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(This originally appeared in the Winter 1999 edition of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 4)

by Steve Berg

Ancient BibleIn a recent debate between two apologists (a Catholic and a Protestant) over the issue of sola scriptura,* the Catholic defender, Gerry Matatics, argued that Luther invented the concept of sola scriptura in the early 16th century. He claimed Protestants today are holding to a doctrine that, by its very nature, is self-refuting and even unscriptural. Matatics accused his Protestant opponent of “biting the hand that feeds him” because he is holding in such high esteem a collection of documents whose own authority rests upon the decision of the very church whose authority he rejects.

“The only way that Mr. White {his Protestant opponent} knows that he has the right books, that these are the books coming to him by the Apostles is by the Tradition of the Church, by the oral Tradition and by the teachings of the early church outside of Scripture. There is no inspired Table of Contents in the Bible. There is no statement in the Bible that says that Matthew wrote Matthew and therefore we should accept it as inspired, apostolic and canonical.”1Gerry Matatics and James White, “Sola Scriptura Debate”; Transcript of public debate given in Omaha, Nebraska November 1992, p. 1

This is a common criticism against “Bible-alone” Christians. Catholics argue that Luther created sola scriptura as a means of promoting his made-up theology, sola fide.** A significant number of the most ardent defenders of Catholic Tradition are, themselves, former evangelicals trained in well-renowned evangelical schools.2A resurgence in aggressive Catholic apologetics has resulted in the fruit of such Protestant-educated converts including Philip Blosser (Westminster Theological Seminary), David Currie (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), and Robert Sungenis (Westminster Theological Seminary). While Evangelical apologetics ministries abound, very few are dedicated to the defense of strictly Protestant issues. Undoubtedly, a primary reason for their defection (or, as they might prefer to phrase it, their “return home to Rome”) is due to such insufficient evidence to back up sola scriptura.3David Currie confesses, “If not for this issue, I might still be an Evangelical with strong Catholic sympathies . . . The Protestant problem with scriptural authority showed me why I could never remain a Protestant.” David B. Currie, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic.; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996, p. 51 The nature of this brief study is to explore the veracity of Luther’s “invention.”

Contrary to common misconceptions, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenburg Castle Church door in 1517, it was not out of protest against indulgences themselves.4“He did not as yet deny the validity of indulgences or the sacrament of penance out of which they had grown.” Harold J. Grimm. “Introduction” to his translation of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. In Selected Writings of Martin Luther, 1517-1520, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 45 It was hardly his intent to stir up the masses against the Roman Church, which he still held in high regard, but to arouse scholarly debate. The 95 Theses were written in Latin, the language of academics, not of those sitting in pews and walking the streets. His initial concern was pastoral. Luther found the abusive selling tactics of Tetzel to those in his congregation to have an overall negative effect, and it was merely his intent to arouse awareness of such abuses.5Harold J. Grimm. “Introduction” to his translation of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. In Selected Writings of Martin Luther, 1517-1520, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 47-48 His writings this early in his career are surprisingly irenic and deferential, compared to the later vitriolic tone for which he has come to be known.6In a letter to Archbishop Albrecht of Brandenburg sent along with the 95 Theses, Luther writes, “Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Prince, forgive me that I, the scum of the earth, should approach Your Sublimity.” Roland Bainton, Here I Stand. (New York: Mentor, 1977), p. 64 However, while Luther may have only intended a subdued appeal for a change in methodology, he soon found himself surfing high atop a surging tidal wave of growing dissension toward the Church. By this time, simony and moral hypocrisy had so pervaded the Roman Church that people had come to regard it as an oppressive force instead of a source of refuge. Luther’s willingness to publicly criticize the Church was destined to find eager support.

While probably hoping for a positive (or at least thoughtful) response from the Church, Luther was met instead with various attempts to silence him.

“But the Pope preferred to extinguish the friar with a clandestine snuffer and appointed a new general of the Augustinians that he might ‘quench a monk of his order, Martin Luther by name, and thus smother the fire before it should become a conflagration.’ ”7Roland Bainton, Here I Stand. (New York: Mentor, 1977), p. 65

Such action on the Church’s part failed to evoke Luther’s sympathies.

