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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Practical problems with sola scriptura

I didn't think I was going to have to post this so soon, but it seems appropriate to this afternoon's discussions. This was first posted on My Domestic Church a few years ago.


I was going to present more problems with that pillar of Protestantism, but then I found this article by Jim Atkin and so no reason to re-invent the wheel!


The disintegration of Protestantism into so many competing factions, teaching different doctrines on key theological issues (What kind of faith saves? Is baptism necessary? Needed? Is baptism for infants? Must baptism be by immersion only? Can one lose salvation? How? Can it be gotten back? How? Is the Real Presence true? Are spiritual gifts like tongues and healing for today? For everyone? What about predestination? What about free will? What about church government?) is itself an important indicator of the practical failure of the doctrine of private judgment, and thus the doctrine of sola scriptura.

However, there is a whole set of practical presuppositions that the doctrine of sola scriptura makes, every one of which provides not just an argument against the doctrine, but a fatal blow to it. Sola scriptura simply cannot be God's plan for Christian theology.




Here are his 7 basic problems with it!

1. Requires ability to [print!)
Thus the universal application of sola scriptura presupposes the mass manufacturing of books, and of the Bible in particular.

2. Requires mass distribution of bibles!
Second, besides the printing press, sola scriptura also presupposes the universal distribution of books and of the Bible in particular. For it is no good if enough copies of the Bible exist but they can't be gotten into the hands of the average believer. There thus must be a distribution network capable of delivering affordable copies of the Bible to the average Christian.

3. Requires Christians be able to read!
Third, if the average Christian is going to read the Scriptures and decide for himself what they mean then he obviously must be able to read. Having someone read them to him simply is not sufficient, not only because the person would only be able to do it occasionally (what with a bunch of illiterates to read to), but also because the person needs to be able to go over the passage multiple times, looking at its exact wording and grammatical structure, to be able to quickly flip to other passages bearing on the topic to formulate the different aspects of a doctrine as he is thinking about it, and finally to be able to record his insights so he doesn't forget them and he can keep the evidence straight in his mind. He therefore must be literate and able to read for himself. Thus sola scriptura presupposes universal literacy.

4. Must have scholarly materials available.
He must also have these scholarly support works (commentaries and such) to suggest to him possible alternate interpretations to evaluate, for no one person is going to be able to think of every interpretive option on every passage of Scripture that is relevant to every major Christian doctrine. No Protestant pastor (at least no pastors who are not in extreme anti-intellectual circles) would dream of formulating his views without such support materials, and he thus cannot expect the average Christian to do so either. Indeed! The average Christian is going to need such support materials even more than a trained pastor. Thus sola scriptura also presupposes the possession-not just the existence-of adequate support materials.

5.Need time to study!
Fifth, if the average Christian is to do a thorough study of the Bible for himself, then he obviously must have adequate time in which to do this study. If he is working in the fields or a home (or, later, in the factory) for ten, twelve, fifteen, or eighteen hours a day, he obviously doesn't have time to do this, especially not in addition to the care and raising of his family and his own need to eat and sleep and recreate. Not even a Sunday rest will provide him with the adequate time, for nobody becomes adept in the Bible just by reading the Bible on Sundays-as Protestants stress to their own members when encouraging daily Bible reading. Thus sola scriptura presupposes the universal possession of adequate leisure time in which to make a thorough study the Bible for oneself.

6.Sola scriptura pre supposes universal adequate nutrition

7.Must be skilled in evaluating arguments
that level of critical thinking does not exist in the average, literate, well-nourished, modern college senior, much less the average, illiterate, malnourished, Medieval peasant. This is especially true when it comes to the abstract concepts and truth claims involved in philosophy and theology. Thus sola scriptura also presupposes a high level of universal education in critical thinking skills (a level which does not even exist today).



Christianity survived 1500 years without the doctrine of sola scriptura- 400 of those even without a bible as we know it today! So to my mind it's clear that historically sola scriptura is unsupported!

