraudulent but ultimately, I believe, unscriptural basis of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura than I am able to do. And I promised Mr. Lewis that I would say something and that's why I have to take the time now, although its robbing me of the time I want to share, I promised him that I would publicly renew the challenge to Mr. White to respond. If Mr. White is really interested in putting up the principle of sola scriptura against the very best, most competent critic possible, he really owes it to, I think his own reputation as a courageous man, but to his own commitment to intellectual honesty to meet Mr. Lewis in some debate format, whether in writing or publicly or on the radio or something. And Mr. Lewis, in his rather characteristic braggadocios style, has said that unless he does he brands himself someone who doesn't have the courage to really to stand up against the one who is the very best on this issue. He says, "Please, Mr. White, meet me in debate on this or sue me for liable but put an end to this cloud that might hang over your reputation otherwise." And I hope that Mr. White will do that.
I would like to say, although I feel not as competent as I would like, still, that my sole motive here is to really proclaim the truth of God. And I would like to begin by therefore, taking a public vow with my hand upon the Sacred Scriptures, which Mr. White and I both accept as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. We agree on that. We agree that this is the only inspired, inerrant book, the only inspired, inerrant, written Word of God. And with my hand on the Sacred Scriptures I would like to publicly vow before God to do the following in my time with you this evening:
To tell the truth about sola scriptura. When asked to question, to give a straightforward and honest answer, a "yes", a "no", an "I don't know" if I don't know the answer to the question. If I don't understand the question, to ask for clarification. If I make a contradiction in anything that I say, in presenting my own position, to admit or to resolve the contradiction, to recognize that since God is a God of truth and if we are all agreed that "A" can also be "not A," the law of non-contradiction stands, that the principle of sola scriptura is either true or it is false and that God, therefore, either agrees with Mr. White or myself. And, that in a sense, He must take sides, not in the persons involved, not in the personalities, but on the two positions and that God will, for those who are willing to study this with an open mind, God will vindicate one position and vanquish the other, refute it.
And I am willing to further swear before Almighty God, before whom I will one day give account as the judge of all the earth, and the one whom I will have to give account, Scripture says, for every idle word I speak, let alone the words that I share in all seriousness and solemnity with you this evening. I am willing to swear before Him and before His holy angels that if I am shown to be wrong in my adherence to the Catholic position or to the Catholic faith as a whole, that I am willing to publicly admit that I am wrong, to recant and, if Mr. White can demonstrate that his faith is the correct one, then I am willing to embrace it, and to convert once again to the Protestant faith. And I would ask, Mr. White, that you, in your time of first rebuttal, would be willing to make the same vow, to swear this same oath before this audience as a sign of good faith?
Now, I would like to, in my remaining moments, explain to you why I rejected six years ago, finally in coming into the Catholic faith, and why I still reject to this day with a clear conscience, with intellectual----- (Tape Switch) ----- the doctrine of sola scriptura. I do so for two reasons. It is contrary to faith and it is contrary to reason.
When I say it is contrary to faith what I mean is that I'm willing to meet Mr. White on his own grounds, it is contrary to the faith proclaimed by this book itself, by the Holy Bible. And I am glad that Mr. White mentioned our Lord Jesus Christ's awesome words in Matthew 15, where He tells us in no uncertain terms that we must reject every tradition of man that nullifies or counters or cancels out the Word of God. I reject sola scriptura precisely because it is a human tradition. It is a tradition of men. It was not taught in the early Church or in the first 15 centuries of church history--contrary to what Mr. White has said, and we will get into the details of his quotes, and the other things those Church Fathers said-- until Wycliffe and Luther invented this concept as a way of justifying their revolt against classical Christianity for their own purposes, and their own agenda. It is a tradition of men that goes contrary to the teaching of even the written Word of God and so I reject it and I will seek to demonstrate that here tonight.