Another significant factor propelling Luther to question the judgment of the Roman Church was theological in nature. His disappointment with the Church further increased as his understanding of the Bible also increased. With his growing command of the original biblical languages, Luther’s confidence in his own ability to interpret Scripture apart from the Pope and the Church also developed. 8This is not to say, however, that the common man could not interpret the Bible as well. The emphasis here rests on Luther’s realization that the Catholic Church did not possess exclusive rights to interpretation. As a result, he became more acutely aware of the Bible’s presentation of grace, which he found to be in opposition to the Church’s understanding. The free gift of eternal salvation, based solely upon the grace of God, left no room for human merit and temporal punishment for venial sins. Hence, with the consequential obsolescence of purgatory, it was clear that indulgences, themselves, must have been nothing more than the contrivances of men. Based upon his exegesis of Scripture, as well as his discovery of a mistranslated verse from the Vulgate,9Matthew 4:17 reads as “do penance” in the Vulgate but correctly translated as “be penitent.” Luther became convinced of justification by faith alone. This obviously meant that the Roman Church’s teachings were vastly distorted and she could not be trusted. The only trustworthy source that remained was the Bible itself. Luther clearly explains his rationale before the Diet of Worms in 1521:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”10Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, p. 144. The allegation of contradictions pervading the Church was a common theme for Luther. In his debate with Eck, “I assert that a council cannot make divine right out of that which by nature is not divine right. Councils have contradicted each other, for the recent Lateran Council has reversed the claim of the councils of Constance and Basel that a council is above a pope.” (Bainton, p.90).

With that, Luther was soon excommunicated as a heretic, and his beliefs were condemned. Any hopes of reparation were dashed, and Protestantism was well on its way to becoming established.

But what was it about Luther’s words here that were so out of line with the sacred Tradition of the Church? What was the exact horror of his statement in the ears of those present and in the wake of the giant ripple it caused throughout the Roman Church’s domain? Was it simply because Luther had become some sort of Biblicist who was deifying the Scriptures, or is there another explanation which is largely ignored in modern debates?

Luther actually provides his rationale for holding such a supreme view of Scripture in this very statement made at the 1521 Diet of Worms. For centuries, it had been assumed that the teachings of the Roman Church were also the teachings of the Bible. It was impossible, indeed absurd, for the two to be in opposition to one another.

“. . . the patristic writers saw so intimate a union between Scripture and Tradition that they were virtually indistinguishable from one another.”11Peter Stravinkas “What is Catholicism’s Official Doctrine on Scripture and Tradition?” In Not By Scripture Alone, ed. Robert Sungenis (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1997), p. 373

The Church was the receptor of the Scriptures, and hence, it was her responsibility alone to interpret them properly. While it was the role of the Church to disseminate the truths of the Bible, the former is always seen as the servant of the latter. Catholic scholar George Tavard notes the interesting situation presented by Cardinal Cajetan (1468-1538).

“John the Apostle and Clement the Pope lived at the same time. Who was superior to whom? ‘It perfectly stands together that neither John nor Clement could err, yet one was superior to the other. For two thoroughly excellent elements may be subordinate to each other. This is clear as regards the universal Church of today and Sacred Scripture . . .’ John was above Clement; and his gospel today stands above the Pope. In other words, ‘the ultimate definition of faith belongs to the Pope, though at his own place and rank, namely, under Sacred Scripture, whose author is the Holy Spirit.’ ”12George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 113

The precise nature of the relationship between the Church and Scripture has been the center of a complex debate within Catholic circles for centuries. Suffice it to say for our purposes; however, Luther’s elevation of the Bible over the Church was not without historical precedent. According to Catholics with Tavard’s perspective, it is Scripture that is the fount of religious truth with sacred Tradition flowing out of it. Tradition plays an interpretive, albeit infallible and necessary, role of that which already had been revealed, i.e., Scripture.