20 comments:

Sue Bee said...

Here are his 7 basic problems with it!

Here is my 1 basic problem with Jim’s argument, he doesn’t know what the term “sola scriptura” means!

From the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: “The Latin expression "sola scriptura" refers to the authority of the Holy Scriptures to serve as the sole norm for all that is taught and confessed in the church.”

From the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod: “…the Bible is to be our only source of doctrine. This is what it means to be “sola scriptura.”

From my kid’s Sunday School book: “Articles of faith can be established only on the basis of Holy Scripture; only there can divine right be found.” – Martin Luther

1. Requires ability to print!
God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. It is no coincidence that the printing press was invented by a fellow German (Gutenberg) less than 70 years before Luther started the reformation. God knows what we are going to invent be for we do.

2. Requires mass distribution of bibles!
See #1.

3-7 His arguments are nonsensical because he doesn’t understand the definition of sola scriptura. #6 is especially hilarious. What does any of this have to do with the establishment of church doctrine based on Holy Scripture?

Ok, ladies, let’s hear you defend him!

Elena said...

God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. It is no coincidence that the printing press was invented by a fellow German (Gutenberg) less than 70 years before Luther started the reformation. God knows what we are going to invent be for we do.

Um...so what about the 1500 years of Christianity before Martin Luther and Mr. Gutenberg?


His arguments are nonsensical because he doesn’t understand the definition of sola scriptura.

Oh... he gets it all right

Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith.

motherofmany said...

This entire argument was written with a very humanistic/evolutionistic slant to it. The author assumes that men started out dumb and gained wisdom with the ages. The Bible tells us it was the other way around, with men becoming more corrupt spiritually, physically, and intellectually as generations passed.

Also, the average college senior doesn't understand exegesis, hermunetics, or apologetics because he doesn't care, not because he is unable to.

People wrote on anything they could find- papyrus, animal skins, rocks (watch the documentary called Walking the Holy Land) and ink was easy to make by boiling any dark substance.

This also shows the author believes in an infinite church and a finite god. God established written scriptures before he established a church, and was certainly able to preserve it without the church. God doesn't NEED any of us. He desires to have us, but make no mistake that the will of God carried through regardless of the actions or inactions of man.

Nominal protestant- sounds like a false conversion to me. A heritic is a heritic, even if he wears a white robe.

Sue Bee said...

Um...so what about the 1500 years of Christianity before Martin Luther and Mr. Gutenberg?

Far be it from me to question God's will.

Perhaps Jimmy needs to read more Luther. He could start here with The Book of Concord's chapter on why Scripture Is Divinely Authoritative.

Man's ability to interpret scripture for himself is a separate issue from sola scriptura. At least it is for Lutherans, who are not protestants.

Nighty-night.

Milehimama said...

My husband is not Catholic, and I am an adult convert.
Another problem with Sola Scriptura is how it is actually applied. People *don't* have the time it takes to formulate the whole of Christian doctrine in their spare time.

In the absence of a Magisterium, people often make their *pastors* into their pope. Just look at how rabidly Benny Hinn's followers defend him!

Until there is something they don't agree with- then they take their itchy ears to another pastor, until he interprets the Scriptures "wrong" in their view...

I think this is a big reason that sin is not preached very often in Megachurches.

Sue Bee, are you saying that Sola Scriptura was a new revelation to Luther? Because prior to the invention of the printing press, his doctrine would have been extremely impractical. If God knew that reading His word in one's own personal bible was the key to understanding Him - if that was His doctrine for His Church, why would the printing press not have been invented much, much earlier? And why would He allow His word to be protected, copied, and passed through history by a false church - i.e., Catholic monks?

How were the first Christians able to understand their faith - the Scriptures hadn't even been written, or were scattered?

Elena said...

who are not protestants.



LOL...Lutherans were the first protestants.


But ya didn't really answer the questions about that 1500 year gap did ya sue bee? Interesting.

motherofmany said...

