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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sola Scriptura and the "Essentials" of Christianity

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

The belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith, or Sola Scriptura (SS), has been the foundation for Protestantism for 500 years.  Unfortunately, SS, as well as the idea that there is no need for a central teaching authority, or Magisterium, has led to the splintering of Christianity into tens of thousands of different denominations.  

Tens of thousands. That's simply crazy.  Clearly, SS is the recipe for chaos and confusion. It does NOT lead to unity in doctrine. Each of these denominations claims that their interpretation of Scripture is the correct one, teaching different, and often contrary, views of what the Bible teaches.

(Here is a list of just 5000 denominations, and this list does not include independent churches that are popping up, on every street corner in every city, almost daily, like this: 

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Some Christians may argue that it doesn't matter that there are thousands upon thousands of different denominations because these denominations agree on the "essentials".  As long as there is conformity to these "essentials", the other differences in doctrines are extraneous or secondary.

However, if you ask a SS Christian what these "essentials" are, you'll get different answers.  

Here's one list I saw of "essentials" Christians must believe:

1) belief in One God
2) the divinity of Christ
3) the resurrection of Christ
4) the fall of man
5) salvation by grace through faith

Note that this does not include the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, that Scripture is the Word of God, the existence of heaven, hell, the forgiveness of sins, the command to proclaim the gospel, the obligation to worship God on Sunday, the immortality of the soul...

Here's another list of someone else's opinion about what's "essential" for Christianity.  Note that there are some overlaps, but also some new "essentials" and some missing "essentials".

And here's yet another list of Christian "essentials".

And we should remark on this great irony: the SS Christians will get this list of "essentials" from their religious tradition...NOT from the Bible.

For the Bible does not offer a list of what are "essential" beliefs and what are secondary.

This diverse list of "essentials", in which SS Christians cannot even agree upon, is testimony to the idea the Sola Scriptura is untenable.  It simply cannot work. It does not work. To the degree of thousands upon thousands of differing ideas about what Jesus meant when he taught Bible Verses [A, B and C].

Now, thanks to SS, we have a multitude of different denominations, with a multitude of permutations of these doctrinal differences:

Baptism--by sprinkling? Immersion?  Infant? Adult? Sacrament? Ordinance? In Jesus’ name only? 
Church leadership vs no leadership
Death/Soul Sleep
Divorce and remarriage
Drinking permitted?
Female pastors
Health and wealth gospel
Hell, or no hell
How many sacraments are there?  
Is there such a thing as sacraments?
Is God‘s Holy Name Jehovah
Lord’s day on Saturday or Sunday
Music or no music (Singing or no singing)
Once saved, always saved?
Sola scriptura/private interpretation
Sunday worship obligatory?
The Eucharist 
Tongues (some believe others are not saved if they don't speak in tongues)
Trinity vs. Unitarianism
What's a sin, what is not a sin
Wine vs grape juice at the Lord's Supper

It is testimony to the fact that we, with our darkened intellects, need a central authority--that is, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church--to provide light and direction as we journey towards Him.  

We need a Church that is the guardian and authentic interpreter of the Word of God, so when there are disagreements about the Scriptures (and there most certainly will be, for the Scriptures themselves say that there are things that are "hard to understand")
In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. --2 Peter 3:16
we will have the assurance that we will be guided by Christ himself, through His Body, the Church,  to the correct meaning.

"Me and My Bible Alone" just doesn't work.

NEXT WEEK:  addressing the "Tu Quoque"--that is, the "But you do it, too" rebuttal.  "Catholics disagree on things, too!"

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