Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sola Scriptura and the Doctor Phil Test

In an article earlier this week "Sola Scriptura Takes It On The Chin", I put forward mostly the writings of a respected Catholic Apologist, Dave Armstrong. 

The article was cross posted over at "Where the Rubber Hits the Road" by Catholic priest Father Tim Moyle, and there were comments on that site to my article.  The largest volume came from our old friend though definitely not a friend of the Catholic Church, Small Town Guy (not his real name), who commented long after anyone was interested in reading what he had to say in defence of sola scriptura.  He accounted for 17 of the 28 comments to date.


My objection to sola scriptura is that it is one of a few points that separate Catholics and other Christians from being one as Jesus called us.  It was a dogma created out of the Reformation that did not exist in Christianity before, and bore no resemblance to any other existing belief.


Newton's third law of motion has been stated as: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  It is my contention that this law applies to the Reformation and its original emergence.  At the time of the Reformation, leaders of the Catholic Church were behaving badly, to put it mildly.  Luther did not want to leave the Catholic Church, but to Reform it itself.  However, his reaction, which included the posting of his 99 theses, resulted in the Church leaders reacting themselves.  This led to Luther's next reaction, and so on and so on.  The net result is that we have two serious brands of Christianity, the Catholic and the Protestant, and a host of other churches and cults.


Yet, Jesus called us all to be one.


Among the things that separate us from each other in full communion is sola scriptura.  Having stopped reading the fulmination of those on either side of the debate, I came to the conclusion that you say tomato, I say tomahto, but I don't want to call the whole thing off, because Jesus called us all to be one.


Many readers are familiar with Dr. Phil McGraw, or Dr. Phil that Christian psychologist made famous by Oprah and by his own television show, mainly because of the wisdom he dispenses.


Dr. Phil says two things that stand out for me.  The first is that the best predictor of future behaviours are past behaviours.  If that is the case, then Catholics and Protestants will remain divided for the foreseeable future.


But, his other famous words are actually a question.  That question is "How's that working for ya?"


So, let's apply that question to sola scriptura, and ask how that's working for the Reformation.  So, you can defend the veracity of sola scriptura to your heart's content, but is it working?  If it is of God, it will work.   In fact, it has to work.  But, 500 years in it is a dismal failure, and is attempting to make a farce of the bible, which is untenable.


The number of Protestant denominations spawned in the last 500 years is significant, regardless of who you turn to for statistics, and these further separations are the in no small part the result of dogged support of sola scriptura.  Whenever a sub-group of Protestant believers come to the conclusion that the group they are a part of has misinterpreted scripture, they break away and form a new church.


If sola scriptura is so good, how come the Pentecostals are not Baptists, and the Presbyterians are not joined with the Methodists, and all of them joined together for example?


Just a question?


All Christians should agree that the Bible is the truth, and as such is indisputable in its truth.  If that is so, is the Bible in error when one group breaks from another over the interpretation of the Bible?  It cannot be so, and therefor man must be in error, and these divisions in the Body of Christ cannot be of God, but of man's origin.


The Catholic Church teaches this about the Bible in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and all faithful Catholics are required to believe this:
105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70


106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71


107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72
The numbers that follow each of these paragraphs are references in the Catechism.  In this case all of them (69 through 72) refer to the encyclical letter Dei Verbum that was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965.  They also refer to Paragraph 11 of that encyclical:


11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)


Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).
God wants us all to be one as Jesus and the Father are One, as stated in John 17:21.  To be one with each other, we must all be seekers of the truth, for the Holy Spirit will present to us all truth and wisdom.  It may take time, and it may take a great deal of humility, since we also want to be right.  But, we are not called to be right, but to be righteous, and above all to be holy as He is holy.

5 comments:

Larry Green said...

I have to be honest , I have skimmed over the body of your ‘essay’ but I would like to share my opinion about the summary.
I think you mean God wants us to be one as Jesus , Holy Spirit and Father are one. There is a fallacy of equivocation in that proposition. The peace and the love realized through the unity of human endeavour is in absolutely no way like the unity of the Blessed Trinity. The unity of the Blessed Trinity means - One Being - same essence ( species ).
To the second point. Do you really expect that every human being has the capacity or is even aware of the desire to ’ seek the truth’ and become ‘ WISE‘ ?
Who is wise ?
What is humility ?
How can we be ’one’ with so many in the world who lack this potential ?

Who can be righteous unless she knows what is right.

How is God holy ?

MBrandon said...

Larry:

Thank you for your comment. I amended one word to concur with John 17:21 per your first part.

