It is good to be with you this evening on a rather chilly evening outside. You need to remember that in Phoenix it has not been this cold in probably about 3,000 years. But I enjoy it, the air is clean and it is good to be with you here in Omaha.
I want to take you back, as we discuss sola Scriptura this evening, to the period following the Council of Nicaea in 325. You may recall from your church history that the Council of Nicaea the full deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ was affirmed by the council–that Jesus Christ was not a creature, he was not a created being– yet you may also be aware that in the period that followed the Council of Nicaea, for the next number of decades, Arianism reigned supreme in the Church. For example, Athanasius, the great bishop, was driven from his See five times during the period of time following Nicaea because of the political activities of the Arians. During that particular period of time, Athanasius, writing to his friend, Adelphius, against the Arians, wrote the following. Please listen closely.
“Such then, as we have above described is the madness and daring of those men (speaking of the Arians). But our faith is right and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and tradition of the fathers, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old. For the Prophets say, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ which is being interpreted ‘God with us.’ What does that mean, if not that God has come in the flesh? While the apostolic tradition teaches in the words of blessed Peter, ‘For as much then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh’ and in what Paul writes, ‘Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.'”
Now why do I bring this to your attention? First of all, if you read Athanasius’ letter, he argues solely from the Scriptures as the rule of faith against the Arians. He argues that this is what defines what Christians are to believe. In fact, if you listened to the passages that he cited, for example, Titus 2:13, a passage that I have often cited in dealing with modern Arians and there are many of them out there today–Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Way International, individuals who deny the deity of Christ–Titus 2:13 is one of the passages that I have frequently used as well. He uses those same Scriptures and he defines the apostolic tradition by the words of Scripture. Apostolic tradition, in this letter from Athanasius, refers to the Scriptures and that may explain why this same writer, Athanasius, said, for example, “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth.” And he also said, “These canonical books are the fountain of salvation so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them. In these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel. Let no man add or take away from them.”
When the early Church Father, Basil, was attacked by his opponents regarding his beliefs about the Godhead, he replied much like Athanasius. When his opponents talked about the customs they had he responded, “If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them.” Listen closely. “Therefore, let God-inspired Scripture decide between us and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the Word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth.”
Now we have come here this evening to discuss sola Scriptura. Well, what does that mean? Well, first, I’d like to start with the negatives, what it doesn’t mean, because I’ve discovered there’s a lot of confusion about what it does mean. Let me tell you some of the things it doesn’t mean. First of all, it is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. It is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. The Bible is not exhaustive in every detail. In John 21:25 we read that if everything that Jesus said or did had been recorded that the world itself would not be large enough to contain the books that would be written, but it does not have to be exhaustive, either, to be the rule of faith for the Church. We don’t need to know the color of Matthew’s eyes. We don’t need to know the menu of each of the apostolic meals of the Lord Jesus by the Sea of Galilee to have a sufficient rule of faith for the Church. Curiosity that goes beyond what God has revealed is not godly.
Secondly, it is not a denial of the Church’s authority to teach. I Timothy 3:15 describes the church as the pillar and foundation of the truth. And what is the truth? The truth, of course, is Jesus Christ. And how do we know Jesus Christ? We know Jesus Christ from his Word. The Church teaches truth and calls men to believe in the truth, calls men to believe in Jesus Christ. But the Church does not add revelation or rule over the Scriptures. The Church, being the Bride of Christ, listens to the Word of Christ, which is found in the God-breathed Scriptures.
Thirdly, it is not a denial that God’s Word was, at one time, spoken. Apostolic teaching was authoritative in and of itself, yet the Apostles proved their message from Scripture. You’ll note, for example, Paul’s example, in Acts 17:2 or Apollos in Acts 18:28 demonstrating the consistency that existed between the message that they preached and the Old Testament Scriptures. And remember, also, that John commended those in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2 for testing those who claimed to be Apostles, and how would they have done that, if not by the Scriptures?
And finally, number four, it is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church. It is in no way a denial that the Holy Spirit is absolutely, positively necessary for anyone to have a full understanding of the Scriptures because they need to be spiritually discerned.
What then, is Sola Scriptura?
Well, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura simply states that the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fide, the rule of faith, for the Church. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture and in no other source. That which is not found in Scripture is not binding upon the Christian conscience. To be more specific, I provide the following definition. The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement. Their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation. Their authority is not dependent upon man, church or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting and self-authenticating. The Christian Church looks to the Scriptures as the only and sufficient rule of faith and the Church is always subject to the Word and is constantly reformed thereby.
Now I want you to recognize that I am emphasizing that the doctrine of sola Scriptura is based upon the inspiration of Scripture. Now that term, inspiration, that you will find, for example, in II Timothy 3:16, is really not the best way of rendering the term. The Greek term, theopneustos, is best rendered as “God-breathed.” And in fact, in the New International Version, that is how it is rendered. In II Timothy 3:16 we read that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” We learn from this that Scripture’s authority is God’s authority. You don’t have Scriptural authority over here then God’s authority over here. You don’t have different authorities in the Church. The authority of the Church is one: God’s authority. And when God speaks in Scripture that carries His authority.
Notice, for example, from the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 22 when he is talking with the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, he says, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God, for in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels in Heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead have you not read what God spoke to you, saying ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'” Please notice that from the Lord Jesus’ perspective that which was found in Scripture was God speaking and he held those men responsible for what God had said to them, even though what was spoken had been written a thousand years earlier. Scripture is God speaking to man. It is theopneustos. God-breathed.
Note as well Peter’s words in II Peter 1:20-21, “Knowing this first of all that no Scriptural prophecy ever came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For no prophecy ever was born by the will of man. Rather, while being carried along by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.” That is why the Scriptures can function as a rule of faith for the Church, because they are God-breathed. What God says is the final authority for the Church.
The great reformer of Geneva, John Calvin, said concerning this, “This, then, is the difference. Our opponents (speaking of the Roman Catholic Church) locate the authority of the Church outside God’s Word, that is, outside of Scripture and Scripture alone. But we insist that it be attached to the Word and to not allow it to be separated from it. And what wonder if Christ’s bride and pupil be subject to her spouse and teacher so that she pays constant and careful attention to His words. For this is the arrangement of a well-governed house. The wife obeys the husband’s authority. This is the plan of a well-ordered school, that there the teaching of the schoolmaster alone should be heard. For this reason the Church should not be wise of itself, should not devise anything of itself but should set the limit of its own wisdom where Christ has made an end of speaking. In this way the Church will distrust all the devisings of its own reason. But in those things where it rests upon God’s Word the Church will not waiver with any distrust or doubting but will repose in great assurance and firm constancy.”
Now, I think I can speak for Gerry to say that he does not deny that the Scriptures are inspired or inerrant. In fact, we spoke about that on the phone this week. He does not deny that. And I have to bring that up because there, unfortunately, are many Roman Catholics today who deny the inerrancy of Scripture and the full inspiration of Scripture, just as there have been liberal Protestants who have done the same thing. I believe that Gerry Matatics will agree that the Scriptures are a rule of faith for the Church. They are part of the rule of faith for the Church. But Mr. Matatics denies that the Scriptures are the rule of faith for the Church alone. The Roman Catholic Church claims there’s something missing from the Protestant understanding. Something needs to be joined to Scripture, that when you put the two together gives you the complete picture. According to Roman Catholicism what is missing is oral tradition. Oral tradition. Oral tradition, the spoken Word of God and the written Word of God, together making the whole Word of God sacred tradition with a capital S and a capital T.
For most Roman Catholic writers sacred tradition is made up of both the written tradition, which is Scripture, and the oral tradition, which the Council of Trent defines as follows, “It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles, from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitting as it were, from hand to hand. Following then, the examples of the orthodox father, who receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence, all the books, both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both. Also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession.”
Though it has changed with time Vatican II said, “It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accordance with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others and that all together and each in its own way, under the action of the Holy Spirit, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. She has always regarded the Scriptures together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith and will ever do so. Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition as its primary and perpetual foundation.”
Now this assertion of a second inspired source of God’s truth has led, I feel, to some tremendously false beliefs. For example, John O’Brien, author of the popular work The Faith of Millions, wrote in a pamphlet entitled Finding Christ’s Church, “Great as is our reverence for the Bible, reason and experience compel us to say that it alone is not a competent nor a safe guide as to what we are to believe.” That is certainly not what I believe to be the faith of the Church historically or in any other way. As time permits this evening we shall see that such was not the view of the Apostles, of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prophets of old or the early fathers.
But right now, I want to focus our attention on what this debate must be about. To defend sola Scriptura is, in a sense, impossible. Why? Well, because sola scripture is a negative. It is a statement that there is no other source of authority for the Church. Let me give you an example. If I pull out this pen here and say, “This pen is absolutely unique. It is the only pen like it in all the world.” How would I prove that? How could I prove that this is the only pen like it in all the world? I would have to go to every desk drawer, to every store in all the world and have to get on a spaceship and go to the moon and to Mars and to every planet in the cosmos and search everywhere to find out if there’s another pen like this. I couldn’t prove it. But, if I came in and made this assertion, that this is the only pen like this in the world, it would be very easy for Mr. Matatics to win that debate. Know how? He gets in his car, he goes down to the local business store, or stationery store, or whatever it is and he goes in and gets a Cross Medallist pen and he brings it in and stands up at the podium and he puts it next to this one and says, “See, there’s another one just like it.” And the debate’s over. The debate’s over. The uniqueness of this pen has been shown to be false.
Well, the Roman Catholic position must demonstrate that that the “oral tradition” that is supposed to exist not only contains revelation from God that differs in content from what is found in the New Testament, but that this “oral tradition” is theopneustos, that is, God-breathed, inspired. Without such a demonstration, the denial of sola Scriptura is empty and meaningless. Remember the title of the debate. We are talking about an infallible rule. Is the Bible the only infallible rule? And the only way to demonstrate that’s wrong is to point to another infallible rule, that when placed next to Scripture shows that Scripture is not unique in being God-breathed, inspired revelation from God. That is the task that lies before us.
Now when the Mormon people, for example, claim that they have revelation outside the Bible in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the teachings of the Living Prophet in Salt Lake City, I challenge them on the basis of the inconsistency between the pretended revelation they put forward and the Scriptures themselves. They teach two different things, so obviously the Holy Spirit is not the author of both. In the same way I challenge the Roman Catholic claim that there is an additional revelation from God–this mysterious oral tradition that supposedly needs to be added to the Scriptures to have all that God would have us to have.
Now, to win this debate, since Mr. Matatics already agrees with me, I believe, that the Bible is inspired and, hence authoritative, he must demonstrate that there is an oral tradition that is both unique in its contents, that is that it contains revelation other than what we have in the New Testament or the Old Testament and that it is inspired on exactly the same level as the New Testament, that is that it is God-breathed. If not, if it is on some lower level of inspiration, if it is not God-breathed, then obviously you cannot unequally yoke it with the Bible. It cannot be an equal authority. Oral tradition must be inspired in exactly the same way as the Scriptures for it to function as Rome has claimed.
Now, how would be go about looking at this subject? Well, I notice that the flier said to bring your Bible, so I hope that you did. I’d like to ask you to look with me at Matthew 15:1-6. I will begin, as time is fleeting, with verse 3, “Jesus replied, ‘Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother and anyone who curses his father and mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me as a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to honor his father with it. Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
You’re probably familiar with the background. The Korban rule. The rule that allows you to dedicate your material possessions to the temple, and hence not have to support your parents in their aging years. It’s not my intention to go into the background so much as to point out the principle that is here presented to us. The Jewish people believed that their traditions were divine in that they had been given to Moses and passed down to that current generation. Now I don’t know if there’s anyone here tonight who believes that. I don’t. I don’t think that the Roman Catholic Church believes that the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees or the Sadducees were in point of fact divine traditions that had been handed down from Moses to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the point is, that that’s what they believed and so what did the Lord Jesus do? What he tell all of us to do? To test that teaching, that tradition, not just corrupt tradition, any tradition, on the basis of the Scriptures. “Thus (verse 6) you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Obviously the Word of God does not fall into the category of tradition in that passage, does it? And yet it does in so many Roman Catholic writings as a part of sacred tradition. Tradition is tested by Scripture.