And it is also contrary to reason. It is nonsense. I do not say that in a prejudicial, or in an attempt to be flippant or to be disrespectful but I mean by nonsense that it does not make sense. It is illogical. It is logically inconsistent. It is a self-refuting proposition. In other words, sola scriptura can only be true, according to Mr. White's own criterion, if it is taught in Scripture, since he himself, on the basis of sola scriptura says that he accepts no other authority. There is no other authoritative, infallible source of truth outside of this book. And I will demonstrate to you that the Bible does not teach this and that the concept of sola scriptura has to be imported from outside the Bible and then certain Bible verses read in the light of that presupposition for you to come up with the principle.
Why do I say that it does not tie into Scripture? Well, first of all, let me stress the areas of agreement between Mr. White and myself, the areas in which there are at least formal agreement between our positions.
We both agree that the "Word of God," whenever that phrase occurs in the Bible, does not refer to Scripture alone. So all statements or quotes from Mr. White this evening that say, "The Word of God is binding," or, "The Word of God is our only authority," or, "The Word of God is alone inspired and normative in our life," are statements that I agree with. I, as a Catholic, accept every statement in Scripture and I accepted those as well. But Mr. White agrees that in the Bible the phrase, "Word of God" is a larger, a broader, a richer, a deeper concept than simply the Scriptures. The Word of God, for example, refers actually to a living person, to the second person of the Trinity who became flesh and dwelt among us and revealed the glory of the Father to us, as St. John says in his prologue in John 1:1ff. When God reveals His Word to the human race repeatedly throughout Scripture it comes often, primarily and initially for thousands of years as far as we can tell, in an exclusively oral fashion. When God's word brings the world into existence, it is a spoken word. God does not write on a huge blackboard on the sky, "Let there be light," and then there is light. It is not a writing, it is not a scripture, it is a spoken word. It is a spoken word that comes to Adam, it is a spoken word that comes to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. And as far as we can tell, this spoken Word of God first begins to be written down at the time of Moses. That's the first record at least we have in Scripture of the inscripturation, of the writing down, of God's holy and inspired word.
But it continues to be an oral entity and God continues to speak to Moses, and to Joshua and to all the prophets and only a portion of this, only a fraction of this gets written down. Obadiah, for example, is a prophet of God. There is a very slim, little one-page book of Obadiah in the Old Testament with about 22 verses in it. Certainly, as a prophet, Obadiah didn't just get up every morning and recite those 22 verses and say, "Good-bye, folks" and then go back to bed. He said more in his ministry than is recorded in that book. And when the prophets speak of the Word of God, they are referring to His oral proclamations they had, whether or not they were ever a writing prophet.
The same is true, of course, in the career of our Lord Jesus Christ, extremely so. Since Jesus, as far as we know, never writes anything at all. And yet, He is the Word of God and proclaims the Word of God to His listeners and He says that His word is binding on the consciences of His hearers. They must believe it, they must obey it and they have an obligation, as we all do when we hear truth, to teach it to others and to ensure that it will be passed on. At the end of His life, the provision that Jesus makes for the continuation of His Word is to ordain and to send forth ambassadors, emissaries, whom we call Apostles, "sent ones." And he tells them to go forth and preach. There is no exclusive command in the New Testament to go forth and write. Some of them do, but most of them do not. And yet those apostles carried out the commandment of Christ to proclaim and to spread and to transmit the Word of God. Even those that did write, such as the Apostle, Paul, certainly their writing was but a fraction, the minority of the way in which they exercised their apostolic ministry of sharing the Word of God. And Mr. White would agree with that. He would agree that there were Apostles who never wrote any gospels or letters, so far as church history or the Scripture itself tells us.