With the issues raised by Luther, the Church faced a new theological challenge. If the Roman Catholic Church’s authority maintained a level inferior to that of Scripture, then the possibility of its interpretation of Scripture being absolutely accurate could be in question. This was obviously an unacceptable consequence. One of Luther’s early opponents, John Eck, a dominant Catholic defender at this time, originally held to the supremacy of Scripture over Tradition. He made the startling realization, however, in the very midst of his debate with Luther at Leipzig that his own view was perilous to the integrity of the Roman Church’s authority. Tavard recounts what happened:

“Eck’s new solution to the problem of Scripture forced him to revise his vocabulary. He formerly did not mind calling the decisions of Councils ‘Traditions of men.’ Now that he stresses the presence of the Gospel to the various organs of the Church, Eck reverses his position . . . Eck had started with the superiority of Scripture over the Church. He ends at the opposite pole: superiority of the Church over Scripture.”13George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 121-123

This is an amazing admission. While we must remember that, in the mind of the Catholic, Church and Scripture were not really viewed as distinct and separate entities as we see them now, it was still the tradition that was the outgrowth of Scripture.

The Reformation sparked an in-house debate within Catholicism regarding the exact relationship between Scripture and Tradition, which is still a major issue today. Despite the efforts of the Council of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II to resolve it, no conclusive definition has been put forward.14Dewey Beegle, Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility. (Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans, 1973), p. 109 The issue has been regarding the proper placement of each. Are Scripture and Tradition two separate sources of revelation, or is there just one? If there is only one source of revelation, which one takes priority? Does Tradition merely interpret Scripture, or does Scripture actually fall within the realm of Tradition? While this issue does not relate directly to sola scriptura (since both positions would reject sola scriptura), it does color the current debate between Catholics and Protestants. Prior to the Council of Trent, where both vessels were distinguished as legitimate vehicles of truth, it certainly was not out of line with the sacred Tradition of the Church to regard Scripture as supreme. The now-famous articulation of Trent that “. . . truth and discipline was to be found in the written books and in the unwritten Traditions” was chosen instead of the also proposed “partly in written books and partly in unwritten Traditions.” Catholic scholars today insist that the rejection of “partim . . . partim”*** in support of “et”† affirms the Catholic Church’s Tradition that there is only one source of revelation, the Gospel, but that it is dispensed in two modes.15Congar even declares Trent’s decision to be of “no significance.” Yves Congar, Tradition, and Traditions (San Diego, CA: Basilica Press, 1966), p. 168 Interestingly, Congar and Tavard both consider Trent’s thesis as still placing Scripture in the unique position of containing “all the truths necessary for salvation.”16Congar even declares Trent’s decision to be of “no significance.” Yves Congar, tradition, and Traditions (San Diego, CA: Basilica Press, 1966), p. 166 Tavard concludes:

“It finally respects the classical view: Scripture contains all revealed doctrine, and the Church’s faith, which includes apostolic Traditions, interprets it.”17George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 209

In upholding the supremacy of Scripture, Luther certainly was not inventing something new in this regard. In fact, many bishops at Trent were appalled at the notion that Scripture and tradition would be put on an equal par. Bishop Nacchianti’s comments, though representing a minority view at the time, are reminiscent of some of Luther’s own statements,

“As I have often said, I cannot suffer that this Synod should receive Traditions and the Sacred Scriptures with an equal adhesion of faith. For this, to speak my mind, is impious.”18George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 205-207

And Angelo Bonuti adamantly concurs, “I consider that all evangelical truth is in Scripture, not therefore partly.19George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 205-207

Catholics today, who regard Tradition on an equal or greater footing than Scripture, accuse the Reformers of “inventing” something (i.e., a superior view of Scripture) which, as we have seen, was not a foreign idea in the Tradition of the Catholic Church during the church’s earlier history. This was not the “heresy” for which it condemned Luther. His condemnation was based upon his rejection of the Roman Church’s authority, not upon his view of the Bible. It is even doubtful whether the phrase “sola scriptura,” in and of itself, would have been so offensive to the hard-line Catholics of Luther’s day as it is today.20Tavard comments with the following qualification, “. . . we are led by patristic theology to consider that there is a sense in which ‘Scripture alone’ is an authentic expression of Catholic Christianity, inasmuch as that is, the Scripture is, in the Church, the apostolic Tradition and vice versa.” George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), p. 11 As mentioned earlier, they believed that Scripture and the Church were in perfect harmony and that all Church doctrine could at least be found in seminal form in the Scriptures. The outrage of Luther’s position was his belief that, despite the fact that Roman Catholics (many of them, at least) upheld the Scriptures as the ultimate authority, the Roman Catholic Church was wrong for promoting its “Traditions of men” as infallible and claiming an exclusive authority to interpret the Bible. Instead of the truth of Scripture being found in the light of Church Tradition, Luther was now claiming that it could be sought apart from Church Tradition. This was the scandal of his position; not that Scripture stood supreme. Wood writes,