I have addressed the historical evidences of how the printed word survived and spread during the 'gap' but you obviously didn't read them

I think the whole problems is that there is an allowance for the excuse of being too busy to not study the scriptures and that is why the church is authoritative. Phewey. Have you read the old testament? Those people worked hard, often ,moving a camp the size of a small country, but it did not stop them from studying the word and teaching is to their children "when they lie diown, and when the y rise up, and writing it on thweir doorposts". If you do not have time to study the Bible, your priorities are wrong.

We were created to worship God. I order to worship him, we must know him, and in order to know him we must study his word. Just like you would not have a long-distance relationship but never read your darling's letters. What marriage would survive by spending 1 hour every Sunday in intimate conversation? We are the bride fo Christ- we ought to be conversion with him, bothi in the word and in prayer, constantly. When I am grocery shopping, when I am teaching the kids, when I am cooking dinner, when I am going to sleep at night, the thoughts that run through my mind are of the truth of Christ. If you love someone, you think about them all the time.

The followers of Benny Hinn might be adamant, but they would know his teachings were false if they read the Bible. That is why the Bible is our guide and measuring stick- if it is not in there, don't believe it. I know of no 'regular' fundamentalist church that elevates their pastor above anyone else. Certainly no church I have ever been in, and I have been in many 'Protestant' churches both for special occasions (weddings, dedications, funerals) and to study the basic priciples as applied for school research.

I am not sure what Meg-churches you are referring to, but many of the emergent churches are not accepted by the rest of non-catholic puritans because they are heretical. They very often make light of holy things, such as baptism and communion. You cannot pick one denomination and judge the whole of 'protestantism' by it.

And again, you are assuming that people couldn't read in the time of Christ. How many examples are there of people in the Bible reading? And if you check, many of the apostles were rejected as teachwers because they had not been educated, yet the read fromt he scriptures when trying to convert the Jews and they wrote letters to the churches.

motherofmany said...

Sorry for the spelling- we are getting ready to leave.

Elena said...

I have addressed the historical evidences of how the printed word survived and spread during the 'gap' but you obviously didn't read them

I not only read them, I even asked you for an example of a pre-printing press bible that would have been passed around as you say. Surely there must be one in a museum, church, or library somewhere! As of yet you have not answered me. This is my third request.

But I think the point is, with handwritten copies, the volumes were huge, and very time consuming to make. Assuming that there were many copies floating around, how many people do you think could actually read them? or were able to get their hands on them? What percentage of Christians during that 1500 period actually had the chance and ability to read the scriptures by themselves?


I think the whole problems is that there is an allowance for the excuse of being too busy to not study the scriptures and that is why the church is authoritative. Phewey. Have you read the old testament? Those people worked hard, often ,moving a camp the size of a small country, but it did not stop them from studying the word and teaching is to their children "when they lie diown, and when the y rise up, and writing it on thweir doorposts".

Doesn't say anything about copying the scriptures in their entirety though does it? In fact the Mezuzah contains a few important verses, not the entire Jewish scripture.


If you do not have time to study the Bible, your priorities are wrong.

Early Christians couldn't read. There was not a bible in every home and for the first 400 years there wasn't a bible anyway. When getting dinner includes catching and killing it or growing, grinding and then preparing it, there isn't much room for much else. The scripture that was studied in the home was mostly oral.
The rest of your post (except for the last paragraph) Amy is a tangent which shows me once again you are so concerned with leaving a comment you don't read carefully, thoroughly or thoughtfully.

Milehimama said...

I know of several churches that do - charismatic, "rhema", Calvary chapel, and non-denominational. I've seen it happen in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado first hand. I was not saying that *all* Protestant churches make the pastor into their pope - but many do by default. They accept the pastors interpretation as definitive.

Kelly said...

Have you read the old testament? Those people worked hard, often ,moving a camp the size of a small country, but it did not stop them from studying the word and teaching is to their children "when they lie diown, and when the y rise up, and writing it on thweir doorposts".

