Does the Bible Teach its Own Unique Authority?

I decided not to finish the blog post responding to 21 Reasons To Reject Sola Scriptura with the most important one of them all: Does the Bible teach it? I decided in the next and last installment, there is room for a stronger finish.

Thus, that brings us to the ultimate issue on the protestant side. A seasoned Catholic apologist will make this the number one response to the protestant claim that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith for the Christian and is the highest authority, above all other authorities (Sola Scriptura). And that response is:

“The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not taught anywhere in the Bible”

It is rhetorically stimulating to attempt to run a Reductio Ad Absurdem on the protestant in this way. The argument says that the claim “all the theology God wants us to know is found in Scripture” is itself a theological claim not found in Scripture. To argue that the orthodox view of Scripture refutes itself is a nice attempt to steal a page out of the Presuppositional Apologetics Handbook. The argument looks good, its panache, complete with plenty pomp and frill. The problem though is that it isn’t true.

The Burden of Proof

The question could be raised as to whether does the Scripture needs an explicit statement teaching Sola Scriptura (SS) in order for the doctrine to be biblical. There certainly are verses that teach SS, and Christians throughout the history of the Church have been happy to meet the Roman demand, but the question still remains. Eric Svendsen, in his book Evangelical Answers, says it this way,

“[O]ne must first show that the Scripture is insufficient, not simply that Scripture makes no explicit statement of sufficiency…the burden of proof is on the Catholic apologist to demonstrate the insufficiency of Scripture in light of the obviously high authority by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament, and in light of the conspicuous absence of any appeal or ascribed authority to extra-biblical tradition” (80).

Svendsen gives the doctrine of the Trinity as an example of the idea that the Bible can teach something clearly without explicitly saying it. There is no one Scripture which explicitly states the doctrine, but a combined testimony of the Scriptures leaves us with an undeniable teaching of the doctrine. He is arguing from established precedence. The Scriptures were around and authoritative before the formation of any external church body, and these Scriptures were recognized as being from God. Jesus constantly appeals to the Scriptures as authoritative, and the Scriptural gospels and epistles make this claim for themselves, too. The authority of the Scriptures is established.

If anyone wants to claim there are other authorities Christians need, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that. For we have the established precedence in regards to Scripture. Thus, we don’t need a SS verse, the Scriptures authority is established, and we maintain this position until it’s infallibly demonstrated otherwise.

Refuting the Refutations

2 Timothy 3:14-17,

“But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Although there are others both in explicit and implicit forms, this is perhaps the strongest verse in all of Scripture which teaches the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

The experienced Catholic apologist will be waiting in the wings for this one. The protestant citation of this verse will be as surprising to the catholic as the clay pigeon is  for the marksman. Peters was that marksmen, thus, this portion of his blog was dedicated to refuting this one verse. The rest of the portion of this blog will be refuting the refutations:

“The Greek word ophelimos (‘profitable’) used in verse 16 means ‘useful’ not ‘sufficient.’ An example of this difference would be to say that water is useful for our existence – even necessary – but it is not sufficient; that is, it is not the only thing we need to survive. We also need food, clothing, shelter, etc. Likewise, Scripture is useful in the life of the believer, but it was never meant to be the only source of Christian teaching, the only thing needed for believers.”

What was said about ὠφέλιμος is true, but the problem lies in disconnecting “profitable” from the context. Namely, the words “complete” (ἄρτιος) and “equipped” (ἐξηρτισμένος).

Paul tells Timothy that the profitable Scriptures are able to complete him. If they are not sufficient, how could they complete him? The text also says that he is equipped for every good work. This means there is not one  good work God asks of Timothy that the Scriptures do not equip him to know and perform.

Is it a good work to pray to Mary? Where do the Scriptures prepare Timothy to pray to Mary? Is it a good work to teach the bodily assumption of Mary? Where do the Scriptures teach the bodily assumption? Teaching and believing proper theology is good work, and this means all proper theology is contained in the Scriptures.

Another issue with this claim is the negative argument. Paul presents the positive here, and his silence provides the other half. Even though he uses the word profitable, where else does he give us the necessary second half of the equation, if the Bible is only a portion of what Timothy needs?

The Catholic suggests that since Paul here is using the term profitable, that means that the Scriptures are helpful, but that there are other forms of authority that are also profitable. But where does Paul ever give us these? He never says the church is profitable for teaching, rebuking, etc. He never says tradition is profitable for teaching, rebuke, etc. The fact remains that the only thing Paul ever says is profitable for us today, in regards to doctrine and good works, are the Scriptures. As Svendsen puts it,

“[I]t is significant that while Paul does not say that only Scripture is sufficient, he does point only to Scripture” (Evangelical Answers, 79).

