It was the first day back in the office after Christmas. On the ride in I was thinking about how a debate could be arranged that would be very useful in highlighting the differences between the free grace of God offered in Scripture, and the Roman Catholic concept of merit. I had been studying the”Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences” (also known as Indulgentiarum Doctrina), and decided to send a fax to Catholic Answers, asking if they might be interested in defending this Roman Catholic document. So I fired up the computer and sent a note to the attention of Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, and James Akin, laying out my idea and inviting their participation. Then I moved over to the computer that is home to Pros Apologian, our BBS, and downloaded the mail that had come in over the holiday. I took the disk containing the file to my desk and settled in for a few moments of reading and replying.
It wasn’t long before I encountered a series of posts from a Roman Catholic layman from California by the name of Joe Gallegos. I have spent a great deal of time replying to Mr. Gallegos’ attempts to turn the early Fathers into Roman Catholics. He had posted the text of an upcoming article in This Rock magazine, the publication of Catholic Answers. As I started to scan the article, I was amazed to read the following paragraphs:
James White loves to argue. He’s a Fundamentalist who runs an anti-Catholic ministry, so you’d expect him to be no stranger to controversy. But White’s appetite for in-your-face confrontations goes beyond typical anti-Catholic zealotry. Alpha & Omega Ministries, the small organization White runs, has carved a modest niche for itself in the fundamentalist counter-cult market place, producing tracts and tapes attacking Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and, of course, Catholics. He and his followers pride themselves in their adversarial methods of witnessing to “cultists.” At least once each year, White and his helpers descend on Salt Lake City during the Mormon Church’s bi-annual General Conference, armed with anti-Mormon tracts. They station themselves at each entrance to Temple Square and hand out literature telling Mormons why they are going to hell. But leafleting is one of the tamer methods White favors in preaching his gospel. Barely out of his twenties, White has already garnered a wide reputation as a debate junkie. I don’t mean simply that he’s been in lots of debates–that’s fine, of course; I’ve been in plenty myself–I mean he craves debates. He chases after any Catholic apologist who will take notice of him, issuing challenges to debate, appearing almost frantic to goad someone, anyone, into a fight. Most telling is his penchant for crowing that so-and-so is “afraid” to debate him. He does this in letters, on computer bulletin boards, and implies it in the pages of his sporadically-published newsletter, Pros Apologian. He’s even sent debate challenges via registered mail so his prey cannot claim not to have received it. I know: I received such a letter.
And it only got worse from there. I was truly amazed. I had not planned on writing anything about the San Diego debate I had had with Patrick a few months earlier. I felt the tapes did all the speaking that needed to be done, and I planned only on advertising the debates and sending them to anyone interested in the subject of sola scriptura. As I read the article, which struck me as having been written in a very emotional, angry state, I became aware that Mr. Madrid had been smarting over his defeat in the debate ever since September, and this article was his way of “saving face” so to speak. It did seem rather ironic that I had just that morning faxed a debate idea to Catholic Answers. They must have gotten quite a chuckle out of that.
Patrick Madrid’s article gives us a tremendous opportunity of examining, in detail, the tactics and methods of the largest Roman Catholic apologetics organization in the United States. How accurate are their statements? Do they utilize double standards? Do they accurately represent the statements of others? These questions are answered fully in the following materials.
I began work on this article shortly after Catholic Answers published their attack, but God in His providence and wisdom had other plans. An entire year has now passed, a year taken up with many things, including the writing of The King James Only Controversy. As a result, I approach this article, not as a person with a freshly wounded ego, but as one who has had time to reflect fully upon the words of Patrick Madrid. I have done further debates since that time (four in Austin Texas against Dr. Robert Fastiggi), and have had the opportunity of interacting with Karl Keating (via the Catholic Information Network echoes), Patrick Madrid and James Akin (via America Online). I have been able to get their reactions, or lack thereof, to the presentation of factual errors by Patrick in the debate in question. And I have been able to review Patrick’s new book, Surprised by Truth, and see how he has attempted to use his article, The White Man’s Burden, in that work. I also approach the topic as one with a “thicker skin” in the sense that I have now borne the brunt of the attacks of KJV Only advocates across the nation. Patrick may have attempted to use his nastiest material in his attack upon me in This Rock, but he’s simply not capable of coming up with the kind of ad hominen attack that marks the KJV Only folks. And finally, with the help of faithful friends like Julius Amman and Katie Baker, I have been able to transcribe the actual debate in San Diego so that I can quote Patrick directly in my demonstration of the dishonesty of the men of Catholic Answers. Through the citation of faxes, quotation of transcripts, and the use of “front-line” articles written in debate-situations in electronic mail, I hope the reader will get a good idea of not only the issues at hand, but at how these topics are being argued and presented in the battlefield of apologetics.
The nation has been enthralled of late by the OJ Simpson trial. We have all watched as high-priced attorneys do their best to sway the opinion of the jury. I have often commented that apologists are often like attorneys. They attempt to sway the opinion of their listeners or readers, and, all too often, they use the same kind of less-than-honest tactics that we find in the courtroom as well.
Sadly, Patrick Madrid would probably do well on OJ’s defense team. This is seen plainly both in the tactics he utilized in our debate on sola scriptura in San Diego, and even more so in his article, The White Man’s Burden (October, 1993 This Rock magazine; hereafter TWMB). I shall delve into the debate at a later point. For now I wish to point out how desperately Mr. Madrid wished to poison the minds of the readers of This Rock magazine. It is obvious that he did not want to simply address the issues, but wished to evoke in his readers’ minds a particular image, hoping, it seems, that they would give little credence to anything I might say, all on the basis of a presumption on their part, assisted by Mr. Madrid’s less than candid statements.
A quick glance at the opening paragraphs of TWMB provides us with a wonderful lesson in how to portray your opponent as a slobbering fundamentalist. Note the following statements:
James White loves to argue. He’s a Fundamentalist who runs an anti-Catholic ministry . . . his appetite for in-your-face confrontation goes beyond typical anti-Catholic zealotry.
What kind of picture is Mr. Madrid wishing to paint? He’s hoping his readers will think of a Jack Chick-Tony Alamo kind of person, a “Fundamentalist” (a term laden with negative connotations for the readers of This Rock, that’s for certain) who runs an “anti-Catholic” ministry. The fact that Alpha and Omega Ministries is a Reformed ministry that openly repudiates the wild accusations of Alamo and Chick would not “sell” very well. Indeed, Madrid nowhere mentions in his entire article that he identified me as the “best critic of Roman Catholicism in the United States today” only a matter of months prior to our debate in San Diego. He admitted that I had defeated Gerry Matatics in a debate on Sola Scriptura in November of the preceding year as well. But again, actually admitting the truth of how Alpha and Omega Ministries does its work would not fit Patrick’s purpose in writing this entire article. He doesn’t want to have to tell his readers that he himself has admitted in public that I have “done my homework,” nor that he is fully aware of how A&O differs from many of those ministries he would identify as “anti-Catholic.” Indeed, even while he later admits that we work in evangelizing many other groups, he has to identify us as an “anti-Catholic” ministry, though, of course, he’d hardly identify Catholic Answers as an “anti-Protestant” ministry.
There is a sad consistency at this point in the tactics of Catholic Answers. Gerry Matatics demonstrated this clearly in our first debate in Long Beach, California in 1990. The topic of the debate was supposed to be sola scriptura, but Matatics spent the first 14 minutes of his opening statement doing nothing but engaging in an extended effort at trying to get the Catholics in the audience to view me as a terrible, horrible person. His facts were wrong (he later admitted he hadn’t read my books), and he said in a later phone conversation that (paraphrasing) “we didn’t expect you to come across as you did,” that is, they didn’t expect me to be scholarly and restrained in my comments and demeanor. So it was decided to launch a “preemptive strike,” so to speak. And, of course, it backfired. Even James Akin, a relative newcomer to Catholic Answers, fell into the same trap in his article on my book, The Fatal Flaw, starting the article with the obligatory attack upon my character, an attack specifically designed again to poison the mind of the Roman Catholic reader.
Another common trait of the men of Catholic Answers is their pride in the size of their organization. We often hear about how large they are, and they remind everyone of this by finding ways of mentioning how small are those pitiful ministries such as mine. Originally Patrick referred to Alpha and Omega Ministries as the “small organization White runs.” Well, at least he’s telling the truth at that point; we are small, both in size as well as funding, especially when compared with Catholic Answers. Seemingly, Mr. Madrid feels this is somehow indicative of God’s blessings or something like that (a rather ironic thing, in light of the Roman emphasis upon poverty!). James Akin, Patrick’s compatriot at CA, also raised the “size” issue, though in the context of what might actually be taken as a compliment, when he wrote in the July, 1993 This Rock, “Small as it is, Alpha and Omega distributes some of the more soberly written anti-Catholic literature published today.” There is a fairly obvious purpose behind this constant emphasis upon how “small” other ministries are: such remarks tend to diminish the credibility and importance of these groups, and this aids in the attempt to paint all such groups with the broad brush of “Fundamentalist anti-Catholic wackos.”
Madrid spent a tremendous amount of time trying to paint me as something other than I am, and for good reason. Anyone who actually listens to the debates would never come to the conclusions Patrick desires, so he must start the process of twisting me into the form he wishes for me right at the start. His description of our ministry in Salt Lake is meant to portray me as an unthinking fundie who is busy telling Mormons nothing more than “you are going to hell.” His incredibly inaccurate portrayal of me as being nearly crazed in my efforts to arrange debates is meant to picture me as an arrogant, attention-starved soul, more to be pitied than taken seriously. And his (again) inaccurate portrayal of my behavior at the debate itself only continues his campaign.
Why do the men of Catholic Answers have to make their opponents look bad? Aren’t their arguments good enough by themselves? I’ll let the reader, and the listener, decide.
For the Record
We are making available the transcript of the debate, both in electronic, and written form. Even using small type and a three-column format the transcript takes up more than twenty pages of print. I think it is important to establish what I had said for the purpose of examining the re-working of the whole debate that we encounter in TWMB. What is more, many Protestants (and nearly every Roman Catholic I know) are unfamiliar with the specifics of the doctrine of sola scriptura, so I wish to place into the record first what I said that evening in my opening statement, exactly as I said it, taken from the transcript of the debate itself. I will then provide some further definition through the citation of a few sections of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. First, my opening statement:
Good evening, it’s good to be with you. I’m very thankful to the church for allowing us to be here. I need to thank all of you San Diegans. I understand there’s a big push on to make this a very friendly city. And I think it’s very friendly of you to bring in Phoenix weather, just for me, while I’m here. Very kind of you. Except in Phoenix all of our buildings have air conditioners. And you need to, sort of, put those two things together and that will make things a whole lot easier.
There have always been those who have refused to give the Scriptures their proper place. There have always been those who wished to add to Scripture their own authority and the unique teachings that set them apart. Indeed, Basil of Caesarea ran into some of the same problems long ago in replying to his opponents who appealed to their customs and traditions as relevant and authoritative. He said, “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. 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.”