Now one of the most important passages that we need to look at is II Thessalonians 2:13-15. Let me read just verse 15. I’ll read verses 13 and 14 in a moment. “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught either by word or by a letter of ours.” Now it is alleged by Roman Catholic apologists that here you have a positive command to pass on the oral tradition as a separate tradition, separate from the written, that this is to be passed on through the Church down through the ages. But is that what we have here? No, this is a command to stand firm and hold fast to a single body of traditions already delivered to the believers. There is nothing future about this passage at all. He says to stand firm and hold fast to traditions that will be delivered? No, already has been delivered to the entire church, not just the episcopate, not just the bishops, but to everyone in the church at Thessalonica.
This single body of traditions was taught in two ways. First, orally, that is, when Paul was personally with the Thessalonians, and by epistle, that being the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. Now, what does the term “orally” refer to? For the Roman Catholic to use this passage to support his position, two things must be established. First, that the oral tradition element refers to a specific passing on of revelation to the power of the episcopate and secondly that what is passed on is different in substance from what is found in the New Testament.
With reference to the first issue, we note that the context of the passage is the Gospel. Note again the verses which immediately precede verse 15–verses 13 and 14, “But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brethren loved by the Lord, for God chose you from the beginning for salvation by the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through faith in the truth, unto which he called you by our Gospel, so that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The traditions of which Paul speaks are not traditions about Mary or papal infallibility. Instead, the traditions Paul is talking about is simply the Gospel message itself. Note what he said in his first epistle to the Thessalonians about what he had spoken to them, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
Now, in II Thessalonians 2:15 Paul says to “stand firm”, the Greek term, stekete. He also uses that term in I Corinthians 16:13, when he says, “Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong.” What Paul is saying in II Thessalonians 2 is that we are to stand firm in the Gospel message which has been preached to the people. There is nothing here about Immaculate Conception or papal infallibility, or some second source of inspired revelation whatsoever.
In the brief two minutes I have left, please turn with me to II Timothy 2:2. “But you, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. And which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these things entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others. Join in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Now did Paul teach something different in the presence of many witnesses than he taught in his epistle to the Romans or the Galatians? Certainly not. The deposit that has been given to Timothy is not different than what we have in Acts, Romans or Galatians. And I’m not the first one to argue that.
I will close my presentation by reading from the early Church Father, Tertullian, who addressed this very passage when refuting those false teachers of his day who claimed that the Apostles had two different teachings, one which was open and known to all and a second, secret doctrine known only to a few.
He says, “But here is just said the same madness and their allowing indeed that the Apostles were ignorant of nothing and preached not any doctrines which contradicted one another but the same time insisting that they did not reveal all to all men. For that they proclaimed some openly and to all the world, but they disclosed others only in secret and to a few because Paul addressed even this expression to Timothy, ‘O, Timothy guard thou which is entrusted to thee,’ and again, ‘That good which is committed unto thee, keep.’ What is this deposit? It is so secret as to be characterized as a new doctrine or is it a part of that charge which he says, ‘This charge I committed unto thee, son, Timothy’ and also that priesthood to which says, ‘I charge thee in the sight of God who quickeneth all things and before Jesus Christ who witnessed a good confession under Pontius Pilate that thou keep this commandment.’ Now what is this commandment and what is this charge? From the preceding and succeeding context it will manifested there is no mysterious hint darkly suggested in this expression about some far-fetched doctrine, but that a warning is rather given against receiving any other doctrine than that which Timothy had heard from himself, as I take it, publicly before many witnesses,” is his phrase.
I agree with him about that and as time allows this evening we will continue to look at what the Bible says about the concept of tradition and the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
I want to thank all of you for coming out this evening and sharing with us in this debate. I want to thank my esteemed colleague here, Mr. James White, for being willing to come and to debate me again. We’ve had some debates before in the past and he pays me a compliment in being willing to debate me again. And I would like to finally tell all of you why, very briefly, I was willing to come out here and to engage in this debate.
I do so, primarily out of the motive of love. Love, first of all for you. And love, including of course, for also, my friend and fellow human being, Mr. James White. He is someone for whom Christ died, as are each one of you, as I am and Christ, who loves us so very much, came into the world as he said to Pontius Pilate, to bear witness to the truth. Jesus Christ believed that the truth is something that you and I can know, can be sure of. And he said, “If you continue in my word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” He promised the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples into all the truth.
And that’s the second and perhaps the more important reason that I wanted to have this debate with Mr. White tonight. Not only out of love for my fellow human beings, for neighbors, as God commands, but out of love for truth, which is really, ultimately, out of love for God, who is truth, Himself. And I believe that if you came tonight you believe in truth, also. You believe that there is such a thing as truth, with a capital T. And that this truth can be known and you believe that if a certain proposition is true, such as the proposition that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith in practice, then the opposite proposition must be false. You believe, in other words, in what we call the law of non-contradiction. If you don’t believe in the law of non-contradiction then ultimately, I think you would have to conclude, if you reasoned it out, you don’t believe in God, or at least you don’t believe in the God that the Christians worship. The God who is truth as opposed to error. The God who affirms right as opposed to wrong. The God who says, for example, that if murder is wrong, that if the preservation of life is right, then murder, the taking of innocent life, is wrong. That if a certain style of life that is correct than the opposite, the distortion, the perverse of that kind of life, is wrong.
The Bible speaks of truth and error, right and wrong, light and darkness. And it commands us to give ourselves, every day of our lives, afresh to God and ask Him to show us the truth and to give us the courage to stand for the truth and to change our opinions when God, in His mercy, in His undeserving grace, shows us that what we formerly held to be true was wrong. That was the case with me, because, for those who may not know my background or my story, several years ago and for several years, I believed exactly what Rev. White believes and what he has very effectively, very eloquently proclaimed tonight: the Protestant principle of sola scriptura.
This was one of the two great principles that sparked the Protestant Reformation. One was sola fide, that we are justified by faith alone and that no action on the part of any man can be added to the work of Christ, or is necessary to make us righteous in the sight of God. The other was sola scriptura, that we arrive at the truth of God’s Word by Scripture alone and that Scripture can act on its own to bring us the fullness of Christian faith.
The Reformers, John Calvin, Martin Luther and others, were willing to risk the whole Reformation on the truthfulness of these two principles. Repeatedly in their sermons and their writings they said, “If either of these two principles can be shown to be erroneous then even though we have been driven by what we believe in sincerity, and in an honest desire to reform the Church and to proclaim the Gospel, then all of what we are doing is a revolutionary movement absolutely elicit and illegitimate in the eyes of God, and we should recant, we should retract, we should repent and we should recognize that though we thought we were fighting error, in fact we ourselves have been guilty in spreading the most pernicious error imaginable.”
I have changed my position on sola scriptura against my own initial prejudices, my own initial convictions, nurtured and sustained in my own Protestant seminary training and in my life as a Protestant minister. When I began to study the case for Catholicism, I was amazed and overwhelmed to discover that the Catholic Church rejected sola scriptura, this principle which Mr. White has explained and supported and stood up and defended before you, on the basis of the fact that it is not taught in Scripture itself and that is the basis upon which I want to explain why I reject it and I believe every Bible-believing Christian, whether you call yourself Protestant or Catholic or something else, ought to, in honesty and in obedience to God, reject the principle of sola scriptura.
So this is a debate and this is a discussion about truth. And I think it’s appropriate then, since tonight is, or is supposed to be, about truth and is not primarily a contest in cleverness or an exercise in ingenuity or any type of beauty contest between Mr. White or myself. As a matter of fact, I am quite willing to concede that Jim, in a Protestant standard, might be a far more faithful Christian than I am. He might be a far more intelligent man than I am. I certainly believe that he is a far better prepared apologist than I am, given the week that I had have to go through.
As a matter of fact, I will take moment here to make an aside and to say that I, in all honesty, and humility, do not believe that I am actually the best person qualified to rebut Mr. White or Protestantism. There is someone that I got to speak with, as a matter of fact, for the very first time yesterday. We spent a little bit of time on the phone yesterday. And, as a matter of fact, this gentleman, a Catholic apologist by the name Vincent Lewis, has challenged Mr. White to debate him on this or on any issue of Mr. White’s choosing. And I am convinced, that even from a one-time conversation with Mr. Lewis, that he would do a far more capable, competent, and I believe absolutely indestructible job of presenting the truth of the Catholic faith and critiquing and absolutely demolishing the fraudulent but ultimately, I believe, unscriptural basis of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura than I am able to do. And I promised Mr. Lewis that I would say something and that’s why I have to take the time now, although its robbing me of the time I want to share, I promised him that I would publicly renew the challenge to Mr. White to respond. If Mr. White is really interested in putting up the principle of sola scriptura against the very best, most competent critic possible, he really owes it to, I think his own reputation as a courageous man, but to his own commitment to intellectual honesty to meet Mr. Lewis in some debate format, whether in writing or publicly or on the radio or something. And Mr. Lewis, in his rather characteristic braggadocios style, has said that unless he does he brands himself someone who doesn’t have the courage to really to stand up against the one who is the very best on this issue. He says, “Please, Mr. White, meet me in debate on this or sue me for liable but put an end to this cloud that might hang over your reputation otherwise.” And I hope that Mr. White will do that.
I would like to say, although I feel not as competent as I would like, still, that my sole motive here is to really proclaim the truth of God. And I would like to begin by therefore, taking a public vow with my hand upon the Sacred Scriptures, which Mr. White and I both accept as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. We agree on that. We agree that this is the only inspired, inerrant book, the only inspired, inerrant, written Word of God. And with my hand on the Sacred Scriptures I would like to publicly vow before God to do the following in my time with you this evening:
To tell the truth about sola scriptura. When asked to question, to give a straightforward and honest answer, a “yes”, a “no”, an “I don’t know” if I don’t know the answer to the question. If I don’t understand the question, to ask for clarification. If I make a contradiction in anything that I say, in presenting my own position, to admit or to resolve the contradiction, to recognize that since God is a God of truth and if we are all agreed that “A” can also be “not A,” the law of non-contradiction stands, that the principle of sola scriptura is either true or it is false and that God, therefore, either agrees with Mr. White or myself. And, that in a sense, He must take sides, not in the persons involved, not in the personalities, but on the two positions and that God will, for those who are willing to study this with an open mind, God will vindicate one position and vanquish the other, refute it.
And I am willing to further swear before Almighty God, before whom I will one day give account as the judge of all the earth, and the one whom I will have to give account, Scripture says, for every idle word I speak, let alone the words that I share in all seriousness and solemnity with you this evening. I am willing to swear before Him and before His holy angels that if I am shown to be wrong in my adherence to the Catholic position or to the Catholic faith as a whole, that I am willing to publicly admit that I am wrong, to recant and, if Mr. White can demonstrate that his faith is the correct one, then I am willing to embrace it, and to convert once again to the Protestant faith. And I would ask, Mr. White, that you, in your time of first rebuttal, would be willing to make the same vow, to swear this same oath before this audience as a sign of good faith?
Now, I would like to, in my remaining moments, explain to you why I rejected six years ago, finally in coming into the Catholic faith, and why I still reject to this day with a clear conscience, with intellectual—– (Tape Switch) —– the doctrine of sola scriptura. I do so for two reasons. It is contrary to faith and it is contrary to reason.