The term theopnuestos (God-breathed) as a matter of fact, is only used of Scripture and is never used of any other form of authority. When asking if the Bible teaches Sola Scriptura, it is important to note that the Bible never indicates anything other than the Scriptures as God’s very words.

The word profitable, is not the issue. When seen in context, 2 Timothy 3 is still teaching sufficiency, and the Bible never teaches anything else to also be profitable or God-breathed. If the Scriptures are not sufficient, they could not have completed, by themselves, Timothy, nor teach him every possible good work.

“The Greek word pasa, which is often rendered as ‘all,’ actually means ‘every,’ and it has the sense of referring to each and every one of the class denoted by the noun connected with it. In other words, the Greek reads in a way which indicates that each and every ‘Scripture’ is profitable. If the doctrine of Sola Scriptura were true, then based on Greek verse 16, each and every book of the Bible could stand on its own as the sole rule of faith, a position which is obviously absurd.”

I don’t have any technical training in Coine Greek, but I find this objection suspect given its novelty and the fact that it is so underutilized. I wouldn’t accept the claim just on the basis of the one source cited.

Secondarily, a simple study into the a Greek lexicon demonstrates pasa (πᾶσα) is translated as “all” very regularly and consistently throughout the translations of Scripture. I guess Peters knows something that every single Greek expert who translated the orthodox translations were not privy to.

Words are defined by their context, and Peters’ interpretation dislocates “all” from the verse beforehand which says “sacred writings.” Paul already established his usage of a unit of Books together. Thus, we do believe each Scripture on its own is profitable, but the Scriptures as a whole is contextually Paul’s focus.

Even given Peters’ poor Greek grammar, there are still a handful of problems.

First and foremost, it proves too much. If the Greek word must be rendered as “every” in that text, then why doesn’t Peters believe that every single text is a sufficient standard? He called that interpretation “obviously absurd,” but that is what the text says apparently.

Also, one could render this as “every” and not come to his conclusions. Perhaps Paul is saying every Scripture is profitable, and therefore, together, equip you sufficiently.

“The ‘Scripture’ that St. Paul is referring to here is the Old Testament, a fact which is made plain by his reference to the Scripture’s being known by Timothy from ‘infancy’ (verse 15). The New Testament as we know it did not yet exist, or at best it was incomplete, so it simply could not have included in St. Paul’s understanding of what was meant by the term ‘scripture.’ If we take St. Paul’s words at face value, Sola Scriptura would therefore mean that the Old Testament is the Christian’s sole rule of faith. This is a premise that all Christians would reject.”

Like the last objection, this proves too much. If the text is actually saying the Old Testament alone equips Timothy to perfectly complete, equipped for every good work, why doesn’t Peters’ believe that? The Catholic makes his job more difficult because, given this assumption, this means the Old Testament alone must teach to Timothy the bodily assumption, the Papacy and its lineage, Papal infallibility, Transubstantiation, Perpetual Virginity, Purgatory, etc. It is a long, uphill battle to show these doctrines from the Old Testament alone. If the Old Testament is all that is in focus, as the Catholic claims, then they need to be ready to demonstrate how the Old Testament prepares Timothy to teach all Catholic doctrines from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The real thrust of the argument however is in the accusation that only the Old Testament is said to be God-breathed in this text. Is it true that the only books in question here are the Old Testament books?

Although no one denies the Old Testament (OT) is the primary focus for Paul, it is entirely possible that he is not speaking exclusively of the OT Scriptures. Many of the New Testament books were in writing and circulation by this time, and they were considered Scripture.

1 Thessalonians 2:13,

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

Here, not only is Paul identifying his teachings as Scripture, he is recognizing that his recipients see it as that too. Paul was not going on any rogue, disillusioned power-trips by claiming something about himself that only he believed.

Not only did his churches believe this, but Peter also considered that Paul’s writings were theopnuestos (θεόπνευστος), referring to them with the same title he refers to the OT books as: Scripture (2 Peter 3:16).

1 Corinthians 14:37-38,

“If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.”

Paul not only explicitly says his teachings are the very words of God, but he condemns any who do not recognize them as he does. (By the way, 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians were both written prior to 2nd Timothy.)