And so we gather this evening to debate the same question. Is the Bible the sole and infallible rule of faith for the Church? Or must we have other revelation from God? Do we need the Book of Mormon, or the writings of the Watchtower, or Mary Baker Eddy, or the so-called Apostolic unwritten traditions of Rome? Does the Bible teach its own sufficiency to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church?
Well, we must begin by defining the doctrine under discussion this evening. And let me begin by defining what the doctrine of Sola Scriptura does not say.
First of all, it is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. The Bible is not exhaustive in every detail. John 21:25 speaks to the fact that there are many things that Jesus said and did that are not recorded in John, or, in fact, in any book in the world because the whole books of the world could not contain it. But the Bible does not have to be exhaustive to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church. We do not need to know the color of Thomas’ eyes. We do not need to know the menu of each meal of the Apostolic band for the Scriptures to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church.
Secondly, it is not a denial of the Church’s authority to teach God’s truth. I Timothy 3:15 describes the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth.” The truth is in Jesus Christ and in His Word. The Church teaches truth and calls men to Christ and, in so doing, functions as the pillar and foundation thereof. The Church does not add revelation or rule over Scripture. The Church being the bride of Christ, listens to the Word of Christ, which is found in God-breathed Scripture.
Thirdly, it is not a denial that God’s Word has been spoken. Apostolic preaching was authoritative in and of itself. Yet, the Apostles proved their message from Scripture, as we see in Acts 17:2, and 18:28, and John commended those in Ephesus for testing those who claimed to be Apostles, Revelation 2:2. The Apostles were not afraid to demonstrate the consistency between their teaching and the Old Testament.
And, finally, Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church.
What then is sola scriptura?
The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is 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 at 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, given this, I would like to explain how I plan on winning my debate this evening with Mr. Madrid. Sola Scriptura is both a positive and a negative statement.
Positively, the doctrine teaches that the Bible is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith for the Church. Negatively, it denies the existence of any other rule of faith as being necessary for the man of God. Hence, logically, I must do the following things:
First, I must demonstrate that the Bible teaches that it is A rule of faith for the Church.
Secondly, I must demonstrate that the Bible is sufficient to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church, that is, I must demonstrate its sufficiency, or in the language used in the New Testament itself, that the Bible is artios.
And, thirdly, I must demonstrate that the Bible as a sufficient rule of faith does not refer us to any other rule of faith.
Absent the demonstration on Mr. Madrid’s part of some other rule of faith, the preceding is sufficient to establish the fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of sola scriptura.
“The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church.”
Now, some opponents of Sola Scriptura have engaged in what can only be called cheap debating tricks in attempting to force the defender of Scriptural sufficiency to prove a “universal negative.” That is, the less honest debater might attempt to force me to prove the non-existence of another rule of faith. Since I am saying that Scripture is unique in its function as the rule of faith for the Church, some might challenge me to demonstrate that no other rule of faith could possibly exist. To illustrate this, I call your attention to my pen. Yes, to my pen!
If our debate this evening was that I was going to stand here and say that this is the only pen of its kind in all the universe, how would I go about proving it? Well, the only way I could prove the statement “there is no other pen like this in all the universe,” is if I looked in all of your purses, and all of your shirt pockets, and in all the stores in the world that carry pens, and look through all the houses, and all over the planet Earth, and the Moon, and the planets in the Solar System, and in the entire universe, looking for another pen like this. And, of course, I could not do that. But it would be very easy for Mr. Madrid to win that debate. All he needs to do is go out, get a Cross Medalist pen, walk up here, hold it right next to mine, and say, “See! Another pen, just like yours!” and he’s won the debate.
In light of this, I would assert that Mr. Madrid must either recognize this reality, and not attempt to win this debate by doing nothing more than depending upon an illogical demand; or, he must demonstrate the existence of “the other pen.” That is, he must prove to us what the Council of Trent said was true. I quote, “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, transmitted as it were, from hand to hand.”
Hence, I shall demonstrate that the Bible teaches its sufficiency to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church and, if Mr. Madrid wishes to attempt to show us some other rule of faith, I will gladly respond to such an attempt.
Now, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is based upon the inspiration of Scripture. Our primary passage this evening, (I hope you have your Bibles with you), will be found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. The gentlemen from Catholic Answers have made it a practice for years to assert that Protestants cannot provide a single verse that teaches sola scriptura. Yet, they are quite mistaken in this, though they have been corrected a number of times in the past, and let us examine the passage to see if this is the case. II Timothy 3:16-17, “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 begin by noting that Scripture is theopneustos, “God-breathed.” The term is very strong. I refer anyone who wishes a full discussion of this term to B.B. Warfield‘s excellent treatment of it. That which is theopneustos has ultimate authority, for there can be no higher authority than God’s very speaking. “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
It is common for Roman Catholic apologists to follow an error made by John Henry Cardinal Newman, with reference to this passage. Indeed, Karl Keating, Patrick’s associate at Catholic Answers, makes the same mistake in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. And he repeated it again only recently during a debate on this subject in Denver during the papal visit. Newman said that if this verse proves the sufficiency of Scripture, it proves too much, for Paul is talking here only of the Old Testament, which would leave the New Testament as an unnecessary addition. But such is not Paul’s point at all. Scripture, Paul’s point is, if it is Scripture at all, is God-breathed. Paul is not speaking about the extent of the canon but the nature of Scripture itself as originating in God. All Scripture then, including the New Testament, is God-breathed.
Because Scripture is God-breathed, and hence represents God’s very voice speaking, it is profitable for the work of the ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ. We are told that the work of teaching, and rebuking, and correcting, and training in righteousness, can be undertaken due to the nature of Scripture as God-breathed. What is Paul’s point?
The Church is not left without the voice of God. For when the Church listens to Scripture, she is hearing her Lord speaking to her. The authority of the Church then, in teaching, and rebuking, and instructing, is derived, despite Roman Catholic claims to the contrary, from Scripture itself.
Now, Mr. Madrid will certainly disagree for, in addressing this very passage less than fifty days ago in a debate on this topic, he said, speaking specifically of verse 16, “I defy you to show me where it says ‘sufficient,’ in your remarks you said, when you cited II Timothy 3:16, you said, ‘sufficient,’ but that is not what the Bible teaches.” Of course, no one asserts that the term, “profitable,” in verse 16, equates to “sufficiency” When his opponents referred him to verse 17, Mr. Madrid said, “Well, 17 doesn’t say ‘sufficient’ either! 17 says, ‘that, so the one that belongs to God may be competent and equipped for every good work.’ That does not teach sufficiency. Where does the Bible teach that it is sufficient?” Is Mr. Madrid correct here? Well, let’s see.
Verse 17 continues the thought of verse 16. The fact that the Church has God’s voice always present with her in God-breathed Scripture, means the man of God, specifically here, of course, Timothy, but I doubt anyone would disagree that these comments refer to all those who belong to Christ and who are a part of His body, the Church, might be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
The first term to examine, is the adjective translated, “complete,” the Greek term, a;rtioj (artios). We note that it is related in its root to the second term we will examine, the verb which is translated, “fully equipped,” that being the verb, evxartivzw (exartizo). Paul is here providing us with a play on words–the verb compounding and emphasizing the meaning present in the adjective.
Now, the term, a;rtioj, Vine tells us means, “fitted, complete.” Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker tell us the term means, “complete, capable, proficient.” That is, as they say, “able to meet all demands,” giving the specific citation of II Timothy 3:17 as the reference. One of the newest lexical resources, Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains, uses the term, “qualified” as well. The great Greek scholar, Richard Trench, in his Synonyms of the New Testament, said with reference to this term, “If we ask ourselves under what special aspects ‘completeness’ is contemplated in artios, it would be safe to answer that it is not as the presence only of all the parts which are necessary for that ‘completeness’, but involves, further, the adaptation and aptitude of these parts for the ends which they were designed to serve. The man of God, St. Paul would say, should be furnished and accomplished with all which is necessary for the carrying out of the work to which he is appointed.”
I pause only long enough to note that Paul here asserts that the man of God can be complete, capable, proficient, and qualified because he has available to him, always, God’s inspired Scriptures. Surely, here Paul would have to direct us to any and all other rules of faith that we would need to be complete but, he does not.
But, Paul was not satisfied to merely state that the man of God may be a;rtioj, “complete,” but, he goes on to define what he means. “Fully equipped for every good work.” The term is evxartivzw, here in the perfect-passive-participial form, the prefix, ex, having, as Robertson noted, the perfective force. Vine tells us that here in II Timothy, it means “to fit out, that is, to furnish completely.” Bauer, Arndt Gingrich and Danker expressed this with the term, “equip.” Hendrickson makes reference to a related term, katarti,zw (katartizo), and it’s use at Luke 6:40, where it is translated, “fully trained.” We see here, then, that Paul teaches that the man of God is thoroughly or completely equipped for every good work. Now, what does it mean to say that one “is fully equipped,” if not to say that one is sufficient for a task?
I have recently taken up long-distance bicycle riding, and I’ve found a lovely little bike shack, a bike store where they are able to give me everything that I need, the clothes and the gloves and the helmet and the bike and the tires and the tubes, which you need a lot–they are able to fully equip me for the task of riding a bike. Does that not mean then, that they are sufficient as equippers for their task? Most definitely it does! “Let us never abandon the firm foundation of God-breathed Scripture, the Word of God, the Bible.” We further see, the Scriptures can equip the man of God for every good work. Now, Mr. Madrid, do you not believe that it is a good work to pray to Mary? Yet, the Scriptures nowhere teach this. Do you not believe that it is good to believe and teach that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven? Yet, the Bible does not teach this. Do you not believe that the man of God should teach, in the Church, that the pope, in Rome, is infallible in his teaching office? Yet, the Scriptures know nothing of such a concept.
We see then, that the Roman position is contradicted by that of the Apostle. For he knew of no other rule of faith that was necessary so that the man of God could be equipped for every good work. No other rule of faith, that is, than the Scriptures.
But, finally, we remember Mr. Madrid’s challenge to show him a verse that teaches sufficiency. Mr. Madrid, I would like to direct you to the Scriptural standard, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a fact be established.” I first refer you to Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon, where we encounter the definition given for the semantic domain of evxartivzw, I quote, “To make someone completely adequate, or sufficient for something; to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified; adequacy.” They translate our passage as, “completely qualified for every good deed.” While Louw and Nida give us two witnesses, I wish to direct you as well to the well-known scholarly resource by Fritz Reinecker and Cleon Rogers, titled Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Here, we find the following, in regards to both terms, here in verse 17: “a;rtioj: fit, complete, capable, sufficient, i.e., able to meet all demands; evxartivzw: completely outfitted, fully furnished, fully equipped, fully supplied.” Hence, we see the following:
Number 1: Paul here teaches that the Bible is A rule of faith. For he says the Church’s function of teaching and rebuking and instructing is to be based upon God-inspired Scriptures.