Now, all the truth that Jesus taught and all the truth that the Apostles taught, they were commanded to pass on. He never commanded it be passed on in an exclusively written form. Jesus had this to say about His words, that Heaven and earth would pass away but His words would not pass away, in Matthew 24:35. John, at the end of his gospel, twice in John 30:1 and John 21:25 said that he has only given us a brief selection of all that he could have said about what Jesus said and what Jesus did. He says, "What I've written is sufficient to demonstrate to any open-minded hearts that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God and that you could have faith in that and in having that faith have life in His name." And the Catholic agrees with that. That's not the issue. We believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, in that sense, to bring someone to faith in Christ. Obviously people come to faith in Christ on the basis of the Bible all the time without reading papal encyclicals or reading Church Fathers or knowing any of the broader tradition, which was entrusted to the Church. The sufficiency of Scripture and sola scriptura are not the same thing and this is a mistake, unfortunately, that Mr. White and other anti-Catholic apologists, frequently make in their writing and in their speaking, and I hope that we can get into that this evening.
Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach everything that He had taught them and the Apostles said the same thing. The Apostle, Paul, at the end of his three years after teaching in Ephesus on a daily basis, could say in Acts 20 that, "I have not been sent here to proclaim to you the fullness of the counsel of God." And we don't find that full counsel of God. We don't find three years of daily instruction by simply reading a letter he wrote to the Ephesians, which takes about six pages in the Bible and takes about a half an hour to read.
The passage, II Thessalonians 2:15, which Mr. White referred to, and which I agree with some of the things which he said about it and disagree with others, commands the Thessalonians to hold fast to all the traditions passed on to them, whether they came to them in oral fashion, or in written fashion. And so the Bible is a tradition. It is part of sacred tradition. It is the written component of that. But there is an oral component, as well, and it is up to Mr. White, of course, to substantiate his claim that there is nothing in the oral component of that tradition which adds to or is anything different than what is stated in the written. Paul says to pass them both on, which doesn't seem to make much sense if the written does, indeed, contain everything in the oral. Why would there be a need to pass on both? Why not say, "Just stick with the written stuff, folks and then you know you're safe, you're on sure ground."
Now here's where we do disagree and this is what it all boils down to. This is point to which it all comes. We agree on all these other things. That the Bible is the Word of God. It is the only inspired, infallible, written Word of God. We agreed that the Word of God came in oral fashion in the days of Jesus, in the days of the Apostles to be passed on in an oral fashion. What the Catholic Church teaches is that these standing commands to proclaim the full Word of God and to pass them on and that Jesus would be with the Church until the end of time to ensure its faithfulness in carrying out this mission, that these standing commands have never been revoked. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us that after the Apostles die or that after the canon is closed, that is, all the documents of the Apostles have been collected into a complete book, a collection of inspired books, that at that point we must stop passing on the oral, as well as the written Word f God as II Thessalonians 2:15 commands. There is no teaching, there is no hint in the New Testament that the completion of the written canon retires the Word of God coming to us in oral fashion, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles or by their appointed or anointed successors, as Timothy was, as Titus was, for example.
The burden of proof, therefore--contrary to what Mr. White has attempted to do in shifting the burden of proof, and I will explain what I mean by that in my period of rebuttal--the burden proof remains squarely upon his shoulders. If he is going to prove that sola scriptura is true, that the Bible is the only trustworthy place you can hear the Word of God today, in 1992, for example, or, for that matter, any previous year in church history, then he must show that the Bible teaches this. The Bible foresees an age after the apostolic age during which he admits the Word of God was preached in an inspired, infallible fashion by the Apostles, that a coming age would come in which there would no longer be a proclamation of a normative, oral word. The Bible says absolutely nothing about it. And by Mr. White's own standard, that he tests everything by the Word of God, written by the sacred Scriptures, that he has no basis, in the Bible for this creed, for this Protestant principle, that oral tradition no longer transmits to us what Jesus and the Apostles taught.