“Luther’s conception of biblical authority therefore, was revolutionary in that it denied that the teaching of Scripture and the teaching of the Roman Church were necessarily identical, and that the pope or a council as representing the Church must ultimately determine the meaning of the Word.”21A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word. (Exeter, England: The Paternoster Press, 1969), p. 120

To lend further credence to Luther’s historic view of Scripture, a number of interesting observations arise upon even a cursory reading of his early writings regarding the relationship between the Church and Scripture. First, it is remarkable to note that in many debates and writings, he frequently would demand Scriptural support on the part of his Catholic opponents or criticize them for not demonstrating a shred of Biblical evidence to back their position. For instance, in response to the Papal Bull (a decree by the Papacy), Exsurge (that condemned Luther’s views as heretical and excommunicated him), Luther writes:

“Having given my testimony I proceed to take up the bull. Peter said that you should give a reason for the faith that is in you, but this bull condemns me from its own word without any proof from Scripture, whereas I back up all my assertions from the Bible. I ask thee, ignorant Antichrist, dost thou think that with thy naked words thou canst prevail against the armor of Scripture? Hast thou learned this from Cologne and Louvain? If this is all it takes, just to say, ‘I dissent, I deny,’ what fool, what ass, what mole, what log could not condemn? Does not thy meretricious brow blush that with think inane smoke thou withstandest the lightning of the divine Word?”22Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, p. 125

It appears here and many places elsewhere that Luther was assuming the supremacy of Scripture. It seems to function as a missing premise in his arguments against the Papacy. He believed in order for Rome to justify its positions, it must appeal to the Bible — not just to the Fathers and Aquinas. Since the Roman Catholic Church does not do this, by their own authority, their words are meaningless. If Luther’s disapprobation against Rome’s lack of Scriptural backing was not considered a legitimate, universal criticism against the Roman Church (as he would surely have known it not to be), his advancing it would have been futile if not accompanied by any justifying support. Had the foundation of Tradition provided the framework for Scripture instead of the reverse, the Catholics could have easily responded (as they do today) that direct Biblical support was not necessary. The authoritative teaching of the Church would have itself sufficed.

But history shows no such retort on their part. Moreover, in the various disputations which occurred later between Catholics and Protestants, one of the ground rules actually laid down by the latter was the exclusive usage of the Bible in the debate.23Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1988), p. 117 References to Church Fathers, Tradition, and the rulings of councils were not allowed. If the authority of the Church and Tradition were at least on par with the Bible and had been since the Church’s inception, then one would have to wonder why the Catholic debaters would even succumb to such unfair guidelines and biased tactics. We would expect to see virulent protests on the part of the Roman representatives, but such is not the case. Hence, in Luther’s mind, the supremacy of Scripture appears to be a given which, oddly enough, his opponents originally do not see fit to contest. If Luther were faced with Catholic polemicists today, however, he would be met with somewhat different and misguided charges.24For example, Catholic apologist, Robert Fastiggi, attempts to criticize Luther’s adherence to sola scriptura by suggesting that because of the multiplicity of Protestant interpretations of Scripture and Luther’s apparent insistence that his interpretation was the correct one, sola scriptura cannot possibly be sufficient. However, after quoting Luther’s statement at Worms, Fastiggi utterly fails to address the very reason that Luther cited for endorsing sola scriptura, that is, the untrustworthy record of the Roman Church. He does not answer the burning question of, “What other option is one left with if Luther is accurate in his statement that ‘popes and councils’ cannot be trusted?” If Scripture itself is not sufficient and the Catholic Church cannot be trusted, what alternative would he suggest? Not By Scripture Alone, ed. Robert Sungenis (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1997), pp. 325-368.