Number 2: We see that this passage teaches the sufficiency of the Scriptures to function in this way.
Number 3: We see that Paul not only does not refer us to another rule of faith, but implicitly denies the necessity of such a rule of faith by his teaching on the ability of Scripture to completely equip the man of God.
Therefore, I assert that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is taught plainly in this passage. Mr. Madrid must be able to fully refute the information I have provided to you to win this evening’s debate.
Now, one might well ask, “Is this the only place where Sola Scriptura is taught?” Most certainly not, though it is the clearest. For example, we find this concept plainly enunciated in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when coming into conflict with the traditions of the Jewish leaders. Note the words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 15: “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.’ Jesus replied, ‘And 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 or 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 is 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.'”
Here we find the Lord providing us with the example that we must follow this evening. The Jewish leaders objected to the fact that the disciples did not follow the rigorous hand-washing rituals of the Pharisees. They identified this as the breaking of the “tradition of the elders.” They firmly believed that this body of tradition was authoritative, and some even believed that it had been passed down from Moses himself (though this surely is without warrant). But does Jesus accept this claim of authority? Not at all! Instead, He launches a counterattack against these leaders by pointing out how they nullify the command of God through the following of their own traditions. Specifically, in this, with reference to the Corban rule. The Lord Jesus holds this traditional teaching up to the light of Scripture and finds it wanting.
In the same way, we, too, must hold any tradition up to the light of Scripture, for no tradition is on the same level of authority as Scripture. Traditions are not God-breathed and, hence, are subject to examination on the part of the higher authority of Scripture. Even though the Jews believed their traditions to have authority, they are held responsible for recognizing that God speaks to them in Scripture, not in their traditions.
The same is true tonight. While Rome may claim divine authority for her supposedly sacred traditions, and even subjugate Scripture, so as to make it a part of Sacred Tradition, needing other aspects such as the supposedly Apostolic unwritten traditions, and the authority of the magisterium of the Church, the person who wishes to follow the example of Christ will hold such traditions up to the light of Scripture, knowing how fearful it is to be found guilty of nullifying the Word of God for the sake of merely human traditions.
And so, my friends, I present to you the wonderful doctrine of the sufficiency of God’s inspired Scriptures. As a follower of Jesus Christ, and a minister in His Church, I gladly proclaim to you the glorious grace of God in giving to the Church the Scriptures, so that we can always be assured of hearing God’s voice speaking to us. We need not wonder about supposedly authoritative traditions whose origins are obscure, and whose teachings are suspect. Instead, we have the certainty of holding in our hands the same Scriptures that our Lord Jesus described as the very speaking of the Father Himself. This is the firm ground upon which the Church can stand in an uncertain and threatening world. This is the rule of faith that constantly calls the Church to Christ’s likeness. Let us never abandon the firm foundation of God-breathed Scripture, the Word of God, the Bible. Thank you. Thus we have my opening statement. Below I provide a couple of sections from Chapter 1 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Our Presbyterian readers will recognize that with a few exceptions, the Baptist Confession follows the Westminster Confession at this point:
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation (paragraph 1).
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God (paragraph 4).
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scriptures: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed (paragraph 6).
And note especially paragraph 7:
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.
The single “debating trick” most often used by human beings is the infamous “straw man argument.” It derives its name from the fact that it is relatively easy to beat up a straw man. Since he’s not real, he can’t defend himself, but you sure can stir up a cloud of dust as you rip him to shreds! You might even look like you are really fighting a real man as you go toe-to-toe with the straw man. But in reality, you are accomplishing nothing.
And so it is in debates. It is probably the most common accusation you can throw at your opponent: “You are attacking a straw man!” You can even use that line when you are the one who is actually engaging in that very activity! It is a very useful tactic.
If you are going to accuse someone of attacking a straw man, you need to be able to prove your assertion. I firmly assert that Patrick Madrid, following in the footsteps of Karl Keating and entire generations of Roman apologists, attacked a straw man in our debate. Now, I obviously have to prove my point. I invite the reader to read closely to see if I really accomplish my task.
First and foremost we must note a few of the specifics of the debate over sola scriptura. Mr. Madrid alleged in his article that I attempted to “shift the burden of proof” off of myself and onto him. He is referring to my statements regarding the fact that Sola Scriptura is really a “two-part” doctrine. That is, it has a positive aspect, that being the assertion that the Bible is sufficient to function as the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. But it also has a negative aspect that is seen in the use of the term “sole” in the preceding sentence. That is, sola scriptura denies the existence of any other infallible rule of faith outside of Scripture. The distinction between the positive and the negative aspects of the doctrine is extremely important.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of Sacred Tradition is, just like sola scriptura, two-fold in nature. There is the negative assertion that Scripture is not sufficient in and of itself, and there is the positive assertion that there is another infallible rule of faith. Now, modern Roman Catholics differ over the specifics of how this all works out, but most often you find them asserting that “Sacred Tradition” is made up of the written tradition (Scripture) and the oral tradition. The two must be taken together to have all that God intends for the church, according to Rome. Hence, Protestants have only part of “Sacred Tradition.” We must recognize, however, that Rome is making a positive assertion about the existence of something. Rome claims that this “oral tradition” exists, and that it has been passed down from the time of the Apostles till today, and that via the “teaching Magisterium” of the Roman Church.
Over the years the men of Catholic Answers have done their best to force all their opponents onto a dead-end street, logically speaking. What I mean is this: they continually ask, “Where does the Bible teach sola scriptura?” Yet, when passages are brought forward, as I did in my debate with Mr. Madrid, the real intention of the debater is seen, for the response is, “But that doesn’t exclude other rules of faith, other sources of truth.” What is really going on is the Protestant is being asked to defend a “universal negative.” He is being asked to show how the Bible denies the existence of the “other rule of faith” that the men of Catholic Answers are, by default, claiming to exist. They have been quite successful at making the Protestant look rather clueless at this point.
We all recognize that when the Mormons claim that the Book of Mormon is “another testament of Jesus Christ,” we are on solid ground in challenging them to prove their assertion. Yet, for some reason, the Roman Catholic apologists of today are dead set against doing what they must do to win the day: they must undertake to prove the existence of their infallible (I say, inspired!) “oral tradition.” After all, they are the ones asserting that it exists, hence, they logically must prove their point. Instead, they wish to make the Protestant disprove the possible existence of their “other rule of faith”! This was the point behind my pen analogy. It would be illogical, and unfair, to ask me to prove that there is no such thing as another pen identical to my own in the universe. And, it would be easy to prove me wrong if I were to make that assertion: just pick up another pen like mine and show it to the audience. That is what I was inviting Mr. Madrid to do: show us another “infallible rule of faith.” He came up with exactly one example in response: the canon of the NT. We will discuss later why this effort failed.
Straw Man Number One: Patrick Madrid attempted to redefine the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in our debate. I will honestly admit that I could have done a better job in pointing this out and insisting he get with the program, and I promise that should I get the chance again, I will be more aggressive in demanding an accurate portrayal on his part. He undertook to make Sola Scriptura something it is not in a number of ways, but we will first look at his use of the “material/formal” distinction argument.
Patrick Madrid began by saying that Roman Catholics can affirm what he entitled “material sufficiency.” That is, in his words, “It may surprise you to learn that the Catholic position allows for what we call, ‘the material sufficiency of Scripture.’ This means that Scripture contains everything necessary for Christian teaching. All doctrines can be found there, implicitly or explicitly, but they’re all there.” It is important to note that what Patrick means can be seen by reading, for example, his article on how Mary is paralleled by the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, and how such passages as “Blessed art thou” and the angel’s greeting of “Hail, most favored one!” actually teach such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception or the Bodily Assumption of Mary.
Does Rome really affirm such a doctrine? That depends on which Roman Catholic you ask. Gerry Matatics affirmed his belief in an inspired “oral tradition” in our debate in Omaha, and surely that is what the Council of Trent taught as well. Note the emphasized portions of Trent’s decree:
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, transmitted as it were from hand to hand. Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is 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.
Trent obviously taught that the oral traditions were equally inspired with the Bible. Roman Catholics have asserted for centuries that the oral traditions contain truths other than those found in Scripture. This is obviously how such doctrines as Papal Infallibility were viewed as little as a century ago. No one can seriously believe that the Lord’s prayer for Peter means the bishop of Rome is infallible. Such a belief is utterly absent from the history of the Church for over a millennia. The doctrine must be based upon “tradition,” and that tradition must transcend what is found in the Bible.
But with reference to Madrid’s position, why have an “oral tradition” if, in fact, what is contained in the oral tradition is nothing but what is found in the Bible to begin with? Seemingly he believes we simply get greater clarity with this “tradition,” but nothing new. Such is surely not the historic position, though one will find many Roman Catholic theologians adopting such a stance today. His position was quite useful to him in the debate: if you don’t affirm the existence of an inspired oral tradition, you don’t have to defend the concept! And that is exactly what he did. Note his words, “Our position is that everything that is in oral tradition, is in Sacred Scripture, it’s in written tradition. Everything.” That wasn’t Trent’s position, that’s for certain.
But over against “material sufficiency” Patrick placed “formal sufficiency.” This, he said, is what Protestants seek to defend. Now, as the reader may know, such terminology is foreign to the vast majority of us. And, I will assert, the use of such terminology by Mr. Madrid is foreign to all of us, since it is not what we believe in the first place. But what does “formal sufficiency” mean for Mr. Madrid? Again we read his own words, “Formal sufficiency means that Scripture contains all necessary Christian truth, and (and this is a very important “and”) that Scripture’s meaning is so clear that the Church and Tradition are not necessary to arrive at an accurate interpretation of the meaning of Scripture.”
Now you may well be surprised to discover, as a Protestant, that that is what you have believed all along, but that was Mr. Madrid’s definition. What does Patrick mean by “so clear”? Remember, he is asserting that this is the Protestant position, this is the definition of Sola Scriptura that must be defended. The term that he used later, as we shall see, is “perspicuous.” This is a term that has been used by Protestant scholars to describe Scripture. Yet, how did Mr. Madrid define the term? How did he use it to create a straw man? Let’s note his own words. He first took advantage of the fact that I am a Baptist and I was debating at a Presbyterian church. Focusing upon our differences regarding infant baptism, Madrid said,
But, if the evidence is inconclusive on this, or any other doctrine, then Scripture is manifestly not sufficient to give us a conclusive interpretation of everything that it teaches. In fact, Scripture itself denies that its doctrines are always clear to all readers. In II Peter 3:15,16 we read, “Our dear brother, Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and the unstable people distort, as they do other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” So, we see, here, that the Bible warns us that its doctrines can be misunderstood, they can be unclear, and they can be distorted.
Note what is being said. If there can be any disagreement among believers as to what the Bible says, then, of course, Sola Scriptura must be untrue, since, according to his definition, the doctrine means that no such disagreements could arise, since the Bible would be “so clear” about such things. To use his own words, the Bible must be able to give us “a conclusive interpretation of everything that it teaches.” If biblical doctrines can be unclear, or if they can be misunderstood and distorted, according to Patrick Madrid, Sola Scriptura is thereby disproven.