I will also point out to you and to Mr. White in our time this evening that, in fact, for him to hold aloft the Bible and to say that this is the Word of God, he makes himself completely dependent on oral tradition. The only way that Mr. White knows that he has the right books, that these are the books coming to him by the Apostles is by the tradition of the Church, by the oral tradition and by the teachings of the early church outside of Scripture. There is no inspired Table of Contents in the Bible. There is no statement in the Bible that says that Matthew wrote Matthew and therefore we should accept it as inspired, apostolic and canonical. And so, Mr. White, as all Protestants do, bites the hand that feeds him on this, by attacking the authority of the Church.
Thank you very much.
I do not wish to take a great deal of time this evening, because we're here to discuss sola Scriptura, to respond in regards to Mr. Lewis. When Mr. Matatics and I debated in Phoenix in December, 1990, I asked Mr. Matatics about Mr. Lewis, who is a Feeneyite, who does not believe that anyone outside the Roman Catholic Church can possibly be saved, and at that time I was just informed, well, he's a Feeneyite and their sort of off and on the fringe. That was the same individual I was talking to you about, Mr. Matatics. I have listened to a number of tapes from Mr. Lewis and I never heard anything more absurd in my life. The man knows nothing about the Protestant position. You called him the best, the most competent. The man does not have any education beyond a high school education. He knows nothing about the Biblical languages. I would liken Mr. Lewis to Jack Chick, Alberto Rivera and Peter Ruckman in ability and I simply have not felt that it would be a proper thing to engage such an individual in a food fight in public which is what his tapes demonstrate he is all about. So, I have no interest in getting into that.
I would like to say, however, that if we're into offering debate challenges, we have made an open and public debate challenge to Karl Keating and Patrick Madrid of Catholic Answers--in fact, you were in the office, Gerry, when we made it--that has been turned down consistently, the most recent one, to debate the subject of the papacy prior to the coming of the pope to Denver in August of next year. You, yourself, have shown some indication of interest in doing that and I appreciate that, but if we want to talk about debate challenges that have been turned down, yes, I have turned down Vinny Lewis because I have some standards in regards to the scholarly ability of people I debate. That's why I'm debating you because I know that you're a scholar in the things that you talk about. Mr. Lewis is not. But, Mr. Keating is a different issue and if you want to talk about who's not debating who, then I guess we can go into that.
But, you then asked about a vow to God. I will do exactly what Luther did when he stood before the Diet of Worms. When he was told that he must recant, he knew his life was on the line, he said, "It is not good to go against one's conscience. I am bound to the authority of Scripture," and as he said, "Heir stehe Ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir." "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me." And I do stand under the authority of the Word of God and if it can be demonstrated from the Word of God that what I believe is untrue than I will most assuredly follow in that direction.
I wanted to finish a few things from the notes that I did not have the opportunity of presenting to you in the earlier period of time. Mr. Matatics has just again asserted that II Thessalonians 2:15 presents a command to pass on all tradition. But as we saw it, as we took the time to look at it, we saw that no such command is found there whatsoever, that there is no concept, that Mr. Matatics is reading into the text this concept that this oral tradition that differs from what is found in the New Testament that is to be passed on, things about papal infallibility or Immaculate Conception, or whatever else it may be.
Now, we had also looked at II Timothy 2:2. You may recall that. "But you, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these things entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others." And I read to you in your hearing, what Tertullian said about this and I wanted to point out some passages of Scripture to you that help us to understand what this passing on of the apostolic teaching was all about and that it has nothing to do with what is being presented by Mr. Matatics this evening in regards to this separate oral tradition, which, again, Mr. Matatics must demonstrate the existence of before we can even discuss it.
II Timothy 1:13-14, Paul, writing to Timothy says--the same passage in which he says, "Pass on what I have spoken to you,"--"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." This is what he is to be passing on. The pattern of sound doctrine, the pattern of sound words. And that certainly is what we have in the New Testament is that pattern of sound words. Look at I Timothy 6:20-21, "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some profess and in so doing have wandered from the faith." This is not something different than what you have in Romans or Galatians. This is not something about Immaculate Conception. This is not some oral tradition that exists separately from the New Testament at all.