When I say it is contrary to faith what I mean is that I’m willing to meet Mr. White on his own grounds, it is contrary to the faith proclaimed by this book itself, by the Holy Bible. And I am glad that Mr. White mentioned our Lord Jesus Christ’s awesome words in Matthew 15, where He tells us in no uncertain terms that we must reject every tradition of man that nullifies or counters or cancels out the Word of God. I reject sola scriptura precisely because it is a human tradition. It is a tradition of men. It was not taught in the early Church or in the first 15 centuries of church history–contrary to what Mr. White has said, and we will get into the details of his quotes, and the other things those Church Fathers said– until Wycliffe and Luther invented this concept as a way of justifying their revolt against classical Christianity for their own purposes, and their own agenda. It is a tradition of men that goes contrary to the teaching of even the written Word of God and so I reject it and I will seek to demonstrate that here tonight.
And it is also contrary to reason. It is nonsense. I do not say that in a prejudicial, or in an attempt to be flippant or to be disrespectful but I mean by nonsense that it does not make sense. It is illogical. It is logically inconsistent. It is a self-refuting proposition. In other words, sola scriptura can only be true, according to Mr. White’s own criterion, if it is taught in Scripture, since he himself, on the basis of sola scriptura says that he accepts no other authority. There is no other authoritative, infallible source of truth outside of this book. And I will demonstrate to you that the Bible does not teach this and that the concept of sola scriptura has to be imported from outside the Bible and then certain Bible verses read in the light of that presupposition for you to come up with the principle.
Why do I say that it does not tie into Scripture? Well, first of all, let me stress the areas of agreement between Mr. White and myself, the areas in which there are at least formal agreement between our positions.
We both agree that the “Word of God,” whenever that phrase occurs in the Bible, does not refer to Scripture alone. So all statements or quotes from Mr. White this evening that say, “The Word of God is binding,” or, “The Word of God is our only authority,” or, “The Word of God is alone inspired and normative in our life,” are statements that I agree with. I, as a Catholic, accept every statement in Scripture and I accepted those as well. But Mr. White agrees that in the Bible the phrase, “Word of God” is a larger, a broader, a richer, a deeper concept than simply the Scriptures. The Word of God, for example, refers actually to a living person, to the second person of the Trinity who became flesh and dwelt among us and revealed the glory of the Father to us, as St. John says in his prologue in John 1:1ff. When God reveals His Word to the human race repeatedly throughout Scripture it comes often, primarily and initially for thousands of years as far as we can tell, in an exclusively oral fashion. When God’s word brings the world into existence, it is a spoken word. God does not write on a huge blackboard on the sky, “Let there be light,” and then there is light. It is not a writing, it is not a scripture, it is a spoken word. It is a spoken word that comes to Adam, it is a spoken word that comes to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. And as far as we can tell, this spoken Word of God first begins to be written down at the time of Moses. That’s the first record at least we have in Scripture of the inscripturation, of the writing down, of God’s holy and inspired word.
But it continues to be an oral entity and God continues to speak to Moses, and to Joshua and to all the prophets and only a portion of this, only a fraction of this gets written down. Obadiah, for example, is a prophet of God. There is a very slim, little one-page book of Obadiah in the Old Testament with about 22 verses in it. Certainly, as a prophet, Obadiah didn’t just get up every morning and recite those 22 verses and say, “Good-bye, folks” and then go back to bed. He said more in his ministry than is recorded in that book. And when the prophets speak of the Word of God, they are referring to His oral proclamations they had, whether or not they were ever a writing prophet.
The same is true, of course, in the career of our Lord Jesus Christ, extremely so. Since Jesus, as far as we know, never writes anything at all. And yet, He is the Word of God and proclaims the Word of God to His listeners and He says that His word is binding on the consciences of His hearers. They must believe it, they must obey it and they have an obligation, as we all do when we hear truth, to teach it to others and to ensure that it will be passed on. At the end of His life, the provision that Jesus makes for the continuation of His Word is to ordain and to send forth ambassadors, emissaries, whom we call Apostles, “sent ones.” And he tells them to go forth and preach. There is no exclusive command in the New Testament to go forth and write. Some of them do, but most of them do not. And yet those apostles carried out the commandment of Christ to proclaim and to spread and to transmit the Word of God. Even those that did write, such as the Apostle, Paul, certainly their writing was but a fraction, the minority of the way in which they exercised their apostolic ministry of sharing the Word of God. And Mr. White would agree with that. He would agree that there were Apostles who never wrote any gospels or letters, so far as church history or the Scripture itself tells us.
Now, all the truth that Jesus taught and all the truth that the Apostles taught, they were commanded to pass on. He never commanded it be passed on in an exclusively written form. Jesus had this to say about His words, that Heaven and earth would pass away but His words would not pass away, in Matthew 24:35. John, at the end of his gospel, twice in John 30:1 and John 21:25 said that he has only given us a brief selection of all that he could have said about what Jesus said and what Jesus did. He says, “What I’ve written is sufficient to demonstrate to any open-minded hearts that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God and that you could have faith in that and in having that faith have life in His name.” And the Catholic agrees with that. That’s not the issue. We believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, in that sense, to bring someone to faith in Christ. Obviously people come to faith in Christ on the basis of the Bible all the time without reading papal encyclicals or reading Church Fathers or knowing any of the broader tradition, which was entrusted to the Church. The sufficiency of Scripture and sola scriptura are not the same thing and this is a mistake, unfortunately, that Mr. White and other anti-Catholic apologists, frequently make in their writing and in their speaking, and I hope that we can get into that this evening.
Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach everything that He had taught them and the Apostles said the same thing. The Apostle, Paul, at the end of his three years after teaching in Ephesus on a daily basis, could say in Acts 20 that, “I have not been sent here to proclaim to you the fullness of the counsel of God.” And we don’t find that full counsel of God. We don’t find three years of daily instruction by simply reading a letter he wrote to the Ephesians, which takes about six pages in the Bible and takes about a half an hour to read.
The passage, II Thessalonians 2:15, which Mr. White referred to, and which I agree with some of the things which he said about it and disagree with others, commands the Thessalonians to hold fast to all the traditions passed on to them, whether they came to them in oral fashion, or in written fashion. And so the Bible is a tradition. It is part of sacred tradition. It is the written component of that. But there is an oral component, as well, and it is up to Mr. White, of course, to substantiate his claim that there is nothing in the oral component of that tradition which adds to or is anything different than what is stated in the written. Paul says to pass them both on, which doesn’t seem to make much sense if the written does, indeed, contain everything in the oral. Why would there be a need to pass on both? Why not say, “Just stick with the written stuff, folks and then you know you’re safe, you’re on sure ground.”
Now here’s where we do disagree and this is what it all boils down to. This is point to which it all comes. We agree on all these other things. That the Bible is the Word of God. It is the only inspired, infallible, written Word of God. We agreed that the Word of God came in oral fashion in the days of Jesus, in the days of the Apostles to be passed on in an oral fashion. What the Catholic Church teaches is that these standing commands to proclaim the full Word of God and to pass them on and that Jesus would be with the Church until the end of time to ensure its faithfulness in carrying out this mission, that these standing commands have never been revoked. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us that after the Apostles die or that after the canon is closed, that is, all the documents of the Apostles have been collected into a complete book, a collection of inspired books, that at that point we must stop passing on the oral, as well as the written Word f God as II Thessalonians 2:15 commands. There is no teaching, there is no hint in the New Testament that the completion of the written canon retires the Word of God coming to us in oral fashion, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles or by their appointed or anointed successors, as Timothy was, as Titus was, for example.
The burden of proof, therefore–contrary to what Mr. White has attempted to do in shifting the burden of proof, and I will explain what I mean by that in my period of rebuttal–the burden proof remains squarely upon his shoulders. If he is going to prove that sola scriptura is true, that the Bible is the only trustworthy place you can hear the Word of God today, in 1992, for example, or, for that matter, any previous year in church history, then he must show that the Bible teaches this. The Bible foresees an age after the apostolic age during which he admits the Word of God was preached in an inspired, infallible fashion by the Apostles, that a coming age would come in which there would no longer be a proclamation of a normative, oral word. The Bible says absolutely nothing about it. And by Mr. White’s own standard, that he tests everything by the Word of God, written by the sacred Scriptures, that he has no basis, in the Bible for this creed, for this Protestant principle, that oral tradition no longer transmits to us what Jesus and the Apostles taught.
I will also point out to you and to Mr. White in our time this evening that, in fact, for him to hold aloft the Bible and to say that this is the Word of God, he makes himself completely dependent on oral tradition. The only way that Mr. White knows that he has the right books, that these are the books coming to him by the Apostles is by the tradition of the Church, by the oral tradition and by the teachings of the early church outside of Scripture. There is no inspired Table of Contents in the Bible. There is no statement in the Bible that says that Matthew wrote Matthew and therefore we should accept it as inspired, apostolic and canonical. And so, Mr. White, as all Protestants do, bites the hand that feeds him on this, by attacking the authority of the Church.
Thank you very much.
I do not wish to take a great deal of time this evening, because we’re here to discuss sola Scriptura, to respond in regards to Mr. Lewis. When Mr. Matatics and I debated in Phoenix in December, 1990, I asked Mr. Matatics about Mr. Lewis, who is a Feeneyite, who does not believe that anyone outside the Roman Catholic Church can possibly be saved, and at that time I was just informed, well, he’s a Feeneyite and their sort of off and on the fringe. That was the same individual I was talking to you about, Mr. Matatics. I have listened to a number of tapes from Mr. Lewis and I never heard anything more absurd in my life. The man knows nothing about the Protestant position. You called him the best, the most competent. The man does not have any education beyond a high school education. He knows nothing about the Biblical languages. I would liken Mr. Lewis to Jack Chick, Alberto Rivera and Peter Ruckman in ability and I simply have not felt that it would be a proper thing to engage such an individual in a food fight in public which is what his tapes demonstrate he is all about. So, I have no interest in getting into that.
I would like to say, however, that if we’re into offering debate challenges, we have made an open and public debate challenge to Karl Keating and Patrick Madrid of Catholic Answers–in fact, you were in the office, Gerry, when we made it–that has been turned down consistently, the most recent one, to debate the subject of the papacy prior to the coming of the pope to Denver in August of next year. You, yourself, have shown some indication of interest in doing that and I appreciate that, but if we want to talk about debate challenges that have been turned down, yes, I have turned down Vinny Lewis because I have some standards in regards to the scholarly ability of people I debate. That’s why I’m debating you because I know that you’re a scholar in the things that you talk about. Mr. Lewis is not. But, Mr. Keating is a different issue and if you want to talk about who’s not debating who, then I guess we can go into that.
But, you then asked about a vow to God. I will do exactly what Luther did when he stood before the Diet of Worms. When he was told that he must recant, he knew his life was on the line, he said, “It is not good to go against one’s conscience. I am bound to the authority of Scripture,” and as he said, “Heir stehe Ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir.” “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.” And I do stand under the authority of the Word of God and if it can be demonstrated from the Word of God that what I believe is untrue than I will most assuredly follow in that direction.
I wanted to finish a few things from the notes that I did not have the opportunity of presenting to you in the earlier period of time. Mr. Matatics has just again asserted that II Thessalonians 2:15 presents a command to pass on all tradition. But as we saw it, as we took the time to look at it, we saw that no such command is found there whatsoever, that there is no concept, that Mr. Matatics is reading into the text this concept that this oral tradition that differs from what is found in the New Testament that is to be passed on, things about papal infallibility or Immaculate Conception, or whatever else it may be.
Now, we had also looked at II Timothy 2:2. You may recall that. “But you, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these things entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others.” And I read to you in your hearing, what Tertullian said about this and I wanted to point out some passages of Scripture to you that help us to understand what this passing on of the apostolic teaching was all about and that it has nothing to do with what is being presented by Mr. Matatics this evening in regards to this separate oral tradition, which, again, Mr. Matatics must demonstrate the existence of before we can even discuss it.