Am I reading too much into Madrid’s words? Not at all. Note his words in TWMB:
For Sola Scriptura to be true, Scripture must be sufficient to settle all doctrinal disputes and quandaries. But it’s not sufficient to settle this dispute or others which cause the fragmentation and confusion within Protestantism. White failed (or refused) to grasp the implications of this fact.
Therefore, we are being told that for Sola Scriptura to be true there can be no doctrinal disputes, no causes for division among those who cling to the Scriptures as their final authority. This is the definition that Mr. Madrid insisted I had to defend that warm evening in San Diego. But, is that what Sola Scriptura means?
Of course not. Anyone who read the citations I provided from the Baptist Confession knows that it was plainly stated that there are difficult passages in the Scripture that “are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all.” This absurd idea that “perspicuity” means “such transparent clarity as to banish all possibly misunderstanding” is a glowing testimonial to Mr. Madrid’s ability to create a straw man. What is more, I have confronted Mr. Madrid about this very fact. I posted the following materials on America Online in late 1994. Though Patrick read the posts, and even promised to respond, he has, to date, refused to do so. I think there is a good reason why he hasn’t. Here’s what I wrote:
Subj: CA and Misrepresentation #1
Date: 94-12-07 10:33:42 EST
An Example of How Catholic Answers Misrepresents the Issues
When one is engaged in debate and argument, a sure sign of impending victory is the use of misrepresentation by one’s opponent. Surely when one can no longer respond to the real position espoused by another, one runs to the “straw-man,” hoping (and often succeeding in the attempt) that the audience will not “see” that you have, in fact, abandoned the field of battle.
"For Sola Scriptura to be true, Scripture must be sufficient to settle all doctrinal disputes and quandaries."
Patrick Madrid of Catholic Answers gives us an excellent example of this tactic in his comments in a debate which took place in September of 1993. It would seem axiomatic that if one is going to debate an issue, one will be thoroughly familiar with the official pronouncements of the faith of the person you are to debate against. Mr. Madrid knew, of course, that I am a Reformed Baptist, and hence would hold to the definitions provided by the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, which, on the topic of the Scriptures, is word-for-word the same as the Westminster Confession of Faith. We read specifically in chapter 1, section 7:
VII. All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
This statement plainly indicates that all things in Scripture are not simply found on the surface. Not everyone can look at the same passage and see the exact same things. The fundamentals, the central doctrines, those that are “necessary…for salvation,” that both the learned and unlearned, IN A DUE USE OF THE ORDINARY MEANS, can ATTAIN unto a sufficient understanding of them. Obviously, anyone familiar with the Reformed position knows that it does not teach that everything in Scripture is simple, and that there is no need for study, growth, etc. and etc.
Keeping this in mind, we go to the debate. Mr. Madrid and the folks at Catholic Answers have, repeatedly over the years, challenged their opponents to show them ONE VERSE that teaches the concept of sola scriptura. I intended to give them that verse, and more. In the process I presented to Mr. Madrid a few Greek terms and their meanings. Mr. Madrid was obviously at a loss to respond to that material. In his second rebuttal period he made the following comments:
“He says that I can’t refute the Greek translations. Well of course! I didn’t bring a Greek library with me tonight. I didn’t bring all sorts of linguistic apparatuses to throw at you to try to build my case based on what this scholar or that scholar might say. I brought the Bible. I believe in going by what God’s Word says. And Mr. White’s position, you have to remember, is, he wants to have it both ways. He’s telling you on one hand, Scripture’s sufficient. Well that means that Scripture is perspicuous (slapping hands together), that you can look at it and see what it means. And that you can tell what the Bible means. Mr. White is then saying, well, not in this case. Because in this case you need Greek lexicons, and you need this scholar to prove what this word means, and that scholar to prove what that means. If Mr. White is going to be consistent he has to argue for the perspicuity of Scripture. If its sufficient formally for all doctrine it must be able to on the face of it tell us what it means. I don’t believe Mr. White can prove that, especially in the area of baptismal regeneration.”
I think it is important to look closely at what Mr. Madrid has said. According to the Vice President of Catholic Answers, the “largest Catholic apologetics organization in North America,” when Protestants speak of the Scriptures being “perspicuous,” or when he uses the term “formal sufficiency” (a distinction he introduced, not I), we have to prove that the Scripture “must be able to ON THE FACE OF IT to tell us what it means.” If there are disputes between exegetes about ANYTHING, seemingly, then sola scriptura, according to Mr. Madrid, is disproven. We also see that he wants to create a contradiction between my study of the Scriptures in their original language and a belief in sola scriptura! This statement truly amazed me, though I had little chance to respond to it. The obvious harmony that exists between the REAL doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the study of the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew, aside from being directly stated in the confessions of the historic Protestant churches, is so obvious in the writings of any Protestant theologian or scholar that it defies the imagination as to understand how Mr. Madrid could be so poorly informed of the beliefs of those he is opposing. We need to remember that Mr. Madrid in his article “The White Man’s Burden,” which was written about this debate, did not mind identifying me as merely an “anti-Catholic,” so if we return the favor and identify Mr. Madrid as an “anti-Protestant,” it seems Mr. Madrid might wish to familiarize himself with the actual Protestant position.
One might say, “Well, we say things in debates when we are put on the spot that we might not say when given time for reflection.” Such is quite true, I well know. But is this misrepresentation of the Protestant position a mere mistake that Mr. Madrid would not repeat in a different situation? It seems not. When given more than sufficient time to reflect and consider, while writing “The White Man’s Burden,” Mr. Madrid demonstrated that he was still just as in error about what Sola Scriptura means as he was the night of the debate. We read on page 15,
“For Sola Scriptura to be true, Scripture must be sufficient to settle all doctrinal disputes and quandaries. But it’s not sufficient to settle *this* dispute or others which cause the fragmentation and confusion within Protestantism. White failed (or refused) to grasp the implications of this fact.”
Aside from the fact that this argument proves his own “teaching magisterium” to be “formally insufficient” as well, Madrid is again seen to be slashing away wildly at a straw man, seemingly hoping that the resultant cloud of dust and hay will allow him to get away with his ploy. There are a number of disputes and quandaries that God has not seen fit to settle. If Mr. Madrid had actually read fully my work, _Answers to Catholic Claims_, he would well know that I had said that the Bible is not an EXHAUSTIVE deposit of all of divine truth. I pointed out that it does not tell us what color Matthew’s eyes were, for example, nor does it need to. It does not tell us about clerical garb–it gives us guidelines, but not specifics. No one ever claimed that the Bible can resolve the dispute over what color to make the new pews in the new church building. To say otherwise is to demonstrate yet once again that one cannot deal with the doctrine *as it is believed.*
Mr. Madrid has indicated that he is writing a book on sola scriptura. I can only hope that he will take the time to learn what the doctrine actually is before the work is completed, as his debating, and his writing, to this point has demonstrated a woeful lack of understanding of the position he so vociferously denies.
The absurdity of the definition of “formal sufficiency” used by Madrid is well illustrated by another post from America Online, this in response to James Akin, Madrid’s compatriot at Catholic Answers (a man who was busily writing notes to Mr. Madrid during our debate in San Diego).
James Akin of Catholic Answers wrote:
Catholic apologists often appeal to the doctrinal chaos that reigns in Protestant circles–even conservative, Evangelical Protestant circles–as evidence for the unworkability to the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, and hence of Protestantism itself.
On one point I certainly agree with Mr. Akin: Catholic apologist often DO use this argument. But is it a valid argument? Let’s examine it.
First, and very briefly, it seems to me to be an inconsistent argument; that is, it refutes the position of the one using it. It presupposes the idea that if (in the case of Protestantism) the Scriptures are meant to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church, then it must follow that the Scriptures will produce an external, visible unity of doctrine on all fronts. As Patrick Madrid put it, Presbyterians and Baptists would not be in disagreement about infant baptism *if* the Bible were able to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church. I say this is an inconsistent argument because the solution offered to us by Rome–namely, the teaching Magisterium of the Roman Church, replete with oral tradition and papal infallibility–has not brought about the desired unity amongst Roman Catholics. I have personally spoken with and corresponded with Roman Catholics–individuals actively involved in their parishes, regular attendees at Mass, etc., who have held to a WIDE range of beliefs on a WIDE range of topics. One need only read the pages of “This Rock” magazine to know that you have conflicts with traditionalists over every conceivable topic, from the Latin Mass to modernism in Rome. I’ve been witness to debates between Catholics on canon laws and excommunications and Father Feeney and other items that rival any debates I’ve seen amongst Protestants. And I haven’t even gotten to the liberals in the Roman fold! Obviously I don’t need to do that, as the point is made. If Sola Scriptura is disproven by the resultant disagreements amongst people outside of Rome, then Roman claims regarding the Magisterium are equally disproven by the very same argument.
But my main reason for addressing the common argument made by Roman apologists is that it reveals something important about Rome’s view of man himself. Dr. Cornelius Van Til often commented on the errors of Rome regarding their view of man, and how these errors impacted every aspect of their theology, and he was quite right. We see an illustration right here. Rome’s semi-Pelagianism (I am talking to a Roman Catholic right now in another venue who makes Pelagius look like a raving Calvinist) leads her to overlook what seems to me to be a very fundamental issue. Let me give you an illustration: Let’s say James Akin writes the PERFECT textbook on logic. It is completely perspicuous: it is fully illustrated, completely consistent, and it provides answers to all the tough questions in plain, understandable terminology. It covers all the bases. Now, would it follow, then, that every person who consulted this textbook would agree with every other person who consulted this textbook on matters of logic? Well, of course not. Some folks might just read one chapter, and not the rest. Others might read too quickly, and not really listen to Mr. Akin’s fine explanations. Others might have read other less-well-written textbooks, and they might import their understandings into Mr. Akin’s words, resulting in misunderstandings. Most often, people might just lack the mental capacity to follow all the arguments, no matter how well they are expressed, and end up clueless about the entire subject, despite having read the entire work.
Now the question I have to ask is this: is there something wrong with Mr. Akin’s textbook if it does not produce complete unanimity on questions logical? Is the problem in the *textbook* or in the people *using* the textbook? In the real world it is often a combination of both: a lack of clarity on the part of the textbook and a problem in understanding on the part of the reader. But if the perfect textbook existed, would it result in absolute unanimity of opinion? No, because any textbook must be read, interpreted, and understood.
