After I became a Christian I struggled with whether I should keep attending a Catholic Church.
As I sat in church and watched incense rise up from the altar, I felt an urge to stay and be part of what felt like a sacred mystery.On the other hand, there were a lot of Catholic beliefs that I could not find in the Bible, which made me think they were just man-made traditions.
I eventually decided that it didn’t matter which church I joined so long as I only believed in what the Bible taught. But then I ran into a roadblock: I couldn’t find a single Bible verse that said everything I believed had to be found in the Bible. And the more I studied history,the more I saw it was the Catholic Church that gave us the Bible.
If I believed in God’s word, then why wouldn’t I join the church that gave us this word in the form of Sacred Scripture?
The Unbiblical Idea of Sola Scriptura
In the sixteenth century, Christians like Martin Luther and John Calvin opposed what they thought were “man-made traditions” of the Catholic Church.Because of their protest against the Church, they came to be known as the Protestant Reformers. However, instead of reforming the Catholic Church, they rejected the Church’s authority and replaced it with the idea that all Christian teaching, or doctrine, should come from the Bible alone.This principle later came to be called sola scriptura (Latin for “by Scripture alone”).
But if all doctrine is supposed to come from the Bible, then where does the Bible teach the doctrine of sola scriptura?
It’s true that Revelation 22:18 warns that“every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” But John, the author of Revelation, was just prohibiting the addition of words to the visions he received. He was not denying that the word of God exists outside the Bible, or even outside his own revelation.
The passage most often cited in defense of sola scriptura is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Catholics agree that all Scripture is inspired by God.Scripture is also useful, but this doesn’t mean Scripture is the only thing that helps us teach the faith or grow in holiness. We also need an active prayer life and advice from other mature Christians. In 2 Timothy 2:21, Paul says that if Timothy cleanses himself from bad influences he will be a vessel ready for “every good work.”Of course, that doesn’t mean that if Timothy stays away from bad influences, he will automatically know every essential doctrine of the Faith.
The Bible teaches that Scripture is one
tool that equips us to
good works, but it is not the only tool that makes
us ready for that task.In fact, the
Bible teaches that God’s word is not
restricted to the written word alone.
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