II Timothy 1:13-14, Paul, writing to Timothy says–the same passage in which he says, “Pass on what I have spoken to you,”–“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” This is what he is to be passing on. The pattern of sound doctrine, the pattern of sound words. And that certainly is what we have in the New Testament is that pattern of sound words. Look at I Timothy 6:20-21, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some profess and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” This is not something different than what you have in Romans or Galatians. This is not something about Immaculate Conception. This is not some oral tradition that exists separately from the New Testament at all.
Look at II Thessalonians 3:6, if you want to see some other passages where Paul discusses this very thing. I don’t hear too many pages turning out there. II Thessalonians 3:6, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” Well, here it is again. NIV uses “teaching,” other translations use “tradition.” Well, where did this tradition come from? Is this some tradition that exists outside the New Testament? No! Look back at I Thessalonians 4:1-2. “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” We are not talking about something that exists separately from the New Testament that is different and in fact that the Church does not even find out about for many, many centuries after they were supposedly delivered. Let me give you an example. Many Roman doctrines that claim tradition as their source were completely unknown for millennia, for example, the Immaculate Conception. As late as the 19th century, we have the Roman Catholic bishop, Milner, saying, “The Church does not decide the controversy concerning the conception of the Blessed Virgin and several other disputed points because she sees nothing clear and certain concerning them either in the written or unwritten word, and, therefore leads her children to form their own opinions concerning them.” Well, he certainly turned out to be wrong, didn’t he?
But the fact of the matter is that is if you go back to the early fathers, you’re not going to find that doctrine–many of the doctrines. For example, in Revelation 12. Who is the woman in Revelation Chapter 12? The vast majority of Roman Catholics today will tell you, “Well, that’s Mary.” Who was she to the early church? Have you ever looked? In the early fathers, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Virgin, is always the church, not Mary. This is something the Roman Catholic scholars have often admitted. Joseph Martos, in his book Doris, the Sacred, when talking about something we will discuss tomorrow evening, the Mass, recognizes that the concept of transubstantiation that was made a part of Roman Catholic doctrine formally in the Fourth Lateran Council, was a mere theory only a hundred years earlier.
So are we to believe, what is this oral tradition? Gerry is talking to us about this oral tradition. What is it? What will it be tomorrow? What will it be a hundred years from now? How are we supposed to examine it? Can we find it some place? Some Roman Catholics think so. It was written down by the early fathers. Okay, let’s go to the early fathers and see if we can find the infallibility of the pope. You’re not going to. What about these things? What is this oral tradition? It is very difficult for me to point out that the oral tradition is not theopneustos when no one knows what it is. But Mr. Matatics has to demonstrate that it is theopneustos, God-breathed, for it to function as a rule of faith for the church. He must also demonstrate that it contains information other than that which we have in the New Testament. And that means that if Mr. Matatics is going to use II Thessalonians 2:15, he must be able to demonstrate that what Paul taught the Thessalonians–remember, the tradition was already delivered, past tense–is what Paul taught the Thessalonians the same as what he is now asserting is oral tradition. Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about the Immaculate Conception? Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about papal infallibility? The bodily assumption of Mary? Are those things what the Thessalonians knew? Where is the evidence of that? I would challenge Mr. Matatics to bring that out.
Now, he said that this concept was not taught in the early church. I would like to read just a few passages for you. For example, when the great early Father, Augustine, long after the Council of Nicaea, wrote a letter to Maximun, the Arian. Again, here come the Arians again. Why is that important? Well, because the Arians deny a very central foundational doctrine of faith, the deity of Christ. When he wrote to Maximun, the Arian, he knew that Maximun could cause him some problems. Do you know why? Because there were church councils held during the Arian ascendancy that denied the deity of Christ. Sermium, Arminum, church councils that erred, that made mistakes on that subject. And so what did Augustine say? “I must not press the authority of Nicaea against you, nor you that of Arminum against me. I do not acknowledge the one as you do not the other. But let us come to ground that is common to both, the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.” Where is the oral tradition? Why don’t we say, “Well, oral tradition teaches the deity of Christ, and you must bow to it.” That’s not what he does. He argues from Scripture to demonstrate that.
Augustine, again, “Let us not hear, ‘This I say, this you say’ but ‘Thus says the Lord.’ Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we both agree and on which we both believe. Therefore, let us seek the church. There let us discuss our case in the Scriptures.” He says, also, “Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other, not from divine, canonical books but from elsewhere. Some may perhaps ask, ‘Why do you want to remove these things from our midst?’ Because I do not want the Holy Church proved by human documents but by divine oracles.” There are so many that hopefully we’ll have the opportunity of getting into them, but I wanted to read just a couple others in regards to some of the statements that Gerry had made just a few moments ago.
For example, Augustine again, “What more shall I teach than that what we read in the Apostles, for holy Scripture speaks as the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought. Therefore, I should not teach you anything else except to expound you the words of the teacher.” The rule of our doctrine it speaks by what? Scripture plus tradition? Scripture plus oral tradition? I don’t believe so. Basil. Listen to what he says, “The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.” That is what I believe. We should test anything we are taught by our teachers by what standard? By papal encyclicals? Vatican II? The Council of Trent? No, by the inspired Scriptures.
And finally, Mr. Matatics was making comments concerning the written and the oral word. I want to read from Augustine again, “You ought to know this and particularly store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian.” Listen closely: “For when he offered himself to them to touch,” (he’s talking about the resurrected Lord) “this did not suffice him unless he also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures. For he foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read.” Even in the resurrection of the Lord, he confirms their hearts from the Scriptures because he knew that someday they would not have something to touch but would have something to read. My friends, that is what I’m talking about here. And I want to again emphasize that Mr. Matatics must demonstrate that this oral tradition, what he is wanting us to accept as being authoritative beyond this, must be God-breathed. He must be able to define what is in it outside of what’s in here and that it is God-breathed. That, truly, is the focus of the debate.
Thank you very much.
When the quotations are flying, it’s tough to keep track of all of this, and I hope that you will bear with both of us. But, I’m very glad that Mr. White is bringing before us, in his presentations this evening, the quotations of the early Church Fathers. I will admit that it is impossible for a person presenting either side on this or any other issue, to selectively take citations from the fathers which seem to make the father’s support one’s own position and not the other one. But I would encourage Mr. White, as I encourage myself, to make sure we do not descend to that particular level. In particular, I’m very sad that Mr. White, and I don’t want to misunderstand or misrepresent you, Mr. White, are you saying, are you asserting that St. Augustine, as a bishop of the Church, never appealed to sacred tradition that was anything other than what is actually explicit statements in Scripture? Okay, we’re going to have to see, tomorrow evening, for the second debate, whether, in fact, St. Augustine said that or not. He has all kinds of references to the importance of tradition. As a matter of fact, all of the church fathers, while saying all the marvelous things they said about sacred Scripture, which Mr. White read–all of those citations are absolutely correct–never taught that Scripture alone was the only thing that they could appeal to for one simple reason: The people they are seeking to refute appeal to Scripture.
Mr. White began, actually, by talking about the Arian controversy. Arius was a priest, a presbyter in the church at Alexandria, who was denying the full deity of Jesus Christ and was claiming that the Scripture was on his side. It’s kind of the same, frustrating response that you deal with a Jehovah’s Witness, a modern-day Arian, as Mr. White indicated today, who will say, “Look, I reject the teaching that Jesus is God and I do so because the Bible teaches that God is greater than Jesus and that Jesus isn’t God.” In other words, they will appeal to Scripture alone. And many of the early church fathers think Vincent of Loren, in his famous —– (Tape Switch) and making the statement that from time in memorial, every heretic who has departed from the teaching of the Church has always claimed that the Scripture was on his side. An appeal to Scripture to back up your position is in and of itself insufficient to demonstrate that you are in line with Scripture. Why? Because you and I are fallible human beings. And we might think that Scripture is on our side, as Arius did, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, but the Scripture is not a living being, a person, although it is the Word of God and is that powerful thing at work in our lives, nonetheless, it cannot sort of get up on the table and say, “Wait a minute. You’re misrepresenting me.” It cannot jump out of your hands when you’re quoting it if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness or a this or a that and you are, in fact, misunderstanding the Scripture.
It is possible to abuse the Word of God, and as a matter of fact, Peter reminds us and warns them solemnly about that in II Peter 3:16-17 when it refers to the Scriptures that Paul has written. He calls them Scriptures. But he says in these Scriptures there are many things which are hard to understand, which the unstable can misunderstand and can twist to their own spiritual harm. There is a very real possibility, and Mr. White and I would both agree, that the history of the Church is littered with the spiritual carcasses of those who have thought the Word of God was on their side, when, in fact, it was not.
It is the case that Athanasius met people on their own terms as I said I would today. The fact that I said I will prove the Catholic position from Scripture…I will not “take encyclicals” as a way of demonstrating to Mr. White since he doesn’t accept their authority that my position is right. But it would be a foolish person if there was someone out there taking notes on this debate who would say, “Oh, Mr. Matatics must agree with sola scriptura, too, because he’s only going to quote from Scripture and that’s all that he I heard him quote from basically to prove his points.” You see, I’m meeting Mr. White on his own grounds. And so, all of those quotes–and if you listen to them very carefully as I did, and if you didn’t, then I would encourage you to ask Mr. White to let you look at them again during the break or to tell you where they are so you could get them yourself and read them carefully–all of them are agreeing to meet the heretics on their own terms. That is what Athanasius was saying. That is what Basil was saying. That is what Augustine is saying, It’s not that he explicitly says it. He says, “Because I will not appeal to the Council of Nicaea because you do not accept it as I do not accept your extra-scriptural authority.” And so I will quote what you do and at least formally acknowledge the Scriptures. And the fact that he restricts it to Scripture does not mean that for Augustine that was the only authority around. As a matter of fact, this same Augustine said all kinds of things about the teaching authority of the infallible Church and the importance of the tradition in making sure we understand the Scriptures correctly. And he himself said, “I would not believe the holy Gospels if it were not for the authority of the Holy Catholic Church.” St. Augustine realized what many Protestants, despite their intelligence and their sincerity, seem to have difficulty realizing. And, as I say, maybe its the weakness of we Catholic apologists that we’re not presenting this with the clarity that we ought to.
Now I have to rise, I think, to the defense of Mr. Lewis. Not that this is a debate about the merits of Vincent Lewis, but I honestly do believe that he is. . . I don’t buy this worshiping of academic degrees that says just because he never went to college that he’s therefore not an intelligent or learned man. Jesus Christ never went to college. The Apostles were unlearned fishermen, and yet they were men of God who taught the truth and transformed the world. And I think it would be a very superficial reason to reject a debate with someone who–I’ve listened to his tapes I mean, he’s my competition. I mean I would have a vested interest in saying this guy is not good. To find in someone of Mr. Vincent Lewis, of his virtues, an able and worthy articulator of Catholic faith, I think he is a very well-read and a very intelligent and a very effective apologist for the Catholic faith.
But St. Augustine, in that famous statement of his, that he accepts the authority of the Gospels because of the authority of the Catholic Church, is admitting something that everyone here, if they stopped to think about it, has to admit, that you and I were not handed the Bible directly and immediately from God. It was the Church, the successors of the Apostles, meeting in councils, authoritative councils, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church acting as a pillar and foundation of the truth as Paul said in I Timothy 3:15, which separated the wheat from the chaff, separated the written. . . You know, what we have in the New Testament is a tiny fraction of all the things that were circulating in the early centuries which purported to come from the Apostles. There were dozens of Gospel, not only these four. There were dozens and dozens of books with the titles of Acts and Epistles of Paul, and Apocalypses. And the Church, because it had been graced with this gift of the Holy Spirit, transmitted from the Apostles to the successors, was enabled by Jesus Christ to be able to identify true literary deposits of apostolic teaching from those that were spurious, that were not genuine.
And the same confidence they had to separate the written wheat from the chaff they used likewise to separate the oral wheat from the chaff. The very councils which give Mr. White the New Testament–the Council of Hippo, for example, in 393, and the Council of Carthage in 397, meeting in North Africa–these very councils which give him the canon of the New Testament and without which he would not be able to know which books, in fact, were inspired, and which were not, which came down from the Apostles and which were not, these very councils teach Catholic doctrine.
