Sola Scriptura Debate - Verga v. Antony

Moderator Summary

Well, let me begin with again commending BOTH participants on a timely debate and one which remained civil throughout, with only one fairly minor departure from civility.  For my summary statement, I’ll begin with Mr. Antony’s arguments, which would be the most critical for this debate since he held the positive/affirmative.  As I mentioned several times throughout the debate, THE thesis of THIS debate is “Is sola scriptura biblical?”  This also remains MY thesis statement in commenting on both Verga and Antony.  Questions and comments which were not on THIS subject were distractions and at times cost both participants points for not sticking to THE thesis.

To begin with, in Antony’s Opening Statement he said:

The Israelites were told not to go beyond the word which was commanded (Deut 4:2; 12:32; 13:1-4).

So let us look at these passages first:

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Dt. 4:2 KJV)

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Dt. 12:32 KJV)

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. (Dt. 13:1-4)

These passages come close to fulfilling what Mr. Antony needed to accomplish, except one thing, they don’t speak to what is WRITTEN and “scriptura” or “Scripture” refers to what is WRITTEN.  Still these could be seen as supporting references to Antony’s thesis.  Antony goes on to say:

Balaam could not go beyond the word (Num 22:18).  The man of God could not  go beyond the word (1 Kings 13:7-8).  The waves of the sea were told not to go beyond the word (Job 38:11).  Satan was told not to go beyond the word (Job 2:6).  And thus, the new covenant bids us, "not to think of men beyond that which is written"  (1 Cor 4:6).

Again let us look at the actual verses befor commenting:

18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more...

20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. (Num. 22:18,20 KJV)

The context shows us this is the “voice” of the Lord, “speaking” which Balaam had to obey, nothing in writing - and of course, the Book of Numbers would not be penned by Moses for centuries after this event.

7 And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.

8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:

9 For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.

10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.           (1 Kings 13:7-10 KJV)

Again, context shows it is the Word of the Lord SPEAKING, not WRITTEN.

And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? (Job 38:11 KJV)

This one has nothing to do with what is “written” either.

And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2:6)

And yet again, this is a verbal command to Satan, and nothing about not going “beyond the word,” only that God gave Satan the freedom to do as he chooses with Job, “but save his life.”  So this cannot be used as evidence for “what is written,” or “Scripture.”

Next we come to what would appear to be the strongest verse in Scripture to support sola scriptura, (1 Cor. 4:6)..  Antony accurately quotes, “not to think of men beyond that which is written.”  So let us look at the entire verse and some context in which that statement was made:

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (1 Cor. 4:6 KJV emphasis mine)

Now out of context, “above that which is written” sounds pretty rock solid for the sola scriptura cause, and Verga did not engage this verse.  However, neither did Antony return to this verse again until his Closing Argument.  Had Antony kept on Verga to respond to this verse, then his closing argument would carry more weight, but he too abandoned it until a point where Verga could not respond, so I will.  Context is not Antony’s friend here.  Context reveals that this is not about Scripture being the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church, but rather it is speaking to “puffed up” men, who think themselves greater than they are.  Then comes the clincher in this context which flatly denies sola scriptura:

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Cor. 4:20 KJV emphasis mine)

So the lone verse which seemed to be Antony’s best shot at sola scriptura contextually destroys the notion.

Throughout the debate the Moderator had to continually remind both parties of the thesis question we were addressing, “Is sola scriptura biblical?”  Antony’s sola objective should have been to prove his point, and not be distracted in attacking Verga’s position.  This was also a noted criticism to Antony’s Opening Statement, it appeared as though he was attacking what he was assuming would be Verga’s arguments, even before Verga made a single argument!  It seems Antony spent far too much time attempting to attack Verga’s arguments (anticipated or those actually made) and far too little time bolstering the thesis he was here to defend.  Now certainly, as Verga introduced other infallible authorities, that opens the door for Antony to argue against those which Verga actually brought up - but again, his focus should have been on defending his thesis.  I was so disappointed in Antony’s Closing Argument.  As I said in the “Scoring Copy” - if he had just stopped after 74 words, I could have given him full credit for his Closing Argument.  As short as it was, it summarized his position and expressed his frustration in Verga not addressing 1 Cor. 4:6, and again I lay that back at Antony’s feet, for he had 3 other “responses” PRIOR to the Closing Argument wherein he could have reinforced that Verga had not responded.  As I pointed out in my commentary above, Antony would still have lost the debate on that point, BUT he would have concluded with a fully valid statement.  In continuing on with other diversions, and barely touching upon “Is sola scriptura biblical?”, if at all, Antony utterly fails in this endeavor.

On the other hand, we now look to Verga’s position in this debate.  Verga had nothing to prove!  All Verga needed to do was expose out of context remarks and/or even just explain an alternative interpretation to the Scriptures Antony presented.  There were a few times when Verga was drifting into diversionary topics too, but it seemed after the Moderator (me) stepped in and stated to both parties to remain focused on “Is sola scriptura biblical?” - Verga did return, for the most part, to attacking the thesis.  Then, in Verga’s Closing Argument one did not have to search for a thesis statement, support nor a conclusion.  He carefully stated his arguments opposed to sola scriptura as the sole infallible rule of faith and introduced alternative options - FROM SCRIPTURE which supported his theses.  The fact that Mr. Antony may have disagreed with Mr. Verga’s theses did not detract from the fact that Verga validly offered up contradictions to THE thesis of THIS debate, “Is sola scriptura biblical?”  

Perhaps the richest argument contra sola scriptura is brought up in Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:18, where men, who are given an office/bishoprick, are also given infallible authority!

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19 KJV)

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18 KJV).

Clearly, unless one accepts that error could be bound or loosed in Heaven, St. Peter, alone, in Matthew 16 was given infallible authority which was also given to the rest of the Bishops as a group in Matthew 18.
There could only be two arguments, really, against the Catholic position here.

1q) Error could indeed be bound or loosed in Heaven.

2q) This infallible authority was indeed given to these men, but it died with them.

Our answer to these possibilities is simple:

1a) It is unfathomable for the Christian to suppose error could be bound or loosed in Heaven.

2a) There is NO indication given ANYWHERE that this infallible authority, given to these Bishops, was not passed down to their successors.   

Verga quite adequately argued for both of these points.  Again, even if Mr. Antony disagrees with Mr. Verga’s presentation, all Mr. Antony has done is raise a difference of interpretation, which in itself denies sola scriptura - for these definitions themselves are “extra scriptura.”

In conclusion, I must say that the facts clearly bare out that Verga has won this debate, not only from the objective scoring, but also from the subjective judgment of the arguments that were actually made from both sides.  I repeat, Verga did not really have anything to “prove” here, as Antony did.  To use an analogy, Verga didn’t have a horse in this race, his only goal was to show how lame Antony’s horse is; and I believe Verga adequately did this.

I would also welcome someone who may support Antony’s side and/or Antony’s arguments to offer their take on what I have summarized here.  It is my feeling that even one who supports sola scriptura would conclude as I have that Antony utterly lost this debate.  Now I am not asking for someone to introduce arguments Antony missed - that would be another debate entirely, which I may consider engaging, but for THIS debate, if anyone wishes to stand up and defend Antony’s arguments - then comments can be posted to BattleACTS or to the CathApol Blog.

Word Count:  1999

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