Tag Archives: Sola Scriptura

Actually, Jesus Did Ask Someone to Write a Book

About 43 minutes into episode #6838 of Catholic Answers Live, Patrick Coffin, the host of the show, stated: “Jesus never wrote a book, didn’t ask anybody to write a book, or you know – put on kind of memo on the fridges of Nazareth, but he did found a church.”

I’ve previously addressed this “Jesus Didn’t Write a Book” Objection (link to previous treatment). While I stand by that response, let me provide some further response Mr. Coffin’s assertions here, since Mr. Coffin is guilty of a redemptive history error, a trinitarian error, and a simple factual error (not even to get into his ecclesiastical error).

1. Redemption History Error

Mr. Coffin’s characterization, by focusing on the form of the revelation of Jesus Christ misses the place of revelation in the history of redemption. It is by revelation that the church was founded. The revelation of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church that Jesus founded. That’s why Jesus said to Peter:

Matthew 16:17-19
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus focuses on the fact that Peter’s confession was something revealed to him by the Father. It is on that confession of faith – revealed by God – that the church was to be founded.
That’s why Irenaeus says: “For we learned the plan of our salvation from no others than from those through whom the gospel came to us. They first preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it down to us in Writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith” and again a little later on “the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel” (Against Heresies, Book 3, Sections 1 and 8).
And Irenaeus is being Scriptural:

Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1-4, 4:2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; … Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? …
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

You see the foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ – not the other way around. Even if the assembly of Jesus’ followers (i.e. the church) can be said to have begun before the writing of the New Testament Scriptures – still they are a record of the revelation that preceded and founded the church. They are the cause of the church – not the effect of the church.

2. Trinitarian Error

Mr. Coffin’s comments invite the listener to divide Jesus from the person of the Spirit, to the extent that one considers the plain and inescapable fact that the Spirit did command people to write a book. Even assuming it were true that Jesus didn’t personally command the writing of Scripture, the Spirit did, and that’s not any more or less authoritative than if Jesus himself did it. The Spirit is not a lesser deity.

Moreover, the Spirit was united in Jesus’ revelatory mission:

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

That leads us to a third category of error:

3. Factual Error

Mr. Coffin has forgotten about the fact that the Bible itself tells us that Jesus commanded John to write a book:

Revelation 1:1-3, 11, 19 and 21:5
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. … Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. … Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; … And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

I understand that the book of Revelation is excluded from the readings of Scripture in the Roman liturgy, but even Trent had to admit that it is canonical and authoritative Scripture.

I suppose I could add to the above that Mr. Coffin’s conception of Christ founding a church is way off. Mr. Coffin has in mind a hierarchical structure of authority, whereas when Christ talked about founding his church on the rock of Peter’s confession, he was talking about followers united by faith. While God did appoint a structure of authority within the church, that was not the primary sense in which he founded a church. Perhaps we can get into that more in another post.

-TurretinFan

Devin Rose’s Video – Brief Response

Devin Rose has posted a video in which he himself declares that his own book, “The Protestant’s Dilemma” — well let me use his exact words — “Destroys James White’s Scripture Alone.” (his video can be found here)

Devin claims his book has “about thirty-four arguments for the Catholic faith.” Devin says that Dr. White’s book, “Scripture Alone,” “answers none of the arguments in mine.” He claims that “James White manages to evade arguments” and claims that Dr. White attempts to argue for Protestantism by “very carefully avoiding all of those big errors and holes in it.”

In fairness, Dr. White’s book was published a decade before Rose’s book (2004 vs. 2014). Also, in fairness, Mr. Rose never cites “Scripture Alone” or any of Dr. White’s other writings or debates. So, if we’re going to talk about who is evading whom, the shoe would really seem to be on the other foot. Also, as Dr. White pointed out on today’s “Dividing Line” program, “Scripture Alone” was not primarily addressing Roman Catholicism. A better choice for Rose’s attention would be “The Roman Catholic Controversy.”

Furthermore, I don’t agree with Rose’s assessment. Chapter 5 (pp. 95-119) of “Scripture Alone” provides arguments that deal with the substance of at least chapter 8-10 of Rose’s book.

Devin’s video mentions that the back cover of “Scripture Alone” features a quotation from Luther and then points out that allegedly Luther believed in “Marian Veneration” and that Mary was perpetually a virgin. Devin then expresses surprise that Dr. White would quote Luther, given their disagreement on those points. I suppose one answer to that is that the quotation in question has nothing to do with those topics. Other answers might involve a closer look at Luther’s evolving views (something James Swan is more prepared to address than I am).

Rose says, “It’s the same silly stuff you see over and over again.” I would only agree with him in a sense very different from what he intended. It’s hard to find a word more appropriate than “silly” for objecting to quoting Luther on one subject, simply because one allegedly disagrees with Luther on some other subject.