An example of a modern Catholic criticism that misses the intent of Luther’s position (yet, was not misunderstood by those of his day), attempts to render his position fatal. Thinking that Luther promulgated sola scriptura in a positive, exclusive sense, many Catholics today discredit sola scriptura on the basis that it is not commanded in the Bible. “It is unbiblical because the Bible nowhere teaches or assumes it . . .”25Philip Blosser, “What Are the Philosophical and Practical Problems with SolaScriptura?” In Not By Scripture Alone, ed. Robert Sungenis (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1997), p. 43 This is a ludicrous allegation, however, because it assumes a meaning of sola scriptura that Luther never intended. The simple fact of the matter is that sola scriptura is not so much a positive assertion as it is a negative one. In other words, it is not that Protestants are not open to the idea that there might be other sources of infallible revelation, but they believe that the only trustworthy source available is the Bible. The question here is not one of ontology (dealing with the nature of being, reality, or ultimate substance) as it is of epistemology (dealing with the study of the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge).

The only source of reliable revelation we can know of, with any degree of certainty, is what we have contained in Scripture. It alone is the standard by which all truth claims — theological, scientific, philosophical, etc. — must be measured because we know of no other. This does not mean all truth is contained in Scripture, nor does it mean that any truth claim not negated by Scripture is necessarily true. All it means is that any truth claim made by Scripture must be true, and any truth claim that is not in harmony with Scripture must be false. Contrary to the manner in which Catholics caricature “Bible-only” Christians, Protestants do allow for the possible existence of other authoritative sources. We just don’t know of any. Hence the emphasis is “Scripture alone,” not “Scripture alone.” By implication, the controversy at hand is not whether there is only one infallible authority but rather whether the Catholic Church truly is the only infallible interpreter of Scripture. While Protestants believe the Canon is closed, they do not believe it is “sealed” in the sense that it is impossible for further revelation to be found. Therefore, the charge that sola scriptura is self-refuting is invalid.

This leads to another common misconception of sola scriptura. Catholics see this decree of the Reformers as finding its residence in a vacuum. Since the Canon itself is dependent upon the decision of the Church (more precisely, the sacred Tradition of which the Church, itself, was a product), it must carry equal if not more authority than the Scriptures. Modern Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid explains the supposed dilemma:

“There is no ‘inspired table of contents’ in Scripture that tells us which books belong and which ones do not. That information comes to us from outside Scripture. Moreover, the knowledge of which books comprise the canon of the New Testament must be infallible; if not, there is no way to know for certain if the books we regard as inspired really are inspired. Further, this knowledge must be binding; otherwise men would be free to create their own customized canon containing those books they value and lacking the ones they devalue. This knowledge must also be part of divine revelation; if not, it is merely a Tradition of men, and if that were so, Protestants would be forced into the intolerable position of championing a canon of purely human origin . . . Sola Scriptura becomes ‘canon fodder’ as soon as the Catholic requires the Protestant to explain how the books of the Bible got into the Bible. Under the principles implicit in sola scriptura, Scripture is placed in an epistemological vacuum, since it and the veracity of its contents ‘dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church.’ If that’s true, how then can anyone know with certitude what belongs in Scripture in the first place? The answer, of course, is that you can’t.”26Patrick Madrid, “Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint for Anarchy.” In Not By Scripture Alone, ed. Robert Sungenis (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1997), p. 23

This is the same argument that Gerry Matatics used in the aforementioned debate. What he, Madrid, and others are essentially saying is that Matthew, Romans, James, Revelation, and the like are only authoritative because the Catholic Church has declared them to be so. Hence, according to the Catholics, Luther and the Reformers’ dependency upon Scripture alone is absurd since Scripture’s authority is dependent upon the Catholic Church. If the authority of the Catholic Church is abdicated, then so too must the authority of the Scriptures. On the surface, such a charge appears to be sound, but it neglects to consider two critical points.