What do you mean by "study the word"? The entire Law was read aloud twice a year. There probably would have been a set of scrolls which contained the written Law held by the priests. Do you really think that every family carried around their own copy of the Torah?

You mention sheep skin as a possibility. Do you have any idea how many sheep skins it would take to write out an entire Old Testament, even without vowels, punctuation, and spaces between words?

Do you realize how expensive sheep skin parchment was? The same skin was often scraped and reused. We have records of the same one being used three or four times, because traces of the original words remain.

And if you check, many of the apostles were rejected as teachwers because they had not been educated, yet the read fromt he scriptures when trying to convert the Jews and they wrote letters to the churches.

It is commonly assumed in academic circles that they used scribes. Paul is the only one who gives any indication that he was able to write "See what large letters I write in my own hand." This was in contrast to the entire first part of the letter, which was written by a scribe.

Kelly said...

The Bible tells us it was the other way around, with men becoming more corrupt spiritually, physically, and intellectually as generations passed.

Which has some interesting applications for the timeline of the development of Christian theology . . .

God established written scriptures before he established a church, and was certainly able to preserve it without the church.

What is your criteria here for church and scripture. Obviously there were established churches before the New Testament was written, or the letters wouldn't be addressed to churches.

Assuming you mean the Old Testament, God established a priesthood, a feast, and a sabbath, all before Moses went up to Mount Sinai and received the Word. How is that not a church? It sure looks like MY church, but if your criteria for a church includes everyone sitting down with their own copy of written Scripture, then no, I guess there is no way there could be a church before there is Scripture.

Elena said...

This is from the book How We Got the Bible by Henry H. Graham:

Only five out of the twelve wrote down anything at all that has been preserved to us; and of that, not a line was penned till at least 10 years after the death of Christ, for Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 A.D. and the first of the NT books was not written till about 45 A.D. You see what follows? The Church and the Faith existed before the bible; that seems an elementary and simple fact which no one can deny or ever has denied. Thousands of people became Christians through the work of the Apostles and missionaries of Christ in various lands, and believed the whole truth of God as we believe it now, and became saints before ever they saw or read, or could possibly see or rad, a single sentence of inspired Scripture of the NT, for the simple reason that such Scripture did not exist. How then did they become Christians? In the same way, of course that Pagans become Catholics nowadays, by hearing the truth of God from the lips of of Christ's missionaries. When the twelve Apostles met together in Jerusalem and portioned out the known world among themselves for purposes of evangelization allotting one country to one Apostle (such as India to St. Thomas) and another to another, how did they propose to evangelize these people? By presenting each one with a New Testament? Such a thing did not exist, and we may safely say, was not even thought of. Why did Our Lord promise them the gift of the Holy Ghost and command them to be 'witnesses' of Him? and why, in fact, didthe Holy Ghost come down upon the Twelve and endow them with the power of speaking in various languages? Why but that they might be able to 'preach the Gospel to every creature' in the tongue of every creature.

I have said that the APostles at first never thought of writing the NT; and neither they did. The books of the NT were produced and called forth by special circumstances that arose, were written to meet particular demands and emergencies. Nothing was further from the minds of the Apostles than the idea of composing works which should be collected and formed into one volume, and so constitute the Holy Book of Christians

Milehimama said...

You cannot pick one denomination and judge the whole of 'protestantism' by it.
That is because no one agrees with each other, because they lack an authoritative interpretative body ordained by Christ (i.e., the Apostles and their successors). It's like a broken mirror -each reflects only a small part, without having the fullness of the truth.


And again, you are assuming that people couldn't read in the time of Christ.


The fact that some could read and write does not negate the fact that many could not. Women, especially, unless they were patrician, were not taught to read, let alone to reason and philosophize.

Sue Bee said...