Whilst thumbing through “Scripture Alone,” Devin says, “I’ve bought these books. I bought Protestant books. I’ve read the best they’ve got. I’ve read this book.” Who knows what Devin has actually read – his own book shows little sign of familiarity with Protestant work on the subjects he tackles.

The number “thirty-four” (in Devin’s comment about “thirty-four arguments”) corresponds to the number of chapters in Devin’s book. In a more detailed review, I provide a more detailed response/rebuttal to each of those arguments, for those interested. (link to review/rebuttal)

In brief summary, Rose’s book turns out to be full of misrepresentations of “Protestantism” based on a variety of flawed presuppositions, usually postmodernism.

-TurretinFan

Rome’s Apologists: Repeating the Same Errors Over and Over Again

You would think they would get the idea, but I have concluded that Rome’s apologists really do not care about the refutation of their claims.  They have an audience that is not going to be doing much looking at “the other side,” so they do not have to advance their arguments in the realms of accuracy, truthfulness, or depth.  Protestant rebuttals?  What Protestants?  That seems to be their motto.

I refer specifically to a blog article posted by Tim Staples on January 18th, pointed out to me just now on Twitter by @BrianBlock2010 (HT).  Aside from the normal exegetical and historical errors that mark Tim’s standard anti-biblical sufficiency rants, we find this paragraph:

According to Scripture, the Church—not the Bible alone—is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith and discipline. But isn’t it also telling that since the Reformation of just ca. 480 years ago—a reformation claiming sola scriptura as its formal principle—there are now over 33,000 denominations that have derived from it?

There it is again.  How many years have passed since we absolutely, completely, and with finality, blew this fictional number out of the water?  Well, the longest post I published on this topic can be found here.  It is dated August of 2007.  That is over six years ago, of course. (I have revisited the issue a few times since, adding even further documentation.  See here, here and here, for example). I point out numerous problems with the usage of the 33,000 number drawn directly from the primary source.  Do Rome’s apologists care about the inaccuracy of their number?  Evidently not, as Staples continues to repeat the same error over and over again.  Surely helps to explain how they massacre church history regarding the papacy and the development of Rome’s dogmas as well!

Christian Answers to Two Roman Catholic Questions on “Catholic Answers”

The show that calls itself “Catholic Answers,” recently featured a Missouri Synod Lutheran caller as highlighted on a recent Dividing Line.  In response to the caller, the hosts began asking him some questions.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you get these same questions from some of your Roman Catholic friends and acquaintances, particularly those who listen to “Catholic Answers.”

Question 1: Where is Sola Scriptura in the Bible?
Short Answer: John 20:31 says, “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.” And many other verses.
Brief Explanation: John’s statement implies that a person could pick up John’s gospel, read it, believe it, and receive eternal life in that way.  Moreover, John’s statement at least hints at the fact that the other gospels have a similar purpose – they are written for us to read, believe, and have eternal life.
Possible Objection: But where is the only in that text?
Response: The sola or only of “Sola Scriptura” is simply a negative claim – in other words, it’s saying that Scripture is unique – there’s nothing else like Scripture. If you want some verses that emphasize the unique character of Scripture, those also exist.
For example, Romans 3:4 says “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.’ (Psalm 51:4)”  This emphasizes the crucial distinction between God’s word and mens’ words.
Another example is this:

Deuteronomy 13:1-5
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;” thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

The point to take away from that passage is that even if someone has authority that appears to be attested by working wonders, the person’s message should be judged by the Scriptures (in this case, by the Pentateuch).
Paul similarly warns the Galatians: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)  Someone may object that “preached” could refer to the gospel Paul delivered orally.  Nevertheless, we have that gospel in written form today.
Likewise, the Bereans are commended for subjecting the apostles’ own preaching to a comparison with the Scriptures: “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.” (Acts 17:11)
Question 2: Where is “Scripture interprets Scripture” in the Bible?
Short answer: 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” If that is true, then it follows that all Scripture has one divine author even if it has many human authors.
Longer answer: Indeed, we have examples of Scripture interpreting itself explicitly, such as the quotation from John 20:31, above, which provides a purpose for the book of John, and more broadly for Scripture. Other examples include the citation of Old Testament passages in the New Testament, together with explanations of what they meant or how they were fulfilled in Christ.  Indeed, sometimes the New Testament includes Jesus’ own explanation of his parables.  Numerous other examples could be provided.
Rejoinder: But even if we had no answer, can the matter seriously be doubted?  Does the person asking the question really think that the Bible is either incomprehensible or should not be understood by taking one part in relation to another?
Even the Roman Catholic “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” puts it this somewhat poetic (and consequently imprecise) way (CCC 102):

Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely: You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.

We understand that Rome wishes to deny Christians the ability to judge her doctrines by Scripture, but surely it cannot be denied that Scripture does interpret Scripture.  How else would one read it?  As just isolated statements each possibly meaning anything at all?  The very notion seems bizarre.-TurretinFan