Given the fact that Paul and Timothy were so close (Philippians 2:19-24) and that this letter was written to Timothy, whom Paul laid hands on and ordained him to pastor his churches (1 Timothy 4:14), it is clear Timothy met this basic requirement of understanding Paul’s unique apostolic role. Timothy certainly recognized Paul’s letters as being equal to the Old Testament in authority. Timothy considered this letter he received as Scripture, it is therefore entirely possible (albeit likely) he considered it a part of the the God-breathed Scriptures Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 3.

As a side note, these verses do seem to obliterate Peters’ Roman Catholic notion of how we come to know something is from God. He is clearly operating under the assumption that it wasn’t until the New Testament was completed and canonized that it became recognized as theopneustos.

“St. Paul’s words here obviously took on a new dimension when the New Testament was completed, as Christians eventually considered it, too, to be ‘Scripture.'”

As the Scriptures referenced above clearly indicate, the early church did not need Rome, or a completed Canon to identify Paul’s writings as Scripture. This statement is so patently false, it’s hard to wrap my head around it.

Paul specifically made it very clear throughout the New Testament that his teachings and writings ought to be viewed this way Thus, while Paul is talking to Timothy in 15 about the Old Testament, when he begins to speak of the broader term “Scripture” and qualifies it with “all,” certainly “all” Scripture is in view. In other words, Paul is talking about the Old Testament by talking about it’s divine origins/nature, which he then applies to all Scripture.

Peters’ clearly is not new to the game, and so preemptively he attempts to deal with this.

Protestants may respond to this issue by arguing that St. Paul is not here discussing the canon of the Bible (the authoritative list of which books are included in the Bible), but rather the nature of Scripture. While there is some validity to this assertion, the issue of canon is also relevant here, for the following reason: Before we can talk about the nature of Scripture as being theopneustos or ‘inspired’ (literally, ‘God-breathed’), it is imperative that we identify with certainty those books we mean when we say ‘Scripture’; otherwise, the wrong writings may be labeled as ‘inspired.’… It can be argued, then, that the Biblical canon is also the issue here, as St. Paul – writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – emphasizes the fact that all (and not just some) Scripture is inspired. The question that begs to be asked, however, is this: ‘How can we be sure we have all the correct writings?’ obviously, we can only know the answer if we know what the canon of the Bible is. Such a question poses a problem for the Protestant, but not for the Catholic, as the latter has an infallible authority to answer it.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that Peters does not refute the idea that Paul is referring to the nature of Scripture, not Canon. No argument was given to rebut it our assertion of the fact that New Testament books are also in view. In fact, all he says is, “[T]here is some validity to this assertion.” That’s it.

The only way to refute this is to either deny the New Testament books carry the same nature as the Old, or show where the Scriptures teach something other than all the Scriptures, which exists today, is God-breathed. The former the Catholic has no desire to do, the latter the Catholic has no ability to do.

That is why, as seen above, the article instead moves to the classic Catholic trump card which has been dealt with multiple times in this series: appealing to an infallible authority.

The problems with appealing to the “infallible Catholic Church” to know the canon and to refute 2nd Timothy 3 is:

1) The Romanist has inappropriately separated Canon from Scripture. 

His definition of canon is a question-begging epithet. He assumes canon is a separate revelation, specifically given to us from the Church. Thus, unless the Canon is revealed, one can’t know which books are God’s books. However, Canon is a function of inspiration, it does not work the other way around. The question is not “Can we know the Canon?” The question is, “Can we know any book is inspired by God?” And if the answer to that is “yes”, then we can know the canon. And as Paul made clear, the early church was able to recognize inspired books, even prior to the closing of the canon.

A blind man can tell the difference between an orange and an apple by sinking his teeth into it. Thus, if you put a pile of assorted fruit before him, it won’t take long for him to establish a “canon” of oranges. He can tell you which ones are oranges, which ones are not, and then maybe even put them in a little orange pile.

Likewise, the early church knew which books were from God and which were not, and then we put them in a little orange pile. The canon was not the revelation to be discovered, the God-breathed nature of the books were. The canon was the function of that revelation.

2) Simply believing your church is infallible does not give anyone an infallible understanding of the canon.

Here is the real crux of the issue which has been addressed in this series multiple times. The author attempts to refute the sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 the way Rome refutes everything when finally backed into a corner by exegesis like bayonets: by pulling rank.

Peters says, Such a question poses a problem for the Protestant, but not for the Catholic, as the latter has an infallible authority to answer it.The problem is that the Mormon can say this too. Oh, so can the Jehovah’s Witness. Simply believing your church is infallible does not give anyone an infallible understanding of the canon, for they merely beg the next question: How do you know your church is infallible? 