And I hope that Mr. White will admit that, even if that provides some sort of inconsistency to his position. That they teach things that are in line with what the Catholic Church teaches about, for example, legitimacy of prayers for the dead, or the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, even if the term, transubstantiation is not used. It is wrong to say that transubstantiation was not believed for centuries and centuries when in the 2nd Century you have Justin Martyr saying that when we consecrate the bread and the wine they cease to be natural bread and wine and become, instead, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t use the term “transubstantiation” to explain why the substance changes while the external appearances remain the same. That term arrives later on in the Middle Ages. But the concept is there. And there are no Protestants in the early Church, there are no people on the doctrine of the Eucharist saying it is merely a sign, it is pure bread and wine that remains bread and wine and only reminds us of the body and blood of Christ. There is not a single Church Father which teaches that. And I defy Mr. White to come up with an example of the one who does. The early Church was teaching Catholic doctrines. And that early Church gives us the New Testament. And the early Church was either competent or incompetent to pass onto you what the Apostles taught. If it’s incompetent, as the Protestant would say, then as I say, he bites the hand that feeds it. How does he know that it has given us the correct books? If, on the other hand, it is competent, then it is simply because, not because of any special promise from Jesus that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church to collect a canon but that it would be guided in general in passing on the faith. And you must accept all that it teaches and not pick and choose.
Jesus says a tree is known by its fruit and a good tree can only produce good fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If the New Testament is a good fruit, as Mr. White believes it does, then he cannot believe it comes from a bad tree, that the Magesterium of the Church, the original bishops of the Church, the Apostles, that is, wrote these books and that their successors collected them and canonized them.
The Scriptures are self-interpreting and self-authenticating, Mr. White says. Please, Mr. White, give us a Scripture for that. Don’t make statements to this audience or to me that the Bible itself does not back up. Give us one verse in the Bible which says that the Scriptures are self-authenticating or self-interpreting as opposed to the need for a church to help explain and help us understand, since we are fallible as individuals, what, in fact, the Scriptures say. Most of the negative verses that he quoted about the Word of God spoke about speaking from God, I Peter 1:23 and others. And we’ll see that as we continue.
Seven minutes is not a long period of time to cover as many things as we need to cover. Mr. Matatics indicated that we are fallible and we are, but church history teaches us that so was the Council of Arminum, Sermium. The Council of Constantinople condemned the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome as a heretic. The Fourth Lateran Council, the 12th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, gave its blessing to those Roman Catholics who would take up the cross in the effort to exterminate the heretic which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Christian people. Yes, we are fallible, as are the councils of the Roman Catholic Church. The Scriptures, however, are not.
Secondly, Mr. Matatics says that, “Well, the canon–it was done by the councils. Hippo and Carthage. They’re the ones who determined the canon.” That’s interesting. The Muratorian fragment, which dates to nearly 200 years prior to either Hippo or Carthage, listed 97 percent of the canon of the Scripture that I use long before any council began to look at that. I would challenge you to look at my book, Answers to Catholic Claims and look at what the early fathers themselves said. They did not feel they had the authority to “determine a canon” and they did not claim that it was this other mysterious oral tradition out there. We still haven’t seen it. It hasn’t been held up for us to see, but his mysterious oral tradition out there, that’s supposedly inspired, did not determine the canon of the Scripture. That would actually make it superior to the Scriptures themselves. And so I certainly disagree with that.
Mr. Matatics then brought up Augustine and I don’t think he understood what I was saying. He turned to me and said, “Are you saying that Augustine never appealed to any tradition outside of Scripture?” and I said, “No, I am not saying that.” Because he most definitely did. Augustine was in a hard spot, as Gerry knows. Augustine was fighting against the Donatists. And who did the Donatists have on their side? Cyprian, the great bishop of Carthage. And when Augustine had to go up against what Cyprian had to say, you bet he referred to all sorts of other things outside of Scripture because he was fighting a losing battle, in some respects, on some of the things that he was saying. I’m not saying that Augustine was perfectly consistent but what I am saying is Mr. Matatics said, “Hey, all these early Fathers that are being quoted, they’re all about heretics.” No they weren’t. A number of them that I quoted to you had nothing to do with heretics at all. There are a number of the passages that I gave to you that have nothing to do about heretics and if you want a couple others, just very quickly. Chrysostom says, “If anything is said without Scripture the thinking of the hearers limps. But the where the testimony proceeds with divinely given Scripture it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of the hearer.” Elsewhere he says, “Whatever is required for salvation is already completely fulfilled in the Scriptures.” This had nothing to do with heretics. Nothing to do with heretics at all, so those passages cannot be dismissed, simply saying, “You’re meeting them on their own ground.” Not at all. When we are talking about the Lord Jesus being resurrected and confirming the believer’s heart in Scripture, what does that have to do with heretics? Nothing whatsoever. It has to do with the Christian life, the Christian Church and the standard, the rule of faith for the Christian Church, which was the Scriptures and not something beyond that.
Then Augustine was cited where he said the following, and I want to give you the exact quote, “For my part I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.” What is Augustine talking about there? I would encourage you to look at what is being said. Look at the passage. Read it in its entire context. He is writing against a Manichaean epistle entitled The Fundamentals and he is writing against the Manichaean religion and a little bit later on he says, “When I praise what I believe and laugh at what you believe, how do you think we are to judge or what are we to do? Should we not forsake those who invite us to a knowledge of things certain and then bid us believe things uncertain? Must we follow those who invite us first to believe that we are not yet strong enough to see that strengthened by this very faith we may become worthy to comprehend what we believe with God Himself, not men, now inwardly strengthening, illumining our mind?” If you will look at the discussion that is provided by John Calvin on this passage in The Institutes of the Christian Religion you will discover that Augustine is not placing the Scriptures under the authority of the Church, as Mr. Matatics would have us to believe.
Now, in just a few more seconds that is available to me, I want to bring up the issue of self-authentication. Mr. Matatics took on the issue of my statement that the Scriptures are self-authenticating. I want to point out again the vast chasm that separates us on this issue and how this demonstrates it. What is Scripture? What have I said from the very first this evening? Scripture is theopneustos. It is God-breathed. God authenticates Himself. If it is the Word of God it requires no authentification outside of God saying it, does it? Who does God refer to to authenticate Him? What is the authority above God’s Word? If we say you have to look to the Church to authenticate God’s Word, what are we saying about the Church? That is not the church of the New Testament. The Church of the New Testament is the Bride of Christ. She is obedient to the Word of God. She does not authenticate the Word of God. This is not something we should hear coming from a presentation that is supposed to be biblical in nature.
There is another section that was brought up and that is in regards to the subject of self-interpretive. And you always say, “Would you please give us a passage.” Well, I don’t have a whole lot of time left but I just wanted to give you one quote to demonstrate that I am not the only one who has believed this. Chrysostom in Homily 13 on Genesis, “They say that we are to understand the things concerning paradise, not as they are written but in a different way. But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our ears to all these things and follow the canon of the holy Scriptures exactly.” Where does the Bible teach this? We already looked at it. Paul said that all Scripture what he say previous to this in II Timothy 3:14-15, that the Scriptures were able to make us wise unto salvation. He never indicated that something else was going to be needed, some oral tradition. All Scripture that is able to make you wise unto salvation, he says. What is it? It’s God-breathed, therefore what? It is sufficient. It is able to thoroughly equip the man of God. Now if I say I can thoroughly equip someone to go hiking, what am I saying? That I am sufficient to equip them for the task at hand. Paul says the Scriptures, the God-breathed Scriptures are sufficient to equip the man of God for every good work, and that is what we believe.
Thank you very much.
I really do like Mr. White very much, I honestly do, and I hope that in some sense, maybe it’s slightly schizophrenic, that we can be friends. But I do, at the same time, honestly believe that Mr. White is, his presentation, is misleading in at least three very important ways. First of all, it is misleading in terms of the way that it is interpreting the Scriptures that he adduces to support his point. He will go to passages where Jesus is quoting Scripture and say, “Look, Jesus quoted Scripture to prove his point.” Of course, the Catholic doesn’t deny that. Scripture is an authority. It is a rule of faith that Mr. White said that I would already agree with him on. But it is not the case that every time Jesus had to prove a point or resolve a dispute that he always just sought refuge in the Scripture. He said, “The words that I say to you are spirit and are life.” He said, “Whoever hears me hears the Father.” It does not have to be Scripture to be a binding, dispute-settling Word of God. It was the case in the preaching of Jesus, it was the case in the preaching of the Apostles, and it does not have to be Scripture alone. Jesus didn’t practice sola scriptura, nor did the Apostles and I take them as my authority.
Secondly, he quoted passages about the Word of God, like I Peter 1:23. But in that passage which he read rather rapidly Peter is talking about what? Men who were moved by the Holy Spirit and these men spoke from God. He’s talking about the preaching of the prophets. Certainly it has relevance to the writing as well, so that the Scriptures they write are inspired as well, but it is not restricted to their writing. So that we have an inspired writing, the Bible and we have inspired preaching of the prophets and the Apostles. Now Mr. White believes that only the original autographs, as I do–orthodox Catholics and Protestants agree–that only the original documents, as penned by Isaiah or by Peter are inspired. The copies are not. And yet we believe that this inspired, original Word of God has been reliably transmitted down to the present day. That we have access to an inspired Bible, when we hold up our Bible. The Catholic Church says the exact same thing on the exact same grounds about tradition. And I think this is a caricature and a misrepresentation about what the Church says about tradition. He says, “Where is this inspired tradition?’ It’s in the preaching of the prophets and the preaching of the Apostles, that which was done in an oral format. If it’s passed on down to us we receive the inspired truth coming down to us in an orally transmitted form. The transmitters are not inspired any more than the copies of the Scriptures were. But inspired Scriptures are transmitted and inspired preaching is transmitted and in both of them we have access to the inspired Word of God. It seems to me that the Bible is very clear on that because of all these verses that both of us, as a matter of fact, have been pointing to.
He misquotes Matthew 15 and Colossians 2:8 is another passage which talks about the danger of human traditions. But these are the only two passages in the Bible which speak of tradition in this negative sense and it explains why. Human tradition is not to be trusted when it goes against the Word of God, but not all tradition is human tradition. In I Corinthians 11:2 Paul says, “I praise you (to the Corinthians) for remembering me in everything and holding fast to the traditions, just as I have passed them on to you.” He uses the cognate verb in verse 23, “For I received from the Lord what I traditioned on to you (or passed on to you).” II Thessalonians 2:15 and II Thessalonians 3:6 are other passages where Paul used the word tradition in a positive sense.
And so, for Mr. White to say, after reading Matthew 15, “Well, so much for the Council of Trent. Scripture is not a part of tradition, according to this passage.” Of course not, because that passage is talking about a human tradition and the Council of Trent is not talking about human tradition but about sacred tradition, tradition which comes to us from God. The Bible is one example of that in a written form and there are oral words of God which these very passages, I Timothy 2:13ff and I Peter 2:23, talk about a Word of God which is preached, which comes down to us and it is inspired. It must be believed.
He quotes II Thessalonians 2:15 and says we agree, he says that this is about a tradition which has already been passed on. Of course, the Catholic Church agrees. We don’t believe in adding to the deposit of faith which ceased with the Apostles. That doesn’t say, by the way, that everything that Paul ever taught he taught to the Thessalonians by that point in his career. He may have had more things to teach in fuller detail later on. But the Catholic Church agrees with the Protestant Church that when the last Apostle died that no new truths were revealed. Tradition is simply the faithful transmission of what the Apostles taught during their lifetime and we do not add to it. There is dispute about what the Apostles taught in subsequent history, and so the Church meets in council to ascertain whether, in fact, this goes back to the Apostles or not. Mr. White doesn’t believe that the Council of Nicaea in 325 created the doctrine of the Trinity, as a Jehovah’s Witness would say, but that it was simply clarifying what the Apostles themselves taught, even if they never used the word, “Trinity.” That same sort of clarification happens in council after council, including the Council of Trent, in Vatican I, in Vatican II. And so when there are clarifications about Mary’s Immaculate Conception or about the authority of the Pope, the statement made by the Church is that these things were taught by the Apostles but need to be clarified and elaborated precisely because they’re under attack today, as the deity of Christ was or the Trinity was, or the two natures in one person in Christ at the Council of Chalcedon.