Let’s say the Bible *is* perspicuous, in the sense that Westminster said, that is, that “those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.” Does it follow, then, that there must be a unanimity of opinion on, say, infant baptism? Does the above even say that there will be a unanimity of opinion on the very items that “are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation”? No, obviously, it does not. And why? Because people–sinful people, people with agendas, people who want to find something in the Bible that isn’t really there–people approach Scripture, and no matter how perfect Scripture is, people remain people
Now, Roman apologists may well say, “See, you’ve proven our point! You need an infallible interpreter to tell you what the Bible says because you are a sinful person, and hence you need a sinless, perfect guide to tell you what to believe!” Aside from the fact that such a concept itself is absent from Scripture, and is in fact countermanded by Scripture (did not the Lord Jesus hold men accountable for what GOD said to THEM in SCRIPTURE?), we need to observe that Rome is not solving the problem of fallible people. Once Rome “speaks” the fallible person must still interpret the supposed infallible interpretation. The element of error remains, no matter how much Rome might wish to think it has been removed. Indeed, beyond the problem of interpreting the infallible interpreter, you still have the fallible decision of following *Rome’s* absolute authority rather than, say, Brooklyn’s, or Salt Lake’s, or Mecca’s, or whoever’s. That remains a *fallible* decision, and hence the longing for that “infallible fuzzy” that comes from turning your responsibilities over to an “infallible guide” remains as unfulfilled as ever.
Finally, the argument put forth (plainly seen in the arguments used by Karl Keating in _Catholicism and Fundamentalism_) is even more pernicious, in that it attacks the sufficiency of Scripture itself. We are seemingly told that the Holy Spirit did such a poor job in producing Scripture that while the Psalmist thought it was a lamp to his feet and a light to his path, he (the Psalmist) was in fact quite deluded, and was treading very dangerously. Instead of the glorious words of God spoken of in Psalm 119, we are told that such basic truths as the nature of God, including the deity of Christ or the personality of the Holy Spirit, *cannot* be derived solely from Scripture, but require external witnesses. And why are we told this? Well, it is alleged that arguments can be made *against* these doctrines on the basis of Scripture passages. Of course, one could argue against ANYTHING if one is willing to sacrifice context, language, consistency, etc. But are we really to believe the Bible is so self-contradictory and unclear that we cannot arrive at the truth through a whole-hearted effort at honestly examining the biblical evidence? That seems to be what those across the Tiber are trying to tell us. But it is obvious that just because the Scriptures can be *misused* it does not follow that they are *insufficient* to lead one to the truth. Such is a flawed argument (no matter how often it is repeated). The *real* reason Rome tells us the Bible is insufficient is so that we can be convinced to abandon the God-given standard of Scripture while embracing Rome’s ultimate authority.
Why has Patrick Madrid failed to respond to the demonstration of his misrepresentation of sola scriptura? I believe it is because he has no way of responding to the simple demonstration of the fact that the main argument used by Catholic Answers against this great truth is simply fallacious. To admit this would not only mean he plainly lost the debate (who can claim to win a debate when he has to misrepresent the doctrine under discussion?) but it would require him to admit that the arguments used by Catholic Answers for years have been nothing but smoke and mirrors. Such is a difficult thing to admit.
The demonstration of the use of a straw man argument by Mr. Madrid tells us about the perspective of Catholic Answers. The fact that the head of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, was willing to defend Madrid’s “redefinition” of Sola Scriptura is even more revealing. Shortly after the debate was over a friend of mine, Doug Palmer, noted the “redefinition” tactic on the part of Patrick Madrid. Being a scholastic debate judge, Doug engaged Karl Keating in a discussion of the topic on the Catholic Information Network. I finally jumped in, and the following post appeared in February of 1994. The lines that begin with “JW>” indicate my words to which Karl is replying.
JW>Buzz. Sorry, Karl, but any one JW>who has listened to the debate JW>knows that Patrick did not deal JW>with MY affirmative JW>proposition, because he used a JW>definition of Sola Scriptura that JW>*I* did not present.
Assume this is an accurate statement and that Pat used a definition different from yours. So what? He wasn’t debating James White’s definition. He was debating what he (and I and many others) consider to be the real-world definition of Sola Scriptura as found among “Bible Christians.”
Please note that the resolution of the debate didn’t define sola scriptura. That was up to the debaters. If they wanted to use slightly different definitions, they had a right to do so.
Whether or not your definition agreed with Pat’s (and I don’t think they were far apart at all), the debate wasn’t about fixing a definition. It was mainly about arguing whether particular verses supported sola scriptura. THAT argument can be carried out even if the debaters differ a bit on their definitions.
By the way, Pat wasn’t supposed to deal with YOUR affirmative proposition, but with the affirmative proposition found in the resolution, and that’s what he did. Debate propositions are framed in the resolution itself, not in the first speaker’s opening statement.
Try to imagine how Mr. Keating would respond if the roles were reversed. Let’s say that I debated Mr. Keating on the Immaculate Conception, and, after his opening statements, decided to present my own definition of the doctrine. Or let’s say we were debating Papal Infallibility and I said to Mr. Keating, “Now, I believe this doctrine means that Popes are supposed to be sinless, so how do you explain Alexander VI or John XII?” Would Mr. Keating feel it was “OK” for me to redefine his doctrines and then insist that he defend my redefinitions? Of course not. He would rightly protest that to be fair I must accurately and honestly portray the Roman doctrines as they are defined by Rome. Yet, seemingly, the men of Catholic Answers do not extend this treatment to others. Here, the President of Catholic Answers seemingly says, “Hey, sure, Patrick used a different definition, but so what? Who said he had to debate your definition?” A fascinating admission indeed!
And so we see the first glaring example of the straw man form of argumentation. Patrick Madrid used a definition of Sola Scriptura that is contradictory to the doctrine as it is stated by Protestants themselves. For any person who feels a debate must be weighed by how well each person interacts with the issues themselves, Mr. Madrid must be disqualified from the start.
Straw Man Number Two:
Madrid’s second attempt at misdirection is related to the first. As the reader may have noted in my opening statements, I presented the concept of a bicycle shop and its sufficiency to equip me to ride a bicycle. For some reason Patrick, to this day, has failed to grasp the significance of what I was trying to say. A number of people from all sorts of different backgrounds have listened to my analogy and understood it easily. But Patrick continues to think he has somehow rebutted what I had to say. Note his words:
In the debate White used the analogy of a bike shop that contains everything necessary to equip a bike enthusiast for riding. Comparing the bike shop to the Bible, the shop could be called “sufficient” for a bike ride. He seemed fairly giddy with confidence until I pointed out that although the shop might provide all the equipment, it presupposed the customer knew how to ride a bike, this being analogous to knowing how to use Scripture correctly. Bike shops can equip customers with all the necessary paraphernalia, but they can’t teach them how to ride.
The problem with Patrick’s response is that it utterly misses the point I made. First, I did not say the bike shop was “sufficient for a bike ride.” I said that the shop I frequent is able to provide to me all the things necessary for me to function as a cyclist: helmets, gloves, tires, etc. The point, obviously, is that I do not have to go to two different bike shops to get what I need. Since the one is able to equip me fully, then it is obviously sufficient in the task of equipping the bicyclist for the task of riding. The analogy is that since Paul says the Scriptures are sufficient to equip the man of God for his work as the man of God, there is no need for a second source of “equipping,” that being the Roman concept of oral tradition. In the context in which I presented it, the analogy is perfectly valid. For Patrick’s rebuttal to be valid I would have to believe that the Bible alone “saves” men and makes them Christians, an absurd idea since, of course, I believe it is God who saves men by the work of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, etc., all of which is revealed to us in Scripture. Secondly, it is not a matter of the proper use of Scripture as Patrick attempts to tell us, but rather the sufficiency of Scripture itself. This goes back to the previous point of the “perspicuity of Scripture” and Madrid’s false representation that Protestants don’t believe Scripture can be misused.
Patrick attempted to push his confused rebuttal of my analogy even after I pointed out his error. To use his words,
White responded that since 2 Timothy 3:17 specifies that the man of God is made fully equipped, this implies the man of God will know how to use Scripture correctly. White’s equanimity disappeared [can Mr. Madrid relate anything I say without taking a shot? The original had read, “His smugness disappeared. . . .”] when I asked how he decides who is “a man of God” and who isn’t. I used the controversy within Protestantism over infant baptism to provide a graphic illustration of how White’s argument that “the man of God knows how to use Scripture correctly” begs the question.
The begging of the question is obviously being done by Mr. Madrid. The issue is not who is, and who is not, a man of God, but the sufficiency of the Scripture to equip the man of God for the work of the ministry. Madrid is admitting, though he seems oblivious of the fact, that he, not I, was straying from the topic of the debate, and that due to his misrepresentation of the doctrine at hand. The issue is not who is the man of God? or is it possible for even a man of God to misuse, or misunderstand, Scripture? The issue will always be, Does the Bible need supplementary revelation outside of itself to equip the man of God? Madrid’s attempt to drag the debate off into infant baptism and the like was nothing more than a smokescreen based upon his own misunderstanding of sola scriptura.
Straw Man Number Three: If a person listens to the debate and then reads Mr. Madrid’s article, they will be surprised to discover how his recollection differs from the reality. This can be seen most clearly in Patrick’s rearrangement of the topics as they were covered in the debate. Seemingly trying to get a few more digs out of a limited amount of material, the actual order in which information was presented ends up almost backwards in the final product found in TWMB. Most striking is the fact that Madrid makes it appear in his article that I presented my case for sola scriptura on the basis of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 only after Madrid brilliantly destroyed all my other arguments. Note his words on page 15 of TWMB:
But James White is a resourceful fellow. He dug deeper into his bag of tricks, coming up with what he hoped would be the show-stopping argument. He told the audience that since the passage says Scripture will make the man of God “competent” (artios) and “thoroughly furnished” (exartizo), it implies the sufficiency of Scripture. But this argument fails.
How Patrick is able to read my mind, I have no idea. He surely does not undertake the task with much success, at any rate. The reader will note that I did not “dig deeper into” any “bag of tricks,” but instead had made this part of my opening statement. Madrid purposefully misleads his readers by implying that I had to go to this argument since my previous arguments had been refuted, which is simply not the case at all. It is in his frantic attempt to overturn the plain meaning of this passage he makes the statement, already cited, that “For Sola Scriptura to be true, Scripture must be sufficient to settle all doctrinal disputes and quandaries.” We have already seen how far from the truth such a statement is.
At this point Madrid attempted to rescue his scholarly reputation, which had been fairly badly damaged in the debate, given that he was utterly incapable of interacting with the information I presented in the debate itself. By doing his homework “after the fact,” he comes up with allegations that I, in fact, am the one who made the errors regarding the lexical meanings of terms. But in the process he made an elementary blunder. Note his words,
But, as I pointed out, the lexicons he cited listed “sufficient” as a third or fourth translation of artios and exartizo. None listed “sufficient” as the primary or even secondary meaning. This is an important point. Lexicons list meanings beginning with the most common and ending with the least common.