And guess what the Catholic has to do in order to answer that question? He must appeal to the very things protestants are not allowed to appeal to in determining the canon for themselves; namely, fallible reasoning, and historical evidences.

If fallible man cannot know God’s canon, how can they know God’s church? And if they are able to recognize the voice of God in His church without the Church, why can’t they recognize the voice of God in Scripture without the Church, too? 

This is such a crucial point as it comes up so often. Ultimately, in order for any human being to know anything at all, God must reveal. And when He does, His voice must be self-authenticating. If it isn’t, mankind is stuck in absolute skepticism and an infinite regress of knowledge. Thus, the Catholic’s insistence that people need an external authority to identify Scripture, but they don’t need one for identifying the authority itself, forces them into the believing the peculiar position that God’s Word is self-authenticating… sometimes.

It’s completely arbitrary! God is self-authenticating in the Church..but not in Scripture…

Either God’s Word is self-authenticating or it isn’t. If it is, then we can hear God with or without the church (John 10:27), or God’s Word is not self-authenticating, and thus, we can never have full knowledge of canon OR of the Church.

Thus, logically, the Catholic can never have any more knowledge of canon than the Protestant. The Catholic must make a fallible decision, with no external authority, to trust the Church is man’s necessary external authority. All the while, the Catholic grieves the protestant for doing that very thing with the Scriptures. It’s self-refuting.

To further illustrate this point, allow me to steal Dr. James White’s classic question on this matter: how did the Jew living fifty years before Christ know 2nd Chronicles and Isaiah were Scripture? 

They had no infallible Church, no Pope, and yet; Jesus held them accountable for knowing the Scriptures. Clearly, God’s people don’t need an infallible Church to hear their Shepherd’s voice; and to claim so forces one into an infinite, logical regress. For one would need an infinite amount of external authorities to validate the one underneath it

Because this is the only refutation given to 2 Timothy and the argument of the nature of the Scriptures being the focus, it seems the Protestant position holds.

Greek Words

Earlier I asked this question: “If [the Scriptures] are not sufficient, how could they complete [Timothy]?” Peters’ answers that with a series of propositions from the Greek.

“The Greek word artios, here translated “perfect,” may at first glance make it seem that the Scriptures are indeed all that is needed. ‘After all,’ one may ask, ‘if the Scriptures make the man of God perfect, what else could be needed? Doesn’t the very word perfect imply that nothing is lacking?’ Well, the difficulty with such an interpretation is that the text here does not say that it is solely by means of the Scriptures that the man of God is made ‘perfect.'”

It is necessary to again quote Svendsen,

“[I]t is significant that while Paul does not say that only Scripture is sufficient, he does point only to Scripture” (Svendsen, 79).

Since Paul only points to Scripture, yes, he does say Scripture alone. The article is here demonstrating a classic argument from silence. The burden of proof then falls on the Catholic to demonstrate where Paul gives the other necessary components, not to point out the lack of other necessary components.

“The text – if anything – indicates precisely the opposite to be true, namely, that the Scriptures operate in conjunction with other things. Notice that it is not just anyone who is made perfect, but rather the ‘man of God’ – which means a minister of Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 6:11), a clergyman. The fact that this individual is a minister of Christ presupposes that he has already had training and teaching which prepared him to assume his office. This being the case, the Scriptures would be merely one item in a series of items which make this man of God ‘perfect.’ The Scriptures may complete his list of necessary items or they may be one prominent item on the list, but surely they are not the only item on his list nor intended to be all that he needs.”

First, if Scripture is sufficient to make a pastor perfect, why would it not do the same for the lay person? Is Peters really suggesting the Bible is not effectual to the lay person to the same degree that it is another fallible person who is called to ministry? Paul points out the fact that Timothy is clergy because the context of the chapter/book is Paul calling Timothy to operate in his new office rightly; he does not point this out in an attempt to communicate that the Bible was meant to be more effectual to him than to his congregation.

The fact that Timothy is clergy in no way excludes a proper reading of the grammar of the text. The indication that Timothy had “training” has nothing to do with what Paul said about Scripture in the text. Paul said Scripture is profitable; not pastoral teaching. Paul said Scripture makes the man of God perfect, not the teaching. This is a clear red-herring being imposed on the text, forcing Paul into a natural contradiction. Paul is allegedly telling a man who needs something other than the Scriptures to be perfect that he is made perfect by nothing but the Scriptures.

