Scripture Alone

An Article By Lee A. Crocker

 

Demonstrate that those ecclesial systems that follow "Scripture plus an Infallible Interpreter" are more unified in their beliefs than those ecclesial systems that follow Sola Scriptura.

 

Sola Scriptura in this usage will mean authority is vested in scripture alone as the final arbiter of the faith.  It will be taken as a strict guideline.  If an argument shows that the guideline is violated those of that camp will then fall into the Scripture plus camp.  Once an arguement falls to the Scripture plus camp the authority passes from Sola Scriptura to Scripture plus as the final arbiter of the faith and the argument is completed.  Those of that camp who then still adhere that Scripture alone guides them are living a fantasy, refusing to admit to the reality of their system. 

 

To begin lets consider the nature of what is the scripture.  This has been debated ad nauseum.  But it I will go through some of the arguments once again since it is useful to consider regarding the nature of unity.  Scripture itself does not tell us what it is.  For example there are at least 3 possible OT canons that are legitimate.  The Sadducee’s used only the Pentateuch, as did the Samaritan and the other lost tribes of Israel.  The Pharisee used the Pentateuch PLUS.  The plus was the Prophets.  With respect to the Prophets there were 2 camps, which were related to Israel’s captivity.  After captivity some of Israel went back to Jerusalem and a Hebrew canon developed and some to Alexandria where a Greek canon developed.  At this point there were at least 3 OT canons.  Pentateuch, Hebrew Pentateuch plus prophets, and Septuagint are the contenders.  The battle over what “was” the true canon raged in Jewish circles even after the fall of Jerusalem up into the second and third centuries.  When the Jews from Berea which was in Macedonia North of Greece checked the scripture to test Paul’s authority, what canon did they examine?    

 

[Acts 17:10] The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.

[Acts 17:11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to  see if these things were so.

[Acts 17:12] Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

 

Most likely it was the Septuagint.  The point being this is a favorite verse of the Sola Scripturist to justify the use of Scripture as the final authority, yet it is at best unclear what Scripture these Berean’s used, and most likely not the canon the Sola Scripturist uses.  Hence on its face Sola Scriptura fails because one is not even sure which books are in the bible.  You can try to come to some understanding by looking at “history”, but history is unclear, and regardless your source then becomes Scripture plus.  Therefore taking you out of the camp of Sola Scriptura.

 

Another example of this kind of problem becomes evident by considering the point of view of the KJV 1611 only crowd.  These Protestants since they are Sola Scripturists to a very high degree see the need for a specific text to call the inspired word of God.  They go though an argument that it is the translation of the textus receptus that is in fact the correct bible, the other bible sources not being the inspired word of God.  The textus receptus is Byzantine and is one of the most recent of the several ancient texts that can be called reliable copies of the bible.  These KJV only types correctly understand that if Scripture alone is the rule there can be only one scripture that fits the bill as the authentic word.  Other Protestants view the Greek or Hebrew as the most correct.  These people find the Greek/Hebrew interlinear to be the only bible that is authoritative.  Others choose the amplified version to base their faith on.  Now we see on its face an unavoidable division based on the nature of the bible itself.  The bible is silent on what are the authoritative books as well as what is the authoritative translation, and source text.  Hence you can know with no real certainty what the truth is since the book provides no way to discern its authority apart from an outside source.  Scripture Plus.  This leads to a more fundamental kind of disunity.  To disagree with a legitimate authority is a thing of pride and causes one kind of disunity, a disunity based in the sin of Adam.  To be unable to even know what is authoritative is a more fundamental disorder for that is not a thing of pride or personal interpretation, but a thing of objective disorder.  Sola Scriptura therefore in its very nature is disordered and therefore is a primary cause of disunity.  Secondary causes of disunity of course are misinterpretation of what the bible says.  If you can’t even know which book holds the objective truth, you are hardly able to therefore deduce with any surety any truth from that book.  You are left guessing.

 

Next we can look at what the bible says about the need for an outside source.  That is to say a magisterial teacher to provide the context within which a certain doctrine or dogma is to be understood.  A chapter from the scripture that approaches this concern is the first chapter of 2 Peter.  Recall that Peter is the prime among the Apostles; Jesus’ pick to Sheppard his brothers, and the Rock upon Jesus built his Church.