Two items. First, if Patrick knew what those lexicons actually said, why didn’t he bring this out? Reason: he didn’t know. He was simply going on his recollection of my own words. Second, it must be that Mr. Madrid does not have a lot of experience looking items up in a Greek lexicon. Meanings are listed normally under grammatical forms, not “primary” or “secondary” meanings. One of the lexicons I cited is based upon semantic domains, which lists words in groups with related meanings, again making Madrid’s statement, drawn, obviously, from looking up terms in English dictionaries or the like, meaningless. How did he actually respond to my words? By dismissing them as the mere opinions of those dreaded Protestant scholars who, as we know, all have a hidden agenda against Rome! Note his statement:
I am not going to debate what this Protestant Greek scholar may or may not have said. First of all, they’re Protestant, so they’re naturally going to give a spin to something that a Catholic scholar might see something different in. Now Mr. White might respond by saying that, “Well, Greek is Greek, Mr. Madrid, you can’t argue on the basis of ideology or politics.” I’m going to save that for some future point, simply because we don’t have the time to go into what the Catholic scholars say on that issue. So I’m not going to go into that now.
Patrick could not “go into that now” since he was incapable of doing so. He was unprepared for the materials I presented.
Paul and Timothy
A fellow Roman apologist. Robert Sungenis, has undertaken to defend Patrick’s position, again in America Online. Sungenis joined Madrid as a fellow debater at the CURE debate in early March, 1995, and he joined Scott Butler in a debate against Rob Zins and myself at Boston College in April, 1995. Since I went over many of the issues Madrid raised in TWMB, I shall allow my response to do “double duty.” Using a publicly-posted message also provides a good example of how the “give and take” of debate takes place. Materials indented and in smaller type refer to a previous post by Robert Sungenis to which I am replying.
As I understand your argument, since the man of God is sufficiently equipped for every good work, then this presumes that the Scripture is the sufficient source from which he attains this sufficiency. I will respond on that basis.
If I may contextualize your comments. Representatives of Catholics Answers have asked, for many years, for just *one* verse that teaches sola scriptura. Of course, one might well say that they could hardly ever admit that one verse teaches the doctrine, for this would be the end of Roman Catholicism as they define it. But when I debated Patrick Madrid in September of 1993, it had been clearly decided that the subject would be “Does the Bible Teach Sola scriptura?” Patrick had specifically asked that we not debate patristic sources. And so I determined to provide Patrick with that verse.
My argument was rather simple: if the Bible asserts that 1) it is A rule of faith; 2) it is SUFFICIENT to function as the rule of faith; and absent the proof on the part of Mr. Madrid of some other infallible rule of faith, my position would be established. I pointed out the impossibility of proving universal negatives, that is, I refused to allow Patrick to do what the folks at CA have done many times before–by focusing in upon the negative, rather than the positive, aspect of the doctrine. What is more, I defined the doctrine as it has been defined by historic statements of faith. Unfortunately, Patrick decided he liked HIS definition better than mine.
Anyway, regarding the passage under discussion, I have asserted that the passage teaches Sola Scriptura in this way: first, it asserts the unique nature of Scripture. Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed. Nothing else is ever said to be theopneustos in Scripture. The passage contextually is all about the Scriptures. Paul said that the Scriptures are able (ta dunamena–an interesting use of the participle at this point) to make Timothy wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (which makes one wonder about Karl’s recent attempt to keep the Scriptures from having “abilities,”–yet the Scriptures are here personalized as being able to make one wise). It is right on the heels of this amazing statement that we find verses 16 through 17. Right after saying that the Scriptures are able to make one wise unto salvation, we are told that they are also able to equip the man of God for the work of the ministry. Not just *part* of the ministry, but for a full-orbed ministry of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
Now, while I did not have time to develop things in the debate, I wish to point out that here you have the assertion that the Scriptures are profitable for teaching, “didaskalian.” This term is quite important to Paul. He uses it in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written TO TEACH US, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” It is also used in Titus 2:10, “not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn THE DOCTRINE of God our Savior in all things.” This is, of course, the normal term for “doctrine.” See its use in Eph. 4:14, Col 2:22, 1 Timothy 4:6, and 2 Timothy 4:3. The Scriptures, we are told, are God-breathed AND THEREFORE are profitable for teaching, that is, for presenting the doctrines of the Christian faith. I point out that we are never told that anything else is profitable for doctrine, are we? One might ask, then, where we find such concepts as the Bodily Assumption of Mary in Scripture, and yet it is defined as “didaskalia” by Rome, is it not?
The same is to be said of the other terms Paul uses here–each describes a phase of the work of the minister of God. Why is this important? Because of what comes next: “in order that (hina) the man of God might be complete (artios), thoroughly furnished (sufficient) for EVERY (pan) good work.” The phrase “good work” must be defined in the context that precedes it: teaching, rebuking, etc. The man of God is complete BECAUSE OF the nature of Scripture. That is the significance of the hina clause, as you well know, Bob. I’m sure they taught Greek rather thoroughly at Westminster, right? The hina clause shows us that the God-breathed nature of Scripture results in the sufficiency of the man of God in his work in the ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ.
It was on this basis that I asked Mr. Madrid if he thought teaching that the Pope is infallible is a “good work.” If it is a good work, then Paul taught that the Scriptures were sufficient to equip the man of God to teach that doctrine. Yet, we find no Popes in Scripture, and we surely find no reference to their infallibility. So, how can this be explained?
Of course, I did not present only this passage. I presented Matthew 15:1-9 as well. But the debate never turned to that passage–it focused upon 2 Timothy. Now, I return to your response:
First, I am sure you are aware that artios and exartao are not clearly understood as meaning “sufficient,” especially in the absolutistic way in which I think you are defining trying to define it. Bauer, Liddell and Scott, Arndt and Gingrich, and others do not include sufficiency in their definitions. As I understand there are a few lexicons that do give sufficiency as the definition. Please let me know who they are.
I was under the impression that you had listened to the debate. Possibly I was in error. I gave the references when I presented the information. Again the background: in Denver Patrick Madrid had demanded to be shown a single verse that says the Scriptures are “sufficient.” He repeated the charge over and over again. It seems rather inconsistent to then complain when shown the very thing you have been asking to see! Be that as it may….Louw and Nida define the term exartizo, “to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something–to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy.” And Reinecker and Rogers have, “artios, fit, complete, capable, sufficient; i.e., able to meet all demands…exartizo, completely outfitted, fully furnished, fully equipped, fully supplied.” Patrick had specifically denied that the term *sufficient* could be used in the passage at hand in Denver.
But my rebuttal is not so much concerned with the definition of artios or exartao as the presumptuous links you are making between the man of God and the Scripture. Let me explain. The link I see between the S(criptures) and the man of God is the four disciplines of “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. These four disciplines are what make the man of God artios or exartao, not the S themselves, although they play a part in the result.
According to _Surprised by Truth_, you once prided yourself on being called “Bible Bob.” Well, if that is the case, then I would have to point out that the passage we are looking at defies your attempt to remove the nature of Scripture from the result of their nature, that being the sufficiency of the man of God. Scripture is modified by what two terms in 1 Timothy 3:16? By theopneustos and ophelimos. Ophelimos is followed by pros, introducing a clause explaining for what the Scriptures are profitable. This is followed by the hina clause of verse 17. Now, are you trying to say that the hina clause is somehow to be separated from the main statement of the preceding sentence, and is, in fact, giving us the result of ONLY the four “disciplines”? Surely you can see that since both theopneustos AND ophelimos are modifying graphe, you cannot avoid the fact that it is Scripture, the same Scripture that was able to make Timothy wise unto salvation, that is in Paul’s mind when he speaks of the sufficiency of the man of God and his being equipped for every good work.
If you try to establish the meaning and extent of S by using the possibility that the man of God is artios and exartao, then you must also understand the extent of S if the man of God fails to become artios or exartao.
It is a common error to drag the *extent* of the graphe into this passage: that is obviously not Paul’s intention. Paul’s point is plain: the man of God can be artios and exartizo only through the work of the graphe. The idea that a man of God may not use the Scriptures aright, or may have sin in his life, or any other such thing, is, quite honestly, a rather poor dodge, though it was certainly part and parcel of Patrick’s response in San Diego.
Allow me to illustrate this by again referring to my bicycle shop story. I referred to a bicycle shop that is able to equip me thoroughly for the task of riding a bike. I pointed out that I did not need to go to another bicycle shop so as to ride my bike. The one bicycle shop was *sufficient* to *equip* me for the task of riding my bike. Now, I think the illustration is very plain. Yet, Patrick seemed to completely miss the point. His response was, “But can that bicycle shop teach you to ride?” Which, of course, is not the point. Only bicyclists go into the bicycle shop to be equipped to ride a bicycle. The point is not that Protestants believe the Bible exists alone, in a vacuum. We are not insisting that the Holy Spirit is unnecessary, or that there is no Church. We are not saying that we do not learn things from the preceding generations, or from each other. All of that is a rather pitiful straw man. We are saying that when it comes to doing the work of the man of God, he has a sufficient and infallible rule of faith that is God-breathed, and therefore certain. He does not have to go from one insufficient rule of faith to the next insufficient rule of faith. He has one, sufficient, rule of faith. Just as I only have to go to one bicycle shop, so the man of God need only go to one infallible and sufficient rule of faith.
Now lets say I decide I’m not going to take my bicycle in for maintenance anymore. I ignore the clicks and clacks that start to develop, and, eventually, my bike breaks down. Is that the bicycle shop’s fault? Does my foolishness indicate an INSUFFICIENCY in the bicycle shop? Of course not. So if men of God disagree with one another, and hold to traditions of men rather than the fullness of God’s truth in Scripture, does this indicate an INSUFFICIENCY in Scripture? Of course not! Such is the common reply of Catholic apologists, however. Not only is the argument in error in that it makes the Scripture liable for my own sinful disregard of its teachings, but it is a self-refuting argument, for it is obvious (and Patrick has admitted as much in conversations with me) that there are wide differences amongst those who call themselves Roman Catholics today. Does this mean that the Teaching Magisterium is somehow IN-SUFFICIENT as well? Only if one uses the absurd and silly definition of “perspicuous” that Patrick used in our debate can one come up with that kind of argument.
No, Bob, you need to look again at what you were taught at Westminster. What did the Confession say again? “that not only the learned, but the unlearned, IN A DUE USE OF THE ORDINARY MEANS, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” Patrick’s argument ignored the doctrine *as it is defined and believed by Protestants,” and hence, I submit, he lost the debate.
If the main component of your definition fails, then this reflects directly on the subordinate component, that is, S. In other words: if you say a sufficient man equals a sufficient S, then it must also be true that an insufficient man equals an insufficient S. This syllogism is demanded by the premise that you set up.
I think we can see that your argument is utterly without merit. I hope you are able to see this as well, Bob. It fails for the following obvious reasons:
- It operates on a false representation of Sola Scriptura (i.e., one that involves an absurd idea of “perspecuity” and one that ignores the “use of the ordinary means”).
- It ignores the fact that Protestants recognize growth in grace, the interference of sinful attitudes, traditions, etc.
- It erroneously assumes that failure on the part of a man to follow the truth as found in Scripture somehow means the Scriptures are insufficient to teach him that truth. Obviously, if this were the case, your argument would disprove the sufficiency of the Teaching Magisterium on the exact same grounds. An argument that refutes your own position is not a good argument, Bob.