First, while the recognition of the necessity for a higher status of Church authority over Scripture was still in its infancy, Luther himself was presented with this supposed dilemma regarding sola scriptura. The following is his response which, despite its glib and sarcastic tone, is fairly astute and still useful today:

“The Church has approved only four Gospels, and therefore, there are only four. For if it had approved more, there would have been more. Since the Church has the right to accept and approve as many Gospels as it wishes, it follows that the Church is superior to the Gospels. What a splendid argument! I approve Scripture. Therefore I am superior to Scripture. John the Baptist acknowledges and confesses Christ. He points to Him with his finger. Therefore the Church is superior to them.”27A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word. (Exeter, England: The Paternoster Press, 1969), p. 124

Luther turned the Catholic argument on its head by arguing that it does not logically follow that one who has the ability to recognize what is and is not authoritative must also have the same or greater authority to declare it so. Nor does it follow that such an authority is necessary. In other words, the early Church merely recognized the authority carried by the New Testament documents. They did not ascribe an authority to them that they did not already possess. The documents are authoritative in themselves. Whether the Church (or anyone else) recognized this authority is irrelevant. The authority of the documents is not dependent upon Tradition because of the fact that the authority of Christ and His apostles does not rest on tradition either. Therefore, Madrid’s premise that “This knowledge {of which are canonical and which are not} must also be part of divine revelation” is faulty, and his whole argument falls apart, as Luther so aptly illustrates.

Secondly, Roman Catholics must remember that it took more than just Church-wide acceptance of a document for its admission into the Canon. Reliable evidence of apostolic endorsement was also a major contributing factor in determining its canonicity.28Cf. Milton Fisher, “The Canon of the New Testament.” In The Origin of theBible, ed. Philip Wesley Comfort (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), p. 76. 29. Wood, p. 123 Regardless of the Church’s endorsement of the Scripture, it is the Apostles’ endorsement that is authoritative and to be obeyed. Therefore, the process of canonization was not as subjectively determined as many Catholic defenders would argue. Wood provides various excerpts from Luther to illustrate this objective perspective he had of the Bible, which Rome (at the time) did not contest either:

“The priority of the Scripture over the Church is everywhere stressed in Luther. ‘The Church is the creation of the Word, not vice versa.’ ‘The Scripture is the womb from which are born theological truth and the Church.’ ‘The Church is built on the word of the Gospel which the word of God’s wisdom and virtue.’ ‘The Word of God preserves the Church of God.’”29A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word. (Exeter, England: The Paternoster Press, 1969), p. 123

Luther, through questioning the Church’s authority, brought to light the dilemma it faced: In order for it to claim that it alone can interpret the Scriptures, it would have to officially claim an authority at least on par with the written Word. This was the issue at Trent. Whatever the exact relationship between Tradition and Scripture, the Church’s elevation of itself was formally no less a novelty than Luther’s contention that only Scripture was the ultimate authority.30This is not to say that there weren’t exceptions. Tavard recalls the extreme position of Prierias, who said, “the authority of the Roman Pontiff, when he passes judgment according to his right and functions, is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe the Gospel.” Tavard also notes that this was not the majority opinion of the Church, “. . . Prierias could have burnt most Catholic polemicists of his own time. For even those who most upheld the privileges of the Papacy shied away from subordinating to them ‘Scripture, whose author is the Holy Spirit.’ ” Tavard, pp. 116-117 Given this revised understanding of sola scriptura, the Protestant is no longer on the defensive with the Catholic to explain why he accepts the authority of Scripture. Rather, it is the Catholic who has the monumental task of providing sufficient proof for the need of an infallible interpreter in the first place. Secondly, he must then prove that not only is the Roman Catholic Church infallible but that it is also the appointed interpreter. Until this is done, sola scriptura, though not necessarily without its problems, remains the more viable, if not palatable, option.

*Sola Scriptura is a Latin term meaning “scripture alone.”
**Sola Fide is a Latin term meaning “faith alone.”
***Partim . . . partim is Latin for “partly . . . partly.”
†Et is Latin meaning “and.”

Steve Berg was a second-generation Jehovah’s Witness who loved being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a teenager, it was his desire to be the best defender of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the official writer and publisher of Jehovah’s Witness material). He came face to face with a youth pastor who cared enough to take the time to talk with him and to present the truth about this and other essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Steve accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He is a graduate of Trinity College in Deerfield, IL and is currently attending Trinity University in Deerfield, IL.

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