Another problem with Sola Scriptura is how it is actually applied. People *don't* have the time it takes to formulate the whole of Christian doctrine in their spare time.
Fortunate for us all, Sola Scriptura means the church has the authority to establish doctrine based only on Holy Scripture. No one is expected to do it in their spare time.

Sue Bee, are you saying that Sola Scriptura was a new revelation to Luther?
Not at all, God's Word has always held primary authority. The Word was primary authority for the Jews and for Jesus. All Luther did was remove the many elements of the church that were unscriptual and establish a policy saying the church's doctrine will be based on Scripture Alone (hence Sola, meaning alone, and Scriptura meaning Scripture).

Because prior to the invention of the printing press, his doctrine would have been extremely impractical.
Why was it impractical for the church to base its doctrine and teachings on Scripture only? The church had established the canon 1200 years before the press. Scribes had been copying it for over a millenium. Didn't the pope get a copy?

If God knew that reading His word in one's own personal bible was the key to understanding Him - if that was His doctrine for His Church, why would the printing press not have been invented much, much earlier?
I suppose if everybody figuring scripture out for himself was His divine will, mass printing would have happened much sooner. But as it is, He preserved the Word so that it is available for His church to teach and establish doctrine and therefore insure the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed.

And why would He allow His word to be protected, copied, and passed through history by a false church - i.e., Catholic monks?
He preserved the Word so that it is available for His church to teach and establish doctrine and therefore insure the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed. Also, the Eastern Orthodox and Jews were copying scripture at this time as well.

How were the first Christians able to understand their faith - the Scriptures hadn't even been written, or were scattered?
For how the Word spread before the NT writings, I urge you to read the book of Acts, pay special attention to Chapter 2 where the day of Pentecost takes place (hint: it has to do with the Holy Spirit). As soon as the Gospels and epistles were written scribes began to copy them, the writings circulated among Jesus' followers.

Another problem with Sola Scriptura is how it is actually applied. People *don't* have the time it takes to formulate the whole of Christian doctrine in their spare time.
How fortunate for us all, Sola Scriptura means the church has the authority to establish doctrine based only on Holy Scripture and teach it to everyone. No one is expected to do it in their spare time.

Until there is something they don't agree with- then they take their itchy ears to another pastor, until he interprets the Scriptures "wrong" in their view...
Oddly enough, the churches that preach the most "fire and brimstone" are the ones growing at the fastest rate. At least based on statistics it appears people like itchy ears.

But ya didn't really answer the questions about that 1500 year gap did ya sue bee? Interesting.
What answer are you expecting?

Erika S. said...

My problem with sola scriptura is that it is not in the bible. I have yet to see any scripture that states Bible only. So all of this debating seems silly as sola scripture is doctrine that is based on a tradition, but sola scriptura advocates do not believe in tradition. WOW my head hurts!

Erika S. said...

Here is a site that lists 21 reasons to reject sola scriptura.

http://lambchopwife.typepad.com/kirkpatrick/2007/07/twenty-one-re-1.html

Milehimama said...

Sue Bee,
I thought you held the standard view of sola scriptura, namely that the Bible alone is for teaching.

Apparently you believe that the Bible should have an interpreter, you (Lutheran?) pastor/the church authorities.

And so, you rely (and the Christians unable to read, etc.) on your pastor/clergyman to tell you what the Bible says and what it means.

Sounds kinda Catholic to me, but OK.

I suppose we should define our terms in the future. I am married to a non-denominational Christian, and his view of Sola Scriptura is that the Holy Spirit will help him interpret Scripture properly - no church hierarchy needed.

Elena said...

But ya didn't really answer the questions about that 1500 year gap did ya sue bee? Interesting.

What answer are you expecting?


Something a little more compelling and persuasive than what I got.

Elena said...

For how the Word spread before the NT writings, I urge you to read the book of Acts, pay special attention to Chapter 2 where the day of Pentecost takes place (hint: it has to do with the Holy Spirit).


hint- that's Sacred Tradition.