Finally, Mr. White misrepresents not only that the Catholic position that the Church is above the Scripture. We don’t teach that. It is the bride of Christ. It is the minister, the servant of the Word of God. But the wife of a husband has an authority over the children in the home. She reflects and passes on the word of the head of the house. She has, if the Church is the bride of Christ, a queenly role to perform and that queenly role involves encouraging her children to be obedient to the Word of God as properly understood, and recognizing that children can twist the words of parents to get them to mean something that will allow the child to do as he or she wants.
Finally, he misrepresents the whole nature of the issue in the way that it will be resolved between us by saying that I need to–and I’m out of time here, my buzzer’s about to beep–I’ll have to explain it in my closing statement how, in fact the issue tonight is supposed to be resolved.
First of Four One-Minute Questions
Gerry Matatics Starts
Mr. White, I will not ask for a Scripture that says the Scriptures are self-interpreting or self-authenticating. According to what you yourself said, there could be such a Scripture and it would be self-authenticating but there is no statement to that effect. I agree that God is His own ultimate witness but it begs the question to say that this witness can be provided through the Church. We agree that the Word of God is self-authenticating but we do not restrict the Word of God to Scripture alone. What I would like to ask you for, as a Scripture, is this. Would you please give us one Scripture that clearly states that after a certain point in God’s redemptive plan that the written Word of God would retire the need for an ongoing, orally transmitted Word of God? Where does the Bible indicate that this would ever happen?
Well again, Gerry you speak a lot of misrepresenting but you’re evading the issue because you continue to just assume the existence of this mythical oral tradition that contains all these doctrines that were not even known in the early church and they simply didn’t exist. Now, we see in Scripture, for example, in the Old Testament, the revelation ceases with Malachi. The Jews themselves, for example Amishina, recognized the prophetic voice left Israel after Malachi. So you have 400 years in between periods when they disagree about that in regards to Deuterocanonicals.
But the point is when Jesus appears on the scene those religious leaders, called the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, had religious traditions. They had traditions that they claimed to be inspired. They claimed to be directly from Moses and have the same authority as Torah. Never once do you find Jesus citing these. Never once do you find Jesus submitting to these things. Instead, what do we find in the Lord Jesus’ ministry? We find him specifically citing Scripture as the final argument in any of the arguments he has with the Scribes and Pharisees.
And so the question you ask me is a question that again begs the issue. Because, as I have been saying all evening and in probably both questions I’m going to ask you, you have to demonstrate that an oral tradition that contains information other than that found in the New Testament is what is being spoken of when the New Testament speaks of tradition. And I have already shown you from a number of passages in Thessalonians and in Timothy that the deposit, the faith, that which was entrusted to Timothy, which he is to pass on–which, as you know, is a classical text used in Roman Catholicism to defend the concept of the passing on of oral tradition–the Scriptures themselves demonstrate that that is simply the Gospel. It is the standard of sound doctrine. It is not something, as Tertullian said, that can be used to substantiate doctrines that had never even entered into the minds of the Apostles and prophets. Such concepts as Immaculate Conception or Bodily Assumption or Papal Infallibility, these aspects were not a part of the New Testament belief.
So again, I will have to admit, Gerry, you have asked me a question I can’t answer because part of your question involves the assumption that you have to make. You have to make the assumption that there is this oral tradition, because without it your whole system collapses. But you have yet to demonstrate that this oral tradition existed and that it communicates something other than what we have in the Scriptures. I find no early Father who said that and I find nothing to substantiate that in the New Testament as well.
Well, thank you for admitting that you can’t come up with a Scripture verse that teaches what your thesis requires you to. I, for my part, would be happy to come up with all kinds of Scripture verses which indicate that there are things that are authoritatively transmitted in non-written form. Jesus himself, for example, contrary to the statement that Mr. White just made, alludes to the concept of Moses’ seat in Matthew 23:1ff, this seat of authority that the Pharisees held so that their teaching of Mosaic doctrine should be heeded while their practice, or their example, should not be followed. The concept of Moses’ seat is not taught in Scripture, and yet Jesus considers it binding on these consciences of his listeners. He says, “You must listen to what they say for they sit in Moses’ seat.” Paul believed in the tradition of the rock that followed the Jews in the wilderness, a tradition not found in the Old Testament and yet he accepts it as normative and true in I Corinthians 10:4.
Paul accepts the tradition concerning the sorcerers in Egypt’s Pharaoh’s’ Court, Jannes and Jambres, which he refers to in II Timothy 3:5, although the Old Testament does not give him their names. And the most important of all is in Jude 14 when Jude says, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men,” and he quotes a prophecy of Enoch that’s been passed on for millennia that was not included in the Old Testament. Oral tradition is capable of transmitting something without inscripturation.
And I would point lastly to another example in II Thessalonians 2 where Paul, referring to the restraining power holding back the appearance of the man of sin says, “You know what I’m talking about because when I was with you I told you about these things.” He does not explain it in I Thessalonians, he does not explain it here, but he expects them to understand and to take heed and to take warning based on oral tradition. These are many examples of Jesus and the Apostles practicing what Catholics practice, that oral tradition can provide a normative transmission of truths that we should incorporate into our system of belief even though they are not contained in the canonical written group of Scriptures.
First of all, in regards to Matthew 23:2, R. T. Francis’ commentary on the passage says, “Moses’ seat is a figurative expression for the teaching authority for those officially responsible for interpreting and applying the Law of Moses. Jesus doesn’t assess the legitimacy of the Scribes’ functions but questions the way they exercise them.” Later on, he says, after citing a number of attacks that Jesus makes on them, he says, “It is probable, then, that verse 3 should be read as a whole in which the emphasis is on the second half and the first functions only as a foil to it, perhaps spoken with an ironical tongue and cheek tone. One might paraphrase, ‘Of course, you may do what they say, if you like, but don’t do what they do.'” You then reference such things as the rock in the wilderness. That’s knowledge, not tradition. That is not some traditional teaching, some theology or doctrine. Certainly, what does that have to do with simply having knowledge? You mention Jude citing the book of Enoch. That is not an oral thing. That is a written document. The book of Enoch is in the pseudapigrapha. It’s in the two-volume set that you can pick up from Charles Worth. It was written and Jude is citing that, not making it Scripture. You don’t believe it’s Scripture and I don’t believe it’s Scripture, but it was oral in nature.
Second of Four One-Minute Questions
James White Starts
You accuse me of misciting Matthew 15:6 and I hope you’ll attempt to clarify that but in Matthew 15:6 we are told that the Scribes and Pharisees nullified the Word of God for the sake of the their tradition. My assertion was, this means that this means the tradition is to be used as the test of anything, even that which claims to be divine tradition. Now Basil said the following: “There hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.” Now if Scripture is a subset of tradition, how can Christians do as Christ commanded and as Basil exhorted, that is to test what you allege is divine tradition? How can I test what you say is divine tradition?
If I understand your question I would say that the Catholic does it exactly the same way that the Protestant does. In other words, the Protestant believes in interpreting Scripture by Scripture, using what we call the Analogy of Faith. In other words, you make sure that you’re not interpreting one passage of Scripture in a way that is not constant with what is clearly taught in other passages of Scripture. You do that within the canon. The Catholic, you might say, simply operates with a larger canon than the Protestant does. In other words, we accept as our canon the written tradition, the written Word of God, the oral tradition, the oral Word of God and also the Church as the teacher of God’s Word. All of these things together make up the Word of God. And so, I have no problem, I can say for the sake of argument, absolutely. I don’t have any problem with testing tradition by the Word of God and I can say, as a Catholic, in all honesty before the Son, before you, there is nothing in the tradition of the Church, which I believe, as a Catholic, that is inconsistent with the Word of God.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees in his day for creating a human tradition–remember, a tradition that was not inspired, that did not come from inspired men, and saying this uninspired, human tradition is taking priority over something we know he says is the inspired Word of God, the commandment to honor your father and your mother. That is clearly wrong. Honor your father and your mother involves, part of the connotation of that commandment is to care for them in their old age and here were Pharisees who were canceling out their obligation to do so. Here you have Jesus saying, basically overturning the requirements of the Word of God.
I would say that if there is anything in the Immaculate Conception of Mary or in the authority of the Pope or in the real presence of Christ or anything else that you find problematic that you can show me a clear verse in the Bible that refutes–and of course, you can perhaps do that as well tomorrow if you want to come to the seminars–then you’re on analogous grounds. But there is nothing. There is nothing the Catholic Church teaches in its tradition that is contrary to Scripture. So your primary accusation that we’re adding to the Bible, adding things that do not jive with Scripture, I think falls flat to the ground. I would simply say, that again the burden of proof is on you to show that if you’re going to accuse the Catholic Church of teaching unbiblical doctrines that you need to show them the Bible verse which refutes them and then show that your interpretation of the Bible verse is, in fact, the correct one, which again, if you’re a fallible person of a fallible denomination, I would think that you’d have to be at least theoretically open to the possibility that you are misinterpreting that verse.
Well, notice, Gerry, first of all you talk about infallibility. If the Catholic Church defines the verse, you have no question or basis on which to question their tradition or their interpretation because you believe they are infallible. Therefore, you have no basis upon which to test those traditions if the Church infallibly pronounces they are true. That’s the final authority for you is the Church. Hence, to say that you can test that on the basis of Scripture or the canon I think really begs the question.
Beyond this you were talking about this infallible tradition. I’ll give you an example. Roman Catholics that I know pray to Michael the Archangel. Now if I test this traditional belief, because you certainly aren’t going to find anything about praying to Michael the Archangel in the Bible, if I test this traditional belief by Scripture I discover that prayer in Scripture is a form of worship, that we are not to worship angels in any way, shape or form, that there is nowhere in Scripture where praying to angels is ever allowed, is ever spoken of. No one ever did it. So if I test that on the basis of Scripture I find it to be wanting, but when I present that to a Roman Catholic what do I hear back? ” Let’s see, it’s not the Scripture that decides this. The Church has decided this. We don’t need to find any reference in the Bible to praying to Michael the Archangel because we don’t need that. We don’t draw our faith solely from the Bible. We draw from wherever else we want to draw it from here over in this oral tradition.” And so when I’ve shown this to Roman Catholics the answer has always been, “Well, the Church says the are different levels of prayer. Well, there are different levels of worship. You’ve got hyperdulia, and dulia and latria and all these others.” And when I go, “Well, let’s look at those words in Scripture,” they all come from, “Well, that doesn’t matter. The Church says this.” So to say that you can test these things, Gerry, I’m sorry. I can’t possibly see how you can test them in any way, shape or form. I think that that is actually a denial of the concept of the infallibility of the Church for you to say that you can test what the Church says. You can’t do that. You’re supposed to be fallible and they’re not supposed to be.
Well, I would say in my 60 seconds of response that you have the same problem, epistemologically speaking. I mean, how can you, as a fallible man, sit in judgment on the Word of God. You have to do it. If you examine the Scriptures, if you, as a Protestant, read the Bible to see whether or not it jives with what the Catholic Church says about asking angels to pray for us, for example, then aren’t you sitting in judgment on the Bible as well? Aren’t you testing the Scriptures to see whether, in fact, their interpretation jives? Not at all. To listen to the teaching of the Church or the teaching of the Bible is not to sit in judgment on it. I think that’s a misrepresentation. The Catholic Church is quite willing to point to Biblical principles that substantiate and corroborate the legitimacy of approaching our angels who are spoken of as our fellow servants of God. They are brothers, in that extended sense. They are Sons of God as we are and so we are brothers, spiritually speaking. And just as I ask you, my brother, to pray for me or another brother to pray for me I can ask my brother angels to pray for me to the Father, too.
