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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why do Catholics reject Sola Scriptura?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

This Sunday's 2nd Reading proclaims:

All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.--2 Timothy 3:16-17

This verse is often invoked by Protestants who want to question why we Catholics do not defer to Sola Scriptura (that is, Scripture Alone as our authority). They believe that the Bible contains all the material necessary for our salvation and that a magisterium (the Church's living teaching authority--the bishops teaching in union with the Pope) is not necessary.  That is, these verses declare, in their opinion, that Sola Scriptura is the only rule of faith for all Christians.

It is interesting to note, however, when we read the above verse, that it does not state what Protestants claim it states.  It does not state that the Bible is sufficient. It does not state that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for Christians.   It declares that Scripture is useful, and makes us competent, and equipped. 

We Catholics give that a hearty amen!

However, to conclude that the above verse supports Sola Scriptura is quite over-reaching.  We believe as Catholics that the Bible is useful.  And that it equips us.  And that it teaches us.  But we don't believe that the Bible alone is all we need...for this verse never states this.  In fact, one can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and one will never find any verse which declares that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be the sole rule of faith.  

Thus, Sola Scriptura is a self-refuting doctrine.  It does not support its own claim.

When St. Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, the New Testament was not yet complete.  So what St. Paul was referring to when he declares "All Scripture is inspired by God" was the Jewish Scriptures--the Old Testament.  And thus when Protestants invoke this verse to prove Sola Scriptura they may actually be proving too much.  They will only be arguing for the fact that St. Paul declares that the Old Testament is sufficient.

If we read just a few verses earlier we see that St. Paul is telling Timothy:

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures

It is quite apparent that the Scriptures that Timothy, a Jewish convert,  knew "from infancy" are the books from the Old Testament only.

Additionally, we can see from the above verse that St. Paul is also referring to the oral instruction that Timothy received.  This supports the Catholic paradigm of Sacred Scripture (written) AND Sacred Tradition* (oral) transmission of the Word of God.

Thus, we can see that while Scripture is profitable, useful and equips us, the Bible does NOT state that it is all we need.

*Note that Sacred Tradition is not the same as "tradition".  In the latter case, "tradition" refers to "customs", not to the Word of God orally transmitted from the Apostles to the Church.  Examples of "traditions" are:  kneeling while praying, priestly vestments, wearing a wedding ring, having a steeple on your church.  Examples of Sacred Tradition:  the table of contents of the Bible, the Mass, the teachings on Mary.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15