I believe a better way to see the links in 2 Tim. 3:17 is to understand, as I said in the last post, that the four disciplines are what make the man of God artios or exartao. If he fails in becoming artios or exartao then he has not been exercised by the four disciplines.
A very ingenious way of looking at it, but again, I believe it fails the test of the text itself. First, the phrase “man of God” appears only one other time, and that is in 1 Timothy 6:11, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” This is Paul directly addressing Timothy. Hence, we must see that it is the man of God who is the doer of the “four disciplines,” that is, the man of God is teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing in righteousness. This is further demanded contextually by the fact that obviously the four disciplines are “good works,” for which the man of God is thoroughly equipped, and that by Scripture. And beyond this, what is the basis of teaching, if not Scripture? What is the basis of reproof, if again, not Scripture? Hence, your interpretation cannot be supported by the text itself.
The Scripture is static in the sense that its words do not change, and therefore it cannot be held responsible for the failure of the man of God to become artios and exartao. But the four disciplines are not static. They increase or decrease in effectiveness depending on how they are taken in by the man of God. Of course, the Scriptures are inspired and thus the man of God can have complete confidence that what he reads there is absolutely true. Hence, the S is “profitable” (Greek: ophimilos) to stir him to exercise these four disciplines.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, this is misunderstanding of the passage. Not only this, but the passage nowhere says the Scripture stirs the man of God up by teaching him, rebuking him, etc.; instead, the Scriptures, because they are God-breathed, are profitable FOR teaching (who teaches, if not the man of God?), for rebuking (who rebukes, if not the man of God?), for correction (who corrects, if not the man of God?) and training in righteousness (who trains, if not the man of God?). The man of God draws from the Scriptures so as to teach in accordance with sound doctrine, and the point is, HE NEED NOT DRAW FROM ANY OTHER SOURCE SO AS TO BE ABLE TO TEACH SOUND DOCTRINE.
But whether the man DOES exercise the disciplines is not dependent so much on S, but on his own makeup as a man of God. He must ask himself the question every day: do I want to be artios and exartao today? Well, if he does, the S are a “profitable” source to gain the disciplines necessary to become artios or exartao.
While all of that may be true, it misses Paul’s point, and defies the context and form of the passage, as explained above. And, I repeat, the failure of a man of God to use the equipment provided by God in the “ordinary means” does not in any way speak to an insufficiency in the Scriptures, but to the character of the man. To say otherwise, as Patrick did in our debate, is to completely miss the entire point.
Considering the argument I am raising that the four disciplines are what make a man artios or exartao, (the (S)cripture) being profitable or useful in exercising these four disciplines), if, on the other hand, Paul had said “the S are inspired and sufficient” or “the S are inspired and perfect or complete for teaching, reproof…in order that the man of God may be artios and exartao,” then I believe one could make at least a reasonable case that S would be the only necessary source. But Paul choose “profitable,” a rather fractional and incomplete word to convey sufficiency.
Fractional and incomplete? Only if you are seeking to find a nearly creedal statement of something that is already plainly a part of the belief structure of the Apostle and Timothy, that being the sufficiency of Scripture itself. The fact remains that the man of God, who is called, as Timothy is called, to teach (passages already cited), to reprove, correct, etc., is equipped for this work by the God-breathed Scriptures. This does not mean that the man of God does not need the Spirit of God; this does not mean that the man of God will ignore the godly lives of his predecessors, or will never learn anything from the writings of the early Fathers or other great men of the faith. It also does not mean that the man of God will not study Greek and Hebrew, church history, OT and NT backgrounds, and any host of other things. Anyone who says Sola Scriptura denies these things is engaging in little more than smoke blowing. What it does mean is that when the man of God is called upon to teach sound doctrine, he has a sure, sufficient, and infallible rule of faith in Scripture. He does not need to wonder what is, and what is not, “inspired tradition.” He does not need to be concerned about whether the words of this church leader or that are to be taken as equally authoritative with Scripture. And he does not need to inquire of the current theological opinion of the majority, either. Thanks be to God men like Athanasius did not bow to majority opinion, for as Basil said, “Let inspired Scripture decide between us.”
I believe the reason he chose a weaker word like “profitable” is that S is not the only source that will exercise the four disciplines of teaching, reproof, etc. The passage is not giving a dissertation on epistemology as much as it is giving the means to help in making a man artios and exartao. In support of this, in the context Paul lists several sources to which Timothy can turn to help him become the perfect man he wants to be.
Of course, I believe I have demonstrated that you have gone off course already, and that the context of the passage indicates that it is the man of God who is doing the teaching, etc. Indeed, I wonder if you would comment on Karl Keating’s recent post, in which he indicated that since the Scriptures are not personal, we should not speak of them as being “infallible,” since they cannot “take action.” If teaching, rebuking, correcting, and instructing, are not actions, what are they?
For example, in 2 Tim 2:21 Paul specifies one of the primary ingredients needed to make a “useful” man of God, namely, the cleansing away of bad influences and behavior. Paul says, “if a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master `prepared to do every good work.’ Notice that the end result of 2 Tm 2:21 is the same as that found in 2 Tm 3:17, that is, to make a “fit” or “useful” man so that he is `prepared to do every good work.’
The problem here lies in the confusion of the *source* of the man of God’s ability to engage in the work of the ministry in the church (which is the topic of 3:14-17), and here, which is the subject of sanctification in the person’s life. Note closely Paul’s words: “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes,” literally, a vessel unto honor. Note Paul is addressing personal behavior here, as is made plain in the next phrase, “made holy,” that is, sanctified. We are talking about the process of sanctification in the life of the man of God, but we are not talking about the source from which he draws so as to teach, reprove, rebuke, etc. Paul goes on, “useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” The term “prepared” is not artios or exartizo. It is a term that differs markedly in its semantic domain: hetoimazo, which specifically speaks of making preparations, of becoming prepared and ready. This is right in line with the context: Paul is talking about a man purifying himself, denying godlessness and walking in a godly fashion. This is just what hetoimazo refers to. But in chapter 3 he speaks of sufficiency and capability because he is not talking about something the man himself does, but of the perfection of the source from which the man of God draws: the God-breathed Scriptures.*
*Unfortunately, Mr. Sungenis did not allow this rebuttal of his use of 2 Timothy 2:21 to hinder him from presenting the very same passage in the CURE debate a few months later, though he never rebutted this information when it was presented to him.
Trying to keep Timothy strong against the those who have a form of godliness, Paul continues in 2 Tm 3:10 and says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings.” Hence, one of the other sources upon which Timothy can draw to become the fit man of God is Paul’s teaching and way of life.
Surely this is hardly a denial of sola scriptura, Bob.
Also, Paul says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2 Tm 3:14).
Again, this in no way denies either Sola Scriptura or the defense I have made of it in this series of posts. If you feel it does, please indicate how.
In referring to what Timothy has “become convinced of,” Paul is calling upon Timothy’s thinking and reasoning abilities to help him become the fit man of God prepared for every good work.
Which is, of course, perfectly in line with the doctrine of sola scriptura. You made mention in your conversion story of reading Van Til. Surely you are not going to say that Reformed people would assert that man’s thinking and man’s reasoning is a denial of the supremacy of the Scriptures, are you?
Paul also refers to “those from whom you learned it.” In using the plural, Paul is referring to all the teachers Timothy has had. They have taught him to be the things he needs to know to be the perfect man of God he wishes to be, prepared to do every good work.
Yes, so? Surely again you are not suggesting, are you, that this in some way violates sola scriptura?? I would be most disappointed if you were to attempt to erect that straw man. To be relevant to your denial of sola scriptura, you would have to be able to demonstrate that what he was taught by his mother and grandmother went *beyond* the Scriptures, *outside* of the Scriptures, and *supplemented* the Scriptures. Of course, you can’t prove that, since Paul goes on to say that those very Scriptures are able to make Timothy wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.
Finally, Paul speaks of the “holy Scriptures” which he has known since a child which are able to lead one to “faith in Christ.” This is also one of Timothy’s “profitable” sources to make him the man he wants to be.
Contextually, of course, Paul nowhere says, “Now Timothy, you, as the man of God, when you teach doctrine, when you exercise discipline–in short, when you do the work of the ministry in the Church, can draw from all these different sources, none of which is sufficient in and of itself.”
Since these “holy Scriptures” must refer to the OT, and since Timothy was a child when learning them, it would take a very astute teacher draw out the message of “faith in Christ” from the OT. Again, we see that the Scriptures are dependent on reliable teachers to bring out the message.
The Scriptures are dependent upon reliable teachers? Or we are dependent upon reliable teachers? There is, of course, a huge difference. We have a reliable teacher, of course, or should I say Teacher? But the Scriptures are dependent upon no one. They have the ability naturally due to what they are: God-breathed. To strip away their ability is a very sad thing to see. Again, Bob, you have been deceived if you think that recognizing the role of godly parents or teachers is somehow a violation of the sufficiency of Scripture.
In conclusion, 2 Tm 3:16-17 should not be used to prove SS.
I believe we have seen that while your attempt has been a brave one, it has failed to carry its weight.
Paul is not dealing with such high order topics in the context.
Surely you jest! The fact that the Scriptures are able to make one wise unto salvation is not a “high order topic”? The fact that the man of God is made complete so as to be able to do the work of the ministry in the Church is not a high order topic? If these are low order topic, pray tell what is a high order topic? And what is more, if Sola Scriptura is true, why does it have to be confined to “high order topics” in Scripture?
His chief concern is to make Timothy a “fit” man of God, prepared for every good work.
Ironic, is it not, that here I am the one taking a view of the passage that speaks of the majesty of the work of the man of God in the Church, the central importance of the preaching and teaching of the Word in the Body, etc., and you are the one reducing the passage to a discussion of how a man of God might simply be “fit”?
Paul’s teaching and example, other teachers, Timothy’s own practice of purity and his own reasoning abilities, and the Scriptures all play a part in this task.