Look at II Thessalonians 3:6, if you want to see some other passages where Paul discusses this very thing. I don't hear too many pages turning out there. II Thessalonians 3:6, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." Well, here it is again. NIV uses "teaching," other translations use "tradition." Well, where did this tradition come from? Is this some tradition that exists outside the New Testament? No! Look back at I Thessalonians 4:1-2. "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." We are not talking about something that exists separately from the New Testament that is different and in fact that the Church does not even find out about for many, many centuries after they were supposedly delivered. Let me give you an example. Many Roman doctrines that claim tradition as their source were completely unknown for millennia, for example, the Immaculate Conception. As late as the 19th century, we have the Roman Catholic bishop, Milner, saying, "The Church does not decide the controversy concerning the conception of the Blessed Virgin and several other disputed points because she sees nothing clear and certain concerning them either in the written or unwritten word, and, therefore leads her children to form their own opinions concerning them." Well, he certainly turned out to be wrong, didn't he?
But the fact of the matter is that is if you go back to the early fathers, you're not going to find that doctrine--many of the doctrines. For example, in Revelation 12. Who is the woman in Revelation Chapter 12? The vast majority of Roman Catholics today will tell you, "Well, that's Mary." Who was she to the early church? Have you ever looked? In the early fathers, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Virgin, is always the church, not Mary. This is something the Roman Catholic scholars have often admitted. Joseph Martos, in his book Doris, the Sacred, when talking about something we will discuss tomorrow evening, the Mass, recognizes that the concept of transubstantiation that was made a part of Roman Catholic doctrine formally in the Fourth Lateran Council, was a mere theory only a hundred years earlier.
So are we to believe, what is this oral tradition? Gerry is talking to us about this oral tradition. What is it? What will it be tomorrow? What will it be a hundred years from now? How are we supposed to examine it? Can we find it some place? Some Roman Catholics think so. It was written down by the early fathers. Okay, let's go to the early fathers and see if we can find the infallibility of the pope. You're not going to. What about these things? What is this oral tradition? It is very difficult for me to point out that the oral tradition is not theopneustos when no one knows what it is. But Mr. Matatics has to demonstrate that it is theopneustos, God-breathed, for it to function as a rule of faith for the church. He must also demonstrate that it contains information other than that which we have in the New Testament. And that means that if Mr. Matatics is going to use II Thessalonians 2:15, he must be able to demonstrate that what Paul taught the Thessalonians--remember, the tradition was already delivered, past tense--is what Paul taught the Thessalonians the same as what he is now asserting is oral tradition. Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about the Immaculate Conception? Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about papal infallibility? The bodily assumption of Mary? Are those things what the Thessalonians knew? Where is the evidence of that? I would challenge Mr. Matatics to bring that out.
Now, he said that this concept was not taught in the early church. I would like to read just a few passages for you. For example, when the great early Father, Augustine, long after the Council of Nicaea, wrote a letter to Maximun, the Arian. Again, here come the Arians again. Why is that important? Well, because the Arians deny a very central foundational doctrine of faith, the deity of Christ. When he wrote to Maximun, the Arian, he knew that Maximun could cause him some problems. Do you know why? Because there were church councils held during the Arian ascendancy that denied the deity of Christ. Sermium, Arminum, church councils that erred, that made mistakes on that subject. And so what did Augustine say? "I must not press the authority of Nicaea against you, nor you that of Arminum against me. I do not acknowledge the one as you do not the other. But let us come to ground that is common to both, the testimony of the Holy Scriptures." Where is the oral tradition? Why don't we say, "Well, oral tradition teaches the deity of Christ, and you must bow to it." That's not what he does. He argues from Scripture to demonstrate that.