“Also, taking this word ‘perfect’ as meaning ‘the only necessary item’ results in a biblical contradiction, for in James 1:4 we read that patience – rather than the Scriptures – makes on perfect: ‘And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.’ Now it is true that a different Greek word (teleios) is used here for ‘perfect,’ but the fact remains that the basic meaning is the same. Now, if one rightly acknowledges that patience is clearly not the only thing a Christian needs in order to be perfect, then a consistent interpretive method would compel one to acknowledge likewise that the Scriptures are not the only think a ‘man of God’ needs in order to be perfect.”

Notice how appealing to the most technical definition of the Greek word Ophelimos was used to completely debunk Sola Scriptura earlier, but when a different text of Scripture uses an entirely different Greek word, the definitional distinctions are without difference. What inconsistency!

Even prominent Roman Catholic apologist James Akin with Catholic Answers agrees that this is a bad argument:

“There’s a substantial amount of overlap in the semantic ranges of the words, though there are different nuances to them. I’m not very persuaded either by the use of passages like James 1:4, etc., as a rejoinder to the sola scriptura interpretation of 2 Tim. 3:16 or by the reply Protestant apologists make to this (i.e., it’s different Greek words in the passages). The fact is that there are different Greek words, which dramatically weakens the force of the argument for the Catholic side. Yet they are also words that have a good bit of overlap in meaning, which weakens the force of the Protestant rejoinder. The results of the argument and counter-argument thus become muddled and inconclusive. Neither side has a decisive argument here. The James 1:4, etc., argument is inconclusive, and the Protestant rejoinder to it is also inconclusive. As a result, I don’t use that argument regarding 2 Tim. 3:16. I think there are better, stronger arguments to use.”

Akins’ honesty is a breath of fresh air, and is most welcomed. However, the fact remains that the words being different is very, very significant. No other text in the Scriptures can be used to deflect the hard, Greek exegesis done for 2 Timothy 3:16 and what the text explicitly says about the Scriptures with the words artios and exartizo.

James White said this very thing in his debate with Patrick Madrid. Here is a lengthy portion of the material he presented in that debate:

“Now, the term, artios, Vine tells us means, ‘fitted, complete.’
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker tell us the term means, ‘complete, capable, proficient.’  That is, as they say, ‘able to meet all demands,’ giving the specific citation of II Timothy 3:17 as the reference.
One of the newest lexical resources, Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains, uses the term, ‘qualified’ as well.
The great Greek scholar, Richard Trench, in his Synonyms of the New Testament, said with reference to this term,

If we ask ourselves under what special aspects ‘completeness’ is contemplated in artios, it would be safe to answer that it is not as the presence only of all the parts which are necessary for that ‘completeness’, but involves, further, the adaptation and aptitude of these parts for the ends which they were designed to serve.  The man of God, St. Paul would say, should be furnished and accomplished with all which is necessary for the carrying out of the work to which he is appointed.

I pause only long enough to note that Paul here asserts that the man of God can be complete, capable, proficient, and qualified because he has available to him, always, God’s inspired Scriptures. Surely here Paul would have to direct us to any and all other rules of faith that we would need to be complete, but he does not. But, Paul was not satisfied to merely state that the man of God may be artios, ‘complete,’ but, he goes on to define what he means.  ‘Fully equipped for every good work.’  The term is exartizo, here in the perfect-passive-participial form, the prefix, ex, having, as Robertson noted, the perfective force. Vine tells us that here in II Timothy, it means ‘to fit out, that is, to furnish completely.’ Bauer, Arndt Gingrich and Danker expressed this with the term, ‘equip.’  Hendrickson makes reference to a related term, katartizo, and it’s use at Luke 6:40, where it is translated, ‘fully trained.’  We see here, then, that Paul teaches that the man of God is thoroughly or completely equipped for every good work.  Now, what does it mean to say that one ‘is fully equipped,’ if not to say that one is sufficient for a task?…We further see, the Scriptures can equip the man of God for every good work…Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon, where we encounter the definition given for the semantic domain of exartizo, I quote,

‘To make someone completely adequate, or sufficient for something; to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified; adequacy.’

They translate our passage as, ‘completely qualified for every good deed.’ While Louw and Nida give us two witnesses, I wish to direct you as well to the well-known scholarly resource by Fritz Reinecker and Cleon Rogers, entitled Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Here, we find the following, in regards to both terms, here in verse 17: Artios:  ‘fit, complete, capable, sufficient, i.e., able to meet all demands’; Exartizo: ‘completely outfitted, fully furnished, fully equipped, fully supplied.”