Gerry Matatics Starts
Mr. White, will you please tell us who wrote, first of all, the first Gospel that we have, what is commonly referred to as the Gospel of Matthew? And would you please tell us how you know who that author is? Really, I guess that’s all the time I need to take to ask my question.
Well, it’s not going to take me too long to answer it. Historically, the research indicates from the reading of, for example, the early Fathers, that it was believed that this was Matthew who wrote it. The Bible does not say that, hence it is not an article of faith. I’m not going to tie somebody to a stake and then burn them for saying, “Well, I’m not totally sure whether Matthew wrote that or not,” but I still believe that that’s the Word of God. I just want to, if you don’t mind, head you off at the pass by pointing out to you that just because I can gain information–concerning, for example the book of Matthew, who wrote the book of Matthew or even John, for example, or theories about Mark appearing in his own Gospel as a young man who flees naked on the night of the betrayal of Christ, all these things–just because I can gain that information from reading the Fathers does not mean that the authority of Matthew or the authority of Mark finds its basis outside of their inspiration. And so I can truly acknowledge that, just as Paul spoke of Jannes and Jambres because of knowledge that he had outside of Scripture, from the very beginning, Gerry, that one of the very first things that I said that sola scriptura is not a denial, is not a statement that the Scriptures are comprehensive and exhaustive in providing every bit of information about everything. That’s not necessary for inspiration to be true.
Well, my point is not finding out if the naked young man is an important doctrine or not, but my point is simply that the authorship of that Gospel is critical to its authority. The Catholic Church does not teach that the basis of the authority of that Gospel is outside the Gospel. It is precisely inherent. I agree with you that the authority inheres within the book. But the only way that we know that the book is authoritative if it is, in fact, apostolic, if it is written by an Apostle or someone endorsed by an Apostle as Paul endorses Luke, for example or Peter endorses Mark. That is the way the arguments are made, ladies and gentlemen, about whether, in fact these books are not simply the words of mere men but the Word of God in the words of men. In other words, if you have no way of knowing that Matthew wrote this book, or an apostolically authorized man wrote the book, you have no way of knowing if it’s apostolic and therefore no way of knowing if its canonical and therefore no way of knowing that it is the inspired Word of God. The only way you do have of knowing that Matthew wrote this book is by listening the teaching of the early Church Fathers, by entrusting in the tradition, in other words.
And once again you have an inconsistency here in the Protestant position. The only way out of this could be for the Protestant to say, “Oh, the Holy Spirit confirms to me that Matthew wrote this Gospel. I just know that Matthew wrote it, even apart from trusting the early Church Fathers.” It’s a purely intersubjective thing. The problem with that is that there is no statement in the Gospel of Matthew that says, “Matthew wrote this, copyright 45 a.d., Matthew the Apostle, formerly the tax collector.” There’s no statement. If you resort to the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit what you end up then is refuting your own position because your position is that you only believe statements contained in the Bible and now you’re saying that the Holy Spirit is mediating to you some extrapropositional truth, namely that Matthew wrote this first Gospel when the Gospel itself does not contain it.
Well, in my one minute I’d like to point out, first of all, that Matthew was considered canonical long before there was ever a man who sat on the throne in Rome who called himself a pope, long before any council ever met to discuss it. Even the Muratorian fragment gives example of this. Clement of Rome was well aware of this long before there was any council to gather, so I think that your position is not exactly consistent.
I’d also like to point out that the Psalmist, for example in Psalm 119, knew what the Word of God was hundreds of years before there was ever a Christian Church in Rome. He didn’t require the Roman Catholic Church to know what the Word of God was. Why do I?
And finally, you say, “The only reason you know this is from the early Church Fathers.” Did you know that Irenaeus thought Jesus was 50 years old when he was crucified? Was he? Do you believe everything Irenaeus said? How about the ransom to Satan theory? That’s a real popular perspective on the atonement. I mean that’s almost a majority view of many of the early fathers. You don’t agree with it and I don’t either. Why? You do stand in judgment of them but only when Rome says, “This is where they’re wrong, this is where they’re right.” It’s a pick and choose thing. You accuse me of picking and choosing. The Church has done the exact same thing.
James White Starts
Gerry, I like you, too. Earlier on you were saying something about being good looking and I was pointing to you because I was going to say, “Hey, we’ll give you that one.” I like you, too, but I’ve got to ask you this question because of what you just said in my previous question. You talked about the infallibility of the Church, you talked about the oral tradition so I’ve just got to ask you. The Second Lateran Council of 1215 said that it was right and proper to use physical force to exterminate heresy and in fact even said that a Roman Catholic ruler should be removed from his position and someone else put in if he will not extirpate heresy. Vatican II, and you know what I’m referring to, said that external force should not be used in matters of religion. I believe that those two are completely in contradiction. How can you say that the Church’s statements are infallible and are to be our guide when you have glaring contradictions such as this within your own history?
Well, first of all, I helped you with that question, as you know from a conversation we had on the phone a few days ago.
If you have my publications you know I addressed this long before we had that conversation.
Secondly, this question, of course, has nothing to do with the topic of the debate, so technically I wouldn’t have to answer because the debate is: Does the Bible teach sola Scriptura? Is the Bible the only rule of faith in practice? However, I will condescend to answer the question anyway. I will be glad to give you my answer to it. I would make three points.
Number one, and this is off the top of my head, the teaching of the Catholic is that the Catholic Church is infallible in matters of faith and morals. And it does not claim that infallibility extends to every policy statement made by a church. There are disciplinary statements, as you know. There’s a distinction between dogma and discipline. If the Church says that it would be good for us to obstain from flesh on Fridays, for example, as a way of honoring the death of Christ on Friday, those things can be changed. Whether or not, therefore, the political policy that should be taken in a Catholic nation towards the repression of a people by physical means is an infallible dogma or not would seem to me quite unlikely. In other words, I don’t think that you could really use that to upset the apple cart of doctrinal infallibility on the Church. That would be my one point. We could certainly discuss that further and we couldn’t obviously do that within the time we have allotted to us tonight.
The second thing I would say is let me say for the sake of the argument that I grant you, you raised the statement of the Second Lateran Council, Fourth Lateran Council, as a kind of embarrassing thing, but you accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. And the Bible says that heretics and witches should be burned at the stake. You have examples of Joshua putting the whole Caananite population to death–men, women, little babies. So don’t please try to embarrass the Catholic Church unless you’re willing to take that double edged sword and embarrass yourself by your admission that if, in fact, God is in control of a particular culture and it is acknowledging His kingship then he does not believe in this modern fiction that individual human beings have the freedom to believe whatsoever they want and to destroy the fabric of the culture that is committed to debate by teaching whatever they want and disseminating it in a way to bring about social upheaval and chaos. So even if I were disposed to want to defend the Fourth Lateran Council and to say Vatican II at this point is saying something that is so ambiguous it is not clear how it can be reconciled with the former. It is not a dogmatic statement–the Second Vatican Council statement–and it could be corrected by a magisterial statement and I would personally like to see that happen.
Well, first of all, you do not need to condescend to answer it because it is smack dab in the middle of the conversation, the topic. You are alleging an infallible, inspired authority outside the Scripture in oral tradition. If you’re going to claim that it’s infallible then you have got to allow the very few examples of its even existence to be examined and when we examine them we find them to be contradictory with one another. People do not say to me, “Well, Vatican II, yeah, well, I know it said that…” I mean that particular passage is quoted over and over again by people who are touting Vatican II as being one of the most important things that’s ever happened in the Church and I would encourage people to look at that.
But you talked about the embarrassing double-edged sword. Let’s remember what you’re talking about. With Joshua, you’re talking about God commanding the people of Israel to wipe out a sinful, horrid, idolatrous nation. In the Fourth Lateran Council, the way that was used was for the Church to kill innocent, Christian people who simply wanted to worship the Lord Jesus Christ in the freedom of their own conscience, the Waldensians and others, to destroy their villages, to burn them to death, to torture them. There is no possible parallel between Joshua doing what God commanded unless you’re going to tell me that God commanded the Roman Catholic Church to kill the Waldensians and to wipe out the people in the Piedmont Valley.
Now you may say that. I know a lot of Roman Catholics today that shake their heads in disgrace at what happened at that time period. You may have to say, “Well, that’s what God commanded them to do,” because to make the parallel stick, that’s what you’re going to have to do. You’re going to have to say this is what God revealed and God desired the Church to go out there and kill those people. There is nothing in the New Testament that authorizes the Church to carry a sword. The Bride of Christ carries no sword but the Word of God.
Well, in my remaining 60 seconds I’d like to point out that at time of history, unlike the more politically correct age in which we live, both Protestants and Catholics interpreted these Biblical precedents as giving them the right to attack and kill people, who, in their opinion, were idolaters. The Reformers themselves put many, many Catholics to death. Even their fellow-Reformers did–Luther himself turns against the Anabaptists and declares that they are gross heretics and should be absolutely exterminated. You hear the same thing about the Jews. And so my point is simply not that God directly inspired the Fourth Lateran Council, I’m not claiming that. But I’m simply saying there was a plausibility in saying that if, in fact, Protestants are heretics, just as Protestants thought that Catholics were heretics, and if, in fact, God gave permission in the Old Testament for heretics who refused to abide by the law of the land, they could worship privately and there was no civil penalty for that. But if they proselytized, if they propagandized, if they set out to spread their heresy then they were punished by the state. The Old Testament shows the same thing.
We’ve covered a lot of ground this evening and I hope if you came this evening to be challenged to think that that’s exactly what has been accomplished, I know that that would be the best thing that could possibly happen.
First of all, Mr. Matatics has again asserted that Apostolic preaching was inspired. He said it in such a way it sounded like I had denied it. I didn’t. He said that this preaching was passed on to us in a separate way outside of the New Testament, again asserting, and I believe without every having proven it, that what is contained in the Apostolic preaching was different that what was found in the Apostolic writing. Athanasius didn’t believe that. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that Mr. Matatics has proven it either–one of those things he needs to do. Where did Paul preach to the Thessalonians that Mary was immaculately conceived? It was preached to all of them. It was delivered to all of them. Where is the historical evidence? It’s not there.
Mr. Matatics has talked about tradition, but has repeatedly failed to address the fact that the tradition in the New Testament that he cites is simply the Gospel. I’ve shown you the passages. We’ve looked at I Thessalonians. We’ve looked at Timothy. The tradition that is there is what? I Corinthians 15, “That which I passed on to you” same technical term that’s used in the passing on of tradition, Gerry knows that–that Christ died, that he was buried, that he rose again on the third day and he was seen by the Apostles. That’s the tradition. It’s the Gospel. That’s what it is.
Now, he said that I misquoted Matthew 15:6. Well, we’ve got tapes, I guess. We can check it out. I don’t remember having done so. I don’t believe that I did. But the point again that Mr. Matatics didn’t respond to my bringing up Matthew 15:6 was that all traditions, including those that claim to be divine in origin, which is what the Jewish traditions claimed to be, had to be tested by the Word of God. He held those men responsible. In other words, no one is going to be able to stand up one day and say, “Well, hey, the Scribes, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, they taught me that the Korban Rule works and so I can’t support my parents because, you know, they taught it and they said it was divine. It’s their fault. They told me.” Is that going to wash? No. Because God holds man responsible for testing traditions by Scripture because it is in Scripture that God speaks, not in the traditions of men, even when they claim they are divine, and that’s exactly what you’ve got with the Roman Catholic claim of tradition.