 

[2 Pet 1:1] Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

[2 Pet 1:2] May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

[2 Pet 1:3] His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

[2 Pet 1:4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

[2 Pet 1:5] For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,

[2 Pet 1:6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,

[2 Pet 1:7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

 

What is the first part saying?  It is speaking in fact about unity.  It says those who the letter is addressed to have obtained a faith that is of equal standing with the faith of Peter.  That is an absolute statement of solidarity.  So the recipients are of precisely the same faith as Peter.  He goes on to how this faith is to be manifest leading to the unity of brotherly love as the highest in the aspect of this unity.  Not brotherly love in the natural sense but in the order of Grace and Peace.  That is to say not brotherly love that is self serving but love that is self sacrificing, the same love Jesus showed.

 

[2 Pet 1:8] For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[2 Pet 1:9] For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

[2 Pet 1:10] Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall;

[2 Pet 1:11] so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He further specifies that necessity of these actions in order that entrance into then kingdom will be richly provided.  He who does these things will be assured of not falling.  He who fails to do these things will be assured of falling, and not achieving rich entrance into heaven.

 

Note what Peter says next

 

[2 Pet 1:12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

 

I intend always to remind you of these things.  Though they are known and established in truth.

 

Peter as the Rock and Primary apostle has both the power and the authority to provide for the ability to provide this eternal reminder, (at least until the end of time) of what is the truth.

 

[2 Pet 1:12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

[2 Pet 1:13] I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder,

[2 Pet 1:14] since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

[2 Pet 1:15] And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

 

He further elucidates that he intends to provide a means to know the precise truth even after he has died.  That is past his personal apostolic tenure, he intends to provide a means to know the precise interpretation and understanding of what is known. 

 

[2 Pet 1:16] For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

[2 Pet 1:17] For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with  whom I am well pleased,"

[2 Pet 1:18] we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

 

He is saying that his knowledge is not based on speculation or analysis, but that his knowledge is based on eyewitness.  His knowledge of the reality of Jesus is not based on the book alone.  It is based on the fact he saw Jesus as the Son of God at the transfiguration. 

 

[2 Pet 1:19] And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

 

We have the prophetic word made more sure.  It is his experience as the Rock that makes the exact nature of what the bible says more sure.  It is Peter that anchors the exact nature of the reality of Jesus across all ages.  It is Peter and the “WE” from the verse above, that make what the bible says more sure.

 

Who gets to interpret the prophetic word?   That is who has the authority to interpret the bible?  Is it the individual?

 

[2 Pet 1:20] First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,

 

The answer to this is NO.  The individual has no way to interpret the prophetic word. 

 

[2 Pet 1:21] because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

 

So who are these men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God?

 

[John 20:19] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came  and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

[John 20:20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

[John 20:21] Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."

[John 20:22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

 

Note who is doing the speaking here.  God in the person of Jesus.

 

These are the men Peter is talking about in 2 Peter 1:21

 

[Acts 1:1] In the first book, O The-oph'ilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,

[Acts 1:2] until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

[Acts 1:3] To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.

[Acts 1:4] And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me,

[Acts 1:5] for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

[Acts 1:6] So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

[Acts 1:7] He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.

[Acts 1:8] But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth."

 

Who are these men commanded by the Holy Spirit?  The 12

 

[Acts 1:15] In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said,

[Acts 1:16] "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus.

[Acts 1:17] For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry.

 

[Acts 1:20] For it is written in the book of Psalms, `Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it';  and  `His office let another take.'

 

Even though Judas had died, his office remained, and was taken by another.

 

Now you may argue that the office could only be fulfilled by one who walked with Jesus, and there could only be 12 apostles.

 

[Rom 1:1] Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God

 

The thirteenth apostle would prove you wrong.  Paul did not walk with Jesus during his life, yet he shared in the expansion of the hierarchy.  Further Paul is most prolific in his activity as one of the men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.   But he did not receive his share in the apostleship until he had hands laid upon him.  Consider further the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

 

[Acts 8:27] And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Can'dace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship

[Acts 8:28] and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

[Acts 8:29] And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."