Augustine, again, "Let us not hear, 'This I say, this you say' but 'Thus says the Lord.' Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we both agree and on which we both believe. Therefore, let us seek the church. There let us discuss our case in the Scriptures." He says, also, "Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other, not from divine, canonical books but from elsewhere. Some may perhaps ask, 'Why do you want to remove these things from our midst?' Because I do not want the Holy Church proved by human documents but by divine oracles." There are so many that hopefully we'll have the opportunity of getting into them, but I wanted to read just a couple others in regards to some of the statements that Gerry had made just a few moments ago.
For example, Augustine again, "What more shall I teach than that what we read in the Apostles, for holy Scripture speaks as the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought. Therefore, I should not teach you anything else except to expound you the words of the teacher." The rule of our doctrine it speaks by what? Scripture plus tradition? Scripture plus oral tradition? I don't believe so. Basil. Listen to what he says, "The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign." That is what I believe. We should test anything we are taught by our teachers by what standard? By papal encyclicals? Vatican II? The Council of Trent? No, by the inspired Scriptures.
And finally, Mr. Matatics was making comments concerning the written and the oral word. I want to read from Augustine again, "You ought to know this and particularly store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian." Listen closely: "For when he offered himself to them to touch," (he's talking about the resurrected Lord) "this did not suffice him unless he also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures. For he foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read." Even in the resurrection of the Lord, he confirms their hearts from the Scriptures because he knew that someday they would not have something to touch but would have something to read. My friends, that is what I'm talking about here. And I want to again emphasize that Mr. Matatics must demonstrate that this oral tradition, what he is wanting us to accept as being authoritative beyond this, must be God-breathed. He must be able to define what is in it outside of what's in here and that it is God-breathed. That, truly, is the focus of the debate.
Thank you very much.
When the quotations are flying, it's tough to keep track of all of this, and I hope that you will bear with both of us. But, I'm very glad that Mr. White is bringing before us, in his presentations this evening, the quotations of the early Church Fathers. I will admit that it is impossible for a person presenting either side on this or any other issue, to selectively take citations from the fathers which seem to make the father's support one's own position and not the other one. But I would encourage Mr. White, as I encourage myself, to make sure we do not descend to that particular level. In particular, I'm very sad that Mr. White, and I don't want to misunderstand or misrepresent you, Mr. White, are you saying, are you asserting that St. Augustine, as a bishop of the Church, never appealed to sacred tradition that was anything other than what is actually explicit statements in Scripture? Okay, we're going to have to see, tomorrow evening, for the second debate, whether, in fact, St. Augustine said that or not. He has all kinds of references to the importance of tradition. As a matter of fact, all of the church fathers, while saying all the marvelous things they said about sacred Scripture, which Mr. White read--all of those citations are absolutely correct--never taught that Scripture alone was the only thing that they could appeal to for one simple reason: The people they are seeking to refute appeal to Scripture.
Mr. White began, actually, by talking about the Arian controversy. Arius was a priest, a presbyter in the church at Alexandria, who was denying the full deity of Jesus Christ and was claiming that the Scripture was on his side. It's kind of the same, frustrating response that you deal with a Jehovah's Witness, a modern-day Arian, as Mr. White indicated today, who will say, "Look, I reject the teaching that Jesus is God and I do so because the Bible teaches that God is greater than Jesus and that Jesus isn't God." In other words, they will appeal to Scripture alone. And many of the early church fathers think Vincent of Loren, in his famous ----- (Tape Switch) and making the statement that from time in memorial, every heretic who has departed from the teaching of the Church has always claimed that the Scripture was on his side. An appeal to Scripture to back up your position is in and of itself insufficient to demonstrate that you are in line with Scripture. Why? Because you and I are fallible human beings. And we might think that Scripture is on our side, as Arius did, as Jehovah's Witnesses do, but the Scripture is not a living being, a person, although it is the Word of God and is that powerful thing at work in our lives, nonetheless, it cannot sort of get up on the table and say, "Wait a minute. You're misrepresenting me." It cannot jump out of your hands when you're quoting it if you're a Jehovah's Witness or a this or a that and you are, in fact, misunderstanding the Scripture.