It requires a judgement on my part to respond to part of your question: "Do you really expect that every human being has the capacity or is even aware of the desire to ’ seek the truth’ and become ‘ WISE‘ ?"

I do not know everyone, and so do not know if all have the capacity specifically to seek the truth, but since all are created in the image and likeness of God, I suspect that they do.

"Are all aware?" is a really good question. I think that the state of the world we live in and the state of families, countries, companies, tribes, etc. indicates that many are not aware of seeking the truth above being rights, and are interested in Wisdom.

We tend to look at Being One, humility, wisdom, humility as destinations. They are more a journey, and this journey will not conclude here on the earth.

Anonymous said...

I concur with your points about the divisions within the Protestant Church body, it is deplorable. That being said, I agree we should all be one, but what form of unity are you talking about? Is it an invisible, imperceptible body where we are unified in key points but disagree on secondary doctrines?

Example: Pro-life conference held in Montreal 2005. The Holy Cross Fathers from the Oratory cancelled the use of their building minutes before the conference began putting hundreds of visitors and organizers in a quandary. Is this being the unified, one, holy catholic church?

But you know what happened next, a small Evangelical church took in the pro-life guests. Now who do you say is Judas in this case and who is the true "Peter"?

I know it is easier to see the speck in the eyes of others but ignore the plank in our own. On the point of unity, I think Catholics need to look within their own body first before pointing to the "speck" in the eyes of a protestant.


Cliff

MBrandon said...

Cliff:

You quote an example which surprises me at its apparent craziness (Holy Cross Fathers), and highlighted a joyful resolution to the apparent problem.

Catholic human beings, me included, are open to sin and error.

But, as a Catholic, I do look inside my Church, where I see a perfect Church inhabited by imperfect people.

Catholics are quite capable of behaving deplorably, so are Protestants, and how about Jews and Islamists.

But, the primary thing that separated Christians is doctrine.

Sola Scriptura and the Eucharist prevent us from being fully together, along with a few other choice ones.

That said, it was the American Pentecostal Movement that was responsible for planting the seeds of what became the Catholic Charismatic Movement back in the late 60's, which JPII called one of the most signigifant moves of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church.

As a church musician for many years, I usually listened to Praise and Worship from our Protestant brethren, because theirs was the best, and still is. My friends and I incorporated, where possible and appropriate, music that fit the need, regardless of its source.

The outreach to the young people in the Catholic Church through LifeTeen Masses and gatherings is largely based on music from the other side of the Christian House.

Alpha is flourishing in the Catholic Church, but it did not start with us, and we are enjoying the fruit of it.

We have much to share with each other, but I desperately want to share the Eucharist with my separated brothers and sisters. Nothing uplifts me more than receiving the Eucharist. It is indescribable.

It bothers me to see Catholics come to the Eucharist with no understanding of what it really is. It bothers me almost as much to see non Catholics at a wedding or funeral unable to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, when they are more likely to be able to grasp what it means, because many of them have been better catechised.

God Bless You

Michael

MBrandon said...

Cliff:

You quote an example which surprises me at its apparent craziness (Holy Cross Fathers), and highlighted a joyful resolution to the apparent problem.

Catholic human beings, me included, are open to sin and error.

But, as a Catholic, I do look inside my Church, where I see a perfect Church inhabited by imperfect people.

Catholics are quite capable of behaving deplorably, so are Protestants, and how about Jews and Islamists.

But, the primary thing that separated Christians is doctrine.

Sola Scriptura and the Eucharist prevent us from being fully together, along with a few other choice ones.

That said, it was the American Pentecostal Movement that was responsible for planting the seeds of what became the Catholic Charismatic Movement back in the late 60's, which JPII called one of the most signigifant moves of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church.

As a church musician for many years, I usually listened to Praise and Worship from our Protestant brethren, because theirs was the best, and still is. My friends and I incorporated, where possible and appropriate, music that fit the need, regardless of its source.

The outreach to the young people in the Catholic Church through LifeTeen Masses and gatherings is largely based on music from the other side of the Christian House.

Alpha is flourishing in the Catholic Church, but it did not start with us, and we are enjoying the fruit of it.

We have much to share with each other, but I desperately want to share the Eucharist with my separated brothers and sisters. Nothing uplifts me more than receiving the Eucharist. It is indescribable.

It bothers me to see Catholics come to the Eucharist with no understanding of what it really is. It bothers me almost as much to see non Catholics at a wedding or funeral unable to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, when they are more likely to be able to grasp what it means, because many of them have been better catechised.

God Bless You

Michael