It would seem, sadly, that you are making Paul’s teaching, his example, Timothy’s godly teachers, and Timothy’s mind, authorities that must be added to the Scriptures for them to be sufficient and complete. Surely such is not the case, for again, such would only demonstrate that one of the 11 folks in _Surprised by Truth_ managed to spend many years as an Evangelical Protestant without gaining a knowledge of some of the most basic elements of the faith. And if that strikes you as harsh, look at it from another angle: If I was a former RC, and I claimed to have once been an ardent student of Roman theology, a graduate of a prestigious Roman Catholic school, an inveterate opponent of Protestant theology, should I not expect to be held to a fairly high standard when it comes to a knowledge of my former beliefs? Should I not be judged harshly if, in fact, I misrepresent my former beliefs? I would think that is obvious. For example, if I were to enter a debate with you–let’s use our impending debate in Boston as an example. Let’s say I was the former Roman Catholic and we begin debating the Papacy and I get up and say, “Now, Mr. Sungenis is going to have a hard time tonight, because I’m going to demonstrate that there have been a number of Popes who were real nasty characters. I’m going to talk about the Borgia Pope and all the things that happened when he bought the Chair of Peter, and all of this is going to disprove the Roman Catholic idea that the Pope is sinless.” You would, of course, immediately respond that Roman Catholics have no doctrine of impeccability for the Pope, and you would be quite right. And you would probably have to point out that I must have been a pretty clueless Catholic to believe that Rome has ever taught “papal impeccability” in the first place, and again, you’d be right. So why, I must ask, do you so easily embrace the straw men created by such folks as Scott Hahn and Patrick Madrid? Surely you knew Chapter 1, Section 7 of Westminster, did you not? How could you graduate from Westminster and not know it? If that is the case, how then can you not only listen to Patrick say that studying Greek is contrary to sola scriptura and say nothing, but even pick up his errors? I think *that,* in reality, is a better candidate for your term, “sola ego,” than sola scriptura is. (N.B. : This is in reference to Mr. Sungenis’ statement in his conversion story in Surprised by Truth: “My seventeen-year experience with Protestant biblical scholars had made one thing very clear to me: Sola scriptura is a euphemism for ‘sola ego'” (p. 119).
My primary purpose in writing this article is to provide a full response to Patrick’s errors regarding the biblical doctrine of sola scriptura. Having done this, I now turn to providing a response to the many “myths” (a politically correct way of avoiding the dreaded “l” word) promulgated by Mr. Madrid in the pages of TWMB. There are so many errors, half-truths, and misrepresentations in this article that they are difficult to catalog. The following errors not only illustrate the attitude of Catholic Answers with reference to Protestant ministries and ministers who would reply to them, but they give us a good insight into how Catholic Answers gets around arguments they can’t refute. Namely, if you blow enough smoke, engage in all sorts of misdirection, and make a lot of noise about other issues, you’ll probably fool most of the people you need to fool. Material in brackets marked with “orig.” refers to the first edition of the article published by Mr. Gallegos in the Catholic Information Network.
Patrick’s Myth: “Alpha & Omega Ministries . . . has carved a modest niche for itself . . . producing tracts and tapes attacking Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and, of course, Catholics. He and his followers pride themselves on their adversarial methods of witnessing to ‘cultists.’ ” Reality: As Patrick well knows, our tracts and tapes are, as his James Akin admitted, “some of the more soberly written” materials. His purpose is brought out in the final sentence. He wants to present us as being “adversarial” in our methodology. Of course, Patrick has never been present when we have been actively involved in tracting the General Conference of the LDS Church, or outside the District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even when I was in Denver during the Papal visit it was Patrick, not I, who was engaged in some rather loud discussions with a Seventh-Day Adventist. My conversations in Denver were quiet and restrained. We are known amongst all the security guards at the Sale Lake Temple for our demeanor and restraint. Unfortunately for Patrick, the reality of our ministry would not detract from my credibility, so he has to make these things up as he goes along.
Patrick’s Myth: “At least once yearly White and his friends [orig.: “helpers”] descend on Salt Lake City during the Mormon Church’s biannual General Conference. Armed with anti-Mormon tracts, they station themselves at each entrance to Temple Square and hand out literature telling Mormons why they are going to hell.” Reality: The semi-annual General Conference takes place very six months; we have been at the last 22 consecutive Conferences. We do indeed pass out tracts, but it would be just as fair of me to say that Catholic Answers “passed out tracts in Denver telling Protestants why they are going to hell” as it is for Patrick to so caricature our own literature. If he hasn’t seen our tracts, then he has no basis for making such statements; if he has, he’s obviously guilty of misrepresentation.
Patrick’s Myth: “I mean he craves debates. He chases after Catholic apologists [orig.: “any Catholic apologist who will take notice of him”], issuing challenges to debate, appearing almost frantic to goad someone, anyone, into a fight.” Reality: It’s hard to know where to start with such a statement. My first debate challenge came, ironically enough, from Gerry Matatics of Catholic Answers. I had sent a copy of my book, The Fatal Flaw, to Karl Keating, and soon received a phone call from Matatics inviting me to debate sola scriptura. The next debates, again with Matatics while he was still associated with Catholic Answers, were arranged jointly between the two sides. Mr. Madrid was actively involved in arranging the two debates between myself and Matatics in December of 1990. He even sent a letter to the local CA representative in which he prayed that I and my “followers” would be confused and rebutted. (N.B.: The prayer went unanswered, at least in a positive way, as the debate was a clear victory for us, and, interestingly, within less than six weeks Gerry Matatics was no longer with Catholic Answers. Tapes of this debate, moderated by Scott Hahn, are available from Alpha and Omega Ministries.) When I debated Dr. Mitchell Pacwa in January of the next year, I was contacted and invited to debate in that case as well. The “debate” with Dr. Art Sippo was again arranged by Catholic Answers. I had never even heard of Art Sippo, so how I could have “chased” him around is hard to understand. Gerry Matatics called me and invited me to debate him on Sola Scriptura in Omaha the next year. Scott Butler contacted me and invited me to debate on the Papacy at Boston College in April of 1995. And so on and so forth. The idea that I have to chase apologists around is simply silly.
Have I challenged Catholic Answers to debates? I sure have. I have challenged them to do what, to date, they have been unwilling to do. I have challenged Karl Keating to debate on a half dozen different topics. He won’t do it. I challenged them to debate the Papacy during the Papal visit; they declined, giving reasons that later events showed to be less than genuine. Why have I challenged them to debate? Is it because, as Patrick says, I am merely an “obscure anti-Catholic” who desires “notoriety and legc Answers and others, when the sufficiency of Scripture to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church is established, the argument very quickly turns away from the actual topic of the debate to the issue of, “Well, canon. We need to talk about canon!” They are related issues, but they are not the same issue, and I would be glad to debate canon issues with Mr. Madrid, too.
And when Patrick asked me, “How do you know that Matthew wrote Matthew, and what is your basis for accepting it? Is it because he was an apostle? Or because he had the approval of an apostle, in the case of Mark or Luke? How do you know? What is your basis?” I replied, “Well again we stray from the topic, but it is a common question that is utilized all the time.” Any person who listens to the debate knows full well I answered Mr. Madrid’s questions, even when they were not on the direct topic of sola scriptura.
Next Patrick says that I raised all sorts of irrelevant issues. A few of the items he cites were never mentioned in our debate. For example, you will search in vain for any reference to Michael or to angels. No one ever said a word about that. As to the “chair of Moses,” that is a favorite passage of Roman apologists, and hence I brought it up to provide a response to the Roman claims regarding it. Patrick himself had raised the issue in our personal correspondence earlier in the year (he dedicated nearly a whole page to the passage in a letter to me dated April 27, 1993). I’m glad to see he now recognizes that the passage is irrelevant to sola scriptura, but I do wish he’d tell his fellow apologists about it. And with reference to the other topics, here are my comments from the debate. How “irrelevant” were they?
And you need to listen to every presentation that is made by the Roman Catholic apologists because there is an underlying assumption, you see. As soon as you hear all these passages–and we’re going to take the time to look at 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and all the rest of that–here’s the assumption, that if you hear about a spoken tradition, if you hear about, for example, here Timothy hearing things in the presence of Paul, those things must contain information, like maybe the Immaculate Conception or Bodily Assumption of Mary, or Papal Infallibility…they must contain some different data that is being passed on, rather than what’s in Scripture. There’s the problem. I challenge Mr. Madrid to show us any bit of evidence that any time that the term “tradition” is used in Scripture, where the Christian Church is passing it on, that it means that what is in that tradition differs from what’s in the New Testament. That’s the assumption that must be proven by the Roman Catholic for these citations of these passages to be relevant at all.
As the reader can see, my comments are very relevant, as I am referring to doctrines that Rome has defined on the basis of that ever-nebulous “tradition” that Mr. Madrid wants us all to believe in and yet seems unwilling to defend. And so we see two falsehoods packed into only one sentence of a footnote of TWMB: a very high “falsehood content” rating indeed!
One could go on for a long time, but one final myth will be sufficient. Patrick’s Myth: I quote from TWMB:
In most debates, after the closing remarks and the final prayer, the participants shake hands. Not so in this case. White was visibly upset with the outcome of the debate and did not offer his hand. For the next half hour he and I, separated by a few feet, conversed one-on-one with members of the audience. We were surrounded by persistent folks who wanted to comment or ask questions, and we had little chance to speak to each other before we left.
Maybe just as well. He’s so hardened in his hatred of the Catholic Church that I knew there was nothing I could say or do to convince him of his errors.
Reality: No one should be surprised that after spending an entire article doing nothing but putting the best possible “spin” upon his own inability to deal with the data, Patrick would close by declaring himself the winner. The idea that I was “visibly upset” is, quite simply, silly. His attempt at mind-reading failed–miserably. I do not recall if we shook hands or not. I do recall that I was immediately surrounded by folks with lots of questions. I remember Patrick speaking to a group at the far end of his table, and I was busy on the far end of mine. Eventually I went out to the book table, grabbed a couple of my books on Catholicism, and gave them to a couple with whom I had been speaking for a while. It was while we were outside that Patrick and his family left. Now, if I wanted to try to “make myself look good” I’d assert something about how Patrick looked, and what this must have meant. Instead, I will give you my own personal opinion of the situation. When I looked at Patrick he looked rather disheveled. Then again, I probably did to some extent, too, by that time. But the thought that crossed my mind was that Patrick looked embarrassed, upset, and rather angry at the whole situation. He struck me as a person who had been defeated, and he knew it. Now, that was my impression at the time. Whether it has any validity I leave up to those who hear the debate and read the transcript. One thing is for certain: it never crossed my mind to run home and write an article about how Patrick Madrid “was visibly upset with the outcome of the debate.” I never felt any need to make such a proclamation in print. I will allow the reader to decide why Patrick felt such a need.
A Burden Lifted
There are many other issues that could be addressed, but space will not allow further discussion. It would be profitable to examine Madrid’s statements on the canon of Scripture, and note how he had to move away from the Old Testament and use only the New (since the historical reality of the formation of the OT canon refutes his position). But such will have to be left for another time.
If you have read all the way to this point, you are either a supporter of Catholic Answers or someone mighty interested in the integrity of that organization. I hope you will take the time to listen to the debate, read the materials, and seriously consider what the preceding data indicates. If you are one who has been taken in by the arguments of groups like Catholic Answers, I hope you will consider well the wisdom of looking just a little closer. And if you have abandoned the firm foundation of the God-inspired Scriptures for the promised land of infallible certainty promised by Rome, I truly hope and pray you will reconsider your action in light of what you have read in these pages. Ask the men of Catholic Answers to answer the questions raised in this material. Ask Mr. Madrid why he has to misrepresent Sola Scriptura in his debates and in his writing. Ask Mr. Keating why he won’t defend “Sacred Tradition” in public debate. And most of all, ask God to guide you into His truth.