It is possible to abuse the Word of God, and as a matter of fact, Peter reminds us and warns them solemnly about that in II Peter 3:16-17 when it refers to the Scriptures that Paul has written. He calls them Scriptures. But he says in these Scriptures there are many things which are hard to understand, which the unstable can misunderstand and can twist to their own spiritual harm. There is a very real possibility, and Mr. White and I would both agree, that the history of the Church is littered with the spiritual carcasses of those who have thought the Word of God was on their side, when, in fact, it was not.
It is the case that Athanasius met people on their own terms as I said I would today. The fact that I said I will prove the Catholic position from Scripture...I will not "take encyclicals" as a way of demonstrating to Mr. White since he doesn't accept their authority that my position is right. But it would be a foolish person if there was someone out there taking notes on this debate who would say, "Oh, Mr. Matatics must agree with sola scriptura, too, because he's only going to quote from Scripture and that's all that he I heard him quote from basically to prove his points." You see, I'm meeting Mr. White on his own grounds. And so, all of those quotes--and if you listen to them very carefully as I did, and if you didn't, then I would encourage you to ask Mr. White to let you look at them again during the break or to tell you where they are so you could get them yourself and read them carefully--all of them are agreeing to meet the heretics on their own terms. That is what Athanasius was saying. That is what Basil was saying. That is what Augustine is saying, It's not that he explicitly says it. He says, "Because I will not appeal to the Council of Nicaea because you do not accept it as I do not accept your extra-scriptural authority." And so I will quote what you do and at least formally acknowledge the Scriptures. And the fact that he restricts it to Scripture does not mean that for Augustine that was the only authority around. As a matter of fact, this same Augustine said all kinds of things about the teaching authority of the infallible Church and the importance of the tradition in making sure we understand the Scriptures correctly. And he himself said, "I would not believe the holy Gospels if it were not for the authority of the Holy Catholic Church." St. Augustine realized what many Protestants, despite their intelligence and their sincerity, seem to have difficulty realizing. And, as I say, maybe its the weakness of we Catholic apologists that we're not presenting this with the clarity that we ought to.
Now I have to rise, I think, to the defense of Mr. Lewis. Not that this is a debate about the merits of Vincent Lewis, but I honestly do believe that he is. . . I don't buy this worshiping of academic degrees that says just because he never went to college that he's therefore not an intelligent or learned man. Jesus Christ never went to college. The Apostles were unlearned fishermen, and yet they were men of God who taught the truth and transformed the world. And I think it would be a very superficial reason to reject a debate with someone who--I've listened to his tapes I mean, he's my competition. I mean I would have a vested interest in saying this guy is not good. To find in someone of Mr. Vincent Lewis, of his virtues, an able and worthy articulator of Catholic faith, I think he is a very well-read and a very intelligent and a very effective apologist for the Catholic faith.
But St. Augustine, in that famous statement of his, that he accepts the authority of the Gospels because of the authority of the Catholic Church, is admitting something that everyone here, if they stopped to think about it, has to admit, that you and I were not handed the Bible directly and immediately from God. It was the Church, the successors of the Apostles, meeting in councils, authoritative councils, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church acting as a pillar and foundation of the truth as Paul said in I Timothy 3:15, which separated the wheat from the chaff, separated the written. . . You know, what we have in the New Testament is a tiny fraction of all the things that were circulating in the early centuries which purported to come from the Apostles. There were dozens of Gospel, not only these four. There were dozens and dozens of books with the titles of Acts and Epistles of Paul, and Apocalypses. And the Church, because it had been graced with this gift of the Holy Spirit, transmitted from the Apostles to the successors, was enabled by Jesus Christ to be able to identify true literary deposits of apostolic teaching from those that were spurious, that were not genuine.
And the same confidence they had to separate the written wheat from the chaff they used likewise to separate the oral wheat from the chaff. The very councils which give Mr. White the New Testament--the Council of Hippo, for example, in 393, and the