Sola Scriptura: A Lonely, Man-Made Heresy

by Church Militant  •  •  May 22, 2017   

This notion contradicts the words of St. Paul, St. John and Christ Himself

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By Peter Holm

Sola Scriptura, the protestant claim that each man alone may interpret Scripture for himself, isn't in the Bible (which wasn't assembled by the Church until 393). The notion of "Scripture Alone" presumes that the Holy Scripture alone, less context, carries the full truth of God to the hearts of the Christian faithful. Worse, this philosophy directly contradicts the words of St. Paul, St. John and even Christ Jesus Himself.

Early Christians taught the New Testament by mouth, in unwritten form, until at least 42 A.D., when the first of the Gospels (St. Mark and St. Matthew) would be written. It's believed St. Paul would start writing his epistles 10 years later. And the collection of Scripture we now know as the Bible did not officially exist until 393, after the Catholic Church met at the Synod of Hippo and affirmed the complete list of 72 books. Even after the Bible was completed, every interpretation of Scripture among every denomination of Protestantism is, at some level, different.

Although every word of God is flawless and inerrant, every human interpretation of Scripture is not.

Yet there cannot be differentiation in the truthful interpretation of the Scriptures within the Bible because there is only one truth of God (John 14:6), not 40,000 variations of half-truths and falsehood. This singular truth is not carried by the Bible alone, but in God alone. And although every word of God is flawless and inerrant (Proverbs 30:5), every human interpretation of Scripture is not. To guard against human error, the Christian Church must rely on the Magisterium, including both the written and unwritten traditions of Christ.

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But who would teach this Magisterium? Saint Paul said that Christians should "stand fast; and hold to the traditions" the Apostles passed on "whether by word or by letter." Saint John Chrysostom expanded on Paul's sentiment by stating that the Apostles "did not deliver all things by [written word], but many things also unwritten." In Scripture, St. Paul tells Timothy to teach the singular truth of Christ tp those Christians who would follow him and "no other doctrine." Paul told Titus to teach according to "doctrine taught" to teach soundly and "refute gainsayers."

Saint Paul intended for holy men with Christ's authority to pass on the truth of God, not books. Saint Augustine reaffirms this when he wrote that "it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel" because God holds authority through His Church on earth, not any book. That authority was perpetuated by Christ through His Apostles.

Those bishops, priests and deacons appointed by the Apostles were to appoint only the best and most "faithful men who will be qualified to teach others" on the fullness of the Christian faith so that the meanings of the gospel would survive human errors in interpretation. Teachers, not books alone, can correct misinterpretation in order to successfully pass on the truth of God.

And if we are going to focus on the books of the New Testament, it's key to note that those written in the first century were only written in Greek, not the other languages of the nations and empires where the Church had reached, thereby alienating the faithful in Spain, North Africa, Persia, India, or Ethiopia, among others, from the written word of God.

By the time Martin Luther hit the scene around the turn of the 16th century to perpetuate the error of Sola Scriptura, the Holy Scriptures then existed in predominantly Latin with the majority of the eastern writings in Greek and some Old Testament Scriptures in Hebrew. Yet almost no average, non-clerical Christian had access to written scriptural works, even if they could read in either Latin or Greek, because the printing press had only been used to print bibles since 1455. And even then, the first bibles in 1455 cost three years' wages, something no common man could afford.

So if no Christian commoner had Scripture available to him and wouldn't have been able to read the languages the Scriptures were written in, it seems highly unlikely that Christ was teaching us that if we were to follow in His footsteps, we were to read our way to Heaven. On the contrary, Christ told those who would follow Him to do as He did — not to read a Bible that wasn't even written in His time.

Christ did not seek to damn those individuals who lacked access to Scripture, regardless of the flawed assertions made by supporters of Sola Scriptura. Even those of us who cannot read Scripture owing to lack of access or inability may still merit the necessary grace for eternal salvation if we charitably commit ourselves to God and charitably do His will.

Another nail in the coffin of Sola Scriptura is the countless multitude of human errors of interpretation. Saint Paul wrote his epistles because early Christians were going astray in his time; and, just as the early Christians turned away from the truth, some modern Christians have made similar errors.

Another nail in the coffin of Sola Scriptura is the countless multitude of human errors of interpretation.

Modern Christians still hold no agreement on many facets of our Christian faith. There are some Protestants like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons who say that Jesus is not God and do not believe in the Trinity, in contradiction to the Gospel of St John 1:1. Other Protestant denominations debate or deny the truth of transubstantiation according to the Gospel of St John 6:48–58. Still others deny infant baptism in contradiction to St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians 2:11–12. And other sects believe that salvation is a single event from which no one can ever fall away from grace in contradiction to the words of St. Paul as written in Romans 7:14–25 and Romans 11:16–23.

So, like St. Augustine, we must take the Magisterium of the Church, perpetuated by the Holy Ghost, as our truth going forward, and not the ever-changing, often-fickle interpretations of men if we are to retain hope of our future salvation.


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