[Acts 8:30] So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

[Acts 8:31] And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 

The Spirit said to Philip  a man moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.  Was Philip a free agent or did he have some share in the office?

 

[Acts 6:5] And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch'orus, and Nica'nor, and Ti'mon, and Par'menas, and Nicola'us, a proselyte of Antioch.

[Acts 6:6] These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.

 

He was a man the apostles laid hands upon.  He shared in the teaching authority of the office of the apostles.  This was a new ministry created apart from that which Jesus had created.  So the apostles had the authority to create the hierarchy that was needed as the Church grew.  It shows that Peter had both the authority and the means and responsibility as the Rock to:

 

[2 Pet 1:12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.  

 

And his means, is precisely contained the offices that he created and the resulting magesterium.   Which always provides the means for the correct way to interpret Scripture.  By means of men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.  This ultimately then becomes Sola Scriptura proof that it MUST be Scripture plus.  Since the argument is based on Scripture Alone.

 

Further looking at the nature of the magisterium you see encapsulated in them the fullness of the ministerial priesthood, for it is from them that ministerial priests get their authority to perform the sacraments, especially transubstantiation.  Transubstantiation means that the substance is transformed into the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of the Lord.  Since these are always one and the same, it is never a new presentation.  It is in substance the exact same presentation.  That is to say the Eucharist I receive is precisely the same Eucharist my father received, and his father received, and his father received, all the way back to the Eucharist that Peter received on the day of the Last Supper. 

 

This is the ultimate in unifying force since it is the once and for all re-memberance.  Of the sacrifice of the Lord.  You may for example say is there disunity in the Novus Ordo vs the Tridentine Order.  However you must realize that there are over 20 separate rites of the Church each with its own liturgical expression.  It is not the order that is unifying it is the Eucharist that is confected.  The order is in fact the fullness of expression of the central tenant.   That Christ dies once and for all.  Once and for all time once and for all places and once and for all People.  Once and for all does not mean once and only once.  It is far more inclusive than that.  Hence at the center of the pinnacle of worship as expressed across all people is the once and for all sacrifice.   When man remembers he calls to mind an image of reality.  That is correctly ordered to man, for he is but himself an image.  When God remembers as he does in the mass, God remembers in terms of reality.  Hence what becomes present by the action of God’s remembering is the reality not just an image or a symbol.   Do this in remembrance of me as an action of God means that the members are literally brought back into reality. 

 

Further if you consider that this sacrifice is begins anew every hour of every day somewhere across the face of the earth, there is perpetual remembrance in all time, until the end of time.  Again this is the ultimate in unity.  This is something that can only be accomplished by men.  A book, even a book as great as the God breathed bible, in no way can approach the nature of this unity.  How do you know the Catholic Church is the true Church?  It is by this sacrament.  Mormons don’t have it, evangelicals don’t have it, JW’s don’t have it.  Only those with valid Bishops have it, the Catholic, Orthodox, and those of the ancient apostolic churches.  In fact ľ of all Christianity believes in the real presence and has maintained some aspect of apostolic succession.  In fact the real issue of disunity is not in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, but in the protestant tendency to reductionism in the faith.  The protestant is obsessed with what is the least you can do, or be, and still claim salvation.  Faith alone, Bible alone, Juridical declarations of justification instead of actual justification, Eternal Election, each of these have at its root a desire to compromise the holiness of God, with sin.  Each of these in its essence is a way to claim the justice of God and at the same time hang onto the dung heap underneath.  The real issue is the protestant desire to eject the priesthood and the sacramental covenantal character of the true religion for something that is less.  Something that is smaller.  Something that is less intimate.  Something that shrinks who God is down to a size that is more manageable.  God’s presence is not real in the Eucharist it is merely symbolic.  It is merely spiritual.  A ministerial priesthood is not needed but rather a nation of priests… For anyone who subscribes to this theory I suggest you refer to the fate of Korah in the 16th chapter of the book of Numbers.  There is nothing in Protestantism that can come close to the unity provided by this sacrament. 

 

The proof is in the counting.  30,000 protestant sects, who claim authority based on Sola Scriptura.   A handful of Catholic, Orthodox, and Apostolic churches, some in schism but always in Eucharistic unity, a unity based in the office of Bishop, in the magesterium, the same as it ever was. 

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