Sola Scriptura (Bible alone) is a founding principle of the Protestant/Evangelical churches I was once involved in. On the positive side, I learned a lot of Bible from many wonderful, Christian people. Obviously, the Bible is a necessary part of the Christian life and we need to study it. However, I eventually learned that the Bible alone wasn’t intended to provide us with the fullness of the Christian faith. There was something missing. The following are just a few of the thoughts that resulted from my journey away from Evangelicalism/Protestantism and back to the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church.
If Sola Scriptura is true, it would seem that:
- Jesus would have said to His disciples, “Write everything down and distribute those writings to every nation” instead of, “Go and teach all nations.” (Matt 28:19)
- Paul would have said, “Faith comes by reading the Word of God” instead of, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom 10:17)
- Paul would have told Timothy, “Scripture alone is sufficient for perfecting you as a man of God.” However, Paul’s message to Timothy was, “All scripture is profitable…” (2Tim 3:16-17) As an analogy, water is profitable and necessary, but not sufficient for sustaining life. Food, shelter, clothing etc. are also profitable and necessary. Christians need the Church and her Sacraments as much as they need Scripture.
- There would be a verse somewhere in the Bible that clearly indicates that the Bible alone is sufficient. Instead, there are verses extolling the necessity and profitability of Scripture, but not that the Bible alone is sufficient.
- We wouldn’t need preachers or teachers or evangelists. We would only need to put the Bible on display and let people read it. There would be no need to explain anything in the Bible, as its contents would be self explanatory.
- We wouldn’t need Martin Luther or anyone else to teach, argue or debate the sufficiency of the Bible alone. The sufficiency would be self evident from the Bible alone. We would need no other teaching authorities.
- Jesus would have said to his disciples, “He who reads your writings reads me” instead of, “He who hears you hears me.” (Luke 10:16)
- Paul would have said to the Thessalonians, “Stand fast and hold only to what I write down.” What he told them was, “Stand fast and hold to the traditions I taught you, either by letter or by word of mouth.” (2Thess 2:15)
- The Apostles would have written something to the effect of, “We’re all going to die off eventually and we’ll have no successors. Therefore, our writings will be your guide.” But they did choose successors. (Acts 1:21-26)
- We wouldn’t need a Church to tell us infallibly that the Book of Revelation belongs in the Bible while The Gospel of Thomas does not. The proper contents of the Bible would be self evident. The successors of the Apostles eventually decided (among other things) that the book of Revelation belongs in the Bible but the Gospel of Thomas does not. If the Catholic Church is fallible, then the Bible isn’t infallible. (The effect isn’t greater than its cause.)
- Protestants wouldn’t need Luther or any other teaching authority to show them that the apocryphal books do not belong in the Bible. Such exclusion or inclusion of any books would be self evident. (If Luther is a fallible man, how can the canon of the Protestant Bible be trusted as infallible? Again, the effect isn’t greater than its cause).
- Jesus would have told His disciples to resolve their disputes by appealing to Scripture. Instead, He told them to “take it to the Church” as their final authority. (Matt 18:17)
- There would be a verse in the Bible stating that all Christian truth must be stated in the Bible. The Bible makes no such claim for itself. The Bible points us back to the authoritative Church.
- The Ethiopian eunuch would not have needed Philip to interpret the scriptures for him. (Acts 8:27-30)
- The Bible would be understandable by believers that read it. Instead, it is often difficult to understand. There are even verses warning the reader about the difficulties and dangers of biblical interpretation. (2Peter 3:16) Different people reach different conclusions while claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit.
- Paul would have called the Bible rather than the Church “The pillar and ground of the truth.” (1Tim 3:15)
- Jesus would have said, “The Bible is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by the Bible.” But, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” The Church is the very Body of Christ. We come to the Father by way of the Church (i.e. Christ Himself, the Living Word of God).
These thoughts are not the only reasons I returned to Catholicism, but they help illustrate the importance of a both/and approach to Bible and Church authority. My error was in thinking that I needed to choose either the Bible or the Church as an authority (an error I was ironically taught by Protestant teaching authorities, not by the Bible alone). In reality, the Bible and the Church are both part of the same authority given by Christ. The Holy Spirit weaves them together to provide believers with “all things” Christ wants us to have.
Great article Thomas! Glad you found your way into Christ’s Church!
I liked your analogy for 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I like to use a puzzle analogy. One puzzle piece is “profitable” for a 100 piece puzzle to be “complete”, but you still have 99 other pieces that are equally profitable for completing the puzzle.
I also never thought about Acts 8:27-30. That is a very good point!
Thanks, Paul. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll borrow your puzzle analogy. That’s a good one. Peace!
Not a problem at all! Anything to bring Christians together in Christ’s Church so “that they may all be one” (John 17:21)! Have a great day!