Sola Scriptura – Continuing Thoughts

A family member sent an email with a conglomeration of scripture references and issues.  This is part of a response to that email that I may or may not send.  It seemed relevant to what I’ve been writing about here so it seemed fitting to post it.  These are some more of my continuing thoughts about sola scriptura and the Protestant dilemma.

Let me lay out some issues.

  1. Protestants reject any “traditions of man” as being authoritative.
  2. Protestants reject the notion that a human spiritual authority exists that speaks for all of Christianity.
  3. Protestants accept only the Bible as doctrinally authoritative and only our own personal interpretations of what it says as pure, Christian doctrine.

Therefore, Protestants must prove Biblically:

  1. …what books should actually be in the Bible (since no one mere man can decide for me what is in the Bible).
  2. …where the Bible says there is no human spiritual authority that speaks for all of Christianity.
  3. …where the Bible says that the Bible is the sole doctrinal authority in an individual’s life.
  4. …the hermeneutic rules the Bible gives us to properly interpret the Bible (since hermeneutic rules are either “man-made” or “traditionally” accepted.)
  5. …where the Bible says my personal relationship with Jesus and my personal interpretation of the Bible is the foundation of Christian doctrine.

These are the sorts of inconsistencies I’ve come across as a Protestant.


12 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura – Continuing Thoughts

  1. Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
    One of the best resources for Catholic understanding of scripture is John Dominic Crossan. He has a reputation for saying things that are controversial, but his writing on scripture is spot on. As an example he recounted in an interview the importance of context and background in the proper reading of the Bible.

    He explained it this way; suppose somebody asked you to talk about the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. but they were not interested in hearing about the hundreds of years of slavery in the USA. That information is just background. How could that possibly help us understand the writings of MLK?

    Reading the Bible is the same way. You cannot understand the teachings of Jesus without understanding the history of Jewish occupation. The Roman occupation was only the latest in the long history of occupation. How could the book of Daniel (Apocrypha to Evangelicals) possibly help us understand the teachings of Jesus?

    Now, you can choose to have your own interpretation of the English translation of the Bible and perhaps God revealed a truth to you through the English words of Jesus. The difficulty in only reading the Bible in English and only interpreting the meaning in the context of modern society is the interpretation can be self-serving. The current Bible does not represent the oldest text witnesses we have available and unless you have a study Bible that breaks down the Greek and Hebrew (Aramaic) words into a historical context the actual teaching can be misinterpreted.

    God bless,

    • Thanks for the comment, neodecaussade.

      I understand what you say about context. It’s something a lot of Christians talk about. Yet I’ve found that they still often can’t agree what the context is either. I used to think context was the key to understanding Scripture. While I believe it’s still important, what happens when nobody can agree on what the context is? That’s partly what has been leading me toward Rome.

      At the end of the day, it seems a living voice must make the final determination on what the Bible says in regards to doctrine, such as Robert Barron discusses here ( Otherwise we have endless debate and personal opinions. Growing up Protestant-Evangelical, with everyone interpreting the Bible the way they believe to be true, I see the anarchy it produces. If that’s what God intended, fine…but then there’s no point being Roman Catholic. I can keep doing what I’ve been doing as a Protestant.

      After your last comment, I looked into Crossan and got a little confused. He started the “Jesus Seminar”—an audacious title—with another guy. Even a small sampling of what they hold makes me question them. I find it interesting that a Catholic would approve of Crossan since he holds, for example, that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and his miracles were simply parables written by His disciples. This conflicts directly with Roman Catholic dogma. Could you explain more about why you like Crossan’s work and justify a scholar so at odds with the Church?

      While Crossan is apparently Roman Catholic, it seems he’s actually more of a Protestant. He determines for himself who and what Jesus is. But one of the major factors in favor of Roman Catholicism is the living voice it possesses which speaks straight from God. If we choose to believe it doesn’t have that voice, why be Roman Catholic?

    • Dear Rachel-Elaine,
      When you are ready to grow a little in spiritual maturity, let me know. I see you are very active as a blogger. Perhaps you need to spend a bit of time listening to the discomforting voice of the Holy Spirit.

    • Hi, Rachel-Elaine! Thanks for the encouragement. And don’t worry about finding random bloggers to grow in “spiritual maturity.” If you have the Bible, the Catechism, and authors like Scott Hahn, you’re going to go plenty deep and grow in spiritual maturity. Keep up the good blogging.

  2. Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
    Let me begin by explaining that Fr. Robert Barron is not a scripture scholar, but is a very popular media celebrity. He produces excellent TV shows and other Catholic media, but he is not a scripture scholar. He knows what side of the bread is buttered so be cautious of accepting everything he produces.