Hence, we see the following:

Number 1:  Paul here teaches that the Bible is A rule of faith.  For he says the Church’s function of teaching and rebuking and instructing is to be based upon God-inspired Scriptures.

Number 2:  We see that this passage teaches the sufficiency of the Scriptures to function in this way.

And, number 3:  We see that Paul not only does not refer us to another rule of faith, but implicitly denies the necessity of such a rule of faith by his teaching on the ability of Scripture to completely equip the man of God. Therefore, I assert that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is taught plainly in this passage.”

Again, nothing can be used to deflect that: either the term means sufficient or not. The opponent must deal with the protestant work done with the Greek words artios and exartizo, and turning to a similar but different word, in a different Book is simply a smoke screen.

“The Greek word exartizo in verse 17, here translated ‘furnished’ (other Bible versions read something like ‘fully equipped’ or ‘thoroughly furnished’ is referred to by Protestants as “proof” of Sola Scriptura, since this word – again – may be taken as implying that nothing else is needed for the ‘man of God.’ However, even though the man of God may be ‘furnished’ or ‘thoroughly equipped,’ this fact in and of itself does not guarantee that he knows how to interpret correctly and apply any given Scripture passage.”

This is another classic rank-pull. However, it happens to be totally irrelevant. First of all, why didn’t Paul say this if this were true? This is a complete imposition of theology on a text where it isn’t found.

However, more importantly, this completely misses the point. Whether there are people who are able to mishandle the Scriptures is completely irrelevant to what the Scriptures are. The Scriptures are sufficient, man may twist them, but that doesn’t change their nature nor does it alter their sufficiency.

Would the Catholic really be willing to argue God is not completely sufficient to save because there are people who can reject His command to repent?

Paul’s point is not that the Scriptures make us infallible. His point is not that a rule of faith must be something which can’t be misunderstood or abused. His point is that every good work is contained in the Scriptures. Thus, to say that some people misapply or mishandle them is not relevant to how the Scriptures are able to function as the sole rule of faith. How does the fact that a person can be wrong about the Bible prove there is divine theology revealed somewhere outside it? It’s a complete leap of logic; there is not connection.

On top of all that, this again begs the question: if the Scriptures are not enough because we need to learn how to interpret them from the Church, why don’t we need an interpreter to tell us how to interpret the Church’s teachings?

The same self-refutation is found as mentioned earlier. Why is the inspired church capable of doing something the inspired Bible isn’t? That disparages the nature of the Scripture; rendering necessarily less inspired.

Traditions

To conclude this long post, allow me to mention one other text that is important to this discussion along side 2nd Timothy 3.

Mark 7: 5-13,

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And [Jesus] said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban(that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.’”

This is so crucial to the discussion of whether or not the Bible teaches Sola Scriptura. Notice that in Scripture, we not only never have Scripture being examined or held up to another or a higher authority, we never read of Scripture calling another authority as God-breathed or profitable, but we do see tradition being held up to the Scriptures. This means it is clearly and explicitly Jesus’ understanding that traditions are to be examined in light of the Scriptures.

Jesus assumes their knowledge of the canon, relies on the perspicuity of the Scriptures, expecting they know what the Bible is and what it says, and then condemns them for never examining their traditions in light of that. Jesus chastises the Pharisees for refusing to examine their traditions in light of Scripture. Notice how He didn’t expect them to reinterpret the Scriptures so that they matched their traditions.

The classic Roman challenge is that Jesus is only condemning human tradition, not infallible, divine tradition. And that’s true! But that misses the point. The Pharisees thought their tradition was divine! Thus, Jesus gives us the means for knowing when tradition is true or not; and it is not by appealing to a church, but by holding tradition underneath Scripture. Jesus gives us in this text the guidelines for how to deal with tradition: examine it in light of the Scripture.

In other words, according to Jesus, if Rome’s traditions were apostolic and not human, how should they know this? By examining them in light of the Scriptures. That means the Scriptures serve as the final reference point. That means tradition cannot be on the same podium; the Scriptures occupy a space above all traditions.

Jesus holds the Bible above all tradition. Jesus expects God’s people today, living in a time when He is ascended and the apostles are dead, to make the inspired, preserved, prophetic Scriptures their highest court of appeals, for the Scriptures alone serve as the only God-breathed rule available for the church today.

 

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