Now I’d like, if you still have your Bibles out, for you to turn to Psalm 119:89. I would like to invite you this evening, if you have the opportunity tonight, to read this entire psalm, to read the whole thing and ask yourself if this is the view of the Word of God that you have. Psalm 119:89, “Your word, Oh, Lord, is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens.”
Now Mr. Matatics and I have disagreed what the Word is. Mr. Matatics wants to add to the inspired Scriptures an oral tradition he claims comes from the Apostles. I don’t believe that it did. I believe that it contains information that is directly contradictory to what the Apostles preached. But the Psalmist knew what the Word of God was. He knew that it stood firm in the heavens. And as I said to Mr. Matatics a few moments ago, he knew this before the time of the Apostles. He knew this hundreds and hundreds of years before any man sat on a throne in Rome and called himself the Vicar of Christ. He knew this before there was anyone who called themselves a priest in a separate forum from the laity of the Church. Even Roman Catholic scholars are admitting there was no primitive priesthood in the form of the Roman Catholic priesthood today in the early Church. Long before a man even claimed to be a priest with special ordination within the Catholic Church, the Psalmist knew what the Word of God was. The Psalmist does not cite oral traditions. You won’t find Psalm 120 being in praise of the oral traditions. You find Psalm 119 in praise of the written Word of God.
I want you to listen very, very closely to what was said by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning but from the Holy Scriptures.” What does that say? What does that say? I ask Mr. Matatics, “How do you test tradition?” I don’t believe that you can. Once it’s been defined by the Church, and that’s the only way you can find out what it is is once the Church says. Remember the quote from Bishop Milner? Tradition doesn’t say anything about the conception of Mary and then a couple of years later well, now tradition does say something about the conception of Mary. The only way you’re going to find out what’s in oral tradition is once it’s made something you’ve got to believe. How do you test that? But St. Cyril said, “Even to me who tells you these things do not give ready belief unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce.” And so when I asked for proof of Papal infallibility, proof of the Immaculate Conception, not just things, well, they may sort of point that way and they may sort of indicate this. No, proof! He can’t come forth.
Sola scriptura. We both agree, that the Bible is a rule of faith for the Church. Why? Because it’s inspired and infallible. Okay? To deny sola scriptura requires Mr. Matatics to demonstrate that this is not unique. All the questions about canon and people who want to debate me or whatever else are irrelevant to the fact that here is a rule of faith for the Church. Now, the Mormons pick up the Book of Mormon and try to put it next to it. We say no. Jehovah’s Witnesses bring the Watchtower over. We say no. Mr. Matatics wants to bring over oral tradition. He wants to put something next to it. But Mr. Matatics has completely failed to demonstrate that first of all, any of the passages that refer to tradition in the New Testament are referring to some separate oral tradition that contains data different from what we have in the New Testament and I’ve shown you many passages to demonstrate that that’s not the case. He hasn’t shown us that and he certainly hasn’t even begun to prove that it’s theopneustos, God-breathed, like this is. Therefore, how can it function as a rule of faith for the Church? And if it cannot function as a rule of faith for the Church, sola scriptura is vindicated.
Those are the issues this evening, folks. That’s what you’ve got to look at. All those other things aside. We want to know who God is. We want to worship Him in spirit and in truth. This is true. Why accept someone coming along and saying, “I can’t prove to you that this is theopneustos. I can’t tell you that this is inspired. I can’t prove to you that this has actually come from the Apostles. I can’t trace any historical lineage for it. In fact, for a bunch of the doctrines that come from this, man, it’s just like a pop out of nowhere. But I still want you to accept it along with.” And in point of fact, when you get right down to interpreting this book, you’re going to have to subjugate this book under tradition. You can’t have two ultimate authorities, folks. If you’ve got oral tradition, either one’s going to roll over the other or the other way around.
And if you try to engage in a discussion, for example, of Matthew 16:18, with a Roman Catholic you find out very quickly how very much oral tradition not only influences but determines the interpretation of this. That makes oral tradition the highest authority. This has been replaced, if that’s what happens. I know, the Roman Catholic says, “Oh, no, no, that’s not what happens.” That is what happens. I recognize the claim. I’m not saying that the Church is teaching that oral tradition is superior to Scripture. Please, that’s not what I’m saying. But functionally, that is exactly what happens. Cling to that which is inspired. Do as those many quotations I have provided to you demonstrate. Demand proof from the Holy Scriptures. Sola scriptura. The Scriptures, God-breathed and inspired.
I want to thank Mr. White again for coming this evening and all of you and I want to spend the fullest of my time answering these things and making the same sort of appeal to you that he has, although from a very different perspective. Mr. White keeps saying that I’m alleging and failing to substantially demonstrate the existence of this second source. I, in fact, am not required by the debate to allege or to prove that there is a second or a third or a fourth source alongside Scripture. The burden of proof in any debate, and I will come back to this point in my closing remarks, is upon the person who takes the affirmative. A proposition is put out there that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith in practice. Now if someone really believes that he has to get that belief, that statement, that proposition from the Bible itself.
My point at the beginning of the debate, my point for the last six years and my point at the end of this debate is that there has still been shown you when Mr. White agrees that the Word of God was both written and oral in the times of the prophets and equally inspired in both modes and equally binding upon the consciences in both modes in the days of the Psalmist as well. He quoted you Psalm 119:89 as an example of this great veneration for the written Word of God. I spent the time going through the Psalms. Psalms says nothing about the Scriptures. It says the Word of God. Your commands, your laws. And the Protestant does here, what he does everywhere the Bible talks about the Word he reads into it his conclusion. That’s arguing in a circle. You’re saying I’m going to prove that the Word of God for us should only be the Scriptures and every time the Bible talks about the Word of God you say, “He just means the Scriptures.” That doesn’t prove anything. That’s like a dog chasing its tail. You can’t have your conclusion implicit in your opening assertion. The Psalmist talks about the Word of God. The prophets talked about the Word of God. Jesus proclaimed the Word of God. The Apostles preached the Word of God. This was oral and it was written. Mr. White, as a student of Scripture, has to recognize and admit that. This Word of God was passed on in both a written and an oral fashion.
After the original Apostle had penned, for example the letter to the Romans, whoever copied it and distributed it was not inspired, but they were still passing on. Notice that Mr. White held up his Bible and said, “This is theopneustos. This is God-breathed.” What was he talking about? Did God breathe that copy right there? No. God breathed the original. But Mr. White believes, and in a sense he’s absolutely correct, that we still have access to that inspired original through a reliably transmitted version which has come down to the present day. It is absolutely unjust for him to allow himself this liberty to say, “I have an inspired Scripture through this transmission process which brings it down to the present day” and then turn around and absolutely unfairly and consistently say to Catholics, “If you can’t claim that your transmission of the traditions are themselves inspired today then there is no inspired tradition.” “Where,” as he said repeatedly, “is this mysterious, inspired tradition, Gerry?” It’s not mysterious. It’s in all the verses I read to you. I Corinthians 11:2, II Thessalonians 2:15 and II Thessalonians 3:6.
There is a tradition which is inspired. It is passed on down in a reliable form so that the inspired oral tradition still comes to you today. There is nothing in this book which tells you that that process would cease. And the burden of proof was and remains on Mr. White or any Protestant to say that, whereas people in Paul’s day were required, when they went home from church to do what Paul had told him, even if he did not write it down, and to teach it to their children and to say well, you teach it to your children. This is the inspired Word of God. This comes to us from an inspired Apostle. It’s got to be passed on down, whether its by word of mouth or whether its in letter as II Thessalonians 2:15 says.
Mr. White admits the most damning, the most damaging, the most crippling to his own case, admission tonight that “I cannot give you a verse which says that the transmission or authoritative tradition of God would cease at some point. I can’t give that to you.” And if you can’t give it to us then there is no basis upon which the Reformers can rise up, or Mr. White can rise up, or I, as a Protestant minister before I became a Catholic, could rise up and condemn the transmission of an orally passed on, inspired Word of God which comes to us, which is inspired because it comes from the inspired Christ and the inspired Apostles.
I’m not claiming that in every little verse that refers to tradition, nor does the Catholic Church claim, that in II Thessalonians 2:15 that that simply required Paul taught them all about the Immaculate Conception. That is a charicature of the Catholic position. The position is simply that Paul taught things that he did not write down. And he states so repeatedly in his letters. So does John. So do many passages in the New Testament. We’re not claiming that any one of those instances that the whole Catholic faith was necessarily taught to that particular group of individuals. But when you piece all of this together, when you piece all that Paul taught in Ephesus, in Thessalonica and here and there together, just as Mr. White, as a Protestant, pieces together the letter of Paul to the Romans and another letter written to the Colossians and another letter written here, then you’ve got the full written Word of God. No one’s claiming the people in Thessalonica got all of God’s written Word. Not initially. It took time for this collection as it takes time, progressively in the Church history, to collect all that the Apostles taught to the early Church. But this process is ongoing, as it was in the case of the Bible.
The analogy with Matthew 15 still does not wash, because what the Pharisees were doing was taking a clear teaching of the written Word of God, the commandment to honor your father and your mother, which these people may not have had this in a written form, they had had it proclaimed to them in the synagogue, you see. Not every person had their own copy of the Bible back then. And they were saying, “You don’t have to do that.” A comparison would be the pope today getting up and saying, “Despite what the Ten Commandments say you can commit adultery,” or “You can commit fornication,” or “You can violate a clear teaching of the Word of God.” There is no such command. And you can make a case from Scripture for the Immaculate Conception, for Papal Infallibility and if you seem skeptical about that then I invite you to come tomorrow and put me in the hot seat. You come up tomorrow with your laundry list of Catholic teachings that you consider absolutely unsupportable by Scripture and ask me to provide the Scriptures and I will do so during tomorrow’s seminar. Bring your friends, bring your Protestant pastor, if you’re a Protestant, bring your Bibles and put it to the test.
Is it is a character to say that the Psalmist knew the Word of God before there was a man on the throne in Rome? Of course not. Jesus wasn’t around either, or the Apostles–authorities Mr. White would grant. That’s a previous point in history. But even in the days of the Psalmist there were prophets. There were people who had a teaching office in the church and the New Testament does not cancel out the Old but gives it that teaching office in Jesus and in the Apostles and in their successors.
It was not my job tonight to provide a complete demonstration of apostolic succession or oral tradition but simply to find fault with the Protestant principle of sola scriptura. I find fault with it on one ground alone. It’s not taught in the Bible. And if it’s not taught in the Bible then according to the Protestants’ own standard it cannot be accepted or taught by Protestants and other Protestants be forced to believe it.
According to Church Fathers here or there that might say that Jesus was 50 years old or might sound like he’s saying sola scriptura doesn’t prove anything. The catechism teaches that every Church father was an infallible individual. According to Bishop Milner here, quoting a liberal Catholic scholar, Joseph Martos, whom I told, when James White asked me on the phone a few days ago earlier this week, this man is liberal. He is not a Catholic in any sense of the word. To quote him as saying in his book, Doris, the Sacred that “Hey, the Immaculate Conception is something that just pops up out of nowhere,” or whatever statements you would make attacking classical Catholicism is not, to my way of thinking, fair argumentation. Quote authoritative, magisterial statements of the Catholic Church. Quote the Council of Trent and show how this is subversive of their own position, rather than quoting some liberal Catholic who’s going to agree with a Protestant that these things have no binding force upon the consciences of Catholics today–people that want to tear apart and dismantle the Catholic faith. To defend sola scriptura is, in a sense, impossible he says. And I would say in every important sense it is impossible. I don’t need to demonstrate that there is another infallible rule. I simply need to show that the Bible itself does not claim that it is the only one. The Word of God is the only one but there is nothing in Scripture which equates the phrase, “Word of God” with Scripture alone and that is what the issue is all about. I encourage you to pray and to think over this. We cannot have two ultimate authorities, he says. Well, the same can be said about Matthew versus Mark. Does one dominate over the other? No, they both work together. So does Scripture and tradition because they both come from God.
Thank you very much.