    Now, as for Crossan he is a scripture scholar. Crossan is also deeply Catholic. The Jesus Seminar may seem suspicious to you but I ask you to do a little homework before you judge them too harshly. Begin by reading Divino Afflante Spiritu. Once you have a grasp of the encyclical go back to the work of The Jesus Seminar and see if they do not meet the expectations of the encyclical. Keep in mind I have directed you to only Catholic resources. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused you.

    I want you to understand that once you know what Crossan knows there will be no turning back. Your Protestant friends and family cannot accept Crossan and many of your new Catholic friends cannot either. I will almost guarantee that that your parish priest, and his Bishop have never read Divino Afflante Spiritu. To take the next step requires courage and maturity. Many Christians don’t want to mature in their spirituality. Based on your line of questioning I suspect that you have heard the Holy Spirit calling you to a deeper understanding of God.

    Prior to Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) the Catholic Church hierarchy used to vet their scripture scholars based upon the scholar’s belief that Moses himself wrote the Pentateuch. Catholic scripture scholars have had to catch up quickly, and there is a legacy of holding on to those old ways of thinking. Traditionalists want to believe that Moses was the author of Genesis. Progressives want to follow Protestant leanings and believe whatever they want. The proper path is to listen to the teachings of the Catholic Church and understand them because you have read them. Don’t allow Robert Barron to summarize those teachings for you.

    You asked the question and I felt that you were then capable of hearing the answer. If you are not comfortable with the notion that there was a resurrection but not a physical resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus then I suggest you do not proceed with reading the encyclical and ignore Crossan.

    God bless,

    • At the end you said, “If you are not comfortable with the notion that there was a resurrection but not a physical resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus then I suggest you do not proceed with reading the encyclical and ignore Crossan.” I’m perfectly comfortable with the resurrection of Jesus. It’s Crossan that denies it. Maybe you misunderstood my last comment or maybe I’m misunderstanding yours. We might be talking past each other. I’m not sure.

      I finished reading Divino Afflante Spiritu. There was a lot of exhortation to study Scripture as well as possible. I think we all agree with that. What I did not see in that encyclical was free rein to believe whatever we want apart from the doctrine of the Church.

      Quite the contrary.

      It specifically said, “The commentators of the Sacred Letters, mindful of the fact that here there is question of a divinely inspired text, the care and interpretation of which have been confided to the Church by God Himself, should no less diligently take into account the explanations and declarations of the teaching authority of the Church.”

      Likewise it said the Catholic commentator “also may attempt to find a satisfactory solution, which will be in full accord with the doctrine of the Church.”

      So again, back to my original wonderings; if Crossan is correct and the Church is wrong, then why should anyone be Catholic at all? What would be the point?

      • Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
        The question assumes that one must be correct and the other incorrect.

        Crossan believes that the first Christians told Jesus’ resurrection story as a parable, not as a historical fact the way we understand historical facts today. He developed this understanding not as something he just made up but using textual criticism.

        The Church dogma follows the same pattern. The Church repeats the Jesus resurrection parables every Easter, just as they have for centuries.

        If you understand the skill of textual criticism, as identified in Divino Afflante Spiritu and respect the doctrines related to faith and morals there is no conflict.

        Crossan does not advocate that we don’t celebrate Easter. He simply explained that the early Christian communities understood the Jesus resurrection stories as parables, and so should we. Therefore, no physical resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus, but resurrection jut the same.

        You want things to be black and white, but that is not the way Christianity works. There are rules and the Catholic Church outlines the rules. If you follow the rules you can be assured the information is accurate. It does not mean that the information will reinforce your pietistic beliefs.

        Crossan is correct about the resurrection based on Divino Afflante Spiritu. The Church doctrine is correct because Christians have celebrated Easter from the very beginnings of the faith.

        I hope this helps, but I am guessing you were looking for another explanation.

        • Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
          I wanted to write and ask for forgiveness. I stink at understanding the current understanding level of a person. My wife informed me that I made a mistake in providing my advice to you. She is much better at understanding people. I understood your questions through the colors of my filters. I made a mistake and I hope you can forgive me.

          God bless,

          • Hi neodecaussade.
            I doubt there’s anything to forgive but I do. No hard feelings. 🙂 I’m still learning a lot so probably won’t read Crossan’s works anytime soon. Right now he seems out of step with Catholic doctrine and I’m just trying to learn Catholic doctrine.
            Take care.

            • Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
              The goal is to help folks take one more step on their path of spiritual growth. A person can only take one step at a time. When you are ready for Crossan you will know it. God bless,

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